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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Hat trick Jozy and USA wins in Bosnia

Photo credit: Fehim Demir/European Pressphoto Agency
On paper this was a tough match. Bosnia and Herzegovina are 13th ranked in the world and on their way to their first World Cup in 2014. They have players like Dzeko and Ibisevic and Pjanic from reputable teams in Europe and would be playing at home in Sarajevo. So yes, a win was far fetched.

Klinsmann employed another experimental squad by adding and starting recently-pledged German-American Anthony Brooks as a center back. The  Hertha Berlin defender had a dream debut in the Bundesliga with a goal scored in his first match. Also available was Aaron Johannsson from the Dutch Eridivisie's AZ Alkmaar and former teammate of Jozy Altidore. In fact, he was the replacement for the veteran US attacker in his club when Altidore moved to Sunderland.

Another point here is that both Dempsey and Donovan, the perennial American aces, were given the day off. No matter. After going down 0-2 in the first half due to careless mistakes by Johnson in the first goal and Evans in the second, coach Klinsmann changed tactics and moved from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-2 with Eddie Johnson and Altidore as the twin attackers. Result: 4 unanswered goals.

Altidore has grown to own his space and place as the go-to goalscorer. He forces fouls, provides assists, holds the ball and, of course, plenty of goals. In fact, the former New York Red Bull player has scored in each of his last 5 games with the national outfit. And today was no cheap goal, no one moment of glory. It was a dominant striker and a deserved hat trick. Nifty switching for the first goal, a pitch perfect free kick for his second and a one-timer for the third. That's how you announce that you are in form and that other Premier League teams need to watch out. 

The other bright spot was Michael Bradley, who commanded his midfield once more with elegance and strength. His sublime pass to Altidore for Eddie Johnson's strike to score the first for the Americans exemplifies his attacking qualities. Fabian Johnson also had a good outing at left midfield, providing Altidore with a pass for his first of the evening. Honorable mentions go to Evans, Diskerud, Brooks, Johannsson, and Howard.

With the US riding on a 12-game unbeaten streak that has broken previous records three games ago, sights are set on the qualifiers in Costa Rica and versus Mexico in Columbus. The team will be different and the stakes much higher but it is clear that the Americans are once more at the top of Concacaf, with a Gold Cup for proof, no less. Hopefully this won't be a case of "peaking too soon." Such things are more difficult to predict in international soccer given the longer spans of time between matches. It's true, however, that a form like the current one at next year's World Cup could end up giving us something special.

Player ratings:
F. Johnson............6.5
E. Johnson............6

Subs: Johannsson (6), Kljestan (5.5), Corona (5), Castillo (5.5), Wood (NR), Parkhurst (NR)

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