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USMNT Daily Update: The state of the MNT after qualifying for the Hexagonal

Photo by John Todd/ 


The dust has settled, the celebrations are over, and the angst surrounding the U.S. Men’s National Team’s tougher-than-expected qualification for the Hexagonal has subsided. After a run of lackluster performances, the Americans still finished on top of their group, saving their best performance for last.

Carlos Ruiz’s goal put a scare into U.S. fans everywhere, but it only served to delay the inevitable. The U.S. didn’t collapse, but instead responded with the kind of attacking soccer we have spent months waiting for since Jurgen Klinsmann embarked on his first World Cup qualifying campaign as head coach.

So was the qualifying campaign a success? That might seem like a silly question considering the Americans have booked their place in the Hexagonal, but Klinsmann wasn’t brought in as head coach just to push the team along through qualifying. He was hired to help the U.S. reach a new level. To help the team start making progress after what was widely considered a disappointing post-World Cup year from mid-2010 to mid-2011.

So has Klinsmann done that? Has he brought the national team to new heights? As much as his biggest proponents will try to suggest he has, Klinsmann hasn’t yet worked his magic. But as much as Klinsmann’s critics might want to think Klinsmann is disappointing, there is reason to believe the German coach is starting to figure things out and starting to steer the USMNT ship in a good direction.

What was easily forgotten about Klinsmann when he was named U.S. head coach more than a year ago was the fact that, from a pure coaching experience standpoint, Klinsmann was still very much a relative novice. He took over as German head coach after the team’s 2004 Euro campaign and didn’t have a World Cup qualifying campaign to worry about, and before that he had never been a head coach. After guiding Germany to an impressive third-place finish in the 2006 World Cup, he stepped down before eventually taking a turn as Bayern Munich head coach. That job lasted less than one full season before he was fired.

So Klinsmann came into the U.S. coaching job not only having to adapt to his new team, and helping tinker with the squad’s make-up, but he also had to do some more learning on the job as head coach. Early in the World Cup qualifying campaign you could hear Klinsmann talking about CONCACAF qualifying in a tone that seemed to suggested there wasn’t anything tougher about the process than qualifying elsewhere in the world, and while he never called it easy, you could definitely sense his tone change over the course of the group stage.

By the end, he fully realized what U.S. coaches have known for years, that the CONCACAF region has so many equalizing factors that can make a regional power struggle against inferior opponents that, in theory, should be much easier to dispose of.

Klinsmann adapted as the group stage went on, and his willingness to try new players, and change tactics specifically to deal with his competition and the unique difficulties being presented by opponents showed us someone who was learning and growing as a coach.

No, Klinsmann still hasn’t done the job he was hired to do, but the good thing is he is heading in that direction and he has time to get there. He has time in 2013 to not only sort out things like the team’s depth chart, and a more established style that the U.S. can begin to impose on opponents, but he also has the Hexagonal qualifying round to show off how much he learned through the 2012 qualifying group stage.

While Klinsmann is showing some signs of growth, the U.S. team itself is clearly undergoing a transformation. New faces are emerging, while some familiar faces are beginning to either fade from the picture or are looking ready to fade. There are still some weak spots from a depth standpoint, but there are also some encouraging developments with regard to budding areas of strength.

Here are some developments, both positive and negative, that we saw emerge during the past round of qualifying:

Johnson emerges as a standout left back

After years of struggling to find a viable and dependable left back option, a weakness that has cost the U.S. dearly in recent years, Fabian Johnson emerged as a true force at the position. He did miss the final two qualifiers due to illness, but Klinsmann has to be excited about the knowledge that he will have a top-class left back to throw out against a tough group of opponents in the HEX.

Centerback still an area of concern

Four years ago the U.S. had the luxury of knowing their first-choice central defense was the reliable tandem of Carlos Bocanegra and Oguchi Onyewu, a duo that helped lead the team to a pair of Gold Cup titles and a first-place finish in the Hexagonal prior to the 2010 World Cup. As we head toward the Hex this time around, there isn’t a sense that the position is all that stable.

Bocanegra is showing his age, Onyewu has fallen off the radar as he struggles for playing time with Malaga, Clarence Goodson continues to deal with being pushed around a bit too easily and Geoff Cameron isn’t spending much time playing central defense on the club level.

Come 2013, Klinsmann will need to find a physical, athletic and reliable tandem to deal with what will be a tough qualifying group for centerbacks. Every team remaining has forwards who can cause problems and Klinsmann will need to start integrating some younger options to help him bolster the depth. It is looking less and less likely that Bocanegra will be a viable option come 2014, and if Cameron doesn’t see any reps at centerback for Stoke then he too could be a shaky option (you already got that sense in the team’s past two qualifiers).

There are forwards in abundance

No, the U.S. forward stable isn’t going to make anyone think of Argentina or the Netherlands, but right now you can argue the U.S. has its strongest stable of forwards in recent memory. With Klinsmann using Dempsey as a forward quite a bit, Herculez Gomez continuing to be a solid option, and now Eddie Johnson emerging as a real threat, you have a pretty good trio to work with.

Throw in Jozy Altidore, who I still think will ultimately be a key starter in the Hexagonal, and Terrence Boyd, who is a good long-term prospect, and you have a group of forwards that should give Klinsmann plenty of options.

Zusi is the real deal

More than a year ago, when the U.S. was playing in the Gold Cup, Graham Zusi was simply a Sporting KC player just beginning to break through as a starter on his club team.    Now, he has emerged as the most exciting midfield newcomer in the U.S. pool, a player who provides a sorely-needed dash of skill as well as versatility.

Zusi’s work rate and technical ability make him a dream for Klinsmann’s attack, and he has also been a player who has helped the team deal with the constant absences of Landon Donovan.

Donovan’s role in a state of limbo

A handful of poorly-timed injuries and illnesses have caused Donovan to miss multiple matches, which has not only begun to raise questions about just what his role is on the team at this point, but has also allowed other players to step in and try and pick up the slack (Zusi to be specific).

