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USA 2, Russia 2: A Look Back

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It didn’t start out pretty, and for the first 30 minutes of Wednesday’s friendly against Russia, the U.S. Men’s National Team looked like they might get run off the field in Krasnodar. The Americans eventually shook off that slow and disappointing start, and thanks the heroics of Tim Howard and Michael Bradley, they were able to eventually do enough to get back in the game and eventually leave Russia with a hard-fought draw.

Every time the Americans are outplayed in matches, and outclassed for stretches, it sets off alarm bells. The fear of seeing the U.S. in a mismatch, being exposed against top competition, is nothing new, but neither is seeing a U.S. team fight and claw and ride standout goalkeeping and opportunistic finishing to earn results that probably seemed unlikely in some matches.

Wednesday’s match was one of these matches. Russia was the better team, and played the better soccer for significant stretches, but the U.S. kept the match within arms reach, close enough to snatch a draw. On a day when there were certainly causes for concern, the over-riding sentiment from Wednesday’s 2-2 draw should be a positive one.

Why? The team went on the road and tied one of the most in-form teams in Europe, a team that hasn’t surrendered a goal, much less dropped points, in World Cup qualifying. Yes, Fabio Capello left a few starters out of his regular side, but there were still enough starters on the field for Russia to call this a tough test, and an admirable result.

No, friendly results don’t really matter, but the exercise of fighting for wins and draws and succeeding in earning such results against elite competition is far from futile. It is an exercise being undertaken with the World Cup in mind, and as much as it would be far more appealing to see a U.S. team dominating a European powerhouse on the road, come 2014 what is going to matter is results, and this U.S. team has shown repeatedly in 2012 that it has the fortitude to earn results against good opponents.

Are there things that need to improve in the next year and a half? Without question. The search for centerbacks continues, as does the quest to unlock the right combination in midfield. These are issues that U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann will be spending the better part of the next 20 months trying to figure out, but the good news is that there is still time and opportunity.

On Wednesday, the successful comeback was an uplifting reward, but the greater value drawn from the match was the questions it raised, the answers it delivered, and the chance it gave some new faces to show they are worthy of the big stage.

Here are some more observations from Wednesday’s match:

Bradley is ready for the armband

When Carlos Bocanegra limped off the field in the first half, the armband was passed to goalkeeper Tim Howard. For most of the rest of the match, Michael Bradley showed us why he is without question the next in line to become the U.S. captain on a regular basis.

Bradley is a player who leads by example, but who can also be a vocal leader. On Wednesday, with the U.S. team struggling, he took over and began imposing his will on the match. He helped the team keep possession and eventually find a rhythm to pose a real threat to the Russians. It seemed only fitting that Bradley capped his tide-turning effort with a brilliant volley goal that tied things up and gave the Americans reason to believe they could earn a result.

While Bocanegra has served as the captain well, there is no guarantee he will remain a starter for all of 2013, let alone at the World Cup. Bradley, on the other hand, is one of the team’s pillars along with Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey. Howard has the personality and respect to wear the armband, but teams are generally better served when a field player is the captain, a player who can move around the field and motivate teammates and address match officials.

It has always seemed sort of inevitable that Bradley would one day be the U.S. captain, but it is becoming more and more clear that the day is almost here.

Altidore didn’t score, but he still impressed

If you came away from Wednesday’s match feeling as though Jozy Altidore didn’t do enough to merit remaining a starter, and at the very least a member of the national team, then you might have been too busy waiting for a goal to notice a change in attitude from the AZ striker.

Yes, he showed some tentativeness at times, particularly in the second half, but what he showed throughout was a willingness to battle and do the dirty work that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. He provided a solid target up top, laying passes off to teammates while also showing a desire to do defensive work when Russia had the ball. He also floated wide to deliver a dangerous pass worthy of an assist, only to have Jermaine Jones scuff the chance.

What mattered most about Altidore’s performance was that it showed Klinsmann he got the message the U.S. coach was trying to send when he snubbed Altidore in October. He showed hustle, hunger and the kind of attitude that says he never wants to be snubbed again. On a night when the midfield wasn’t really providing much service, Altidore still did enough to make a difference, and did enough to impress Klinsmann.

“I think you saw Jozy Altidore today was a handful,” Klinsmann said after the match. “He gets a big, big compliment for his performance.”

A night to forget for Williams, a night to remind us Edu is still an option

Danny Williams convinced plenty of people that the defensive midfield role on the U.S. team was all his after some strong showings to wrap up World Cup qualifying. On Wednesday, he managed to erase that confidence with one truly shaky performance.

His bad day went well beyond the bad turnover that led to Russia’s first goal, a play that appeared to be more a fluke accident than anything else (Jozy Altidore accidentally clipped Williams’ kicking foot as went to send a quick kick to Clarence Goodson, which resulted in the turnover). Even before that play, and certainly after it, Williams looked flat-out shaky. His positioning, inability to deliver good passes and overall confused look helped lead to a terrible first 45 minutes for the U.S., and a forgettable night for him.

Does this means Williams isn’t still a quality option in midfield? One game shouldn’t drop him off the map, but it certainly raises some questions as we stand less than three months from World Cup qualifying. The U.S. can’t afford mistakes in qualifying, even less so on the road, so while Williams remains an option after Wednesday, his status as someone you pencil into the starting lineup without a second though is gone.

Whether he saw a chance to seize an opportunity amid Williams’ struggles, or perhaps he was just happy to actually be on a soccer field playing, Maurice Edu came on and impressed. His long-range laser pass to Juan Agudelo helped set up Bradley’s goal, and he showed some real poise in a defensive midfield role. It was a bit surprising, but more because of the fact he hasn’t been getting minutes for Stoke rather than because he hasn’t shown quality before.

