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Where will USMNT finish in the semifinal round of qualifying?

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photo by Nick Turchiaro/ISIphotos.com

Only two days separate the U.S. men's national team from the start of its 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, but plenty of questions about the team still remain after the three summer friendlies ended with mixed results.

Whether it was tired legs at the end of a three-games-in-nine-days stretch or Canada's ability to stymie the U.S. midfield this past Sunday, the Americans looked far from a team firing on all cylinders ahead of World Cup qualifying.

Jamaica, Guatemala and Antigua and Barbuda are likely to deploy similar defensive gameplans against Jurgen Klinsmann's side in the coming months, and the U.S. team will need to do a better job of breaking compact defenses if it is to finish in first place in Group A of the semifinals round of qualifying and advance the Hex.

History has shown that anything can happen in this round and the United States is not guaranteed of breezing through its competition en route to finishing atop the group, especially if it does not improve in multiple areas over the six matches from now until October.

From their defending against counter attacks to finishing, the Americans have room for improvement as the beginning of qualifying looms with a game against Antigua and Barbuda on Friday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Fla.

With that said, where do you see the United States finishing in this round of qualifying? Expecting them to breeze through the competition or will there be hiccups on the way to the Hex? What aspect of the team are you looking forward to watching?

Share your thoughts below.

Comments

  1. A bit fff topic. Instead of the Gold Cup and Copa America … I think CONCAFAF and CONMEBOL should combine for a tournament that is held every 4 years. It can have qualifying or simply use the top 8 FIFA teams from each region to create the 4 groups. Winner is tournament champion and their respective confederation. Champion of the other region is determined by the highest finisher. Those two go to the Confederations Cup.

    Not quite UEFA Euro’s but more exciting than just Gold Cup and Copa America. Also, good competition and experience for the USA. Make them tougher for those pesky CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers!

    Possible groups:

    Group A

    Brazil / Peru / El Salvador / Honduras

    Group B

    Agentina / Ecuador / Costa Rica / Panama

    Group C

    Uruguay / Paraguay / USA / Jamaica

    Group D

    Chile / Columbia / Mexico / Canada

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  2. Can’t agree there. Bradley makes fewer judgement errors than either Edu or Beckerman and is on par with Jones. Bradley is not as likely as Jones to get pointless yellows (not so true when he was younger, but he seems to have lost that bit of youthful folly). Bradley can make better service than any of the others so it is likely he is more needed further forward.

    I case you’ve forgotten in the last USA v Argentina game it was Bradley who was largely responsible for ensuring Messi was disrupted in the middle of the field throughout the game and only a scramble near the goal (when Messi should have been a fullback’s responsibility) allowed Messi to make a clever assist.

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  3. Actually I think Torres has played better for the USA recently than at any other time. He has always been able to keep possession and deliver good passes, recently he has managed to combine with teammates better and while he could still win more 50-50 balls, he is improving in that category.

    Edu does seem to give the ball away too much, but he did complete 90% of his passes against Scotland.

    Not sure Corona is the answer yet, but he could be if he continues to improve.

    Scoring goals is always a concern and other than Dempsey, (and Donavon when he actually shows up) you wonder who will score the goals. Every forward in the USA pool has either struggled at times or not been given enough time to show well and has an incomplete grade. I hope someone rises to the top and becomes consistent, certainly Altidore and Boyd have the physical tools, Gomez and Wondo some skills and both will work tirelessly to get on the end of something (right now Gomez seems to be better of the two, but that was not always the case), the younger guys are young guys and we can always hope for great things from them, but…

    Bradley is still improving and that is good, let’s hope that continues it bodes well for the USA.

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  4. If a website I found is to be believed, the US is 11-5-2 (W-D-L) all-time against Guatemala. The last loss was in 1983. In road qualifiers since 2000, the scores have been 1-1, 0-0, and 1-0.

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  5. USA will finish 1st, although it will be tough playing in Guatemala and Jamaica (2 points from those games would be good, 4 points would be amazing).