Donovan’s comments earlier in the summer about not being sure how much longer he wants to play made us all realize that the days of taking him for granted as a national team fixture are numbered. As much as there are lingering questions about how much desire he still has left for the game, it’s still difficult to not see him stepping up and being a major part of the Hex. His U.S. teams are still expecting that, and Klinsmann is still going to need that.

Bradley and Williams look like the central tandem going forward

After toying with options ranging from Kyle Beckerman to Maurice Edu to Jermaine Jones as a central midfield partner for Michael Bradley, Klinsmann may have found the perfect one when he finally stopped playing Danny Williams on the right wing and put him in his natural defensive midfield role. The result has been outstanding.

With the exception of the win in Antigua, which you could chalk up to the deplorable playing conditions, Williams thrived in qualifying wins against Jamaica and Guatemala, and Tuesday’s win in Kansas City showed us how well he and Bradley could play together. Bradley needs the freedom to surge forward into the attack, and Williams is athletic and tireless enough to do the work in the area behind Bradley. As long as Williams keeps playing regularly for Hoffenheim, and staying sharp, it will be tough to see him losing his spot any time soon.


These are just some of the developments to come out of the semifinal round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, and while there are still questions to be answered about this U.S. team, there are also some good positives to build on. With a coach who appears to be growing into the job, and a player pool strengthened by the emergence of some new talents, the U.S. heads into 2013 with a positive sense that progress can be made and the team is ready to play better next year in qualifying than it played this year.


  1. Edu and Bocanegra. They looked more sharp when they were returning from Glasgow Rangers call up’s. I hope they really take off at Stoke and Santander. Second division Spain? Seems counter productive to Klinnsman wanting players to play in a high as possible league and work hard to become the incumbent at there position. Shouldn’t the same standard apply to the captain as Klestjan (for example)? Trying to guage the frequency.

  2. The state of the team?

    Good. Must continue to improve.

    Hope to integrate Donovan, Altidore and other CBs into the equation. I like Zusi but LD is a world class player. Herc is great but Jozy represents the top shelf youth from this country. Our CBs need help, I think we all realize this.

  3. I’m much more bullish on our prospects than this time a year ago, and I embrace the strategy JK has brought to this team. He has taken calculated risks, and they have been measurably successful. I think we were actually somewhat fortunate that Donovan, Holden and other missed games due to injuries, and Chandler played musical chairs. It enabled us to bring in and realize new talent, and have them prove themselves under game conditions. This was a positive discovery process, and strengthened our overall talent pool.

    Regarding, CB, we simply have a core group of players that are nearing the end of their prime playing years at the same time, and lots of teams go through this process. Fortunately, it does look like we do have some options going forward, both in MLS and other leagues. I recall Conrad and DeMerit both delivering strong performances in the WC who were not really on the radar screen pre-Hex. I trust JK has this as an action item before we start the Hex, and we’ll see some movement before the start of the Hex. But, I wouldn’t be shocked if Edu isn’t a plan B. We are fortunate to have a player who can in a pinch fill in at CB as well as DM. And since we currently do have a lot of options at DM, why not position Edu at CB on a tryout basis, if the situation presents itself? Given the uncertainty, he may be one of our most valuable assets for the Hex and in 2014.

    The other major issue on the back line is Cherundolo, our most underappreciated player that I can recall in a very long time – the consummate professional. I feel he’ll get through 2014 (and retire from the US team), provided he stays healthy. JK has to be aware of this, and look at his option to backfill from the current pool. I sense a player from the pool who can help us at CB, but also backfill with experience on the wings will prove to be very valuable.

    Word is JK wants to change the strategy for the January camps – great idea. Instead of rewarding MLS players on the fringes of the national team with a somewhat meaningless friendly, he is suggesting a camp focused on the U-23s. Perhaps that concept will be the basis for the camp, and he can then pull in a few other players outside of this pool that he feels can potentially make a difference in the next round. That to me is a better strategy than what we have done in the past, and help us fill in potential gaps for 2014.

    • That is a good idea, about the new Camp Cupcake strategy. do you have link to a news item on that? Otherwise, where is this “word” of the change coming from?

      • I got more clarification from the yanks-abroad web site, based on message from Alexi Lalas. Shorter camp, less players focused on those who can potentially help in the Hex.
        You know, I’m OK with that strategy. Weed out players before camp starts. Good move in my eyes..

  4. I think coming into 2013, our best 23-man roster would be this:

    GK: Howard, Guzan, Rimando
    DF: Johnson, Castillo, Bocanegra, Gonzalez, Besler, Cameron, Cherundolo, Parkhurst
    MF: Bradley, Diskerud, Williams, Edu, Zusi, Pontius
    F: Dempsey, Donovan, Gomez, Altidore, Johnson, Boyd

    *I believe Beckerman (too slow) and Jones (not a smart player) will finally be dropped for Williams and Edu, due to age and always time to improve. By now Besler and Gonzalez will kick Goodson (weak and plays akwardly) out and take the two CB spots. I really would like to think Diskerud will finally break into the team, if not Kljestan would be fine too. If Donovan is injured or refuses to play due to retirement, then i would call-up Gatt or Corona.

    Starting XI (4-2-3-1):


    (I personally think this would be awesome!)

  5. Germany’s team was in a huge state of transition after Euro 2004. Klinsman brought in young players and had them playing a very high tempo game which was very effective.

    As far as Adu, Klinsman values 2 way players and until Adu can contribute defensively in a high pressure defense he will not get any time with the national team.

  6. Good article, my thoughts exactly for the most part. The roster is far from set, there will be players coming and going for quite awhile. JK is fine, I have a lot of faith that he will distill the overall player pool to a very solid final 11. I’m not worried about LD, he has a lot of game left and will rise to the occasion for important games. I’ve maintained for some time that our WC back line would need to be 3/4 German-American to be truly competitive against WC attackers…mainly players that can defend well, make a pass under pressure, and provide recovery speed. Still a work in progress, but I’d like to see something like this…At the WC level i like MB as a 6 instead of an 8, he’s come a long way in the attacking third, but I still think we need more from that position. LD could be left or right mid. Long ways to go with many roster surprises ahead.


