Wow not quite sure what to say about the German (US Men’s National team coach Jurgen Klinsmann) now – but unlike either of his predecessors Coaches Bob Bradley or Bruce Arena – for the 2nd straight time – the USMNT sits at the edge of World Cup Non-Qualification? That’s right lose on Tuesday night at home in Columbus (7 pm on ESPN 2) and the US will all but be eliminated from Qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. It would be the first time since 1986 by the way. Sound familiar – yes this is just where the US was 4 some odd years ago when it took a 1-0 controversial win over Costa Rica in the Snow in Denver to advance on to the Hex. Now the German would have you believe its just dumb luck or the teams in CONCACAF are somehow better now – which is total crap by the way. The only truth here is the US under the German’s leadership is Failing Miserably. He has no idea where to play his players. No fewer than 6 players started in positions they don’t play for their Professional Club teams. Our left mid BEDOYA is a right mid, our right mid YEDLIN a right back, our right back CAMERON a de mid or central defender, our left inside D ORAZCO a right back, our attacking mid BRADLEY a Defensive mid or Holding/D Mid MIX a right winger – And 2 of them – haven’t played a minute for their clubs in close to 3 months (Orazco and GK Howard). Listen I know the team had injuries and Brooks and Bez would have I hope started normally. But when desperate late in the game – the move of Cameron to the middle, the removal of Orazco (who honestly should no longer be in the player pool) and the move of Yedlin to right back – settled things down for the remainder of the game. Seriously this guy thinks he’s smarter than every professional team coach in Europe who puts these players where they play. I understand 1 or maybe worst case 2 switches but 6 of the 11? Its that uncertainty and chaos that has wrecked this defense for years now under the German. While I honestly lost my faith in the German during the Gold Cup /then Mexico Playoff Debacle –its become more evident that this “forward thinking”, tactically inept, shake things up for no real reason coach in charge of our national team has simply lost it. Listen I am AMERICAN soccer fan, a American Outlaw Member, a card carrying member of Sam’s Army for over 20 years – and my son and I will be there on Tuesday night in Columbus wearing red, white and blue – flag waiving trying to root our national team boys on to victory. But I am done and over the Klinsmann experiment. DONE & OVER.
PS – congrats to the U23s – a hard fought albeit completely hang on for dear life – counter attack only effort the American’s have employed for years. The 1-1 tie over a superior Columbia team sets up the US only needing a 1-0 win at home Tuesday at 9:30 pm on ESPN 2 to advance to the Olympics.
USA (new stories today)
Despite Embarrassment – A US Win Tues Clears things Up –NBC Pro Soccer Talk
US – U23s
GAMES of the Week
Tuesday, March 29:
3:30 pm ESPN 2 Germany vs Italy
4 pm fox Sport1 England vs Netherlands
4:30 pm beIN Sport Columbia vs Ecudor WCQ Columbia in MUST Win at Home!
7 pm (ESPN2) United States men vs. Guatemala, WC qualifier-Columbus, OH USA MUST win at Home
7:30 pm beIN Sport Argentina vs Bolivia WCQ must win at home for Argentina
9:30 pm ESPN2 US U23 Men @ Columbia Olympic Qualify Playoff Texas US Must win to Go to Olympics
Sat, Apr 2
12:30 pm NBC Liverpool vs Tottenham
2:30 pm bein Sport EL CLASSICO – Barcelona vs Real Madrid –SPORTS BAR
7:30 pm ESPN3 Indy 11 @ Tampa Bay Rowdies
Sun, Apr 3
8:00 p.m Fox Sports1 Orlando City vs. Portland Timbers
Tues, Apr 5
Champions League Elite 8
2:45 p.m., Fox Sport1 Barcelona vs. Atlético Madrid
2:45 p.m., Fox Sport 2 Bayern Munich vs. Benfica
Wed, Apr 6
2:45 p.m FoxSport1 Man City vs PSG
2:45 pm Fox Sport2 Real Madrid vs VFL Wolfsburg
7 pm Fox Sports 1 US Women vs Columbia
Thurs, Apr 7
3:00 p.m., FS1? Liverpool vs. Borussia Dortmund
The Klinsmann Experiment has Failed
The Klinsmann experiment as Technical Director and Manager has failed. Last night, the USMNT was defeated for the first time ever in Guatemala City. It was one of the worst defeats in the recent downfall of US soccer and one of the worst defeats ever. The blame for this match does not rest solely on Klinsmann though, as many players including Mix Diskerud, did not play to their full ability, but Klinsmann has to know how to pick a starting lineup. One of Klinsmann’s most disliked tendencies is his unwillingness to reward club form, and that he always seems to put players out of position. Deandre Yedlin has locked down a starting right back spot for a Premier League team, and started at outside midfield. Geoff Cameron has excelled at center back for Stoke, and was played at outside defender. Mix Diskerud is not a holding midfielder, and under Michael Bradley he can’t showcase his skills. You could also argue that he hasn’t even shown enough to be considered to start, with players like Ethan Finlay and Darlington Nagbe majorly outperforming Mix for their clubs. Maybe he could be retained as Technical Director, but even in that responsibility he has failed, with the U-23s fighting for their Olympic lives against Columbia, even though they should have easily qualified earlier. Even through all this, Sunil Gulati seems to be out of touch with the fans. There hasn’t been even a hint of pressure on Klinsmann, even after last years epic failure in the Gold Cup and the Confederations Cup playoff. These results cannot become common for a United States team that was seemingly on the rise after comeback defeats against the Netherlands and world-champion Germany, but those wins seem years ago now.
