Skip to content

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

Nov 14, 2012, 12:25 PM EST

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. Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. West Bromwich Albion

    Nov 21, 2014, 12:50 PM EST

    FBL-ENG-PR-CHELSEA-WEST BROM Getty Images

    Can the Baggies improve on last year’s point at Stamford Bridge?

  2. WATCH: Premier League TV schedule – Week 12

    Nov 21, 2014, 12:40 PM EST

    PremierLeagueNBC

    Where and how to watch every single PL game in Week 12.

  3. Batman vs. Valencia; DC Comics suing La Liga club over new crest

    Nov 21, 2014, 12:00 PM EST

    Valencia v Elche - La Liga Getty Images

    I’m a fan of Batman, but seems to me “The Dark Knight” should consider rocking Valencia’s bat rather than his own. Looks slick.

  4. Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks: Chelsea, Everton, Manchester City

    Nov 21, 2014, 11:45 AM EST

    Here’s how PST’s lead writer and editor sees things panning out this weekend.

  5. These deserving nominees are the biggest snubs of MLS Award season

    Nov 21, 2014, 11:05 AM EST

    Bradley Wright-Phillips, Tim Cahill, Lloyd Sam AP

    So to the MLS players, coaches and “media members who regularly covered the league”, sit back and enjoy your biggest screw-ups.

  6. Former Man Utd teammates Welbeck, Rooney prepares for “weird” match as Arsenal hosts Red Devils

    Nov 21, 2014, 10:14 AM EST

    Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck AP

    Welbeck is used to being on the side of the favorites in this matchup, as Manchester United has dominated the series in recent years.

  7. Premier League Preview: Arsenal vs. Manchester United

    Nov 21, 2014, 9:25 AM EST

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Danny Welbeck’s first Premier League game against his former team is just one subplot as the Gunners host the Red Devils.

  8. Americans Abroad preview: Chandler vs. Johnson headlines European action

    Nov 21, 2014, 8:41 AM EST

    Eintracht Frankfurt v FC Bayern Muenchen - Bundesliga Getty Images

    All Americans plying their trade in the Premier League have a decent look at points, while two in the Championship will opening things up with Friday matches.

  9. Trophée des Champions returning to North America to kick off 2015-16

    Nov 21, 2014, 7:49 AM EST

    Trophée_des_Champions

    Paris Saint-Germain has claimed the last two Trophées with wins over Bordeaux and Guingamp, but this year’s table is clustered.

  10. Swansea City rolling: Garry Monk says sense of ‘togetherness’ has been crucial

    Nov 21, 2014, 12:17 AM EST

    Swansea City v Leicester City - Premier League Getty Images

    Swansea manager Garry Monk is hoping for the best as the Swans journey to play Manchester City at the Etihad this weekend.

  11. Jay Heaps directs plenty of credit to Jermaine Jones for Revs’ achievements

    Nov 20, 2014, 11:42 PM EST

    Jermaine-Jones-in-action-for-Revolution

    Coupled with a breakout year from Lee Nguyen, Jermaine Jones’ skill and leadership have guided the New England Revolution to one of Major League Soccer’s most cohesive units.

  12. Mascherano completely rules out possibility of Messi leaving Barca

    Nov 20, 2014, 10:45 PM EST

    Lionel Messi, Neymar Lionel Messi, Neymar

    Mascherano: “Messi didn’t say anything weird, he said what all football players are thinking.”

  13. Newcastle manager Alan Pardew applauds Ayoze Perez’s dominant form

    Nov 20, 2014, 9:24 PM EST

    Newcastle United v Liverpool - Barclays Premier League Newcastle United v Liverpool - Barclays Premier League

    Alan Pardew has enjoyed newcomer Ayoze Perez’s huge impact, as the young Spain international has netted three goals in three consecutive matches.

  14. Sheffield United rescind training offer from convicted rapist Ched Evans

    Nov 20, 2014, 8:19 PM EST

    Soccer - Ched Evans file photos

    Following widespread discontent, convicted rapist Ched Evans won’t be back on the field for Sheffield United as expected.

  15. Inside MLS fan groups: DC United

    Nov 20, 2014, 7:32 PM EST

    Columbus Crew v D.C. United Getty Images

    Meet the supporters of D.C. United, an MLS club steeped in tradition since the league’s inception.

  16. Tim Howard easily wins U.S. Soccer’s Male Athlete of the Year award

    Nov 20, 2014, 6:00 PM EST

    tim_howard Getty Images

    Tim Howard unsurprisingly takes U.S. Soccer’s Male Athlete of the Year award.

  17. Wigan Athletic shirt sponsor cuts ties with club, calls Mackay’s remarks ‘untenable’

    Nov 20, 2014, 5:10 PM EST

    Aston Villa v Cardiff City - Premier League Getty Images

    Wigan Athletic shirt sponsors have ended their contract with the club due to Malkay Mackay’s illicit text messages.

  18. Pepe: ‘It would be a scandal’ if Ronaldo didn’t win Ballon d’Or

    Nov 20, 2014, 4:30 PM EST

    FBL-ESP-LIGA-REALMADRID-BARCELONA FBL-ESP-LIGA-REALMADRID-BARCELONA

    “It would be a scandal and a shame if they did not give [Ronaldo] the Ballon d’Or,” says Pepe.

  19. Buffon, Chiellini pledge future to Juventus with contract extensions

    Nov 20, 2014, 3:55 PM EST

    112014-Chiellini-PI.vadapt.320.medium.0 Getty Images

    Gianluigi Buffon and Giorgio Chiellini are set to stay at Juventus with fresh deals.

  20. Wigan owner Dave Whelan accused of anti-Semitic remarks

    Nov 20, 2014, 3:39 PM EST

    Wigan Athletic v Arsenal - FA Cup Semi-Final Wigan Athletic v Arsenal - FA Cup Semi-Final

    Whelan: “I think Jewish people do chase money more than everybody else. I don’t think that’s offensive at all.”

Featured video

Preview: Arsenal vs. Manchester United