Isn’t this what American soccer is all about? Everyone doubting us, backs against the wall, saying we can’t do this or do that. It’s been the USA soccer mantra for awhile now – us against the world, the ultimate underdog.
An old friend always says, “know thyself”, and that statement couldn’t be more true when it comes to the current state of the USMNT. Brian Straus’s article earlier this week raised a lot of eyebrows, but for those that have followed Jurgen Klinsmann’s managerial career, it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise. During Klinsmann’s tenure with Germany, Bayern Munich, and now the United States, he has been quick to add bells and whistles to the mix: newest technology for tracking fitness, motivational speakers, nutritionists, but yet his tactics and game management have frequently been questioned. Klinsmann has spoken about playing a better brand of soccer. That is, more free-flowing, improving players’ comfort level on the ball. His words sound great, if it were working. And though results have been positive, the games have mostly been dire to watch.
This brings us back to “know thyself”. While Klinsmann has been quick to build a “new” USMNT, he needs to remember what has made the team successful in the past. His two best results, wins away to Mexico and Italy, didn’t showcase the Klisnmann style, but followed the same formula that national team supporters have come to expect: great goalkeeping, an organized back four, a compact midfield that can open up wide to be dangerous on the counterattack, the ability to finish created chance, and lastly, a highly motivated team working together, playing with their heart on their sleeve.
Klinsmann should be commended for trying to raise the standard of the national team, but he can’t do that without accepting the foundation it has been built on. That is his mistake. Have the lackluster performances against Canada and Honduras finally opened Klinsmann’s eyes? A coach can be measured in many ways, but one strength of a coach is the ability to recognize when things are going wrong, be strong enough to admit it as well as strong enough to change. These are two defining games for Jurgen Klinsmann. On Friday night, he needs to face the media with three points in his pocket, or that smile of his might go on a longer sabbatical than Landon Donovan’s playing career.
Against Costa Rica Klinsmann has another opportunity to show his worth as the manager of the United States, but he isn’t the only one that will be analyzed. In a week where anonymous quotes have stolen the headlines, the spotlight will also be squarely on the players – as it should be. A week filled with controversy, along with missing key players, and a new captain named - it would be easy to make the case that the odds are against the United States. But isn’t that just the way we like it?
A little over 16,000 supporters will cram into Dick Sporting Goods Park to cheer on the red, white, and blue. It’s been a rocky week, but this is a World Cup Qualifier, not some throw away game up in Boulder. Expect the crowd to be over served from a long day of March Madness, thirsty for soccer, while the players out to prove their own worth to each other, a manager, and the supporters. In a week with players hidden behind quotes, look for Herc, Dempsey, Bradley, and Guzan to steal the show and once again put the stars and stripes back on the right the road to Brazil.
Jurgen, know thyUSMNT, and keep a defender on Bryan Ruiz.
On Friday, the USMNT team needed late game heroics from Eddie Johnson to defeat a national team that has seven starters from the club team, Antigua Barracudas FC, which finished in last place in the United Soccer Leagues Pro Division. Let that set in. The United States National team, composed of players from the top leagues in Europe, along with players from MLS, was an injury time goal away from losing to a team that is primarily made up of players from the worst team in the 2nd division of soccer in America. That is a problem. The field was awful. The field was narrow. The conditions were less than ideal. Legitimate excuses, but the opposition was made up of minor league soccer players.
Klinsmann’s year-plus reign has not gone as smoothly as many have hoped. When hired, he came with the promises of better possession, improved technique, and a higher tempo approach to matches. Besides 45 minutes in a home world cup qualifier against Jamaica, have any of those objectives been seen? Will tonight against Guatemala be any different? Let’s hope so.
The United States has hardly played their best soccer during the semifinal round of CONCACAF qualifying matches, but entering tonight’s match they are still on pace to qualify for the final round of qualification. Though some want to judge Klinsmann for the product on the field, ultimately it’s results that matter most.
The last two matches Klinsmann chose an offshoot of a 4-4-2 formation which has led to two wins. Though Johnson scored two goals, he seemed out of place at outside mid and would be better suited playing alongside Herculez Gomez up top. Also, I believe Clint Dempsey would be better served dribbling at players in the midfield while make late-arriving runs into the box to get on the end of crosses. On the defensive side of the ball, I’m still not sold on Clarence Goodson at the international level, and prefer Bocanegra at center-back.