Jurgen Klinsmann should be fired if USMNT loses to Guatemala again
Leander Schaerlaeckens,FC Yahoo 9 hours ago
A year and half ago, Jurgen Klinsmann was unequivocal. The objective for the 2018 World Cup in Russia was for his United States men’s national team to reach the semifinals, matching the Yanks’ best-ever performance from the 1930 World Cup, when just 13 countries participated, absent some world powers.”This is our goal going towards Russia, not to stop at the round of 16, maybe not to stop at the quarterfinal,” the German head coach said. “To say clearly, listen, we have four years to prepare this cycle. Our goal is going into a semifinal in a World Cup.”Read that statement now, with the new World Cup qualifying cycle in full swing, and you’re more likely to stifle a chuckle than to think that it’s even remotely plausible. After Friday’s debacle in Guatemala, where the U.S. lost 2-0 to put its campaign to even reach Russia in some peril, any notions of the Americans breaking into the top four of the world presently seem fanciful and altogether farfetched.What follows is not some hair-trigger reaction. Nor is it an undercooked take from a single game, or even a few games. It’s the manifestation of almost five years of questions gone unanswered and stated ambitions left unmet.It’s come time to ask what it will take for Klinsmann to be fired.And it’s come time to acknowledge that if the U.S. loses to Guatemala again on Tuesday, in its Columbus, Ohio stronghold, that is probably what it should take for Klinsmann to be fired.U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, the guardian of the sport’s long-term health, says he remains committed to the manager he spent years pursuing and then handed a contract that dwarfed any of his predecessors’. Gulati implicitly staked his own legacy to Klinsmann’s, and when your boss’s reputation is on the line, there isn’t a whole lot that will get you fired. But if the U.S. loses again on Tuesday and faces a situation where it must win its final two games – at Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and against Trinidad and Tobago at home – and require help from others in the group just to advance, that should surely set off some emergency protocol. The Americans currently sit outside of the two places in Group C that will advance the holders to the fifth and final round – the hexagonal. Certainly, you could point to the fact that in the last qualifying cycle the U.S. began this stage with a 1-1-1 record as well and qualified comfortably. But that just borrows from past mediocrity to justify more mediocrity. There just isn’t anything redeeming Klinsmann to justify the risk of missing the World Cup for the first time since 1986. In almost half a decade in charge, his much-hyped appointment – remember all the talk about him taking the team “to the next level”? – has brought only regression. Bob Bradley left behind a team that was often unexciting and seemed to have grown a tad stale, but it was tactically sound and could be relied on to deliver a baseline performance. Now, the senior U.S. team is arguably in a worse state than it has been in almost a decade. And at the 2006 World Cup, where the Americans finished last in their group, at least there was a foundation for the future, a core that would show well in South Africa four years later. There isn’t even that now. The Klinsmann bubble is bursting. The novelty has worn off. All the promise was hollow and the doctrine void. An intellectually honest assessment of what he has accomplished turns up an off-year Gold Cup triumph in 2013 and a round-of-16 finish at the 2014 World Cup, where the U.S. survived the deathly group with Germany, Portugal and Ghana .But Klinsmann didn’t get the U.S. out of that Group of Death. Luck did. The Americans were utterly dominated in three of their four games. They were outshot by an average of 11.5 times. They scored 1.15 goals per 90 minutes and conceded 1.38. They ranked 19th out of 32 teams in expected goals and 29th in expected goals against, according to StatHunting.com. Yet somehow they reached the last 16. The results flattered the performances. And it should probably be noted that Ghana imploded amid infighting and Portugal sleepwalked through the tournament.Yes, Klinsmann did well in another job, laying the groundwork for a future World Cup victory with Germany from 2004 to 2006. But plainly, his accomplishments with Die Mannschaft – with the sizable help from right-hand man Jogi Loew – aren’t relevant here. He has already been U.S. head coach almost two-and-a-half times as long as he was Germany’s and the results are hardly the same.The list of things Klinsmann has not accomplished runs far longer. The improved playing style is nowhere to be seen. The U.S. is capable of competing with the bigger soccer countries only when there is nothing at stake in friendlies. The promised integration with the youth national teams has taken place but yielded little, as they too are mostly in a sorry state. The promised confidence to go head-to-head with the global powers hasn’t materialized. The high pressure and passing game were quickly abandoned. There exists no evidence that even Klinsmann himself knows what his best lineup is. Even the vow of improved fitness withered. Meanwhile, there’s been a steadfast erosion of the U.S.’s unity, battling identity and defensive organization. Klinsmann’s atavistic tactics and insistence on playing half his team out of position, as if to make some point about his soccer smarts, have not helped things any.And there is no credible indication that, given more time, Klinsmann will do better. That some long-game play is beginning to take root.If Klinsmann, who styled himself a reformer, has left a legacy at all, it’s one of chaos for its own sake and a systematic alienation of the fan base – as underscored by the vast swaths of empty seats at recent home games. His studied new-age vibe isn’t intriguing anymore. His fixation on innovation produced a team suspended somewhere between the present and the future, but incapable of winning the important games in either.Yet he has had at his disposal more money, resources, power and freedom than anyone in the job before him. Maybe even more talent, although there’s little sense in comparing generations. But for all this, he has delivered no more than words – mostly substantively inert, train-of-thought ramblings that promise to arrive at a point but never get there.What’s worse, he seems to have come untethered from reality. To hear Klinsmann speak, things are more or less going according to some plan he drew up. He is a lovely and magnetic man – truly a very pleasant person – but it’s becoming increasingly hard to take his utterances on his work seriously.To be fair, he has achieved some significant things on a developmental level in his dual role as technical director that may yield dividends when future national teams take the field. But that isn’t part of his remit as senior team head coach. And so we circle back once again to the idea that Klinsmann would make a better full-time technical director than he has ever been a coach.If, come Tuesday, World Cup participation is in genuine danger – to say nothing of the potential humiliation at this summer’s stacked Copa America Centenario, the biggest stateside soccer event in 22 years – it’s time to move on. If Klinsmann can’t, maybe somebody else will turn things around. Somebody who can scrape out a place in the hexagonal round of qualifying and avoid three straight losses in June.A pragmatist, who knows the players. Maybe Bradley’s predecessor, Bruce Arena, can be summoned to this emergency call. Or the steady Dominic Kinnear. Maybe elder statesman Sigi Schmid. Call the successor’s position what you want. Maybe even keep Klinsmann around as the big-picture guy. It was a worthwhile experiment. A grand vision. But either the idea was wrong or the man was. But since they are essentially one and the same, the moment will have come to try something else. To try someone else. Leander Schaerlaeckens is a soccer columnist
Klinsmann’s Bizarre roster selection leads to 2-0 loss to Guatemala
Tonight can be summed up in 140 characters. We had a RB playing RM because a Def Mid was playing RB because we had an attacking mid playing defensive mid. This is the state of the USMNT under Jurgen Klinsmann. Players are constantly asked to play out of position in favor of formations. Yedlin has started the last 5 games for Sunderland at RB. He lined up at RM tonight. Geoff cameron has played every game for Stoke this year at Defensive Mid. He started at RB tonight. Michael Orozco hasn’t started for Tijuana in a Liga MX game this season…he started at CB tonight for the USMNT. Mix Diskerud plays as an attack midfielder for NYCFC. He started at defensive Mid tonight. Tim Howard hasn’t started since January for Everton…why not let’s start him for world cup qualifying. It’s so ridiculous that even FIFA16 doesn’t recommend you playing these players at these positions. The USMNT hadn’t lost to Guatemala since 1988. They I was 2 years old. They allowed 2 goals in the first 15 minutes of the match. Unfortunately the new kits were the best looking thing on the field for the USMNT in the first half of the match. The USMNT is 1-1-1 in WC qualifying and sit in 3rd place behind International stalwarts like Trinidad and Tobago and Guatemala. With more WC qualifying and Copa America Centenario around the corner Jurgen Klinsmann really needs to take a look at his roster, and put his team in a position to succeed.
