Five things to draw from USMNT’s successful Hexagonal campaign

US Men's National team vs. Panama

Photo by Michael Janosz/ISIphotos.com

By FRANCO PANIZO

Eight months. That is all that separates the U.S. Men’s National Team from the World Cup in Brazil.

After enjoying a largely successful final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying that ended Tuesday night with a thrilling 3-2 win in Panama, U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his players can now shift their focus towards preparing for next summer’s tournament. The expectations for the competition are high for the U.S. after they tied a record total of points in the Hexagonal this cycle, and the team will be keen on meeting and possibly surpassing them once June rolls around.

The numbers may indicate that reaching the 2014 World Cup was an easy task for the Americans, but that was not the case. The U.S. endured some rough moments and Klinsmann faced a bevy of criticism at the start of the Hexagonal before the ship was righted and some quality and memorable results were picked up.

Regardless, the entire process of qualifying served as a big lesson for Klinsmann and his players in terms of learning about themselves and here are five things to take away from the U.S.’s Hexagonal campaign as they gear up for their trip to Brazil:

FEED ALTIDORE AND HE WILL SCORE

The recipe for scoring success is there: feed Jozy Altidore and the goals will come.

Questions abounded about Altidore’s form at the start of the year after a well-documented scoreless drought that was surely weighing on the forward’s mind more than he let on. But criticism turned into immediate praise once Altidore started finding the back of the net with more regularity midway through the Hexagonal, a result of the U.S. team providing better service to the 23-year-old striker.

Altidore showed that when is given the ball in dangerous spots, he can make opposing teams pay and that only lifts his confidence to make him even more dangerous. Altidore scored in a string of consecutive qualifiers against Jamaica, Panama and Honduras in June, but the key ingredient to it all was his American teammates finding him in more dangerous positions.

Yes, Altidore will need to continue to shoulder most of the hold-up play for the U.S., but a steady dose of service will keep him happy and opposing teams on their toes.

THERE ARE OPTIONS AT FULLBACK, BUT MORE MIGHT BE NEEDED

Brad Evans’ emergence at right back and DaMarcus Beasley’s international renaissance at left back were among the biggest surprises for Klinsmann and the U.S. team. Both started a good portion of the Americans’ qualifiers and fared well in the majority of the matches they played in.

That said, it appears that Klinsmann knows that more will likely be needed from those positions in order to make a serious run next summer. After all, he has always said he likes his fullbacks to jump into the attack and Beasley and Evans do not necessarily provide that added dimension regardless of how capable they are defensively.

Klinsmann does have options at each spot. He could once again summon Fabian Johnson to left back (where Johnson played much of 2012 at amid plenty of praise from Klinsmann) if someone steps up and proves worthy of handling the left midfield role that the versatile 25-year-old currently occupies. Landon Donovan, Alejandro Bedoya, Edgar Castillo and Brad Davis are among the potential candidates to do so.

On the right, Klinsmann could turn to a number of players. There is Timmy Chandler, a recovering Steve Cherundolo and the oft-ignored Eric Lichaj. Klinsmann, however, does not have much more time to see how those players can integrate with the back line that navigated successfully through the Hexagonal, so he will need to give them the same type of chance he handed to Alejandro Bedoya on Tuesday night to see what they can do.

CENTERBACK IS DEEPER THAN MOST ORIGINALLY THOUGHT

Take your pick.

In present-day, there is no shortage of center back options for Klinsmann to choose from. That is a far different scenario than at the beginning of the Hex, when few observers had any idea as to who could come in and fill the problematic spot for a U.S. team ready to move on from its veteran contributors.

The center back pool includes the likes of Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron, Clarence Goodson and Michael Orozco, players who have all played pivotal roles in this cycle at one point or another and will be fighting to be the two starters at the heart of the U.S. defense. Throw in the up-and-coming John Brooks to the mix and you can see that the U.S.’s situation at centerback is at a much healthier state than it was 12 months ago.

KLINSMANN KNOWS THE DEFINITION OF AN IMPACT SUB

It is not mere coincidence that Klinsmann’s substitutions paid off more often than not during the second half of the Hex.

Time and again in the last five matches, Klinsmann saw players that he inserted off the bench make an impact. There was Mix Diskerud in the 2-0 win over Mexico in September, Edgar Castillo and Graham Zusi in last Friday’s triumph over Jamaica, and Brad Davis and Aron Johannsson in Tuesday night’s exhilarating win over Panama.

Klinsmann has discovered the formula to making good substitutions by not waiting too long to use them and having a good grasp of his players’ strengths and weaknesses. The U.S. head coach has shown as of late that he can figure out what type of player a game is calling for, and that should only do wonders for the Americans as they prepare for the World Cup.

WORLD CUP ROSTER WILL COME DOWN TO THE WIRE

The Gold Cup in July revealed it. The fall’s qualifiers amplified it further.

This current crop of American players is as deep as any in the history of U.S. Soccer. Not only is there intense competition for the 11 starting spots, but also for the highly-coveted 23 tickets to Brazil for next summer’s World Cup. It seems as if almost everyone’s place is in danger and that leaves no room for complacency, just as Klinsmann has wanted all along.

That also likely means that the majority of those 23 World Cup roster spots will come down to the last minute. The U.S. boasts such quality depth right now that you can expect some key contributors to miss out on next summer’s roster for Brazil, and that goes without even taking into account the list of recently-injured players like Herculez Gomez, Maurice Edu, Danny Williams and Brek Shea that are hoping to break back into the squad.

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121 Responses to Five things to draw from USMNT’s successful Hexagonal campaign

  1. HoboMike says:

    I hope we can have FJ and Cherundolo start as the fullbacks. Beasley and Evans were serviceable but I don’t think they can cut in in the World Cup.

