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US National Team

13 June 12:43 pm

Last night a group of USA fans gathered at The Hill in Midtown Manhattan to watch the Yanks take on Guatemala in World Cup Qualifying courtesy of ExtraTime Radio.

With stomachs full of free sliders, mozzarella sticks and potato skins, the bar cheered as Landon Donovan drove up the flank and passed the ball to Fabian Johnson, who dished it to Clint Dempsey to score the opening goal.  Enjoy the grainy reaction footage and tell us where you watched the US pick up the road point.

13 June 12:08 am

Was a 1-1 draw the right result? Probably. Well, 2-2 might have been more accurate.

We'll get to the rest of this just after a few of those match balls come down out of orbit.

Wait for it...

Wait for it...

Wait for it...

Geoff Cameron has proved that he's the right choice in central defense

Was he perfect? No, far from it. His first touch was a giveaway and he needs to be smarter defending set pieces.

But he was significantly better than Clarence Goodson, and miles better than Oguchi Onyewu was against Antigua and Barbuda. It's always been a matter of "when," not "if," with Cameron, and it looks like the "when" is just about now.

There will still be tough days to come. Someone will sucker him into a bad foul, or he'll get caught ball-watching, or he'll blow a trap. But he put in a tough 45 minutes and did so with a fair share of aplomb. It was a good first "big" game from Cameron, who should be in the starting lineup from here on out.

Of course, it was also a bad game by Carlos Bocanegra, who totally misplayed the longball that led to the foul that led to the one decent (read: spectacular) free kick of the evening. Let's hope Tim Ream, George John, Matt Besler and whoever else is on Jurgen Klinsmann's radar make a Cameron-like leap in the next few months.

Fabian Johnson is irreplacable at left back

One of the things I wanted to see was how Johnson would combine down the left with Landon Donovan. And it was good.

Donovan's in a particularly passive mode right now, which means he's totally willing to drift wide when Johnson darts inside. It's what happened on the goal, and why Johnson only had to beat one guy instead of two.

And the fact that we can casually talk about one of our players beating a defender off the dribble ... man, that is a nice weapon coming out of the back. Edgar Castillo is functional, and I have high hopes for Justin Morrow, but neither of those guys has the raw creative ability Johnson shows every time he takes the field for the US.

Of course, he can also be spun like a top in one-v-one defensively, and is prone to ball-watching. Two of Guatemala's best chances on the evening were directly attributable to his poor defensive play.

But I don't care. He brings so much other stuff to the table that it hardly matters.

Nobody's on the same page in the final third

Just about the only quality link-up of the night for the US came on the goal. The midfield play was better as a whole (though Maurice Edu and Jermaine Jones were turnover machines), and the defense was relative solid compared to previous outings.

But the final third is still a mess. If Donovan played the ball early, the runs came late. If Dempsey tried a flick, he should have went for a through ball.

And there aren't enough expletives in the world to describe Jozy Altidore's thought-process on that late chance that Michael Bradley served up on a platter.

It is ugly, and not showing signs of getting better. Klinsmann's biggest job is still shoring up the defense, of course. But a close second is reminding his attackers how to attack.

12 June 2:00 pm

Quien sabe si el equipo Salvadoreño esté listo para el partido de hoy contra México, pero sus aficionados si lo están. 

Desde las ocho de la noche del día antes del juego, llegaron fanáticos salvadoreños masivamente al hotel donde se encontraba la selección mexicana. ¿Pero a que fueron los salvadoreños al hotel? ¿Echarle porra a México? ¿Recibirlos con brazos abiertos? ¡Si y si! Bueno, depende de que lado lo veas. ¿Dedicarle a un país una serenata es como echarle porra y recibirlo con brazos abiertos, o no?

