It seems like all the pieces are falling into place just in time. The United States looked great against Nigeria in Saturday’s 2-1 friendly win in Florida.
Jozy Altidore is scoring again, Michael Bradley is as dominant as ever and the backline looked secure for the first time in a long time. It seems as though Jurgen Klinsmann finally got it right. Although it was just a friendly match, a third win in three is a good sign for USMNT fans everywhere heading in to the World Cup.
The drought is over. After six months without a goal for club or country, Altidore hit twice in what was his best performance since early in World Cup qualifying, where he had five goals in five games at one point.
He held the ball up well, worked hard defensively and got himself into some great spots. He was superbly positioned to tap in his first, which seemingly released an immeasurable amount of pressure put on him by the media.
His second goal proved proved this, as he took the ball of his chest, shook his defender and ripped a low shot past the outstretched goalkeeper. It was an incredibly confident and powerful move that reminded me of the Jozy of old—the one that would toss Carlos Puyol aside like a ragdoll and smash the ball past Iker Casillas in the 2009 Confederations Cup.
Klinsmann is going to need Jozy to use his strength to hold up the ball and take his chances efficiently, because they just aren’t going to come around that often in the Group of Death.
The midfield was exceptional as well. Dempsey and Bradley, the two farthest players up the field, were brilliant as the first line of defence. They relieved the pressure by holding the ball well in counter-attacking situations after winning it in the midfield.
Beckerman played his role very well, protecting the backline and distributing simply and efficiently. His defensive work allowed Jermaine Jones to play in a more free role and he looked comfortable going forward and creating chances while still defending well.
But a few questions still remain about the bac line even though it looked as strong as it probably will be with this group of players. As experienced a player as DeMarcus Beasley is, and despite how well he used his pace, he was still beaten a few too many times. Against Ronaldo and crew, he’s not going to be able to recover on his speed alone.
Cameron and Besler, however, looked fantastic together. Klinsmann has found and settled on his best centre-back pairing and besides the late penalty giveaway (which happened while Cameron was at right-back) the two were exceptional – tackling well and organising with authority.
Despite the obvious one, the player the USA most miss on this roster is Steve Cherundolo. Let’s make it clear, Fabian Johnson is not a right-back. He is/should be an exceptional right winger for this team and would be the starter if they had a legend like Cherundolo at the back.
Johnson is fantastic going forward and is a crucial part of the attack but against Germany, Portugal and even Ghana he is not realistically going to get the chance to attack as often as he has recently.
I have to say, my only real issue with this starting line-up is Alejandro Bedoya. It is impossible to question his work rate - it’s unparalleled on this team - but effort just isn’t good enough to deserve to start and compete at the World Cup level.
Zusi didn’t seem to offer much more off the bench and it seems that spot could go either way in just under a week’s time. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had someone to bring in who could score and create goals on that right wing?
Maybe someone who has done it more than anyone else ever in our country’s soccer history? Bummer, too bad we don’t have someone like that on our roster anymore. Such a shame.
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