Thursday, May 31, 2012

Lingering Thoughts On the USMNT

Article by Luke Lohr

The United States Men's National team was fresh off their 5-1 win against Scotland when they were humbled by a feisty Brazilian squad. The match at FedEx field held over 39,000 fans and they were witness to an American side of split-personalities.

For much of the first half, the US was out classed and out gunned. Despite boasting much of the same roster that beat the Scots. The Brazilians won the match 4-1 in a score that some might argue was unfitting of the US effort and others would say was well deserved.

On more than one occasion Tim Howard was called upon to bail the United States out of difficult situations, which leads to the first point that must be made.

The centerbacks  are a serious issue for the US going forward. In particular Oguchi Onyewu looked woefully vulnerable in nearly every way. We saw him out jumped, out run, out classed and generally out played in such a way that it cost three goals for the team. Thiago Silva abused him in one instance that seemed to exemplify his failings.

It began with an unfortunate hand ball in the box by Onyewu, which conceded a penalty. Neymar stepped up and converted the goal. The second goal came from a simple set piece, a corner kick. The ball was played in by Brazil and Thiago Silva was allowed to get free and nod home a goal that was far too easy.

It was also Oneywu's failure to step up with the team that allowed Pato to remain onside and bury a shot past a helpless Tim Howard.

Bocanegra did not suffer nearly the same level of abuse, but the veteran defender was pushed off the ball more than once and poor positioning left him exposed on several near miss plays.  The two central defenders being out of their depth was made all the more obvious by the solid play of outside backs Steve Cherundolo and Fabian Johnson, neither of whom looked out of place.

The primary frustration is that the US does not have an obvious replacement. Michael Parkhurst, Geoff Cameron, Tim Ream and Omar Gonzalez (injured) all have serious maturation needs before they're ready for the international game. Something has to change for the US if they're to survive World Cup Qualifying and beyond.

The Midfield is much better with Michael Bradley in the attack. Bradley has been stellar in both matches, showing pinpoint passing and a remarkable attention to what's going on around him. Inch perfect passes have lead to multiple US goals against Scotland and Brazil. If not for Bradley's movement forward, Hercules Gomez's goal would not have been possible.

That Bradley was lined up on the back-end of a defensive triangle with Maurice Edu and Jermaine Jones is a bit puzzling. Klinsmann clearly had a plan and Edu is no slouch, but it would better serve the US if Bradley was free to attack and Edu played destroyer.

Hercules Gomez has shown that he belongs on this team, at this level. The striker's work rate was unrivaled up top as he chased down balls, put the Brazilian defense under pressure and got on the end of headers. Not only did he score a goal in his debut under Klinsmann, but he looked good throughout the match. When Terence Boyd entered the match and the squad switch to a 4-4-2, Gomez remained active and the team continued to look solid.

Other points: Fabian Johnson belongs. Tim Howard continues his brilliance. Timmy Chandler would be a fantastic addition to the squad, but Johnson has left back on lock. Terence Boyd looks like a fantastic hope for the future.

All in all, the US have questions to ask themselves, enough that a much longer article could be written. Nonetheless, they must be positive and pull themselves together. Canada and World Cup Qualifying await them. Jurgen Klinsmann must focus his squad to the task at hand. He has a reputation for focusing on the positive and that is well, positive.


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