Against Ecuador on Tuesday night, the United States Men’s National Team, led by coach Jurgen Klinsmann, lost 1-0 bringing his record in charge to a paltry 1-3-1.
Despite the loss, which is troublesome in and of itself, there were a few bright spots for the team.
The reemergence of Oguchi Onyewu was clearly the brightest spot for the team as Onyewu looks to have finally fully recovered from his patella tendon tear two years ago. Gooch was solid in the back, strong in challenges and in the air and the defense looked much more settled than it did in the first half against Honduras when Michael Orozco Fiscal was in the back.
Brek Shea again had a strong performance creating some of the U.S.’s most dangerous moments in attack and Shea combined nicely with his fellow attackers on several slick passing sequences.
Timothy Chandler also finally looks settled with the team and provided some dangerous service, albeit mostly with his right foot, from the left flank.
Jozy Altidore, despite playing alone up top, was very active throughout the first half and by stretching the Ecuadorian backline provided plenty of space for Dempsey, Edu, Shea and Williams to combine.
Michael Bradley, inexplicably not given the start, once again settled the team when he was introduced at the half, doing what he does best, working back to get the ball, playing simple passes and being strong in his defensive responsibilities.
Overall, the team was also much better from the start than they were in the Honduras game, controlling the pace for much of the first 30 minutes.
Not all was good, however, and several players saw their stock drop.
Kyle Beckerman was once again given the start and despite looking like he might have turned a corner in the August and September friendlies, Beckerman looked bad in both of this week’s friendlies. He failed to close down shots near the edge of the box, his passing was poor and his giveaways opened up several dangerous counterattacks for Ecuador. Beckman’s tackling throughout both games was late and poorly timed. With so many good defensive midfielder options for the U.S., he may have played his way off the field for future games.
Maurice Edu had one of his worst performances for the Nats on top of a rather listless performance against Honduras. While Edu has looked solid for the USMNT in the past and made many wonder why Bob Bradley did not include him in the lineup more often, Edu was dispossessed, killed several nice passing combinations and embarrassingly whiffed on a volley attempt just before the half. Deployed in the perhaps unfamiliar maestro role in Klinsmann’s system, Edu is certainly capable of better performances.
Danny Williams has been touted by many U.S. fans after his first appearances with the team, but upon closer inspection of his positioning, he often drifted inside, failing to give Steve Cherundolo good passing angles by not staying wide. Williams also failed to capitalize on several good scoring opportunities over the last two games. With the performances of Edu and Beckerman leaving much to be desired, Stuart Holden and Jose Torres out injured as the other possible center midfielders and Landon Donovan likely to return as the team’s best option as the right midfielder, Klinsmann should give Williams a look as a center midfielder which is actually the position Williams prefers to play.
Juan Agudelo and Edson Buddle were both wholly ineffective, making it obvious that Altidore and Dempsey are the team’s best options at forward. Buddle, while a capable player, is not an impact player at the international level and Agudelo still needs more seasoning, especially considering that he can’t even get consistent starts for his team in the MLS.
DaMarcus Beasley looked more spry than he has over the past several years with the team making it look like he may have finally put his injuries behind him. However, Beasley has never been known for his skill and provided little in terms of dangerous runs, service or scoring opportunities.
The two worst players on the night were clearly Jonathan Spector and Tim Ream. Spector is ruefully slow to play the outside back position and was beaten badly multiple times. His service from the flank was poor and his positioning was suspect. The defense looked much more unsettled once he entered the game.
Ream, introduced at the 70 minute mark, took all of eight minutes to undo an hour of hard work by his teammates. Half asleep on an Ecuadorian free kick from the flank, he failed the see the kick taken and watched helplessly as his mark beat him inside for the winning goal. Reminiscent of his poor play against Panama in this summer’s Gold Cup, it was a reminder to everyone that despite being the best backline possession player on the team, Ream is not ready for the physicality needed at the international level.
With the U.S. deep at the center back position with Clarence Goodson, Omar Gonzalez, George John, Zak Whitbread and Michael Parkhurst not even called up for these friendlies, Ream should not see any more action with the USMNT until he has proven he has improved.
The loss itself is troublesome as the U.S. has managed to score a whopping two goals in its last five games. However, if Klinsmann learned which players can, and perhaps more importantly cannot, get it done for the Nats, the losses will be well worth it once World Cup qualifying begins next year.
John D. Halloran