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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. SJ Earthquake RB, Steven Beitashour’s father is Assyrian from Iran and his mother is American, so therefore he is eligible to play for both countries. Iran contacted Beitashour in May 2012[6]. Beitashour has not made up his mind whether to play for Iran or the United States.

    I would put him ahead of Spector, and on par with Lichaj. He can make very good crosses and has 5 assists so far this year. Not sure about his speed; the Earthquakes have a middle of the road MLS goals against record so there are questions.

  2. Dude. Did you just come up withe conspiracy Theory really. Canad isn’t as good as Scotland, and the U.S. toar them up. Canada will put up a decent fight, but inteh end you will be crushed.

  3. Cameron is the future. Klinsmann has already stated that gooch will be starting. Dolo and Johnson both have calf strains. Boom. Been explained.

  4. I was thinking last night that we should be able to beat El Tri. We have more players playing in higher level leagues and for better teams than El Tri do…

  5. Uhm because he played both games for 90 minutes. And I want to see this formation which doesn’t suiut Donovan unless you put him in at the second striker

  6. here’s hoping we serve you up another loss. and with this being a “friendly” i’m guessing the american’s haven’t gone through the process of paying off the officials as they might if it were an important gold cup match or something.

  7. Thoughts on George John? I haven’t seen the guy much and i am just wondering if he is good enough to play at this level. Not insinuating anything. Just curious to know if he is a possible option.

  8. My take of the Gooch situation: don’t know what he’s been up to in training since the move to Portugal but it was very evident that while at Milan he was working on his passing – and it was working. From the last game it seems to have dropped off a bit. Maybe that was due to the high pressure Brazil was using – I don’t know.

    For this reason I would like to see him start against Canada to better asses how he will respond to CONCACAF opponents. Canada is a dangerous team. It’s just a matter of time before they put the pieces together and become #3 in the region and start pushing the US and Mexico.

    If Gooch (who I’m a fan of) proves to be just a big body then it’s truly time to start grooming the likes of Cameron (and Ream). Distribution from the back is important in to moving the US to the next level internationally.

  9. Not to mention Neymar had Marcelo behind him. Let’s see how well Mexico can resist them. It should be a good indicator to see if the US is catching up to el Tri or not – we’ve been a step behind them since the Gold Cup I’d say, but the influx of new faces is helping us get back to their level.

  10. yeah, Dolo seems like one of those genetic freaks who can play until he’s 40. Let’s not put the nail in his coffin until he actually starts to look old…

  11. Gooch should have to win back his spot. Gooch should never play for the nats again.

    This is crazy talk. And I don’t even think gooch is that good. He’s never been ‘dominant’ at the international level like his apologits claim.

    He (and 10 other guys) played an outstanding game against espana in 2009. Two swiss centerbacks did the same thing in 2010. Those two aren’t automatically ‘beasts’ for the rest of their careers.

    Gooch is an able center back and he’s definitely in the discussion for 2nd best in the usmnt pool.

    Yes, he had a poor game against brazil. But it’s very likely cameron or goodson would have suffered similar results.

  12. This said, I still believe Dolo has it in him to carry us through 2014. He’s probably the most underrated player in US history when you look at what he’s achieved at club level and how consistent he is. But it would be nice to have a solid backup just in case.

  13. the USA back line isn’t the only ones to make mistakes. 2 major Italian back line blunders led to two russian goals. russia beats italy 3-0 in italy.

  14. Good post. Goodson-Boca looked solid enough during our winning streak and even in the loss vs France. That should be the pairing until Gooch shows he’s 100% back – which I’m sure he will be, the guy’s a tremendous athlete.
    Without Chandler, it’s either Parkhurst, Spector or Lichaj realistically speaking if Dolo is injured or just can’t do it anymore. I’d put my money on Lichaj, since he has the speed and offensive game JK seems to look for in a fullback. I can’t see anyone in MLS that would be ready, either.

  15. Neymar would make 99% of RB’s look silly. I don’t think Chandler would have done much better. Let’s capture the “low hanging fruit” first and worry about actually marking people on corner kicks before we enter the pit of despair…

  16. You are right about that. Dolo has always been good at overlapping on the outside, but Donavon was trying so hard to stay outside that it ended up with the two of them squeezed between 3 or 4 Brazilian defenders and the touchline. Neither Donavon nor Dolo seemed to recognize it and failed to cut inside or pass back or pass a long square ball, the result was they lost possession to Brazil’s quicker and more numerous feet.
    It seemed as neither had a plan for what to do if what worked against Scotland did not work against Brazil and it appeared that the coaching staff did not help them out with that at half-time.