    Honestly though, if we don’t cruise through this group, Klinsmann will have a lot of work to do getting this team where they need to be for Brazil 2014. I know it’s a work in progress, but we should be better than last cycle.

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  6. Like you, I expect the USA will struggle in this bit of qualifying. But, by that, I mean that the US will lose or tie a couple of the 6 games, win by blow-outs in a couple and win close games in couple, still plenty to advance. The reasons you point out, difficulty playing against packed defenses and giving up counters to fast players, are my concerns as well.

    For every one of these opponents, a 0-0 tie with the USA would suit them very well and they can all be expected to play for that tie.

    In some of the games the USA will score early enough that the opponents must come out of a shell and attack, in some the opponents may get the first goal and redouble their defensive efforts.

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  7. If our opponents sit back and defend we need a quicker attack. I’m worried about the lack of wingers. I’m hoping Castillo starts at left mid. I wish Bedoya was called as well.

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  8. Well, if they don’t finish first I will be absolutely shocked. The U.S. should not struggle in such a round-robin tournament against these opponents. They should get at least 14 of 18 possible points.

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  9. Remember we are playing Concacaf teams not European competition… Cherundolo will do fine and should offer a lot down the right side. Johnson will control the left and Dempsey and Donovan will be strong in the middle…I look for good results and glide through the competition.

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  10. “cultured feet”…I like it. But weren’t you espousing about international-quality players earlier? Adu & Agudelo couldn’t even get their team to qualify for the olympics (which you pointed out)…what makes you think they could help us qualify for the WC?

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  11. Not at all (other than pride) … in the next round, you play all other 5 teams home and away, anyway. That said, if you can go out and win your first 4 and clinch with 2 left, it gives you a lot of extra flexibility – you can treat the final 2 as exhibitions, try out new tactics and players, and turn over some of your guys to their club teams.

    I expect the US will win their group. Jamaica could possibly end up ahead, but it’s just too much of a stretch to imagine A&B or Guatemala having the firepower to also finish ahead of the US in a 4-team, double-round robin tourney.

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  12. It is absurd to predict the USA not to finish top. Is it possible they dont? Yes it is, but mot very likely. No betting man would bet against the USA finishing top, and I would guess that includes you as well, for one it actually matter you would not claim the usa will finish second just to be controversial.

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  13. Jermaine is not going to agree with this idea, and seeing as this is his thread, he will tell you about it as soon as he gets back to his device. And that means very soon, apparently.

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  14. I think we breeze through, like we should. The only bump in the road being away at Guatemala. Jamaica has quality players, but we match up well against them and should take 6. The only place I see us dropping points is away at Guatemala. A draw in that game will make me happy.

    Could strange things happen? Of course. But we have a lot of really good players and the best organizational foundation of any team in the whole confederation. We should be fine.

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  15. Sorry, but the US WILL dominate at least A&B (including goals) and possibly Guat and Jamaica at home (possession). The question is, will the scoreline reflect that possession? Both Jamaica and Guat are potential spoilers, but we should do fine and win this group, even if we struggle some on the road.

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  16. vs. Antigua and Barbuda. They have never gotten to this phase of WCQ before; they are just happy to be here. The entire population of the country can almost fit in the stadium. This will be no problem. 8-0

    at Guatemala. They always play tough at home, so I expect a gritty game with a high foul count. They beat Costa Rica recently at home and played them tough away. Still, Carlos Ruiz is their only offensive threat and I would expect the experience of our central defenders to be able to handle him. Hard fought game with home field ref advantage. 1-2 (USA win)

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  17. We need some creativeness from the U.S… Adu always shows up to play when he puts on the U.S jersey, I still don’t get his absense. Gio can’t even make the bench in Europe and ol boy gets number 10 and a starting position with the Mexican team.smh And the dude comes through every time. Same with Adu. I could name 3 players Adu could’ve have taken spots for.

    Against MExico and C.A teams, guys like Adu & Gyau can really come in handy. We already have players similar to Corona on the roster.

