The USA national team defeated Azerbaijan 2-0 in their first pre-World Cup friendly on Tuesday night at Candlestick Park. Here are five observations from the game:
1. Nothing About This Friendly Was A Good Idea
The reasons the US played Azerbaijan started and ended with Berti Vogts, who is the Azerbaijan manager and a special advisor and close friend to Jurgen Klinsmann. But that’s no reason to use one of three important friendlies before the World Cup to play a match.
The decision to host the game at Candlestick Park was admirable – the famous venue has only days left before its gone, and has never hosted the US national team. But the reason why the Giants and 49ers fled was clearly evident.
With wind whipping around all night, a small crowd of only 25,000 left almost 40,000 empty seats and made for a subdued atmosphere.
The game did nothing to make the occasion more festive. Azerbaijan put ten players behind the ball, defending all night and did nothing to simulate what the US will see in Brazil. And the American defense wasn’t tested all night.
I understand why Klinsmann wanted an easy friendly to start out the campaign, to boost morale and energy – especially if he knew far in advance that he was going to pick a barely understandable squad – but Azerbaijan was not the team to play it against. They don’t concede many goals, making a healing 5-0 win impossible, but are nowhere near good enough to test the US.
It’s harsh, but this game was a waste of time.
2. The Cons of the 4-4-2 Diamond
Before getting too heavy into analysis of the US’ offensive performance, we have to keep in mind that Clint Dempsey didn’t play and was replaced in the team by Landon Donovan Chris Wondolowski.
Immediately without Dempsey, the US attack became less potent. But boy, it looked bad for 75 minutes.
Michael Bradley was poor all day. The US has only moved from its custom 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-2 to maximize Bradley’s talent and get the most out of the best player in the national team setup. But Bradley has to be great for that decision to work.
Jermaine Jones, who knows his job may hinge on his tactical rigidness, didn’t venture forward and more frequently dropped into the backline. It minimized Jones’ effectiveness, and put Bradley on an island.