With another 1-0 win and just six goals (three in the Slovenia match) during Klinsmann’s eight games in charge, one could look at tonight’s match and think, “1-nil to the Arsenal.” A saying made famous in the late 80’s and early 90s when under George Graham, Arsenal had a very successful spell while playing some very drab football.
Tonight, one could sense that if either team was going to break the deadlock at the University of Phoenix Stadium, the solitary goal would most likely come from a set-piece. Even more so because the USA, first with Graham Suzi and then Jermaine Jones (on the game winner) had been whipping in lovely balls from the US’ seven corners. Keep in mind that Venezuela had none.
While Ricardo Clark spared the US’ blushes with a neatly placed header seven minutes into stoppage time, the truth is that Klinsmann’s “B” team played some very attractive soccer. The US created plenty of genuine opportunities, only for poor finishing to let them down.
Klinsmann’s largely domestic based and novice side (first caps were handed out to Bill Hamid, A.J. DeLaGarza, C.J. Sapong and Graham Zusi) played with good energy, pressured the ball high up the field, and combined well both in the middle and down the flanks.
Jermaine Jones was the US’ man of the match. He drove forward with purpose, orchestrated the counter-attacks and played some menacing balls. In addition to his exquisite corner which led to Clark’s late heroics, Jones also displayed his ability to play the deft 60 yard diagonal ball which can rip apart defenses when it reaches a streaking winger sneaking in behind the back line.
A bit further forward, Benny Feilhaber looked to provide the creative spark that the USA has been desperately lacking ever since Stuart Holden went down. “If the first pass that he [Feilhaber] played through to Brek Shea is a goal, then he is a mastermind,” Klinsmann said of Feilhaber’s performance during the post match press conference.
Feilhaber admitted after the game that playing just off the forward was a new position for him, but he pulled the strings in midfield and combined well with forward Teal Bunbury.
Out wide, Shea looked menacing, especially when cutting inside. Whenever he ventured into the interior, outside defender Heath Pearce did well to take his space, but the Chivas USA man’s crossing left a lot to be desired.
Shea had the game’s first two chances. After 20 minutes, the Texas native got on the end of Feilhaber aforementioned through ball with a clever diagonal run only to shoot wide with the goal at his mercy. Moments later, the FC Dallas starlet did everything right to get on the end of Zusi’s delightful free-kick only for Jose Morales to make a sensational save on his powerful header.
Speaking of Zusi after the game Klinsmann said that, “Graham seemed like he’s been here for a long time.” From the outset, Zusi looked comfortable on the ball, was willing to take players on and provided excellent service from the wings. Both in open play and from dead-ball situations.
While Klinsmann wants his side to play this high tempo, the US always starts out strong, but then seems to wilt after about 25 minutes. It wasn’t completely different tonight. The Yanks did tire and toil for the final 20 minutes of the first half. They conceded spells of possession to Venezuela in the second half as well, but Klinsmann’s young guns were able to find a new gear, pick their play back up and end the match in much the same fashion as they had started.
Some of this is due to second half substitutions and Klinsmann switching from a 4-3-2-1 to a 4-4-2 and eventually going for broke with three pure forwards. With that said, however, the US may have turned the corner. Tonight, they showed they can weather the storm with organized and compact defending and rediscover their best form in the most crucial moments of the match.
With all this said, the opponent must be considered. Even when Venezuela had the lion’s share of possession, they did nothing with the ball. When the US back-line or Jeff Larentowicz had the ball, they had time to figure out what they wanted to do with it.
Even so, the US has a lot of positives to take to Panama. This was not a 1-0 result grinnded out in the old Arsenal fashion, but rather just rewards for the amount of chances created.
Sure there are plenty of worries to consider, but if Klinsmann can find the right mix of players that can put together full 90 minute performances while finishing the chances that are generated, then this will be a US side that will get results in CONCACAF and possibly beyond. Perhaps even more important, they will also be an entertaining side to watch.
For Serber’s Say on US player performances not mentioned above, continue reading:
Bill Hamid: Not really tested and looked a little nervous on that one shot from distance. Hamid showed his poise when he had to though, taking command of his box to come out and punch the ball out of a crowded penalty area on Venezuela’s most dangerous cross.
A.J. DeLaGarza: Started out very nervous and looked uncomfortable on the ball. Stayed at home to begin with and didn’t make the best decisions when he did eventually venture forward. In the second half, DeLaGarza settled into the match and his touches and decision making were much more assured. Had his best moment late in the game when he came flying in to win the ball and a foul right at the edge of the box.
Geoff Cameron: Hard to judge the back-line because Venezuela hardly generated any pressure. With that said, Cameron and Michael Parkhurst did a great job of keeping the team’s shape. Cameron was always well positioned and distributed the ball well out of the back.
Michael Parkhurst: Same as Cameron. Hard to tell when the opposition hardly attacks, but Parkhurst was always in position and didn’t make any big errors. When your a defender and no one is talking about you, that sometimes means you are doing an excellent job. Both Parkhurst and Cameron deserve more chances in future friendlies.
Jeff Larentowicz: Did well linking the back-line and the midfield. Sprayed the ball around nicely, but it was easy considering Venezuela never put him under any pressure. I Would like to see how he does higher up the field, but there is no reason to venture further forward when Jones and Feilhaber are running the show. I still don’t see him unseating Michael Bradley or Maurice Edu. Come qualifying there will have to be a lot of injuries or suspensions for Larentowicz to crack the roster, let alone the starting XI.
C.J. Sapong: Solid first outing. Put himself into some good positions and had chances for a “dream debut,” but couldn’t finish. Did enough to get more looks.
Chris Wondolowski: Pretty much the same as Sapong. Got on the field and got busy. Was menacing in the air, but didn’t hit the target when presented with the opportunity.
Zach Loyd: Was lively, strong in the tackle and ventured forward. Was very impressed and wouldn’t be surprised if he were to see regular minutes during World Cup Qualifying.
Brad Evans: Great story, but I didn’t learn anything about him tonight.
Ricardo Clark: Scored the game winning goal in his first appearance since his mistake led to Ghana's opening goal in the 2010 World Cup. Played well, but still has a ways to go to climb up the depth chart.
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