Soccer mania was everywhere yesterday. If you are from the United States, you wanted so badly for the stars and stripes to prevail over the Red Devils in an epic “instant classic” knockout round match. Klinsy’s boys were led by what will undoubtedly be characterized as one of the best goalkeeping performances in recent memory by Tim Howard. In the end, it was the super sub Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea’s EPL man) who sealed the U.S.’s fate in extra time. Here are 10 thoughts to consider as we move forward:
1. Not having Jozy Altidore due to injury was brutally tough. The need for a top class striker up top like Altidore to hold the ball is a must. Jozy could have physically knocked people off the ball and is what the US lacked in their last couple of matches (especially against the big and fast European teams we faced). Jozy’s ability to fire quick and devastating shots in crowded areas surely could have been used yesterday as the US struggled to gain possession and scoring chances for much of the match.
2. Landon Donovan was missed. Call me crazy for being a “Landy Cakes” fan but I saw no reason for him to be cut from the squad. Graham Zusi played horribly against Belgium and was subpar for most of the World Cup. Beckerman and Diskerud sat in the final match and Bedoya struggled to find possession or meaningful chances. There’s no reason to leave the all-time leading scorer at home unless…..it’s a personal one (ahem Klinsy).
3. Klinsmann needs to pick a tactical formation and stick with it. The diamond in the middle wasn’t working. The 4-3-3 against Belgium didn’t work as the forwards struggled to get back. I understand toying around with different things until you understand the player pool but after you’ve seen a large amount of players in a two year span, it’s time to make a decision.
4. Tim Howard is a beast. If you didn’t know his name before the Brazil World Cup, I hope you do now. The Everton club man is one of the main reasons we qualified in the way we did, survived the group of death, and were able to even have the slightest amount of hope when trying to equalize in yesterday’s Belgian loss. Hats off to our homegrown talent and hopefully you’ll hang around a while longer a la Kasey Keller’s age so the USA can have one more run with you. Stay in the EPL! Don’t come home to the MLS!
5. The German Americans are our future. Julian Green’s touch and goal were unreal. John Anthony Brooks’ header won us the Ghana game. Fabian Johnson is an undeniable talent. Jermaine Jones (although older) had a great World Cup. I doubted Jermaine’s game but he proved me wrong. Unfortunately, Timmy Chandler didn’t see any action but I’ll just tell you right now that the dude can play. Klinsy needs to continue to groom and develop more of these young German lads who play over in Europe and make them want to represent the USA.
6. We need home grown goal scorers. It’s imperative we find strikers in the MLS who are young and can possess the ball while having a knack for goal. We cannot depend on naturalized players to be the heart of our team. The USA has been defending way too much in the last few World Cups. Case in point: We defended way too much against Belgium. I know that they’re a high quality European team but Jurge and his boys need to close that gap…….and soon. However, credit must be given to Klinsmann’s pick of DeAndre Yedlin. Yedlin is a home grown talent and had a great World Cup for having virtually no international experience and being very young.
7. Clint Dempsey could have had more chances yesterday if players like Bedoya, Bradley, and Zusi had gotten him the ball. His lack of touches (especially in the 1st half) against Belgium gave the US no legitimate goal scoring presence up top and allowed Belgium to continue to dominate possession.
8. I loved how the United States maintained the drive to win. Even down 2-0, the players still showed heart (especially the defense who had to have been exhausted) and rallied to make it 2-1 when a lot of other teams would have quit. That never giving up mentality is pure Americana….
9. The US squad needed more reliable strikers. Aron Johannsson and Chris Wondowlowski were not the answers. Would the US have been better served by Eddie Johnson and Terrence Boyd? Both are great in the air for set pieces and could have provided a spark in yesterday’s match. When Altidore went down, the US didn’t have many options and the ones that they had certainly didn’t pan out.
10. Klinsmann is a master motivator! He got his team to believe in his mantras and they never stopped fighting until that last whistle sounded. He usually said the right things (minus the comment he later retracted about how the US couldn’t win the World Cup) and is known to give incredible half time speeches. That being said, his tactics and substitutions were at times suspect and against Belgium yesterday, his substitute of Julian Green came too late. Although everyone knew Zusi was coming out, Green or Beckermann should have been put in at the beginning of extra time, like Lukaku was put on for Belgium.
I hope you find these reflections insightful (I'd love to hear your comments below). There’s a lot to be excited for as the USA now shifts their focus onto the next 4 years and putting the best 23 out there to board that plane for Russia. For now, enjoy the MLS and get all your USA and European football coverage here. Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog and follow me @timblogssoccer0/@daddychiusa.