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USMNT aim to fine-tune things against Canada before qualifying begins


photo by John Todd/


If this summer's slate of matches were indeed meant to replicate a tournament, the U.S. men's national team would be in must-win territory.

Fortunately for the Americans, this is not a tournament and their visit to BMO Field in Toronto to take on Canada on Sunday is not a win-or-go-home scenario. But that does not mean the Americans won't be looking for a victory, not when they suffered a lopsided defeat to Brazil on Wednesday and not with more fine-tuning needing to be done before World Cup qualifying begins next Friday.

"We have to improve still, absolutely," said U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann after the loss to Brazil. "We'll discuss that tomorrow as a team. There are areas where we've got to get closer to the people, we've got to push forward a little bit more, we've got to be smarter playing out of the back."

One other area Klinsmann has readily admitted needs improving is finishing. That aspect is one which the Americans thrived at in their 5-1 triumph over Scotland in their first match of the summer last Saturday, but struggled with in the 4-1 loss to Brazil this past Wednesday.

The United States could get a boost in their attack should Clint Dempsey be deemed fit enough to start after recovering from a groin injury. Dempsey's creativity and nose for goal against the likes of FC Cologne defender Kevin McKenna and Chivas USA's Ante Jazic would surely help a U.S. team that has been inconsistent in front of goal since Klinsmann took over.

"We're not scoring enough goals yet," said Klinsmann. "We've got to give that message to our strikers to go for it."

Defending is also an area that will need to show improvement. Canada may not boast the attacking quality that Brazil has, but the Americans' northern rivals do have talented players capable of unlocking defenses. From reigning MLS MVP Dwayne De Rosario to Norwich City forward Simeone Jackson, the United States' back four will have their hands full.

Passing out of the back will need to be more crisp against the Canadians. Brazil pressured the U.S. team high up the field and the Americans struggled to deal with that, especially in the opening 20 minutes.

One player in particular who struggled with that was Oguchi Onyewu, whose start against Brazil marked his first with the U.S. team since last fall. If Onyewu should start again in the clash with Canada, an improved performance will be needed in order for him to solidify his starting place in the American back-line.

"It took him time to get into the game (with) his passes out of the back, also kind of in certain situatons, one-against one," said Klinsmann. "He found them more and more into game. The second half was much smoother, much more controlled. The first 20 minutes he had some problems there and that's what we also addressed at halftime. We said 'You know guys, we got to be cleaner, more clinical coming out of the back. Be calm don't be too hectic."

Another aspect of Sunday's game that many will be keeping an eye on is how U.S. team responds to Klinsmann's desire for playing nastier and less naive while also continuing to progress in his more proactive style of play. 

Midfielder Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley will go up against Julian de Guzman, who is known for his hard tackling. And how they fare against him and the rest of Canada's midfield could go a long way in determining how the Americans' final tuneup goes.

Still, the match against Canada will provide the Americans one more opportunity to adapt to Klinsmann's preferred style of play before qualifying begins. And they insist progress is being made.

"We're getting better, it feels better as a player," said goalkeeper Tim Howard. "The rhythm and the tempo which we're playing at feels better."


  1. looks like USA got the favour of the refs last night anyway 🙂
    soft foul calls back the only goal – your boys were lucky to walk out of bmo with a draw.

    i know very few of you, if any, actually follow the CMNT but if you look back at some big games (2007 gold cup semi vs usa and some other crucial qualifiers) we’re often on the short end of the concacaf official’s stick in big moments.

    of course i was joking about the USA actually paying off officials … concacaf officials don’t need a monetary incentive to screw up.

    anyways … the friendlies are over – good luck in the upcoming qualifiers.

  2. well said. I was impressed too with the resolve to fight back. Brazil was clinical in front of net, the US not. Biggest difference otherwise lots of positives, especially after the soft PK so early in a friendly at ‘home’…yes, I’ve seen those called, but seen that not called waaay more often

  3. I’m not, and you’re right, but ACLs come back very wel these days IF you do the work ANDS don’t come back to early, and he’s still very young.

    all reports indicate he’s working hard.