Assessing the troubled USMNT: Win Tuesday and everything’s still kinda okay
Yes, the United States men’s national team played one of its worst meaningful matches of the last two decades on Friday, but how much trouble are they really in when it comes to qualifying for the 2018 World Cup (at least on a micro level)?On the macro level, a lot. Friday’s performance would’ve seen the Yanks concede about 8 goals at Azteca or Estadio Nacional. Even given injuries, Jurgen Klinsmann’s awful lineup choices hampered the team en route to a 2-0 loss.On a micro level, it’s certainly not the end of the world (though it’ll be close to it if the Yanks fail to beat Guatemala in Columbus on Tuesday, a failure that would make Friday’s defeat look like a walk in the park).The good news is that the USMNT has played its two trickiest road matches, while Guatemala still has plenty to do despite its second-place spot in Group C. And while many would’ve accepted four points from Guatemala, three points wouldn’t be the end of the world at all.
Let’s check the table quick.
2018 qualification through three games
Trinidad & Tobago — 7 points, +2 goal diff
Guatemala — 6 points, +5 goal diff
USMNT — 4 points, +3 goal diff
St. Vincent and the Grenadines — 0 points, -10 goal diff
Remember, the Yanks were in a very similar place at this exact point in 2014 World Cup qualification. Klinsmann’s crew won at Antigua & Barbuda, drew in Guatemala and lost in Jamaica. The table looked like this:
2014 qualification through three games
Jamaica — 7 points, +2 goal diff
USMNT — 4 points, +1 goal diff
Guatemala — 4 points, +1 goal diff
Antigua & Barbuda — 1 point, -4 goal diff
The glaring difference is that A&B was able to pick up a point from Jamaica, and the Yanks snared a point in Guatemala. But the positioning was nearly as precarious for Klinsmann.
So where are the States now?
First and foremost, the Yanks have blown their chance to play two meaningless qualifiers in September. T&T will likely have 10 points after Tuesday’s return visit from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Guatemala will be at-worst a point behind the U.S.That said, the U.S. still hosts Guatemala on Tuesday and T&T on Sept. 6 (one would imagine that game will be held somewhere quite unseasonable for the visitors). Their lone road game remaining is at Saint Vincent, who they bashed 6-1 in November.However, the U.S. does finish with T&T while Guatemala ends its group stage with a visit from Saint Vincent. They more or less need 10 points heading into that game to feel decent at all.The main point is that a loss on Tuesday all-but-mathematically eliminates the U.S. from qualification to the 2018 World Cup while a win puts them firmly in the driver’s seat for the Hex. T&T and Guatemala can’t both take three points from each other during the Yanks’ Sept. 2 visit to Saint Vincent.So, basically, you’re both a USMNT and T&T fan for the next two match days. If both take six points, the table would look like this:
T&T — 13 points
USMNT — 10 points
Guatemala — 6 points
Saint Vincent & the Grenadines — 0 points
That leaves the Yanks and T&T in the Hex before they square off in the U.S. on Sept. 6. Anti-climactic, yes, but wouldn’t that be nice?
U.S. regressing and Jurgen Klinsmann must find stability in his lineup
GUATEMALA CITY — From the moment that Jurgen Klinsmann took over the U.S. men’s national team in 2011, it seemed as if there has been a battle raging from within.
Sometimes it seemed to be a conflict between Klinsmann and the players in how best to move the program forward. It has manifested itself in baffling lineup choices, confusing tactics and even more puzzling decisions on how best to usher out the old and bring in the new. Current form mattered … until it didn’t. Then there have been moments where Klinsmann seemed at war with himself. Should he go pragmatic, or idealistic? A man in conflict.There have been moments when Klinsmann has achieved a sort of equilibrium, such as during the latter stages of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, and even at the tournament itself. But at present, what is evident is a U.S. national team that is currently thrashing about, unsure of what it is or where it’s heading. This was never more evident than in Friday’s 2-0 defeat to Guatemala in a World Cup qualifier. Assignments were blown, individual battles were lost, and perhaps most damning of all, tentative, passive mistakes were made.When Michael Bradley was asked what the U.S. needed to do better in Tuesday’s return encounter against Guatemala, he said: “Everything.”In these moments, the question gets raised: Is it the fault of the coach or the players? The answer is both, though Klinsmann doesn’t help himself during such examinations. His impulse is to blame the players first, and himself second — that is when he does the latter at all. When asked about the two very preventable goals his team conceded inside the game’s first 15 minutes, Klinsmann said they were down to “a lack of focus, concentration and wrong decisions.” And why was this? One would expect “focus” to be at its highest level at the start of a game.”That’s a good question for the players,” said Klinsmann, before adding that Guatemala didn’t do much after going up 2-0, which ignored the fact that the home side didn’t need to.It wasn’t until later, when queried directly about if he questions his own decisions, that Klinsmann became more introspective, and even then he wasn’t entirely convincing.”You question [decisions] every time, no matter if you win or lose, you question everything that happens during a game,” he said. “Then you question yourself. ‘Was this the right lineup? Was this the right substitutions? Was this the right way to approach it? Should we have done something differently, and better?’ “Absolutely you question that, and you figure out how you can fix this, this and this. At the end of the day, these two mistakes led to goals. You just have to swallow it, because those are individual mistakes that you cannot do at this level. That’s what happened tonight so we’ll take the blame. I take the blame. There’s no problem if you want to hear that.” Klinsmann isn’t wrong per se. Individual mistakes were indeed made, but some came from his decision-making. When the U.S. lineup came out on Friday, it was clear that the injury-induced absences of Fabian Johnson, John Brooks and Matt Besler tied Klinsmann’s hands to a degree. But Geoff Cameron and Michael Orozco seemed as though they should have swapped positions, with Cameron playing centrally instead of at right-back, and Orozco moving out wide.The opening exchanges witnessed the U.S. backline looking shaky indeed and both Omar Gonzalez and Orozco were caught flat-footed by Carlos Ruiz for the second Guatemala goal.With Jermaine Jones suspended, Mix Diskerud seemed ill suited to a match where graft was going to be prized, especially with a player like Kyle Beckerman available. It was no accident that Diskerud was victimized for the first goal when Rafael Morales out-jumped him to nod home a corner. os Ruiz celebrates his goal for Guatemala.