    Wouldn’t mind Davis making it as the 23rd guy. Always good to have someone who can do 1 thing and do it well as an impact sub.

    • KHANNNNN says:

      That line of thought makes absolutely no sense.

      Evans and Beasley have performed above and beyond expectation against top level opponents–consistently. You keep looking for some magical starter. They are the starters.

      They aren’t stop gaps. They are the starters. Top of the pecking order. Why can’t they cut it in the world cup? Because…?

      Your issue is clearly not with their quality of play on the field.

      • USMNT says:

        I agree with KHANNN. Klinnsman’s approach is sound that 1) What have you done for ME lately 2) Club Form 74) How well you have played historically. Knowing that, Dolo is the odd man out at this point until he is back from injury, playing in Germany regularly at a high level AND plays a game or two for the USA. Klinnsman does not take the chances that Bradley and predecessors had to take because there was no depth. Evans at least has shown CONSISTENT play. Is he the greatest RB in the world? No, but he plays at a high level and is CONSISTENT. You are taking a chance on Dolo until proven that he is back if he can come back. See Davies and Gooch.

      • HoboMike says:

        I love a good debate but hate when people try to explain what I’m thinking. So….if my issues is not with their play on the field, I must personally hate the two of them? Is that it?

        When did they “perform above and beyond expectation against top level opponents?” What top level opponents have we played?

        They can’t cut it in the World Cup because: (1) Evans lacks the speed to get back, so he won’t be able to press forward as much. He is always going to be a liability against quicker opponents…and ones who actually know how to use their quickness as well, not like the wingers from Jamaica. We’ve lacked width from the right hand side recently. (2) Beasley is not a natural fullback, but has played well there while looking less than comfortable. I’m not going to make a comparison to him marking Ronaldo or someone like that, but I think he’d have a tough time against the likes of Di Maria, Alexis Sanchez, or another upper-middle class winger.

        You’d be more comfortable with Evans and Beasley than Cherundolo (if completely healthy) and FJ? Get real.

        • HoboMike says:

          And that snide remark was direct at KHANNN, not USMNT.

        • USMNT says:

          FJ vs Beasley to me is more situational and less of debate because you give up a bit of attack to put FJ at LB, etc.

          Dolo is the big if. IF he is healthy. IF he is back to form. See example: Bocanegra. Just saying that Dolo WAS the #1 RB. Until he reproves it, Klinsman is not going to auto start him. Same with Dempsey. If the world cup were next month dempsey does not start and Dolo is not on the plane.

          • HoboMike says:

            Agreed, and I should have prefaced my comment with “if everyone is healthy.” Luckily we have 8 months to get him there.

      • Andy says:

        If (big if) Cherundolo is healthy and playing in Germany, he should be the starter over Evans. Evans wasn’t entirely sound against Panama and their speed.

        Beasley isn’t dominate either, but probably the best option at left back. Johnson might be better in midfield.

        And any player that is peaking could easily overtake either Evans or Beasley. Impossible to tell.

    • beto says:

      i wish we had a friendly vs a dangerous attacking team like Portugal or Ghana coming up to really test the full backs and to see if others would be better.. i guess we can rely on the fact that Germany, Mexico, Panama, others couldn’t expose a weak link…

  2. HoboMike says:

    The goalies are set in stone. For the remainder of my 20, in case anyone cares, I would do:

    DEF: Cherundolo, Besler, Cameron, Gonzalez, Brooks, Johnson, Beasley, Goodson
    MID: Bradley, Jones, Donovan, Diskerud, Zusi, Shea, Beckerman, and 1 of Bedoya/Johnson/Davis
    FW: Altidore, Johansson, Dempsey, Boyd (or, EJ can go here and keep 1 of Bedoya/Davis in the midfield group)

  3. Ryan in NYC by way of NC says:

    Does Sacha make the cut?

  4. USMNT says:

    I am interested to see what the second 23 looks like after the 23 to Brazil. I remember Bruce Arena when he was choosing his 2002 team “there are 8 or 9 guys you want to take and then you just try to fill space with the rest.” Now our second 23 would still be a quality side where as 2002 time frame they would be laughable.
    Time are changing!

    • beto says:

      1st Team if the WC was in a few weeks:
      gk: howard, guzan, rimando
      def: f.johnson, beasley, besler, orozco, gonzalez, goodson, evans, cameron
      mid: bedoya, davis, jones, beckerman, bradley, diskerud, donovan, zusi
      fwd: altidore, dempsey, johannsson, e. johnson

      2nd Team:
      gk: s. johnson, hamid, hall
      def: ashe, castillo, brooks, ream, john, parkhurst, lichaj, dolo
      mid: shea, gatt, edu, torres, williams, kljestan, chandler, corona
      fwd: boyd, agudelo, wonodowlowski, gomez

      • USMNT says:

        Thats still an interesting second team. In 2002 we probably couldn’t even name an additional 23 eligible players.

      • Lost in Space says:

        Even if the WC was tomorrow I’d be go with something along the following lines:
        GK: Howard, Guzan, Rimando
        D: F. Johnson, Beasley, Besler, Gonzalez, Goodson, Brooks, Orozco
        M: Bedoya, Jones, Bradley, Mixx, Donovan, Zusi, Cameron, Castillo
        F: Jozy, Dempsey, Johannsson, EJ
        2nd Team:
        players I have no fault in your selections other Wondo….

        • Kingsly Alexander - Man Rey - Plotinus - Sankt Pauli! says:

          Yes and yes a thousand times over.

        • scott47a says:

          You have no right back in your 23?

