Photo credit: John Sleezer / The Kansas City Star
Another tale of two halves for the US National Soccer team.With their qualification for Brazil 2014 already assured, Klinsmann's team was playing for consistency and the chance to win the Hexagonal once more. It was a time to try full offense with a 4-4-2 formation that included Diskerud, Donovan, Bedoya, Altidore and Johannsson. A rout? Not so fast.
The USA pressed but lacked style and poise and chances came and went and none went in. Not by Altidore, not by Donovan, and not for Johannsson. Klinsmann had a choice at halftime. Continue with his ultra-offensive stance or take a look at a different formation that might open things up for Diskerud.
And that he did. Donovan out and Zusi in. A switch to a 4-2-3-1. Mix got a chance to go forward more and Jermaine Jones tucked in behind the midfield. More freedom, but a spark was needed. Enter Edgar Castillo, in for Beasley and things changed overnight. Speed and savvy. The left flank suddenly opened and the team created the chances.
First was Zusi with a well-placed shot to break the deadlock and send his home crowd to a frenzy. Second, Castillo himself with a searing run around the Jamaican defense and a center of death for a simple tap-in by Altidore. 2-0 and America is on top and deservedly so.
Zero goals allowed at home in the Hex. All wins at home. 19 points in the final phase. Another pitch-perect performance that solidifies USA as the top team in Concacaf, despite the resurgence of Mexico during 2011-2012. But things have just started for Klinsmann and his crew. A test such as today's serves to educate the team and managers in how to manage games at the World Cup, as well as the players selected. So what if Donovan comes out? It was a win in the end, right?
Around the world today we saw many more teams enter the tournament. A team like Belgium, for example, is en route to perhaps eclipse their semifinal run in 1986. Brazil shows no sign of slowing down despite not playing in qualifiers. Colombia, Chile and Bosnia are all teams that have equal chances at advancing to the final 16 at the World Cup and these are the teams Klinsmann will need to prepare for.
Let's cheer for our team and thank the players and coaches that we're not in a position like the one Mexico is facing right now. Any team can have bad games and any team can have a terrible rut. So far, Klinsmann and Team USA have evaded this. The game in Panama should be even more fine tuning, this time for the defense. The Canaleros can only use a win and that's the sort of adversary the US will face at the World Cup.
Subs: Castillo (7.5), Zusi (8), Kljestan (6)