Afterward, Klinsmann indicated he chose Diskerud for his ability to move the ball — the idealist emerging again — before criticizing both Diskerud and Michael Bradley for not supporting the forwards enough. A more contrite approach from Klinsmann just might score more points in the locker room and in public, but blame assignment only gets a coach — or player — so far, and obscures the bigger question. How do you fix this team?For some, that will be firing the coach, but Klinsmann’s position still seems solid. USSF president Sunil Gulati said he wasn’t concerned about the team’s direction. “It’s not game-to-game like that,” he said. “We get a good result on Tuesday, which we expect, then things are back on track.”But the fault lines in this U.S. team seem too deep to be cured by one victory over a Guatemala side ranked 95th in the world by FIFA. Such fissures have been visible previously, only for both the team and Klinsmann to work together to find some cohesion. Now those rifts seem to be emerging again. When added to the context of last summer’s disappointing performances in the Gold Cup, the team is regressing.The way forward is that Klinsmann must find some stability in his lineup choices, both at the back, and in the spine of the team. Decide on a goalkeeper; narrow down a center-back pairing.; find a partner for Bradley; decide where DeAndre Yedlin best fits into this team and leave him there.This process can best be accomplished at this summer’s Copa America Centenario, though some of it can begin against Guatemala on Tuesday. To that end, Klinsmann needs to veer back toward the pragmatic. The U.S. now desperately needs a victory. If it doesn’t get one, a very different kind of battle — World Cup qualification itself — will hang in the balance.
U.S. patchwork defense doesn’t get it done in 2-0 loss to Guatemala
GUATEMALA CITY — The U.S. men’s national team now finds itself in a World Cup qualification dogfight.The U.S. lost 2-0 to Guatemala at the Estadio Nacional Mateo Flores — its first loss to Los Chapines in 21 games — thanks to goals from Rafael Morales and Carlos Ruiz. The U.S. now lies in third place in its qualifying group on four points, three behind Trinidad and Tobago and two behind Guatemala. Only the top two teams will progress to the final round Hexagonal.
- If this isn’t the worst loss of the Klinsmann era, it’s close
The U.S. has had its share of low moments during Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure. It has even managed to lose to CONCACAF opponents on home soil on multiple occasions, so on the surface, losing a World Cup qualifier on the road wouldn’t seem to be all that surprising. The conditions are always difficult and the crowds hostile. Games often bear a closer resemblance to a street fight, so both the U.S. and Klinsmann should have known what to expect.Yet the U.S. looked as if it had no idea what it was in for. The team looked nervous, the touches were suspect and so were the passes.Then there were the defensive lapses. Morales simply skied over Mix Diskerud to nod home a corner in the seventh minute, allowing a crowd that was already well into the game to ratchet up its intensity, giving the home side a huge boost of confidence. The U.S. team’s misery was increased only eight minutes later from the most basic of plays. Goalkeeper Paulo Motta launched a goal kick upfield, and with center backs Omar Gonzalez and Michael Orozco way too far apart, the ball bounced to Ruiz, who ran through for a clear breakaway and deposited his shot past Tim Howard for a 2-0 lead.At minimum, it was the worst half of Klinsmann’s tenure.The U.S. found more of the game thereafter, but found Motta in inspired form. He did well to stop a shot from Alejandro Bedoya in the 23rd minute, and then produced two superb saves on Clint Dempsey and Bedoya within seconds of each other seven minutes into the second half. He stymied Dempsey again five minutes later, albeit on a shot that was well within his range. Motta later pushed aside a shot from substitute Jozy Altidore, too.Give Guatemala its due. It has been rejuvenated under new manager Walter Claveri, and came out with a plan to play direct while also mixing in some bits of possession as well. Its back line defended resolutely. But this loss will only serve to once again raise questions about the team’s direction under Klinsmann. At the moment, it’s not positive.
- Patchwork defense doesn’t get it done
When it came to Klinsmann’s lineup choices, he produced more than a few surprises, though some of them were forced on the U.S. manager. A left knee contusion ruled out center back John Brooks not only for this match but Tuesday’s encounter against this same Guatemala team as well. Klinsmann’s options were lessened further when Matt Besler sustained a concussion in Thursday’s training session.But even with the options remaining, Klinsmann still left himself open to second guessing, opting to deploy Orozco as a center back and Geoff Cameron at right back. Klinsmann’s choice of Diskerud alongside Michael Bradley was also something of a surprise. Given the game’s expected rugged nature, Kyle Beckerman seemed a more natural fit, especially on the defensive end. Diskerud failed to impress on either side of the ball and was subbed at halftime for Darlington Nagbe. Orozco was pulled in the 59th minute for Gyasi Zardes with DeAndre Yedlin sliding to right back.Back in November, the U.S. defense seemed to be stabilizing through Cameron and Besler. Yes, injuries played a part in the changes, but there also seems to be too much chopping and changing when it isn’t necessary, and that falls on Klinsmann.
- Tuesday’s game is now a must win
Before Friday’s game, the talk in the U.S. camp was about getting six points in these two games, locking up qualification to the final round Hexagonal and using the last two qualifiers in September to experiment with personnel. Now the complexion of this round has changed completely. A draw on Tuesday will leave the U.S. still in third place behind both Guatemala and Trinidad and Tobago. Even a win will leave the U.S. ahead of Guatemala by only a single point, so there is no margin for error.Can the U.S. get the job done? It actually has a bit of experience in this regard. Four years ago, the U.S. fell to Jamaica 2-1 on the road and had to regroup to play the Reggae Boyz again four days later. The U.S. ended up prevailing 1-0, and the road to qualification was back on track.The U.S. will also benefit from the fact that Ruiz will not be able to play in the match because of a legal dispute that will prevent him from traveling to the U.S. Another player, Hamilton Lopez, will also not travel because of visa issues. Whether the U.S. can take advantage of such good fortune remains to be seen. At minimum, the pressure is increasing with the U.S. psyche requiring some repair work.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.
After USA’s loss to Guatemala, margin for error is slim
After losing to Guatemala 2-0 Friday night, the U.S. now sits at third in Group C standings with three matches remaining.
