USMNT Report: Bad First Step On The Road To RussiaThe USMNT has a bad start towards the 2018 World Cup with a 3-2 loss to Mexico in the CONCACAF Cup
by Herb Scribner | Sunday, October 11, 2015
Well, we learned one thing last night — The United States will have to wait until 2018 to compete in Russia.
That’s because Mexico defeated the U.S. 3-2 at the Rose Bowl in Pascenda, California, in a game that was largely dominated by Mexico. The United States offered little energy, creativity or attack-minded soccer, showing that this team may not be headed down the best path for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Geoff Cameron — It was hard not to notice Geoff Cameron on Saturday night. He not only scored an excellent goal from Michael Bradley's beautiful cross in, but he also marked well in the central defense and was one of the few stable players in the US backline. He also had a great ball right up the middle of the pitch to spark a counter attack for the Americans.
ANALYSIS: In the leadup to this match, some pundits and media members called for Klinsmann’s head — that if he were to lose this game, he should no longer be the USMNT coach.
But it’s obvious he won’t lose his job. USSF has invested a lot of money in Klinsmann, who serves two roles — USMNT coach and USSF technical director — so it’s unlikely Sunil Gulati would let go a man who holds two very important jobs when CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying starts in November and the USMNT U-23 team is fighting for Olympic placement. It’s too busy a time for USSF to gamble with a new coach. Klinsmann, though chaotic in lineup choices and strategic decision, is at least stable and consistent in his chaos.
Still, it’s hard to not to see last night’s game and not think about how the USMNT is on a dark path to Russia (not a political statement).
Two aged stars, Jermaine Jones and DaMarcus Beasley, were heavily involved in last night’s game — almost too much where it proved more hurtful than hopeful. Beasley and Jones occupied the left side of the defense (Beasley as the left back and Jones as the left center defend midfielder) that was punished over and over in the latter half of the game. In fact, both of Mexico’s two extra time goals came because Jones and Beasley weren’t properly marking their men.
The second goal was almost directly the duo’s fault — Jones was called for a reckless foul, earning Mexico a free kick. After the free kick, Beasley bit too hard, advancing way off his line and exposing the back, giving Aguilar space to storm in and hit his world class goal.
And Jones, at about the 70th minute of the match, resorted to walking and lightly jogging to the men he was supposed to be marking. He’s still nursing a groin injury, which lessened his speed and capacity to play well in a tough game.
This proved costly for the US because the rest of the backline remained unstable. Geoff Cameron played well — he had a goal and a nice pass up the middle to spark a US attack — but Matt Besler was a mess in the middle with him. And Fabian Johnson had one of his worst games to date. He was so off that Gyasi Zardes, who started on the left side attack, had to move over to right defense to help limit Mexico’s attacking options. Zardes played well, but wasn’t given much of an opportunity to shine given he was in a defensive role and not an advancing one.
So much defensive play made the US flat and uncreative. It didn’t help that leaders like Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley were extremely soft. Dempsey was invisible almost the entire game (and even when he had the ball, he failed to produce), Altidore had his chances (though they were too far and too simple to be considered dangerous) and Bradley )though he sparked runs and earned an assist with a great ball in on the first goal) gave away too many possessions in the midfield with bad first touches and errant passes. Even Kyle Beckerman, who played will in spurts, didn’t have much gas left by the end of the match, missing defensive cues and struggling to make up for the mistakes that Jones made with him in the CDM role.
Thankfully, the subs that came in the game, Bobby Wood and DeAndre Yedlin, proved to be the lighting spark for the USA. Wood racked another big goal for the Americans — he’s now scored against Germany, Holland and Mexico for the USA — and continues to show that he may make an impact off the bench.
Wood only got the goal, though, because Yedlin had a storming run through the middle and found Wood waiting in the box. It was a fast, refreshing goal for the US, coming at a time in the game when the players had little left to give.
It’s very unlikely that Klinsmann will lose his job for this game. After all, his substitution choices proved fruitful, he managed to push Mexico into extra time and his team was just minutes away from penalties.
But this does show that the USA isn’t starting on a strong foot towards 2018 World Cup qualification. Too much importance has been given to veteran players who lack speed and creativity, which, as Yedlin and Wood show, can work if you give it enough time and patience.
And what the US’ leaders — players who should perform well every night, like Dempsey, Bradley and Altidore — did against Mexico isn’t enough. (Side note: It’s also troubling to see that all of those payers are now MLS stables, and yet they failed to do much on the international stage). They need to at least create multiple chances and offer something stronger than sloppy, chaotic and errant counterattacks.
The US’ loss to Mexico shouldn’t be a call for Klinsmann to be axed, but rather a call for the USA to offer something more creative, positive and youthful. Otherwise, the Americans could find themselves in another must-win game for Russia — only not for a manufactured title, but World Cup qualification.
NEXT UP: October 13 — Friendly: United States vs. Costa Rica, Red Bull Arena, Harrison, N.J. 6:30 p.m. EST, ESPN, WatchESPN, UniMas, Univision Deportes Network.