USMNT Report: Off to Brazil On The Right FootThe United States heads to the World Cup with a wave of confidence
by Herb Scribner | Wednesday, June 11, 2014
The United States will head down to Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup with the one thing that could make all the difference — confidence.
With a 2-1 win over Nigeria, a fellow World Cup competitor, on Saturday, the USMNT finished its send-off series with 3 straight victories. Not only has the team achieved success, but players as individuals are entering into the summer tournament on a high, something they’ll look to keep going in the proceeding weeks.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Jozy Altidore — The Sunderland striker answered his critics on Saturday with a 2-goal performance to give the USA the win. Altidore’s first goal was an easy tap-in where he was in the right spot, and his second was a world-class strike from inside the box. When Altidore is on form, he can score some excellent goals, and it’s something the USA will need him to do in Brazil.
ANALYSIS: The United States may not be any easier to understand under Jurgen Klinsmann. But things still seem to be working — for now.
The diamond formation used on Saturday was highly defensive — Kyle Beckerman in the back, virtually playing as a fifth defender, Michael Bradley in an attacking role, and Jermaine Jones on the left. But it breathed brilliance for most of the game. Beckerman cleaned up some messy situations and controlled the midfield, Bradley had some excellent play going forward (how he found Altidore for the USA’s second goal was a specific shining moment) and Jones kept things at bay on the wings (he did tire out in the second half, though).
Sometimes things went awry when Bradley would drift back, Jones would move to the right and Beckerman had to trickle back or struggle to work with Jones, but overall the defensive diamond kept Nigeria at bay and gave the USA multiple chances to attack.
Altidore led the offense in this game. He was served a brilliant ball by Fabian Johnson and gave a light touch to score the first goal. And with confidence brewing, Altidore scored a baffling and world class goal that surely puts him on the right food heading to Brazil. Now that both Dempsey and Altidore are scoring and brimming with confidence, and with Bradley finding players at the right time, the offense has found its form. Peaking and playing well before a tournament like the World Cup can make all the difference.
Defensively, the United States still struggled. Johnson was impressive on the right, but Matt Besler’s horrendous and unnecessary slide tackle in the box gave Nigeria a penalty, which could very well kill the USA’s World Cup run starting next week. DaMarcus Beasley wasn’t all that impressive on the left, nor was Timmy Chandler when he came in, or Omar Gonzalez, who looked drained of all confidence. Fortunately, the USA had a strong defensive midfield ahead of them to keep things stable and limit Nigeria’s attack.
What this game did most of all was shed light on some players who aren’t going to make an impact this summer, at least if their current form continues. Mix Diskerud was very off and didn’t make the right decisions at points, missing passes and shots by wide margins. Alejandro Bedoya was invisible, which has been the case for many of his appearances.
Once Graham Zusi came on for Bedoya, the impact was immediately felt with his creative playmaking. Zusi is a master on the wings and in set pieces, so his appearance in Brazil will be quite crucial.
It’s no longer time to make these kind of decisions, though. The World Cup is here. We’ve made it. No more time for tinkering, experimenting — none of it. After 4 long years of qualifying, despair and glee, the United States is finally heading to Brazil.
Now it’s time for Klinsmann and his staff to show what this USA team is really about, and what this tinkering and redesigning has been for. Klinsmann, a baker’s son, has spent the last few years preparing, mixing and baking this team. Now, it’s time to see what comes out of the oven that is Brazil.
Will it be something delicious and delectable? Or uncooked and ill-prepared?
Get your forks ready, USA fans. It’s time for the World Cup.
NEXT UP: June 16 – World Cup: United States vs. Ghana, Estadio das Dunas, Natal, Brazil. 6 p.m. EST, ESPN, WatchESPN.