If anything, it reminded us that Edu can thrive when allowed to play in a defensive midfield role as opposed to a more advanced central midfield spot, where he has struggled for the national team. It also probably put the breaks on Klinsmann considering a permanent national team move to centerback for Edu, who most certainly would prefer to stay a midfielder.

Centerback depth needs to be addressed

While Edu may not be seeing time at centerback soon, Klinsmann needs to start looking at new options ASAP. Bocanegra’s injury reminded us that having a defender on the wrong side of 30 has its risks, while Clarence Goodson’s appearance reminded us that he isn’t quite good enough to be a regular national team starter (though in fairness to him, having to jump into a match like Wednesday’s, without a warm-up, is difficult).

Geoff Cameron turned in a strong night, which was good to see because he really hadn’t ended the last round of World Cup qualifying on the best of notes. There is a growing consensus that Cameron is the best centerback in the pool, and against Russia he helped strengthen that case.

Goodson didn’t quite do that. He looked shaky at times, and clumsy at other times. You can see he has qualities that can make him an effective centerback against lesser competition, but he hasn’t really shown the kind of quality that gives you confidence he could be a strong option against elite-level attacks.

Klinsmann may want to consider a January national team camp if only to take a closer look at the many centerback options currently residing in MLS, like Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler. Whether he does or not, one of the top priorities in 2013 is to find some new options at the position, and the Gold Cup should be a key factor in that process.

A good day for the youngsters

Josh Gatt made his national team debut on Wednesday, and while he didn’t set the world alight, Gatt did turn in a serviceable debut. He looked timid and hesitant, and lacked the aggressiveness that is the trademark of his game, but that isn’t a big surprise considering he was a 21-year-old making his very first national team appearance as a starter against Russia. Gatt did show some good signs though, and has to come away from Wednesday feeling good about taking a positive first step.

The night was a special one for Juan Agudelo and Mix Diskerud. For Agudelo, he marked his return to the national team mix with a very impressive showing. He was active, mobile and intelligent providing exactly the kind of energy Klinsmann wants to find off the bench for the attack. Diskerud had less time to shine, but when he pounced on the loose ball to bury the last-minute equalizer, he served notice that he can make an impact on the senior team level.

“It was important for us to introduce some younger players to the senior level,” Klinsmann said. “I think they all did great. There is nothing to lose for them in a game like that. They can only win.

“For us, it’s important that we have these youngsters grow step-by-step,” Klinsmann added. “Our team over the last 6-12 months grew a lot. We developed a lot more personality and confidence to compete with the best teams out there. We still have a long way to go, but I think we have a very good path and these younger players are a very important part of this path.

“Hopefully, we get more opportunities to give them playing time.”

At the very least, Gatt, Agudelo and Diskerud did enough to merit consideration for qualifying in 2013, but with players like Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan and Graham Zusi expected back in the mix in February, Diskerud and Gatt may have to wait a while longer for that chance (the Gold Cup could definitely be that next big chance).


What were your impressions of the USA-Russia match? Which players impressed you and/or surprised you? What areas are you most concerned about heading into 2013?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. People taking as if Russia deserved the win. What a bunch of double BS. They deserved the draw and that is what they got. If the U.S did no create their own blunders, I could say that the U.S. could have won the game. Russia always comes out hard and it does not matter who they play against. They do this to every team; then they start to come back to earth in about 25 minutes. If they do not get you within the first 30 minutes, they probably won’t, unless you pull a Goodson. Twellman and Lalas suck!!!!!!! And so does any idiot that believe that the U.S. got dominated. What a bunch of BS.

    • Every goal is usually preceded by a mistake so it’s pointless to claim that Russia would not have scored if Danny and Goodson hadn’t messed up.

      Mistakes are part of the game, which is why it’s the beautiful game and revisionist history is for plastic fans.

      There are a lot of could’ve, would’ve, should’ve moments in the history of US Soccer, plenty of which have benefited us.

      I just don’t see the point in arguing that we could’ve won the game when we showed little in open play creation and our transition was slow, two areas that are key to winning games and two areas in which Russia excelled and at times outclassed us.

  2. I am curious to see why everyone loves Jones so much?

    Obviously is a good player, but I feel like we have better options.

    I feel like he is poor passer of the ball.
    When he goes forward he seems clumsy and again his passes into the attack seem poor to me.
    I feel like he and Bradley do not mesh well together in the midfield and I feel like Jones takes away from Bradley’s game.
    I do not see him as a great defender as well.

    I feel like we have better options at his position. I like Edu much better than Jones, mainly because he is so calm on the ball and his passing is superb.

    I remember Bob Bradley had a love affair with Ricardo Clarke and again (like Jones) I did not get it. He was terrible at passing, was not calm on the ball, and was not a great defender. I feel like we have another (slightly better) Ricardo Clarke on our hands in Jones.

  3. i am one of the people who was very impressed with what i saw from gatt. he has speed and creativity, and knows when to pick his spots. although not everything he tried in those spots worked, he still had a couple decent shots on goal, played fast, and tracked back. he naturally plays one of the positions we NEED to develop as we approach the world cup, given the possibility landon may not rekindle his passion for international soccer anytime soon.

  4. Overall it was an entertaining match. Coach Klinsmann’s insistence at starting three defensive mids is mind boggling. The depth of our player pool is a strong positive moving forward. Trying to figure out the right mix, in particular with the mids and forwards, will be key. I would like to see Freddy Adu got a shot somewhere in the cycle as well.

  5. russia is up 1-0 in the 75th minute as they enter our third of the field, jozy tracks backs for a steal and immediately draws a free kick which quickly leads to a poor chandler cross, one of the potentially missed targets being jozy. he was playing like that all night, he’ll get his goals soon enough. back to chandler, he missed a couple crosses, but overall his defense and 1-2 play really helped solidify that right side.

