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The Warning Signs in a Big Win for U.S. National Team

This morning, U.S. soccer fans are again wearing their rose-colored glasses and celebrating the home team’s necessary 1-0 win over Jamaica last night at Crew Stadium.  With the win, the Yanks sit atop Group A and control their destiny in qualifying for the Hexagonal, the next step on the road to Brazil 2014.  Unlike Friday’s result, Jurgen Klinnsman’s tactics seemed to work and the U.S. controlled the tempo for most of the game, looking every bit like a top 30 team internationally (according to FIFA) and playing as many fans have come to expect the U.S. to play against a Caribbean nation.

However, not all is well with the U.S.  Beneath the smiles and victory celebrations, last night’s win contained elements that were disturbing and showed that the U.S., even if it controls its own qualifying fate, still has a ways to go before it can be in the same class as Mexico.  Some of the flaws can be fixed, while others remain long term projects.  Agree or disagree? Sound off in the comments section below:

Despite not allowing a goal, the backline is still a question mark for 2014

Setting aside the (hopefully) ageless Tim Howard, the two best defenders for the U.S. were Carlos Bocanegra and Steve Cherundolo, both age 33.  For all the talk of the need for young defenders to begin taking their places, both have revealed themselves in this match and Friday’s to be irreplaceable right now.  Bocanegra was masterful in organizing the defense and serving as an on-the-field leader, while Cherundolo was excellent on the right flank.  Geoff Cameron looks like he could be the answer at one center back spot, but he is still rounding into international form (as heard by Tim Howard explaining profanely what to do when he got the ball in the U.S. box) and will be 29 by the time Brazil rolls around.  The youngster, Fabian Johnson, showed some pace up the left and played pretty well, but not dominant enough to make U.S. fans put this down as a strength.  The Jamaica match showed again that it will be at least another few years before we can feel confident about who our starting back four will be in 2014 (and yes, the timeline is ironically intended).

Without the big names, the U.S. lacks playmakers right now

No Landon Donovan meant the U.S. was relying on players like Jose Torres and Graham Zusi to make plays from the midfield and create scoring chances for this team.  Last night, it worked pretty well and I suspect both will be critical players in the future for this team.  However, it is the loss of Michael Bradley that has shown the weakness in the U.S. midfield.  Faced with the need for the team to control the run of play in the middle, Klinsmann seemed to have found a viable option with Danny Williams but when he needed to preserve the lead, had to turn again to inconsistent Maurice Edu.  Jamaica took advantage of shaky U.S. play in the second half to threaten and try to deny the U.S. a full three points.  Even Clint Dempsey, who looked a little rusty but effective, showed that even when not at 100% he needs to be on the pitch for the U.S. to play well.  Being so dependent on a handful of players with internationally unproven backups could cause heartburn down the road for the U.S.

The Klinsmann favorites are not performing

We like to mock those players that inexplicably receive playing time even though they continue to play somewhat poorly, and last night it was the same song-and-dance for three players we know Klinsmann sees as the future stars of his squad.  Brek Shea came on in the second half to provide a change of pace on the wings, but failed to really make any mark on the game.  He’s very young but between his poor club play and inconsistent international play, he’s yet to show why he should be guaranteed a spot on this squad.  Jermaine Jones, who obviously is seen by Klinsmann as a leader, was not given a yellow in this match but serving as a central midfielder was lackluster.  Danny Williams in the back should have allowed him to be more of a distributor, but he too often failed to connect passes and reverted to his poor defensive form with questionable tackles.  Maurice Edu was another second half sub that was supposed to provide a defensive presence in the midfield but, again, made poor passes and was the perfect example of how the U.S. was not able to get a cushion goal but instead allowed Jamaica to make some late runs.

This team cannot put games away

Eight shots total in this match and domination in the first half, but only one goal.  At no point in this match did you feel as a fan that the U.S. had this match; I was dreading the late goal on a counter that I could see happening in my mind.  Even with a raucous crowd and pristine pitch, the U.S. could not dominate this match where it mattered – on the scoreboard.  Looking at some of the other results on the night (Panama 2/Canada 0 for example) you see the better teams asserting their will on their opponents.  The U.S. cannot be in the same conversation as a Mexico without dominating a decent-to-good CONCACAF team at home in a must win game.

14 Responses to The Warning Signs in a Big Win for U.S. National Team

  1. Tijuana Robert says:

    Dempsey was a non factor in yesterday’s match while Gomez worked
    his ass off in front of goal. Jones continues to show his inability
    to pass the ball and should be replaced by Edu. What I like about
    Jurgen is his ability to change out players and not be afraid of
    experimenting with players in different spots. Zusi had a great
    performance but he was tested at home against Jamaica who parked
    the bus the first half. I won’t be convinced by Zusi until he plays
    at either a better club or plays against top notch international
    squads.

