The USA national soccer team was successfully able to lick their wounds and come out firing for their two 2014 World Cup qualifying matches this past week. They dominated both games, first against Antigua and Barbuda and then against Guatemala.
America won the Antigua and Barbuda game 3-1 but it easily could have been 6-0. We finally got to see the potent capabilities of the Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey duo that easily cut through the opposition’s defense. The team played exceptionally well to create a plethora of chances at goal, but they could have used a bit of fortune to convert more of those opportunities. The Antigua and Barbuda goalie, Molvin James, had a great game and kept the island nation in it, but the USA was simply far too good.
One poor spot I did notice during the match was American defender, Oguchi Onyewu. I cannot understand why the player is given so much playing time because he is rather terrible. The single goal that Antigua and Barbuda scored was entirely his fault. Yes, he is a physical presence that can score headers off of corner kicks, but his defensive woes far surpass any goals he creates. I recall his grave defending that gave England a lead in the 2010 World Cup match, and I fear he is holding the team back. His lazy defending last week nearly let Antigua and Barbuda back into the game and could have cost America dearly.
Team USA played impressively again versus Guatemala, but found it harder to score when playing away from home. Although Clint Dempsey found the back of the net and the team had loads of chances, their inability to kill the team off came back to bite them when a fantastic free kick goal by Marco Papa gave Guatemala a draw. The result exemplifies the painful nature of soccer and how any professional player can create a moment of brilliance. When you don’t convert all your chances to build a solid lead, a single moment can ruin the game.
Although that is exactly what happened to America, the two results were impressive overall. Yes, it would have been nice to have all six points from the two matches, but any points won on the road are points earned, and the USA is well on their way to 2014 World Cup qualification. The side should look for ways to become more clinical, and I feel that striker Chris Wondolowski deserves a chance. Likewise, I feel that Onyewu could serve to sit a few matches on the bench until he begins to limit his defensive errors. Clearly there are steps that need to be taken before America will win the World Cup, but those are tomorrow’s issues. For today, let us rejoice in getting qualification off on the good foot.