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USMNT not pleased with performance in lopsided victory over Guatemala

photo by Jim Brown/USA Today Sports

By FRANCO PANIZO

The blowout scoreline was something the U.S. Men’s National Team was proud about.

The performance? Not so much.

The U.S. wrapped up its CONCACAF Gold Cup preparations on Friday night by recording a 4-0 victory over Guatemala at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee. Three different Americans found the back of the net in the friendly, but those tallies came only after Carlos Castrillo scored an ugly own goal in the 20th minute of a poor first half for Jurgen Klinsmann’s side.

For large stretches in the opening stanza, Guatemala looked the team more comfortable in possession. The Americans had their moments, but looked largely out of sync when they had the ball. Jozy Alitdore even had a poorly-taken penalty kick saved in the 18th minute, a play that was symbolic of the U.S.’s rough opening 45 minutes.

Things improved in the second half for the U.S., but the overall showing still was not good enough for a nation that is looking to successfully defend its Gold Cup title this month.

“I’m not happy with that performance,” said U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. “I’m kind of disappointed with a couple things: movement off the ball, speed of play, urgency. Things that we talked about before were not executed the way we wanted them to be executed.

“We were lucky to not get a tie, certainly at the beginning of the second half. If it’s 1-1, it’s a whole different ball game. It looks really nice at 4-0, but we have a lot of work ahead of us.”

Klinsmann repeatedly made it clear during his postgame press conference that he was unhappy with the way his attack performed, but he was also critical of the defensive performance.

While the Americans posted their second shutout in their last four games, Klinsmann believed the U.S. gave away some easy scoring opportunities that it cannot afford to repeat. Even as Timmy Chandler, Clint Dempsey, and Chris Wondolowski scored in the second half to pad the lead, Guatemala created decent chances that it found ways to squander.

Better teams like Honduras, the U.S.’s first opponent at the Gold Cup, will punish the Americans if they make similar mistakes over the course of the next few weeks. Klinsmann knows that, and so do his players.

“It’s always good to win, always good to get goals, always good to get a shutout, but we expect a lot of our team,” said Dempsey. “We know that we can be better. We know that we’re going to have to be sharper to win the Gold Cup and make sure we hit the ground running the first game against Honduras.”

As critical as Klinsmann and the Americans were about their performance, they also took away positives from the match. The players were pleased to extend their winning streak to four games while also recording a cleansheet, and Klinsmann also singled out some individuals that he thought looked sharped, focused, and ready for the challenges that lie ahead in the Gold Cup.

“I think Fabian Johnson had a couple very positive runs down the left,” said Klinsmann. “Timmy Chandler had a good game. John Brooks is growing. He’s becoming far more mature, he’s becoming a leader. Ventura Alvarado, when he came in, played a solid game.

“Michael Bradley was all over the place trying to connect the pieces. Gyasi Zardes had a lot of good energy going forward, but defensively we try to teach him, which is a work in progress. There are definitely good things. and there are things we need to work on.”

The U.S. will not have much time to address what needs fixing. The Americans are flying to Dallas on Saturday afternoon to begin gearing up for Tuesday’s Gold Cup opener against Honduras, a talented and tough team that just held Mexico to a scoreless draw in a friendly on Wednesday.

Defeating the Hondurans and starting out the tournament with three points is the goal for the U.S., but improvements are needed in order for that happen.

“I think all of us as players, we’re not naïve to think that we were unbelievable tonight,” said goalkeeper Brad Guzan. “We know there are areas where we need to sharpen things up. We know there are areas where we need to clean things up.”

Comments

  1. I wonder how much work the US did before the Guatemala game. JK seems to like to push his players fitness. Without sufficient rest, that can have adverse effects on performance in competitions.

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  2. “For large stretches in the opening stanza, Guatemala looked the team more comfortable in possession.”