    • This was my favorite comment of the lot. We need to be thinking about what will give us a good chance to be sucessful at the World Cup Level. Around 2010, I was a Michael Bradley hater. Since than, I have been humbled and astonished at his development. There is no doubt in my mind he is one of our 3 best players for the 2014 cycle (Though the order of my top 3 may curious to many)

      As much as MB has improved as a playmaker and technical footballer, I believe we will get the most out of our team with him at the 6. This is to say I think we need him there to suceed against World Cup Competition. I would say he definitely one of our most solid technical players, but I think he is has better defensive abillities than any midfielder in our pool. Why not play a #6 that can no more than destroy? If we are really trying to max out are potential and be a threat at the world cup, (And Shouldn’t that be the Goal?) I think we would be well suited to hope Holden returns to his form before the injuries, play him in the midfield w/ Bradley, and than turn to one of ADU/FEILHABER/DISKERUD/KLJESTAN/BEDOYA to play in front of them. We only need 1 of these type of players to break out for this to work. But in order for us to really become a well rounded team, I think we need something like that. It could be someone else not mentioned as well of course.

      Gatt brings me great optimism, as well as some of the other young players in the pool. The only thing I don’t agree w/ is that Zusi should be pencilled in as a key player… sure he was impressive in the last few games, but considering the competition, I think many players, including the ones listed above, could have come out of these games with the same shine that many people are garnering on to Zusi. Of course i’m excited about his potential though.

      I think right now these 9 players are our best bet at having sucess in Brazil:
      (Donovan, Dempsey, Bradley, Johnson, Howard/Guzan, Altidore, Holden, Cherlundelo, Cameron (Though I’m not sure at CB)

      Young CBS must be found, as well as a consistent playmaker to play in front of Bradley. Go Nats

    • Johannssen? Gatt? Diskerud? Corona? Wooten? Kiesewetter? Gyau? Brooks? Pelosi?

      It’s it’s the recently discovered Icelandic-American, most likely already someone with the YNT or even on the fringes of the MNT (like Corona)…

  7. How is guiding Germany to a 3rd place finish in a home World Cup is an “impressive” achievement?? 3rd place for Germany, especially playing at home, the least one should expect. Moreover, it was a step down compared to the previous World Cup, where Germany finished 2nd. And then, of course, Germany were 3rd again in WC-10. So, this century, playing far away from home, Germany has done at least as well as they did playing at home.

    So, I repeat my question: what’s so impressive about the 3rd place in WC-06?

    • Coming off a GROUP Stage elimination in the Euro 2004, it was impressive for the Germans. I had friends who were surprised that they attacked so well and how far they went. I get what you mean that they do do well in Tournaments but their coach was sacked for their elimination.

    • You seem to miss the obvious…Germany rebuilt their system from the ground up (like what mexico is doing now) and will be a powerhouse for years to come. You sound like you just started following the sport and forget that there are so many teams it takes 4 years to cut it down to the ones that make the cup. For many countries, simply qualifying is a huge thing. It’s as foolish as asking why the US with 300mil people can’t field a world class 11 or have multiple WC titles by now? While countries smaller than Rhode Island outclass them at times. The Women’s team has far more silverware, talent, depth, class and future outlook…enough with the arrogant BS and learn from it…

  8. I feel some players have a starting role secured as we move into 2013, but I’m concerned it’s not a promising ratio. Howard is GK, Fabian is LB, Dolo is RB, Bradley is CM, Dempsey is somewhere in the attack…

    How ready and willing is Donovan? Can EJ, Hercules, Zusi, and Williams maintain consistent form against better teams? Will this Jozy-Klinsman thing drag on and delay mutual progress? Can we find a highly effective CB duo and give them enough time to build rapport? Will Corona or Shea step-up on the left to combine with Fabian?

    Despite some concerns, I think we slowly, via trial and error, are headed in the right direction, and should qualify without too much gnashing of teeth…eh

  9. Besides CB, I worry a lot about losing Dolo. I re-watched the USA /Guatemala game and I am very impressed with him. Almost never makes a bad decision or pass.

  10. Whether by happenstance, or player selection, or players’ natural development (and decline), the US has done a 180 with respect to strikers and center backs. We used to bemoan the shortage of strikers, but felt comfortable with our stable of centerbacks (Bocanegra, Onyewu, Goodson, Ream, et al.). Now it’s the opposite.

  11. I see the USA Starting XI becoming for 2014 World Cup (if everyone stays healthy and continues to grow):


    *I think Gonzo will get his chance this year with the CBs faililng and he will impress right off the bat. Not sure about Zusi outwide though with Donovan playing

    • Gomez? I think he’s clearly on the way down. He’s had his 15 minutes of fame scoring like crazy in Mexico for a while, but he hasn’t played much for Santos lately, and at 30, I wouldn’t expect much from him. I’ll be surprised if he is still with the national team this time next year.

      • Gomez’s movement off the ball is what creates the chances for Deuce, EJ, Bradley, Zusi…those openings are not there without his runs…which is why he will continue to be the starter until Jozy matures. Try re-watching the US v Guat game, but focus off the ball…for the 1st 45 min the movement of our attackers was brilliant, which created chances..the 2nd 45min was more keep-away, but still good

    • If it were me planning out a BEST case scenario for the US in the 2014 WC it would be something like the following (23 players)
      Subs: Strikers – Boyd, TBD, Midfield – Gatt, Shea, Zusi, Morales, Defense – Lichaj, Castillo, Gozalez, Gomez, Keepers – Guzan, Johnson/Hamid
      Gives great flexability attacking while still being strong in defense. Good blend of youth and experience.