  6. I thought Klijestan had a decent showing. He has the technical ability to least through him in the middle above Bradley, and see if he can pull the strings for the offense to thrive.

  7. ALSO I WOULD LIKE TO THROW OUT A BIG F U to Thomas the dingleberry Rongen. We could have Subotic playing for us if he wasnt (jerked) like he was.

    If you start for Dortmund does that mean you are good enough to play for the US or not? Im confused

  8. Results do not matter in a game like this. We are simply looking at which players we may be able to count on come feb 6th.

    One thing for sure is the overall pool of players is deeper than last go around. The overall pool is more technical. The problem is CONCACAF is very much improved.

    For the first time in US soccer history I think we are starting to have a good problem of having too many players that may be able to do the job rather than too few of players we know can do the job and not enough that may be able to do the job.

    Just think in 2009 we started Conor Casey in some games.

    Our pool of players is so much bigger and needs to keep expanding and getting experienced over the next 10 -15 years. MLS is helping but before we ever contend on the world stage our pool of players needs to double. This being said it may have doubled in a sense from 2010 go around.

    Turd Bradley

  9. I think that the overall pool is deeper and I hope a little stronger. We need two centerbacks (one to start with Cameron) and one to compete for backups. Other than that we look good moving forward but overall defensively as a team we need to get better.

  10. i think this is a good analysis, but Edu has had PLENTY of awful moments himself. i think Williams is and still should be the go-to #6 for us. until he is having bad games on a regular basis, i feel like he deserves to hold that down. Edu did very well, but we’ve seen that before. he’ll have a good game, and then the next 3 games are bad. and i think over qualifying, him not playing at the club level is going to hurt him. i think he is more dangerous off the bench now more than anything.

    and i really hope we can work out our CB problem. get Omar in there ASAP. too bad Brooks played with the German youth team, not that he is ready for a regular USMNT spot at all, but he was a decent long term prospect. and Gooch would be great to have back if he starts playing regularly again. yes, he can be clumsy and slow, but the guy still has great talent when compared to someone like Goodson. Gooch is a beast and one of the best CBs we’ve ever had. if he starts playing for Malaga every week, he should be with the USMNT. he obviously doesn’t fix the long term problem, so Omar should still be called up, but it would be nice to have someone like him back.

    • Agreed. There is no way Edu is knocking on Williams’ door. He can’t even get on the bench these days. Klinsi brought him along to help him out by giving him playing time and showing Stoke that he can still play. But he’s miles behind Williams at this point.

  11. Also, I am sick of Timmy having to bail our team out over and over. It is time our defense (all 10 field players!) steps up and helps him out.

  12. Having 3 defensive midfielders killed our game. We need to throw in a ball handler like Kjlestian who can sit behind Jozy and in front of Bradley and Jones. But, having 3 players with the same mind set cover the same space is silly. All 3 looked lost before the final part of the game when Bradley and Jones pushed higher up the field.

  13. I think it would be wise to remember that there is a big time difference for most of the guys playing yesterday. I only checked to Moscow, not sure where game was played in relation, but at least 3 hours difference for most of the european guys, I think. Help me if I’m wrong. US guys, 9 or 10 hours. So maybe that accounts for why Herc was not Herculean. I do think most of the guys settled in during the second half. They subbed, we subbed. Its mute to me. Not disgraceful. Actually quite useful in pushing us toward a change at CB. I love Boca, but we all get old. Its just life.

  14. Yep, the day after I am definitely seeing yesterday’s game as a glass half-full. Those guys did not give up and kept fighting and clawed back twice from deficits. Teams that do not have high-intensity fighting spirit seldom make it to the quarter-finals of a World Cup (or beyond :-). And the USMNT has got it.

    And, actually, we could have won that match 2-0. Both of Russia’s goals were sort of flukes. I watched the replay several times of Danny William’s bad kick, and it is clear that as Jozy was leisurely walking by too closely upfield he made contact with William’s kicking foot so that Williams did not hit the ball directly–and the rest is history. You can see it here at 0:44 seconds…

    Williams cannot be blamed for that bad kick and I can understand that the screw-up might mess with Williams head the rest of the game and harm his performance. And if Goodson had not fouled the Russian attacker, Timmy Howard had the ball covered, and the attacker would not have scored. A totally needless foul.

    So, yeah, we could have had a 2-0 victory against the Fifa Number 9 team in the world on the road and missing several of our top players and, wow, good times comin’ and can’t wait for the Hex.

    • You’re pretty much saying, “If the ball had bounced our way on every single occasion, we could have won.” It’s true, but it applies to pretty much every loss ever.

      Russia created 7-8 very good scoring chances and they converted two of them. Not an outrageous conversion rate.

    • I certainly admire Biff’s optimism but rose colored glasses are glued to his face.

      Other than Donovan and Dempsey, who else was missing?

      Howard, Cameron, Boca, Fabian, Danny, Jones, Bradley, Gomez and Altidore all STARTED!

      Gatt and Chandler were the noobs… can’t claim we were missing “several of our top players” when it simply isn’t true. Besides, it was a friendly.

    • biff trying to cement his place as most clueless SBI poster.

      What if Bradley’s shot had hit off the post and gone out instead of in?
      What if Diskerud’s shot had not been deflected?


      On the other hand, what if the Russians had scored like 5 goals?

  15. One bright spot in the game (after it actually) was when Klinsmann went out of his way to say what a great game Altidore had. In that he was correct, and he was doing what a smart coach should, praise in public. Any tweaks to what Jozy did he can work on in private and in training sessions.