  17. You know….very off topic but I have to say, these past two games seeing the striped jerseys – i really like them (much better with the blue numbers). When i first saw these launched i thought they were a joke.

    With the blue shorts, I think they look really cool.

    Back to the real stuff…..I think Gooch should be on the bench and should have to win back his spot. I like the guy and I think when he is on top of his game can be our best CB. But recently, Goodson should have the spot.

    I do worry about the RB spot. Chandler is extremely important to keep. Watching Cherundolo look ragged vs. Brazil makes me worried. He is solid obviously but geez, in the World Cup we are going to come across the Neymar’s and other speedy guys. Having Chandler’s speed is definitly going to be key. We need to pay for an American vacation for Chandler this summer. Give him some American love – BBQing, beautiful american girls, something to get him to appreciate this country!

  18. I don’t feel like my bar is too low at all. I’m not delusional.

    I know that we don’t currently have defenders capable of stopping a team with Brazil’s attacking power. Few teams do. We need to rely on a great shift put in from the midfield to help out, and a little bit of luck.

    Against Italy the bounces went our way. Against Brazil they did not.

    I don’t like seeing the analysis of whether a player is good enough or not changed game to game based on the strength of the opposition.

    Against Scotland Dovovan is the greatest. Against Brazil he is washed up.

    It’s annoying.

  19. Blame that on Donovan, or not, I don’t care. Marcelo shut them both down, and that shouldn’t happen.

    If Donovan had given Brasil more to think about, then Cherundolo would have had more space.

  20. Look I’m not disagreeing, just saying people need to pump the brakes on the apocalypse talks. Brazil likely has the best young attackers in the world.

    Last point: If Gooch had scored that header these conversations may not even be happening.

  21. Re: Dolo

    The problem is that with Chandler’s exit from the USMNT picture, who is a realistic option to start at RB in lieu of Dolo? Only Lichaj comes to mind, but he’s still very inexperienced, so we can’t hand him the reins just yet.
    Chandler was the heir apparent, but now our option suddenly got scarce.

  22. dominant? hardly, he got smoked a few times, how can you say dominant for a CB that can’t distribute from the back?

  23. We don’t have Chandler so we can’t consider him an option right now.
    Dolo is better than both Spector and Lichaj in my opinion right now. Lichaj can be groomed for post Dolo times, but it won’t happen overnight, nor should it. Don’t underestimate experience when official competitions start. It’s one of the most underrated qualities.
    Johnson is too good at LB and he have no one else there, so I don’t see why we would move him to RB.
    Goodson is good. I like his play a lot. But Ream or Cameron are just not ready, which is why you need Boca in the middle right now. Goodson – Boca CB pairing works well.
    Lastly I really don’t think we should put Jones in CB, he’d be a penalty waiting to happen and he’s also an assist machine so we’d be wasting him there.
    We need to be realistic. Though our old defenders might not be world class anymore, the young guard isn’t there yet so we need to stick with them a while longer.

  24. I’m more or less in agreement with Brett. Playing one of Bocanegra and Onyewu in the center is fine, but both together won’t work against top-level teams. They’re both slower and have trouble distributing cleanly under pressure.

    I agree on Cherundolo too. He had a really tough assignment against Brazil, but especially in comparison to Johnson, he was very anemic offensively. It would nice (necessary?) to get some more offensive width and dangerous crosses from the right back, if our outside mids are going to drift further inside.

  25. Ultimately if your goal is to not get knocked out of tournaments by the Brazils of the world then our defenders have to match up to that quality. JK’s job,philosophy, and publically stated goals aren’t merely to get moral victories against the best in the world. If you are frustrated with the remarks, perhaps it’s because you have left your bar too low.

    Had Gooch and Bocanegra played better (granted they’re not the only ones….) perhaps we tie or even win the game.

  26. The point is that neither of them can distribute from the back. A good pairing needs at least one distributor. They are also both pretty slow, especially Gooch after the knee injuries.

  27. that is a dreadful backline, and you can’t even justify it as wanting to give our future starters experience. because they’re not

  28. I hope it was, but defensive woes against top notch attacking sides are not new for Gooch. The guy gets a pass because he USED to be dominant. I don’t think he will be Klinsy’s choice when it comes down to the important matches. If I’m wrong, it wouldn’t be the first time.

