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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?

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Great Scot!

Thoughts on the United States’ 5-1 wallop of Scotland

Saturday night’s international friendly between the U.S. and Scotland in Jacksonville, Florida was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen from a U.S. side.  Seriously.  The peppermint-striped Americans looked nothing like the defensive, lone-striker, mistake-prone teams we’ve suffered with over the years.  Instead, this group was energetic, organized, fast, aggressive, and passing out of their minds!  What is going on here?

The Americans’ shooting and finishing was none too shabby either.  Landon Donovan began the scoring festivities (his first of three!), joined later by a long-distance, half-volley rocket from Michael Bradley, and a header goal by Jermaine Jones.  The U.S. absolutely swarmed Scotland, particularly in transition play where the U.S. had many more options than they usually do.  Michael Bradley was fantastic – I never thought I’d be saying this but he might be the third best American player at the moment behind Clint Dempsey (first) and Donovan (second).  Another standout U.S. midfielder last night was Jose Torres.  I hope Torres continues to get starting nods for the U.S.

The U.S. was defensively firm as well, though Scotland didn’t threaten very much.  Even Scotland’s goal was an own-goal, scored after Kenny Miller headed the ball off U.S. center back Geoff Cameron.  Granted, Scotland doesn’t have the urgency of impending World Cup qualifiers like the U.S. does, but it was still a surprisingly (and pleasingly) dominating all-around performance by the U.S.

The U.S. is in a good place right now personnel-wise.  When is the last time a U.S. coach had this many choices at each position?  The most exciting aspect of last night’s victory was the Americans’ purpose-driven possession.  The U.S. has rarely, if ever, moved the ball so quickly and accurately, with plenty of goals to show for the effort.  Last night’s match was evidence that Jurgen Klinsmann is making his mark on the team as he approaches his first anniversary as U.S. head coach.  It was exactly the kind of offensive performance we hoped he would bring to the table.  This new-look U.S. team will really be put to the test on Wednesday against Brazil in Landover, Maryland.

Speaking of new looks, I was on the fence about those new red/white horizontal striped, Kirk Douglas-in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea-inspired home jerseys for the U.S….

But after seeing the jerseys in action last night, I’m slipping on the negative side of the fence.  They just look a little too much like a costume for my taste.  The light-gray numbers don’t work for me – I’d rather seem them in blue.  While I appreciate the nod to the American flag, and while I’d like to see more red incorporated in the U.S. kit (which has traditionally been navy blue-dominant), I think Nike was trying a little too hard with this one.

What do you think of the new U.S. home kit?  Thoughts on the U.S. performance against Scotland?