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What we learned from Friday’s U.S. win over Guatemala

Jul 6, 2013, 9:15 AM EDT

U.S. forward Donovan celebrates his second goal of the game against Guatemala with teammates Wondolowski and Holden during their friendly soccer match in San Diego

Don’t take too much from this, because a young Guatemalan group was highly overmatched, even by a United States “B” team version.

But we can take some things from Friday’s showy 6-0 win in San Diego, especially in the attack. (Defensively, precious little can be gleaned from a match where the opposition never seriously made U.S. goalkeeper Nick Rimando to stretch or reach or even punch a ball.)

Stuart Holden is coming along nicely: The re-introductions of Holden and Landon Donovan into the active player pool are surely, in the big, big picture, the ginormous take-aways from an otherwise meaningless June friendly against painfully outmanned opposition.

In fact, getting those two going again prior to the Gold Cup made Friday’s exercise worth it, never mind anything else. Holden looked immediately up for the task, leaning into the game and fizzing up the tempo as Jurgen Klinsmann asked, driving the United States with an urgency that Jose Torres and Kyle Beckerman couldn’t do.

The quality and variety in his passing was especially nice to see. Next challenge for the Bolton man: to demonstrate he can do it over 90 minutes, and can rebound physically to supply the same a few days after that.

(MORE: U.S. player ratings from Friday)

Landon Donovan is back … or something close to it: As I noted in the ratings, the three-time World Cup veteran, looked surprisingly nervous with his first couple of opportunities on the ball.

Afterward – he was probably the best U.S. attacker overall. The sharp movement and sophisticated ability to find gaps, to change the angles with speed, is something missing at times from the U.S. attack (the full U.S. version, that is). Again, all of this is against Guatemala’s rebuilding bunch, but sure signs of the hop and pop finding its way back into Donovan’s game were encouraging – and that is a wonderful development ahead of Brazil.

Klinsmann showed some tactical flexibility: U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann always says the formation isn’t important; it’s the advanced pressure and high tempo that matter, regardless of the tactical arrangement.

That said, it’s still important to put players into the best places for possible success. When the central triangle in last night’s 4-2-3-1failed to get the spacing right (Edgar Castillo and Landon Donovan leaning into the middle further clogged the lanes), Klinsmann wisely reconfigured a few pieces. The switch to a 4-4-2, with Joe Corona moving out to the right and Donovan switching inside, but in a more advanced role alongside Herculez Gomez, the game opened up dramatically for the hosts.

Mix Diskerud and Brek Shea showed something: Klinsmann absolutely wants the men in this bunch to “get it,” to understand that time is running short. More specifically, opportunities to get into the final 23 for Brazil are in short supply – and, really, more than anything else, that’s what this year’s Gold Cup and Friday’s tuneup for it are all about.

Both second-half subs demonstrated an urgency that, frankly, not all players showed Friday. Or, perhaps some others wanted to press their cases, wanted to take the game by the scruff of the neck and show the boss a little something, but just do not have it in them.

Shea did. The final product wasn’t always razor sharp, but his clear desire to turn and burn, his ability to keep grinding on a tiring Guatemalan defense surely said something to Klinsmann.

Same for Diskerud, who may have lapped Jose Torres (for now, at least) with his 45 minutes. Simply put, he was more active off the ball than Torres, hunting diligently for opportunities to tackle or intercept, and was more assertive with the ball, less content to play laterally. Torres needs to study Diskerud’s tempo and make note: That is what Klinsmann wants from the linking position.

  1. ajortiz365 - Jul 6, 2013 at 12:02 PM

    The point of this game is that a) The USMNT SHOULD BE beating up on Guatemala, Honduras, Belize; The US SHOULD CONSISTENTLY beat Canada, Panama and Costa Rica; the US SHOULD have AT LEAST parity with Mexico. While no big accomplishment, beating Guatemala 6-0 should be routine, instead of the usual nail-biting desperate struggles to avoid a 1-0 defeat like we’re used to seeing. b) Developing depth in the squad is what these games are about. Shea, Corona, Diskerud, Gomez, Holden, Rimando, all of these guys showed up and showed some dominating athleticism and quality. This was an A+ effort from Klinsmann and exactly what the USMNT should be doing. (for a change)

  2. Mike Prindiville - Jul 6, 2013 at 12:43 PM

    Happy for Donovan and glad he’s on board.

    But I’m particularly stoked for Holden. He played some phenomenal balls today, most notably, his inch-perfect bending assist on Donovan’s second goal. Totally nasty.

    I’m gonna go out and say that out of the entire USMNT, Holden has the best vision.

    I look fwd to him getting 90 strong throughout the entire season with Bolton and then dominating in Brazil next June.

    • lfcrising - Jul 6, 2013 at 6:17 PM

      ^^^ This. I’ve replied several times about my affinity for Holden and desire for him to show his quality again. I really think, strongly, that he should be starting next summer. He prolly has the best vision and may be one of the smoothest passers in the squad. Really want to see him paired with MB to see what they can do.

  3. eopinion360 - Jul 6, 2013 at 1:03 PM

    We’ve learned that we can beat any Concaca team, big deal

  4. eopinion360 - Jul 6, 2013 at 1:13 PM

    The big test for a team and players is the world cup, let’s wait, they MUST do better from last, Lalas wanted Klinsmann so bad to improve the team, well, the real test is coming…

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