GUATEMALA CITY — The chants started more than two hours before kickoff, a stadium full of Guatemalans singing as one: “SÍ SE PUEDE! SÍ SE PUEDE!” (YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN!) But by the end of a stunning 90 minutes, after Guatemala had scored two goals and exposed the U.S.’s early lack of focus, the chants had changed ever so slightly.Now that Guatemala was sealing a historic 2–0 World Cup qualifying victory—it’s first win in 21 games against the U.S. going back to 1988—the wall of sound made the verb tense clear: “SÍ SE PUDO! SÍ SE PUDO!” (YES WE COULD!) In the past 18 months, as the U.S. men’s World Cup 2014 hangover has extended into a full-blown program malaise, coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s team has given new belief to a number of CONCACAF teams.In 2015 alone, these things happened: Jamaica won a competitive game against the U.S. on American soil for the first time in 10 tries. Panama did the same for the second time in 11 tries. And Mexico beat the U.S. for the first time in seven tries overall since Klinsmann took over in 2011.Let’s be honest: Guatemala is not nearly as good as any of those CONCACAF teams. The Chapines, ranked No. 95 in the world by FIFA, barely got past lightweights Bermuda and Antigua & Barbuda just to reach this semifinal round of qualifying—and then promptly lost their home opener to Trinidad & Tobago last November. Compared to the other two semifinal-round groups in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, the U.S. got a sweetheart of a draw with T&T, Guatemala and St. Vincent & the Grenadines.And yet so far in three games the U.S. has only managed one victory against overmatched St. Vincent and has yet to score in the other two games away against T&T and Guatemala. The first 15 minutes here on Friday were a disaster for the U.S., which saw elementary defensive breakdowns give the hosts a shocking 2–0 early lead.“It was a lack of focus, concentration and wrong decisions,” said Klinsmann afterward. “On the first goal [off a corner kick] … nobody covered the first post. And we can write everything on the whiteboard—it’s in the locker room—if they have that kind of moment where they are not kind of remembering where their position is, then things like that can happen. But on this level obviously you get punished, and it shouldn’t happen that way. “The second goal [in which Carlos Ruiz pounced on a goal kick straight up the middle to score] was a sequence of mistakes,” Klinsmann continued, “from Michael [Bradley] not heading the ball to the centerbacks thinking that Michael has it, and one thinking the other has it. The ball goes through, and that’s what Carlos Ruiz is famous for.”When pressed on why the U.S. had such a lack of concentration in the first 15 minutes, when you would think the focus would be at its highest, Klinsmann said: “Maybe that’s a question for the players.”Over to you, then, Michael Bradley.“We didn’t start the game well. I don’t think it takes a genius to see that,” said the captain. “Why? I don’t have a good answer for you. Obviously, the goal is always to start well, to start in a positive way, to play the game in the other team’s end. There’s nights when you succeed in a good way, and there’s other nights when you don’t. Obviously, tonight wasn’t a good start, and you can still on some nights deal with things and play your way into it. And tonight we weren’t able to in any way.”Bradley wasn’t as sharp in this game as he often is, but give him credit for raising his hand on the second Guatemalan goal.“The goalkeeper kicks the ball and it comes quick and knuckling, and I saw it a bit late,” Bradley said. “And rather than try to jump and flick it in a weird way, I thought it was going to be best for our defenders if they were able to see it and attack it from there. And obviously it wasn’t the case. So certainly from my end I could have done better. When you play these types of games, all these little plays add up in big ways.”As for the other goal, and the man on the post who Klinsmann said should have been there, goalkeeper Tim Howard said he thought a Guatemalan player pulled Edgar Castillo off the post.“In an ideal world, you’d like to have ever post marked up,” said Howard. “But part of marking on set-pieces, what we do is we try and snuff out the danger before it gets to having a guy on the post. Nowadays you need to put guys in good spots, get everyone marked up and sometimes you sacrifice the man on the post. Of course, when the ball goes in just inside the post you go back to the old argument: Should you have a guy on the post?”When Klinsmann was asked why he chose to start Mix Diskerud in the central midfield (instead of Kyle Beckerman, Geoff Cameron, Lee Nguyen or Darlington Nagbe), he said he thought Diskerud could move the ball and create a midfield passing rhythm. But the coach took Diskerud off after 45 minutes for Nagbe because he felt like Diskerud and Bradley dropped too far back to link up with forwards Clint Dempsey and Bobby Wood.It’s also worth noting that Klinsmann didn’t just direct blame at others for the brutal result. “No matter if you win or lose, you question everything that happens during a game and you question yourself: ‘O.K., was this the right lineup? Was this the right substitutions? Was this the right way to approach it? What should we have done differently? Better?’” Klinsmann said. “Absolutely, you question that and you kind of think how can we fix this and this?”“At the end of the day, with the two mistakes that we did, with those two goals, you just have to swallow it. Because those are individual mistakes that you cannot do on that level. That’s what happened tonight. So we’ll take the blame. I’ll take the blame, if you want to hear that.“There’s absolute trust in the players because you’ve got to move on. You know, s— happens, but you’ve got to move on and that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to go back to Columbus and we correct those mistakes, and there’s an absolute belief in these players.”And so the pressure mounts ahead of Tuesday’s rematch against Guatemala in Ohio. It’s not 100% a must-win game, but it is a nearly must-win, and it’s most definitely a do-not-lose game. A loss would put qualifying for World Cup 2018 in serious jeopardy.Klinsmann’s boss, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, knows the history, knows the U.S. has taken it to the last game of the semifinal round twice (in 2000 and ’12) before clinching passage to the Hexagonal. “If we get a good result on Tuesday like we expect, then things are back on track,” Gulati said on Friday.He’s right. But getting that good result on Tuesday looms large now. The margin for error is getting awfully slim.
Think the USMNT player pool is a bigger problem than Jurgen Klinsmann? Here’s why that isn’t true.
On Friday night, the United States men’s national team turned in an awful performance, losing 2-0 away to Guatemala. It was their first loss to the Guatemalans in any match since 1988 and their first loss to the Blue and Whites in World Cup qualifying ever. Naturally, fans are looking for answers.There’s a theory going around that the USMNT’s struggles are more down to a player pool that is thin and lacking in quality than the decisions of head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. Here’s a simple counter-argument.Presented below is an incomplete, curated list of some interesting players who received10 or more national team caps during the Bruce Arena and Bob Bradley eras.
While he’s outside of the parameters I’ve set for this discussion, we should mention 15-cap winner Zak Ibsen, who got caps in 1996 while playing indoor soccer.
Here are some guys who got 30 or more caps.
All of the above-listed players had very good professional careers and at least one great game for the USMNT. This post isn’t meant to be disrespectful to any of them. But of the above-listed players, which ones would crack the current USMNT at their best? Any of them? Feilhaber, Kljestan, Bornstein and Clark are arguably playing better for their clubs now than they did when they were regulars under Bradley. The United States men’s national team does not have a player pool problem. It has a player selection and utilization problem.
USMNT player ratings from a shameful, history-making loss in Guatemala
No, it’s not just a bunch of zeroes…The United States men’s national team sacrificed a 21-year winning streak against Guatemala and again put its 2018 World Cup hopes in jeopardy with a clunker in Guatemala City, losing 2-0 on Friday.How bad was it? Let us count the ways the Yanks’ first loss to Guatemala in 21 years let us down:
- Poor defending
- Poor passing
- Poor possession
- Poor shooting
- Extremely poor tactics
But, hey, Tim Howard was back. Onto the ratings:
Tim Howard — 4 — Wasn’t much he was going to do on either Guatemala goal, but those were also the only times he was really challenged. Would’ve loved to see Superman steal a point, but even one fantastic save wouldn’t have been enough for this impotent attack.
Edgar Castillo — 5 — Some good tackling, but not a lot going forward. Something to build on.
Omar Gonzalez (Off 66′) — 4 — Poor. Just not as poor as his CB mate.
Michael Orozco (Off 59′) — 2 — After totally losing Ruiz on the second Guatemala goal, Gonzalez glanced over at Orozco while chasing the striker as if to say, “Center back… you’ve played it recently?” Awful night. He’s not even playing for his club team, but Jurgen Klinsmann apparently thinks Matt Hedges is the singer of an indie band.
