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Armchair Analyst: Three things we learned from the US loss in Kingston

07 September 9:02 pm

Armchair Analyst: Three things we learned from the US loss in Kingston

By Matthew Doyle

I said, quite a while back, that I was concerned about the US' ability to advance to the hexagonal. Obviously tonight's result in Kingston is a data point that shows I was within my rights to be concerned.

To put it into context: The US had not lost a qualifier that mattered to a Caribbean team since 1969 (credit to US soccer journalist emeritus Michael Lewis for that nugget). We hadn't walked on the moon yet. There was no such thing as "ESPN," let alone "beIn Sport." Jurgen Klinsmann was five years old.

This was a big deal. It doesn't mean the US is out, but it does mean we've got trouble.

If you can't possess, you shouldn't play narrow

And if you play narrow, you have to possess.

Klinsmann was handed the US job with the specific task of instituting a new, possession-oriented style. And for the most part, people have left him alone, taking a "wait and see" attitude as he tries to implement a transformation.

The main issue I have with this is that the results, thus far, have been unimpressive. Yeah, the US got those 1-0 wins at Italy and Mexico, but those wins had waaaay more to do with great goalkeeping and a few timely interventions than they did with keeping the ball. Even against Antigua & Barbuda, which was as unimpressive as a 3-1 win could be, the US were hardly dominant in stringing together long series of passes.

So the question is twofold: Does Klinsmann have the team to play a possession game? And if so, is he lining them up to do just that?

I'd say the answer to the second is "yes", but the answer to the first, with this squad, anyway, is "no." A US team that omits the most skillful midfielders in favor of multiple d-mids is not designed to hold the ball.

And, unfortunately, with the narrowness of the formation, they weren't designed to hit on the break, either. It's not a catch-22, it's just the wrong players.

Speaking of...

I still can't figure out what Jermaine Jones brings to the table

No one on the pitch was worse than him. No one.

Jones doesn't connect passes particularly well going forward, and he's not disciplined enough to play as a true d-mid. He's also poor in traffic, which means he's a turnover machine when two men run at him. Playing him as a true No. 8 (where he was played vs. Jamaica) is slow suicide.

The only thing Jones really adds is a fair share of simulation (blech) and effort tracking back in transition. But there are plenty of guys in the pool - younger, more skillful, more disciplined - who offer effort, as well.

Clint Dempsey is not a distributor

Deuce is one of the four most talented US field players in our history, but if you're relying on him to ignite the offense you're probably in trouble. He's a 9 1/2, not a No. 10, and that means he needs good service and someone to combine with right off his shoulder.

Playing him behind two true forwards can be done, but not if there's zero width and not if none of the three d-mids behind him can get him the ball where he needs it. This was ugly as sin.

And Tuesday is suddenly a must-win affair. Gird your loins.