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. Arsenal welcome back Mesut Özil, predict German will be “Player of the Season” next year

    Apr 17, 2014, 5:54 PM EDT

    Arsenal's Ozil reacts during their Champions League soccer match against Napoli at the Emirates stadium in London

    Gunners playmaker back fit, as Arsene Wenger expects big things from the German next season:

  2. Looking at the run-in for La Liga’s title contenders

    Apr 17, 2014, 5:24 PM EDT

    Diego Costa AP

    Real Madrid has the easiest path, with the next two weekends potentially knocking the holders out of contention.

  3. Daniel Sturridge out injured for Liverpool, as Reds hold their breath

    Apr 17, 2014, 5:14 PM EDT

    Danny Sturridge is the Premier League Player of the Month for February for his performances for Liverpool. Getty Images

    England international a doubt after hamstring injury, why would Liverpool risk him?

  4. Winless Watch: Which MLS team’s most likely to break through this weekend?

    Apr 17, 2014, 4:53 PM EDT

    Sporting Kansas City v Chicago Fire Getty Images

    Which MLS teams can join New York in leaving the ranks of the winless?

  5. Premier League Power Rankings: Liverpool or Chelsea for the title? – Week 34

    Apr 17, 2014, 4:24 PM EDT

    Philippe Coutinho, Steven Gerrard AP

    Unstoppable Reds continue to roll, but where did the contenders shake out in our latest rankings?

  6. Neymar, Jordi Alba to miss the rest of Barcelona’s season

    Apr 17, 2014, 3:28 PM EDT

    neymar AP

    Both players should be back by the time their national teams start preparations for this summer’s World Cup.

  7. Wild Greek Cup match delayed for flares, sees three red cards

    Apr 17, 2014, 2:46 PM EDT

    BenchFlare AP

    Thousands of flares engulfed Greece’s Toumba Stadium as a bench was lit on fire and covered in anchovies. And that was all before the match…

  8. Could Guardiola leave Bayern for a Barca return? Cruyff wants Pep back

    Apr 17, 2014, 1:58 PM EDT

    Guardiola AP

    With Guardiola not taking kindly to criticism from the front office, could the former Barcelona boss return to the Camp Nou?

  9. Manchester: A city not united, as Blue and Red converge

    Apr 17, 2014, 1:02 PM EDT

    Can Manuel Pellegrini bring Premier League success to the Etihad? Reuters

    For decades Manchester United have been the top dogs in Manchester, now that’s changing. PST’s Editor and Lead Writer went behind the scenes to see what Mancunians are all about:

  10. PST Extra: Race for the Premier League title

    Apr 17, 2014, 12:31 PM EDT

    Rodgers Getty Images

    Can Brendan Rodgers and company make it through the rest of their schedule unscathed to the prize at the end? Chelsea seem like the biggest hurdle. Our very own Joe Prince-Wright and Mike Prindiville discuss.

  11. More conspiracy theories with Swansea and Villa involved in shady training ground reports

    Apr 17, 2014, 11:54 AM EDT

    Monk Getty Images

    Conspiracy theories are abound, with Swansea’s Garry Monk believing someone is out to get his club while Aston Villa’s Paul Lambert couldn’t speak on the suspension of staff members due to a “legal investigation.”

  12. Struggling Napoli star possibly a top Premier League target

    Apr 17, 2014, 10:59 AM EDT

    Hamsik Getty Images

    Napoli’s Marek Hamsik has struggled this year, but the 26-year-old could seriously bolster a Premier League attack.

  13. UEFA releases insane financial numbers for past three years

    Apr 17, 2014, 9:51 AM EDT

    Infantino Getty Images

    With its club licensing benchmark report for the 2012 season, UEFA has outlined trends that signal both unprecedented growth and overspending issues.

  14. Report: Cardiff, Tan claim to have evidence against Palace in spy accusation

    Apr 17, 2014, 8:23 AM EDT

    Tan AP

    According to a BBC report, a Cardiff player leaked the lineup to Moody who mistakenly sent a text to the wrong person.

  15. Arsene Wenger tips mid-table managers for postseason award

    Apr 17, 2014, 7:37 AM EDT

    Wenger Getty Images

    With Brendan Rodgers having steered Liverpool to unthinkable Premier League heights, Arsene Wenger believes the deciders should instead look to the league’s trenches to give out its postseason award.

  16. NWSL Digest: Reign, Flash flying as we move past Week 1

    Apr 17, 2014, 12:24 AM EDT

    vicky_losada

    Week one of the NWSL season sees Seattle atop of the league, but an import from Spain snagged her own headlines for Western New York.

  17. Henry, Sam goals see New York break into the win column

    Apr 16, 2014, 10:22 PM EDT

    Thierry Henry 4

    It took six-and-a-half weeks, but last year’s Supporters’ Shield winners have their first victory of the season.

  18. WATCH: All the goals, highlights from the Premier League’s mid-week matches

    Apr 16, 2014, 9:40 PM EDT

    arsenal AP

    Three matches the shoot up the title, Champions League races:

  19. Ranking the candidates for MLS’s next expansion team (after Atlanta’s Wednesday announcement)

    Apr 16, 2014, 8:57 PM EDT

    MLS Logo

    One location is the clear favor for No. 24, but down to one slot, the competition could pick up.

  20. With Agüero, Negredo removed, should we point the finger at Pellegrini?

    Apr 16, 2014, 7:57 PM EDT

    manuel_pellegrini Getty Images

    Like his players, City’s boss has plenty of questions to answer after Wednesday’s disappointment.

Featured video

PST Extra: Race for the PL title