    Franco, this is a ridiculous thing to write. Sure, the US lacked the quality in the final touches from the outset, but they started out pressing Guatemala high up the field and controlled almost 70% of the possession. The opening goal was long-overdue when it came courtesy of an own goal and came amidst the run of play. Come on lol

    That said, the States have lots of work to do. They gave up chances with multiple instances of sloppy or distracted defending from Omar G. and Timmy Chandler, who did however vindicate himself with a cracker of a goal later on. Lots of room to criticize the MNT here, but saying that Guatemala looked like the more “comfortable” team on the ball is a strange way of doing so given the possession stats from the onset and throughout.

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    • I agree with Franco, Guatemala was the better team during the first half. They were a bonehead clearance and a couple poor finishes from first half lead.

      I know we have a lot of quality in the 23 right now and the adjustment to concacf street ball is a big change from the bundesligaepletc… Glad we go that out of the way…

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      • “I agree with Franco.” LLOOOLLLLL Yeah, Guatemala dominated the first half, whatever… what a total and utter joke that is. Decent spells going forward doesn’t mean a team is dominating. What did Guatemala actually dominate, 1/32 of the half of the first half? LOOLLL!!!!!!You and Franco must have come out of the bathroom each time Guatemala got forward and went back in to take a dump each time the U.S. scored. …

    • I did not see it that way. The US did give up about 4 chances that a better team would have scored on (at least 2 of them). Offensively, the US scored, and but for a poor PK would have been up2-0 at the half. MB did a lot of work, but I thought he failed to complete several passes he usually connects on. Dempsey was pretty invisible in the first half. But to say that Guatemala dominated is just wrong. They did have a bit of possession, but were unable to do much with it.

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  3. Was Altidore’s penalty actually “poorly-taken?” I thought the keeper just made a good play. Seems that everyone has now lost the ability to be objective when it comes to Jozy…

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  4. Every game is different. Just because we played this way against Guatemala means we are gonna play the same exact way against say Mexico, Honduras or Panama. In this game, other than a couple of spells where Guatemala had us pinned for a few minutes, they dominated as they should against a lesser opponent by scoring a bunch, leaving no room for doubt.

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  5. Watched the Honduras/Mexico game the other night. Both of those teams could give us trouble if we play like we did on Friday

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    • Sure, the way we played on a bad field, against a lower opponent, in a friendly. We know Honduras, Costa Rica and Mexico are good by CONCACAF standards. We know we are as well. Any of the four can have a bad game. Hopefully we won’t have a bad game when playing any of the other three.

      I don’t see how the U.S. wouldn’t be slightly favored going in, though. We’re not head and shoulders above the other CONCACAF powers, but two years ago we won both the Hex and the Gold Cup, and a year ago we played out of a group of death. Sure, Costa Rica can lay claim to the more impressive World Cup showing, and no one will be shocked if they win this tournament. But until someone knocks us down, we’re king of the CONCACAF hill.

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      • CR and Mexico can and have played toe to toe with Elite teams. Forget the CONCACAF label with these teams.

      • Oh im not saying we couldnt beat the other teams in the group, what I am saying is JKs crappy team selection will level the playing field. Where is the team that beat Holland and Germany? That scored 6 goals in 2 games against good teams? and Im not talking own goals and PKs either. My number one complaint against JK is the fact that it takes an act of God for him to sit down any of his favs that simply arent cutting it. The two that come to mind immediately are Dempsey/Altidore. We looked good in the Europe games…. without them. Lets make that the norm and we might win this thing

      • so since we looked good without Howard does that mean we don’t need him either?

  6. There’s a big difference between “attacking” soccer and “beautiful” soccer (that is, technically skilled soccer). It’s all well and good to push forward aggressively every time you get the ball, but if you can’t retain possession for more than a pass or two, it serves little purpose. And it usually opens huge holes at the back. And if you play two fullbacks who would rather go forward then defend, the holes are even bigger.

