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Armchair Analyst: Three things we learned from US vs. Mexico

15 August 10:14 pm

Armchair Analyst: Three things we learned from US vs. Mexico

By Matthew Doyle

Well ... that was cathartic. Jurgen Klinsmann didn't do everything I'd have done, but he definitely got the formation and shape right. That's a big step in the right direction. Here are three things we learned from the US national team's first victory in Mexico in 75 years.

1. This is now Geoff Cameron's backline

We at MLSsoccer.com have been talking all week about how a generational shift in the center of defense has been needed.

Carlos Bocanegra has been a great captain and, at times, a great defender, but he's well past his prime. Oguchi Onyewu, meanwhile, simply hasn't ever recovered from that 2009 knee injury. We saw that much against Antigua and Barbuda. The other option recently has been Clarence Goodson, who is tissue-paper soft.

So that left first Bob Bradley, then Jurgen Klinsmann with the task of developing the next generation of central defenders, and to be honest, it didn't go as quickly as I'd have liked. I ripped Klinsmann in my column last Friday for sticking with the old guard for too long, and did the same to Bradley last summer after the Gold Cup disappointment.

The Antigua game, and the disappointing 1-1 draw with Guatemala that followed it, drove the point home, apparently. Klinsmann kicked "tried and true" to the curb in favor of Cameron and Maurice Edu, and was rewarded with one of the best defensive performances in years (this was miles better than the Italy game, in which the US were bailed out repeatedly by a flag-happy linesman).

Cameron was flawless for 80 minutes on the night, both in his distribution (expected) and positioning (a happy surprise). He'd struggled at times with Houston this year, playing more loosely than he should have. That was nowhere to be found against Mexico.

Edu was nearly as good, bar a couple of miscommunications in distribution. They both flagged down the final 10 minutes, but that's to be expected at the Azteca.

But man, was that a big step in the right direction.

The one concern now is that they both land with clubs that are only interested in playing them at midfield. Hopefully Stoke City and Valencia, or Ipswich Town, or whoever is going to sign Edu, watched this game and realized that these guys are defenders, not midfielders.

2. There may be no place to play Jose Torres against good competition

Look, he's gotten plenty of chances. On Wednesday he played 45 minutes with three defensive midfielders behind him, two pure attackers in front of him and a pair of fullbacks who could and would overlap if there was space. It was exactly what I asked for — a chance to see the guy playing his natural spot with plenty of support around him.

And Torres did nothing on either side of the ball. There is absolutely no reason to trust him against top competition at this point, especially if they're physical.

Would you want him out there against Jamaica next month when the games count?

Neither would I.

3. These aren't new tactics

When Klinsmann came aboard, he talked about playing a new, proactive style that would impose the game upon the opposition.

Those were his words. But his deeds have been the total opposite. His team stays deep, defends in numbers and punishes mistakes. They never hog the ball unless it happens to be against Scotland or the like.

That's been the recipe against top teams for 25 years (with a few exceptions). I recently rewatched the 0-0 draw from 1998 World Cup qualifying, and defensively it was pretty much a mirror image of this game.

So full credit to Klinsmann for realizing that, if he wants to write a new manual, he should at least master the old one first.