Proposed lineup for match v Guatemala:
Cherundolo – Cameron – Bocanegra – Parkhurst
Gomez - Johnson
Tonight in Kansas City is another opportunity for the United States to play the style of soccer that Jurgen Klinmann has promised for over a year. A win, a tie, or even a loss could be enough of a result to advance to the next stage of qualifying, but at some point the style and manner in which the team plays needs to be addressed or Brazil 2014 might be the first World Cup since 1986 that the United States isn't represented.
Why all the noise? Is the United States Men’s National Team playing the best side in the world, Spain? Nope. If not Spain, it must be five-time World Cup champions Brazil then – no it’s not them either. If it’s not Spain, or Brazil, then it must be our neighbors to the South, Mexico. Unfortunately it’s not El Tri either, but instead a country a little further south, Antigua & Barbuda, that is creating all this noise from journalists and followers of the USMNT to shout loudly with differing opinions. How can a country with a population of less than 100,000 people, that is currently ranked 106 by FIFA, and has never even qualified for a Gold Cup, let alone the World Cup, create such a stir? It’s not Antigua & Berbuda that has caused the chaos, though on Friday evening they might be the benefactors, but instead it’s Jurgen Klinsmann.
Once again Jurgen the Smiler has found himself as the major headline of the US Men’s National team, after leaving Jozy Altidore off the roster for the final two matches of the Semifinal Round of Qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. Altidore, currently the joint leading scorer in Netherlands’ Eredivisie, has been left off, not due to his club form, but due to his ineffectiveness during recent USMNT matches. In Klinsmann’s defense, Altidore has not performed to the same level with the national team as he has with AZ Alkmaar, but can the USMNT really afford to leave their best scoring option off the roster? This is a bold move by Klinsmann, a move that will go one of two ways. If the team wins both games and scores multiple goals in the process then Klinsmann will have total respect and, more importantly, power over his players moving forward. If it doesn’t work, Klinsmann will be out of a job. It’s quite a gamble, but possibly one worth taking when the opponents are Antigua & Barbuda and Guatemala.
The rest of the roster when announced looked promising, but three days and multiple injuries later, more questions are being asked of Klinsmann. Brek Shea, Landon Donovan, and Edgar Castillo have all been ruled out of both matches due to injuries, while Fabian Johnson will miss Friday’s match due to illness. Instead of bringing in Altidore, Klinsmann brought in Eddie Johnson and Alan Gordon stating, “we need to have [the forwards] force things with crosses coming over the wings and be really strong in the air. That was the reason we brought in Eddie and Alan.” When he was hired Klinsmann spoke of building a system of play similar to the American culture: “One of my challenges will be to find a way to define how a U.S. team should represent its country. What should be the style of play? Is it more proactive and aggressive, a forward-thinking style of play? Or is it more reacting style of play? That comes with the players that you have at your disposal, but also the people that you are surrounded with, and the people that have an opinion in this country, like the media, like coaches.” It’s been well over a year into his reign as manager and that style of play still hasn’t been found, but even worse, Klinsmann seems no longer confident that what he has been trying to implement over the last year can work when the game matters most. Earlier this week, Klinsmann stated, “If it’s sending in long balls or high balls or whatever it is, we have to get these three points no matter what. This is our approach over the next couple of days, to build this sense of fearlessness and urgency so we’re not wasting time at all from the beginning of the game.” One would think that the United States, with players from the top leagues in Europe and North America, should be able to have a style in place that the coach and players are confident can defeat a country (that until recently most people always thought was just called Antigua) that has only earned one point in qualifying matches so far. Instead Klinsmann seems desperate.
Let’s take a few minutes away from Klinsmann and look at a potential lineup for Friday’s match. With the absence of F. Johsnon, Donovan, and Shea, it might be time for Klisnmann (okay maybe it wasn’t a few minutes unless you’re a really slow reader) to rethink the picking of E. Johnson and Gordon, as not sure there are any players left to cross the ball! During Klinsmann’s reign as manager he has been fond of the 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 formation, but in the last match against Jamaica he went with the conventional 4-4-2. And in the first half it was probably the best the US has played. Though, at this point, it’s about getting the best players on the field in the formation that will give you the most success. With that in mind, if the correct players are chosen, a 4-2-3-1 should give the US the result they need.
