The U.S. Soccer Team found out what facing a World Cup Quality opponent will be like with this current roster. The result, a 4-2 loss to Belgium in Cleveland, pointed out the obvious flaws – mostly in the back and up front. Team America, without three of its best players in Michael Bradley, Fabian Johnson, and Landon Donovan, couldn’t generate much in the offensive third. Meanwhile, that backline still hasn’t developed any kind of consistency, with Coach Jurgen Klinsmann trotting out the sixth different defensive combination in the past six games.
It doesn’t get any easier for the U.S. on Sunday, as they play Ze Germans at RFK in D.C. – a celebration of the centennial of U.S. Soccer that could get ugly. Then next Friday, it’s a step down in weight class but a step up on pressure as they take on the Jamaicans in a World Cup Qualifier in Kingston. We understand why you want to play a team like Belgium at this time – you learn more from a good opponent than watching another draw with Canada or beating down some lesser team. But that didn’t make watching last night’s schooling any more enjoyable.
Five points in your Cleveland Pentagram…
- Put out an APB for Jozy. He hasn’t scored for the USA in a loooong time. And after being subbed at half-time, wasn’t even on the bench. For all the quality goals he scored in Holland this year, for all the subtle improvements to his game, Jozy Altidore should be more of a factor for this team. How much of it is doing, how much is Jurgen’s system and roster selection?
- Who should play Centerback? Alexi Lalas and Taylor Twellman discussed this at half-time. Everyone will say Omar Gonzalez, but he once again looked out of his depth and was chiefly responsible for two of Belgium’s goals. It’s worth remembering that for all Omar’s potential, this was only his seventh cap. Clarence Goodson? No thanks. Matt Besler? Geoff Cameron (instead of right back, where he looks unsteady)? The coaches need to decide soon and start building that cohesion. It would help if a couple of these guys grabbed ahold of spot with both hands and made the decision easy.
- DaMarcus is back, and in the back. It was great to see Run DMB recognized for his 100th international appearance. Even better to see him put in another solid shift at left back. He was shifty, tough, and smart last night – one the better players for the U.S. Perhaps not the long-term fix there, Beasley’s play should allow Jurgen to push Fabian Johnson forward into the midfield or swap him to right back, as needed.
- No second-teamers pushing. Sacha Klejistan, Brad Davis, Terrence Boyd, Brad Evans… None of these guys made a push for inclusion into the full starting 11 last night. Ideally you’d get one or two reserves making a case. Of this crew, we hold out the most hope for Boyd, who has the physical tools and skills to make a difference as an alternate striker. No one out there made me forget for minute that Klinsmann elected to keep Landon Donovan out of this team. And if the U.S. gets drubbed by Germany on Sunday, he better think long and hard about recalling LD#10 for the three June qualifiers.
- Belgium is legit. They have multiple players from high level teams in England and Germany. Their attacking corps is young, athletic, and dynamic (even withouth Eden Hazard). The midfield has bite and flair. The backline is rock solid. Belgium should be going to Brazil next summer with an eye on getting out of the group. Should be. Euro qualification favors the traditional powers, which means they need to win their group, and Euro teams tend to have these strange national team dynamics where they can’t get it together. Belgium is just the sort of team no one wants to draw in their group. They would be fun to watch next summer. Just not in our group.