5 Things We Learned From the USA 2-0 Azerbaijan Victory

2-0 #USMNT

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.

It seems like Kyle Beckerman is a natural choice for the 4-4-2 diamond, but Klinsmann knows that Jones is a better player. The problem is, he’s being shoehorned into a system that doesn’t really work for him.

3. The Bench Was Fun 

Mix Diskerud’s liveliness off the bench can’t be underestimated. He’s sprightly in bursts, and while he scrapped for the opening goal, he got into dangerous positions all night.

Diskerud is the right choice for the #10 shirt, and he said after the game that he’s just “barrowing” it from Donovan. Diskerud surely remembers all too clearly the 2013 Gold Cup where Donovan dominated, and the cross he sent to Donovan for numero dos against Mexico in Columbus.

Aron Johannsson also looked good, and appears to be in competition with Chris Wondolowski for the first forward spot off the bench. Wondo’s two missed chances – however cruel – will have hurt him when Johannsson buried his open header.

As for Timmy Chandler and DeAndre Yedlin, god help the US if they see the field in Brazil. It was interesting that Julian Green didn’t see the field in this friendly. It suggests that he’s behind Brad Davis – who was lively – on the depth chart.

4. We’ll Learn More Against Turkey And Nigeria

Azerbaijan never posed a threat. But Turkey has players who can hurt the US, and Nigeria is a team preparing for the World Cup who will be going full-throttle at the Americans in Jacksonville.

Defense remains the number one concern for the US, and in order for Klinsmann to clearly see his options, the US has to play some defense. The American performance against Azerbaijan wasn’t good enough to beat either Turkey nor Nigeria – let alone Ghana, Portugal, and Germany.

This game was awful overall. ESPN commentator Jon Champion was great, but that’s about it.

5. Donovan Looms Large

It goes without saying, but Donovan’s presence over this team will be a major storyline until the end. Klinsmann backing up on his comment that he would call Donovan back in if a forward got hurt was inevitable and suggests there’s no real possibility Donovan can get back into the team.

Mix Diskerud was a bright spot in a dire game, but a large reason ESPN pulled him over for the postgame interview was to ask him about wearing Donovan’s #10.

Donovan’s martyrdom – he’s always been beloved by some, but has never been as universally popular as he is right now – is worth watching. It wasn’t just that Donovan was dropped, it was the way that he was dropped that has turned people against Klinsmann so forcefully.

The US needs big performances to put the roster debacle behind them. A tepid 2-0 win over Azerbaijan isn’t that, and pivotal days loom near.

Watch the highlights of the game here:

23 thoughts on “5 Things We Learned From the USA 2-0 Azerbaijan Victory”

  1. I don’t think there is any way the US will play a diamond if Dempsey is fit … nor should they. They don’t have the personnel to pull it off and will get clobbered by the attacking abilities of their opponents in Brazil (definitely not something they had to worry about last night). It’s going to have to be a 4-2-3-1, with Jones allowing Bradley to get forward when necessary.

    Agreed on this being the wrong opponent in the wrong setting. I’m going to the match against Turkey on Sunday and hoping to see a much better performance.

  2. Here’s what I learned:
    1. If we play like that against Ghana, we’re gonna get destroyed. Several errors happened during our endless back-passing that, against a better team, would have put us down 2 or 3 goals.
    2. Candlestick park wasn’t a good idea. The bay winds wreaked havoc on ball flight and it looked like they were kicking around a ball full of helium at times. Only slightly less predictable than a snowstorm in Colorado in the middle of winter.
    3. There seems to be a significant language barrier between the German players and the US based players. Howard looked frustrated at times trying to communicate (typical).

    I somewhat disagree about Bradley. I thought for the first half, he was playing well. Second half he looked tired, which is very worrying.

  3. Friendlies are for the coaching staffs to try things and see how certain players fare. They rarely are for the fans and that’s why, regardless of when they are played, are a waste of time.

    1. Not a waste of time for the team or players, a waste of time for the fans. This is why I never go to the summer tour games.

  4. Bradley didn’t look like an attacking player at all which is what he needs to be in that formation.
    I actually like what Jones did. He tried a few things that didn’t work but his touch and
    overall passing was pretty darn good.
    I feel Jozy needs to turn and face more with the ball and take defenders on more, draw fouls and get into dangerous areas.
    Wondo is useless unless the ball is directed to him in the air…..
    I fear Ghana more than Germany and Portugal..

      1. It was a pretty dull game, there was not much to actually get excited about. But Champion was well prepared – evidently he even read up on Taylor Twellman’s career

  5. We learned the USA is probably going to finish bottom of the Group of Death and that dominating the CONCACAF region means nothing in Global football. If the USA can struggle against one of the weakest teams in Europe, god knows what Ghana, Portugal and Germany will do.

