Skip to content

United States-Russia: What we learned from Wednesday’s draw

Nov 14, 2012, 12:25 PM EDT

us soccer

A 2-2 draw might slightly flatter Jurgen Klinsmann’s team, but a road draw against a quality European team is always a good result for the United States.

Tim Howard and Michael Bradley were the stars of this one, which went all kinds of sideways in the feeble first 30 minutes. But the U.S. gamely regrouped, providing room for Bradley to hit a fabulous equalizer and later for late sub Mix Diskerud to claim a late leveler once the Americans had slipped behind again.

Here are the important, early elements we can take away from Wednesday’s draw with Russia in Krasnodar.

(MORE: Man of the Match, Michael Bradley)

This is not Guatemala or Antigua or …

We have all spent so much time over the last few months analyzing matches, dissecting the collective performance and the individual abilities in varying situations. But here’s the rub:

The games are getting more difficult. So are the choices.

The lesser CONCACAF teams have been dispatched. The opposition in World Cup qualifiers ahead will be closer to Russian in terms of collective ability. And they will ruthlessly punish mistakes – just like Wednesday.

Young Danny Williams, for instance, seems to have taken hold of the central, holding midfield position. And he has previously performed those duties adequately against … Guatemala and against Antigua and Barbuda, etc.  But these are better players, faster, stronger, more tactically astute. And under the guidance of better managers. Fabio Capello may not have gotten it done for England, but he’s certainly got something between his soccer ears.

Wednesday, the young midfielder looked overwhelmed.

Here’s another good “for instance:” We saw Eddie Johnson excel in a wide role, roughly the same role where Herculez Gomez failed to make an imprint in the first-half Wednesday. But we simply cannot make too much of Johnson’s performance against such unequal competition.

In some ways, we can take a lot of what we learned in the last qualifying round and toss it out. The stakes are rising – and so is the quality of opposition.

Center backs. We are still talking about center backs …

Geoff Cameron did enough in his latest start centrally. We can nitpick here and there – a few too many “thump aways” that needed be controlled and spun into attacker starters, for instance. But generally, Cameron was solid against a quality bunch.

Past that? Just not good enough – to the point of being alarming

The midfield shape and performance left the American back line with lots to do, admittedly. (More on that below.) Still …

Carlos Bocanegra started but soon left injured. Coming in cold was no easy assignment for Clarence Goodson, but he was still erring late in the match, after plenty of time to warm up, adjust and take control.

Rather, he gave the ball away too much, sometimes too casually, lost his position too often and gave away a potentially devastating penalty kick (at a moment when Howard seemed to have the situation covered).

Is Goodson still the U.S. third choice center back? That’s probably the bigger question. Omar Gonzalez, not available for this one due to MLS playoffs, cannot get back into the U.S. fold quickly enough.

The three-man midfield still a work in progress.

Results have been mixed, at best, when Jurgen Klinsmann deploys some version of a 4-3-3, using three across the middle who are more or less defensive-minded. It seems to work at home when Bradley’s starting positions are slightly more advanced, where he can perform a little more as a playmaker and linker, a little less as a redundant defensive screener.

(Actually, the three man midfield probably isn’t going to work at all , in any form or alignment lean, if Bradley isn’t in the mix. Again, I say, he’s the most important U.S. man these days, not Clint Dempsey, not Landon Donovan and not Howard.)

(MORE: Video of Bradley’s breakthrough goal)

But on the road, when all three midfielders are saddled with heavy defensive duty, it tends to fall apart. As we saw in some of the qualifiers, the shape and organization can get shoddy. Where is the pressure and where is the support? Who is tracking whom? Who is organizing?

Williams, for his talent and potential, may not be the commanding presence to hold things together and ask teammates to be accountable. And we can ask questions about whether he gets too timid in the 50-50 challenges.

Distribution out of the back looks untidy — but some of that is down to midfield shape, where outlets seem less available than they should be. It seems to be all improvisation, less plan and pattern.

Important point here: Maurice Edu certainly has his flaws as a midfielder. But the moment he replaced Williams in the second half, things began to look more settled and organized. He wasn’t getting drawn out of position as Williams was.

He looked like the leader that Williams, 23, isn’t quite ready to be.

(MORE to come from ProSoccerTalk, including thoughts on Josh Gatt, who earned his first U.S. cap Wednesday)

Latest Posts
  1. WATCH: Reporter gets blasted by Whitecaps shot, barely misses a beat

    Apr 20, 2014, 11:05 PM EDT

    https://twitter.com/KelliTennant https://twitter.com/KelliTennant

    It’s actually amazing how quickly she regroups — in an instant — after getting blasted.

  2. Quick Six: Liverpool inches closer, Moyes’ reception, and the rest of the headlines from the BPL weekend

    Apr 20, 2014, 10:40 PM EDT

    norwich_city_liverpool AP

    Mourinho changes his communications style, while Villa tried to secure its sale.