Geoff Cameron — 6 — Penny for his thoughts as he found himself at right back with a CAM in his preferred CDM role and two monumental disappointments at CB. Whoops. Funny how it all tightened up once he moved central.
Mix Diskerud (Off at HT) — 3 — If this were little league, Mix would get credit for working super hard (and probably a popsicle). This, however, is a World Cup qualifier. Out-of-position or not, Diskerud was poor.
Michael Bradley — 4 — Really struggled with his distribution, and his touch was off all night. Not a good night for the States’ best player.
Alejandro Bedoya — 6 — One of the lone bright spots for the first 70 minutes, he has to wonder where the form of, well, every one of his teammates went.
DeAndre Yedlin — 4 — Playing in an advanced position, Yedlin was essentially invisible. Slotted back at RB later in the contest, he was a bit more comfortable.
Bobby Wood — 5 — The only service he received was long balls. Hard to fault the Hawaii islander.
Clint Dempsey — 4 — Created a couple strong scoring chances, but you knew this wasn’t a vintage Clint night when he hit a beautiful chance to pull the Yanks within one right at Motta. Looked disinterested at times, but managed to inject some life into his match in the final 20 minutes
Darlington Nagbe (On at HT) — 5 — Started a very good bit of play that should’ve led to a Dempsey goal but failed to gain momentum and disappeared as the match dragged to its conclusion.
Gyasi Zardes (On 59′) — 5 — Lively enough. Given the garbage casserole around him, he made his case to start on Tuesday.
Jozy Altidore (On 67′) — 5 — Wish he was 90 minutes strong, but also wish he would’ve beaten Motta for that late goal. Great save, but still.
Gonzalez and Orozco have a night to forget in U.S. loss to Guatemala
A trip to Guatemala City turned into a nightmare for Jurgen Klinsmann’s team inside of 15 minutes, when the Americans dug themselves a 2-0 hole. Chasing the game for the balance, the U.S. never found the bit of magic they needed to pull themselves back into the game.A handful of players put in decent performances, but as might be expected, the rest of the side had nights to forget.\
GK Tim Howard, 4 — Lack of playing time showed when the only two times he was tested resulted in Guatemalan goals. He was extremely slow to react on the first, when the ball deflected off of Mix Diskerud.
DF Geoff Cameron, 5 — Competent for most of the night and provided an additional outlet up the field, particularly when the Americans needed to push after going behind. It says something that he remained on the field while Omar Gonzalez and Michael Orozco were pulled.
DF Omar Gonzalez, 3 — A night to forget for the Pachuca man, to say the least. He was beaten down the middle by Carlos Ruiz for Guatemala’s second goal, and launched long ball after long ball that only served to end U.S. possession.
DF Michael Orozco, 4.5 — The better of the starting center-back pair, but only just. Never seemed in sync with his teammates, guilty of taking the easy route forward with his passing, too often lofting hopeless balls over the top.
DF Edgar Castillo, 3.5 — Made a poor back pass that led indirectly to the first Guatemalan goal, setting off the disastrous American night. He was rarely effective going forward and looked frustrated by attackers all night on the defensive side of the ball.
MF DeAndre Yedlin, 5.5 — Made his way up and down the wing to little effect for most of the evening, creating one real chance by using his speed to get to the end line, but was otherwise a nonfactor on the attacking end.
MF Michael Bradley, 5 — Just about as anonymous a night as he could have as the central figure in the American formation. He provided no special moments and delivered pedestrian service on set pieces. He lacked chemistry with Diskerud.
MF Mix Diskerud, 4 — Beaten on a corner for the first Guatemalan goal. He was unable to bring any creativity to the game, too often bullied off the ball in midfield. And he resorted to committing fouls to help slow things down when his subpar passing resulted in turnovers.
MF Alejandro Bedoya, 5 — He worked as hard as anyone on the field outside of Bobby Wood, without much to show for it. He had two good chances to score but put his shots directly at Guatemalan keeper Paulo Motta. He made some notable defensive contributions, but ran out of gas.
FW Clint Dempsey, 7 — Dempsey was the lone creative spark for the Americans, despite taking a beating from Guatemalan players looking to limit his impact. He created the best of the chances — chances his teammates failed to convert. He made an adjustment to drop deeper when the U.S. fell behind.
FW Bobby Wood, 6.5 — Wood fought hard all night, showing more passion than anyone wearing American colors. He suffered a number of fouls that didn’t draw a whistle and worked the channels well, but did not see enough of the ball.
MF Darlington Nagbe, 6.5 — Nagbe rought energy when he came out, running at defenders and pushing the attack. He combined well, and set up a late chance with a long run out of midfield.
MF Gyasi Zardes, 5 — He used his pace to stretch a fatigued Guatemalan defense, but failed to make his touches count when his control let him down.
FW Jozy Altidore, 5 — Brought on for Gonzalez as desperation set in with 25 minutes to go, Altidore did little more than serve as a target for long diagonal balls as the Americans chose basic tactics in a bid to find the goal that never came.Jason Davis
Three things from Guatemala’s shockingly easy win over the USMNT
I’ve gotta warn you, we’re going to be wading into snark-infested waters over the course of these “Three Things” after the United States struggled to string multiple attacking passes together in a woeful 2-0 loss to Guatemala on Friday.But we can wade together, right? You’ll come with me?Let’s wade…
W-T-J?!? (WHAT THE JURGEN)
What was he thinking? Even hamstrung by the injuries — see Thing No. 3 below — Klinsmann started a number of players in precarious positions.He also started Geoff Cameron (right) at right back. The Stoke City man is capable there, but DeAndre Yedlin actually plays that position for Sunderland.Yedlin couldn’t play there, though, because he was playing right wing. And Mix Diskerud couldn’t play on the wing, because he was playing as, essentially, a box-to-box midfielder.
Here’s the worst part: He made substitutions that made the team not only more competitive, but more logical. Michael Orozco was terrible and hadn’t been playing for his team, and Gonzalez isn’t a natural partner for him.So Klinsmann moved Cameron central, dropped Yedlin to right back and moved Michael Bradley a bit further back in the midfield. He brought on Gyasi Zardes and Darlington Nagbe to open things up for Bobby Wood and Clint Dempsey. And it kinda worked (as much as it could in a horrific 2-0 loss).None of the above is good. Hamstrung by injuries or not — he was, this team has the depth of a kiddie pool — Klinsmann’s critics deserve the field days they will stretch through at least Tuesday. It bears asking: Is there a chance Klinsmann won’t make it to Columbus?
