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Scorin’ in the Rain

U.S. defeats Antigua & Barbuda in so-so fashion

The fact that fans are so critical of the U.S. national team is a positive indicator that U.S. Soccer is on the right track.  The team has made so much progress over the past twenty years that fans now hold the team to a higher standard.  I recall the days when a 3-1 victory like last night’s win over Antigua & Barbuda was a celebrated rarity.  Now we grumble that Antigua & Barbuda actually scored.

 

The U.S. wasn’t awful last night, just not as smooth as they were against Scotland a couple weeks ago.  Primarily, there was the defensive leak caused by Onyewu in the second half that granted A&B their goal.  Unfortunately, Onyewu just doesn’t seem up to the task right now.  He has a very long way to go to recover his starting spot.  Other issues included too many second half giveaways by the U.S., and a general concentration lapse in the last fifteen minutes that allowed A&B to press the U.S. goal.

It wasn’t a close match.  Most of the action took place in A&B’s half of the field.  But the U.S. couldn’t finish precisely enough to run up the score (which is important since goal differential matters in qualifying).  Granted, the monsoon weather conditions didn’t help.  A&B also had the box well clogged for most of the game.  The U.S. needs to shoot from outside the box more to draw out defenses, which in turn will sometimes open up space for those darting runs into the box that Donovan, Dempsey, and Gomez (last night) do so well.  Dempsey and Bradley tried a couple distance shots that proved tricky for the A&B goalkeeper.  The U.S. needs to increase outside shooting because most of their CONCACAF opposition will employ the same defensive strategy of stuffing the box.

On a positive note, Herculez Gomez has been such a breath of fresh air at forward instead of Altidore.  He works much harder – on and off the ball – than Altidore and will actually hustle back to pitch in on defense.  His hard work paid off with a goal last night.  I’ve been saying for a long time that Altidore has received far too many chances to prove himself, so it’s great to see Klinsmann open to trying Gomez instead.

It was great to open World Cup qualifying with a win, but the real test will come Tuesday night in Guatemala.  If the U.S. can improve their concentration and tighten up on defense, they should be fine.

How did you think the U.S. looked against Antigua & Barbuda?

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Coach Klinsmann

Exploring Past and Present with U.S. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann

Euro 2012 starts today.  In fact, Poland and Greece are battling it out in Warsaw as I write.  But don’t forget the U.S. starts their World Cup qualification journey tonight against Antigua & Barbuda!

In anticipation of tonight’s CONCACAF qualifier, check out this vintage Sports Illustrated article about Jurgen Klinsmann from 1994.  I was cleaning out some files recently and found some Sports Illustrated issues from World Cup ’94.  In SI’s World Cup preview section (yes it was just a section and didn’t even make the cover!), I was surprised to rediscover a profile of Jurgen Klinsmann who was playing for AS Monaco in 1994.  It’s a great piece and provides some insight about Klinsmann you may not have known.  There is also an amazingly ironic photograph of a decal Klinsmann had on his car at the time of Snoopy in a rowboat wondering (in German), Is it much farther to America?  Weird!

I also highly recommend USsoccer.com’s Behind the Crest series of videos, which features surprising behind-the-scenes access to the U.S. national team that you won’t find anywhere else.  One of the most recent videos gives a very interesting look at the whole team (during their recent Orlando training camp) listening over breakfast as Klinsmann announced which four guys were being cut from the squad.  There is also a well-done series profiling various U.S. national team members in the European cities where they play.  Great stuff!

What are your predictions for the U.S. v. Antigua/Barbuda match?

Brazil or Bust

World Cup 2014 starts tomorrow for the U.S.

The United States’ 5-1 rout of Scotland on May 26 already seems a long time ago thanks to the two matches with much different results that have happened since.  First there was the 4-1 loss to Brazil in Landover, Maryland on May 30, then the 0-0 draw with Canada in Toronto last Sunday.  I’ve had to remind myself that these are friendlies, mere tune-up matches designed to prep the team for imminent World Cup qualifying – otherwise the Brazil and Canada results could be rather depressing.

The Brazil score wasn’t pretty, but there was plenty of pep in the U.S. step against Brazil, with the Americans inches from scoring on several occasions.  The 0-0 result against Canada is actually cause for more concern.  Yes, it was the third game in eight days for the U.S., they were probably tired, they’ve been training hard, etc.  But it’s Canada!  Our northern neighbors have made some headway the past few years toward improving soccer respectability within the region, but the U.S. should be able to handle them.  Instead, the zest that pulsated through the U.S. against Scotland was replaced with sluggishness and an inability to get sufficient numbers forward.  Canada was a lot more threatening on goal, and frankly scored one that should have counted (it was mysteriously waved off by a linesman).

A draw with Canada isn’t the most recent match memory you want to have on the eve of World Cup qualifying, but Jurgen Klinsmann and the boys are going to have to put it behind them, eat some Wheaties, and gird themselves because it’s CONCACAF time.  The World Cup doesn’t start in Brazil in 2014.  Those are the finals.  The World Cup tournament starts tomorrow night for the U.S., in Tampa, Florida against Antigua & Barbuda.  Here’s hoping for a multi-goal U.S. victory to get this qualifying campaign started off on the right foot!

Who would you like to see among the U.S. starting eleven against Antigua/Barbuda?