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  18. I know this will drive people crazy, but how about Edu holding, Bradley doing his thing from box to box and yes Benny Feilhaber on the left distributing. If you look at his performances in his last couple call ups he played fairly well.

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  19. I don’t agree with everything you are saying, Jermaine, but have enjoyed reading your take on the situation. You have, to be sure, stated some unpopular opinions. But you have stayed on topic, you haven’t attacked any fellow posters, nor have you gotten viciously personal about any of the players, like we see one particular fan group of a certain midfielder do often do with Beckerman and Edu and Jones. Yet you are being attacked as a troll and being called a jerk for trying to p!ss people off. Weird.

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  20. Very good point, plus I think Edu, Jones and Beckerman are all better destroyers (holding midfielders, Number Sixes, whatever you want to call it) than Michael Bradley, who is more prone to defensive lapses.

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  21. I agree, Torres can be a key to USMNT success and am growing a bit weary of Klinsmann trying to pound square pegs into round holes. Torres is not a winger. Damn, we learned this in Klinsmann’s very first game against Mexico last August, when Klinsmann started Torres off on the left wing and Michael Bradley as central attacking midfielder. At 60 minutes, when Klinsmann pulled Bradley out and moved Torres over to a central position, the team exploded offensively. Klinsmann did the same thing with Daniel Williams, playing him as right winger and it just did not work very well.

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  22. I want to see how we do in the next two games. If we struggle against Antigua and Barbuda and do not beat Guatemala, then I wold agree it is time for Klinsmann to shake things up and drop a few players from team. I don’t agree that Edu and Torres should be among the group dropped and I don’t think Michael Bradley is our answer for an attacking midfielder/creator.

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  23. Torres besides Bradley may be the only other midfielder I trust on the ball. Everyone else seems to just give the ball away. He may make the safe pass often, but he keeps possession and he usually helps unlock the defense by either playing a great through ball or making a last second pass under pressure to the open man.

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  24. Really, i like Herc, but he was on the bench when Santos beat Monterey. That is powerful indictment after the season he had. Altidore and Dempsey need to dominate, if that happenes than all other things i’ve said on this post can be tossed in a bin! 🙂 Those two have a epic qualifying and we are in it to win it. If they fall flat, we have trouble. I just want players who will have a go. Adu, Agudelo…cultured feet on the ball, and able to play a killer pass. Everybody says that they need playing time…and then i look at mexico…with dos santos, barrera, and even Hernandez who played so little, yet that talent is undeniable. Maybe playing for your club is overated?

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  25. to be fair, I don’t think Torres has played his natural/best position once since his injury months ago. He isn’t a winger/forward, and shouldn’t be deployed there. Gotta be a part of the midfield 3 if he’s in the lineup

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  26. I’ll leave it to your imagination and the historical record of what coaches/ players do when they get socked in the jaw. There are things that can be done in real time. The last thing you do is play-on. Its and accurate criticism not odd at all concerning an event that cost the team a London trip. It’s what Ghana players said was wrong with the USA team in 2010.

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  27. just for the record, the scenario you just described would be 14 points. Maybe that’s what you meant but the wording makes it a little confusing.

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  28. I suppose I am just a bit more optimistic and/or confident with our position. Guatemala will be the litmus test. More than anything, I think we will see how strong and sharp we are mentally. We know we have the talent, but do we have the patience and guile to break down ten men behind our attack. Do we have the concentration not to make the critical error allowing a goal. I think Herc will be most crucial in finding goals consistently in qualifying for the year.

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  29. Edu would never go for it, though your right, it is the position that suits his skill set. As for being ready…Gatt is getting ready for champions league, how many of our players can say that? I by no means am saying that landon is done, just that he doesn’t have that blistering pace anymore that puts fear into you. The Scotland game was fools gold as far as preparation for these qualifying games. Scotland went at us, and as a result left gaping holes for us to exploit. They had a go, noone with the exception of Mexico is going to do that now. This pressure will be intense, if jamacia or guatamala get an early goal at home, it will become frenzied. I still believe we get to the hex, but the road will be bumpy.

