BRIAN SCIARETTA - Saturday, June 9, 2012
The US team defeated Antigua 3-1 in their first World Cup qualifier for Brazil 2014 and here are observations.
The US won but this was disappointing
The US team has more talent than a team like Antigua by a large margin. They should be able to dominate these games. This is especially true since the team has been in camp since May 15. They should be playing like a cohesive unit but in their fourth game in two weeks, they have declined in every game.
The lack of flank play is a major weakness
Since he was hired to coach the US team in August, Jurgen Klinsmann has wanted to play an offensive style. Lately, however, that has been resigned towards going right up the middle.
Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, and Maurice Edu have all seen significant minutes and all three are primarily central midfielders. In addition, Jose Torres has seen time mostly in central midfield despite playing left back against Antigua due to injury.
Landon Donovan has been playing wide right but he has not been set up for success since there hasn't been much help from the fullbacks on either side.
Fabian Johnson has played well at left back when healthy but the US team needs much better use of wide midfielders and wide fullbacks on both sides to stretch opponents' defenses. That would therefore open up room down the middle. This was a similar problem to the one the US U-23's faced - no flank play and no fullback play.
But right now, the US team is only going down the middle and the game against Canada showed that clogging the middle will stop the American attack.
Oguchi Onyewu has struggled in recent weeks
Once one of the most reliable American central defenders, Oguchi Onyewu has not played well in these games.
He struggled against Brazil in the 4-1 loss and he was badly beaten in Antigua's only goal. The question is now whether Onyewu is still recovering from the surgery he had in March or is he no longer one of the top four central defenders available to the US national team.
Carlos Bocanegra and Clarence Goodson have both played well for the US team. Geoff Cameron has promise in central defense but he is untested at a high level.
It is highly unlikely that Onyewu is finished with the US national team since there aren't many young central defenders making case for the US team. But Onyewu may find minutes hard to come by if he has any more slip ups.
Maurice Edu is turning over the ball too much
Edu has been reliable in defense for the US team in 2012 but he is turning over the ball too much these days.
In large part he plays in a declining Scottish Premier League and the international game, even CONCACAF, is at a higher level.
Moving forward, Klinsmann has other options in the defensive midfield in players like Sacha Kljestan, Danny Williams, Graham Zusi, and Joe Corona. Like Onyewu, Edu will have to step up or he could see his playing time greatly diminished.