    Those people who thought Jozy did not do well just weren’t paying attention to what he actually did. In comparison to the other forwards, Gomez who was pretty invisible and Gatt who is struggled to figure out to play against a better defense than he is used to, Jozy was very soild. Lalas comment that Jozy’s first touch was bad on that through ball from Jones was wrong. The ball was at the edge of reachable for Altidore, he did well to even touch it. Why not fault Jones for a ball that was played just a bit too far ahead? In truth you want those connections to work better, but it takes two to make a connection and I do not think that particular one was any fault of Jozy’s.

    • Jozy has immensely improved on his holdup play when the ball is played to his feet, but the one thing he still can’t do is chest trap a ball with a defender on his back. Time and again you see the ball rebound to the other team. Look at any of the forwards in MLS that specialize in holdup play (Gordon, Ching) and they all have that skill down. They know how to anticipate that bump from behind just as the ball arrives and compensate for it. It’s puzzling why Jozy still hasn’t mastered that after so many years.

      • I would disagree. He had a nice chest down at the top of the box (though he missed the shot). We’ve seen him make beautiful chests in the past (the assist to Deuce in Italy most readily pops into my mind). I would say it’s the headers that he struggles most with, particularly the flick ons (he missed at least one on the throw in that could have been dangerous), and the knock backs like we say Boyd and Agudelo do. IMO

  16. Danny Williams was attacked with negative thought patterns by KGB trained psychics.
    More yoga, more meditation needed from all players on the team.
    Maybe if more of the USMNT players followed Michael Bradley’s example and shaved the “ignorance grass” from their heads, and learned to flow like mountains, sit still like a river, this team would start to fire on all cylinders. Phil Jackson / Jurgen Klinsman style Zen / Yoga / mind-training is some powerful good medicine for team chemistry, team fusion, team-work and individual self confidence.
    Just my two pesos, humble opinion.

    • Yeah we need all of our players to turn to into Tommy from Rug Rats. Then they might feel youthful and adventurous when playing.

    • Ty Webb: We have to win this hole.
      Danny Noonan: I kinda thought winning wasn’t important.
      Ty Webb: Me winning isn’t, you do.
      Danny Noonan: Great grammar.
      Ty Webb: Danny, see your future, be your future. May, make, make it, make it. Make your future Danny. I’m, I’m a veg’, Danny.

  17. 1) I don’t think we should read too much into this game. Reminder that this was a mid-week international when the USA team that was fielding is essentially in the middle of their club season without much opportunity to practice together before the game. The game was IN RUSSIA against Russian-based players. Under these circumstances, it is no surprise to me that USA started slow.

    2) While I only really watched the second half, I saw a USA team that had lots of possession but made lots of sloppy touches, passes, and finishes. I also saw a team that can be very dangerous on the attack when they can acclimatize to each other. I also saw a team that was one finish or one bad foul away from winning that game. This team was not outplayed like the team who played Brazil was. With a little time playing together, this team could be damn good.

    • The game would’ve been 3-0 or 4-0 before the US even got on the scoreboard.

      The first half was all Russia.

      Try watching the entire game next time before you come here with the usual fan perspective damage control.

      • Could have been behind 4-0? But wait… the score was only 1-0 thanks to Timmy and some otherwise decent play from Cameron. Amazing how reality trumps you retro-active chicken littles.

        Try watching the game before you come here with the usual fan perspective damage exaggeration.

      • That’s cute.

        Howard plays for team USA so him doing his job, and doing it well, is not something that should be applauded but I watched the game and it’s undeniable that Howard was a difference maker.

        When your goalie is the difference maker between losing and getting a point, you’ve got a problem.

        If you want to live and die by the numbers, soccer is not the game for you.

      • Having a goalie be a difference maker isn’t a problem. It’s a reality of each and every match played. Quality play from a keeper is a huge difference maker, as is poor play from a keeper.

  18. People are being way too negative about the Russia game and Klinsman. Klinsman has greatly expanded the depth chart. His influence in bringing in Chandler, Johnson, and Williams is huge — three guys who could easily start in Brazil (if we qualify). Lets not forget that the team’s record this year is largely without Donovan and Dempsey playing together. There is a wealth of young talent that is starting to show (despite the Olympics debacle). Klinsman is doing a fine job. On its day the team can beat anyone in the world — a point they have shown repeatedly. Cameron and Johnson were fantastic. Omar is an option in the future. Gatt has showing signs of being a good option for adding speed. I give Klinsman an A- so far.

  19. I really was not impressed with Gatt at all. I understand that it was his first cap, and against excellent competition, but I did not think he really brought anything significant to the table. I hope and expect it was jitters, but to me, he was no different than a Robbie Rogers, or Brek Shea (in his first game). His passing was poor, he never really beat anyone with speed, and was generally lost and out of position. There were a few times when Gomez had the ball on the right wing and was looking for a pass and Gatt was wandering and not presenting himself. Gomez was actually pointing to where he wanted Gatt to be, but it was too late, and Gomez was forced to play the ball backwards to Chandler and halt the attack. I will chalk this up to his first game, and with limited experience in the system, but I would disagree with anyone who said he had a good first showing. There were maybe one or two occasions where he looked dangerous, but overall I thought his performance was weak. It was a tough test for a first cap, but he missed on the little things that are important.

  20. Pretty thorough write up, Ives. Only guy you didn’t touch on that I thought looked good again was Sasha Kljestan. I think it’s becoming increasingly clear that, if and when Jurgen wants to play 4-3-3, Kljestan needs to be in the midfield 3. I really hope he is involved in the Hex.

  21. I still think our biggest problem is JK trying to force the US into his preferred 4-3-3 when the skill sets of the player pool, IMO, do not support it. We do not have a creative attacking mid ready to take on that responsibilit or the wingers to play it.