Según el sitio web Mediotiempo.com llegaron más o menos 1,500 salvadoreños intentando hacer el mayor escándalo posible para impedir el descanso de El Tri la noche previa al duelo de este martes por la eliminatoria de la CONCACAF. Aun con tambores, cohetes, y gritos los salvadoreños no lograron nada. Las habitaciones de los jugadores estaban en una ubicación muy lejana a donde ocurrieron de los hechos además de que las mismas tienen vidrios anti-ruido.

Hoy también se encuentra Estados Unidos jugando en casa ajena contra Guatemala. Con el recuerdo de su última derrota ante el combinado de las Barras y las Estrellas en 2008, se espera un ambiente hostil donde Guatemala jugará con un sentido de revancha para defender su estadio.

El Estadio Mateo Flores ya tiene alambrado a su alrededor por si llega suceder algo y los estadounidenses están preparados para salir del país en cuando se acabe el juego.

10 June 9:48 pm

It's been a whirlwind few months for Terrence Boyd (above, credit: MexSport), and to cap it all off, he will soon get his first taste of top-flight soccer.

A report in Austria publication sport10.at (in German) suggests that Boyd's long-rumored move from Borussia Dortmund to Rapid Vienna is all but sealed. He is set to fly to Austria and finalize the deal following the United States' World Cup qualifier at Guatemala on Tuesday.

He is quoted as saying to sport10.at, "The league is very attractive and is highly-regarded in Germany. In my opinion a young player can advance a lot in this league."

In addition to playing top-flight soccer, Boyd will get to test his wits in the Europa League, by virtue of Rapid's second-place finish in the 2011-12 Austrian Bundesliga. The club was also a recent stop for a pair of D.C. United players – Hamdi Salihi and Branko Boskovic.

Boyd joins the 32-time Austrian champions on the back of a 20-goal season for Dortmund's reserve team, which plays in the German fourth division. His breakout year, movement, and ability to trouble defenders with his physicality earned him the attention of Jurgen Klinsmann and the US coaching staff. 

Though he hasn't played top-flight soccer yet, he made his national team debut in the USA's 1-0 victory over Italy in February and scored two goals in the ultimately disappointing Olympic qualifying campaign. He came on as a substitute in the Americans' 3-1 World Cup qualifying win over Antigua and Barbuda, cap-tying him to the United States and bringing his total to four caps.

Is Boyd's move to Austria the right step forward for the 21-year-old? How do you think he will cope with the pressure of top-flight professional soccer? As is the case with young players, it's too early to tell, but all the signs point to a bright future for the young man.

08 June 9:19 pm

Well, that was unsatisfying. At least Canadians can look at their win over Cuba and say, "Hey, it was on the road." The US don't have that luxury after a hard-fought, uneven 3-1 win over Antigua and Barbuda in Tampa.

I can't say I'm surprised. Disappointed, surely, but not surprised. This is a disjointed, confused, and somewhat rudderless US team.

Oguchi Onyewu is done as an international-caliber defender

Bad showing against Brazil? Hey, it happens.

But the same against the Benna Boys? You're done.

It's kind of deceiving because Gooch still looks like he did way back in the summer of 2009 when he had that great showing in the Confederations Cup, but the similarity ends there. His lateral quickness is nil, his passing has always been subpar and his reading of the game has actually regressed. The vast majority of MLS defenders would have bottled up that touch from Byers; Gooch rolled with it and gave him a direct line to Tim Howard's goal.

That's unacceptable in any context. In a game that matters, with a then-fragile 2-0 lead? It's mutinous.

Jurgen Klinsmann needs to bury Gooch on the depth chart. He's a liability against even the worst teams.

If it comes down to goal differential, the US are in trouble

How many goals will the US score in Guatemala City or Kingston playing like this? It's relevant, since Mexico only went through to the Hexagonal on goal differential four years ago.

The US will not have that luxury — not after this performance, and even more so on Tuesday. That means the margin for error is razor thin, and any loss will be a potentially crippling one.

Does that mean Klinsmann should add more attackers to the mix?

