Skip to content

Good and not-so-good: Taking inventory of the U.S.’s qualifying week

Mar 27, 2013, 4:39 PM EDT

Costa Rica v United States - FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier Getty Images

Four points in their bag, it’s time for the U.S. to move forward, a process that will involve assessing what they learned from their week of qualifiers. Having gone 180 minutes without allowing a goal, it’s not difficult to find the positives, nor is it hard to nitpick at ta team that didn’t generate many chances.

So let’s take inventory and look at some of the good, not-so-good, and mixed bags from the break that was:

Good

  • Central defense – In each game, the team’s best performers where at the back. Omar Gonzalez replicated his MLS dominance, Clarence Goodson reasserted his place in the pecking order, while Matt Besler’s qualifying debut proved he can perform in the most tense of situations. Particularly once Geoff Cameron can move back in, Jurgen Klinsmann will have a full, viable core of central defenders. That may not be great news for Carlos Bocanegra, but at a spot that’s seen the captain and Oguchi Onyewu diminish in relevance, those are reassuring options.
  • Brad Guzan – Given the lack of work he got during the Costa Rica and Mexico games, I’m not convinced there should be a battle for Tim Howard’s No. 1 shirt; however, if somebody wants to point to Guzan’s work in Birmingham and note the job he did in the second half against Mexico, I’ll point to some iffy moments in the second half against Costa Rica but think “maybe they have a point.”
  • Jermaine Jones - There’s a portion of the U.S. fan base who is never going to like the combative German, and with possibly good reason. But even though he missed Tuesday’s game in Mexico, this was a good week for him. In Colorado, his versatility and experience helped the States’ midfield control a match played under strange conditions, and as his replacement Maurice Edu was ridden off the ball on consecutive second half possessions, you could see where he would have been valuable in Mexico.
  • Depth – It was so long ago you may not remember, but when the U.S.’s squad was named nine days ago, there were legitimate worries as to whether Klinsmann would be able to account for a rash of injuries, particularly at the back. Two games, four points, and no goals allowed later, the U.S. haves shown their system can paper over a lot of holes. When Klinsmann talks about adaptability, that’s it, and given the coach set expanding the player pool as an explicit goal of his tenure with the States, the (formerly?) maligned boss deserves some credit.

Note: We’ll get to Jurgen Klinsmann in another post.

Not-so-good

  • The attack, as a whole – The disappointment of two goals in three games is mitigated by the front-loaded schedule. Early games in Honduras and Mexico were destined to make these early numbers would look skewed. Still, the pure lack of chances has to be disturbing, particularly since the attack was a problem in third round qualifying. The U.S. has become a team that can compete with most opponents while controlling few, a state that’s inevitable when you can’t score goals.
  • Graham Zusi – By the second half at Azteca, Zusi was finally falling back to give Cameron the help he needed. His late header to deal with a Giovanni Dos Santos ball from the endline was one of Tuesday’s highlights. But that play came after a game and a half of being a defensive liability. Bryan Oviedo was able to consistently get past him and onto Cameron in Colorado, while Dos Santos and Andres Guardado were able to get balls in from their left throughout the match in Mexico. Two nice second half plays can’t offset 135 minutes of struggles.
  • Geoff Cameron – Like Zusi, Cameron struggled badly along the U.S.’s right in Colorado. In Mexico, he was much better, but he still left too much room behind him, and when Dos Santos moved through the channel and behind the right back to attack with Guardado and Jorge Torres Nilo, the U.S. struggled. The most disappointing part of Cameron’s performance: Right back is where he plays at club level. Now that Besler has been be tested, you wonder if Cameron’s positional uncertainty (not getting reps in the middle for Stoke) could eventually see him passed on the depth chart.
  • Maurice Edu – He played a part in nice first half movement, and his tracking runners into the back helped the U.S. withstand Mexico’s first half onslaught. But woe, those times he got caught on the ball. And woe, the penalty that should have been. It might be time to consider who else can step in when Jermaine Jones is out. “Dear FIFA: What say you about Osvaldo Alonso?”

Mixed bags:

  • Jozy Altidore – A lot more positives than negatives for Altidore this week. The Costa Rica game was one of his best under Klinsmann, while he played a part in a couple of nice first half movements in Mexico. At some point, the U.S. is going to need more from their first choice No. 9, whomever that may be. But for Altidore, it’s all part of a process of getting where the coach wants him to be.
  • Clint Dempsey – He scored the goal in Colorado and did some decent work in Mexico (feeding Herculez Gomez for an early first half ball that was blocked out for a corner), but the U.S. is still lacking a danger element at their playmaking position. Put simply, there are no plays being made. Dempsey is a resourceful goal scorer, and his experience underneath the striker helps, but the U.S. just isn’t as dangerous as they should be. Dempsey and Altidore need to generate more chances.
  • DeMarcus Beasley - It’s not that DMB was great (though in Colorado, he was pretty close). It’s that he showed he can be an option, something that’s valuable for a pool that has had to ask José Francisco Torres to play left back this cycle. Yes, he was torched in Mexico, but that’s Mexico. If he’s needed against other teams in the group? He might be viable.
Latest Posts
  1. Lineups out for USMNT vs. Switzerland: Williams, Morales, Shea come in; diamond in midfield

    Mar 31, 2015, 11:16 AM EDT

    Danny Williams 2

    Klinsmann makes changes to team who lost to Denmark, switches up formation.