  12. Pretty good article- I like the comment “its not the X’s & O’s, Its the Jims & Joes”.. So true
    1. I believe Zusi is the real deal and not a Shea/Aguadelo flash in the pan.. You can tell from watching the touch on the ball… HUGE difference
    2. Lando should make a permanent transfer to Everton- I have not been a fan of his the last few years, but he looked so good this past loan. I think the EPL will challenge & reawaken him..if ever
    3. Hope Hope Hope for Stu to get healthy
    4. Get Freddy to drop 15 pounds, get consistent playing time, and grow up- Get a Sports Psychologist. We frankly dont have enought players who have touch over the ball to take on and beat opponents 1 on 1 when needed.

    • 1. agreed

      2. Shut up about Landon, we love him in LA 😛

      3. Definitely agree, if Stu can get his old form he would be HUGE for us

      4. Freddy Adu needs another shot, he impressed at Gold Cup

      5. The answer is Gonzalez at CB, i just dont understand why he hasn’t been given his chance!

      • Re: Gonzo’s lost chance…. perhaps sitting out a good part of the year w/ a knee injury may have everything to do with it, yeah?

      • Adu’s role in the Gold cup was exacty what was needed of him…make him grow up and become a leader, take pride and pull the team together. When he finally gets that and does it consistently, he will be great…looking forward to the day Adu, Shea, Aguedelo, Jozy get there

    • LOL at dismissing Shea and Agudelo as flashes in the pan. I mean, really, how absurd. Probably one of the same people who labeled Jozy a bust 2-3 years ago.
      Shea is 22. Agudelo is 19 or 20.

  13. I’d add to the concerns some depth on the left wing. Given that EJ had to cover that spot (and did well there), I’d put this fairly high up on my list of things to do. EJ himself admitted that he wasn’t in shape to play there 90 minutes, and the jury is still very much out on Brek Shea. I haven’t heard his name mentioned, but didn’t Lee Nguyen play on the left this season? He looked really good in the three or four Revs games that I actually sat through. And I still think there’s gonna be a need for Freddy Adu at some point, also possibly on the left. And I’d still rather have Herc for qualifying than Jozy (or anyone else besides Clint). No other forward in the pool works as hard as him, and he’s a decent poacher too.

    I’m cautiously optimistic–we just need some consistent health so that chemistry improves.

    • +1
      Cairo…you are my hero!!!! 3 dynamic players not on the radar…yet
      Lee Nguyen
      Freddy Adu
      Sal Zizzo
      …these players are the only reason I watch MLS highlights

  14. Very nice article! A few thoughts: We should never take Landon Donovan for granted–still the best player in US history. Zusi is a pleasant surprise, but we are at our best and most dangerous when Donovan, Dempsey and Bradley are on the field together. Eddie Johnson has been an absolute shocker. He’s a huge attacking addition on the LW. I’ve given up on Torres, but I think Shea will still help us. I’ve never been sold on Klejstan, but I’m excited about what I’ve seen of Corona–great ball skills and ice in his veins around the net. Will we everr see Josh Gatt? Danny Williams is the man and, yes, central defense is scary right now.

    • Unless he starts working very, very hard all the time 24/7/365 and maybe gets out of Dallas it might not be pretty. I hope he gets it together because the raw talent is there.

  15. We need to wake up about our defense. The USMNT defensive situation is far worse than simply a matter of who’s playing center back or finding the right combo of players. How many more inexcusable goals will it take to convince folks to admit that there’s a serious issue here? Klinsmann has received somewhat of a honeymoon period. Obviously, there was a lot of excitement around his hiring and the team’s achievements in friendlies against Italy and Mexico. At the time, it felt like a concrete example of how this team has entered a new era. Now I’m not so sure.

    I don’t care what the conditions are, the USMNT should never get scored on by Antigua and Barbuda in the fashion they did. And you definitely don’t almost tie them. Ever. Some teams find ways to lose. That’s exactly what we did against Jamaica. And that goal from Carlos Ruiz not only exposed the shortcomings in our defense but brought back painful memories from when we used to consistently get scored on early.

    I fear this team simply is not as good as the coaches, players and many fans feel that it should be. The fact that we even had to discuss the possibility of not qualifying for Brazil is disgraceful and unacceptable at this point. We hear a lot about the need to bolster our attack, and rightly so. But consistently letting in soft goals because of mental breakdowns is far worse and should set off alarm bells.

    • +1
      Thank you Ed I…..thank goodness I’m not the only one thinking about A&B, a third-tier team in the USL, scoring convincingly on the US; Jamaica scoring on not 1 but 2 set pieces and also the way Carlo Ruiz beat our defense so easily on a through pass. If we need to get a defensive coach/coordinator then thats what we need to do….we have a lot of promising and upcoming defenders in MLS (Btw ages 24-26), a league which has more than contributed to the USMNT this year.
      we have Morrow, Beitashour, Besler, Seth Sinovic, DeLaGarza, Omar Gonzalez, George John…..what is klinsman waiting for??? How many times are we going to be exposed in the back….or play catch up to teams because they score on us first?

      • Great points, Biz. For me, it’s both the fact that we got scored on by those teams and the WAY we got scored on. It indicates larger issues.

      • This not the NFL. This is soccer not American football.

        24-26 is not young in socccer terms. It is middle aged.

        Defense start with your forwards.

      • This IS US Soccer….for us most of OUR top players start blooming at this age. We are not brazil or Spain…and don”t have a strong and structured base or academies for our young players. As much as you would like to think that 24-26 is middled age for us, its not. AT this age most US players still have alot to learn…. as a matter of fact the average age of the USMNT is currently at it’s highest!!! Defense starts with your forward? Who do you think we are, Barcelona??

      • If you don’t think defense starts with forwards then why do you think Gomez starts?
        By the way, the offense starts the moment a defender gets the ball.

        This has been true since before Messi was born. Get on You tube and watch Holland circa 1974

        If you want to accept that 24-26 is young for pro soccer players then you will have to accept the inherent disadvantageous state that puts the US program in.