    Happily the US was playing Guatemala, so tactics and execution don’t count for much, but against a team that can put the ball in the back of the net, it would be a different story. And thus the dilemmas of the US national team. Again, it’s fine to scorn careful counter attacking soccer in favor of pushing forward at every opportunity, but doing the latter requires a level of skill that perhaps the US national team still lacks. Perhaps no one, not even Bob and Bruce, really prefers playing a bit closer to the vest, but maybe that’s all we are any good at. Just a thought. We shall see over the next couple of weeks.

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    • If only we could play elite teams like Germany and the Netherlands in their own buildings to get a real sense of whether or not our attacking tactics can be successful.

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      • Absolutely true and that’s why we have to reserve final judgement.
        Nonetheless it is pertinent that Guatemala was clearly trying hard throughout the game, unlike the Dutch or the Germans, and Guatemala is typical of the teams the US will have to beat to qualify for the WC or to win the Gold Cup, for that matter.

      • If you think the German and Dutch players weren’t trying to beat us in their home stadiums then you are delusional.

      • You mean the last 30 minutes in Holland that Martins-Indi had his tounge wagging like a dog while sweating profusely and Toby Van Der Wiel was getting stuck in (receiving a yellow no less) to prove that they could anchor the Dutch Backline for the upcoming Euro qualifier…or did you mean the new German recruits who would like to replace Per Mertesecker and Boateng and send Hummels to the bench in order for Jogi to promote them to the starting line up. Yeah no real effort being out in from those groups.

        The reason Luke De Jong didn’t score was because he was like “I only got 30 minutes to impress so I will just BS my way out on the pitch” … I was also reading Sneijder’s lips before he went on. I made out something like “Let’s try not to get injured or break a sweat. I’ll just hit a few cross field balls to make it look like I want to unlock the attack. You know, just for $h!+s and giggles!”

      • Believe what you will, but I haven’t seen someone dribble the length of the field twice in the last few minutes to set up scores except in games where the opposition had retired for the night.

      • The players for the US, Germany, the Netherlands or Guatemala all got were they are by striving to win every time the compete. Any comment that pretends to think professional players do not care whether they win or not is just plain silly.

      • If we look at just one of MB’s runs in the last 5 minutes of the game, we would see him dribbling past four or five defenders. They were just letting him run past them without trying to stop him, and could care less if the US scored again. Their lack of effort showed as they through themselves in font of MB as he slalomed and leapt past them. But then again, they had retired for the night.

      • “There’s a big difference between “attacking” soccer and “beautiful” soccer (that is, technically skilled soccer). It’s all well and good to push forward aggressively every time you get the ball, but if you can’t retain possession for more than a pass or two, it serves little purpose. And it usually opens huge holes at the back. And if you play two fullbacks who would rather go forward then defend, the holes are even bigger.

        Happily the US was playing Guatemala, so tactics and execution don’t count for much, but against a team that can put the ball in the back of the net, it would be a different story. And thus the dilemmas of the US national team. Again, it’s fine to scorn careful counter attacking soccer in favor of pushing forward at every opportunity, but doing the latter requires a level of skill that perhaps the US national team still lacks. Perhaps no one, not even Bob and Bruce, really prefers playing a bit closer to the vest, but maybe that’s all we are any good at. Just a thought. We shall see over the next couple of weeks.” What a load of Bull ! The first goal against Germany was a (wait for it) 30 pass work of art. Watch this to learn happened.
        http://www.mlssoccer.com/goldcup/2015/news/article/2015/06/11/watch-30-pass-us-build-mix-diskeruds-usmnt-goal-vs-germany-armchair-analyst

