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What went wrong in Saturday’s U.S. win over South Korea

Feb 1, 2014, 8:32 PM EDT

South Korea v United States Getty Images
  • Movement back to front needs sharpening

For a center back the game is all about “stop and distribute.” Omar Gonzalez is generally OK at the “stop,” the occasion switch-off notwithstanding. But the “distribute” continues to be a work in progress for the big U.S. center back and presumed starter in Brazil.

His passing accuracy is OK, but his choices with ball and speed in moving possession into midfielders was problematic Saturday. Even allowing for opening game rustiness, Gonzalez (pictured) needed to do better against the well-organized Koreans, and if he can’t sharpen the product coming out of the back before this summer, there’s a goal out there for Ghana, Germany or Portugal. (They’ll all be well organized, too.)

Considering the slim margins ahead in the Group of You Know What, that can’t happen. Not if the U.S. wants to play beyond that first round.

One of South Korea’s best opportunities of Saturday’s first half came as the United States began struggling to work the ball smoothly out of the back, about 15 minutes in. At one point, Gonzalez’s ill-advised pass into a midfielder under pressure was stripped away, leaving the U.S. back line and goalkeeper Nick Rimando with a problem to deal with.

(MORE: United States opens year with 2-0 win over South Korea)

South Korea couldn’t turn it into a goal. Germany probably will. Portugal and Ghana might very well, too.

Of course, he wasn’t alone. Just a few minutes later, a sloppy pass from fellow U.S. center back Matt Besler gave South Korea a second opportunity within a small window.

Midfielder Brad Davis, starting along the left in the 4-4-2, also gave the ball away in bad spots here and there.

And holding midfielder Kyle Beckerman, whose best work with the ball usually comes in the attacking end, when he releases passes quickly, sometimes gets overly cautious when turning with the ball in his own end. The result is an attack that labors a bit through the midfield, as it did at times Saturday.

  • Brad Evans does OK. Again.

Say this for U.S. defender Brad Evans: he delivers very predictable results.

That means solid defending and an honest effort … but not much of a contribution on the attacking end. In a match at home against a middle class foe like Saturday’s, it’s fair to expect the outside backs to get forward a little more often, to impose themselves a little more along the flanks, adding pressure by adding numbers to the attack.

And when they do, the crosses need to be zippy and purposeful, which doesn’t always happen with Evans.

(MORE: What went right in the U.S. win over South Korea)

He still looks like the starting right back of the moment, but that is somewhat by default. Unless the Seattle man (who plays midfielder for his team, remember) can deliver something with a little more authority, his position will be ripe for picking off.

(Although not by DeAndre Yedlin, as the Seattle Sounders ‘debuting international reminded us with a few “rookie” moments in late-game backup duty Saturday that he still has a long way to go.)

Bottom line for Evans: he’s probably done enough to warrant a place on the 23-man roster; if he wants to start in Brazil, however, he may need to do more.

  • Mix Diskerud still not quite there

The door is open for Mix Diskerud, but the young U.S. midfielder still cannot quite command a midfield the way an international should.

He’s young, just 23, so there’s still plenty of time.  But his inability to be just a little better as a conduit, or to deliver a few more penetrating balls in the attacking third means Jurgen Klinsmann may still be looking in the months ahead for trusty a two-way midfielder to back up Michael Bradley.

  1. huskydeac - Feb 1, 2014 at 8:50 PM

    You have Brad Evans starting over Geoff Cameron? Or do you think one of Besler/Gonzalez sits and Cameron moves to CB? For me, he’s playing far too well at Stoke to change his position come June.

    • Steve Davis - Feb 1, 2014 at 9:43 PM

      It’s going to be interesting, b/c Klinsmann has been reluctant (for whatever reason) to see Cameron as a viable option at RB. But I agree … it’s getting to the point where he HAS to see Cameron as a real possibility there

      • bear06 - Feb 2, 2014 at 2:10 AM

        Klinsmann did start Cameron at RB earlier last year and didn’t really impress, but he’s a bit more experienced now and looks better then when he first began.

      • Sgc - Feb 3, 2014 at 6:42 PM

        I wonder how much of that is just Evans being available for a lot more games (and thus spending more time with the team).