      • Evidently you need to get on youtube and watch the klinsmann interview….he tried the “defense-midfield and forwards” attacking and defending as one unit…and referenced the likes barcelona, Messi and Iniesta, it didn’t work. Fitness was major problem, especially with Altidore, and our forwards kept running out of stream. Gomez is up forward because of his goal scoring abilities and the skill to make something out of nothing, not his defensive attributes (which just happens to come with the package).
        And I hear you GW about the age.. and defensive coordinator…and this is not the but what you need to realize is we are way behind the power curve in developing our young players. We dont have a good soccer program/academy to rival those of Spain, Germany, Italy, Brazil etc….we don’t have relegation in MLS, we have play offs….Our league 1 (USL)…league 2…league 3 are not linked. We are totally different from the international stage and yes I accept the inherent disadvantageous state that this puts the US program in but still I believe we need to make due with what we have.

  16. Adu. I would like to see Adu play consistent at a high level. I would like for the coaches at Philadelphia to stop being so naive and get the most out of Adu. I think Adu has a set of skills nobody on the USMNT has right now. Adu has a skillset most in Concacaf do not have. This can be a weapon. Gonzalez. Look at how much Gonzalez meant to LA’s Defense when he came back to the team this year. The Galaxy climbed up the standing towards the end of the season. I think Gonzalez could be a potential replacement for Goodson.

    • As soon as JK was hired I thought for sure Adu would become a key player on this team. The attacking style JK aspires for the US requires the offensive skill set Adu has.

      • Two different players.

        EJ has always had the size, strength, speed and power. And over the years EJ has steadily improved his skill set to the point where the EJ you see today is completely different from the EJ I remember from just a few years ago.

        Adu is far more limited and his fitness and commitment always seems to be questionable.

      • We are not talking in terms of talent and skill or comparing the two, you are way off…’s in terms of Eddi reaching rock bottom in his soccer career and making it back to the National team…..maybe Adu can learn something from this ( who do you think helped give Eddie words of encouragement to start training with him again when all seemed lost…….)

      • That sounds good until you remember that it was Adudinho who did the “come back to MLS to revive career damaged by Europe” bit FIRST, before EJ did.

        It loses a little something if Freddy has to move yet again.

    • Adu is brilliant..but needs to train more & party less in Philly…also it’s teamwork, if you are an arrogant young sh*t, the other starters still wont care about your talent…this is a team that actually is starting to pull together and believe…think of Bellichick’s mentality with the Patriots..taking average players with heart and team mentality over one prima donna superstar will take you to the championship and not be a cancer in the locker room

  17. i wouldnt call Zusi the real deal just yet. Plenty of players have had good runs and then faded (Shea being the most recent). it’s still a wait and see for me.

    • I agree. Does no one find it a sign of the state of the American soccer system that a “real deal” shows up at 26 after 1.5 above average years in a domestic league that is mid tier at best?
      With all respect to him, I wouldn’t call that a win. I look forward to the day our players follow a more traditional soccer path, where these future “real deals” are identified in their early 20s, either after or right before a move to a big league or team.

      • What you laid out may be a traditional path for superstar players which we hear the most about. But I’d guess the vast majority of international players are not excelling, or even consistently starting, with the senior national team before their mid 20’s. Zusi was brought in after he proved he could consistently play at a high level in MLS. What more could you ask for? Whether that happens when he’s 26 or 22 is up to the player, not the American soccer system.

      • Superstars?

        A quick look at teams from CONMEBOL and CONCACAF highlights what James is talking about.

        Colombia, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina and Brazil all have a number of players between the ages of 21 and 25 that are established players in Europe, some are superstars others are not.

        Colombia has Zuniga, Cuadrado, James Rodriguez, Armero and Guarin.

        Argentina has Higuain, Aquero, Gago, Messi, and Di Maria.

        Chile’s entire midfield and forward line are all under 25.

        Mexico has Moreno, Gio, Chicharito, Fabian, Enriquez, Herrera, Reyes, Mier, Guardado, Elias Hernandez and Aquino.

        It’s amazing how journalists and fans keep talking about Cameron and Zusi as if they were 20 year olds. These two guys will be good for one cycle and then they will be in decline.

        We need a good balance between youth and experience and so far we have a decent core with Gonzales, Besler, Danny Williams, Fabian johnson, Lichaj, Bradley, Shea, Boyd and Altidore……..the problem being only a handful of these guys have been tested at the highest levels and the national team cannot be used to give them the kind of experience they should be getting at the club level.

      • I think we’re sort of arguing the same point with a slight difference in semantics here. Not every player you named is a superstar, agreed. But the players you listed probably fall under the “good to very good” category and therefore playing and excelling at the national team level before their mid 20’s is what I would consider an un-traditional path. Again, my point is that bemoaning the state of American soccer because a player blooms later in his career is misplaced and wasted frustration.

        And don’t forget to add Corona to your list of young and upcoming players. 🙂

      • You watch to many BPL, the fact is mexico has less top young players in Europe, then we do. Most of their players are now coming from Liga MX. So what Zusi is 26, does it matter. Also MLS is a good league, and their are very good players in MLS.

      • The guy signed his 1st contract as a professional in 2009. He’s a full-fledged international in 2012. You look at it as 26 being “too old”, but I look at it as “MLS turned a college kid into an international in 3 years”. As a comparison, Dempsey started with the Revs as a 21 year old, moved to Fulham at 25, and is the focal point of the national team at 29. The only difference is Zusi was 23 when he started in MLS, Dempsey was 21. There is no reason Zusi couldn’t follow the same path. As an example of a player who followed the path you seem enamored with, look at Michael Owen. Signed with Liverpool at 17, broke into the national team at 18, won the Premier League golden boot at 19, was a key part of the national team for the better part of a decade, and was finished with them at 28. These are just examples so you can say these things would’ve happened regardless of the trajectories of their careers, but there is no reason to insist that all players must be prolific at a young age. We can definitely improve at accelerating the extremely talented players in our country, but that doesn’t mean there is no place for late bloomers.

      • There is nothing wrong with late bloomers

        The problem for the US is that the teams it is chasing, Brazil, Spain, Holland, etc. all have lots of young players who already have a fair amount of experience at the highest level, the Champions League.

