USMNT v Scotland: 10 Things We Learned

May 27, 2012

On Saturday night in Jacksonville, Florida, in front of a crowd of over 44,000, the United States Men’s National Team downed Scotland 5-1.

Here are ten things we learned from the most dominating performance of the USMNT in the Jurgen Klinsmann era.

The U.S. fielded its strongest lineup of the Klinsmann era

Jurgen Klinsmann, to his credit, has taken a great approach to these five games the U.S. will be playing over the next 18 days publicly saying that he and the team will be treating the games as a five-game tournament.

Klinsmann has also stated that these games will not be used for more experimenting, as many of the first ten games in the Klinsmann era were, and Klinsmann put a very strong lineup on the field Saturday night.

Geoff Cameron simply can’t deal with this level

Because of the large margin of victory, and the rather flaccid Scottish attack, many fans will likely forgive and forget Cameron’s big error on the night.

In the 14th minute, Cameron lost his mark, Scottish forward Kenny Miller, and then, as Cameron backtracked to pick him up, unluckily bundled the ball into his own net for the lone Scottish goal.

Even though the play was unlucky, most U.S. fans recognize that center backs Oguchi Onyewu and Clarence Goodson would have been very unlikely to get beaten in the same way.

Furthermore, this comes on the heels of another shaky performance Cameron had for the Nats in the January friendlies, when he was red carded against Panama.

The U.S. finally made a 4-3-3 work

Over the past few years, USMNT managers Bob Bradley and Jurgen Klinsmann have both experimented with variations of the 4-3-3 only to see the U.S. wingers get pinned back turning the formation into a 4-5-1 and leaving the U.S. with one, ineffective, forward.

Usually in those games, Bradley and Klinsmann have switched the team to a two-striker set midway into the second half only to see the U.S. attack come to life.

However, with a strong lineup of possession players, Klinsmann was finally able to get the 4-3-3 to work, creating beautiful counter-attacks that repeatedly overwhelmed the Scottish defense as center midfielders Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley were able to join the attack all night long.

If Landon Donovan has lost his hunger, he didn’t show it Saturday night

Earlier in the week, in a very candid interview, Donovan admitted that he has lost some of his hunger for the game.

Despite those feelings, Donovan looked terrific Saturday night, making incisive runs, delivering solid passes and, of course, picking up a hat trick.

Oh, and for the LD haters still out there – none of his goals on Saturday were scored from the spot, all three came in the run of play.

Will any remaining critics of Michael Bradley please stand up?

Bradley was again terrific, winning tackles, working back to start U.S. possession out of the back and, of course, scoring a screaming half-volley for what would be eventual game-winner.

Fabian Johnson looked good again

Johnson put in a solid shift in the back again, and perhaps more importantly, did a nice job making runs up the flank to provide support to the attack.

His services certainly could have been better (he seemed to take far too many one-touch), but his runs forward were terrific and his ability to carry the ball in traffic is superb.

Terrence Body has potential, but he is still very raw

It was 21 minutes into the game before Boyd took his first significant touch and that was when he seemingly stole a pass from Fabian Johnson that looked intended for Jose Torres.

Working as the lone forward, Boyd did do a good job battling in the air and closing down the Scottish defenders to rush their possession out of the back.

While you can’t question his work rate, his touch was heavy on multiple occasions and he struggled to make anything out of a number of quality chances in front of the net.

“Germany” Jones was active all night

Jermaine Jones had a solid night, joining the attack repeatedly, covering loads of ground and providing the lynchpin between the U.S. midfield and its attack.

He also picked up a nifty goal in the 70th minute.

The U.S. was both pragmatic AND beautiful

Perhaps the single biggest challenge of the U.S. program over the last decade has been how to improve the U.S.’s quality of play, while realizing that the U.S. is not yet a world power.

Time after time, managers of the USMNT have attempted to create a more aesthetic style of play only to see the team give up too many soft goals as the U.S. comes out of its traditional defensive shell.

