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Why the United States soccer fan has reason to be concerned

Oct 13, 2012, 11:05 AM EDT

Carlos Bocanegra, Randolph Hillsworth Burton

I keep saying it, and will never come off this point: in international soccer, you win on the road. Do that, stamp it “mission accomplished” and move on.

In that regard, the ongoing over-reaction to a 2-1 result over tiny Antigua and Barbuda is so much wasted breath. On a poor excuse for an international soccer field, on the road, in the rain and against a reasonably well-organized Caribbean side, a win is a win is a win.

But! … That doesn’t mean there is reason for alarm.

It’s not about last night. It’s about a string of “last nights.”

As I like to say, “One could be a mistake. Two starts to look like a trend. But three is definitely a problem.”

Mitigating factors like that field and injuries notwithstanding, the underwhelming win over Antigua and Barbuda, a side that will never even get within bribing distance of a World Cup, was just the latest cause for concern. Let’s look at the U.S. semifinal round results:

  • The 3-1 win in over Antigua and Barbuda back in June in Tampa, on a far better field, is probably more concerning in retrospect than last night’s contest, where the result was acceptable, even if the “look” of it wasn’t.
  • A 1-1 draw in Guatemala might have been OK but for the way it finished, with the United States failing to close out a match, conceding a late goal.
  • A 2-1 loss in Jamaica was even worse than the result looks – and it doesn’t look good by any stretch. Clint Dempsey scored right away, but the United States gave up another lead, conceding imprudent fouls that led to free kick goals.

The team looked quite capable in a 1-0 win over Jamaica in Columbus, but the bottom line was a slim, one-goal win – a.k.a., too close for comfort.

There are individual concerns, too … but we can dive into those later.

Jurgen Klinsmann was hired to elevate the program, to push boundaries and achieve new levels. And that may yet happen.

But there’s scant evidence of this push for progress right now. I think it’s unfair to say the team has regressed – and that sentiment is out there.

But the players and the team as a whole need to show more. So at this point, it’s hard to argue with the alarmists. That one, big, crashing, resounding win would help a ton, helping to restore the wavering fan faith and the player confidence.

The whole thing does need to get better, and even Klinsmann says so.

“We have the three points and that’s the most important thing. Do we have to play better? Absolutely. Individually, we’re not happy with what we saw, but we expected a very difficult challenge and it came down to the wire,” Klinsmann said. “There are a couple of things we have to discuss internally that we need to do much, much better in Kansas City.”


  1. docstraw - Oct 13, 2012 at 12:07 PM

    one glaring weakness is that while Bradley and Dempsey (Donovan to an extent) are the most capable of this current crop of hitting the killer pass, there isn’t a true playmaker to be found. If only there were a Freddie Adu 2.0 out there somewhere. That said, on two occasions Hercules Gomez received a nice ball behind the defense (one came from Dempsey for sure) and then sabotaged his own efforts by turning into Eddie Johnson 1.0 with a concrete first touch.

    Another problem is this team has no identity. They aren’t skillful tiki-taka, they aren’t rugged route 1, they don’t kill you with width and flank play. They don’t seem to want to be a dangerous counterattacking team. For the most part they play a bland, uninspired brand of soccer. And adding all the Lichajs and Pontiuses of the world won’t change that. So, what’s the solution? Klinsmann doesn’t seem to have it.

    The Hex is going to be a real bitch for this team (assuming we get there).

    • danielofthedale - Oct 13, 2012 at 4:31 PM

      I think Mix Diskerud could be that play maker out of center midfield. He make the pass and score the goal out of the area. I think a guy like Josh Gatt could be killer on the wing. Amazing speed and the ability to run at pace with the ball at attackers and score goals. I think those two guys need to be called up in the next camp and given the chance to show what they can do for the National team.

      • mikeevergreen - Oct 14, 2012 at 9:22 PM

        If they qualify, why wait? You have two November friendlies, get them a taste then, the grill ’em in camp.

  2. jckapono - Oct 15, 2012 at 11:10 AM

    I think there is just an overall lack of continuity and confidence from the guys on the pitch. They don’t trust each other, the young guys don’t seem to gel with the veterans, and that can cause problems when you are playing a small nation that literally put their hopes and dreams on the line in these qualifying matches. The U.S. doesn’t have that sense of urgency. Even when they do, they seem satisfied to score one goal and try to hang on for dear life while the opposing team(Jamaica) do their best to equalize. Where is the killer instinct? Put your foot on their throats and finish it!

    There are positives to be taken from every match, but it’s hard to see when there is such a struggle to score goals. I don’t think Klinsmann has found the right use for Dempsey yet. He and Gomez play similar games, and it’s becoming quite apparent Dempsey does not have confidence in what Gomez is going to do on the ball. I think when Donovan comes back healthy we could see a more complete team with a better build-up to the attacking third, but first things first, get one point from Guatemala and move on.

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