      • “There’s a big difference between “attacking” soccer and “beautiful” soccer (that is, technically skilled soccer). It’s all well and good to push forward aggressively every time you get the ball, but if you can’t retain possession for more than a pass or two, it serves little purpose
        Happily the US was playing Guatemala, so tactics and execution don’t count for much, but against a team that can put the ball in the back of the net, it would be a different story. And thus the dilemmas of the US national team. Again, it’s fine to scorn careful counter attacking soccer in favor of pushing forward at every opportunity, but doing the latter requires a level of skill that perhaps the US national team still lacks.
        A LOAD OF BULL!!
        http://www.mlssoccer.com/goldcup/2015/news/article/2015/06/11/watch-30-pass-us-build-mix-diskeruds-usmnt-goal-vs-germany-armchair-analyst

      • I broke up my response to clarify.
        You are right in that only stringing together one or two passes is serve little purpose. You did mention Guatemala, however, you said against a team that could put it ne back of the net, it would be a different story. And that perhaps US lacks the skill to play anything other than counterattack.
        So I gave you documentation to prove otherwise.
        http://www.mlssoccer.com/goldcup/2015/news/article/2015/06/11/watch-30-pass-us-build-mix-diskeruds-usmnt-goal-vs-germany-armchair-analyst

      • You tell him, Mike. We don’t need any effete snobs practicing soccer relativism on these boards. We need red-blooded 100 percent Americans.
        JURGEN UBER ALLES

    • So…….. how does a country, program, team, player that has the desire go about making the transition and gaining the skill and mindset to play a proficient attacking brand of soccer? I’d say in addition to teaching and preaching and practicing the concepts, being brave enough to sacrifice/take the mandatory lumps by learning from mistakes in games is absolutely crucial. Our team has much to learn/develop in that regard, but has made significant progress against high level competition that would and can never be gained while continuing to play bunker/counter attack and paying lip service to “it” happening some day.

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      • Good question. I don’t think a national team coach can expect his players to play a style/approach that they are not accustomed to play or to play at a higher level (however you want to define that) than they are accustomed to. And the reason is simply that the national team practices relatively little compared to the time players spend with their clubs. If you want a better US national team, you have to hope for better American players, playing for better clubs.

        In fact, most national teams play fairly rudimentary soccer, certainly compared to the “quality” of play that their players are accustomed to on their clubs. The two obvious exceptions in recent times are Germany and Spain, and both of them featured more than a few players from a handful of clubs. The Spanish team, in particular, could count on players from Real Madrid and Barcelona to mesh very quickly and attain a high quality of soccer. Almost every other national team is an all-star team and plays like one. Just ask English fans.

        And it doesn’t help that national teams often experience a lot of turnover from one cycle to another.

        In the case of games that matter, the national team coach needs to decide what his players are capable of today, not what he would like them to be capable of in another year or two, and choose his tactics accordingly. Jurgen seems to believe that the US team is capable of playing a more attacking style than did his predecessors, and bless him for his confidence in our boys. Nonetheless the jury is still out. So far, Jurgen has done only about as well as his predecessors (provided you don’t count playing a different style (or trying to) as an improvement). So, let’s see what the next few weeks bring.

      • JK’s main goal is to teach his players to think faster. All players can learn this, if drilled the right way. The US has learned to play faster, and it shows in the way they play the game now. Thinking faster allows a good player to raise his level, and allows players to play a style they are not accustomed to. This is why the US no longer has to play bunker ball every game. They can go to Europe and play Holland and Germany, and win. Sure they were friendlies, but, they won playing open attacking football. Not Bunker ball.
        Seems to me he can get his players to playa style/approach that they are not used to, while playing at a higher level.

      • Let’s be fair to Bob and Bruce. Counter attacking soccer is not bunkering. Chelsea often plays counter attacking soccer and no one seems to mind.

      • Let’s be fair to Chelsea, They are a team filled with World class players. A team like that can play counter attacking football, and not play bunker ball.

      • Really, the U.S. has rarely “bunkered” — meaning 11 players behind the ball and almost no effort to attack.

