Armchair Analyst: Gold Cup epitaph for the USMNT and a reason to worry going forward

The USMNT were outshot 25-5 by Panama in Saturday's third-place game, which they lost 3-2 on PKs following a 1-1 draw after 120 minutes.

This was a historically bad tournament for the USMNT. It included a loss to Jamaica for only the second time ever, and two draws against a Panamanian team that had been awful since the end of the 2013 Hexagonal.

And this:

Here are a quick list of things that are bothering me right now:


• Panama played without six starters, including Blas Perez and Luis Tejada. This is not insignificant since "Tejada to Perez" was the scoring combination for Panama in the 1-1 draw between these two teams in the group stage.

• Our starting XI had never played together before. Klinsmann hasn't played the same XI in back-to-back games since 2014.

Winning friendlies is nice. Winning friendlies, then playing a different lineup, formation and style in games that actually mean something defeats the point of playing those friendlies in the first place.

• Remember Tim Howard's amazing performance vs. Belgium last year, which prompted this GIF?

I'd love to see the Brad Guzan version from today. Against Panama. At home.

• Joe Corona was asked to play more as a No. 6 than he has been in the past, mirroring positional experiments Jurgen Klinsmann has made with Mix Diskerud and Alejandro Bedoya. He worked hard, but too often left space in front of the back line.

It was especially damning on this play, in which Corona's freelancing nearly turned into a Panamanian goal that would have been Messi-esque:

There needs to be a midfielder stopping that run from going right up the gut. If Michael Bradley is going to be the creative hub -- which is what Klinsmann has repeatedly said is his job -- then he needs to be paired with a central midfielder who will allow him the room and offer the protection for him to actually roam and create.

• Watch the above clip again. Focus on Timmy Chandler. Specifically focus on how his legs do not move quickly, and the lack of effort he channels into the act of locomotion.

• I have nothing left to say about Timmy Chandler's continued inclusion in the USMNT.

• This was not a meaningless game. FIFA rankings are used to help determine what pot you're drawn into at the World Cup:

• Fabian Johnson wasn't great, but he wasn't bad, either. However, playing him in midfield limits his attacking impact for the US. He didn't create a single chance on the day, and only completed one pass in the attacking third.

So while many other guys will be in the spotlight for poor performances, bear in mind that a guy who starts for a top Bundesliga team and will be playing in the UEFA Champions League this year was rendered mostly invisible.

Partially this was due to a pretty good performance from Panama. Mostly this is due to systemic problems with the USMNT right now.

• Bradley was sloppy and poor in this tournament, as was most everybody else. In general, the longer Klinsmann's camps are, the more sapped and sloppy all the players -- but Bradley especially -- tend to look. With shorter camps, like those we see in World Cup qualifying or most friendlies, the US tend to perform with more energy.

I believe this is because "fitness training", unlike honing individual skills or tactical concepts, has diminishing returns.

• In addition to an unfortunate over-emphasis on fitness (and subsequent reduction in the desired commodity), the lack of squad rotation hurt this team. The roster as a whole was poorly chosen, with no natural back-up for Jozy Altidore, no secondary creator to ease Bradley's burden, no back-up defensive midfielder for Kyle Beckerman, and an over-reliance upon Clint Dempsey to provide all the finishing.

This was compounded by poor substitution patterns. The US were up 4-0 at the half against Cuba last week, yet Klinsmann didn't sub Bradley and Dempsey -- his two most important players -- to get them some rest.

• Dempsey is 32 and, to the best of my knowledge, is not aging backwards. It seems toolish to expect this level of productivity from him over the next few years.

• John Brooks continues to look out of his depth against CONCACAF foes. Talent-wise he's an A+ prospect, but this:

That paints a vivid picture of his short-comings, which Panama and Jamaica were able to exploit. Including on today's goal.

• Our set-piece defending has been abysmal. This is partially due to the weakness of Brooks and Ventura Alvarado in the air, but there's a definite whiff of disorganization about the US even in routine situations:

• In the last 210 minutes of this tournament, against Jamaica and Panama, the US scored two goals. Both were off goalkeeper errors.

• Take out the Cuba win, and the US were out-shot 85-47 in this Gold Cup. While many point to the the second half against Jamaica as a bright spot, with the US out-shooting the Reggae Boyz 15-4 over that 45-minute stretch, two things need to be noted.

First: Jamaica outshot us 6-5 in the first half, and headed into the break up 2-0.

Second: Because they were up 2-0, they bunkered in the second half, inviting us forward and trying to limit not our shooting attemtps, but rather the quality of our shooting attempts. It largely worked, with the bulk of the best US chances in that second half coming off of rebounds rather than manufactured attempts.

This is the "game states" conundrum that also killed the US last summer.

• We were outshot 92-44 in four games in Brazil. That is by far the worst ratio for the USMNT in any of the last seven World Cups, including 1990 when we sent what was essentially a team of amateurs.

• The argument that "He needs more time to implement his system!"is invalid. Bruce Arena took the team that finished dead last at France '98, turned 'em around in 10 months and led them to a third-place finish in the 1999 Confederations Cup, which included a 2-0 win over Germany. Bob Bradley coached his first USMNT game in January of 2007, and led his team to a Gold Cup win in July of that year.

Klinsmann has had four years, and his team is performing worse now than they ever have under him, under Bradley, or under Arena. Even though Bradley and Arena had shallower and less dynamic player talent pools to draw from.

• Even if these results continue, Klinsmann will not have to worry about his job security:

• World Cup qualifying begins in November of this year. The US were drawn into what looks like an easy group with Trinidad & Tobago, and the winners of St. Vincent & the Grenadines vs. Aruba, as well as Antigua & Barbuda vs. Guatemala.

The US will be heavy favorites in each of those games. Just as they were against Jamaica and Panama.

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