          • Kingsly Alexander - Man Rey - Plotinus - Sankt Pauli! says:

            If Cherundolo is healthy you’d have to take him over Orozco. If not, we can’t have Evans playing RB. He was destroyed last night. What then when he has to go against South American teams or African teams?

            If Cherundolo isn’t healthy and playing, then you really have to take a long hard look at Chandler and Lichaj over the preceding months. Otherwise I’d say are best chances are Cameron and FJ at RB

      • Hogatroge says:

        Good thing there are 8 months til the WC to make that 23 change a bit!

        • Hogatroge says:

          If Lichaj, Klute, or some other player doesn’t displace Evans from that RB role, I’ll eat my hat.

  5. Scott e Dio93 says:

    Right now, I start having doubts about Dempsey being a starter, Donovan or Mix could fill that role as “playmaker” or even Kevin Bacon. Kevin Bacon knows how to pass and switch the attack.

  6. FK PIRIN says:

    Hey, DaMarcus Beasley started out as a Forward and played well in prior World Cups as a midfielder/forward. He also did well as a wide midfielder or outside forward when he played at PSV Eindhoven. He also won the silver ball at the same youth World Cup in 1999 where Landon Donovan won the Golden Ball. He is an attacker. The fact that he can now play defense at this level is the amazing part. He has the best pedigree of any fullback on our team in terms of attacking talent, its just that his career took a bit of a nose dive because of injuries at Rangers and now he is at Puebla so people forget. He even played for Manchester City as an wide midfielder/attacker. He has shown his attacking talent in the last few games. That is not to say that Fabian Johnson doesn’t have attacking talent, but he hasn’t accomplished what DaMarcus Beasley has in his career.

    • Lost in Space says:

      Career wise DMB is heads above….Current talent wise Fabian is much better than DMB.
      Question regarding the Outside Backs is and will be….Is there someone who actually plays the LB or RB week in week out that will be given a chance to show what they can do….(namely Lichaj and Chandler) or will Dolo ever recover enough to be at the required level to play internationally again.

      • Kingsly Alexander - Man Rey - Plotinus - Sankt Pauli! says:

        Beas played LB for Puebla last week.

        Problem with Beas is that he’s lost acceleration and speed that made him what he was when he played left wing.

        FJ is a better defender. I think Landon should possibly start with FJ at some point because that’s something we’ve yet to see and Zusi and Bedoya can’t play on the left side.

        • whoop-whoop says:

          Beasley still has plenty enough speed and it has bailed him out in recovering plenty of times. He also works very hard. What he lacks is split second instincts at the position so often chooses poor lines and gets himself out of position and is often off balance. Add to that his lack of strength and the fact that he is so easily brushed aside and…… he requires lots of help on that side of the field. Get him isolated one v one….. scary.

          Love the job he has done, think he’s easily earned a trip to Brazil as a capable sub and spot starts depending on opponent/matchups/formatiobn, but I just can’t help but see FJ as our 1st choice starting LB.

          • Kingsly Alexander - Man Rey - Plotinus - Sankt Pauli! says:

            No I ageee, I’m just speaking to why he isn’t the player he was circa PSV

  7. FK PIRIN says:

    Fabian Johnson is a better defender than Beasley.

  8. Michael L says:

    I have my doubts about Dempsey on the roster. People don’t realize how fast he faded from an amazing season at Fulham to a sub-par season at tottenham. Now he’s been injured with the Sounders. I think he’ll make the roster. But I’m starting to believe that this will be his last World Cup. I know Shoot me. But he’s never had the speed or technique that someone like LD or Beasley have. He’s an average passer. So if his skills decay at all, his a liabilty like BocaBoca was in 2010.
    Cameron won’t win CB. He doesn’t have the skills to win the job at Stoke. If Omar and Besler stay healthy, they’ll be our pair in Brazil. Which, I know as an LA fan, I’m biased about Omar. But am I the only one who things he and Matty B have a good connection?
    The outside backs situation is scary. I don’t even want to think about it.
    Aron Johannasson might be good to help out Altidore. Or Wondo, who when he’s on…he on.

    My projected locks for Brazil.
    GK-Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Nick Rimando. (I doubt many disagree with me).
    D-Omar, Besler, Cameron, Evans, Beasley, Goodson.
    M-Donovan, Dempsey, Zusi, Bradley, Jones, Johnson.
    F- Altidore, Johannasson, Wondo.

    • Haubs says:

      Wondo….are you being legitimately serious right now? Chris Wondolowski in the final 23 for next year??

      C’mon man. that is just silly.

      • Karl Schneider says:

        If Wondo is a lock then I still have a chance at the roster.

        • gbott1999 says:

          I’d rather have you on the roster then Wondo

          • CamRahn Bay says:

            Given the accuracy (or at least I think) of the rest of the roster I have to think that is a joke.

            In all seriousness is that Boyd’s spot? Gomez? Does seem like a toss up, unless they designate Dempsey or Donovan as a forward and bring another Midfielder. i seriously think Beckerman is gonna be in Brazil.

            • Michael L says:

              You people are morons if you think Wondo shouldn’t be on the roster. Herc is a better all around player. But has begun to have injury issue. yes, Eddie Johnson is the clear backup for Altidore. But is there really much depth in the US’s forward back? Think about it for a minute. It’s actually a remarkably weak area for us. And anyone who’s actually watched Wondo (not just listened to the normal commentator gibberish. Serously, you guys must be morons.) Also, Boyd is just too green. Wondo has a proven track record of continuously scoring goals over time. And if you feed him he will score.
              Also, beckerman is a solid guy, I dislike him in some ways. But he’s a quality guy. I feel like that if he’d been in Ricardo Clark’s shoes in 2010, we may have made the quarters.
              And if I even see the words DeAndre yedlin, I will know that y’all have no taste whatsoever. The man can’t defend one on one. Honestly, it’s time to call Lichaj, Beltran, Morrow and has anyone said Dunnivant? Why doesn’t he even make a camp to see if he would be good to start?