    • Charles says:

      What the heck, you are commenting on soccer. I am game. Sure Zusi
      played at home, but they all did, and Edu didn’t do a very good job
      of replacing him…at all. I agree with the parking the bus,
      everyone seems excited by the first half, but to me it looked like
      Jamaica parked the bus and wasn’t good at it. When they tried to
      score the US was outplayed. So was it putting in Edu and Altidore,
      who was terrible, or was it Jamaica changing the game plan after
      the goal. One thing is certain for me, the US needs Donovan or
      Bradley in there badly, maybe both.

    • derek says:

      I think Bradley will replace Jones and Donovan will replace either
      Torres or Zusi.

  2. Ed Ritter says:

    A few observations — While Boncanegra is 33, he has the experience
    and leadership that make up for his lack of speed. Witness him
    counseling Cameron last night. A centerback being 35 is not out of
    the question and I think there is plenty of time for someone else
    to be groomed if necessary — there is no lack of options, just
    experience. I love Cherundolo and he was MOTM for me. That said, he
    may not have that much left in the tank for Brazil. Lihaj and Gatt
    (though I think he is better as a winger) are definitely
    possibilities. We were clearly missing a playmaker. Bradley is
    clearly first choice in this role and Mixx may be an option going
    forward. I disagree about Williams underperforming. His pass
    completion rate was fantastic and he showed good instincts when he
    got forward. Playing him in his natural positon made a huge
    difference. As far as Jones and Shea, I agree that we potentially
    have better options. The tactics were superb in the first half and
    suspect in the 2nd. We took our foot off the gas too early and a
    better team would have capitalized on this. Perhaps with Donovan
    and Bradley healthy for the next 2 qualifiers we can see a more
    complete game. There is plenty of time before the hex to fine tune
    things.

    • Tijuana Robert says:

      I don’t think U.S. took the foot off the gas but rather Jamaica
      started pushing higher up the pitch and started pressing our
      players in the second half. Notice the difference after the goal
      and Jamaica started playing for a draw. The ball was being turned
      over left and right. If Jamaica didn’t park the bus in the first
      half and attacked and pressed I think we would of seen a different
      result.

      • Earl Reed says:

        Exactly Robert – Jamaica played for a draw the entire match. Before the goal, that meant bunker. After the goal, that meant attack.

        There are multiple ways to skin a cat when it comes to soccer – Jamaica found the same result when they mimicked a similar style to the one the US played in Kingston. It comes down to probabilities I think, and you try and trick the odds so that you have the best shot of winning. In both matches in this “home-and-home” series, the bunker tactic failed to result in a point.

    • Charles says:

      I agree with Robert. In times where both teams were trying to score
      the US has been out played for about 120 out of 120 minutes.

  3. SSReporters says:

    Edu is staggeringly inept. Can’t pass, can’t cover, can’t shoot, I
    don’t know what he does well at an international level. This team
    is dangerously thin as far as depth goes, particularly at forward.
    We’ll make the Hex and qualify but I’m concerned about the
    long-term future and that includes post-2014.

    • Earl Reed says:

      That’s where Klinsmann has his work cut out for him. Assuming qualification happens, after the Hex, I think I’d spend some time trying to bring in a number of youth players (19-23 yrs old) in the Gold Cup and a few friendlies leading up to WC2014. Give some up-and-comers a chance to coalesce and learn from the old guard while they are still in the mix. Honestly, if it’s going to be a struggle with the current 22-29 yr old crop, I’d rather be cutting the teeth of those who might be able to impact in WC2018 and beyond. Maybe that’s not possible, but at least it has to be a consideration.

      • Tijuana Robert says:

        Panama is going to make things interesting in the Hex if they
        qualify. The lights went out in the middle of the game and beat
        Canada 2-0. My Hex: Mexico, Panama, Honduras, USA, Costa Rica,
        Jamaica.

  4. Michael says:

    Re: Brek Shae, I agree that he looks a little shaky out there, but
    it can be hard to find your rhythm when you’re not playing much. I
    think he needs more playing time and more time on the field with
    that group. He brings an element of creativity to the pitch that we
    need desperately although he has a tendency to focus too much on
    the offensive side of the game. So he’s a mixed bag. I have high
    hopes that Dempsey will rub off on him a bit and he’ll balance his
    game out. Zusi was able to create some chances, but was driving me
    crazy by not putting more shots on frame. I’d like to see us
    challenge the opposing keeper a little more, especially when
    there’s traffic around the net. And Dempsey … am I expecting too
    much from the Premier League player? An assist? A goal? A shot?
    Some creativity? The facial expressions were the highlight of the
    match for Dempsey.

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