The US men's national team made it 12 straight wins, scoring four second-half goals in a 4-3 victory over Bosnia in Sarajevo on Wednesday. Jozy Altidore was the star of the evening, bagging a hat trick and an assist, while John Anthony Brooks and Aron Jóhannsson made their national team debuts.
All’s well that ends well, even when it doesn’t start out well. Here are three take-aways from the Yanks' last friendly before they get back on the road to Brazil next month.
1. The US are most dangerous when they hit you on the break
The first US goal, scored by Eddie Johnson, came after a 50-yard pass from Michael Bradley met Jozy Altidore in stride. Altidore took one touch and so did Johnson. That's three touches over 65 yards.
The second came after Fabian Johnson darted through the middle and perfectly fed Altidore for a quick touch and shot. The fourth goal came off four quick, one-touch passes in midfield, a quick feed to a sprinting Bradley and a toe-poke to Altidore streaking into the box.
Even in the first half, the US were most dangerous when they seized opportunities to get out on the break, and this is the greatest improvement the team has made since its loss to Honduras in World Cup qualifying. At that time, the team seemed to have lost that quick-strike style of attack and was failing to create sufficient scoring opportunities. They’ve dialed it up since, returning to a style of play that's long been their trademark.
2. Brooks and Jóhannsson look the part
Not going to go crazy about the performance of either debutant, Brooks in central defense or Jóhannsson up front. But both showed themselves worthy of more looks, if not in qualifying then in the tune-up matches that will lead the US into Brazil.
There’s a long way to go and usually there’s a lot to deal with in the final year before a World Cup. There will be injuries and players will go through slumps. There are almost always a few players who find their way on to a World Cup roster who don’t participate much in qualifying. Remember DaMarcus Beasley in 2002? In 2006, it was Clint Dempsey who emerged late. In 2010, injuries to Charlie Davies, Stuart Holden and Oguchi Onyewu meant a host of late arrivals got serious consideration.
It happens every cycle, so getting a look at players like Brooks and Johansson now is critical. Based on Tuesday’s performance, which saw Brooks hold up physically and Johansson show a few bursts of quickness on the ball, US fans can expect to see more in the next 10 months.
3. Twelve wins is ... 12 wins
It did not look good at the half. Not good at all. But the US found a way in the second half to turn the game around and leave Sarajevo with smiles on their faces.
Will this unbeatable feeling hold up? How can anyone know what the coming year will bring?
It’s not worth the effort to ponder, so stick to things that cannot be argued. Twelve wins in a row is 12 wins in a row. Nothing creative about those analytics – the US are on a roll like never before. Big tests await, away to Costa Rica and home to Mexico, but the boys have to be feeling good right now.