              • bryan says:

                calling people morons for their opinion, one that is widely shared, isn’t a great tactic for having a constructive debate.

                i disagree with just about everything you said. and i think Wondo is absolutely on the outside looking in at this point. a lot can change, but if the World Cup was today, he wouldn’t be there (assuming Demps and LD were healthy). if there are injury issues, then Wondo comes into play.

    • HoboMike says:

      Not necessarily true about Cameron. He hasn’t won the CB job at Stoke because Shawcross and Huth have been paired together for seven bone-crunching years. Pulis was definitely not breaking up that wrecking-ball of a duo. I’d prefer Cameron to start, as he is the smarter, more athletic player.

      And apparently it’s hilarious to keep Wondo in the conversation, so like the other poster, I have legitimately no idea if you’re being sarcastic.

      I hope so.

    • 2tone says:

      Wondo over EJ? Not happening.

    • Luke says:

      I just hope you were being sarcastic about Wondo. If we ever play Belize or Guatemala, yes, by all means call up Wondo. Hahaha!

    • Dan M says:

      You are stretching here. Dempsey was in a deep midfield at Tottenham, with a manager who picked fan favorites over results oriented players. His playing time was limited but that had nothing to do with his ability. He is used to re-proving himself and will do just fine at Seattle. I certainly don’t expect him to get any faster at his age but speed has only played a small role in his success anyway. He is all about reading the game and making sh!t happen, no matter what the situation. Even at his best, it might be that Klinsi doesn’t start him for a certain game in WCup, based on match ups, but I don’t see Deuce riding the pine much next summer.

      • Hogatroge says:

        While I am worried about Dempsey’s current form, let’s not forget 2 things:

        1. While he was at Tottenham, he scored big goals, even if he was an 18 player and not an 11 player.

        2. While he was at Tottenham, he was the only guy scoring for the USA.

      • Chris H says:

        Proud of the team, happy to see them winning left and right! It’ll be very interesting to see how Klinsi fills out that roster.
        One thing I need to say about Dempsey because an earlier post made me think of it.

        I am all for a fit Dempsey starting at the next world cup on two conditions:
        1. IF Klinsi can find a way for his ridiculous non-effective flopping/diving junk to come to an end. I’m ok if it happens once, maybe twice a game, but he’s not even good at diving so it looks so lame.
        2. IF Deuce can work play simple simple tricky simple, rather than tricky,tricky,tricky, tricky. The opposing teams have seen it coming and have learned to defend it.

        If he gets those things under control, he will be a major factor in how we do. If he can’t, I’d put Landycakes in the spot behind Jozy.

        • GW says:

          Chris H.

          You are overstating things. You also seem to think Clint is an idiot. I’m pretty sure he understands the game and his role in it better than you do.

          Clint’s job is to score.

          In 2011 Deuce appeared 14 times for the US and had 5 goals
          In 2012 Deuce appeared 9 times for the US and had 6 goals
          In 2013 Deuce appeared 10 times for the US and had 6 goals.

          That works out to a goal every 1.9 games a world class ratio.
          Most of those goals were important and Clint proved himself to be the only consistent goalscorer for the US.

          I wouldn’t call Clint’s current situation a loss of form; he is simply transitioning from one situation to another and it has been complicated by injury. Still he remains, with LD, America’s more consistently dangerous threat, the one most opposing teams have to worry about.

          • Chris H says:

            I think you overstated my overstatement! :)
            I love Clint’s contributions to the usmnt, but if you’ve followed his progress, you’ll notice that his penchant for flopping has increased and his simple play has decreased. Those, coupled with his current need to get match fit, concern me when it comes to the world cup. Same way Jones’ occasional erratic runs up the field that end in being disposed and then flopping to the ground “injured” concern me.
            As a fan of the usmnt since 1998 when I first saw them play in KC, I want the team to be the best it can. Those things from two “locked” players can cost us a world cup. You could also make an argument for Donovan’s occasional lack of focus where he drifts out of a game for a long period of time.

            • GW says:

              I have watched those three for most of their entire USMNT careers.

              I think you will find that when blood and money and on the line all three are usually very focused and tend to not do those annoying tics you refer to. That is the reason JK considers them starters.

              You worry about what they might do wrong while I think about what they usually do right.

              If I worried about all the flaws the USMNT has, and they are numerous,as much as you do, I wouldn’t bother watching them.

              The USMNT’s biggest flaw is the significant gap in overall talent relative to the teams with the big boy pants.

              The USMNT’s biggest asset is their ability to ignore their biggest flaw and play as if it does not exist.

              That makes them dangerous to anyone on a given day.

    • Ilya says:

      Wondo is a lock? He is behind Altidore, Iceman, Gomez, Boyd, EJ and even Agudelo.

      • Dennis says:

        I think the pecking order is more Altidore, EJ, Johanson, then a toss-up between Wondo, Gomez and Boyd.

        The choice comes down to what Klinsmann thinks is most important qualities to have in sub. Boyd is big and strong, can score in a league that is weaker than MLS and he has not been in the picture long, Gomez has been inconsistent over his entire career, but has made some big splashes, Wondo is very good at making runs and at finding spots to be open and to shot and he has been able to hit the target consistently. These 3 players bring very different things to the team; JK will have to decide what he wants out of that sub.

        • Dennis says:

          Of course,if you put Donavon and Dempsey in as forwards the list gets different and you have to imagine trading the (WondoBoydGomez) spot for an another midfielder which probably does not bode well for any of the 3.