Absolutely. Not only was the output poor, but so was recovery of the second ball and pressure in the final third. Putting Jozy Altidore or Terrence Boyd in alongside Herculez Gomez from the start would have given the US a better chance at taking advantage of all those chances they created.

Set pieces are still a thing the US can do well

Landon Donovan's service was perfect pretty much all game long. Carlos Bocanegra, Clarence Goodson, Herculez Gomez, Clint Dempsey, Maurice Edu and Michael Bradley are all excellent targets.

That was the difference against the Benna Boys. (How horrible is that to contemplate, by the way?)

It will continue to be the area where the US have the biggest advantage throughout this semifinal round. Klinsmann's men will have to milk that for all it's worth, or there may be no Hexagonal in 2013.

07 June 11:13 am

Just suddenly having [Fabian Johnson] on the squad feels like finding a solution to a problem you'd gotten so accustomed to that you'd stopped even thinking of it as a problem. He's the soccer equivalent of laser eye surgery or getting air conditioning for the first time.

Is Fabian Johnson the irrefutable savior of American soccer? Alone, it's unlikely.

But in Brian Phillips' article on the US men's national team at Grantland, he argues that Johnson is just another reason why US soccer is poised to push the limits on how well – and subsequently, how poorly – they can play.

Essentially, with a more attack-centered mentality and a formation to maximize the talent in the midfield, the potential to produce big-time performances (we're looking at you, Scotland) are ever more likely.

With that being said, against powerhouse teams like Brazil – where a 4-1 loss seemed to sting a whole lot less than a scoreless draw with Canada because, well, the team looked better – the risk of being dumped with an unsightly scoreline is also on the rise.

It's time to drop the "up-and-coming" tagline (it's been far too long), start playing up to the talent available (not to say that the US will consistently take down the world's elite, but just ask the past two World Cup champions, Spain and Italy, if they still get a can't-wait-to-play-them feeling in their stomachs when they see the United States on their schedule), and stop accepting losses to teams well below the Americans' capabilities (a la Panama in the 2011 Gold Cup on US soil).

"By gambling that he can teach the USMNT to walk before it's really gotten world-class at crawling," Philips writes, "Klinsmann is taking an already chancy situation and stirring in a fresh vial of crazy."

With the 2014 World Cup as the ultimate showcase of Klinsmann's US side, perhaps straying from the status quo and going for glory is just the type of craziness we need.

04 June 11:35 am

Dans son unique match de préparation avant la reprise des éliminatoires de la Coupe du monde 2014, le Canada a fait match nul 0-0 avec les États-Unis. Un bon résultat dans l’absolu, mais il faut éviter de tomber dans l’enthousiasme démesuré.

S’il y avait une bonne discipline défensive, la construction du jeu était souvent déficiente, reposant davantage sur des inspirations individuelles que sur un collectif bien huilé. Le Canada a dominé la deuxième mi-temps, contre des Américains fatigués, et a même marqué un but annulé. Je rejoins toutefois davantage l’avis du capitaine des États-Unis, Carlos Bocanegra, qui n’a pas vu un grand match, que celui de Dwayne De Rosario, très heureux du travail accompli.

La rencontre a été précédée de diverses cérémonies soulignant le centenaire de l’Association canadienne de soccer. Sur la photo d’équipe, les joueurs canadiens (qui portaient un équipement rétro spécialement conçu pour l’occasion) avaient pris avec eux un maillot floqué du numéro 11 de Josh Simpson, leur coéquipier qui s’est cassé la jambe il y a une dizaine de jours.

Malgré le duel Canada - États-Unis, la MLS ne faisait pas complètement relâche ce week-end, et New England y a battu Chicago 2-0.

03 June 9:19 pm

So in retrospect ... how bad were Scotland?

I expressed my concern that the 5-1 result for the US in that particular game was a bit of a false positive (usage, I know), and am now bemused in my correctitude. The US are still a mess, looking very much a team in "Who are we, really?" mode.