  2. nappy25 - Feb 1, 2014 at 10:04 PM

    I honestly don’t even see Brad Evans making the WC roster. With Cameron playing great, Chandler in a good rhythm, Eric Lichaj putting in some good performances, and Parkhurst being a Defensive Utility man, Evans wouldn’t make this team better. I know Cameron is a CB in JK’s mind, but playing RB for over 40+ matches this season should say otherwise. Hell, if Parkhurst does great at CB for Columbus that could definitely make everyone’s rosters go crazy haha.

  3. pmacd82 - Feb 1, 2014 at 10:32 PM

    I think Klinsmann has a tendency to tinker before putting the right players all along where they need to be. Thus I think Cameron will be the starter in Brazil at right back. I disagree that Evans was ok, he got my lowest grade in this one. I had nightmares of what Ronaldo would do to him after a Korea B player turned him and he had to be bailed out by Besler.

  4. tylerbetts - Feb 2, 2014 at 12:38 AM

    I would add

    Timeouts and fouls at the end of a college basketball game.

    Food poisoning. Real shame for Magee.

  5. overtherepermanently - Feb 2, 2014 at 9:10 AM

    The Walking Dead versions of Bocanegra and Onyewu don’t sound half bad right now.

    I think the Evans experiment needs to end. He’s a nice MLS midfielder. Starting RB needs to be Cameron, with Chandler/Cherundelo on the bench. Warts, poor form and all, those are international-caliber players.

  6. jay1934 - Feb 2, 2014 at 9:42 AM

    The U.S. team has to quit “playing” with the ball in their half. Saturday they were lucky to hang in there and keep the South Koreans from scoring. Too many times they lost the ball because of ineffective passing in their own half of the field. Or the fast South Koreans just moved in and stole the ball. I agree with the author they won’t keep their World Cup opponents from scoring on their sloppy play. It s aggravating to watch this type of play in the MLS.

  7. bellerophon30 - Feb 2, 2014 at 11:31 AM

    I’m struggling with the idea that Geoff Cameron, the only American outfielder starting full-time in the EPL (I don’t count Deuce since he’s temporary) can’t start for the USMNT. Brad Evans is a fine player, and it’s not an outrage if he makes the final 23, but Ronaldo will start giggling uncontrollably if he sees his name on the opposing team sheet. And a happy Ronaldo destroys us in a game that we’re going to need a result of some sort in.

    Ideally Cherundolo comes back and settles this, but his knee is entering Stuart Holden territory by now. It’ll be interesting to see who the final cut(s) is/are, both in the back and in the midfield. Only Keeper is set, barring injury.

    • thewalkoffktxt - Feb 2, 2014 at 5:04 PM

      Gimme Cameron in the XI, Evans can be a worthy backup. And I … LIKE Evans.

      • bear06 - Feb 3, 2014 at 12:31 AM

        Chandler and Cameron should be our top RBs.

  8. boscoesworld - Feb 2, 2014 at 2:00 PM

    Evans got turned and burned more than a well done steak in that game. I couldn’t believe how many times he was on the ground. He really didn’t connect well on passes either. There is too much other talent out there at midfield and ob for him to make the cut.

  9. schmutzdeck - Feb 3, 2014 at 9:54 AM

    Mr. Davis,

    My theory is that JK has been concerned about this from day one.

    I suspect the reason he keeps playing Evans /Parkhurst at right back is he wants them to get as much practice there as possible. In previous interviews both Cameron and JK have suggested they both view Geoff’s best position as center back.

    I think if Gonzo does not shape up JK will drop Gonzo and start Cameron at center back.
    If Besler does not get better I suspect he will start either Edu or Danny Williams alongside Cameron with Evans or Parkhurst at right back.
    I remember the Cameron /Edu pairing as being very mobile and working quite well at Azteca.
    If Gonzo and Besler are okay against say Ukraine , then I think Cameron probably starts at right back against Ghana but I could also see a back four of Parkhurst/Evans, Cameron, Williams/Edu, DMB/Chandler.
    I could also see Parkhurst replacing Besler.
    At any rate it will be fascinating to watch.

    • bear06 - Feb 3, 2014 at 11:28 PM

      I don’t see Edu making the WC team.

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