    • Kodi says:

      Your starting to think this will be Dempsey’s last World Cup. You do realize he would be 35 at the next WC? And I’m by no mean a Dempsey apologist, but he wasn’t awful last year. He battled injury and a there was a lack of understanding with him and his teammates for much of the year, which is common for some players’ first year at a club.

  9. Kevin_H says:

    Nice article, Franco. Agree with all your points.

  10. Dimidri says:

    Will the pots look like this (assuming Uruguay beat Jordan)-
    1) 4 seeded teams from UEFA and 4 seeded teams from SA
    2) 8 highest non-seeded UEFA teams
    3) lowest UEFA team, other two SA teams, and 5 African teams
    4) 4 Asian teams, 4 CONCACAF teams (or 3 CONCACAF teams+New Zealand)

    If that’s right would the one UEFA team in pot C be the lowest rated FIFA team in October, or is it random or another month?

  11. jones says:

    Please Jurgen, no more Bedoya at fullback experiments (or any other similar experiments).

    • GW says:

      That wasn’t exactly an experiment. That was JK needing a goal and choosing to attack with Davis rather than Evans.

      Bedoya has shown before he can drop back to wingback and so has Donovan. You will probably see this particular tactic again. It’s not that unusual.

      • jones says:

        Sure it probably was just a simple tactic to make the final push for a goal, but I’m always suspicious! I just don’t want to see Klinsmann getting any ideas and starting Bedoya there…

        • GW says:

          “suspicious”?

          You would have preferred JK do nothing and lose the game?

          Davis provided the perfect cross for the tying goal; which seemed to demoralize the Panamanians so much they stopped playing and allowed AJ to get in some shooting practice.

  12. Ali Dia says:

    I think we might have spent most of our good karma on the 2010 draw. But if we have any left (or if we earned any yesterday), I should wouldn’t mind seeing Switzerland drawn as the seeded team in our group.

  13. Kingsly Alexander - Man Rey - Plotinus - Sankt Pauli! says:

    On our flank play last night.

    Castillo had 1 unsuccessful dribble the whole night, that is to, take on a defenders, compared to his 4 successful dribbles.

    Zusi, Bedoya, Davis and Evans had combined a combined ZERO. Unsuccessful? 6. 1 for each besides Zusi who had 2.

    Castillo had 6 errant passes, 3 in his own half, to his 66 successful passes. Bedoya had 12 bad passes w/ 2 in his own half, to his 44 good passes. Brad Davis had 4 bad passes, non in his own half, to his 20 good passes. Brad Davis had 12 bad passes, 2 of which were in his own half to his 28 good passes. Zusi had 8 unsuccessful passes none of which were in his own half compared to his 46 good passes.

    • Increase says:

      Castillo would be better off in midfield I think. He is just not that good at defending….

      • Kingsly Alexander - Man Rey - Plotinus - Sankt Pauli! says:

        I agree, he agrees, it’s pretty evident. He’s more of a Wingback then anything. But in all honesty, I don’t know if he’s more of a liability then Beas.

        He did a hell of a job getting forward from LB though. Beas has had his moments doing so, but continuously like Castillo did in the second. Coupled that with the fact that I think FJ is the best defender of all three, it would be curious to see FJ with Castillo in front of him.

  14. Lost in Space says:

    With the upcoming friendlies being held in Europe, coupled with the MLS playoffs, we’ll have an opportunity to potentially test some of the fringe/injured players to see how they stack up. IF everyone is back playing would like to see the following positions evaluated by calling in some of the fringe/injured players into camp to give them an actual audition to see how they stack up to what has been our qualifying team:
    CB: Brooks
    Outside Backs: Cherundolo, Chandler, Lichaj
    Wings: Shea, Johannsson, Bedoya
    These are the 3 area’s where the team’s play has shown to have question marks at times….and there are sill untried/returning options that many FANS would like to see given a shot.

    • Kingsly Alexander - Man Rey - Plotinus - Sankt Pauli! says:

      Anyone who doesn’t get on the field, injury or not, shouldn’t be called up plain and simple. We’re not Canada for Christ’s sake

  15. Arty says:

    The WC Team should look like this
    GK- Howard, Guzan, Rimaldo
    LB- FJ, DMB
    CB-Omar G., Besler, Goodson, JAB
    RB-Chandler, Cameron/ Dolo (If Healthy)
    DMF- Bradley, Mix, Jones
    Wings- Donozan, Dempsey, Zusi, EJ
    F- Altidore, Johannasson, Boyd

    Last 2 Spots go to: Dolo (if Healthy)/ Cameron & Davis

    • Kingsly Alexander - Man Rey - Plotinus - Sankt Pauli! says:

      Yeah, I think if i was playing a game on FIFA 14 I’d want the highest rated players as well. Wait…we are talking about FIFA 14 right?

  16. The Imperative Voice says:

    I think Altidore is fairly safe because there is not a similarly burly central striker type who can do his job, who has made any case. This is not seeming to be Boyd’s cycle and the rest of the forward pool is more like the quick striker who plays off the big fellah than the target guy himself. That being said, Jozy-at-Sunderland is wandering back towards his old level of effectiveness. Coming off AZ he was a terror in the June games. Since then it’s the one goal against Jamaica in the fall fixtures. The idea that just get him the ball and bam, was truer a few months ago, than now. I’m waiting to see if he makes any more of an impact next year than in South Africa. But I think the reality is that coming off last summer with no real competition, he’s the massive frontrunner for his spot in the formation. It’s the non-Bradley midfield spots and the forward support spots that are the Darwinian jungle, where you have a pile of interesting productive players who can’t all start…..Zusi, AJ, Dempsey, Donovan, even EJ, Davis, on and on……there are worse things than that kind of puzzle, though. We could be talking about the backline.

