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Thursday, March 6, 2014

USA v Ukraine: negatives are positives

The USA lost its FIFA international date match versus the Ukraine mostly due to players unfamiliar with one another. Ukraine seemed inspired with the tragic backdrop of their torn nation. This, perhaps, was a dignified result for the game.

The negatives were the inexperience shown by John Brooks and rustiness presented by Onyewu. It was clear that this was a highly-experimental Europe-based crew that served to showcase the different individuals plying their trade in the old continent.

It's clear that the Gonzalez-Besler tandem is here to stay as the center backs and everyone else from Brooks to Onyewu to Ream is auditioning for the backup role. Do keep in mind that DeMerrit was a backup last Wrold Cup and played the hero when Onyewu was struggling. 

Klinsmann's biggest ideas played out in the midfield, where he slotted Fabian Johnson on the left flank and Kljestan in the middle. Does Kljestan still have a chance in this group? And is Fabian Johnson not the best left back option? It seems that Klinsmann would really want him in the midfield but has no reliable options to cover the left defensive position. Sound familiar?

Barring any injuries, Fabian Johnson is likely to remain with the back four. The rest of the midfield is still a question mark with the different lineups the German coach has tried. What happens when Zusi and Donovan return? Where does Dempsey fit in if he's not a withdrawn forward? And what about Bedoya and Diskerud?

And then there's the central midfield role. Michael Bradley, barring injury, is an undisputed starter. Jermaine Jones is likely to be his partner, but a diamond formation would pose interesting problems. Do they both remain box-to-box players? Who takes more of a defensive role? Last night it was partly due to Jones that Ukraine got their first goal. There was no help from the central midfield.

With Maurice Edu out for now, it comes down to Kyle Beckermann as a backup, with Brad Evans or Geoff Cameron able to shift to that role. Danny Williams has suddenly seen his stock rise with a good game versus Ukraine and a starting role with Championship side Reading. Beckermann better show up for the Mexico game in April.

The forward situation did not get any help from yesterday's game except to say this: Jozy is in trouble and Johannsson is the answer. Altidore had one clear chance at goal but it went wide like so many chances for Sunderland this season. Tough times for the youngster. 

Aron Johannsson almost made it a rescueable game for the Americans late in the match. His shot was saved by the defender on the goal line. He's a poacher and we need him. We do wish we had seen more of Agudelo and Boyd, especially the latter. Hopefully they will get some chances in the upcoming friendlies.

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