  2. Three things to look out for as USA take on Switzerland

    Mar 31, 2015, 10:02 AM EDT

    Denmark Soccer USA

    Plenty of intriguing questions surrounding the USMNT picture ahead of Tuesday’s game against the Swiss.

  3. European clubs to share record $2.4 billion pot dished out by UEFA in new deal

    Mar 31, 2015, 9:40 AM EDT

    French UEFA president Michel Platini spe Getty Images

    Top European teams will get extra revenue from Champions League, Europa League from next season.

  4. USMNT vs Switzerland preview: Last time they met, Michael Bradley scored the winner with a full head of hair

    Mar 30, 2015, 11:07 PM EDT

    Switzerland v USA - International Friendly Getty Images

    Maurice Edu and Danny Szetela helped the goal get going, and Bradley was barely more than 20 years old.

  5. WATCH: Aurelien Chedjou and a flying own goal under zero pressure

    Mar 30, 2015, 10:15 PM EDT

    FBL-AFR-2015-MATCH16-CMR-GUI Getty Images

    Fortunately for Chedjou, Cameroon came back to beat Thailand 3-2.

  6. MLS Team of the Week — Stars of Week 4

    Mar 30, 2015, 9:24 PM EDT

    NE Revolution Vs. San Jose Earthquakes At Gillette Stadium Getty Images

    Lads and ladies, men and women, dudes and dudettes, it’s going to be a bit of an odd week for the MLS Team of the Week here on PST.

  7. Organizers apologize for Salvadoran national anthem mix-up in Washington (video)

    Mar 30, 2015, 8:40 PM EDT

    El Salvador

    The anthem that blared over the loudspeaker happened to belong to Isle of Man, not on-field participants El Salvador.

  8. Missing University of California, Berkeley men’s player Eloi Vasquez confirmed dead

    Mar 30, 2015, 7:46 PM EDT

    Eloi Vasquez

    Reports say he was lost after leaving a fraternity party near the University of Southern California.

  9. MLS Player of the Week — Week 4

    Mar 30, 2015, 7:20 PM EDT

    Kaka AP

    Who claimed the honors for Week 4 in Major League Soccer? The only former Ballon d’Or winner in the league!

  10. NWSL mega deal sends Sydney Leroux Dwyer to WNY for rights to Abby Wambach

    Mar 30, 2015, 6:26 PM EDT

    SRFC_Sydney_Leroux_5_4-23-14

    The Western New York Flash are reaping the rewards of Abby Wambach’s refusal to play ball.

  11. UEFA begins investigation into fan, on-field chaos in Russia/Montenegro match

    Mar 30, 2015, 5:49 PM EDT

    Russia's Igor Akinfeev hit by flare at Montenegro, match later abandoned Getty Images

    Just last week, UEFA president Michel Platini issued concerns over the uptick in hooliganism.

  12. Prolific U.S. U-17 striker chooses club home in NASL

    Mar 30, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    Haji Wright Wearing Cosmos Jersey March 30 2015

    Wright helped the U.S. qualify for this summer’s U-17 World Cup, and recorded 18 goals and 7 assists in 22 games for the side.

  13. WATCH: Andy Najar’s wonder goal helps Honduras into 2015 Gold Cup

    Mar 30, 2015, 4:09 PM EDT

    FBL-CONCACAF-GOLD-CUP-QUALIFIERS-HND-GUF Getty Images

    The tournament begins July 7, with Los Catrachos facing the USMNT in Frisco, Texas.

  14. How will the USMNT line up against Switzerland?

    Mar 30, 2015, 3:27 PM EDT

    USMNT Getty Images

    Few have successfully predicted the erratic USMNT lineups over the last few months, but here’s our best shot.

  15. Agent: Memphis Depay has had no contact with Manchester United

    Mar 30, 2015, 2:29 PM EDT

    Depay Getty Images

    The Dutchman’s agent says he has not spoken with any teams, including the Red Devils.

  16. Former Barcelona star claims he despises Louis van Gaal

    Mar 30, 2015, 1:32 PM EDT

    Stoichkov Getty Images

    A salty relationship between the Bulgarian striker and his Dutch boss led to the “Dream Team” member departing Barcelona a year later.

Featured video

Week 30: Headline PL moment