    I don’t know if starting Mixx over Johannson as the striker-support and then getting it right with the sub makes him the sharpest coach out there. I keep hearing the subbing is so well done but I think that reflects the quality depth of the attack overcoming some of his personnel choices. This was a repeat issue at the Gold Cup….Holden and Mixx would come off the bench at mid for Torres and Corona, and we magically take off. “Genius?” In his defense, figure out the right people for next year. In critique, he does seem to flub some and we often get stronger in the second half when he adjusts. You do that against Ghana (Clark, ahem), tournament may be over quickly.

    I don’t think the backline is sorted at all. 3-2? It was like that because we shipped two easies. Also 1-3, 2-1, 1-2 in other qualis. Gold Cup was 4-1, 6-1, 5-1, 3-1, steady drip of that one goal. There is no one blowing the doors off and you need to be as airtight as possible next year. He obviously needs to be incremental to not upset the applecart (including the locker room), but since no one is either the captain or that special, there is lots of room to tinker. Personally I think any theory of Castillo or Goodson as a starting back is nuts, I’d cut Goodson for lack of mobility (how many times you let that one burn you) and keep Castillo for midfield use and/or versatility a la Cameron.

    • Increase says:

      I don’t think Mixx will go to the WC if both Dempsy and Donovan are up for it. He seems better closer to the goal and kinda weak in the actual midfield. I also feel like Zusi can play that same role and be put on the wing if need be.

      • Kingsly Alexander - Man Rey - Plotinus - Sankt Pauli! says:

        Zusi can’t pick a pass like Mixx. Not only that, he isn’t even capable of holding onto the ball in tight areas in the middle, same for Donovan

    • Kingsly Alexander - Man Rey - Plotinus - Sankt Pauli! says:

      Unless JAB plays like he’s been with our back line for yrs, Goodson is going to be our No. 3, because bottom line, he gets it done. Castillo will make it because he can play anywhere on the left and those sports will go to FB, Beaz and him, barring an injury.

      Mixx was playing underneath Alti as a playmaker not a supporting striker. He’s more effective when playing with our more talented players, who make better runs. Same with Altidore. When Bradley and Jones are out there it makes it so much easier for the flanks to just worry about their business in the opponents, so in turn then can get good crosses in.

    • Nate says:

      your first sentence is fairly ludicrous. Name another US forward that scored in six straight appearances. Your opinion of Altidore does not seem connected to what he does on the field. For all the energy you put into tearing down a 23 year old American talent, one wonders whether you are a US fan at all. The entire premise of your point is that no other forward in the pool has outperformed Altidore, so why are you mad about that?

  17. PD says:

    I agree with all of the observations listed above. With that in mind, should we be experimenting with a 3 CB lineup with two wingbacks? Given JK’s two deep lying midfielder preference, plus the fact that he is cultivating a mindset of having one hanging back all the time it’s not like we’d be terribly thin as a result.

    ————Howard————
    -^–Cam—Gonzo—Besler–^—
    F. Johnson–MB90-Jones—–Zusi–
    -V—–LD————Deuce–V—-
    —————-JA—————–

    subs: Guzan, Rimando, Goodson, Cherundolo, Castillo, Beasely, Dred Becks, Kljestan, Diskerrud, Johansson, Boyd

    callups for injury: Johnson, Evans, Orozco, Torres, Davis, Gomez, ???

    • Alex says:

      It’s just a radical tactical change to make so close to a world cup.

      • Kingsly Alexander - Man Rey - Plotinus - Sankt Pauli! says:

        Some ppl’s reactions and theories are solely based on the articles they read from one to another, never analyzing for themselves, but just always hopping on what the nxt journalist has to say.

        • PD says:

          In truth, a 3 CB idea is something I have been mulling over and proposing on SBI threrads since it was clear that Cherundolo was going to be out for a long time and that Chandler wasn’t coming to fruition. I do agree that at this point it would represent a radical change, and I’m not so naive as to think I know better than the coaching staff, but it’s an idea I raise only because I’m looking at the relative strengths and weaknesses of the player group that seems to have emerged as our “best 30″.

  18. Adam M. says:

    My five reactions to qualfiying:
    1. US is good enough that we can “win” the region with a bunch of players out of position and non-starters. Either that, or the region is bad enough for US to win under those circumstances. Either way, this is not really a promising situation.
    2. US has much more depth than before at every position, but still lacks “height.” We still don’t have truly world class players at any field position (please prove me wrong this year JA and AJ!).
    3. Donovan and Dempsey are far less important that you would have thought, but still seem like better options than the alternatives for now. Barely.
    4. Steve Cherundolo is apparently not replaceable and should never grow old or get injured or tired again.
    5. Jurgen is the right manager in the right job at the right time, but we could still use a player or three like him.

    • Kingsly Alexander - Man Rey - Plotinus - Sankt Pauli! says:

      1. US is DEEP enough.

      2. Bradley and Howard are as “world class” as were gonna get this cycle.

      3. Again depth, but I agree.

      4. Yet to be seen, as there are options out there this cycle, and if Cherundolo doesn’t get time on the field, it won’t matter.

      5. Yes and wouldn’t that he great.

      • Paul Miller says:

        I’d say Bradley as well as F. Johnson at left back and Donovan at right mid are world class.

        Howard arguably was but might be slipping (his hands are gone), and I wouldn’t be totally shocked if Guzan was the keeper next summer.

        Dempsey might not have ever been world class, but in form he is opportunistic and willing to try stuff.

