Skip to content

Preview: Five areas of focus for the United States against Ukraine

Mar 5, 2014, 12:02 AM EDT

Geoff Cameron AP

From a distance, Ukraine looks like a solid opponent for a Europe-based United States roster to face their final call up before the pre-World Cup camp in May. Then you see that most of Ukraine’s players haven’t played in two months — that unrest at home is casting this game in a different, diminished perspective for Mykhaylo Fomenko’s team — and the match takes on a whole different meeting. If anything, the 90 minutes the U.S. will play Wednesday at Antonis Papadopoulos Stadium will be less important that the training that led up to it – nothing more than a confirmation of what Jurgen Klinsmann and his staff observed in the two days before kickoff in Larnaca, Cyprus.

For those of us excluded from those sessions (read: most of the world), we’re left reading the tea leaves from a 90-minute steep that starts at 2:00 p.m. Wednesday. Amid those patterns, here’s where we should look for answers from Wednesday’s performance.

1. Geoff Cameron‘s chance to lay claim to the right back spot

Do you see the assumption we’ve cooking into the question? Yes, the Stoke City right back is likely to get the call at that position against Ukraine, but he’s also capable of playing central midfield or center back. If Cameron were to start at one of his more preferred positions, it wouldn’t even crack our Top 10 Most Surprising Things Jurgen Klinsmann’s Done list (please see our upcoming slideshow).

But if Cameron does start in his expected spot, watch how he performs going forward. Part of the reason Klinsmann chooses players like Brad Evans and DaMarcus Beasley at fullback may be their ability to read the game like natural midfielders – always putting themselves in positions to maintain those triangles needed to build play through the middle.

Cameron is the team’s best right back defensively. He also has no problem getting forward. He has the athleticism to do both. But can he read the game like Brad Evans or DaMarcus Beasley? That will define whether he can pass the Sounders’ midfielder on the right back depth chart.

(MORE: Players who need to make an impact for the U.S. on Wednesday (and there are a lot of them))

source: Getty Images2. Is Jermaine Jones carrying any rust?

The Schalke loanee made his Besiktas debut on Friday against Antalyaspor, going 58 minutes in a 0-0 draw. Earning a start in his first appearance with Slaven Bilic’s team, Jones looks set to get the playing time he expected when he agreed to move to Turkey in January.

For the United States, that means he’ll have time to work himself into shape before the time the team assembles in May – something that renders Wednesday’s performance almost irrelevant. Even if jumped through Yevhan Konoplyanka’s knee and earned a red card in the first minute, he’d still be a first choice when the U.S. faces Ghana.

In the interim, watch how much rust the midfield ruffian has incurred during his two months on the sidelines. We’ll get a good idea of how far he has to go to be ready for Brazil.

(MORE: Fear not, U.S. Men’s National Team fans: Ukraine is on the ground in Cyprus)

3. Will “U.S. Jozy Altidore” transcend “Sunderland Jozy Altidore”?

We’ve seen Jozy Altidore work as hard as he can for Sunderland over the last six months, and it hasn’t been good enough. On Wednesday, Altidore needs to be more than willing. He needs to be effective. If not, questions about his suitability for a place in Klinsmann’s starting XI will persist through May, with Altidore potentially having little chance to regain his confidence this spring with the Black Cats.

(MORE: Losing time at Sunderland, Jozy Altidore needs to impress for U.S.)

4. Wanted: Clint Dempsey of 2012.

He started for Fulham in this weekend and gave one of the best performances of his two-month loan, but as one of the keys to the U.S.’s hopes of getting out of a tough World Cup group, 2014 Clint Dempsey needs to rediscover his 2012 form. That doesn’t mean scoring goals once every two games, but it does mean presenting that threat.

source:  On Wednesday, Dempsey has a chance to show more familiar surroundings can lead to more typical results.

5. Midfield spots up for grabs

A lot of names in defense and attack seem locked in three months ahead of Brazil. In midfield, however, few beyond the possible starters have more than one foot on the plane.

We know Jones and Michael Bradley are going, as are Graham Zusi and Kyle Beckerman. If Landon Donovan doesn’t go, at this point, something’s gone seriously wrong. For what’s likely to be four spots across the middle of the field, we’ve got five names who can plan their family’s trips to Brazil.

Others like Mix Diskerud seem close, but on Wednesday, the fight for those other three or four spots will be in focus. Alejandro Bedoya will try to build  on a strong Gold Cup. Brek Shea hopes to be that change of pace on the left. Sacha Kljestan tries to take advantage of the absence of Diskerud, while Danny Williams attempts to put himself back in the World Cup picture.

It’s the one place in the team were spots are still up for grabs, and while those spots are likely on the bench for the games that count, Wednesday will allow the likes of Bedoya, Shea, Kljestan and Williams to increase their stock. It’s their last chance before the U.S.’s Europe-based players see Klinsmann again in May.

Latest Posts
  1. Premier League Power Rankings: Red Devils and Villans on the up

    Sep 18, 2014, 3:09 PM EDT

    Manchester United v Queens Park Rangers - Premier League Getty Images

    With Week four in the books, here’s how the PL teams stack up in our rankings of power.