Cherundolo – Cameron – Bocanegra – Parkhurst
Williams – Bradley
Dempsey – Kljestan – Zusi
The loss of Fabian Johnson to illness might be the biggest loss for the United States, especially with Edgar Castillo ruled out due to injury the same day. The left back position has always been a weakness for the United States. Cherundolo, Cameron, and Bocanegra all played well against Jamaica and should all keep their place, but more importantly play the same position. Klinsmann shouldn’t fix an area of weakness by taking from an area of strength. Parkhurst can get the job done and it would give motivation to young New England boys to see two starters that grew up playing on the same fields in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Danny Williams was a standout performer against Jamaica and could be an option at left back, but again, Klinsmann should keep players in their positions of strength. Williams as one of the two holding mids will provide so much freedom and coverage to players around him. It will allow Cherundolo to fly up the flank, or for Bradley to go on a run forward to get on the end of the cross, or for Dempsey to do what he does best: find open spots. Zusi was a surprise starter against Jamaica, but did more than enough to keep his place, even if Donovan wasn’t injured, and should provide some width when needed. Will Klinsmann pick Kljestan to start over Jermaine Jones? Probably not, but while Jones is losing possession, committing fouls, and throwing his hands in the air in frustration - sit back and wonder what it would be like with the Anderlecht boy running with the ball instead. Belgian Waffles for everyone! The one player who’s stock has risen the most during the Klinsmann era is Herculez Gomez, and he is the perfect forward for a 4-2-3-1, with his unrelenting running and ability to score.
Much has been made of leaving Jozy Altidore out of the United States squad, but imagine newspapers on Wednesday morning with this headline: The United States Fails to Qualify for Brazil. In a few days, Jurgen Klinsmann will either be the hero or the goat, but as a prolific goal scorer for Germany and numerous clubs - maybe that’s the way he likes it best.
The Klinsmann era has been inconsistent – on and off the field. When wins didn’t happen in the first few games, Klinsmann was quick to say it’s not about results, but the process. The Klinsmann “process” was to produce free flowing attacking soccer that would excite fans and lead to many goals. During the 13 months that Klinsmann has been the leader of the Red, White, and Blue, the squad has had two great results – on the road against Italy and Mexico. During those matches the team sat back and defended well, looked to counter, and score – the trademark style of the Bob Bradley era. Yet after those wins, Klinsmann no longer spoke about the “process”, instead it was all about the results. Confusing, right?
Well on Friday night, Klinmann seemed to forget about his “process” when picking a lineup that included Kyle Beckerman, Maurice Edu, and Jermaine Jones in the center of the midfield along with no wide players. All three players are deserving to play for the national team (well maybe not Jones), but to put all three on the field at the same time, Klinsmann was abandoning the “process” as none of those players would be described as free flowing attacking players. Has Klinsmann given up on the “process” due to not believing the players are capable of playing that way or was he putting getting a result ahead of his vision? Either way, his plan backfired in Kingston with the United States losing 2-1 to Jamaica, their first ever loss against the Reggae Boyz. He was quick to not blame tactics, instead focusing on the two free kicks that Jamaica scored on. One question for Klinsmann though, if he had chosen more of an attacking team, wouldn’t they have been able to do a better job of keeping the ball, and thus not be worried about committing fouls in their own half?
Enough about the past, now the focus needs to be on the future - as in the near future - Tuesday against Jamaica at Columbus Crew Stadium. It’s a must-win game for the USMNT or their World Cup dreams will be hanging by the slightest of threads – and then Klinmann would be more likely compared to the Jurgen that took charge of Bayern than the one hailed as leader of the 2006 German National Team. What lineup will Klinsmann choose for this match? He has already stated that Carlos Bocanegra will captain the team and it seems certain Steve Cherundolo will start as well. Maybe it’s time for Klinsmann to not complicate things and go back to the old, basic 4-4-2 (it would make Taylor Twellman happy).
Cherundolo – Parkhurst – Bocanegra – Johnson
Dempsey – Cameron – Edu – Shea
Altidore – Boyd
The United States needs a lineup that can be creative and score goals, while also providing coverage at the back when Jamaica counters. A 4-4-2 with a midfield of Dempsey, Cameron, Edu, and Shea provides that. It gives freedom for Dempsey and Shea to go forward, knowing Cameron and Edu will provide coverage. Shea has had an up and down year in MLS, but, as he showed in Mexico, he has the ability to get by players and put the ball into dangerous positions. Altidore and Boyd have both started their respective club seasons off by scoring goals and would be happy to be receiving service from Shea and Dempsey. In Cherundolo and Johnson, the US has two outside backs that can also combine well with the midfield and serve balls into the box, while also being good 1v1 defenders that have speed to recover.
