It certainly is nice that we have some U.S. national team matches that mean something. Well, check that. They feel like they mean something.
This short camp and two-match set – Friday’s win over Peru and Tuesday’s contest outside Boston against Brazil – is all preparation for the big skirmish coming over the hill. That’s the Oct. 10 Rose Bowl date against Mexico, a team with its own identity crisis at the moment.
So, yes, it’s nice that these are registering a notch or two higher on the meter of relevancy and intrigue. If not for the impending battle in Pasadena, these would just be two more ho-hum friendlies, further opportunity for Jurgen Klinsmann’s ongoing hodgepodge of experimentation and tinkering. Instead, there’s a finish line here; that 2017 Confederations Cup spot beckons.
So fans and the fourth estate (writers, broadcasters and the punditocracy, all of which apparently amuses Klinsmann so) will all do our best. Over the span of five or six days, we’ll all lean in, study hard and then make assessments of preparedness for the biggie ahead.
But let’s not get carried away. Because it’s worth remembering that these are just friendlies and that, more to the point, a lot can happen over five weeks (before the Oct. 10 date). It’s worth wondering: what are we really learning that we don’t already know?
Case in point: there is real competition in goal for the first time since … what, 2002? Since then it’s generally been Kasey Keller. Then Tim Howard.
But Howard went on sabbatical and now its Brad Guzan’s job. The Aston Villa backstopper did what he needed Friday against Peru, so things look status quo for now. Besides, is anybody really worried about the U.S. goalkeeping situation? Between Howard and Guzan, there really is no bad choice.
The situation looks much different in front of them. The back line remains, frankly, a bit of a disheveled mess.
These two games will come, and go and we still won’t have a good idea of what Klinsmann’s best back four looks like. Last week’s starters, John Brooks and Omar Gonzalez, had their good moments and bad. For Gonzalez, things certainly tilted too far toward the bad. Just ask Guzan, who is still probably wondering why Gonzalez stepped backward, rather than forward, as Daniel Chávez lined up a shot from 22 yards.