INJURIES (IT MUST BE SAID)
This is no way excuses Friday’s performance, but the U.S. is having a horrible run of luck. John Brooks has been thriving with Hertha Berlin, but was sent back to Germany after picking up a knock. Matt Besler was also hurt, and both Fabian Johnson and Jozy Altidorewere unfit to start.With the exception of Besler, those guys were major absences for a side already without Aron Johannsson and Terrence Boyd. Even Christian Pulisic, breaking through at Borussia Dortmund, got sick ahead of this one and only might be available for Tuesday’s return match in Ohio.The United States men’s national team does not have good depth on the whole, and we’re seeing that they will struggle when down to their second-choice unit.
MOTTA WAS GOOD, YANKS MADE HIM LOOK BETTER
Paulo Motta won’t have to buy a meal in Guatemala any time soon after he made some terrific saves on Friday, but it was certainly American-aided.Clint Dempsey should’ve pulled the Yanks to within one early in the second half after Darlington Nagbe and Bobby Wood combined to lay a ball right into the Clint Zone, but the American forward hit the ball right at Motta.And while Motta made a tremendous save on Jozy Altidore late, you do want you striker to find a way to put that ball home.That said, Motta was decisive and claimed seemingly every ball within his reach. He was vocal and, frankly, had me pumped up with his gesticulations. Sometimes, you’ve gotta tip your cap to the victor. I’m doing that now.
Furthering the fallout: More questions from USMNT’s loss to Guatemala
Unfortunately for USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann and the United States men’s national team, there aren’t European matches or even a full slate of MLS matches to take our minds off the carnage we witnessed last night Guatemala.So we write more.Disclosure: I love watching Major League Soccer and hope it continues its rise as a player in the world’s game. I also generally would prefer United States men’s national team members to be playing meaningful minutes at the highest level possible, and know that there are currently as many as 10 leagues in the world where that can occur — most of them in Europe — ahead of MLS.It’s also important to note that Klinsmann’s roster omissions are not strictly MLS based. Defenders Jonathan Spector, Eric Lichaj and Tim Ream have not been given good chances to regularly play under his watch, and they play in England’s Championship (As an aside, I’d love to see a tournament between MLS and the Championship to settle some things). Destroyer of sorts Perry Kitchen is with Scotland’s Hearts and could’ve done a job in last night’s miserable loss to Guatemala.And there’s a batch of MLS super fans, sometimes disguised as analysts, who dwell so heavily on which of their favorite domestic-based players aren’t being chosen by Klinsmann that it becomes near impossible to separate their legitimate gripes from the pathological features of their problems.Finally, there’s an argument to be made that Klinsmann’s sheer lunacy in Friday’s loss isn’t about player selection, rather where he put them (Michael Orozco aside. He doesn’t even start for his club).Consider that Klinsmann’s absurd choices to play several players out of position would’ve looked much better and likely performed significantly better if they had just been lined up, well, adequately.
How they started vs Guatemala
Cameron — Gonzalez — Orozco — Castillo
Yedlin — Bedoya
Wood — Dempsey
Wouldn’t this have been better/more natural?
Yedlin — Gonzalez — Orozco — Castillo
Bedoya — Bradley — Diskerud
Wood — Dempsey
Even if he needed to go 4-4-2 and play Bradley as a No. 10, that still would’ve been preferable to putting Diskerud on the left than using Bedoya on the flip of his preferred right.Now here’s the thing: there is absolutely no debating that MLS provides plenty of options at natural positions who could’ve been called up. Without delving too far into who I think is or isn’t good enough to cut muster, let’s assume Klinsmann wanted cover in a traditional 4-4-2. Which of these players wouldn’t have deserved a chance over playing a maximum of five players at their second-choice (at best) position?
Left backs (and Castillo was fine once he settled into Friday’s match)
DaMarcus Beasley, Justin Morrow, Chris Tierney, Robbie Rogers, Brek Shea.
Michael Parkhurst, Sean Franklin, Tony Beltran, Raymond Gaddis, Chance Myers
Brad Davis, Graham Zusi, Chris Rolfe, Sebastien Lletget, Lamar Neagle, Chris Pontius
Okay, so the right back ranks are extremely slim, but the point remains that bringing some of this crop would’ve helped supplement his team. Consider that of the players listed as defenders, five of the seven were center backs and Yedlin is clearly considered a winger.It’s also almost like he doesn’t want to give a true DCM a run while Jermaine Jones is suspended, almost as if to say, “Don’t get any ideas guys, he’s mine forever.” And we knowMatt Miazga and Tim Parker were with the U-23s and both John Brooks and Matt Besler picked up injuries, but what about Matt Hedges? Brad Evans? Chad Marshall? Either is preferable over Orozco, and it’s not like the Liga MX back is a spring chicken being prepped for the Copa America (He’s 30).Here’s Orozco’s blistering form for his club from Transfermarkt (I almost feel bad… it’s not like the defender is demanding to start for his country. Klinsmann just called him up and plugged him. Was he supposed to say no?).
Look, I’m well aware of my limitations as a soccer mind in comparison to someone of Jurgen Klinsmann’s experience. That’s not a potshot. I’m not going to tell you m word is gospel, but these aren’t exactly lofty theories that I proffer.What the heck is going on?
What happened to the United States’ goalkeeper pipeline?
It wasn’t all that long ago that the United States was bragging about their goalkeeper depth. With Tim Howard wearing the No. 1 shirt and Brad Guzanwaiting in the wings — not to mention the USMNT’s long-established history of finding goalkeeping gems among their youth ranks — USMNT fans felt that, no matter what, one position in the national team could be relied on for a long time to come.Now, Howard is an aging shell of the player he once was. Guzan’s quality has fallen off a cliff this season. And that pipeline of young talent? It’s looking a little dry.The situation has come to such a head that Jurgen Klinsmann can’t decide which of Howard or Guzan should be the starter in goal anymore, and will instead platoon themin the United States’ upcoming friendlies. An optimist might think that Klinsmann can’t decide which goalkeeper is better, but someone who’s watched them with Everton and Aston Villa this season would realize that the question is more one of who could potentially hurt the USMNT less.That’s a decidedly less-than-ideal situation.The worst part is that there’s no obvious solution to the problem. Nick Rimando has served well, but is slowing with age himself. Among the younger ranks, there’s no clear successor right now — Bill Hamid’s development has been slowed by injuries, and he’s in the middle of a long spell on the sidelines now. Sean Johnson’s career has been a mixed bag of highs and some very low lows. William Yarbrough is as uninspiring an option as it gets. Anyone else is either too young, too inexperienced, too untalented or some combination of those three to be a real option to consider.Until and unless Hamid can stay consistently healthy and improve as is hoped, there’s no clear answer to the U.S. in goal. They’ll have to keep limping on with an aging Howard and a seemingly broken Guzan, instead of being able to call on one of three or four other talented goalkeepers as they’ve been able to in years past.Time was, top-shelf American goalkeepers used to struggle to get international appearances just because of how fierce the competition was — now, USMNT fans are wishing they could reach back in time and pluck just one of those netminders out of the shadows and into the current national team squad. Remember the 2002 World Cup squad? They had an embarrassment of riches in goal, boasting Brad Friedel and Kasey Keller in their primes, plus the venerable Tony Meolla as a “just in case” option.Just one of that trio would be a vast upgrade on the USMNT’s current woes, and the comparison makes the national team’s current dearth of quality options in goal all the more apparent. Whatever the cause of this weakness, the U.S. soccer player development system needs to figure it out and address it as soon as possible, before fans are left yearning for even today’s less-than-stellar options to guard the goal.