  4. He WAS an excellent defender. Let’s see how well he does when he comes back.

    Never understimate the seriousness of a knee injury.

  5. Rather than criticizing UMN and anyone else who dares to disagree with you re John,you really should be placing that anger where it belongs.

    And that is with George John.

    He is the guy who bombed out at West Ham. There are probably a million legitimate excuses for why the tryout was not a success and I’m sure it was not fair to him but at the end of the day, he failed.

    And in doing so, seriously delayed his integration, if it ever comes, into the US set up. I would have done the same thing he did, refusing a call up,risking his USMNT future for a chance at a more established career but that is the risk he took and he pays the price when it all goes sideways.

    He chose to give Cameron and Parkhurst a leg up on him. Don’t take it out on anyone else.

    I’m not overly impressed with Cameron but at least he took his chance and made the most of it. And because he was there, because he showed up when called, JK will give him more chances than he will give John.

  6. The Boyd and Lichaj situatons are not comparable.

    Boyd is a special case.

    How many of you are convinced JK was wrong to bring Boyd in, play him and and probably cap him in the Qualifiers? Lichaj is permanently tied to the US.

    How many of you think Boyd isn’t right now, sending a message to Jozy, Gomez, Wondo, Agudelo and the rest, y’all better bring your frickin A game if you want to play?

    How many of you did not think that Striker was a position of need going into the qualifiers?

    Dolo and Johnson were our unquestioned fullback starters, with Parkhurst and Castillo as their backups, going into this series of games.

    All four are familiar to JK and all four were proven regulars and had solid seasons with teams that did well.

    Lichaj has never been to camp with JK, was out for most of the year with a serious injury, and only got into 10 league games at the end of the season. And he got into them because the starter went down.

    Villa did not win any of those games, gave up 14 goals in them, nearly got relegated and got their manager fired. I did not see too many of those games but it hardly sounds like a banner defensive performance by Villa. I would not have been surprised if they had called Lichaj in but I was also not surprised they left him out. It is hardly a mortal lock that Lichaj will be a starting fullback for Villa next year, if he is even there.

  7. My point exactly, again. Venezuela no, wait Ecuador. Regardless, Gooch be gone….. “I swear he will look great soon”

  8. “I feel like I’m the only one who wants to see a Cameron-Parkhurst pairing.”

    If that were true how is it that JK put them together in the middle this January?

    “good centerbacks for the future”????

    Geoff and Michael will both be pushing thirty by the time the 2014 World Cup roles around.

    If they are ever going to be a meaningful big deal as a duet, they need to do it now, take those jobs from Gooch and Boca as soon as possible.

    Our centerback pairing is proving questionable and this is the perfect time for a young center back to seize the day.

    Unfortunately, so far our “young ” centerback candidates have been pretty underwhelming.

  9. Tom P.

    I can’t agree that Boca and Dolo are showing their age because:

    1) I’ve seen them look this bad before when they were much younger.

    2) I’ve seen enough of Neymar and Marcelo and their gang to know they can make better players than Dolo and Boca look that bad.

    Especially when most of US fans are always looking for flaws in Boca and Dolo. I mean they are in their thirties so they must be falling apart due to age right? It could not possibly be because they just took on some of the best players on the planet who are nearing their prime?

    This was not Brazil’s first choice lineup but Brazil could very probably field three distinct elevens tomorrow with almost no drop in quality.

    Brazil takes the Olympics seriously and I would have no problem taking this Brazil team to the Euros. I think they would do quite well.

    Unlike almost everyone else on this site,I was very impressed with the fact that the US came back so strongly against such a dominant Brazilian team. I’ve never seen them do this before. With a litle luck the US could have drawn or even won this game.

  10. You would have noticed, had you continued reading the post, that I moved beyond that. Your cheeky remark means little.

