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. Xabi Alonso breaks Bundesliga record for touches

    Sep 30, 2014, 8:56 PM EDT

    FC Bayern Munchen v Manchester City FC - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    The newly signed Bayern midfielder had 204 touches in Munich’s 2-0 win over FC Koln.

  2. Norway calls up 15-year-old for Euro qualifying

    Sep 30, 2014, 8:03 PM EDT

    FBL-NOR-OEDEGAARD Getty Images

    Martin Odegaard made his international debut this summer as Norway’s youngest player ever.

  3. Why do Manchester City struggle so much in the Champions League?

    Sep 30, 2014, 7:27 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-MAN CITY-ROMA AP

    With City struggling in the group stages once again, why does this keep happening?

  4. PHOTOS: David Beckham, Beyonce, Jay-Z among stars at PSG vs. Barcelona

    Sep 30, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

    Stars on show: Beyonce, Jay-Z, Beckham. Stars on show: Beyonce, Jay-Z, Beckham.

    All the stars were out to play as PSG took on Barca in the French capital on Tuesday.

  5. Xavi breaks record for Champions League appearances

    Sep 30, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

    FC Barcelona v Club Leon - Joan Gamper Trophy Getty Images

    The Barcelona midfielder appeared in his 143rd Champions League match today.

  6. Kevin Mirallas could miss serious time for Everton

    Sep 30, 2014, 5:35 PM EDT

    Liverpool v Everton - Premier League Getty Images

    The Belgian international was taken off the pitch on a stretcher this weekend with an apparent hamstring injury.

  7. UEFA Champions League roundup: PSG beat Barcelona, Chelsea top Sporting

    Sep 30, 2014, 5:15 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-PSG-BARCELONA AP

    Want a recap of all eight UCL games that took place across Europe on Tuesday? Look no further…

  8. Sporting CP 0-1 Chelsea: Blues win chippy UCL affair in Lisbon

    Sep 30, 2014, 4:36 PM EDT

    Chelsea dominated Sporting and should have won by more. AP

    Only Nemanja Matic, much to the chagrin of the Sporting crowd, could beat a fantastic Rui Patricio.

  9. Golden oldie: Francesco Totti becomes oldest scorer in Champions League history

    Sep 30, 2014, 3:37 PM EDT

    AS Roma Team Presentation Getty Images

    Magnifico from Totti, as Italian legend writes his name in the history books.

  10. Follow live – UEFA Champions League: Manchester City vs. AS Roma

    Sep 30, 2014, 2:18 PM EDT

    Will Yaya Toure and City get off to a winning start at St. James' on Sunday? Getty Images

    Moscow was skunked by Roma 5-1 in the first round of group matches, while City fell 1-0 to Bayern.

  11. Premier League Team of the Week: Find out who starred on Matchday 6

    Sep 30, 2014, 2:11 PM EDT

    Sunderland v Swansea City - Premier League Getty Images

    Check out if your favorite player made it onto Round 6’s Team of the Week.

  12. UCL: Bayern Munich picks up win over CSKA Moscow in empty Arena Khimki

    Sep 30, 2014, 1:58 PM EDT

    APTOPIX Russia Soccer Champions League AP

    Mario Gotze drew a penalty that Thomas Muller finished, and Bayern Munich emerged victorious from a relatively-quiet stadium.

  13. PST’s Major League Soccer power rankings: More movement, just not No.1

    Sep 30, 2014, 12:31 PM EDT

    oscar_pareja AP

    The Los Angeles Galaxy are really, really good, while Chivas USA is across town and the PR table.

  14. USMNT legend McBride, Jaguars president helping select Fulham manager

    Sep 30, 2014, 11:25 AM EDT

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Jacksonville Jaguars Getty Images

    Fulham owner Shahid Khan is taking his time to make sure he gets things right this time around.

  15. Confirmed: Rooney out three Manchester United matches after red card

    Sep 30, 2014, 10:38 AM EDT

    Britain Soccer Champions League AP

    Some called for his Manchester United captaincy over his lack of discipline, but two words: Roy Keane.

  16. Premier League player of the week – Round 6

    Sep 30, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    Hull City v Manchester City - Premier League Getty Images

    Which player ensured it would be back-to-back honors for a single team in the Premier League’s player of the week battle?

Featured video

Week 6: Premier League recap