    1. You are totally clueless. Do some research before posting nonsense.

      Azerbaijan vs Portugal
      Competition: WC Qualification Europe
      Date: 2013-03-26
      Day: Tuesday
      Kick Off: 12:00
      Venue: Tofiq Bəhramov adına Respublika stadionu (Bakı (Baku))
      Half Time: 0 – 0
      Full Time: 0 – 2

      1. Nice one Statto but Delboy’s point is far from baseless. It’s the view of most informed observers.

        1. I have to agree with Remy. This is our first warm up game, it’s not a referendum on how we’ll perform. Is there a chance we’ll be dead last? sure. It’s a hard group. Same chance for England and Italy in Group D. There are tough groups this year, being pessimistic at this point just shows what kind of person one is.

      2. England the worst team European team in the world cup? What are you on?

        England is the only team in the world that has beaten Brazil and Spain the favourites for the world cup. They have only lost one competitive game in 90 minutes in 5 years.

        England’s problem is they had an outdated approach to penalties and only just realised there is a psychological and poker like element to penalty taking. They have the worst record in penalty shoot-outs in the world and if they had won maybe 1 or 2 of them they would have made finals and semi-finals.

  6. Idont see why we arent playing a basic 4-3-3. Dempsey, Altidore and one of the other attackers (not onedimensional striker like Wondo) up front. We dont have players good enough for a 4-2-3-1, which is very much a system designed to get the best out of a very good team. And 4-4-2 is annoying and archaic.

  7. 5 Things I learned:

    1- Geoff Cameron is the only centerback worth anything.

    2- I thought Jones was fantastic compared to most of the team

    3- Bradley tried to do too much last night and it made him look bad.

    4- Chris Wondolowski & Aron Johannsson should be starting up front.

    5- Altidore wouldn’t start if he wasn’t “big”. He got tossed around like child.

  8. First let me state that I’m sure I will receive many “thumbs down” after my feedback and comments on the above article.

    This is the most negative, unproductive and pointless article/story I’ve ever seen on World Soccer Talk (EPL talk).

    Mr. Asher, I understand this is “your” opinion since this is a blog, but come on.

    Mr. Harris (Gaffer) is this the kind of guest writers and writing you want here?

    First Mr. Asher your comments regarding where the game was played reeks of being Anti-San Francisco and Anti Bay Area.

    “…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.”

    I don’t know if you live in San Francisco or the Bay Area but the reasons why the Giants and 49ers left Candlestick didn’t only have to do with the weather, many, many other reasons (of which you didn’t note). People from San Francisco know what the conditions are (if they’ve been long time residents) and are use to it and it doesn’t phase real fans.

    Then regarding the small crowd (25K) there were reasons you forgot (on purpose?) to mention, 1st the SF Giants were playing a night game, 2nd the Oakland A’s were also at home playing a night game vs the Tigers. (Giants attendance: 41,000, Attendance at A’s game: 21,500). Then this USA friendly was played the day after the memorial day long holiday weekend, the unofficial start of summer and many people are out of town.

    Getting back to the “conditions” at the Stick, I don’t recall you speaking out against the US-Costa Rica game. At least at the stick we didn’t need snow shovels and snow plows. But I guess playing in blizzard conditions for a qualifying game is OK with you, but playing a friendly with wind isn’t. Get real!

    Next you wrote: ” Wondo’s two missed chances – however cruel – will have hurt him when Johannsson buried his open header.”

    Really, really – are you serious!? Yet you didn’t once write or mention the poor game Altidore played. If anyone may have “missed” their chance it’s Altidore and not Wondo (he of being from the SJ Earthquakes another Bay Area team – more anti-Bay Area feelings?)

    Finally your comment that “..this game was a waste of time.”

    What are your qualifications to make that assumption? Have you ever played for a National Team or prepped for a World Cup? Have you ever coached a National Team (regular or in a World Cup).

    For you to question Klinsmann decision on why he scheduled this game in my opinion is not only asinine but also arrogant on your part as if you know more than he does.

    Mr. Harris (Gaffer) this is your blog and you have a right to have whomever you want writing articles but, in my opinion this poorly written piece of negativity and pretentious(misleading too)dribble isn’t up to the quality for World Soccer Talk.

    Thank you.

    1. R.O.,

      I want to tell you that I don’t have any anti-Bay Area bias – I have family in the San Fransisco, have spent time there, and am a huge fan of the city. My thought that Candlestick was a poor venue for this friendly has nothing to do with any bias.

      I like Wondo’s game and that he made the team. But he’s in competition with Johannsson for minutes, while Altidore’s place is secure.

      Thanks for reading.


  9. Obvioulsy the three sites should have represented the conditions in Brazil where they will play. San Diego, San Antonio and Miami would have been better selections. Not anti-Bay just common sense.

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