  11. He has actually. Played there for Schalke this season and in season’s past. Bolton played Ream in midfield. West Ham played Spector in midfield. Nurnberg played Chandler at right wing forward. Hoffenheim played Johnson at forward and central attacking midfielder. Players are not bound to one position, they can play wherever their skillset allows them to play. Jones is a stout defender who reads the game well, he is ideal for a central defender once you get beyond his destroyer mentality (which leads to lots of yellow cards).

  12. I would also like to see new combinations in the back. We all know Cherundolo and Boca are solid more times then not but age ,especially in Boca’s case, and I love the guy so this isn’t a cheap shot, is creeping in rapidly.

    That being said, we are going to need a lot of friendlies to start working in the younger class from MLS stock. Klinsmann can’t afford full on experimentation in qualifiers. Face it, if he did start John and another young buck and we got sliced open we be calling for his head.
    That is missing out on the Olympics is such a crushing blow. Imagine all the lost practice and tactical lessons that could have been instilled with all that time in preparation?
    It’s a tragedy when you look at it from that angle.

    PS- I agree- let’s find out about Parkhurst now-not later- once and for all. The center back candidates I will leave to you have MLS teams in your city and get to see play all the time and make “time watched” opinions vs. 30 second high light stars so many people put forth on this board.

  13. In addition, while it’s been a while since Lichaj played with MNT, as I recall, his performance was quite solid, with quality balls played in similar to Johnson–but not as good on the LB side as Johnson as his left foot wasn’t quite as strong. Plus–he can absolutely heave the ball on throw-ins, making throws near the endline as dangerous as corners.

  14. I don’t really have a dog in this fight in that I don’t particularly care if Cameron or John or Gonzo is the first choice #5 for the US.

    I’m concerned that these guys are all flawed and worse, none of them have taken the bull by the horns and said ” ME! ME ! I’m your guy!”.

    Ideally, the two replacements for Boca and Gooch would right now either be on this present squad or be very clearly making a push to be on it.

    Parkhurst looks to me to like he is being groomed for right back emergency centerback duty i.e. a Spector replacement.

    Cameron has been impressively mediocre but given all the super star hype he has gotten from everyone it’s not clear the light bulb has gone off in his head yet.

    He has the tools but needs a lot of polishing.

    As for the rest Gonzo tries to move to Germany and gets hurt with a knee injury no less. That means he misses most of qualifying and even if he completes his move to Nurmberg, he will have at maybe a season to convince JK of his value. Not a lot of time to gain the polishing he needed pre-injury.

    John bombed at West Ham. Whether it was a numbers game, a repeat of the MB90 Villa fiasco, or he just was not good enough, I don’t know but now his confidence will need a little work.

    Whitbread can barely stay on the field. That a team like Norwich would give up on him is a bad sign.

    This leaves us with Ream looking like the best of a mild mannered bunch of center halves. Which means Gooch and Boca go to Brazil if only as insurance barring a remarkable improvement in our unimpressive bunch of candidates or the conversion of someone like Spector, Clark, Edu, Pearce, Bornstein or Williams to CB.

  15. Ha… it’s funny because calls never go our way… Especially in like, important World Cup matches or something… Go back to Canada with your conspiracy theories, eh?

  16. Those players getting pulled were for precautionary reasons. They’re fine, and if they need to be precautionarily pulled again, they will be. No reason not to start them.

  17. The John fanboy returns! Welcome back! I’d actually love to see John in camp, but I can’t justify calling him in over Cameron, who DOES perform consistently for his club, and guys like Boca, Gooch, and Goodson, who perform consistently for their clubs in Europe. I’d love to see John soon. Just to see what he can do.

  18. You’re joking about Jones, right? Dude has never played center back in his life. This isn’t FIFA, you can’t just throw guys into new positions and expect them to perform at an international level.

  19. OMG, these teams are so un-nasty I can’t stand it. Just Tivo it so you can get more time to kick your dog around the house.

