Tuesday, February 9, 2016

USMNT vs Canada, Final Thoughts

1. Regardless of how it looked, the U.S. comes away from their January camp with a pair of victories, and as we approach the next set of World Cup Qualifiers, the confidence gained from those wins shouldn't be undervalued. Equally notable is the fact that Jozy Altidore scored in both matches, and getting him on a hot streak in 2016 would be huge given some of the other question marks surrounding the USMNT.

2. I thought Brandon Vincent looked excellent in his National Team debut at left back. It wasn't a perfect outing or anything, but he looked confident and comfortable. Canada failed to do anything of note down his side, and Vincent was effective at getting into the attack even forcing a tough save in an attempt on goal. With lots of question marks on defense, it was nice to see a newcomer really seize the opportunity given him in the January camp, and there's good reason to be excited if you're a Chicago Fire fan.

3. I don't feel like the combination of Mix Diskerud and Michael Bradley is working out. Both players have tremendous skillsets, but it seems as though whenever they play together, they struggle greatly to complement one another. Neither brings out the best in the other, and I didn't think either one had a particularly strong game against Canada, a team we should've dominated in the midfield. I would like to see Darlington Nagbe get a shot as Bradley's running mate. We've yet to see Nagbe start a match for the U.S., and I feel like he's brought something good to the table in every match he's played so why not give him a shot?

4. I love it when players make me look smart. This is what I wrote about Ethan Finlay after the Iceland match: "I feel like Ethan Finlay has the skillset to be a contributor at the National Team level, but I don't know that it's as a starter. He's obviously got pace, and is dangerous taking players on, but I almost wonder if he wouldn't have been better suited to fill the role Kiesewetter did against Iceland as an influx of pace late in a match. We've seen DeAndre Yedlin shine in that role and Finlay is a slower, but more skilled version of Yedlin as a winger. I don't know that he helped his standing a ton with his performance yesterday, but I think he at least deserves more looks." Lo and behold, there was Finlay against Canada, coming on late and delivering a winning assist after blowing by his defender in a 1v1 situation. Perfect. 

5. I thought Matt Besler did a much better job of keeping the U.S. defense in line against Canada despite playing with a relatively inexperienced group. You had Jermaine Jones out of position at center back, Steve Birnbaum out of position at right back, Kellyn Acosta out of position at left back, and then Brandon Vincent making his USMNT debut. And really, Canada, despite starting the likes of Tesho Akindele and Cyle Larin, never REALLY threatened. If I was going to place blame on him for the performance against Iceland, I should give credit to where credit is due in this case. 

6. Here are my three January camp winners and losers:


Jerome Kiesewetter - In two appearances, the lesser known of the two U-23 star attackers was brilliant off the bench providing a change of pace down the right wing. His ability to be an impact player for the U.S. moving forward will depend on his ability to break into the first team with VfB Stuttgart, but you have to like his potential and he really helped his National Team stock this camp.

Brandon Vincent - Another relative unknown before his arrival at camp, Jordan Morris's college teammate played a tremendous 45 minutes in his National Team debut at left back, a position where the U.S. has struggled recently. 

Steve Birnbaum - Birnbaum showed versatility while playing centrally against Iceland and wide right against Canada, but his real value comes in the air. With a goal and an assist off headers against Iceland and a solid shot on target with his head against Canada, Birnbaum really showed his offensive value on set pieces.

Honorable Mentions - Jozy Altidore, Ethan Finlay, Luis Robles, Lee Nguyen


Perry Kitchen - Doesn't have a club, and only received garbage minutes against Canada which didn't do anything to market his talents.

Jermaine Jones - Jones, despite a pair of starts, is still without a club and has a pending suspension awaiting him whenever he does sign with someone. It's an unnecessary distraction for a player who can't really afford one at this stage in his career. 

Tony Tchani - This is a tough one because Tchani didn't really do anything BAD, but as the first man up off the bench in central midfield, he failed to capitalize on the opportunity and didn't see the field against Canada.

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