USMNT Report: Throwaway Game in Glasgow

The United States played a sleepy, uninteresting game against Scotland
by Herb Scribner   |   Monday, November 18, 2013

USMNT Report - coverage of the United States Men's National Team

It’s been a stellar year for the United States Men’s National Team, as far as results go.

The Yanks captured the 2013 Gold Cup, they went on a record 12-game winning streak, they rebounded in the locker room when their backs were against the wall, they qualified at the head of the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying table, they defeated Mexico in the fortress of Estadio Azteca. USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann’s side has been dripping with accomplishments all year.

But when the United States played Scotland on Friday to a 0-0 draw, no one would think the USA played that well throughout the year. It was a poor match, and one that did little to help the Americans grow as a national team.

POST-GAME REACTIONS: Klinsmann said the USA wasn’t strong enough in the opening half.

“First half, I didn’t like,” he said. “We were too slow, not urgent enough, so we corrected a couple things at halftime, and it looked much better in the second half.”

Aron Johannsson said the Americans couldn’t match the physicality brought on by Scotland.

“Like we knew before the game, they’re a very physical, strong team. They’re compact in their defense so they’re hard to break down. Unfortunately we couldn’t do it today.”

MAN OF THE MATCH: Brek Shea – Shea was a substitution in the second half, but certainly warrants top honors for his performance. He refreshed the entire American lineup and made surging runs up the wings. Without him, the USA would be as stale and absent as it was for the entire first half.

ANALYSIS: Nothing about Friday’s match resembled what the USA has become this year.

All those records and results from earlier in the year were just stats in a history book on Friday night. The Americans were sloppy, disjointed and uninteresting for nearly the entire match. 

The game started slow as neither side opened up. Both teams had the odd opportunity, but it was mostly a sleepy opening half. The USA played to Scotland’s style, which is physical, tough and stiff, which didn’t make things very appetizing.

Klinsmann’s moves in the second half – bringing on Shea, Johannsson and Mix Diskerud – sparked life into the lineup. Those types of players, ones with energy and creative styles, should have started the game to give the USA more aggressive and attacking play. There was a renewed sense of urgency once the subs were made, which the USA was missing throughout. Shea played well on the wing and Johannsson had some attempts in the final third that were more like how the USA normally played 2013. More of that might have brought on a goal and the Americans might have left with a more positive result.

Defensively, things were a mess. Brad Evans made poor decisions in his passes and Omar Gonzalez was called for a handball and couldn’t solidify himself in the middle. Both Geoff Cameron and DaMarcus Beasley played well defensively, but they both drifted forward and out of their positions too much throughout the game. At points, Beasley was higher up the pitch than Bradley, and Cameron made runs and passing plays in the offensive third. Cameron’s attacking moments, though, were some of the best from the US.

And nothing worked in the midfield. Sacha Kljestan played in the center attacking midfielder role, which is by no means his natural spot and not something he should be doing on an international stage. Eddie Johnson’s a striker, so there was little need to move him to the midfield. Klinsmann could have moved EJ to a striker spot, which would have forced the US to push towards at goal a little more. Alejandro Bedoya disappeared and was useless by the USA. Jermaine Jones had bad giveaways and failed to make his mark on the match. Nothing seemed to be going right for this squad on Friday.

It seems Klinsmann is picking his favorite USA players and sticking them in positions that won’t necessarily work. He’s built a formation to fit the players, but hasn’t brought in the players to make the formation work best. If he wants to play a 4-2-3-1, Klinsmann needs a striker that can stand on his own and Altidore isn’t that kind of striker. Pair him with EJ or Johannsson, and it becomes a different game. Much of Altidore’s success over the years in Holland can be attributed to great service and setup – something he’s lacking now at his current club Sunderland, where he’s notched only one goal. Playing up top on his own won’t bring success.

Ultimately, the United States played a throwaway game that showed little about where this team is headed. Shea and the substitutes did well to spark the offense, but it was too little too late to aid this game and it might only be because of their fresh legs. It says more about the starters, who played with little excitement, than it does the substitutes. If this starting XI is full of players that Klinsmann values, and they’re playing that poor of a game, it can’t bode well for the US come next summer when the USA needs to depth to keep pushing through World Cup stages.

Maybe Tuesday’s match against Austria will show a different game with more excitement, chemistry and style. But if the USA plays just as absently as it did on Friday, then these two friendlies will be nothing but a waste of time – valuable time that can’t be lost now that 2013 is nearly over and the 2014 World Cup is less of a destination and almost a reality.

NEXT UP: November 19 – United States vs. Austria, Ernst-Happel-Stadin, Vienna, Austra. 2:45 p.m. EST, NBC Sports Network.

Herb SCRIBNER

Nationality:
USA
College:
UMass Amherst
Club Domestic:
RSL
Club Foreign:
FC Barcelona
SN managing editor and award-winning journalist, Herb has always been known as "The Soccer Guy" wherever he goes. He's a leftback in most outdoor and indoor leagues. He also writes for Deseret News National.
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