    IMO, JK is either extremely stubborn or tactically naive to think that the US can play this way. The US has DM (Jones or Williams) and a very good 2 way midfielder (Bradley). Its forwards, whether talking about Altidore, Boyd, Gomez or Agudelo work better in pairs. Dempsey is much better as an outside mid that can drift into the hole created by having two forwards especially when the other outside mid is someone that likes to stay wide (ala Donovan with Everton), Gatt, Shea etc. and deliver service into the box.

    JK please find a system that allows the players to do what they do best instead of trying to force them into a system that does not fit their skills.

    • 1 – Howard, Guzan
      2 – Dolo, Chandler
      3 – Cameron, Goodson
      4 – Boca, Besler
      5 – Johnson, Castillo
      6 – Jones, Williams, Edu
      7 – Donovan, Gatt
      8 – Bradley, Torres
      9 – Altidore, Boyd, Agudelo
      10 – Dempsey, Zusi, Mix
      11 – Gomez, Shea, Gyau

      My stab, relatively, at a depth chart as of end of year.

      • I’d add Omar to the CB depth chart.

        And then note that guys like Lichaj and Mix are starting to look in. But I like your breakdown. It shows we have depth everywhere and solid depth at that.

        Though I’m not sure about the Donovan/Gatt number 7 role. Under your numeric system, they would supplement the 11s and 10s. The number 7 depth would be Jones, Mix, Corona.

  22. One thing that seemed to be affecting the team was that it felt like Klinsi had told them quick free kicks and no kickball, at pain of death, because on the goal and other instances we seemed content to make risky backline groundball passes where an occasional hoofed ball might have released pressure and been less risky. And to me the quick kick is more valuable if you systemically run a team around til it’s tired, or do a quick cross like they did for their PK, and not so much just to get the ball back in play only to loaf around with it.

    Boca really shouldn’t be the captain the way he’s playing but that has to be handled delicately and ideally by his own decision otherwise you risk causing as much turmoil with the decision as you gain by shifting the armband to a more productive arm.

    I was concerned about the lack of personnel turnover on defense coming into yesterday and other than Chandler I was unimpressed with everyone back there. I know certain players were elsewhere obliged but is it really surprising that if we put out a leaky unit again it keeps leaking? The CBs seem incapable of stopping anyone consistently and it’s reaching Bornstein levels of “how many goofups do you get.” It’s not CB depth, it’s who wants to start and who wants bench.

    The midfield as a whole seemed to have trouble with defense — although I think that was more a lack of rest issue — and I think only Bradley looked indispensable. Jones looked tired and Williams…..never been sold on that one and he looked awful.

    I don’t understand supporting Jozy when he was basically the least productive forward of the lot, either him or Gomez. Sloppy first touches all day. Maybe one good cross and one good defensive effort. That’s it. The knockdowns on the goals were not from him but rather Boyd and Agudelo, and you can only say so many times that Jozy doesn’t matchup well with a team before begging the question who is he effective against? (Italy, pretty much, because they will back off him and let him turn.)

    The young attackers (Jozy aside) were the players who looked good, even if a little sloppy at times. I’d be interested how much of that was the Germans being worn out from the weekend or something, but I think this bunch asserted/ re-asserted themselves as being at least if not more compelling than some of the players like Torres or Zusi who became first round darlings. At minimum, it’s nice to have an attacking pool with some diverse talents, some size, some speed, some technical. Now, about that defense……

    • If by young attackers you mean Agudelo Ok, Diskerud did well to take his chance, but 5 minutes does not make for a good game. Boyd came in when the Russians thought they were just finishing the game off. Jozy was strong throughout and he was one of the few bright spots in the first 25 minutes of the game for the US. True he was doming deep to get the ball, but that was more the fault of the US defense than his. He offered a perfect pass to Jones to finish and jones blew it over the top. On the through ball from Jones, it was as much a ball played too far forward as any fault of Altidore’s to control a ball that was only barely within his reach (Lalas is an idiot for claiming it was a bad touch, it was not, it was an attempt to reach a ball played too far forward.)

    • I take their willingness to play out of the back as part of the learning curve. We need to get ourselves into those positions when we’re under pressure in our third to learn how to deal with it. I’m fine dropping a few opportunities off at their feet if in two years we aren’t giving the ball away every time a defender gets the ball and blasts it up 50 yards to an opponent like we did under Gooch.

    • Disagree about Jozy. I was watching him closely all game and he did a lot of great hold up work all game, he had 3 great backtracks to steal possession, 2 of them earning free kicks in the process. He won a ton of 50/50 balls in the first half to gain and maintain possession, dishing nicely to cutters. He’s a big reason why the possession stats were so close (51-49). He did seem to tighten up when he got closer to goal, though, blowing two decent chances that we’d normally see him finish in Holland. The one ball from Fabian, obviously and also a nice chest down at the top of the box that he knocked down nicely but sailed it over the bar. That’s usually his type of play where he can utilize the power in his right foot. Could be nerves or the speed of play, though the speed of play didn’t effect him in the midfield area, so I think it’s nerves.

  23. Pretty much spot-on. Still have my fingers crossed that Stuart Holden can come back and be the guy at that #10 spot alongside Bradley in the midfield…which would allow Klinsmann to drop Jermaine Jones back to holding mid.

    Gatt looks like the next Donovan to me. His pace allows you to play balls on a much longer field. We were looking very thin at wing but all of a sudden Zusi, Corona, Gatt, and if his head is glued on straight, Brek Shea have all emerged as legit wing options for the USA.

    We still don’t have that one dominant forward, but with Dempsey, Jozy, Herc Gomez, Agudelo, Boyd, and even Johnson, we do have a much, much deeper group of forwards to draw from than we ever have before.