Canada, meanwhile, get the pleasure of knowing they were the superior team for 90 minutes against the US for the first time since maybe the mid-1980s. And the displeasure of another bad call going against them in this series.

Klinsmann's lineup choices are still baffling

About 95 percent of the Jose Torres-related comments we get on this site are positive. And that's fine — it's always nice to have a favorite player.

But if Torres was as good as you all seem to think, wouldn't he stand out in a game like this? Wouldn't the US have more than one win in 11 games with him starting? Wouldn't he find a way to carve out chances for his teammates — or even, heaven forbid, himself — when afforded time and space in the final third?

That's what he got plenty of on Sunday. And he produced nothing.

The problem is not just his lack of a cutting edge in attack, but that he's being asked to provide something that's not in his DNA in the first place. Torres' only outstanding attribute is his ability to put his foot on the ball and dictate the pace and tempo of the game. Put him in a central midfield trio in front of Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones, and you may have something.

On the wing? He's an absolute cipher, Klinsmann's white elephant.

That wasn't the only lineup choice that left me scratching my head. Against a Canadian side alligned to prevent up-the-gut penetration, the danger was always going to come from the US flanks. So that left just one forward — Herculez Gomez — to do the running and work of two. Even when Jozy Altidore was subbed in, he was tasked with playing wide on the left instead of as a No. 9.

It makes no sense. And the Scotland anomaly aside, this team feels no closer to realizing Klinsmann's vision than it did nine months ago.

The US have depth at left fullback

Edgar Castillo still has some learning to do, first and foremost when to put the ball into row Z instead of trying to play out of pressure. His turnover absolutely should have been a Canada goal.

But he was a demon patrolling passing lanes and the most consistent US threat on the night. And most importantly, he didn't look out of place physically against a big, strong team with some real power and pace on that right flank.

I'm not totally in love with the idea of him starting for the US in a game that matters — again, that giveaway was inexcusable — but hopefully Fabian Johnson's injury will be gone by Friday. Either way, though, this is a stronger position than it was two years ago.

Canada's two-thirds press caused the US more problems than Brazil's high press

Canada dropped off almost to the midfield stripe, then swarmed the US midfielders whenever they received a pass. Because of the way they were deployed, they always had numbers up, and were always on the verge of forcing a turnover and a breakout.

Truth is, they should have had three goals. The reason Brazil are Brazil is because they finish those chances; the reason Canada are Canada is that they don't.

But there's plenty of good to take from this for the Canucks. Their defense is certainly sturdier than the USA's right now, and from the run of play they allowed almost no real looks to a team that had Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan and Gomez all on the pitch.

For the US, the idea of playing through or around a two-thirds press seemed beyond them. Playing over it was a non-starter, since Kevin McKenna and Andre Hainault just about swallowed Gomez whole.

The situation called for two forwards. When the US are struggling to create, it often does.

But that's not what we saw. We saw a bad 90 minutes, a bad strategy and a bad result.

Wonder what we'll see next week when the games really matter?

01 June 11:29 am

Ce dimanche, le Canada reçoit les États-Unis dans les cadre des festivités du centenaire de l’Association canadienne de soccer.

Le premier duel entre les deux équipes est aussi le premier match à domicile de l’histoire de l’équipe nationale canadienne. Il a eu lieu le 27 juin 1925 à Alexandra Park, stade de Montréal domicile du club CNR (Canadian National Railway), basé à Pointe-Saint-Charles (si l’un d’entre vous sait où était situé ce terrain, merci de partager l’information).

Environ 3500 personnes ont assisté à la rencontre. Six joueurs du Québec faisaient partie du onze de base canadien. L’un d’entre eux, Ed McLaine, a inscrit le seul but de la partie peu après le quart d’heure. Finisseur redoutable évoluant au poste d’intérieur droit, McLaine a plus tard défendu les couleurs de Providence, dans le championnat des États-Unis, professionnel à l’époque.