USA U23’s dodge Colombia’s attack, in position to qualify for Olympics
The United States under-23 team held on for a 1-1 draw against Colombia in the first leg of the Olympic qualifying playoff on Friday. The second leg kicks off Tuesday in Frisco Texas.
Get all of Liviu Bird’s columns as soon as they’re published. Download the new Sports Illustrated app (iOS or Android) and personalize your experience by following your favorite teams and SI writers.On a sweltering day in Barranquilla, with the mercury tickling the 90-degree mark, the United States took a step closer to qualifying for the Olympics with a 1-1 draw against Colombia. The U.S. came through well in a pressure-cooker first leg of the playoff for the final spot at Rio 2016’s under-23 competition.Luis Gil, spending his first season with Liga MX’s Querétaro, put the U.S. up an early goal in the fifth minute. He latched onto a pinpoint cutback cross from Mario Rodriguez streaking down the right, side-footing it past goalkeeper Cristian Bonilla.Colombia held the vast majority of possession but couldn’t break through a stifling U.S. back line in the first half. Forward Andrés Renteria looked the most dangerous of the bunch and certainly the most active in the Colombian attack, but his supporting cast faltered.The second half swung even farther in Los Cafeteros’ favor. The U.S. rarely got forward, and the Americans frequently defended with a baffling combination of desperation and luck that seemed likely to end at any second. The pressure finally culminated in Colombia winning a penalty in the 67th minute, as Kellyn Acosta pulled down substitute forward Rafael Borre.Colombia captain Juan Quintero stepped up to the spot and put his shot just out of goalkeeper Cody Cropper’s reach, low and to the left. The rest of the game passed similarly, with Colombia coming close to scoring and the U.S. somehow escaping. In the end, a draw with an away goal puts the Americans in a great position ahead of the return match on Tuesday in Frisco, Texas.Here are three thoughts on the first leg and the U.S.’s chances moving forward:
Prudent U.S. snags a vital away goal
It certainly wasn’t the start that most expected from the Americans, going up a goal in the first five minutes on the road. Prognostications before the match focused more on achieving a surmountable result for the second leg, not jumping into the lead from the very beginning.However, as fans of any league with a playoff system will attest, knockout matches have a strange way of making predictions look foolish. So perhaps it shouldn’t have been that surprising when Rodríguez drove down the right and found Gil in loads of space with the cutback between Colombia’s back and midfield lines.He took his chance well, and the U.S. had its dream start.rom there, it was a predictably defensive performance to try to escape Barranquilla with a slim lead, or at least a result that would make the away goal matter. The forwards held a deeper line of confrontation, starting near the top of the circle but receding more toward the halfway line and even deeper as the game went on. That allowed the U.S. to hold a firm line and swarm as Colombia tried to break through.Particularly after the second-half restart, Colombia’s attack threatened the U.S. goal with alarming regularity, but it only got the penalty past Cropper. The U.S. will call it a tactically disciplined effort, Colombia will call it immensely lucky—and the truth will be somewhere in between, though the U.S. deserves major credit for its courage.
Horvath injury puts more pressure on thin back line
First, it was center back Cameron Carter-Vickers picking up an injury just before the Olympic team got together for its playoff series. Then, senior coach Jurgen Klinsmann kept John Brooks for himself, leaving the position thin. Finally, stalwart Molde goalkeeper Ethan Horvath went out at the end of the first half on Friday with an apparent concussion, leaving the U.S. with even less of its first-choice defense at its disposal.Of course, Cropper is more than a capable deputy for Horvath. The MK Dons goalkeeper, who recently completed a move from Southampton in an attempt to get more playing time, has even been called into camp with Klinsmann’s team in the past. But Horvath’s form both in league play and for his country has been stellar in recent months.Defense was the biggest question mark heading into the series against Colombia, but the collective play from back to front in that regard surpassed all expectations on Friday, at least in terms of the final result. It started with the smart early shape from the forwards, holding a deeper line than usual, but Tim Parker held firm with Matt Miazga next to him, and Wil Trapp put in another mature performance as the midfield anchor.Now, it’s a matter of whether the back line can do more of the same in four days’ time, this time on home soil.
So you’re telling me…there’s a chance?
The U.S. has been through some adversity, much of it self-imposed, in its last couple of Olympic qualifying efforts. Undeniably, the Americans should have taken care of business this time in the CONCACAF tournament rather than waiting for its chance in the playoff, the shock defeat to Honduras still a stinging memory even as the Colombia series is half-over.Still, the team deserves some credit for its valiant effort to make do with that poor result.If youth national team tournaments are about gaining experience for the senior level and identifying potential players for that team, then a difficult qualifying campaign will have done just that.If the U.S. doesn’t get to the Olympics, it will still ultimately be a failure.Remarkably, though, it has a great chance in the second leg against Colombia on the back of its performance on Friday. Having to go through the process in this manner, that’s all coach Andi Herzog will have wanted out of a difficult first leg in South America
Suarez gets equalizer in 2-2 draw with Brazil in return
RECIFE, Brazil (AP) Luis Suarez scored a second-half equalizer in his first game back from a two-year international ban as Uruguay rallied to draw Brazil 2-2 Friday in a South American World Cup qualifier.Suarez, after few chances in the first half, scored in the 48th minute, beating Brazil keeper Alisson on a 10-meter (10-yard) left-footed shot as he broke in from the left side.Suarez almost scored the winner in the 86th but was stopped by Alisson from short-range.It was a perfect return for the Barcelona star after being banned from the international game for nearly two years for biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini in the 2014 World Cup.Uruguay has 10 points in five matches, three points behind leader Ecuador. Brazil moved level with Argentina and Paraguay in third position with eight points.Brazil took an early 2-0 lead, but Uruguay dominated the second half, bringing jeers from a sellout crowd in a stadium in northeastern Brazil built for the 2014 World Cup.Brazil took the lead after only 39 seconds on Douglas Costa’s goal on a pass from Willianon the right wing. Renato Augusto made it 2-0 in the 26th minute, scoring on a through-ball from Neymar.Uruguay then cut the lead to 2-1 in the 32nd when Edinson Cavani scored, knocking in a backward header from Carlos Sanchez.In the next series of matches Tuesday, it’s Colombia vs. Ecuador, Uruguay vs. Peru, Argentina vs. Bolivia, Venezuela vs. Chile and Paraguay vs. Brazil.