    Omar Gonzalez really needs to get ready. Our CB pool is a disaster and there’s really no point anymore in not just throwing him in. You can live with Bocanegra and Goodson as your #3 and #4 centerbacks – I’d carry Boca to Brazil if he’s even remotely capable of contributing anything just because of his experience – but if you’re starting those guys in the World Cup you’ve got a problem. Ideally you’d like to find Gonzalez plus somebody else – keep an eye on Furman’s Walker Zimmerman, who is likely to hit the MLS draft in a couple months – and be able to bump Bocanegra to #4 and carry Goodson only situationally.

  24. We don’t learn a lot by saying, “and Timmy kept us in the game,” but that’s where I always end up when we get results against legit teams (and often the less-legit).

    I think JJ’s hustle and willingness to get forward is admirable, but to my eye he is pretty bad with the ball in the final third. In Jamaica he was where offense went to die, and there was a lot of that last night. He did a great job putting himself in dangerous positions, I just don’t know that he has what it takes to finish or create real chances for teammates against alert defenses.

    I think he is one of our top-5 players and needs to be on the field, but I wonder where with our current player pool. I don’t know who you bring in for Danny Williams in order to drop JJ into the hole (Stuart Holden isn’t walking through that door…), so maybe we live with what he have right now.

    Williams obviously played poorly, but that was out of the norm and against a really pressuring, high-quality midfield. I don’t think he’s given away that spot yet.

    Gold Cup CBs need to be Gonzalez w/ a rotating cast of John and Besler and Ream and whoever else we can throw in there and see if they’ll float.

    • I agree, I think jones works hard, but going forward he can not be the man for the attacking mid option…. What is your opinion on this Ives?

    • I totally agree with your analysis about Jones. Interestingly enough, I though he did look dangerous when attacking from the wing though; although this makes sense when you consider that he has spent some time as an outside midfielder for Schalke. But yeah, when he had the ball at his feet in an advanced position in the center of the field JJ looked utterly lost.

      • I would have agreed wholeheartedly with the JJ bashing before this match, but I actually thought he had his best match in a long time for USA. Aside from a couple JJ being JJ moments, he was really active, made some excellent passes and crosses and, like you said, looked very dangerous on the wing. This surprised me since I was inclined against him before this match.

    • Jermaine Jones looked exhausted to me. 90′ against Werder Bremen on Saturday, plane trip, 90+ last night.

      He was not even the worst of the CDM trio, that was Williams.

      If there is a division of laboramong a group DM effort then Bradley should obviously be the one predominantly going forward. But some of what I witnessed last night was just tired players, and the real question it continues to beg to me is, is this the formation we intend to play, really?

      I buy Gonzo and I buy Besler but Ream? That’s like replicating your Bornstein problem with a different victim. John? Never been impressed and if people thought Chandler had iffy commitment, he actually got called in to train with Greece.

      This is more of a spitball, but can Fabian play CB?

      • I am an FCD fan and have seen many hours of great, solid play from John–who says he wants to play for US–but his form last year admittedly doesn’t justify anything more than a Gold Cup/Camp Cupcake call in.

        I am not a Ream fan but I think he is in the conversation with club playing time–I don’t think we’re in the position to ignore anyone right now.

        Fatigue could certainly have played a part, but I thought Jones did a good job of making dangerous runs and getting in the right spot.

    • Beg to differ – we need a Pele, Freddy Adu, Claudio Reyna, Andres Iniesta, Wesley Snjeider type, number 10, central attacking / holding midfielder to pull the strings.

      Agudelo, Boyd, Altidore, Dempsey, and Gomez can all put the ball in the net like cold blooded assassins if you set them up right.

  25. I think there is some exaggeration in this write-up. The USMNT wasn’t sitting back and letting Russia attack wave after wave. Russia was not stema rolling the USMNT. Stats from the game.

    U.S.: Total shots-11, shots on goal- 4
    Russia: Total shots- 15, Shots on goal- 7

    The stats don’t back up the claim that the U.S. was out classed.

    Add to th fact that the USMNT got a result without their leading scorer in Dempsey, Donovan, Dolo, and Zusi. It’s a fair bet to say that the USMNT has progressed under klinsmann.

    Yes I watched the game, and I was a little dissappointed with the first 25 minutes, but after that the USMNT stepped up the pressure on Russia, and gained a foothold in the game. This result was not an Italy result, or the win against Mexico. They actually played with Russia for long stretches. I have been more than displeased with the media in regards to this game. The USMNT had 1 day of practice while instituting new players; of course the Russians would have a bit more possession.

    Anyways thats my two cents worth. Excited for 2013.

    • completely agree. i think ives is getting a little swept up in the feeling he tried to calm in the beginning of the article. we played well against a superior opponent. we weren’t dominated as harshly as this article suggests. but that’s just me.

      still a great read. jury’s still out on Mixx for me. we didn’t see enough but i hope he becomes what i thought Holden would be before his injuries, a creative mid.

      • I’d agree, though I would also say that Ives’ depiction of the match was MUCH more positive than most pundits and commentators. I thought Ian Darke was absurdly out of line all game and maybe that distorted people’s views? I think Ives has it pretty correct. The game was pretty even with a slight edge towards Russia, IMO, but the possession stats are virtually split down the middle (51-49) and USA outscored them in the run of play. If not for 2 dumb mistakes, this could have gone 2-0 USA.

      • After reviewing the highlights, the game could have – and should have been – 4-4

        Fantastic game all in all, and much easier to watch than in previous years, regardless of score lines.

    • The ease with which Russia carved open the US defense is certainly something that concerns me. Their midfielders got the ball down the field quickly and effectively whereas the US laboured their way down the field in a mechanical way, often forcing the issue.