  2. Reactions to “MLS Next” as North America’s top-flight launches rebrand

    Sep 18, 2014, 2:27 PM EDT

    MLS_crest_club_colors

    What are people saying about Major League Soccer’s new look?

  3. Arsene Wenger’s biggest regret is missing out on Cristiano Ronaldo

    Sep 18, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT

    Everton v Arsenal - Premier League Getty Images

    Wenger: “I was so close to signing Cristiano Ronaldo.”

  4. Auf Wiedersehen! Felix Magath out as Fulham boss after terrible tenure

    Sep 18, 2014, 1:09 PM EDT

    STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - MAY 03: Fulham manager Felix Magath reacts as his side are relegated following their defeat in the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Fulham at the Britannia Stadium on May 3, 2014 in Stoke on Trent, England. Getty Images

    After just four wins from 20 games, Fulham’s owner has seen enough from Magath.

  5. Brendan Rodgers on Liverpool’s growing pains: “There’s no magic formula”

    Sep 18, 2014, 12:37 PM EDT

    There's nothing nice about watching your side squander a three goal lead to end up with a draw. Getty Images

    Rodgers’ side have had an up and down start to the season. Is it the sign of things to come?

  6. Europa League preview: Will Everton, Tottenham reach knockout stages?

    Sep 18, 2014, 11:33 AM EDT

    tim_howard Getty Images

    Here’s what lies in store for Everton and Tottenham as Thursday night soccer begins.

  7. Taking back time: FIFA says officials must return expensive watches

    Sep 18, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    Brazil v Germany: Semi Final - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Getty Images

    Parmigiani watches worth over $25,000 dished out by Brazilian federation to FIFA’s exec. members must be returned.

  8. Arsenal linked with three free agents, as defensive woes continue

    Sep 18, 2014, 10:18 AM EDT

    FC Lokomotiv Moscow v FC Zenit St. Petersburg - Premier League Getty Images

    Gunners need reinforcements in defense, so who are they making a move for?

  9. Ole Gunnar is gone: Solksjaer out as Cardiff City manager

    Sep 18, 2014, 9:35 AM EDT

    Blackburn Rovers v Cardiff City - Sky Bet Championship Getty Images

    Norwegian boss let go after just 9 wins in 30 games in charge of the Bluebirds.

  10. Chelsea have Diego Costa injury concern

    Sep 18, 2014, 8:56 AM EDT

    Chelsea FC v FC Schalke 04 - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Star striker struggling with persistent hamstring problem ahead of Manchester City clash.

  11. PHOTO: MLS unveils new logo. What do you think?

    Sep 18, 2014, 8:19 AM EDT

    MLSLogoEdit1

    What do you guys think of the brand new MLS logo?

  12. US move up one place in latest FIFA rankings; Wales the big winners

    Sep 18, 2014, 7:40 AM EDT

    Michael Orozco, Mix Diskerud, Matej vydra AP

    Klinsmann’s men move up after Czech Republic win. See where they’re ranked in the top 20.

  13. Fire-ravaged dog home claims Mario Balotelli made sizable donation

    Sep 17, 2014, 11:30 PM EDT

    Balo

    A dog home ravaged by fire last week believes Mario Balotelli has made a sizable donation.

  14. PST Extra: Sneak preview of Manchester City v. Chelsea

    Sep 17, 2014, 10:55 PM EDT

    MC CH

    Joe Prince-Wright and myself sat down with Jenna Corrado to discuss what City and Chelsea each need to accomplish to secure victory.

  15. ‘We Will Speak English': Louis van Gaal’s instruction to Manchester United players

    Sep 17, 2014, 10:28 PM EDT

    VanGaal Getty Images

    Looking for complete transparency, however, Van Gaal has laid down the law: English only.

  16. David Beckham’s Miami franchise could make big announcement on Thursday

    Sep 17, 2014, 9:20 PM EDT

    Former England soccer captain David Beckham attends the world premier of the film "The Class of 92" in London Reuters

    Marcelo Claure has hinted that news regarding a potential MLS franchise in Miami could soon be on it’s way.

  17. Jose Mourinho on Chelsea’s draw with Schalke: “That’s football”

    Sep 17, 2014, 8:42 PM EDT

    Mourinho AP

    “Remy could have scored, Terry could have scored, Hazard could have scored, but that’s football,” Mourinho said.

  18. Report: Man stabbed, another injured, following Roma’s 5-1 win over CSKA Moscow

    Sep 17, 2014, 7:54 PM EDT

    Alberto Pizzoli AFP Alberto Pizzoli AFP

    Gazzetta dello Sport claims that one CSKA fan who had been stabbed in the stomach.

  19. PHOTO: Ajax fans tell PSG what they think of Paris (and Ms. Hilton)

    Sep 17, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

    ajax

    Gotta love Ajax fans, they’re always loud, positive and pretty darn clever.

  20. Julian Draxler’s stunning performance puts Chelsea, Premier League on high alert

    Sep 17, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT

    Chelsea FC v FC Schalke 04 - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Living off the counter-attack, Schalke looked for Draxler every time out the gates.

Featured video

Breaking down Man City vs. Chelsea