With WC 2014 qualifiers finally about to begin, I figured we'd have a review of our 3 most recent games.
In Landon's return to the US team since last September's Costa Rica loss, he scored his 3rd international hat trick and raised his US scoring record to 49 goals. He also set another US record by starting his 125th international match, besting Jeff Agoos. However, the goal of the night belonged to Michael Bradley. His 11th minute golazo (along with his achievements in Serie A) should permanently shut his "nepotism-critics" up for good. Not surprisingly, the US' 2 goals inside 11 minutes was quite an achievement as well since it has been since 2002, when McBride scored twice inside 11 minutes during a Gold Cup match. Another achievement, besides the 5 goals, was that the US completed 84.6% of its passes against Scotland
(466 out of 551).
Gooch was particularly bad on the night. He gave up a handball PK, then combined with Jermaine Jones to lose Silva on his cornerkick goal, was then partly culpable in leaving Marcelo alone on his goal and then kept Pato onside on his goal. So he was partially at fault for all 4 of Brazil's goals.
Bradley and Fabian Johnson were noticeably the best players for the US and they even combined beautifully to setup Gomez' goal. After a decade of insecurity, it appears we have found our LB of the future in Fabian. The good news is that Chandler might not want to commit to us, but Fabian already has, having filed his one-time FIFA transfer paperwork.
In my opinion, the game very well could have ended 3-3. Gooch's unintentional armball (since the ball struck his bicep/elbow) should have been a no call / play-on instead of a pathetically called PK. The US had numerous missed opportunities to score including Boca's clean header which skied over the ball, Dempsey's near tap in which Silva popped over goal last millisecond, Bradley monstrous header which would have scored had it been anywhere other than right over the keeper, Gooch's header off the crossbar, Gomez/Boyd's back to back blasts which the keeper somehow saved.
No, we're nowhere as good as Brazil, but the game wasn't as one-sided as the score indicated. Of course, Mexico went on to beat Brazil a few days later so nobody should be feeling too good about themselves.
In a game in which I thought we had to score at least 2-3 goals to restore our confidence and salvage our 3 game preparations, the US actually played its worst match. Our offense, promising against Brazil, was anemic and inconsistent. Klinsmann still needs to clearly delineate Dempsey and Donovan's roles. Torres was invisible and I couldn't understand why Edu was playing further up the pitch than Bradley when Mo has a poor first touch and Bradley was one of our most important offensive players in the first 2 games. The 0-0 snoozefest made me regret upgrading my programming package to get this game, haha.
One bright spot was that we learned that Clarence Goodson is clearly still the best CB to pair with Bocanegra. He got his head on everything and didn't make any bad mistakes. On the other hand, Castillo, who got the nod after Fabian was a late scratch, made all of us wonder why Lichaj isn't in camp and why Chandler thinks Germany wants him. Had the ref not bailed Castillo out, we probably would have given up a goal, and maybe the game. Since Canada's defensive strategy is probably what we will see more of in Concacaf qualifying, there is cause for concern.
On Friday, we will begin to find out if Klinsmann's 11 month building process was fruitful. We haven't played a non-friendly since last June's Gold Cup final vs Mexico. During that time, Klinsmann's biggest contributions have essentially been trying to install a new offensive mentality and possession style as well as revamping our left side - Fabian Johnson/Chandler at LB, Brek Shea / Torres at left wing. However, with our Canadian performance freshest in our minds, we are surely lacking confidence. Its nothing a 4 goal drubbing of Antigua & Barbuda can't fix though.
This first round of qualifying is very dangerous. In a group with A&B, Guatemala and Jamaica, we will play home and away matches against all 3 sides. The top two teams advance, bottom 2's WC dreams are crushed. Winning all home games is an absolute must.
Probable Starting Lineup:
Now that Klinsmann has finally gotten Beckerman out of his system, I don't have much complaint here. As long as Bradley continues to commit to the attack, we will have at least 5 attack minded players on the pitch. Ideally we would have had Shea galloping up and down the left side, but its nice to get Torres on the pitch especially when we have to unlock extremely defensive sides. Behind our fullbacks, we are especially thin, so here's hoping Dolo and Johnson stay healthy. Otherwise, I blame you again, Chandler. Lets go US!