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What we learned in United States draw with Scotland

Nov 15, 2013, 6:30 PM EDT

Eddie Johnson interview
  • Two young guns helped themselves

Two 62nd-minute injections breathed significant life into the U.S. attack – Aron Johannsson and Brek Shea. And that bodes well for both.

For Johannsson, this was the latest in a string of impressive and intriguing nights for the late arrival (having just joined the U.S. program in September). The Icelandic American is skilled, aggressive and seems to have a nose for the goal. If he hasn’t already done enough to earn a spot on the U.S. roster for next year, he’s not that far.

Shea continues to be a fascinating case. He’s probably only in camp due to the U.S. lack of options out wide (since he isn’t playing at Stoke – and Klinsmann prefers not to use those who cannot get into their club lineups), and yet he continues to make a difference coming off the U.S. bench. His direct-line approach with the ball – get ball, run at goal … get ball, run at goal – provides a useful change of pace. He almost always manages to drum up some trouble for opposition defenses. He did again Friday at Hampden Park.

  • Friendlies are friendlies

We heard a narrative develop that perhaps this “friendly” would be less so … friendly, that is. But we should all know by now, so long as they don’t involve traditional rivals (think Brazil-Argentina, U.S.-Mexico … along those lines) then friendlies are friendlies are friendlies.

Yes, the United States took Scotland out behind the woodshed 18 months ago, but that was about Scotland looking forward to vacation. That was on the Scots, and any talk that they were looking to exact revenge was probably just hopeful hype.

These were two teams with agendas, sure – but proving something based on that match 18 months ago just didn’t seem to be one of them. Scotland is rebuilding, the United States is polishing ahead of a World Cup. But claiming some statement win was never a mighty focus. So what did we get?

A snoozer, a typical friendly that came alive just a bit at the end. But only just a little.

  • Michael Bradley, back in the fold

Broken record alert: This team is going nowhere without its midfield general, and what a welcome site his return was for the United States on Friday.

Bradley is easily the best man in possession in a U.S. shirt, and he’s so good at keeping the midfield organized on either side of the ball. Further, his playmaking from deep spots is sorely missed when he’s not around – as is his ability to cover defensively for the occasionally impulsive Jermaine Jones, who tends to vacate his post a little too often.

Here is the best indicator of how valuable Bradley is to the U.S. effort: The United States’ ability to move forward with some calm and structure suffered after about 70 minutes. Why? Bradley, coming off the bench now for Roma, was understandably tiring.

And without Bradley able to work as hard to be the ever-ready outlet, the United States just couldn’t put a foot on the ball as effectively in the midfield.

  • Eddie Johnson is not a wide player

Once again, we saw Klinsmann “reaching” for something due to the lack of options on the flanks.

Eddie Johnson, stationed along the left in that hybrid 4-3-3, can handle the job against lesser nations. But when the competition improves, we see time and again that he’s just not comfortable out wide.

Johnson dutifully attended to his defensive chores, assisting DaMarcus Beasely on his side, so that part wasn’t a big issue.  But on the attack Johnson is at his best – perhaps his only useful role – when he is near opposition goal, making runs and using those big hops. Further out, he loses the ball or slows the attack with negative passing. That’s not really his fault; again, he’s not a wide player. We should know that by now.

The United States had almost no attack up the left before halftime. Johnson paid more attention to creating some width after the break, but the U.S. still never truly bothered Scotland on that side until Brek Shea’s introduction.

  1. px2ug - Nov 15, 2013 at 6:47 PM

    aron johansson is going to brazil no doubt about it

  2. dfstell - Nov 15, 2013 at 7:14 PM

    Isn’t it funny how powerful direct play can be? I mean, there’s nothing elegant about what Brek Shea does, but he’s bigger/faster/stronger than most of the players on the field and that makes him dangerous. I give him credit for not being sucked into playing small-man-soccer. Use what you’re got.

    • jimmycrackcorn99 - Nov 15, 2013 at 8:33 PM

      It does help to come in after 60 minutes when the defense is starting to tire. He is a big guy, and he knew how to use his body. Now if he only had better ball handling skills, he might be more valuable for his club and national team.

      • schmutzdeck - Nov 16, 2013 at 7:12 PM

        No one was stopping Scotland from subbing in fresh defenders.

        You can focus on what Brek does NOT do or you can focus on what he DOES do.

        Your choice.

        It takes more than skill to win. Zlatan has tons more skill than Brek but Sweden probably aren’t going to Brazil. France are probably twice as skilled as the US but they are probably going to miss out on Brazil.

        USMNT fans are such ingrates. Brek, if he gets there, can make a difference.

  3. hildezero - Nov 15, 2013 at 9:29 PM

    Funny how Brek and Jóhannsson got the attention by most people. I had both of them as starters for this game, but I guess I was wrong. So I expect them to start for the next game at Austria. Especially Brek.

    • danielofthedale - Nov 16, 2013 at 1:49 AM

      Brek is to limited and inconsistent to be a starter, plus that negates his best asset in his speed and willingness to ran at defenders. His best role, and really only role on this team for the foreseeable future, is a super sub to come on try to wreck havoc on defenders.

      I agree that the Iceman should probably be starting, if we go to a more 4-4-2 formation. I think that might be whats best for Jozy but I don’t think Jurgen is wanting to give up on the 4-2-3-1 thing.

  4. Iain - Nov 16, 2013 at 12:39 PM

    From a Scottish point of view it’s good to see Strachan getting a system in place and using players well.

  5. hildezero - Nov 16, 2013 at 9:13 PM

    Ingrates? XD Do you even know what means, big boy? Careful now, because the one being ingrate is you, knucklehead.

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