Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Three Games In

It's finally over. This two-game-in-five-day stretch for the US national team has come and gone, and the team now has a full three matches under Jurgen Klinsmann.

How far along has the team come under Klinsmann? What progress has been made?

Despite the less-than-stellar record - the U.S. is 0-2-1 under Klinsmann - progress has been made. New players have come in and done well while old players have been cast aside as the team is being molded in Klinsmann's image, to his liking.

This is a process that probably would have been much better to undertake right after the World Cup but that ship sailed, so Klinsmann is doing what he can now to sort things out.

Some off-the-cusp thoughts...

Gaping Hole: The biggest area of need is at left back. Edgar Castillo and Timothy Chandler played at left back and seem to be the two frontrunners for the position. Is one the answer? Who knows, but there is hope here with both. While the favorite among US supporters is clearly Chandler, Castillo has loads to offer. Castillo is as fit as any player on the squad and can run for days. This is not something to take lightly as Klinsmann's system demands high levels of fitness. Castillo plays in Mexico with one of the biggest clubs in the Western Hemisphere, also something noteworthy. There is pressure every day to succeed with Club America. These may not seem like much but they are factors in Castillo's favor. Also, since he plays in Mexico he is very familiar with not only the Mexican style of play but the style of play the US will see throughout World Cup qualifying.

Chandler has qualities of his own and will surely get more looks in the coming matches. In Castillo and Chandler, Klinsmann has two young players who could help stabilize the position for years to come. Throw Heath Pearce in the mix and the semblance of depth in a spot that has been a gaping hole is suddenly there.

Standouts: Jose Torres and Brek Shea aren't exactly unknowns but neither was a good fit in Bob Bradley's system. Torres was most certainly a square peg in Bradley's round hole and would not have been able to work his way into a starting spot. Shea had one chance to show his worth and who knows if he would have gotten a shot to claim a spot under Bradley. Now, the two are the focal points of the midfield and are players who Klinsmann will likely rely heavily on. This is a good thing.

Torres has great vision and a dangerous foot. Shea has the ability to take over games and is an influential player. The two will have plenty of time to hone their skills but it seems as if they are locks for future rosters.

Forward Movement? Guess there's no real standout forward on the US after all? Juan Agudelo is still quite young and could develop into a star while Jozy Altidore has shown promise with Dutch side AZ Alkmaar. Perhaps by the time World Cup qualifying starts these two will be more honed and will fill the nets with more regularity.

The lack of goals under Klinsmann is alarming, however. Actually, you can go back to the World Cup to realize just how poor the U.S. forwards have been. Now, I still hold firm that if Edson Buddle had played more in South Africa, things would have been different but he didn't and they're not. Nobody has replaced Charlie Davies, who burst onto the scene in 2009. Aside from his brief time as the team's forward stud, though, there hasn't been much to highlight with the unit.

Klinsmann has options though. Aside from Altidore and Agudelo, Klinsmann has Herculez Gomez who is playing well with Estudiantes Tecos and ready to help out the national team once more. Teal Bunbury is another prospect who needs some fine-tuning and perhaps some maturity to become productive. I'd also like to see Bunbury's club teammate, CJ Sapong, get a look with the national team.

Still, the biggest hope remains Altidore who if he continues to do well with AZ should hopefully translate that into success with the U.S.

Vets Still Carrying Load: For all the talk about youngsters and new players, some of the same old faces are still around doing their stuff - Carlos Bocanegra, Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Steve Cherundolo, Tim Howard. These guys will all be older than 30 by late 2012 and who knows at what level they will be in come 2014 but they form the spine of the team both in terms of talent and leadership.

Perhaps having such a strong and talented group of players around gives Klinsmann the freedom to throw in players like Castillo and Torres and Shea to see what they can do.

Results Mean Jack: Don't be fooled by the results. No wins in three games would mean as much as three wins in three games. Of course nobody likes to lose but when it comes down to it, friendlies mean nothing. They really don't. What matters from friendlies is the chance to see players and how they perform at the next level.

Criticizing Klinsmann for lack of results right now is ludicrous. If the U.S. does not get victories come World Cup qualifying, fine, open season then but for now, results mean nothing.


@futboldaddy said...

I agree, I think the forward situation is worrisome. I hope Hercules Gomez gets a look under Klinsy as well as Charlie Davis. Not sure Bunbury is up to the task. You're right, his maturity is definitely an issue. He seems to lack a bit of hustle at times for Sporting KC. I'm much more impressed with CJ Sapong.

john said...

Would like to see Torres play with more urgency going forward and also to make runs through the defense or into the box. Hopefully JK can shelve the RR expermiment. Would like to see one of the defensive mids(Edu or Jones) paired with one of the center backs a la Macherano.

Too many early balls into the box. Twellman is lamenting the lack of players in the box, but the early cross doesn't allow for many players getting into the box or for runs to develop. The wide players need to show more confidence and try other things instead of settling for the easy early ball in.

US is doing better in the middle third and at center mid. The next step is to improve in the final third at getting chances.

J.D. Krug said...

Castillo may be able to run for days, but does little else for the team except get caught out of position and lose the ball. If running around is the qualifier to start, we might as well bring Frankie Hejduk back into the mix. Eric Lichaj was very good at left back during the Gold Cup and once fit again, should be our starter.