Thursday, January 29, 2015

Final Thoughts on USA-Chile

In our piece the other day I talked about three things that I wanted to watch for during the USA-Chile match last night. Here's what I observed:

1) A strong start and a strong finish. I want to see these guys avoid giving up goals early and late in matches. This requires mental toughness in addition to physical stamina which really should be our calling card.

So we certainly started strong jumping out to an early lead inside the opening ten minutes. But we didn't finish strong. Yeah, we didn't give up a LATE goal, but we were scored on twice in the later portions of the match. I read on that we've been outscored 9-0 in the second half of matches since the World Cup. Yes, some of that is due to substitutions, but no matter how you look at it, it's not a good number. At some point, we're going to have to figure out how to finish matches.

2) I'm curious about how we're going to line up. Are we a 4-4-2? A 3-5-2? 4-3-3? 3-6-1? And whatever we land on, will it work?

So Klinsmann went with a 3-5-2 for the opening 45 minutes, but abandoned it for a 4-4-2 in the second half. I'll admit, I found the 3-5-2 intriguing, and I wish he would have stuck with it through the match. Yes, it's important that Klinsmann be able to make adjustments during matches, but we need to settle on a formation so our guys can get used to playing together in it. If we have some growing pains while guys get used to new spots (Shea, Jones, Yedlin, etc.) then so be it. But I think downshifting to a 4-4-2 at the half was a mistake. It will be interesting to see how we line up against Panama next weekend.

3) I'm going to watch our strikers, especially the young ones. Do we have an heir apparent for Dempsey in the mix right now? Whoever gets out there needs to produce and establish themselves early in the cycle so we can get them more minutes and try and put together a solid attack moving forward.

So, Bobby Wood got a surprising start in this match alongside Jozy Altidore up top, and he didn't do himself any favors. Wood was pulled after an ineffective 45 minutes, and whether it was rust or nerves, it's evident that he's not ready for this stage. On a positive note, Gyasi Zardes got some late minutes and seemed a lot more comfortable. If nothing else, in my eyes at least, he's moved ahead of Wood on the depth chart.

Final thoughts:

1) Great to Brek Shea on the field again. He showed glimmers of what got him a ticket to England a couple years ago, but also showed his rust. Getting minutes for Orlando City can only help him.

2) DeAndre Yedlin has worlds of potential, but has a lot to learn. I think part of it is just inexperience, and hopefully his time in England will help with that.

3) I still don't like Jermaine Jones on the back line. I kind of see why Klinsmann likes him there, I just think he's too reckless a player to play that close to our own goal. Whether it's dangerous passes or dangerous plays, he's mistake prone. And I think you can live with that in the midfield, but not around our own 18. Now I'm not saying he's why we lost this match as there were a lot of other factors, but I don't see him as a long term solution.

4) Call me crazy, but if I'm an MLS club looking for offensive help right now, I'm calling about Mark Gonzalez. The 30 year old who currently plays for Universidad Catolica of the Chilean Premier League scored 2 goals and added an assist in this match. He's spent time with Liverpool, Real Sociedad, Real Betis and CSKA Moscow before returning to Chile in 2014. He also scored in the 2010 World Cup against Switzerland and he's clearly capable of playing against and beating MLS defenders. He may be done traveling at this stage in his career and perhaps that's why he signed back home in Chile, but I think MLS GMs would be remiss not to at least make an inquiry.

5) This was another disheartening result, but in the grand scheme of things, this is still just a friendly, and our guys obviously aren't in midseason form. At some point though, we have to start playing better.

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