  3. Report: Despite history, Evra tabs Suarez as PFA Player of the Year

    Apr 20, 2014, 10:07 PM EDT

    evra_suarez_2140860b Getty Images

    No one would blame Evra for ignoring Suarez’s season, but it really is a strong nod to the Frenchman’s class.

  4. WATCH: Blackpool coach sent off after hitting own player in face

    Apr 20, 2014, 9:18 PM EDT

    Blackpool v Burnley - Sky Bet Championship Getty Images

    Blackpool: Where dozens of tangerines and tennis balls on the pitch are second in weirdness to a coach striking his own player

  5. Newcastle defender laments first ever five-match Premier League skid

    Apr 20, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT

    Newcastle United v Swansea City Getty Images

    The Magpies have been brutal, and manager Alan Pardew’s return from suspension could require a job-saving performance.

  6. Report: Majority of Mexico’s World Cup roster slots are set

    Apr 20, 2014, 7:36 PM EDT

    RCD Espanyol v Real Madrid CF - La Liga Getty Images

    Plenty of notable names remain in question for Miguel Herrera.

  7. WATCH: Ale Bedoya’s half-volley part of Nantes blowout of Valenciennes

    Apr 20, 2014, 6:41 PM EDT

    Alejandro Bedoya AP

    Bedoya’s fifth Ligue 1 goal was part of a 6-2 win.

  8. Spain roundup: Atletico now three wins away, but Barcelona keeps pace

    Apr 20, 2014, 5:45 PM EDT

    Lionel Messi, Gorka Iraizoz AP

    Atletico Madrid is now 3 wins away from its first La Liga title since 1996, while Barcelona and Real Madrid can only hope for big mistakes

  9. Portland’s Porter praises form, but captain Johnson just wants wins

    Apr 20, 2014, 5:01 PM EDT

    MLS Real Salt Lake Timbers AP

    The Timbers fell to 0-3 on the road this season with Saturday’s 1-0 loss, complicating an already head-scratching start to the year that has Portland in second-to-last place out West at 0W-3L-4T.

  10. Americans Abroad Review: Bedoya buries one, Boyd bags brace

    Apr 20, 2014, 4:21 PM EDT

    Yevhen Khacheridi, Terrence Boyd AP

    How many Americans could find themselves in the UEFA Champions League next season?

  11. WATCH: Arlo White, Graeme Le Saux talk Everton and Manchester United

    Apr 20, 2014, 3:29 PM EDT

    Romelu Lukaku, Alexander Buttner AP

    Arlo White and Graeme Le Saux break down how having a clear identity continues to push Everton above teams while Manchester United’s lack of an identity continues to hurt the team.

  12. Despite season’s disappointing end, Blanc close to PSG extension

    Apr 20, 2014, 3:20 PM EDT

    Blanc Getty Images

    With domestic success and European disappointment, Paris Saint-Germain has decided to extend Blanc’s contract and the manager says it will be finalized in the coming days.

  13. Roberto Martinez revels in Everton’s humbling of Manchester United

    Apr 20, 2014, 2:53 PM EDT

    Cardiff City v Everton - Premier League Getty Images

    After Toffees do the double over United, Martinez praises Moyes work and his own side:

  14. Video: Liverpool’s title charge headed by selfless teamwork

    Apr 20, 2014, 2:40 PM EDT

    SuarezSterling

    Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling combined for Liverpool’s second goal, and video showed it wasn’t a fluke they knew exactly where their teammate was going to be.

  15. David Moyes vilified on return to Everton, as Manchester United nightmare continues

    Apr 20, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT

    Everton v Manchester United - Premier League Getty Images

    Everton’s old boss the villain on return to Goodison, as pastures new prove to be a nightmare:

  16. Berbatov scores a very Berbatov goal to send Monaco to the Champions League

    Apr 20, 2014, 1:42 PM EDT

    Berbatov Getty Images

    With the cheekiest of chips, Dimitar Berbatov sent Monaco to the Champions League with his winner against Nice.

  17. Villa owner Lerner releases head-scratching statement

    Apr 20, 2014, 1:09 PM EDT

    Lerner Getty Images

    Randy Lerner released a pretty useless statement on the Villa website today, refusing to rule out a sale of the club which has been reported in recent days.

  18. Everton 2-0 Manchester United: Toffees rampant in miserable return for Moyes

    Apr 20, 2014, 1:01 PM EDT

    Baines gave Everton perfect balance, as Martinez's side impressed once again. AP

    Nightmare return for Moyes, as Everton do double over United for first time since 1970:

  19. Video: Sunil Gulati believes US Soccer is headed in right direction

    Apr 20, 2014, 12:35 PM EDT

    Gulati Getty Images

    The US Soccer Federation president talks USWNT coaching search, men’s World Cup goals, and MLS growth with NBC’s John Strong.

Featured video

PST Extra: Race for the PL title