Le match de ce dimanche sera le trentième affrontement officiel entre les deux pays.

Canada : Arthur Halliwell, George Campbell, Andy Clarke, Fred Dierden, John B. Foy, Bill McKean, Roy Faulkner, Jim Galloway, Ed McLaine, Dave McKenzie, Alex Smith
États-Unis : Jimmy Douglas, Irving Davis, Jock Ferguson, Tom Stark, Tommy McFarland, Henry Meyerdierks, Barney Battles, Davey Brown, Archie Stark, Bob Millar, Tom Florie
Arbitre : Horace S. Lyons
Le but : 16e McLaine (1-0)

30 May 10:08 pm

When Jurgen Klinsmann was hired, the US were a mess. Their spacing was terrible, they couldn't get consistent performance from the fullbacks and the offense was inconsistent.

It looks like most of that has been cleared up. I'd go so far as to say that Klinsmann's done a pretty good job. But there are still some concerns.

This generation of US players is defined by their weakness in central defense

There's no disguising it against top-level talent. The US got a great result in Italy a few months back, but were protected throughout by a flag-happy linesman who blew five offside calls, and a handful of great 1-v-1 saves from Tim Howard.

Against Brazil, there was no such luck. Howard did make a couple of great saves and was bailed out by the post once, but for the most part, Brazil gave the US central defense the old orange cone treatment.

Oguchi Onyewu in particular — even without the (not remotely debatable) penalty — was awful. When defending on the ball he's on roller skates, and when defending in space he's basically lost. And he doesn't read the game well enough to make up for it against top competition.

What's even more disturbing is the US inability to hold a line. It happened at the beginning of the game, it happened in the middle, and it happened at the end with Onyewu (sorry to pick on you, Gooch), failing to step, leaving Pato to rip the fouth past a stranded Howard.

If you're slower and less skilled than the opponents — and against the great teams, that's always going to be the case for the US — then you have to be smarter and more organized.

This group is not. It's how Mexico killed the US last summer, and how Brazil killed them on Wednesday.

There were telltale midfield turnovers even against Scotland

And against Brazil, those turnovers became goals. It's something I stressed in our March to the Match podcast, but which went largely unnoticed otherwise since we were all stunned at the sheer ferocity of that 5-1 win.

I don't know how much scouting Brazil really did, but it's safe to say that the book on the US is "smother them, make them play combinations, and they will eventually beat themselves."

Even the Scots did it for a bit, specifically in minutes 15 through 35.

The Brazilians did it in minutes 1 through 90, and everyone on the US had their turn to play the goat. Including Michael Bradley and Fabian Johnson.

Speaking of ...

Michael Bradley and Fabian Johnson are really, really good

Bradley's probably too valuable as an attacker and too much of a risk-taker on the ball to play as a true, lone d-mid (as he was in Klinsmann's 4-1-4-1 for most of the game). The other options are unappealing against top sides, though: Maurice Edu has a poor first touch, and Jermaine Jones isn't exactly known for his ability to get out of traffic with the ball on his foot.

So for now, Klinsmann has to keep Bradley in that d-mid role and then find more dynamic players to put in front of him. I'd prefer to see Jose Torres or Benny Feilhaber in one of the "advanced midfield" roles, rather than the uninspiring Edu/Jones combo.

And as for Johnson ... there's not much to say but, "Wow." He's been the best, most consistent attacking force on the US team for the past three games. Who thought we'd ever say that about a left back?

Defensively he still has work to do, especially in 1-v-1 situations (he literally spun in a circle when trying to defend Hulk at one point), but he's got plenty of time to work on it before Klinsmann's side takes on the big boys in a game that counts.

So for now, it's clear that Klinsmann still has a little bit of a mess to clean up. But the good news is that he's already made progress with what was left behind for him in the first place.