        Altidore might be knocking on that door – which is a surprise to me. We’ll have to see how he does in EPL play as well as the World Cup. Pretty easy to give him a pass last time around for his age. He’s still young, but if he’s going to show that kind of ability, next year will be about time.

        • Adam M. says:

          Let’s be realistic. We have no field starters for any La Liga side, none on any good EPL side, none on a top German side, none on an Italian side (rooting for Bradley to get off the bench), and none in South America. We have a few B+ players like Bradley and F. Johnson sniffing around the edges and others like Altidore who might have a higher ceiling, and others like Donovan and Dempsey who never quite made that level. One good way to think about it is to compare the seeded World Cup teams and try to replace their starters with a US player. You won’t find many opportunities, and that’s before you get to England, France, Portugal and others.

          • Brett says:

            U mean waiting for Bradley to get healthy, then we concern ourselves with pt ;)

          • Bradley was a starter before his injury. if he hasn’t started since it’s for the same reason he hasn’t started for the USA. It doesn’t mean he isn’t a first choice starter. Schalke isn’t Dortmund or Bayern but it’s a champions league caliber team playing in atop league. Yes those are the only two but id think a few of our starters would be able to find a place on ranked international teams.

          • Original Aaron says:

            Bradley isn’t fringe. He is injured. As soon as he is healthy he will reclaim his starting spot.

  19. Paul Miller says:

    Not sure I agree on center backs being all that deep. Besler is smart but physically a little limited, and we’re not sure how really good attackers might use him. Gonzo is still growing into the position. After that, we’re back to the guys who had us all saying ‘this isn’t going to work’ last year. The situation isn’t AS bleak as it seemed then, but still a question mark.

  20. Chicago Josh says:

    I’d love to see Fabian at left back and Castillo at left mid. El Homie is not a defender, yet his club and country keep trying to put him in the back; however, he is one of the few US players who can beat anyone off the dribble, and certainly the only one in the pool who can do it with speed.

    • Francois says:

      Agreed. I think outside of AJ, and FJ, he is the only player that can beat players of the dribble with pace.

      • ThatKidNandez says:

        I wanna see Iceman at RM. I’m hoping brek shea regains form when he’s loaned out. Bedoya already overtook Zusi. Waiting for corona to move abroad and get some pt. is it me or is Zusi wondo esque. He looks mediocre against good competition yet really good.against bad teams. Any news on Gatt?

    • ThatKidNandez says:

      I forget the game but Klinsi tried it and it look led really good. I see castillo as more of a sub he has that offensivse spark. Johannson and Gatt can do it as well. Hope arriola gets called up in nov kids a boss

    • Gary Page says:

      When he comes in, he makes things happen. He really tries to enforce his will on the game. It doesn’t always work out, but he really provides a spark to the attack.

  21. G3t D0wn says:

    My 23 for the Cup:

    Tim Howard

    T. Chandler O. Gonzalez M. Besler F. Johnson

    M. Bradley J. Jones
    G. Zusi L. Donovan
    C. Dempsey
    J. Altidore

    Bench:
    GK (2): B. Guzan, S. Johnson
    FB (4): G. Cameron, B. Evans, J. Brooks, E. Castillo,
    MF: (4) K. Beckerman, B. Davis, M. Diskerud, D. Beasley
    F (2): E. Johnson, A. Johannson

    If Chandler’s not ready to go, Orozco replaces him here and Brad Evans or Geoff Cameron starts at RB, preferably Cameron imo. This lineup provides very nice flexibility and could provide subs and starters for numerous situations.

    Still hope Lichaj can find a way in, as he probably would be our best pure RB starter.

  22. blokhin says:

    my roster is:

    Howard….Guzan/RImando

    CB: Besler, Brooks….OG, Cameron
    FB: FJ, Dolo….Beasley, Chandler (evans if either isn’t going)
    CM Bradley, Jones….Mixx, Klestjan
    Wings: Donovan, Zusi…. Bedoya, Arriola-the wild card a la Beasley 2002
    F: Jozy, Dempsey….AJ, EJ

    Brooks is the only CB playing in a league where the speed of play approaches what the WC opponents will bring. There’s just no comparison between Bundesliga and MLS. The other CBs have rotated so much among themselves that there isn’t a partnership with 30-40 caps between them. Therefore getting Brooks 7-8 games between now and the opening game will catch him up to any other potential CB partnership in terms of experience…

    Dolo and Chandler are the wildcards for well-known reasons but both are beth RB options in terms of week to week play. If FJ plays LW and not LB that means that either Donovan, Zusi or Dempsey sit… can’t fit everyone on the field unless FJ goes to LB

    Mixx brings a change of pace and Klestjan over Beckerman ultimately…
    Arriola is my guess for a player on the wing forcing his way onto the roster over Castillo, Corona and Shea

    the forwards seem fairly straightforward at this point

    the only question mark, as it has been for almost 8 years now is to how play Donovan and Dempsey together effectively between Wing and 2nd forward…

    the zany line up that probably won’t be seen unless US is down (otherwise CM would be overrun) but does put both in their best respective spots would be:

    Jozy
    Deuce LD
    Bedoya Bradley Zusi
    FJ Besler Brooks Dolo

  23. Ali Dia says:

    I have one last message for the “USMNT Fans” who were rooting against our boys on Tuesday night. You know the guy—the loudmouth who thinks he’s the only one who understands that it would’ve been “logical” for us to lose. One last message for the sissies who believe that sabotaging your rivals indirectly qualifies as some sort of victory. One last plea for those with mixed feelings to see the light—that there is no beauty in schadenfreude, the “shameful joy” that comes from the failure of a rival. And one last chance for those who drank the bad Kool Aid at this hurdle to come back to the fold, where they will be welcomed.

