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Three things we learned in USA’s defeat to Ukraine

Mar 5, 2014, 4:43 PM EDT

Cameron's size, poise on the ball and pace make him a perfect option at center back this summer. AP

During the USA’s 2-0 friendly defeat to Ukraine on Wednesday, head coach of the U.S. national team Jurgen Klinsmann found out plenty of things about his team.

Some good. Some bad.

But the most important thing is that the match was worthwhile, as some of the areas the U.S. need to work on between now and the World Cup this summer are glaringly obvious. This tuneup acted as the final audition for most of the USA’s European based players, so it was an important 90 minutes for many in the Stars and Stripes.

Let’s have a look at three things we learned in the defeat against Ukraine in Cyprus.

  • U.S. defenders Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler have nothing to worry about

When the U.S. team sheet for the friendly vs. Ukraine was announced, the most intriguing selections looked to be in central defense. That proved to be the case after the game too, as Oguchi Onyewu and John Brooks struggled to contain Ukraine’s lively attack. The first goal came from a miscommunication between Onyewu and Brooks, as the former stepped up high and Brooks remained deep to keep Denys Garmash onside, who teed up Andriy Yarmalenko for the opener. Several times the U.S. looked out of sorts at the back, which also saw a gaping central hole appear for Ukraine’s second goal, as putting together a makeshift defense was always going to be difficult. A back four needs time to gel, and with youngster Brooks still learning and Onyewu given one last chance to prove his worth before the World Cup this summer, it seems as though both could be long shots to be on the plane to Brazil. MLS duo Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler must feel pretty confident their place in the heart of the USA’s defense is secured after watching this match, especially as they have a water-tight partnership that has developed overt he past 12-18months. Hertha Berlin product Brooks is one for the future, while Onyewu’s future with the U.S. national team could be hanging in the balance.

  • Up top, the U.S. are looking a little light

Jozy Altidore played like he has done for most of the season in a Sunderland shirt as he lacked confidence and only had one header that went anywhere near the goal. Altidore cut a forlorn figure up front, and with the likes of Terrence Boyd and Juan Agudelo coming on late and not having a chance to impact the game the options now seem a little sparse. Someone who did was Aron Johannsson, as the Icelandic-American forward sent a sumptuous volley towards goal late on that was cleared off the line and his clever runs showed he’s of international caliber. Right now, Johannsson could jump ahead of Altidore and start a few friendlies before the World Cup, however it’s still a bit much to ask the 23-year-old who has just one goal and a handful of USMNT caps to his name, to lead the line this summer. But Klinsmann might have to.

  • Cameron is the USA’s starting right back

One of the few U.S. player to come out of the game with his head held high, Geoff Cameron proved he should be the USA’s starting right back in Brazil this summer. His marauding runs down the right flank in the first half were the only plus point for the U.S. and he was solid as a rock defensively throughout as the rest of the USA’s defense imploded. In his last twelve appearances for the USA he has played four games at RB, four at center back and four at holding midfield. His versatility is key for Klinsmann this summer and after the inept defensive displays from Onyewu and Brooks, the Stoke City defender could also slot in at CB with either Gonzalez or Besler. Right now, the USA’s other right backs, Steven Cherundolo, Michael Parkhurst and even the likes of Brad Evans, will find it extremely hard to jump ahead of Cameron in the depth chart.

  1. unclemosesgreen - Mar 5, 2014 at 5:26 PM

    Spot on Joe, huge day for Cameron & Johannson. I wouldn’t have thought it possible but Aron may leapfrog Jozy.

    • bizzmeister - Mar 5, 2014 at 5:28 PM

      He will, believe it. Kid is a lot better than Jozy in my opinion.

      • unclemosesgreen - Mar 5, 2014 at 5:31 PM

        Quality takes longer to assess, but Aron is certainly in better form than Jozy right now. If it stays like it is now, Klinsman will have no choice but to elevate Aron over Jozy.

    • nappy25 - Mar 5, 2014 at 6:44 PM

      I think AJ would compliment Jozy a lot better than Deuce can. Deuce needs to get back together.

      • el timo - Mar 5, 2014 at 7:00 PM

        Word. Deuce looked like me out there, and I’m 65 years old.

  2. jerseybornfloridaliving - Mar 5, 2014 at 6:08 PM

    Well can’t blame it all on Jozy as service wasn’t great . Dempsey seemed disinterested unless he wanted to fight opponent who tackled him, Jones had one
    good pass setting up Dempsey, Jozy only got one decent chance the header he put over the bar. Just worried about whole offense as it doesn’t look like they can score against top teams which they will play in WC.

    About RB is Chandler still an option? I hope so as Cameron did OK but when he made runs his crosses were horrible and hardly connected with a US target.