However, with one holding midfielder, and a line-up that fielded eight starters who have played center midfield at the professional level, the U.S. seemed to finally solve that problem enjoying long spells of possession while playing solid defensively and throwing repeated German-style counter attacks at the Scots.

Can the U.S. use this moment to get a result against Brazil?

While the U.S. looked fantastic on Saturday night, Scotland, ranked 48th in the world, is not exactly a powerhouse.

The real test for the United States will this Wednesday when the U.S. takes on Brazil.

John D. Halloran

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5 Responses to USMNT v Scotland: 10 Things We Learned

  1. Alan Brommel on May 27, 2012 at 9:51 am

    Good write-up but I am confused as to how you can have two central midfielders in a 4-3-3?

    • John D. Halloran on May 27, 2012 at 12:22 pm

      One defensive center midfielder, two “true” center midfielders. Sorry about that.

    • DE Dupuis on May 27, 2012 at 9:14 pm

      As an alternative explaination watch Swansea, they play with two, essentially holding midfielders, Allen and Britton, who can easily be called central midfielders and one attacking midfielder Sigurardson (the icelandic guy), who really could also be called central midfielders. But a rose by an other name….

  2. DE Dupuis on May 29, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    As always thanks.
    44K fans, for a meaningless game – now that’s something.
    My take-a-ways:
    Bradley is a key player, always has been, nay sayers must be baseball fans primarily.
    Torres has more ideas with the ball than any other 3 guys combined.
    Donovan (it kills me to say this) is still a damn good player, and he still has wheels.
    Lichaj has shut down Gareth Bale – very few other guys can say that – it is a crime that he is not on the team. Some have noted that he gets beaten now and then – he plays in the BPL for goodness sake – everyone gets beaten now and then – Kompany, Cole, Walker etc…
    Cameron gets a call up, but Ream and Whitbread do not – this is the next worst crime after Lichaj-gate.
    Boyd is the traditional archetypical American player (hopefully the last) physically superior, technically mediocre, BUT he works hard, is not afraid, is aggressive – I like him – I just hope the next Boyd has ball skills like he grew up in Spain – we do have kids like that now.
    Our best XI lends itself to a 4-3-3 much better than any other set up, with Donovan as a winger, Dempsy as a media punta, and Boyd/Altidore as a free ranging striker that can slip into a true 9 role as needed. I”d pick Bradley, Torres/Diskerud/Gatt/Holden/Jones/Bedoya as the midfiled, in the back, Stevo, Gouch/Ream/Whitbread/Boca, Lichaj.
    I’d like to see Mexico beat those guys.

    • John D. Halloran on May 30, 2012 at 4:45 pm

      Couldn’t agree more on Lichaj, especially with Chandler bailing. I guess Klinsmann is intending to use Parkhurst as his back-up right back. To be fair, I am also a big Parkhurst fan and he does possess the ball well out of the back.

      I’m a little surprised Cameron got called up ahead of Ream too (even more surprised he started ahead of Gooch and Goodson), but Ream has also had some so-so performances with the Nats. Even though Gooch is certainly not the best with the ball at his feet, he is a very good center back and exceptional when it comes to the physical aspects of the game. I know some fans like to have a go at Gooch because he is not a finesse player, but he is a defender for goodness sakes and being trusted at the heart of Sporting Lisbon’s defense game in and game out is no joke. He is much improved from his failed stint at Newcastle and the ’06 World Cup which I think many fans still base their opinion of him.

      Whitbread’s exclusion is also odd, but I know he had a few knocks towards the end of the season, the same as when he missed call-ups last year. It would be nice if he could stay healthy. Now that Norwich has released him, I doubt he will be back in the Premier League and that will certainly not help his future chances. I enjoyed watching him this season. He was great against Chelsea.

      You can see that Boyd is a little more than just pace and strength. He has that technical edge, it’s just underdeveloped. He’ll get there. He’s certainly a step up from the ol’ Robbie Findley, Eddie Johnson, etc… all pace and no skill.

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