After Tuesday's 4-1 loss to Ireland, it is safe to say that the United States has some serious work to do if they want to defend their title in next summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Mexico, who incidentally had a poor performance of their own against Belarus in a 3-2 loss, and Costa Rica, who played very well against a Luis Suarez-led Uruguay, will be gunning heavily to take that crown for themselves.
The last chance for the Red, White, and Blue to send a message to those teams in 2014 passed them by in maybe the worst possible way.
Ireland’s experimental side ran them ragged pretty much from the kickoff and kept the pressure on until the final whistle.
The back four combination of Johnson, Chandler, Cameron, and Besler was horrendous, as they didn’t seem to have a clue and left Bill Hamid out to dry on multiple occasions. Judging by that display, it seems as if Jurgen Klinsmann is absolutely justified in putting Jermaine Jones at center back.
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At the very least, Jones has a commanding presence, Besler and Cameron do not. Also, Fabian Johnson didn’t come anywhere near replicating his spectacular play during this summer’s World Cup in Brazil, which has to be an alarming sign for the United States moving forward.
It is almost imperative that he finds a smooth run of form for currently high-flying German club, Borussia Monchengladbach, before the Gold Cup comes along.
On a more positive note the introduction of Greg Garza into the game at the hour mark proved to be a positive moment, as he looked very much at home in the left back position.
Another area of concern is the midfield play. The usually consistent Kyle Beckerman was very poor and was responsible for allowing Ireland to breakaway for the first goal of the game. Alfredo Morales, in his first international start, was unable to make much of an impact on the game.
You could say that Mix Diskerud’s performance was subpar as well. Aside from the goal, he did little else to impose himself on the game. Not exactly what Klinsmann was looking for from his Number 10 and the player whom this particular side was centered around.
However, there was one bright spot amongst the midfield foursome—Alejandro Bedoya. Without a doubt, he’s been the best player on the pitch for the United States in the last two matches and his creative abilities were on fine display against the Irish.
He set up some dangerous opportunities with his passes with one of them resulting in Altidore hitting the crossbar. If he can continue this kind of play in March, the next major International break in the FIFA schedule, then his position won’t be a concern in the run up to the Gold Cup.
Although the United States only managed to score one goal against Ireland, attacking play is the least of Klinsmann’s worries at the moment. Granted, Chris Wondolowski didn’t play well at all. Aside from heading the ball down that allowed Diskerud to score, he either struggled to maintain possession or was completely non-existent. Good thing for him that the January camp is primarily for MLS-based players.
Continuing my point of little attacking worry, Altidore’s performance wasn’t bad at all. He laced one off the crossbar and forced the Irish goalkeeper, Given, into making a fine save. On another night, he could have been celebrating a goal or two. Also, when Bobby Wood came on at half time, he looked very dangerous. He, too, could have scored himself a goal had it not been for another superb save from Given.
Lastly, the debutante Jordan Morris didn’t seem to be overwhelmed by the occasion. The first player since 1995 to appear for the United States while still in college looked almost good and nearly notched an assist.
All in all, the state of the United States Men’s National Team is far from the best it has ever been. There were some positives to be taken from these last two games, but the negatives definitely outweigh them at the moment. Let’s hope that these issues are ironed out before what appears to be the most competitive Gold Cup in a long time reaches American shores in July.