    Only players seemed decent today that improved chance of making team were Bedoya, Shea, and Johansson

  3. jucam1 - Mar 5, 2014 at 7:07 PM

    I always get scorn for this but friendly or not this just further validates my perspective. Jurgen knows this USMT isn’t getting out of it’s qualifying round this cup, he has a long term vision to get rid of the dead weight, build with the kids and have them play in Europe till ’18 Cup, where hopefully they will be better, more acclimated to his system, and have an easier group drawn. Say what you want about friendlies, but if you can’t beat Ukraine or at least look competitive, you are not getting out of your pool and will get swept. The other thing is, can we finally agree Jozy is not a world class player?… He’s ok in a second rate Dutch league or a weak Concacaf qualifying field but the guy is not a legitimate world class striker. I think Jurgen shouldn’t start him in the qualifying rounds and just sub him in for garbage time once he’s seen younger guys play against group winners Germany and Portugal. The USMT strategy is to be legit competitive by Russia, but this cup he needs to get the young guys experience and explain to fans that this is a long term strategy so there is no blow back when they get killed this time around.

  4. rafibomb10 - Mar 5, 2014 at 7:13 PM

    Before the match they were talking about it being potentially the last chance for Sasha Klijsten to make a run at a World Cup spot. How many chances does one guy get before they pull the plug? Call a spade a spade, and a donkey a donkey. Sasha is good for his Belgian club, but nothing more. His touch today looked like my U12 team.

    It also irritates me when players look disinterested in the game. Clint was clearly that way in the first half, and he did pick it up. However Jozy was a complete disappointment. He didn’t want the ball at his feet, and whined when someone gave him a poor ball. I’m a Jozy fan, but his performance today was poor. Timmy Howard had longer spells of possession than Altidore did.

    I still don’t think Cameron is our best option at right back. He lacks the knack of an outside player. He has skill and can play there in a pinch, but I’d rather see Fabian lining up as right back.

    As far as goalkeeper…Timmy Howard is the man. Nuff said.

    • wandmdave - Mar 6, 2014 at 11:52 AM

      who would play at LB then? Surely Cameron is better than DMB so you’d keep Cameron at right and put Fabian on the left.

  5. tylerbetts - Mar 5, 2014 at 7:27 PM

    I also thought Brek Shea did a nice job, and looks like a very solid option as an impact sub

    • wandmdave - Mar 6, 2014 at 11:49 AM

      We’ll both get hate but I agree with you. Shea is not a great player but he’s consistently made an impact coming on late. Its probably just because hes a physical specimen running at tired defenders but its effective regardless. I could see him sneaking into the 23 man roster to play that specialist role.

      • bear06 - Mar 7, 2014 at 1:19 AM

        I doubt he sneaks into the WC roster. He’s going to have a hard time getting more PT for one of the worst teams in the Championship after he gave the fans the middle finger.

    • bear06 - Mar 7, 2014 at 1:18 AM

      He really didn’t not anything tbh.

      • bear06 - Mar 8, 2014 at 1:50 AM

        *do anything

  6. pjbowmaster - Mar 5, 2014 at 7:51 PM

    Someone at USSF needs to thank Gooch for his service to the National Team. And then hand him a gold watch and send him into International retirement.

    Stop calling up Sacha Kljestan…..good player at 2nd tier club level. Not good enough for international level.

    JK needs to stop trying to build his offense around Clint Dempsey. His best position is deep lying forward in a 4-4-2. And Landon Donovan is better at it.

  7. mknow406a - Mar 5, 2014 at 8:36 PM

    There was no creative presence in the US line-up at all today. They were always going to struggle. Kljestian had his chance at a creative/attacking roll (like in Belgium), but couldn’t get it done. Respecting MLS schedules, JK didn’t have much to choose from in the back… Gooch is too slow and can’t hit a pass over 15 yards (which is unacceptable in JK’s system). I like Castillo, but he’s just not good enough to play against the top European forwards… Brooks is young, but his recovery speed was impressive. (Just wished he didn’t need to use it so often.) Cameron had flashes going forward, but he also had lapses on D. Jones didn’t look bad considering he hasn’t played much of late. I thought Williams looked positive when he finally got on. Since the back 4 and Kljestian struggled making passes, Dempsey, Johnson and Bedoya could never really get the ball in dangerous areas and with defenders on their back heels. The same could be said for Jozy, but even so, he didn’t really seem to ‘demand’ the CBs attention. Johannsson is legit (and is why I scoffed at the whole notion that without an in form Jozy, the USMNT is sunk.) Shea is Gooch on the wing… all the physical tools to make people drool, but none of the savvy and understanding to really make those assets count… he does cause defenders to rethink things with his pace, until they realize they just need to back up and force him to try to make a decision…

  8. wandmdave - Mar 6, 2014 at 11:45 AM

    Cameron’s crosses weren’t great except for 1 or 2. However he was definitely an improvement over Evans even when playing with fringe players. I’ve seen him send in tons better crosses at Stoke so hopefully it was nerves or something.

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