      The perceptions of US Soccer around the world are somewhat outdated for the most part but not entirely inaccurate. We still struggle, mightily, with build up play on both sides of the ball but the collective attitude of the team is tremendous and is often what closes the gap between us and slightly better teams.

      The game itself was entertaining, with Russia controlling the tempo and rhythm for large stretches of the game and once they got a little tired and backed off, the US managed to create danger. There were some very good moments of interplay but those who think Ives is exaggerating need to analyze the game from a neutral point of view.

      The majority of press reports I’ve read for the game have stated that the US was, at times, played off the pitch. I don’t know if I necessarily agree with that but I wouldn’t say the US was better than Russia at almost any point in the game.

      • Let’s not forget that in friendlies the play is more important than a particular result. We lacked fluidity and coherence in our movement for long stretches, our passing was sloppy, we made bad defensive mistakes, and both our goals came from low percentage hopeful long balls that culminated in difficult volleys. I kind of chuckled when Ives used “long-range laser pass” in relation to Edu making him look like the second coming of Michael Laudrup. It’s not time to panic yet, but they need to work on a lot of things if they want to be successful going forward.

      • You’re absolutely correct.

        Performance wise, I think the game served its purpose.

        As others have mentioned, this game wasn’t like the Italy or Mexico games where the opponents bossed the game and we were sturdy enough to prevent goals and managed to put away our chance/chances. This game against Russia was much more balanced and we played well in stretches.

        Jurgen appears to be following the Bradley rule of absorbing pressure and increasing the intensity late in the game and trying to overrun the opponent in the last 15 mins of the game.

        It’s a tactic that will serve us well in Qualifiers but against stronger opposition, we will not have the luxury of waiting until the last quarter of an hour to attempt to score.

  26. I was impressed by the Russian game and the fact we have gotten results away in Europe for the past three games.

    Sure, at times we were dominated, but we’re talking about playing away, against a (for now) European titan top 10 team, surrounded by a hostile crowd, where we lost our captain and general of the backline within 10 minutes with a 20 year old winger making his first appearance.

    And not only did we at times play toe to toe, we didn’t sit back and bunker down. We actually played. We didn’t rely on long balls like we did under Bradley or just counters. We moved the ball up and at times even created a tempo.

    It wasn’t perfect and wasn’t always pretty, and we should of lost the match, but it was a big improvement over what we’ve seen. Slowly, Klinsi’ vision is being realized. There are still two big pieces missing: a CB pairing and a more technical/creative player in midfield. Other than that, we have the most balanced and complete team, playing attractive soccer to their capabilities.

    I was excited by our youngsters. Gatt showed well for his cap. He looked scared but come on, he’s used to Norway not angry Russians. He showed good technique and excellent movement. Off the bench he’ll be a handful in the Hex. But he does need to now make a move to a tougher team. At times he tried things against the Russian defenders that may work in Norway, but he just ended up flat on his face against a stronger defender.

    Agudelo showed the kind of energy we want to see from Jozy. He came in and made an impact. Jozy played better, but his level of energy and willingness to attack balls still needs to be raised another level. We did see some of that in the second half so he left with a +1 in my book. I thought Boyd played well and made his presence felt but he’s probably dropped to fourth or fifth in the attack chart now.

    Mix played well and with willingness. I hope we cap him to the US soon. I think he’s our missing piece in the middle. Not now, but within a year, after a good showing in the Gold Cup, I think he’ll challenge for a starting role. He has the vision, passing range, and close control that Bradley, Jones, Williams, and the others don’t have. But the big question is where does he land now that his contract is up? Here’s hoping to the Netherlands.

    Bradley was excellent. MOTM after our fearless keeper. He was quiet in the first half, but came alive in the second. Jones was his usual hustle and bustle until the last whistle. Where he gets his energy from, I’ll never know. He needs to work on his passing though. He tries to do too much. He’ll get past one player than attempt to take two or three more on instead of picking his head up and laying it off. Saying that, I did notice when he got the ball out wide, he tended to be isolated and passing wasn’t always an option. Good crosses with his left foot. Williams had a game to forget, but he’s done well enough in the past to start come Feb.

    Our sidebacks did well enough, but weren’t to the level we’re used to. But we now have great depth in sidebacks with a lot of energy and attacking potential.

    Cameron was a hero. Goodson was crap. I think it’s time we recognize that Goodson is a B-team player and see what the young bucks in MLS can do.

    Howard always seems to raise his game in big matches.

    In all, this year has been one of the best in US history. Historic away wins, new world class players, and an attacking playing style that’s slowly coming together. We still have hiccups, but they’ll be fixed by the end of next year.

    Klinsi’s report card grade for the year: B+

  27. If Holden can return to form he will definately help the offense. It would also allow Bradley to drop back and play the DM slot. With Dempsey up top, just need to find someone on the left. Or you have Stu up top play Dempsey on the left and get Gatt on the right….

    • I hope we and Bolton don’t rush Holden, but man he’d be great in our 3-man midfield. We could drop Jones back into Williams’ slot and line Holden up next to Bradley to attack.

      But we have to give him space and time. Maybe the Gold Cup would be a useful time to really bring him back.

    • Why would you want our goal scorer and most dangerous offensive threat of the game to drop back and play DM? Bradley once again displayed his ability to advance the ball into a dangerous position, it would be foolish to lose that element of our attack by moving him back. Once Holden is back, he play with Bradley in the midfield in front of Jones who plays DM. This lets Deuce play on the left and drift in, with Johnson overlapping to provide width.

      • +1

        It’s a net loss to keep Bradley at DM. With all the DMs we have, there is no reason to tie Bradley to a post back there.

