Two March friendlies left us at least superficially wondering if it was Groundhog's day:
We could all cut and paste the same tweets from one USMNT game to the next.— Bobby Warshaw (@bwarshaw14) March 25, 2015
Once again, the United States gave up a goal in the 75th minute or later. Going back to the World Cup, the US has conceded 13 goals in the 75th minute or later over a span of 13 games. Furthermore, that average of a goal a game conceded after the 75th minute conceded continues all the way back to the Turkey game pre-World Cup. It's an undeniable pattern, and Jurgen Klinsmann has to be searching for answers no matter the strong level of competition over that stretch.
Yet, the two games could not have been more different aside from the repeat of the theme of the last 10 months. In Denmark, the Yanks were all but steamrolled with a 3-2 scoreline deceiving us as to how badly they were outplayed. Only stellar performances in critical moments from Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley saved the US from a lopsided defeat.
Contrast that with today's tilt against the (theoretically) superior Swiss, and the US could easily feel like they deserved to win the match. If not for a lackluster effort from Bradley (he missed on two pretty big chances) and an unconscionable meltdown from Altidore, the US could have won going away.
Despite a letdown of a European vacation, there were a few standouts that boosted there standing in the pool prior to the Gold Cup. Conversely, there was at least one bull for every bear over the last week, which means there's still several questions to be answered starting in just over two weeks against Mexico.
Alejandro Bedoya- Ale was probably man of the match against Switzerland. Along with the classical American industry, grit, and stamina, Bedloya provided a few ideas in attack that led to great scoring chances. He even showed decently in Denmark despite playing out of position in Aarhus. Klinsmann has to find a place in the XI for this guy against whomever the States are playing.
Danny Williams- Williams did an excellent job of staying at home, circulating the ball, and breaking up counterattacks when the wings pushed forward. I wish we would have seen him in the Denmark game in his more familiar box-to-box role, but he did an excellent job shielding the back 4 in the stay at home role today. He has definitely earned a further look.
Brek Shea- So he can do this now:
Additionally, anyone else notice how much better Brek's crosses are these days? He's defending well, and he has all the physical tools to lock down the left. I think he's top of the depth chart at left back after today and his showing in January.
Diamond Midfield- Although there were several missed connections in this setup, the US looked considerably more dangerous in attack in this setup until Altidore was sent off. The US also was extremely stingy about allowing chances to the Swiss until the same benchmark. With the exception of Xherdan Shaqiri getting behind Chandler, there was scarcely any note of Switzerland's quality in the first half.
This setup is dependent on wings getting forward (think Fabian Johnson and Brek Shea), a disciplined holding midfielder to help protect the back (Williams, Beckerman), and someone creative up top just behind the attackers.
Although Bradley may not be what you have in mind as a creative force, this formation leverages the abilities of Bradley to feed attackers from deep as well as adding a competent runner in the box when the attack comes from out wide. It also keeps him higher up the field when it's time to press. The number of balls desperately bombed forward from the back dramatically decreased against Switzerland, so I will not be surprised if this gets another look against Mexico.
Gyasi Zardes- Woof. In Denmark, he kept Bendtner onside and then failed to follow him on the first goal for Denmark. He was also generally ineffective offensively in a midfield role. In Switzerland, it took him a half to get into the game, but he did look a lot more dangerous in the 2nd half. He’ll need to be ready for a sub role (as a striker) if he’s going to have an impact in the Gold Cup.
Timmy Chandler- Taylor Twellman from today on Timmy:
Matthew Doyle from the Denmark game.
Garza needs to close that down, and Chandler needs to win that ball. Plus no back-pressure from wide. Goddamn it.— Matthew Doyle (@MLSAnalyst) March 25, 2015
Chandler was a mess defensively against Switzerland. He was better today, but he still fell victim to ball-watching which kept Valentin Stocker onside for the Swiss equalizer. Chandler, much like Shea, has all of the physical tools and technique you could want out of an outside back, but he continues to have mental breakdowns in the US shirt. To be fair, he did draw two very tricky assignments in that last 2 weeks, but with Fabian Johnson and Geoff Cameron as potential candidates at right back, he might be on the outside looking in to make the Gold Cup squad.
Greg Garza- He had a subpar game against Denmark, and Shea got the nod against Switzerland. Advantage Shea. I still think Garza will make the team for the Gold Cup, but he is no longer top of the depth chart.
Jurgen Klinsmann- Klinsy was lucky Denmark didn't turn into a total disaster. He made no accommodations for the central midfield, which was constantly overwhelmed. He played players starkly out of position. The defense continues to cede late goals. I have no idea why DeAndre Yedlin and Alfredo Morales are the 2 guys in the middle trying to clear the ball out when Switzerland scored.
Klinsmann has done a lot to stir the pot since he hired on as the 35th coach of the USMNT, and now he's the head of the worst run of form since he took over the team after the Gold Cup in 2011. Maybe it's time for someone to write an expose on this guy and get fired again- they went 13-1-1 after that starting with the Snow Classico. Is Klinsy still untouchable?
The good news is that the Yanks only have a couple of weeks to stew on this. A meeting with Mexico awaits 2 weeks from tomorrow, and there would be no better way to cure what ails us with a win against El Tri in San Antonio. That, and at least we're not Portugal- they lost to Cape Verde Islands (population: 525,000) today in Portugal 2-0. Rant and rave below.