        Guys like Cameron and Zusi are arguably as talented but , at the international level, they are seriously deficient in experience. These very promising young MLS players being mentioned for inclusion, all have the same issue; they lack that edge that only experience at the highest levels can give you and they don’t have a lot of time to get it before 2014.

        And that experience matters.

    • Agreed, although that depends on what your definition of the “real deal” is. It is great to see him doing well but I’ll be more impressed when the level of competition goes up.

    • I agree, Zusi has a good skill set, but you can’t call him the Real Deal until he has sustained success against higher level competition. If he can get some things done against top 20 teams, he’s truly arrived. I’m optimistic, due to the fact that, like LD, he has vision and moves the ball quickly where it needs to go. I’d like to see JK try him in the middle though with MB behind him.

      • Zusi has been a wonderful find and should be a fixture with the US for a few years.

        But US fans seem far too eager to turn the page on Donovan. Zusi has had a good run of games in important circumstance and has come through. However the opposition was second rate so Zusi still has something to prove. As good as he is he is still not the soccer player that Donovan is. .

  18. Nice write up Ives. sums up how I’ve been feeling about klinsman. I was one of the few guys who was sad to see pappa bradley go, and had not been so impressed with klinsman. But he has seemingly grown with the job — dropping the absurd rhetoric (i.e., the team will reflect that we are a nation of immigrants, etc.) and become more nuts and bolts. He’s experimented, tweaked, dumped failed experiments like Beckerman, and seamingly gotten us towards a personnel group that has the potential to work. Zusi in midfield, fabian johnson at left back, danny williams at dm, and eddie johnson at forward: all successfull moves that Klinsman deserves kudos for. Not totally convinced, but want to see more from Klinsi.

    • +1 well said.

      When Bradley first got the job I was not a fan, but he did a wonderful job.

      Was a fan of JK hiring but have grown weary. But I will still give him up to WC.

    • Really didn’t like the smiley face and happy talk I heard coming out of Klinsmann at first, then I became much more suspicious of him when he brought in the motivational speaker who showed the team you can tear phonebooks with your bare hands. Totally agree that he’s better when dealing with nuts and bolts and generally facing reality.

  19. I think we will learn a lot about Klinsmann this year. How he identifies and develops new talent, how he balances a heavy schedule, who he calls in for the Gold Cup etc. We have a decent team, but need some young talent and more depth to be able to compete in 2014, assuming the world still exists.

    I thought Bradley was doing a decent job of working in the younger crowd, Agudelo, Adu, Shea, Lichaj and some of the other younger guys we will need, very soon. I’m hoping he will keep to his word and start incorporating some exciting young players into the matches. Seems like he has been playing it pretty safe, rightfully so.

  20. Bruce Arena, the best American coach, said, “It’s not the X’s and the O’s, it’s the Jims and the Joes.” It’s all about personnel, and this is why Klinsi is so good for the USA right now. How many of the German dual-national players would we have right now if Klinsmann weren’t the coach?

    • In all fairness Bradley called most of these guys up or were in talks with them before he was let go. But with the other german-american players not yet called up, JK will definitly help.

    • are you serious? did you start following the team last year?

      Bradley’s brought in a massive amount fo players over the years and give a shot to almost every porspcet… he was the one who brought in Jermaine Jones and Timmy Chandler first, also Yelldell… furthermore, Torres and Castillo was first given a shot by Bradley and Corona would havebeen called up a year ago for the Mexico friendly had BB not gotten canned….

      • Yes, but you gotta give Fabian Johnson, Danny Williams and T. Boyd to JK’s recruiting. Those guys have, arguably, had much more of an impact on the team than the ones you named.

      • Johnson and Williams had already been identified and had begun the process. I’ll give you Boyd with the caveat that he had yet to play a minute of first team soccer when Bradley was canned.

      • Nope Dan. Fabian Johnson had already filed his switch and D Williams was in the hopper as well.
        Boyd is the find if you want to say that, but I’d bet a dollar to a donut that he was also identified.
        Now, MAYBE you can say that Klinsmann has an appeal to the German American that BB did not have. But, that they were not already in the hopper is flat out incorrect.

      • What I meant was that he actually got them to play for the team and (eventually) capped, which is an accomplishment with some of these guys. I think with Chandler it’s only a matter of time.

      • I don’t really see the logic in your comments, Dan in New York. As someone who does not defend Bob Bradley very often, I will say that he deserves credit for getting the ball rolling on the Germericans. No doubt the Klinsmann is a legend in Germany and catches the attention of the younger players, but he also is a lightening rod for criticism who is not liked by some big names in German fussball. And if Klinsmann had done as well as you are tying to make it appear, then Timothy Chandler would not have balked but would by now already have been cap-tied.

      • LOL all these guys were already identified. Klinsmann deserves NO credit. Hell Bradley deserves only part of the credit. 99.99% of them would be called up no matter who was coach. People need to realize that US soccer isn’t the USMNT head coach. There are people out there scouring youth ranks for these guys. Thomas Rongen did a good job of that, even though he was pretty bad as U-20 coach. More of these guys will eventually come up, Wooten, Brooks, Hurzeler, etc. and it won’t be because Klinsmann discovered them. If you’re going to thank anyone, thank the US military for having a base in Germany and producing these half American half German kids. Of course we’re going to win most of them, the German team is extremely difficult to break into. Just ask Fabian Johnson and Timmy Chandler. We’ll even get Shaun Parker if he doesn’t get called to the senior German team.

  21. I kinda am looking at this line-up going into the first game of the Hex.


    Rest of the roster:

    GK: Guzan, Rimando
    Defense: Chandler, Castillo, Boca, Gonzo
    CM’s: Jones, Holden
    AM’s/Wingers: Zusi, Shea, Gatt, Corona
    FWDS: Gomez, Boyd

    Note 1: I think Chandler will be in come Hex
    Note2: Jozy steps it up and retakes the starting job
    Note 3: By the Hex I think Holden will be back.