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  30. I gotcha on the multiple Bradlys. I think Brek and Gatt will get their chances, although they are not quite ready just yet for major roles. God willing, Chandler will get in the mix during the next round of games, also providing some width.

    I think Lando still has what it takes to excel as evidenced by his latest Everton stint and the Scotland hat-trick, and Fabian is providing great width on the left regardless.

    I think what we really lack is the tempo-setting CM. Edu, Bradley, and Jones can all tackle and disrupt. Bradley and Jones can make some passes, but Jones is at his best disrupting and Bradley shows his quality through powerful runs into the opposing box and somehow getting back defensively, ahead of the counter. As you point out, a lack of width really exposes this.

    Most concerning for me is our CB situation. Boca is still serviceable, but his partner is yet to show up. Onyewu is not the same since the knee injury, Goodsen is not international quality on many levels, Cameron lacks quickness of thinking and therefore falls a step behind play, and Gonzalez may never be the same a la Onyewu. I’d like to see Edu get a real shot a CB.

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  31. Tom – in this round the USNT is the favorite in each match. Does that mean we’ll blow the other teams off the field…NO. But we should expect to advance in 1st out of the group.
    As for the issues (problem areas) you raised you have to take into account what JK is trying to do with these 5 games. He’s trying to simulate a tournament situation to better determine where the 23-27 players stack up physically and mentally over a compressed game schedule. Of the players currently in the 23…Beckerman, Wondo will shortly be on the outside looking in. Gooch, Dolo, Goodson, and even Boca & Donovan are likely in trouble of either being moved to the bench or cut if they don’t find their legs/passion.
    Young players are being integrated (slowly) into the team. Players like Lichaj, Ream, Shea, D. Williams, Morales, & Corona are all on the cusp. Others are almost there…Gyau, Gatt, & Adu. I expect all to be incorporated into the team by the time the Hex really picks up speed. There are others who belong, but are either recovering from injury (Holden, Gonzalez) or haven’t fully committed to the US cause (Chandler, Hines). If/when all the pieces are in place I think we’ll be a vastly different team than the lack-luster one that played the other night against Canada.

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  32. Not qualifying as 1st in the group for the hex would be an embarrassment. Not qualifying at all would be a failure and of course JK would be out, but it’s not going to happen.

    It’s a lucky thing we are in CONCACAF, actually…

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  33. I have no doubt of Jurgens’ ability as a coach, I just believe that his selection is flawed right now. He is falling in love (Like all coaches tend to do…Bradley and Clark/Bornstien) with players that do not belong on this level. In big games these players get exposed. My main issue is that this team will as currently constituted will struggle against the Concacaf philosophy. If you watched the Canada game you saw what they did. Squeeze the middle and leave open the flanks. Torres is not a winger. Landon has lost a step. We need Brek, Gatt, even god forbid Beasley to stretch the wings…or we risk playing centered, and playing direct to turnovers. The blue print is there, and Cananda has used it twice. U23’s and that last awful friendly.I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t like the choices.

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  34. A pertinent point about the last three friendlies that you are ignoring is the fact that we played these three games over the span of about a week. During this week, the team traveled thousands of miles, and participated in intense, two-a-day training sessions. The team was exhausted against Canada.

    They were unlucky against Brazil. The Brazilian keeper had the save of the game. When was the last time a USMNT faced a top-class opponent and Kasey or Timmy or Brad didn’t have the save of the game? The team is playing well.

    Jurgen seems to be enacting his preparation well. The previous games were all about preparing for the upcoming two. Brazil, Scotland, and Canada were practice effectively. Now, the team is fit and hopefully has a well-constructed plan. Antigua is basically a gimme. Guatemala in Guatemala is tricky as Central America always will be, but one early goal could open the flood gates. Jamaica has a pretty weak squad at the moment.

    None of these teams are in the same ballpark with the US as far as talent goes. I expect to win each game, but not without a struggle, particularly in Guatemala.

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