U.S. Wins Again as Players Show More Consistency
July 11, 2015
IT'S NOT THAT there aren’t any positives, it’s just at this point in Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure it’s hard not to expect more.
The United States national team defeated Haiti 1-0 in the Gold Cup Friday night and in doing so, clinched first place in Group A and a place in next week’s quarterfinal in Baltimore. The win made Monday’s game versus Panama somewhat meaningless, at least for the U.S., and extended the team’s winning streak to six games and its unbeaten run to seven.
That’s all really good.
And yet, after beating the Netherlands, a perennial world power, and reigning World Cup champion Germany last month—in Europe, no less—there’s both a temptation and a desire to see from Klinsmann’s men a bit more dominance against CONCACAF foes who aren’t close to the level of the Dutch and Germans.
Yes, a win is a win and we all know there’s a big difference between friendlies and a confederation championship. At the same time, is it unreasonable to expect the U.S. to be able to beat Haiti and Honduras at home by bigger margins than it beat Germany and the Netherlands away?
And it’s not just the goal-differential. Despite the six points from two games, it’s hard to say the U.S. has played well so far in this Gold Cup. Yes, there have been some good moments and certainly the central defense was vastly improved Friday after the shaky effort three nights prior against Honduras.
But the U.S. attack is missing on way too many passes and giving the ball away both too often and too easily. That’s leading to an abundance of opposing counter attacks that put far too much burden on the lone holding midfielder, whether it's Kyle Bekckerman, Michael Bradley, or Mix Diskerud.
There’s too big a gap between the forwards and the backline, especially with the way the U.S. is giving the ball away, and eventually one of these CONCACAF teams is going to make the U.S. pay. If it’s Panama Monday night in Kansas City it won’t matter much for the U.S. but going forward, if it’s not corrected it could be the costly mistake that’s the difference between repeating as champions and watching someone else lift the trophy on American soil.
Perhaps the Panamanians will prove the perfect panacea for Klinsmann’s game, a match with a team desperate for a result while the U.S. has luxury of having nothing to lose. But something has to change because right now the U.S. hasn’t played well enough for long enough to win its sixth Gold Cup.
To the ratings…
BRAD GUZAN—Continues to do everything that’s asked of him and lock down his place as new No. 1 goalkeeper. His one-v-one save on Haiti’s Duckens Nazon in the 57th minute was his biggest moment and preserved the U.S. lead and he made several routine saves and catches in traffic in the game’s latter stages while continually providing a calming presence. Rating: 7
GREG GARZA—A solid effort in the game that officially cap-tied him to the U.S. Nothing spectacular but he made some timely tackles and interceptions and almost always kept himself between his mark and the goal. His only major error came at the one-hour mark when he was beaten to a header by Haiti’s highly active Wilde-Donald Guerrier but the shot was off the mark. Also gets credit for a nicely played ball that would have been a secondary assist in MLS. Rating: 6
TIM REAM—In his longest outing with the U.S. in several years, Ream showed none of the gaffes that plagued many of his prior national team appearancesunder Bob Bradley’s watch and early in the Klinsmann Era. Was positionally solid and never beaten physically, though a poor clearance in the 36th minute could have proved costly and he allowed Guerrier to get past him with a poorly timed offside trap. Rating: 5.5
OMAR GONZALEZ—A strong outing from the Los Angeles Galaxy big man. Save for a few sloppy giveaways in the first half and the poorly timed offside trap that let Guerrier get in, Gonzalez was everything Klinsmann could have asked for, making multiple interceptions and tackles, breaking up plays and, of course, winning everything in the air. Rating: 6.5
BRAD EVANS—A workmanlike effort from the Seattle utility knife. He didn’t get forward as much as he or Klinsmann probably wanted but save for being badly faked out in the 16th minute, he was solid on defense. Rating: 5.5
MICHAEL BRADLEY—Got better as the game wore on, in part because he moved further up the field after halftime. Hit too many errant long balls early and was often caught too far forward in the first half, leaving too much space on Haitian counterattacks. Had some nice runs late in the first half and early in the second and did a much better job controlling the flow of play in the second. Still, nowhere close to his best game. Rating: 6
MIX DISKERUD—Got off to a shaky start and was dispossessed a couple of times in the first 10 minutes, with both incidents leading to counterattacks. On the second of the two he was forced to break up with a foul that probably should have resulted in a yellow card. Settled down as the game progressed, particularly when he moved to holding midfielder in the second half, and made a key recovery tackle late in the first half that sparked a counterattack and had a nice switch of the ball that led to some nice build-up and a good shot in the 55th. Rating: 5
GRAHAM ZUSI—Was solid defensively, tracking back consistently to help Evans at right back and did well to break up a counter in the 24th minute. Drew a couple of corners and a couple of crosses go for naught but otherwise didn’t create much offensively. Rating: 5.5
CLINT DEMPSEY—Not his best game but Deuce lives for the big moments and he capitalized when he got his, finishing the U.S.' best scoring chance to provide the game’s only goal. He seemed to struggle to adapt to starting the game as a central midfielder and like Bradley settled in more when moved further up field. Had some nice flicks and almost-chances and a tremendous move late in the second half that almost netted the insurance goal. Rating: 6.5
ARON JOHANNSSON—Despite not getting on the scoresheet, this may have been Johannsson's best game in a U.S. shirt. He was active throughout his 83 minutes, showed for the ball in dangerous spots, and didn’t lack for ideas once he got it as he tried to create for Bradley, Dempsey, and Jozy Altidore and just missed a bicycle attempt in the 76th. Rating: 7
JOZY ALTIDORE—The effort was there but the results are still lacking as Altidore recovers from his late May hamstring injury that cost him the Netherlands and Germany friendlies. Tracked back frequently to show for the ball but his passes were off and he seems to lack the ability to dribble past defenders right now. Rating: 5
GYASI ZARDES—On for Altidore after the break, he wasted no time using his pace in the left flank to catch Garza’s pass and hit a perfect pass that found Dempsey in stride for the gamewinner. Proceeded to play good defense and just missed a goal in the 76th and had a great run in the 87th as he used his speed to stretch the field and pressure the Haitian defense. Rating: 7.5
FABIAN JOHNSON—It’s certainly nice to have a reserve of Johnson’s caliber. On for Garza in the 67th, he locked down the left side as the Haitians seemed reluctant to test him. Made a couple of nice runs forward and hit a sweet ball for Zardes in the 89th that could have been an assist on another night then broke up a last-gasp Haiti attempt in stoppage time. Rating: 6.5
KYLE BECKERMAN—On for Johannsson in the 83rd, he instantly settled the midfield and provided support for the backline and a link with the attack. Made a nice defensive play in stoppage time only to get instantly dispossessed, with the ensuing cross needing to be broken up by Johnson. Rating: 6
JURGEN KLINSMANN—The U.S. boss deserves credit for trusting his bench and changing seven starters after playing three nights earlier. His decision to play Bradley and Dempsey out of their preferred spots may have looked good on paper but in practice seemed like, once again, fixing something that wasn’t broken. While he has yet to get the U.S. playing well this tournament, his team is undefeated and he definitely deserves praise for his use of his subs, particularly the Zardes insertion and the instant dividends it paid. Rating: 6
Brooke Tunstall is an American Soccer Now contributing editor and ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter.