Nov 14, 2012, 12:25 PM EDT
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.
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.)
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)
Aug 29, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
The defending champions will look to open the season with three straight wins as Stoke City visit the Etihad.
Aug 29, 2014, 3:59 PM EDT
Southampton may acquire Brek Shea via loan.
Aug 29, 2014, 3:25 PM EDT
Wrapping up our journey through the Premier League with the last five alphabetical names out of the 20-flight teams.
Aug 29, 2014, 2:43 PM EDT
The one-time largest transfer in Premier League history is moving to Italy on loan, the Stamford Bridge club confirmed today.
Aug 29, 2014, 2:21 PM EDT
News from the senior teams for the United States men and women comes across the web this Friday afternoon. What’s cooking? Head inside.
Aug 29, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT
Brendan Rodgers liked what he saw in training from the club’s newest signing, but says the troubled Italian must change his ways at Liverpool.
Aug 29, 2014, 1:38 PM EDT
The Old Lady went an absurd 33W-3D-2L last season, busting No. 2 AS Roma in the nose by a meager 27 points.
Aug 29, 2014, 1:10 PM EDT
A Diego Costa injury could hurt Chelsea’s chances as the Toffees look to rebound from a tough draw against Arsenal.
Aug 29, 2014, 12:49 PM EDT
Manchester United, Liverpool, Newcastle, PSG and Arsenal all make the transfer churner to end the workweek.
Aug 29, 2014, 12:25 PM EDT
Can Paul Lambert and Roy Keane convince the midfielder to come to Villa Park?
Aug 29, 2014, 12:10 PM EDT
LVG says the addition of ADM won’t change his approach to building how United plays soccer.
Aug 29, 2014, 12:05 PM EDT
Where and how to watch every single PL game this weekend.
Aug 29, 2014, 11:20 AM EDT
The club season is in full swing, and there are plenty of American faces looking for three points this weekend.
Aug 29, 2014, 10:35 AM EDT
Who fears the match more: a Chelsea man bemoaning the last few visits to Goodison Park or an Everton fan wearing a ‘Not in the face’ button?
Aug 29, 2014, 9:50 AM EDT
Will Fernando Torres be leaving Stamford Bridge, and are Diego Costa’s injury concerns far less than first reported? Ask The Special One.
Aug 29, 2014, 9:14 AM EDT
Regardless of whether Di Maria plays, it’s hard to imagine Manchester United doesn’t wake up and use its desperation as an advantage.
Aug 29, 2014, 8:19 AM EDT
Can the Toffees emerge from a very difficult group headlined by Lille? Will Spurs triumph over Besiktas and Partizan?
Aug 29, 2014, 7:42 AM EDT
Joe Prince-Wright, Mike Prindiville and Jenna Corrado dig into the transfers of Angel Di Maria and Mario Balotelli to the Premier League.
Aug 29, 2014, 12:42 AM EDT
NBCSN games on Friday, Sunday highlight a nine-match weekend in the domestic league.
Aug 28, 2014, 10:10 PM EDT
The Nerazzurri icon moves to the East Midlands after 10 years at the San Siro.
- Chelsea confirms two-year AC Milan loan for striker Fernando Torres 4
- US men to face Honduras in October; USWNT name roster for Mexico 1
- WATCH: Premier League TV schedule – Week 3 0
- Premier League Preview: Burnley vs. Manchester United 1
- MLS Weekend Preview: Derbies close weekend kicking off off at Sporting Park 1
- Premier League Power Rankings: Familiar faces jostle for the top spot – Week 1 2