  20. Yes, game analysis should not include previous matches, but player analysis should.

    I’ve read many posts saying that guys like Gooch, Boca, Donovan, and Dolo are over the hill, terrible, ect.

    That’s a bit ridiculous considering their previous few performances.

    As bad as you guys feel our team may have played, we still created enough chances to win the game, and that is quite exciting.

    Again, not saying I don’t want to win, just saying there are more positives to pull out of the match than the doomsday prophecys I’m hearing here.

  21. I feel like I’m the only one who wants to see a Cameron-Parkhurst pairing. That probably won’t happen since Cherundolo apparently has a calf strain and Parkhurst would be needed at right back, but I think the two would make good centerbacks for the future. A Cameron-Goodson pairing might also be something worth thinking about, and is actually pretty likely against Canada. Either one of these pairings could end up being what we go with in two years.

  22. if all you saw were these lapese to call out, you didn’t watch the game and are just pushing your boring agenda…again

  23. who cares? he’s an excellent defender, the best high line defender in the pool imo, and Klinsmann wants to play that high line

    AND he immediately makes the USMNT difficult on set pieces both offensively and defensively. How’s the USMNT sert piece defense with all these ball handlers? lousy

  24. Klinsmann, “There are areas where we’ve got to get closer to the people,…”

    Like when Landon couldn’t find Marcello running by, or Gooch couldn’t find an attacker all night long (I must admit the space he marked never scored).

  25. He looked sharp distributing and getting forward against venezuela, or maybe it was against ecuador in a friendly before he reinjured his knee the second time, so he is capable…..he did look haesitant throughout the night but so did bocanegra, who looked straight up old!

  26. Lichaj’s play in the EPL imo has shown that he is ready to play in the first round of qualifiers. We are defitnately good enough to integrate a future RB at this point.

    and I suspect JK would have if Lichaj had cracked AV line up a bit sooner.

  27. my point exactly. When was the last time anyone saw/watched gooch distribute well vs any team? He was a beast, and probably my favorite player for the USMNT BEFORE THE KNEE INJURY. But since, I feel that he never regained the confidence and presence that we all had come to expect from him. Give Ream/Cameron/Gonzalez/John, etc a chance to develope for the next cycle of USMNT.

  28. No.

    If Lichaj wants to gain experience he needs to win a starter’s role next year at Villa.
    Then he can play against some of the best players in the world all season long.

    Do it at the club level first.

  29. Gonzalez doesn’t get beat easily and he can at least stay with his mark in the box. Two things that cannot be said about Ream or Cameron. Two things that are VERY VERY important for a central defender…umm HELLO

    And from what Ive seen his passing, while not great, is at least on par with gooch and may be better. Hes also positionally and tactically sound.

    You pair him with A George John who shares all the above attributes but adds speed and passing and you’ve got a lockdown Central Defender pair.

    But Omar needs to get healthy first and John just needs an opportunity

  30. The only people who don’t think George John may be the answer are those who don’t watch him play (which is 95% of the US soccer and MLS fans)

    If you care to study up on John and be knowledge about our pool go check out his videos on youtube

    2 weeks ago Ives asked Klinnsman about Ream being ommitted from this roster and Klinnsman invoked the name of John. saying he was “ready if I called him” so he cleary is not as low on the depth chart as you assume.

    And this notion that John or Gonzalez need to prove themselves in Europe first???..
    to that I ask what has Cameron proved in Europe? What has he proven this year in MLS?(hes been bad fyi)

    The fact is John and Gonzalez both would be on this roster had they not both pursued potentially lucrative club options this January.

    Instead what happened was in their absence Cameron was gifted a chance to vault up the depth chart with theses games and all we’ve seen is red cards, own goals, soft marking, and tentative play. Hes only been really tested a couple of times in all those minutes and has failed each test.

    And within the context of that sobering reality you dare write of George John because he hasn’t signed with and EPL squad (yet) that opinion is as asinine as it is popular.


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