Direct from Columbus

"The Replacements" Shine In Victory Against Mexico

Concern about players missing because of injury or suspension was erased Tuesday when a trio of players filling in for usual starters did so expertly, helping the U.S. to a 2-0 win that clinched World Cup qualification.
BY Jon Arnold Posted
September 11, 2013
2:08 AM
COLUMBUS, Ohio—The United States beat Mexico on Tuesday without its best forward or its best defensive midfielder and with a center back who wasn't even called in initially.

The play of the replacements for Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, and Matt Besler helped lift the United States to another 2-0 victory against its rival and secure qualification for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, providing another testimony for Jurgen Klinsmann's gospel of depth.

"I think we have more players now than we had two years ago to pull from that we have the feeling they're going to come in, even on standby, no problem," he said in his post-match news conference. "Like you see Clarence Goodson today, like he was already with us in Costa Rica no big deal, but we knew that. That's why we kind of managed the situation like that."

Goodson received praise from his center back counterpart as well.

"Coming in mid-camp and putting aside everything about not being called up first, he really did his job. I really commend him," Omar Gonzalez said. "I'm happy that he came in and did such a great job."

The San Jose Earthquakes center back didn't look to skip a beat against Mexico, though he said it took a few minutes for him to settle in and get comfortable after the whistle. The 31-year-old credited his experience with helping him get acclimated so quickly.

"Look, a guy like me, I've been in enough camps that it's not something new or something I need to adjust to," he said. "I know what to expect and I know all the guys, so you just hop in there and you do what you do, and you make the most of it and try to get on stride as quickly as possible."

Part of the reason Goodson's night seemed easy was the play of the defensive midfielders in front of him. With Michael Bradley out because of an ankle injury and Geoff Cameron, his replacement in Costa Rica, missing thanks to a yellow card suspension, Real Salt Lake midfielder Kyle Beckerman filled the void.

He filled it admirably, partnering with Jermaine Jones to win possession and distribute the ball well in his first minutes in the Hex since coming on in the 94th minute of the Snow Clasico in Colorado.

"I think the biggest thing is you've just got to stay ready," he said. "There's always another game. No matter if you win, you've got to win the next one, and then the next one. So for me it was just about being ready. It was a big opportunity for me tonight, and we were able to get it done as a team."

That team performance included Eddie Johnson scoring the opener on a powerful header from a corner kick. The Seattle Sounders forward had nearly scored on a similar play earlier but removed any lingering doubt about whether the U.S. would be able to put in goals without the suspended Altidore. Johnson reminded reporters after the match that Altidore isn't the only forward who has had some recent success.

"I got a good run of form going for club and country," he said. "I think right now you just want to ride that rhythm. The coach, whenever he puts you out there you've got to be confident in yourself that he's putting you out there."

That's the difference between Klinsmann having to dip into his reserves now compared to when he took over the program. The manager has effectively managed his roster, and come through some adversity somewhat fortuitously, and ended up with suitable replacements in pretty much every position, replacements that come in ready to do their jobs rather than worried about missteps.

That creates a problem, but one he's likely happy to have created. How is he going to figure out his line-up for the World Cup?

He better get started because it became a certainty Tuesday night. There will be a 23-man roster to name. There will be a plane leaving the U.S. en route to Brazil. He will run into situations where his team will have to prove his depth. Goodson, Beckerman, Johnson. After another 2-0 those names have moved a closer to the front of a host of them that could be on the list.

Jon Arnold is an ASN contributing editor. Follow him on Twitter.

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