The United States Men’s National team is surely one that is dependent upon their best players for success. In their friendly match against Russia today, manager Jurgen Klinsmann decided to play a vastly inexperienced side without several key players. Although the USA battled out to a 2-2 draw with the ninth ranked team in the world, they were largely outplayed and only managed to draw because of two fortunate long-range efforts.
The Russians were at it all game long. The United States defense was again exposed, and without quality right back Steve Cherundolo, they gave up chance after chance. It was only a matter of minutes before sloppy defending led to a Russian goal by Fyodor Smolov. Klinsmann may be changing tactics with this team, but he really needs to focus on the defensive side of the ball. Careless play will not lead to any international achievement, especially at the back.
Fortunately, America has one of the world’s best goalies in Tim Howard, and he was a delight in the game, making countless saves. An average goalie could have easily given up four goals in this game. His talents help the team avoid embarrassments stemming from the defenders.
Offensively, the team produced little, though it was nice to see Jozy Altidore return to the side. He did well to hold up the ball for our midfielders, but he didn’t have the proper service to find many goal-scoring chances. He looked to be working hard which is a very god sign, especially after Klinsmann dropped him from the team for the most recent 2014 World Cup qualifiers. Altidore will need to improve and start scoring more goals, however. He is playing very well for his club AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands, so hopefully he will discover a similar form at the national level.
Michael Bradley played admirably in this game, and earned a lovely equalizing goal that brought the USA back into this game midway through the second half. He has a great work-rate and is always involved in impact plays and goals. He was probably the best player on the field for America besides Howard and should continue to be a dominant force in the midfield. His goal was a daring long-range strike that displayed a player in great current form.
However, this team is clearly not the same without Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan. These are two veteran leaders in the side who are of supreme importance to the team in competitive games. Donovan hasn’t played for a while due to nagging injuries, but his current form for the LA Galaxy has been great, and he is a player who can simply take on defenders and create chances. Dempsey is also a key figure and has the talent and class to influence games. I feel that if these players had taken part in the game, regardless of final score, the game would have been much more balanced.
However, this was a friendly game and rightly allowed for Klinsmann to bring on several youngsters to see what they can bring into the side. Players like Josh Gatt, Mix Diskerud, Terrence Boyd, and Juan Agudelo brought lots of good things to the side and look like they have some potential for the future in the American national team. Although the play today wasn’t terribly impressive, Russia is a good side, and the fact that the team battled to an away draw with such questionable play shows that the team has some resilience, and for that their efforts must be commended.