Wednesday, September 12, 2012

US v Jamaica WC Qualifying - Good, Bad & Ugly

After last Friday's upsetting 2-1 loss to Jamaica, many questions were asked about Klinsmann's starting lineup and tactics.  Though we have had a pretty good record this year through that match (6-2-2) including historic road wins at Italy and Mexico, the fact remains that we are winless in our two WC qualifying away matches.

On Friday, Dempsey scored just 35 seconds into the game on a sequence began by a beautiful through ball from Edu to Gomez.  Remarkably, it was his 3rd straight goal in WC qualifying matches.  However, clearly our ball possession overall was seriously lacking, especially in our midfield.  This is where I think I would question Klinsmann's decision to deploy 3 defensive midfielders - Jones, Edu and Beckerman.  Besides Edu's first minute, none of those players did a good job of providing service to our two forwards or linking effectively with Dempsey.  They offered nothing threatening on either flank especially while both our right and left backs were essentially pinned back to keep from getting beat by the speedy Jamaicans.  So with our defense back and our 2 forwards up high, you can see how easily 3 defensive minded midfielders can lose the battle of the mids.

Why Klinsmann wouldn't use a Brek Shea, or anybody that can also provide width to start this game was definitely a head-scratcher.  To make things worse, Jones and Edu both committed poor fouls which led to Jamaica's scoring set pieces.  True, we were unlucky to allow two goals in that manner - the first of which was a deflection of Beckerman's foot while the 2nd was just a brilliant free kick off the post - but the fact that we capitulated an early lead on the road was extremely disappointing.

So to see Klinsmann bring in an Zusi and Torres, both of whom are more offensive-possession oriented players into the midfield for Tuesday's home match was a relief.  Ultimately, I'd rather see Shea and Donovan starting there, but at least it was a start.  It certainly helped that Cherundolo was finally healthy, but we dominated the flanks, putting Jamaica on their heels nearly all night.  Torres wasn't brilliant, but he was good enough to allow Jones and the newest member of our defensive mid squad, Danny Williams, to play their natural roles of breaking up attacks.  Danny had previously always been asked to play right-mid, an extremely strange decision considering he is a def-mid at his club.  His long-range strike off the inside of the post was indicative of how great of a game he had.  I already favor him over the overly-aggressive Jones to pair with Bradley centrally.

Danny's post-strike was actually the 3rd time in the 1st half that we rattled the goal without scoring, even though our possession was nearly at 80%.  Zusi, another goal-rattler, seemed to do a fine job on the right, giving us a much needed option as Donovan's backup.  However, the goal didn't come until Gomez' 55th minute curling free kick goal, which the Jamaican keeper had a good chance of saving.  I would have loved to see another goal or two, but it wasn't to be.  I think this is the sort of Concacaf game that Donovan would have dominated.  Having the space and the numbers in attack, he could have peeled their defense open for another few goals easily.

We are now tied with Jamaica and Guatemala atop the 4 team group with 7 points (2 teams advance), however we have the easiest schedule left - Guatemala at home and Antigua & Barbuda away.

After this 2 game set, we've learned or confirmed that:

1) Geoff Cameron is our solid starter at CB going forward.

2) Herculez Gomez seems to be more effective up top than Jozy.

3) Graham Zusi is a useful bench player at right mid.

4) Danny Williams is a now a viable option at defensive mid.

5) Fabian Johnson is locked into our LB position and should be there until he retires.

6) Timmy Chandler better sign up for our Oct qualifiers or he is dead to me.  Cherundolo is in great form, but we've got no options otherwise.  By the way, whatever happened to Eric Lichaj?

Best lineup as of now:


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