        And I’m thinking that Williams just had a bad night. Heck, it seemed to me that, for long stretches of the match, both teams were thinking about their upcoming league matches more than the game at hand.

        In any event, since Jones and Williams are the best defensive mids we have, I don’t mind keeping these three on the field together. Even if Stu comes back, we might need this lineup against, say, Spain or Argentina in a knockout round, assuming that these three will have gelled by then.

    • I don’t know why people keep insisting Bradley is a defensive midfielder. The only club team he played that role in was the worst club stretch he had, In Italy and in Holland, he was used to push forward more and attack (hence actually scoring goals). True enough he has played defensively for the USA, but that was as often out of necessity as by design. Yesterday, Bradley spent most of his time up front, but did wander back to help out and started the attack out of the back several times. I think that was not so much out of some confused role, but caused by the very real need to support Williams who was not holding up too well. Throughout the game, you could see US players looking for Bradley who always seemed available to relieve pressure. I will be a lot happier when the US has Williams playing like he looked like he is capable of. Jones and Bradley look ok when they do not try to occupy the same space. I thought it worked best when they were separated by more space, each could then operate without tripping over his teammate. Getting those two to combine without interferring with each other is a major task for Klinsmann, that had finding the player who can back them up. FWIW, I think Bradley is a better attacking mid than Holden. I think, Holden is more of a high energy player who does better when hustling after the ball than when orchestrating an attack.

  28. Three d-mids was a huge problem for me. None of them know whether to stay or go. We need only two d-mids. One who always stays and protects the back four and Bradley as the deep lying playmaker who starts the attack and occasionally gets forward.

  29. Could not agree more on Michael Bradley as the future Captain…funny enough my friend and I have been talking about that the last couple of matches….and Boca has been a great represenative as a Captain of his country….much respect for him….:)

  30. I hope that for the January camp-if it happens, or the next friendly, Klinsmann calls in at least 6 centerbacks- this is concern #1 for the team and all options must be considered to line up nex tto Cameron, IMHO…Gonzalez, Ream, Onyewu, Whitbread, John, Fiscal, other MLS guys…bring ’em all through and pick the one or two to stick around… Edu cannot be viewed as a viable CB when he would be playing out of position, and is not getting any playing time to begin with

    There a lots of apparent options for the defensive mid or mids to line up next to Bradley (Jones, Williams, Edu, Beckerman) but no one on Bradley’s level, so that’s another opening for someone to step up..

    I do think Gatt will become a very useful part of the team (assuming health, a big if) because there is no one is the rotation like him right now-a speedy wing threat…maybe Chandler gets pushed up when Dolo comes back, but it’s always nice to have a different type of a threat to deploy…

    I still think Mixx and Agudelo are looking outside in, but Mixx may have a shot of slotting into the three man central midfield with Bradley and a Williams/Jones/Beckerman/Edu, like Torres did earlier in 2012…

    for once the team is set at LB

  31. Good write-up. Agree with everything. Only thing missing is our defense is a problem for two reasons and neither has to do with the quality of players we have available. One, our midfield did not do it’s job. When you have three quality defensive midfielders in there, there is no excuse for the amount of pressure the back four was under in the first half. Two, Klinsmann has no clue about coaching defense. Phillip Lahm famously said this and you see it on the field everytime the US plays. Ives I hope you can tell me why I am wrong because for the sake of our WC qualifying I would prefer to be wrong.

    • Great article, great summary. Driving into work this morning I heard an interview with the golfer Nick Faldo. He was talking about the mental aspect of the game and one of his main points was at the end of the day if you’re in a position where the hole and the way you’re playing seem like a recipe for trouble, you have to find a way to hit the ball differently and make it through that hole. I couldn’t help but make a connection to yesterday’s game. The US weathered the storm (and some frightening mental errors) but were able to keep battling and found a way to keep the tie within reach with a bit of luck. The most telling moment for me was on the ESPN feed they showed a shot of Capello’s reaction to the second goal. He laughed. Soccer works that way, sometimes.

      I think it’s important to remember that the Russians made a significant number of subs at the half, which is when the US started to really even things up. Plus, Russia was missing a few key A squad members to begin with, but so did the US….

      I also think it’s important to remember that the US is a team in transition and is learning on the job. The high back line and “play your way” is going to create moments where things get downright nutty, especially when one of your key players (Williams) has a stinker of a game. IMO that can’t be overstated as a key reason for why things got so nutty. That said, I’m just not a fan of the Jones/Bradley combination, it just hasn’t clicked. This creates a real dilemma, because the team can’t afford to NOT have both players on the field.

      • Few things, though. One, the goals were almost mirror images of each other, same knock down and volley business. Two, a lot of the danger seemed to come from Gatt coming from wide. Three, why play a high line with defenders who are untrustworthy? In sum, was a 451 or 433 with defenders in a high line the best approach? Goals off targets flicking the ball back….wide play…..442….hmmmmmm

      • Who cares about their subs. I think the U.S. were missing a few key players themselves. They did just fine for crying out loud. Russia always comes out hard in the first 20-25 min, They did the same thing is the euros.

  32. As a MetroStars/RBNY fan, I was always amazed by Jozy (and Kenny Cooper) being so big yet not being good target men. I thought for the first 60′ Jozy showed much improved target play. After that, he pooped out, although he did have one good play.

    I support Dax McCarty getting a look at DM at camp cupcake–he shined there for RBNY–but Danny Williams is still the first option, IMHO.

      • Dax is a lot of things but a play maker he is not.

        If you truly believe that, I respect your opinion but I can’t say I agree with it.

        He’s had flashes of attacking intelligence but he is nowhere near a capable and consistent play maker even at MLS level.

      • Ridiculous comment.

        Dax would never even play for Barca B regardless of his size and his size has nothing to do with the player he is.

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