  29. Gooch was fine this year in Portugal where he was dominant in a strong league.
    Boca / Gooch isn’t the best defense in the world, but if both are 100% right now it’s pretty much the best the US has. Goodson is a good replacement for Gooch if it comes to that, but Boca right now is probably our elite CB.

  30. If we had Chandler, it would be Chandler – Goodson/Bocanegra – Ream/Cameron – Johnson. I also like the idea of Jermaine Jones as the distributing centerback paired with a stalwart defender. At RB, next man up for me is Cherundolo, but only barely ahead of Spector and Lichaj. If Stevie continues to waste his forward runs with poor play in the final third, Johnson on the right and Castillo on the left is also a possibility, though I’m not very impressed with Castillo at this point. Just watch Fabian down the left and compare him to Cherundolo on the right. Fabian creates chances every time, while Cherundolo loses possession and has to chase back, usually resulting in a shot on goal for the other team.

  31. I saw the match and I guess you’re feeding into my point. It was ONE BAD MATCH. Even Messi and Ronaldo have bad matches (ehh maybe). He’s had a very solid club season. Flipping out and immediately calling for changes isn’t always the best solution. Time will tell.

  32. I’m ready for revenge after the Olympic qualifying debacle. It’s time the United States to invade Canada.

    Let’s go Yanks! Time to show America Junior who reigns supreme in North America

  33. You’re talking about Gooch pre-knee injury and you’re also talking about a different US team under a different coach. You watch that Brazil match again and tell me that Bocanegra and Onyewu are a top-notch pairing of defenders.

  34. Exactly. Funny how people forget all the strong performances Gooch has had in recent years. He’s 30 years old, it’s not like he’s over the hill. He’ll be back and dominate once again.
    Remember that before he got injured he was considered one of the top CBs in the Portuguese league.

  35. This is my starting line-up and formation for the USMNT


    Rest: Donovan, Johnson(Calf strain), Dolo(Calf strain)
    Subs: Goodson, Boca, Edu, Corona, Wondo, Boyd

  36. “Playing Bocanegra and Onyewu together was misguided to begin with.” Yeah because ending Spain’s 35 match unbeaten streak and almost beating Brazil at the ConFed cup was misguided? Sure they aren’t what they used to be, but let’s not dismiss what at one point was a really great defending tandem.

    We’ve spent the past couple days blaming everything on Gooch — he may be getting slower — but everyone has one bad game. Let’s not write him off entirely yet.

  37. Dolo still has at least another year in him. He plays consistently in his Bundesliga team. Comparing him to Hejduk is misguided. Dolo has always been a far better talent. Just look how long Dolo has been solid in the Bundesliga. He still is. Sure he’s in the final stages of his career, but he’s still our best RB option. Maybe Lichaj can fill the void in time, but Dolo is still the man.
    Same for Boca. I’d rather have Boca start any day than vs Ream or Cameron. Boca is still an invaluable asset.
    If you don’t start Boca or Dolo right, what defense do you suggest? Right now, considering Gooch is not 100% our best line is:
    Dolo, Goodson, Boca, Johnson

  38. I agree with most of this analysis.

    It’s frustrating to read comments on here that dismiss the impact Brazil’s players had on Gooch and Boca’s play. Neymar, Marcelo, Pato, and Hulk have the ability to make the best defenders in the world look old slow and silly. They are that good.

    I hope we’ll be able to bring in younger CBs by the time the world cup rolls around, but at the moment I don’t know if we have better options than Gooch and Boca. Luckily we won’t need to play Brazil to qualify.

  39. Brazil only proved that the 3 veterans on our back line are on the way out. I also don’t like Edu. Jones in his spot and bring in another attacking midfielder. Onyewu was bad, but so was Bocanegra and Cherundolo is fading. Remember when he used to provide dangerous crosses? Stevie knows where to run but doesn’t have the quality anymore. He’s in Hejduk territory at this point. Playing Bocanegra and Onyewu together was misguided to begin with. You need at least one Ream/Cameron to distribute. I’m not confident in either of them anymore.

    We will be fine through to the hex, after that anything can happen. Mexico too would struggle against Brazil with their two oldest centerbacks playing against Hulk and Neymar.

  40. I’ve no issue starting the game with the same back 4 as we used against Brazil. But they should be closely monitored and replaced shortly after halftime to have them sharp for the qualifiers. Jozy & Clint should both get starts as well.

  41. watching Italy v Russia. Great even match. Italy going for it with lots of longer passes to balotelli, and Russia showing superb calmness, finesse and passing skill. i’m rooting for Russia.


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