Will Klinsmann choose this lineup? Doubtful. But all eyes are firmly on Jurgen now, and each of his decisions tomorrow night will be hotly debated. His last two matches as coach of the United States have been historic – first ever win in Azteca, and first ever loss to Jamaica. In Columbus on September 11th, Klinsmann will be involved in another match with historic implications. The “process” has been pushed to the side, but the result will be remembered.
Quick - first five names that comes to mind when thinking of the current USMNT – Donovan, Dempsey, Bocanegra, Bradley, and Howard? Those five players are considered the backbone of the squad and heading into two World Cup qualifying matches with Jamaica: two are injured, one hasn’t played in 2.5 months, until recently one was playing in the 3rd Division in Scotland, but thankfully Tim Howard is still at the top of his game.
If there was ever a time that a US National Team supporter should be nervous during World Cup qualifying, it is now. Besides missing Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley due to injuries, the squad also has key players that, until recently, had unsettled club situations. Clint Dempsey hasn’t played a competitive match since the June WCQ games, while Carlos Bocanegra and Maurice Edu had been training with Rangers of the Scottish 3rd Division until this past week. All three players have missed out on competitive matches, while transferring to different teams on Friday. At a time when a national team manager wants players to be playing at a consistent level, he has three that haven’t been playing and another, Geoff Cameron, who recently moved from the Dynamo to Stoke City. Will a summer of discontent for these players at club level have a negative effect with the national team?
In the midfield - who else is tired of Jermaine Jones and Jose Torres getting the call? In Jones, we have a player that is guaranteed to get a yellow card each match and rarely completes a forward pass. Unfortunately for Torres, he disappears in USMNT games and has no impact while on the field. With the added absence of Michael Bradley, Sacha Kljestan could provide more in the midfield than either of these two players. Does another nation in CONCACAF have a player competing in the group stages of the Champions League and not be chosen for their national team? Has the United States become that good that we can overlook a player with that type of resume?
On the positive side, Klinsmann has two forwards in Jozy Altidore and Terrence Boyd that are currently playing at the top of their game, scoring goals for their club at a regular rate. With Donovan absent and Dempsey not at match fitness, both forwards will need to bring their scoring boots if the US will want to gain positive results against Jamaica.
The United States will be training in Miami the next few days prior to their match in Kingston, Jamaica on Friday evening. The second match will take place on Tuesday September 11 at Columbus Crew Stadium. Klinsmann’s men are atop Group A on goal differential over the Reggae Boyz, who are level on points with four. The United States has never won a qualifier in Jamaica, and unless new players emerge from the shadows, that streak could continue on Friday evening.
This Saturday the United States National Team plays Scotland to kick off what Jurgen Klinsmann is calling, a “five-game tournament”. Just about 10 months into the job, it’s refreshing to hear Klinsmann discuss that now is the time to win. But let’s be honest, the next five games are not quite comparable to a tournament. The team plays three friendly matches, the first two on US soil against Scotland and Brazil, followed by an away match north of the border against Canada. These games are not win-at-all-cost, but instead provide Klinsmann the opportunity to evaluate and tweak with his lineup prior to the start of World Cup qualifiers in June. All that truly matters is that the team gets the job done against Antigua & Barbuda and Guatemala.
View From the Couch:
1. Klinsmann initially called in a large squad, a total of 27 players for his five-game tournament (to be reduced to 23), but there still wasn’t room for Tim Ream, Sacha Kljestan, or Eric Lichaj. Klinsmann felt that Ream and Kljestan were only 5th in the pecking order for their position, center-back and central midfield respectively. Kljestan has had another great season helping Anderlecht to the Jupiler League Championship while gaining plenty of Europa League experience. Meanwhile, Jermaine Jones, one of the players above Kljestan at the center mid position, served an eight game suspension in January and lead the Bundesliga with 14 yellow cards. Who would you rather see in a tense game in Guatemala City on June 12 - an attacking player with ability to create and score goals? Or a midfielder prone to lose his temper? Only time will tell if Klinsmann has made the correct choice with Jermaine Jones.