    • What makes you think Chandler is coming in? &
      Switch out Jozy for Herc and Boca for Cameron and you’ve got your lineup

    • Damn 2tone….this team is money……Eddie on the wing…..calling in Besler…..Jozy up top (combining with deuce and Altidore!!!!)…, I like it

    • Jurgen should use the roster for Russia and the Jan camp to uncover as many untested players as possible for the Gold cup squad (40-50%) He’s said before, we’ll need 3-4 at each position to make this run – and recent injuries scream for it. Let Lihaj, Gatt, Shea, Adu, Jozy etc get a shot while we find some real long term solutions for the back line. Let Chandler wait for Jan camp and Gold Cup until he learns he’s now 2-3rd in line(as opposed to 5-6th in Ger)and has to earn his spot.

  22. Commenters on here seem to forget the young CB options we have working their way up in MLS. Besler, Gonzales, Hedges, etc. Edu was a one game experiment. He’s not a viable, long-term answer at CB at this point. It seems to me that MLS CB’s might have an edge in that they’re familiar with a lot of CONCACAF forwards (or at the very least the tricky, cunning, latin style) who are already playing in MLS. Am I alone in thinking that could prove useful when we face them on an international level?

    • I disagree. Edu is a very viable alternative. He obviously needs reps, but he has a lot of qualities needed for the position. He is fast, strong, closes down and contains the ball extremely well, as well as being good in the air. For a mf his touch and passing is bad, but for a cb, it would be just fine. just my opinion

      • If the pairing of Bradley and Williams continues to grow, and with luck we get Holden Back to the level he was pre injury, that could potentially free up Jones as a Center Back option as well. Between Cameron, Edu, Jones, Hines, and the MLS Contingent (Gonzalez, John, Besler, etc…) I think there are some very interesting options.
        I’m guessing that between the January Camp and the 1st Hex qualifiers that maybe JK will have a chance to test out some options.

      • Forget about the idea of Jones as a CB. Last thing we need in the defense is a guy that gets as many yellow cards as he does.

      • Jones would make an excellent centerback. He reads the game well due to his extensive experience.

        He would be an excellent direct replacement for Boca should Los falter.

    • OPMG, I tend to agree that Edu won’t be the answer at CB. He’s got qualities that make him really, really attractive in the positoin–athleticism, sufficient speed, fierce tackling, and decent distribution ability among them. But I think his worst quality as a DCM has been rash tackling and giving up fouls in dangerous positions. Imagine how costly that could be if those things were happening even closer to the US goal.

  23. Additional lessons learned:
    Jose Torres, Brek Shea, and Altidore all need to improve. They’ve each had numerous chances and we are starting to see other players move past them in the depth chart. I think Shea & Torres could both use a change of scenery. I’m confident Jozy will get there in the next few months.

    Steve Cherundolo is a beast. I already knew this, but I’m dreading the day he retires. He has basically locked down that spot for a decade now and I’m really hoping he can continue through Brazil.

    The US can survive without Donovan. I’m hoping he regains that fire in his belly and avoids any more injuries, but worst case scenario we can survive without him. I would have doubted that just 12 months ago.

  24. Let’s say Jozy comes good on his potential and returns to the team with a bit more fire. Could he and Johnson be paired at forward with Dempsey behind them in an attacking formation, say a 4-1-3-2? That could be downright terrifying for some Concacaf opponents, especially the ones with smaller players.

  25. A win or tie in Russia gives us the highest winning percentage on the year in modern USMNT history per US Soccer.

    “No, Klinsmann still hasn’t done the job he was hired to do, but the good thing is he is heading in that direction and he has time to get there.”

    Why even write this? He still hasn’t done something he cannot have done by now? He has time to get there? You mean when we actually play the HEX games for qualifying? You think Klinsmann should have us qualified before qualification happens?

    This entire sentence just reeks of anti-Klinsmann sentiment.

    • Liga, he wasn’t just hired to win and to qualify for the World Cup. Bob Bradley could still have gotten us through qualifying.

      We were supposed to start winning with stylish, attacking soccer.

      That hasn’t happened yet. Maybe, it will. Maybe, it won’t.

      But for now, Ives’ statement is fair.

      • I think anyone expecting a drastic change within a year or two is being unrealistic. As a US fan you should want to see slight improvements here and there because changes styles takes TIME.

      • Couldn’t agree more.

        Making a drastic change in the way you approach the game takes nuts, because it demands patience and the willingness to deal with failure, unfamiliarity… becoming a beginner again in some ways. Soccer played right/at the highest level… requires freedom… intuitively knowing where you need to be and where your teammate will be at all times…. this kind of change makes that impossible for a period of adjustment. You have to be willing to go through the process knowing you will at first look and play worse, then face progress with inconsistency, make mistakes before you can expect to be even and only then then take great strides. There IS a cost for that kind of leap, which is why no one has been willing to do it before. Coaching is about what have you done for me lately and it is difficult to find a manager and director w/ the nuts to weather that storm. Hang on… be patient folks… if we ever want to progress as a footballing nation, at some point we have to make this sacrifice.

        Klinsman’s goals of a change in style and revamping our system top to bottom coming in were and are pretty damn bold and borderline arrogant. But…. excellence requires one to be bold and yes… borderline arrogant. As a great coach of mine preached, be brave enough to attempt the very difficult without being paralyzed by the fear of failure. Thinking that we would or could be anywhere close to there after a year is nothing short of absurd.

      • Whoop whoop, I don’t know that I agree with everything you say (e.g., about arrogance), but I thoroughly agree with your general point. Good stuff.

      • Very happy to see so many of you share this perspective. I personally have great enthusiasm and optimism for the future of soccer in the US.

      • How much time is TIME?
        Coaches don’t get hired for generations…they get contracts for 4 years for a reason. We’re 25% through the ‘time’.
        Coach K deserves all the credit in the world for playing EJ on the wing, gave the team some speed and creativity down the flanks.
        He also deserves criticism for having trotted out too many 4 DM lineups, and not calling in 3 of his ‘key’ players for WCQ (EJ, Gordo, Sacha) until…WCQ.
        Nothing wrong with it if he’s learned and admitted he’s been wrong up till now, but if he trot’s out the triple bucket in WCQ I won’t be saying the same thing.
        Sol…how much time is TIME?