      • The bunker defense is considered to be an ugly but effective method of reducing the scoring chances of the opposition. It is a tactic usually employed by poorer teams against strong opposition, or when a player is sent off. Essentially, it is the idea of packing the penalty area with defenders in order to reduce the amount of space the opposition might use to attack and shoot.
        Tell me the US never did this against stronger opposition under Bradley. Oh and by the way, the point of my post was about JK teaching his players to think faster which allowed them play at a higher level, and to, play a style they are not used to.

      • It is not whether US have ever bunkered. It’s whether Bradley’s teams regularly did it. In fact, the tactics and formations that Bradley used (and still uses) are pretty mainstream approaches. Probably more than half the teams in the world play with one striker or with two defensive midfielders or don’t press outside their half and so on. You can dislike Bradley if you wish, but it would help to be realistic about where his tactics fit on the world stage.

      • LOL, who said anything about disliking Bradley? You like to make things up to try to make a point.

      • National teams style practice time together…. well, no matter which style you chose, your team will be comprised of players from different clubs and varying chosen styles they play and practice day in and day out. Developing one for the Nats requires a holistic approach that can eventually influence a nations style of play. For one, I’d say our domestic league has made steps with many more teams striving to be possession based, keep the ball on the ground, distribute from the back than say a decade ago. As well, our youth teams are striving for the same with some success in developing players slanted towards this mind and skill set.

      • There’s broad brush styles – starting with the three main strategies of direct attack, possession and defensive. A good international team can play at least two of the three well. That’s because it’s like a game of rock, paper, scissors. With each of the three you are trying to get your opponents to move in ways that create the vulnerabilities you happen to be looking for. Defensive bests possession, possession beats direct, and direct beat defensive.

        But I think Ian also makes a point that what we see from national teams – which really aren’t that much more than all-star teams – is pretty simplistic, straight forward tactics. There isn’t time to really gain the kind of familiarity and understanding that club teams can build.

      • The best teams all have a style that is learned from a system that is taught from an early age. This is what allows the best teams to plug in new players and stay strong. This is what JK is trying to accomplish. This way you don’t end up with a team of all stars that don’t know how to play with each other.

      • Except for the Dutch, and they’ve gotten away from their patterned, numbered runs, I don’t think I agree. The Germans don’t play as sophisticated tactics as does Bayern Munich, etc., etc. When you have a core together for a lot of camps and games over a couple World Cup cycles, that helps, but it is still nothing like playing together day after day on a club team.

        Not to OD on the Dutch examples, but the last time we saw a sophisticated national team was the early 70s and Total Football, but one reason for that was like 7 or 8 of their starters were from the same club. Even the Italians with the old catenaccio… at Inter, it was a complex system, while on the Italian national team it sort of looked like a basic defensive approach.

      • I never said a NT plays as sophisticated as a club side. Bayern is more sophisticated than the German NT. What I said is, and we will use he Germans since you brought them up, Have a system in place that allows their players to play familiar style when they get together. That is a huge advantage when playing a NT team with no such system in place. A team without a system is just a bunch of all stars that can have trouble learning to play together.

      • Dear Mr. Woodville. “I don’t think a national team coach can expect his players to play a style/approach that they are not accustomed to play or to play at a higher level (however you want to define that) than they are accustomed to.” … I give you Chile… the new champions of South America. checkmate.

      • You should stick to checkers. You clearly don’t understand what “higher” or “different” mean in this context. Did Chile play in a new different stye or were they just more successful with the methods they normally use?

      • You are absolutely right. What it also does is give our youth players the right inspiration to play open football. They see what it takes to play at a higher level and so they try to emulate it.

    • And you called me worthless and classless, just because in your mind you don’t seem to win any argument, even when I let you have the last word. A perfect case of the pot calling the kettle black. Thank you, Davis, Lennon, Observer & Associates.

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      • again, I do not find the need to comment under false monikers… It’s not my fault you’ve annoyed enough people that they want to make fun of you……. the problem starts with you, sir.

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