2. Two years prior to World Cup 2014 in Brazil, U.S. Soccer still hasn’t unearthed a “new” dynamic player to propel the team to the next level. Of the 27 players that were called into camp, 13 appeared on the roster at the 2010 World Cup. The mainstays that will kick of 2014 World Cup qualifying will be the same ones that walked off the field in Rustenburg losing to Ghana in extra time: Tim Howard, Steve Cherundolo, Carlos Bocanegra, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, and Jozy Altidore. Is there a new player in this group that will be able to step up into the upper echelon of U.S. national team players during this stretch of games?
Klinsmann has shown a lot of trust in Kyle Beckerman in the build up to World Cup qualifying, and it will be interesting to see what his role is the next five matches. Who will win the contest for center-back next to Carlos Bocanegra? The tandem of Bocanegra and Clarence Goodson did not set the world on fire during the Gold Cup, and maybe now Geoff Cameron is given an opportunity to prove his worth at the international level. Confident on the ball, a mainstay for the Houston Dynamo, maybe this will be his chance. On the offensive side of the ball is Chris Wondolowski, destined to be the United States version of Robbie Fowler – plenty of league goals, but never equaled that success at the international level? If Klinsmann goes the 4-4-2 route with Donovan and Dempsey on the wings, then someone will get that chance to make a major impact up top along with Jozy Altidore. The big question is, will Klinsmann be willing to give any of those players (Juan Agudelo, Terrence Boyd, Herculez Gomez, and Wonolowski) that opportunity?
3. Is Timmy Chandler still considered part of Yanks Abroad?
In Jurgen, we trust. It was only a friendly. In Jurgen, we trust. It was only a friendly.
When Sportscenter has U.S. Soccer as a lead story, you know it’s a good day. The men’s national team, debuting their new away kits, defeated Italy in Genoa 1-0, with Clint Dempsey providing the crucial goal. The win marked the first time the United States has been victorious over Italy in eleven matches, dating back to 1934. Klinsmann went with a 4-2-3-1, with Bradley and Edu both playing in the holding mid position, and each having their best game in recent memory for the national side. The win should not be overhyped because, again, it was just a friendly. But it should give the team a lot of confidence moving forward, something the side has been missing for quite some time. This is a game the team can build on, and it would have been great if they were playing another match in four days. Unfortunately, the next match will not be played until May 26 against Scotland.
View From the Couch
1. Remember when Michael Bradley couldn’t get in a game for Aston Villa last spring? And didn’t have an impact during 2011 Gold Cup? Moving to Italy has done a world of good for Bradley. He has become a regular starter for Chievo Verona, and his performance against Italy will only enhance his reputation. Bradley, previously known for his constant running, which sometimes seemed without an end product, instead was composed in possession, disciplined in his runs, and the best player on the pitch over 90 minutes.
2. Danny Williams is not an outside midfielder - apparent once again - and at this point, Jurgen Klinsmann is doing a disservice to the player by putting him out there. He didn’t want the ball, and when he did get it, he didn’t know what to do with it. One of the roles of a coach is to put players in a position to succeed, and Klinsmann is not doing that right now with Williams. Watching the U23’s match, wouldn’t mind seeing Joe Gyau and his speed on the flank in a full national match in the next year!
3. Attendance was listed at 15,000, but that might have even been a bit generous. It makes one wonder if the USMNT is not a draw for fans in top European countries. If the fixture were in America, the new Meadowlands Arena would have been sold out quickly.
One final thought. While watching U23’s win comfortably 2-0 over Mexico - if the team qualifies for the Olympics this summer, who will be the three overage players? Think any three from this group would make biggest impact on the team: Michael Bradley, Carlos Bocanegra, Clint Dempsey, and Landon Donovan.
USA Lineup: 1-Tim Howard; 2-Steve Cherundolo, 4-Clarence Goodson, 5-Carlos Bocanegra (capt.), 3-Fabian Johnson (13-Jonathan Spector, 77); 6-Michael Bradley, 8-Maurice Edu; 7-Danny Williams,10-Clint Dempsey (17-Edson Buddle, 90), 11-Brek Shea (16-Sacha Kljestan, 73); 9-Jozy Altidore (18-Terrence Boyd, 79)
On Thursday, U.S. Soccer announced the roster for the men’s national team friendly against Italy and, for a second, all seemed right with the world again. The main reason being that for the first time during Klinsmann’s reign, Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan were both named to the squad. The two attacking players have both been making headlines the past two months in England for Fulham and Everton respectively. It will be exciting for U.S. fans to watch them together against the Italians on Wednesday.