      • Pancho… I’m not trying to be a smartass as I can definitely empathize with the sentiment… really, I do… but your response does bring to mind a kid sitting in the backseat of the car asking,”when are we going to get there!” every 5 minutes.I’d have to say EJ, Gordo and Sasha weren’t called in as a long term solution and were merely key in fitting an immediate need for a special circumstance due to injury, opponent and situation. As is sometimes the case, as a result of maximizing his opportunity, EJ may well have earned himself a longer look w/ a good shot at being a more permanent, significant piece to the puzzle. I doubt we’ll see much of Gordo other than a slight chance at being a deep bench situational sub. Sasha did well enough to be at the top 20-25 players on the roster.

      • Yes to say EJ, Gordon, and Sacha are his key players is a bit much (regardless if the statement was meant to be sarcastic or not). Totally agree with whoop-whoop, that EJ has won himself another look. As for Gordon and Sacha, I don’t believe they figure in too much in Klinnsman’s plans. If not for injuries, we probably wouldn’t have even seen them. Also, I would like throw a different view out on the “triple bucket.” The”triple bucket” actually made more sense than Klinnsman gets credit for. In the new style football, players are depended on to play all over the pitch, with less defined roles and more freedom. Klinnsman’s use of the”triple bucket” was just JK putting his most experienced and proven MF’s on the field, they just all happen to be considered “defensive midfielders.” All good coaches find ways to get their best players on the field. Everytime I hear this complaint is sounds as if the belief is that better players are being left on the sidelines. And I know arguments can be made for almost anyone, but, with few exceptions, we don’t have players that are that much better than others, so naturally the coach will look towards experience, which is what he did. And I know, people have bashed the decision to play Beckerman, but it was a justified decision that just didn’t work out, which is why Beckerman stayed on the sidelines the last few games. I can hear the boos already, but Beckerman’s inclusion was probably due to the fact that he is the heart of RSL, who is annually one of the best teams in the MLS. Big deal? He makes a living in a professional league in the CONCACAF region and plays with and against players from the CONCACAF region everyday. All that factors into a legitimate decision to play Beckerman in CONCACAF WC qualifying. I am not a Beckerman fan, and he did not perform well, but JK was absolutely justified in including him.

      • Not realistic… Jurgen’s trying to change the culture of soccer and style of play…never going to happen in 1-2 years..BUT.. the MNT has been able to string together a solid 45-60min of it during games…this AND he’s finding players to build depth. Seriously people! We’ve gone from an over athletic/unskilled longball team to a more polished passing/ball control one. Actually learn some tactics before opening your mouths

    • Also, I can maybe see a couple things that Ives wrote that MAY seem anti-Klinsmann to a biased reader. That sentence really doesn’t come close to being critical. At all.

      • Yeah, Liga missed that one.

        I do have a question though. Why is it that you mention Kiinsi’s and some of his recuit’s nation of origin so often? I don’t thik I ever saw you write that about Adu. He wasn’t born in the States either. Every time I see “German-American” or whatever, I end up wondering why you do that.

      • because bringing in all these german-americans has very clearly been klinsman’s doing, unlike adu, who never needed convincing to play in the US

  26. Maybe I’m just a pessimistic individual, but Centerback really concerns me more than the other things excite me. Bocanegra has, to me, looked terrible and almost a liability. I’m hoping January camp somehow presents a solution to this problem. Gonzalez or someone needs to come up big and elbow their way into the team because I’m not sure Bocanegra makes it to Brazil as a starter. I think a spot is there to be won.

    • Couldn’t agree more. Offensively, I’m optimistic going forward. Defensively (particularly at CB), I’m more than scared.

      Sadly (without knowing whether a younger option will be available), I think a proactive push to get Edu acclimated to the position is needed. Hopefully, stoke can help in this regard.. Edu is athletic, has decent feet, and is definitely more pacey than Boca (who isn’t at this point).

      • You’re probably right, Rows, but I can’t imagine anyone (with experience) stepping in at this point. It’s a very scary situation.

      • Best chance of seeing Cameron (and Edu) get time at centerback for Stoke is probably Shawcross sticking with the England squad (he got his 1st callup in the recent qualifiers, but didn’t see time) and getting a move to a (relatively) bigger club. I would think if he’s a consistent England international, teams like QPR and maybe even Liverpool or Southampton would be interested in buying him. As long as Shawcross and Huth are both there, I don’t even see Cameron getting a real shot at CB, much less Edu. Not that Cameron couldn’t beat out one or both of them if given a fair go at it, but due to their familiarity with Pulis and Geoff’s versatility, I don’t see that happening.

      • I think Omar Gonzalez’s injury can be looked upon as one of the biggest disappointments the USMNT has endured recently. If he had been healthy over the last year, he probably would be playing in Europe, and I’d imagine we’d have already seen the transition to a Cameron/Gonzalez tandem.

      • Yeah, a true heartbreak of an injury, thanks to Timothy Chandler. Maybe one day we will hear the full story of how Timmy managed to give Gonzelez a torn ACL to his left knee only 15 minutes into the first practice after two weeks of Christmas break.

    • Centerback does seem to be the teams biggest liability. We have a guy that’s playing in a second division and a guy being played out of position. If the two didn’t have history there would be even more of an outcry. This just shines the light on the fact that Klinnsman hasn’t really blooded any young centerbacks.

      • It’s tough to get a read on a guy when you switch both centerbacks out. Better to choose one or the other. I’d choose Besler, but then again I’m completely biased, having played with him in high school.

      • with san jose seattle and rsl in the west i could see gonzalez being available, but i dont see anybody in the east knocking out a sporting kc team with home field advantage this year. much better than a year ago. besler will not be available. great prospect for january camp

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