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Against Scotland the United States came out flat in a 0-0 tie. Against Austria things were better! Albeit in a 0-1 loss. Plenty of questions remain. Can this team do without both Dempsey and Donovan if they are unable to suit up for the national team?
The answer, sadly, at least to some extent, is no. The truth is that the "would be" replacements in Zusi, Bedoya, Kljestan and Diskerud aren't quite there. The latter might have a chance at some magic but he is hardly the goal scorer that both Donovan and Dempsey have been historically.
The attacking third might be much better now and with a wider arrayof options. The truth is, however, that Altidore remains the best striker due to maturity and skill. When he lacks service or is in a slump (as is the case at the moment) then the entire team suffers. Johannsson is likely to be the new focal point of the attack but it seems like he's more effective with some company up top.
The Jermaine Jones - Michael Bradley tandem seems destined to stay as the swivel point for the national team through the World Cup unless either one gets injured or if Jones loses form. We don't see Bradley having any problem remaining on the starting team as he is integral to the way Klinsmann's system operates when at its brightest.
The flanks just didn't produce as much with Eddie Johnson out of position, or a Brek Shea reuniting with form or even Bedoya, who looked lively and dangerous but still couldn't transform his attacks into Dempsey-Donovan magic.
The defense is a tossup after watching these two matches. Does Besler come back for the Gonzalez-Besler MLS duo at center back? Is Goodson out for sure or might John Brooks break through? The NBCSN crew put it clearly: no US squad has every been in a World Cup without a center back with previous World Cup experience.
As we watched Geoff Cameron shine in attacking fro a right back position we understood why it is that Mark Hughes likes him in that spot with Stoke City. His attacking quality putts him ahead of Brad Evans but he is still not a pure right back in the mold of Cherundolo or Eric Lichaj or even Timmy Chandler. The latter saw his last USA game the first time he got cap tied earlier this year.
Then there's the left back. For now it is Beasley's to lose. And to think that this was an area of so much concern under Bob Bradley. Only Johnny Bornstein worked for him and we all know how that turned out.
Losing at Austria shouldn't be considered a failure. They're a strong squad and playing at home in Europe. But wait, this is the USA that defeated Italy and Bosnia and tied Russia. All on European soil. Maybe more consistency from the best team in Concacaf should be a requirement. If they are to make a statement at the World Cup then all games, small or large, should count and they should go for AND achieve the win.
Landon and Clint, we are on hold until your arrival.