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The Big Three: trio of talkers in U.S. romp over Scotland

May 26, 2012, 10:50 PM EDT

Scotland v United States Getty Images

There will be more analysis to come; for now, let’s talk about the three major take-aways from a real eye-opener.

(See first-half notes here for more PST analysis.)

Transition game is flying high

We really should start here: Scotland is somewhere south of “just OK” at the moment, I mean, not to be rude, but … yeah.

So let’s filter all this, put a small governor on the engine as we all race to Vegas with fists full of cash to bet “United States to make the World Cup semifinal!”

Still, it really was something else to see the United States overwhelm, completely dominate a mid-level European side. This is what American sides do to CONCACAF minnows. Usually, anyway. But not European teams whose rosters are stocked with players from top-tier UEFA associations.

It wasn’t just the score that matters – it was the stylistic manner of achievement.

I’ve never seen the United States transition into attack so quickly. The American players raced aggressively, confidently into position upon gaining the ball.  It really does make for a more entertaining visual. More importantly in the bigger picture, it can be very effective, especially in breaking down those CONCACAF underdogs who sit back, parking-the-bus style.

And that’s not an easy thing to accomplish, to fashion a system around just a few shared practices over nine months. It’s surely a credit to coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who has apparently put the emphasis in all the right places.

Said Landon Donovan: “The three guys in the middle really did a great job of moving and passing quickly. It really made it easy for Jose and myself wide. When you get that much space out there, you’re going to score eventually.”

Landon Donovan, of course … but there was another eye-popping performance

Donovan will earn all the Man of the Match mentions, and rightly so. His hat trick was just the start; the program’s all-time leading scorer was a direct contributor on the other two goals, as well.

But Michael Bradley’s night deserves special mention, too. He was an absolute force in midfield, with the ball and without it.

When you hit a goal like Bradley’s, a sublime half-volley highlight-maker that curled beautifully into goal, and that’s not even the man’s most significant contribution of the night, that says so much.

But it was, indeed, his overall body of work that helped manufacture such a night of overwhelming soccer. His tackling was forceful but prudent; the tendency to collect needless cards was something he needed to prune away from his game. Saturday, Bradley managed it beautifully, seeing the passing lanes and stepping into them and directing the team on when to press collectively and when to sit back and organize.

With the ball, he was the best at moving possession quickly, creating the tick-tick-tick connections that slowly degrade a defense. Again, don’t underestimate how important that will be against teams that dig in defensively; quick transition is so often the key to getting around those sides, speeding past them before they organize defensively.

Also file under “good performances”

Fabian Johnson may just make everyone forget about Timmy Chandler after all. Again, Scotland wasn’t the toughest of tests; Brazil is a different level, a challenge now dangling just days away.

And eventually, Johnson will need to be even more assertive in the offensive end; that 4-3-3 Klinsmann deployed Saturday depends on fullbacks for width in the final third. For his starting debut, however, Johnson did plenty.

Terrence Boyd doesn’t always make the best choices near goal, a measure of his youth and inexperience. But he’ll learn. For now, there’s so much to like, so very much upside in his energy, enthusiasm and ability to find great spots.

Maurice Edu was positioned perfectly all night, embracing his duties of “screen and distribute.” We’d probably be talking about how well Jermaine Jones performed two-way duty, except that Bradley’s blue ribbon work partially obscures some of the good doings of his central midfield mate. Truly, all three men in the U.S. triangle were on top of things.

Jose Torres had his moments, creative and quick — although he did seem stronger in the first 30 minutes than in the last hour.

  1. larryharry59 - May 26, 2012 at 11:54 PM

    I have never seen the US national team play such beautiful soccer in my life. The slick, cheeky passing was something Spain does, not us. You’re sure that was the REAL US national team out there and not some imposters?

  2. greej1938l - May 27, 2012 at 12:04 AM

    What a great game to watch. Great game guys!!!

  3. ironduke2010 - May 27, 2012 at 12:29 AM

    That was a fun game to watch, the team finally really showed the form that I have been hoping JK would bring with him. Next question is who do Dempsey and Altidore replace in the line up? Altidore will almost certainly replace Boyd. But who else gets pulled out of the starting XI for Dempsey to come on too?

    • larryharry59 - May 27, 2012 at 12:46 AM

      I haven’t seen Jozy play in a while but when I did he never had a good 1st touch. They guys who played tonight played like freakin Spain out there. I wouldn’t do a dam thing to the starting lineup. This is the type of soccer that would make America love the game.

      • ironduke2010 - May 28, 2012 at 1:32 AM

        Jozy has certainly disappointed with his first touch before. However, given his incredible season with his club this year he deserves to be in the starting XI once he is fully up to speed (he may not be for Brazil). While I loved the effort Boyd put in during his time and think he shows a lot of promise, keep in mind he has never played on the senior level for a club team so Altidore is certainly a better option than him for the US right now. Also, Dempsey will certainly add to the line up as well. The team looked good out there and with the creativity and fire Dempsey brings I can only see them getting better. I think he will likely knock Edu out of the starting line up, but play around where Torres was, with Torres and Bradley playing slightly farther back then they were on Sat.

  4. iainrwb - May 27, 2012 at 2:34 AM

    Come and do that at Hampden Park in the driving rain in front of 50,000 Scottish fans, that would be impressive.

    Beating a team that’s mentally on vacation? Less so.

    • sdbeisbol - May 27, 2012 at 11:43 AM

      What’s impressive is that the US finally found a style of play of their own and executed it beautifully. Lets face it…they used similar tactics to teams like Argentina and Spain but played to their own strengths by running full speed through defense on a counter and create space for the attacking players to get into position. How many times did you see players run through the middle of the Scottish defense to spark the attack while passing the ball on the ground with pin point accuracy? What’s amazing is that the US never slowed down and were able to pass the ball at full speed and hardly lost the ball. If a performance like that doesn’t impress you then maybe you shouldn’t even watch football.

    • Ramiro - May 28, 2012 at 2:24 AM

      I agree that Scotland was not as focused as the US, but this game was a step in the right direction for the US soccer/football program and you can’t take the luster off that.

  5. jucam1 - May 27, 2012 at 9:07 AM

    I like the US side but please relax, this Scotland team is awful, its worse than the awful competition the US faces to get to the WC which is why they’ll never be good enough….. When the US faces real football nations in real competitions they will get owned..

    • section1guy - May 27, 2012 at 11:27 PM

      Just like when the US beat Italy in its last match? They didn’t just beat Scotland, they destroyed them.

  6. greej1938l - May 27, 2012 at 10:55 AM

    It’s worse then Guatemala Cuba and puerto Rico….

    • Steve Davis - May 27, 2012 at 11:31 AM

      I edited your comment. While I appreciate when people add to the discussion, you have to keep in above junior high level. No shout downs, allowed.

  7. greej1938l - May 27, 2012 at 11:45 AM

    Thanks Steve appreciate. Love NBC

  8. soccerknowitall - May 28, 2012 at 12:59 AM

    what are we witnessing as us soccer fans?
    Jurgen klinsmann modeled his 06 german team from that of the top flight teams in the epl. he asked his germans to play ungerman, uptempo possession style the likes of man u, arsenal,or chelsea.
    he has now modeled another team to play not like a national team style(american) if you will, but an epl team similar to chelsea or man u. i always felt that building a team using this model would be preferrable as these teams play year round and are superior to national teams in style of play, cohesion, and effectiveness.
    gl JK with the progress to 2014 WC

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