A further look at the roster though does draw a few head scratchers, most specifically: why wasn’t Sacha Kljestan included? Kljestan, an attacking midfielder with Anderlecht, has been playing regularly for a team leading the table in the Jupiler League. Anderlecht also advanced to the knockout stages of the Europa League, before being eliminated yesterday over two legs to AZ Alkmaar, a team that features fellow American, Jozy Altidore. The Jupiler League is not one of the strongest leagues in Europe, but Anderlecht is a proven club, and the experience playing in the Europa League is unmatched by many other Americans on the current roster. In the crowded center-midfield position, Kljestan brings something that many of the other players do not offer. He can break down defenses on the dribble, is able to play quick with his passing, and also has the knack for stepping up to score goals.
Looking at the midfield choices, Kljestan’s competition came down Jose Torres, Jermaine Jones, and Maurice Edu being picked before him. Michael Bradley should be a clear cut favorite to start in the CM position for the U.S. His performances for Chievo Verona have once again solidified his position within the ranking order for the national team. The other three all have major question marks over the last few months. Torres broke his foot back in September and only recently has returned to playing for Pachuca in Mexico. Jones had to serve an 8-match ban during January in the German Bundesliga, and in the two games with the U.S., during which time his ability to lose the ball was highlighted against lesser competition. Edu is having another solid year for Rangers, a club currently in a downward spiral, but is he having a better year than Kljestan?
Picking players for the national team is never easy, but most fans, and players for that matter, are satisfied knowing players are being picked based on current form. That doesn’t seem to be the case when comparing those four midfielders, but this fact becomes even more mind boggling with the inclusion of Terrence Boyd. Many U.S. fans might be asking the same thing: who is Terrence Boyd? Boyd, a center forward, is currently on the books at Borussia Dortmund, but that’s the thing - he’s just on the books. Boyd has yet to make ONE competitive appearance with the first team. How does a player that has never appeared for the first team, be included in the national team squad? Has Klinsmann been sending scouts to watch Dortmund U23 games instead of watching Europa League matches?
The next few days will be spent dissecting the U.S. roster further prior to Wednesday, but, come the match, all that will matter will be the starting eleven and how they adapt to an Italian side preparing for this summer’s European Championships. Bradley, Dempsey, and Donovan should all play a big part in this game, but the biggest question marks will be the back four along with the midfielders that will be chosen. The U.S. needs to improve in these areas, and find a center forward who can score regularly. Hey, maybe Klinsmann is onto something after-all with this Terrence Boyd fella! Remember, in Jurgen We Trust.
In the summer of 2011, Bob Bradley was dismissed as USMNT coach and replaced by Jurgen Klinsmann, with the German and US Soccer promising a new era of soccer which would include more possession, more creativity with all eleven players being involved in the attack. The Bradley mantra of winning with heart, passion, and counter attacks was to be put to the side and the team would develop into a winning side based on technical and tactical abilities. On Wednesday night in a 1-0 win over Panama neither the attributes promised by Klinsmann were evident, but sadly neither were those that won over fans in South Africa in 2010. Winning, as Klinsmann has stated many times, is not important at this moment in time, but an uninspired display against Panama, once again adds more questions than answers to the direction of the US National team.
View From the Couch:
1. Where was the passion? In both games during January, one would expect players to be willing to run through brick walls to wear the jersey, as this is their big chance to make an impression on the international level. Unfortunately, until C.J. Sapong was subbed on in the 76th minute against Panama, the American attitude that is always praised by international supporters was missing. Sapong provided much needed energy and work rate to the US lineup and it would have been nice to see him get a longer run in the side. He could be one for the future and will be interesting to see how he develops in his second year with Sporting KC.
2. Klinsmann has stated numerous times how important keeping possession and being creative are as he looks to move the US team forward. That being said, he chose not to play Benny Feilhaber against Panama, yet his best player Jermaine Jones made possession look like a 10-year old recreation game. Jones was the most effective player in both games, but he loses possession far too easily and his passing leads a lot to be desired. If he is unable to do it against Panama, how will he do against Italy in February? Leaving Feilhaber on the bench is still a mystery. From the outside, Benny has all the attributes that Klinsmann wants: good on the ball, creative 1v1 attacker, good passer, and can score goals. The Panama game was crying out for Feilhaber, but Klinsmann kept him cozy next to him on the bench.
3. Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey will be on the field at the same time on Friday as Everton host Fulham in the 4th round of the FA Cup. This is something that all USMNT fans will be hoping is repeated when the squad plays its next game against Italy. During his reign as coach, Klinsmann has not been able to use the top two Americans on the field simultaneously. As evidenced over the past six months, Donovan and Dempsey are the top two players that Klinsmann has at his disposal and for the USMNT to have success he will need both on the field for every game moving forward.
One final thought, Nick Rimando played a great 45 minutes against Panama, with quite a few key saves to keep the host off the scoreboard. Rimando has been getting it done in MLS since the Miami Fusion was a franchise, but unfortunately he plays a position that has been always been one of the strongest for the United States. Is it the state of American soccer that even against Panama the player most talked about is a goalkeeper or was it just an off night for the red, white and blue?
USA Lineup: 1-Nick Rimando (12-Sean Johnson, 46); 2-A.J. DeLaGarza, 4-Michael Parkhurst, 5-Geoff Cameron, 3-Zach Loyd (14- Heath Pearce, 41); 6-Ricardo Clark (16-Jeff Larentowicz, 67), 8-Jermaine Jones (capt.); 7-Chris Wondolowski (13-Jeff Parke, 55), 10-Graham Zusi(15-Brad Evans, 66); 11-Brek Shea; 9-Teal Bunbury (18-C.J. Sapong, 76)
In the past, the USMNT camp in January has been nicknamed “Camp Cupcake”, but this year with players trying to impress new national team coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, a different attitude surrounds the matches. The camp, made up of mostly Major League Soccer players, provides many players their first interaction with Klinsmann, each hoping to leave a lasting impression. Every player has the same goal: to be picked for the match against Italy in late February. This will be the first game in 2012 in which all players will be made available.
Following the 1-0 win Saturday against Venezuela, on an injury time winner by Ricardo Clark, it’s safe to say a majority of the roster will be hoping for a much better performance against Panama on Wednesday. It’s not all doom and gloom, as there were a few bright spots, but the US struggled in the final third, rarely created any real chances in behind the Venezuela back-line, and players lacked individual creativity that is needed to excel at the international level. The players that helped their cause included Geoff Cameron, Michael Parkhurst, and A.J. DeLaGarza.
View From the Couch:
1. Geoff Cameron is thankfully losing his fight to not want to become a center-back, ultimately taking his career to a level he didn’t think was possible when he left the University of Rhode Island in 2008. With years of experience on the ball in the midfield, he is a natural fit for what Klinsmann wants out of the center-back position. Against Venezuela he was comfortable on the ball and kept the backline organized. He was the bright spot in this match, and it will be interesting to see if he looks to get even more involved in the attack against Panama on Wednesday.
2. Earlier this month, Jermaine Jones was suspended 8 weeks from the Bundesliga for intentionally stomping on an opponent’s foot. Not only does Klinsmann invite him into camp, but he rewards him with the captains armband for the match against Venezuela. Not sure how a man that is suspended for 8 weeks, and doesn’t know the majority of his teammates, fits into the leadership category, but in Jurgen we trust?
3. Brek Shea was recently named as the 2011 US Soccer Young Male Athlete of the Year, but on this showing, the wild-haired boy would have wished it was still last year. The attributes that made Shea an easy winner of this award were missing from his game against Venezuela. At his best, he is a player that looks to take players on from the wing, gets the ball into the box with either crosses or shots, and goes on at least one 30 yard mazy dribbling run a match. At his worst, he doesn’t want the ball, looks to get rid of the ball early when he does receive it, and turns it over easily. Unfortunately, last night he was at his worst. Shea is a player who this country is craving for: he has individual flair unlike others, and hopefully this match was a one-off. Against Panama he will be back to his creative attacking self.
USA: Lineup: 1-Bill Hamid; 2-A.J. DeLaGarza, 4-Michael Parkhurst, 5-Geoff Cameron, 3-Heath Pearce (13-Zach Loyd, 72); 6-Jeff Larentowicz (15-Ricardo Clark, 62), 8-Jermaine Jones (capt.); 7-Graham Zusi (18-C.J. Sapong, 74), 10-Benny Feilhaber (17-Chris Wondolowksi, 62), 11-Brek Shea; 9-Teal Bunbury (16-Brad Evans, 88)