    We are a team that is consistently associated with the concept of “fair play” on the world stage, even though our nation’s politicians don’t give us much to work with

    We are the country that doesn’t worry about our players ever pulling a “Joel Campbell”

    We are the team in CONCACAF that doesn’t roll around on the ground forever in the 80th minute just because we took a minor knock and happen to be winning.

    We are the federation whose sole significant accusation of poor sportsmanship in the past century involves our inability to accurately forecast and manage a blizzard.

    We are the country that welcomes fans of our CONCACAF rivals on their visits here, jubilantly buys them drinks the night before even in spite of the rivalry, and has never once been accused of hording Zip-Loc bags of urine or vomit for the purpose of entertaining our guests.

    We are the federation that lost out on two World Cup bids because we refused to be
    have like the countries who won, even though we had the resources to do so.

    We are the team in CONCACAF that does it the right way. Even our rivals agree,

    And the most important argument? Look no further than Coach Klinsmann. The one we all agree has gotten us here. You know as well as I do you would never dare present your sorry “we should have lost this” attitude to his face, because you know he’d put you in the kindergartner box where you belong.

    We are USA, ladies. We hold ourselves to a higher standard, even if we we have some catching-up to do as far as the trophy case is concerned. We put our best team out there, and we aim to win. Always. Not into it? Go find some proof that you are somehow South American. And then beat it, and take your beta male mentality with you. You can call it “Machiavellian”, but the rest of us just call it “used car salesman”. You won’t be missed.

    • Nate Dollars says:

      f*** that.

      we already won, by qualifying, with two games left. the only thing that could make it even better is if mexico, with all their ‘golden generation’, couldn’t even make it to the world cup.

    • rsmied says:

      i was beginning to think you’d never get off your soapbox

      • The_Trawler says:

        Soapbox? How about a sensible outlook on how far we’ve come and what we stand for in the world game? I’m with Ali on this one and I’m proud of it.

        The U.S. only needs to concern themselves with their own squad and aspirations. Mexico? Who cares. Panama? Unfortunate. Any other team in the world? Only when that team happens to be on the same field as the U.S. of A. Sure, I love the rivalries and all that comes with it. That’s what made being in Columbus for the past 2 Mexico qualifiers so special. But I don’t need to revel in the misery of others. I want to celebrate the achievements of my on team. And if we happen to land a match with Mexico in the WC…. well….. dos a cero.

    • Del Griffin says:

      tl;dr

    • EL Pato Howard says:

      Bet you’ve been a US fan for 2 minutes.

      • Ali Dia says:

        Bet you spent 2 hours on that terrible handle.

        • 3 Minute US Fan says:

          All you need to know is this…
          Losers are losers.
          I can see one a mile away.

          Don’t hide behind a lame argument.
          It won’t hide your shame.
          And it won’t make us better as a country.

          We all know who the cowards here are.
          It’s a shame.
          No reason to come after Ali Dia
          So what if he speaks the truth?

    • Dennis says:

      Nevermind all that. When you play, you play to win.

    • CeezNYRB says:

      Now that you got that out of your system, let me just say it is YOU who is un-American. Yes, I wanted us to lose. So what?!?! You can’t hide behind lofty American ideals and then not respect my RIGHT to root for my team how I choose to and to root against my rival how I choose to. We already qualified, we already won our group, therefore I had leeway on how to exercise my support. Do I think Guzan should have taken the ball and kicked it into our own net? No. Panama should have earned it and yes, I wish they had. I’m glad we qualified and we won the group. But I am upset that Mexico has another chance to make it to the Cup.

      Get off your soapbox, be a true American, and respect my right to cheer how I want.

    • Gary Page says:

      Can’t believe the criticism you have gotten here. Isn’t the whole point of the US that we strive to be better than other nations? And that includes soccer, too. I was proud of our players who never gave up, even in a game that had no importance. It is called having self respect, to do the best you can whatever the circumstances. Players who don’t do that don’t belong on the field.

      • CeezNYRB says:

        It is fine for one to root for his or her team in his or her own way but to insult others for not cheering “right” is a whole different matter.

        And the whole point of the US is that we strive to be better than other nations, true (and we are; look at the standings), but that we are also tolerant and respectful of others. No?

      • Nate Dollars says:

        yeah, i don’t disagree with you.

        to clarify my ‘criticism’: i don’t want us, under any circumstances, to throw a game. that wouldn’t be right.

        and it’s not like i wasn’t happy that we won, especially in an epic comeback.

        i just would’ve been happier if we had played well, but lost a meaningless game, and knocked mexico out in the process.

  24. Dennis says:

    I still worry about the defense. It is not much question that we have many more-or-less equivalent options (hence the claims of depth), and that they have done well against weaker competition. (Most of the CONCACAF teams boast attackers who cannot keep up the scoring pace of Wondo or Magee in MLS (except Mexico whose attack has been terrible despite some high-profile players).)

    Howeverm in 2013, the US defense allowed 4, 3 and 3 goals vs Belgium, Germany and Bosnia-Herz. respectively. Against that level of attack, the US defense was sorely lacking. True, the US managed 2 wins in those games, but for Germany, at least, it was against a second choice back line and late subs in the friendlies made it easier for the US. Those quality teams will not let the likes of the US attack score 3 or 4 goals in a WC game. If the US defense does not improve, Brazil will be a very tough WC for it.

    I do not think Mexico did the US any favors by its failing so miserably in its qualifying efforts (7 goals in 10 games, 0-0 ties with Jamaica, Panama, Costa Rica and the US). It would have been much better for the US to have faced a Mexico that lived up to its pre 2013 hype and forced the US to defend against a team that other opponents in CONCACAF could stop.