GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 21: Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann of USA makes Arizona look cold, while I'm freezing in Missouri (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
If a disappointing match has ended in a more improbable and uplifting manner, I can't remember. The game played out in an odd fashion, both because we weren't watching our first team and how like our first team we appeared close to goal. I agree with Justin's take on the Sporting players, so I won't write more about them. Graham Zusi and Teal Bunbury were inconsistent; Zusi's touch and vision failed him, but everyone was being cheeky and missing passes up-front. CJ Sapong was just like he was as a rookie; he jumped in headfirst and then proceeded to be a bull-in-a china shop taking half of Venezuela with him on a corner which led to this...
Ricardo Clark gets a small moment in the sun
In 2009, Ricardo Clark was on the top of the mountain; he was a starting center midfielder for the United States and was solid in helping them defeat Spain and push Brazil in the 2009 Confederations Cup. He moved to Eintracht Frankfurt for the 09-10 season, and played for a mid-level Bundesliga club. Then, the 2010 World Cup happened and against Ghana it all came crashing down. His club team proceeded to be relegated the following season, and now Clark rarely plays for a Bundesliga Two side. After coming on tonight, he immediately was out of position and he looked out of his element. Then, of course, he scores the winning goal.
Nobody on this team needed that goal more than Clark, who in all reality if he ever finds his confidence is still a quality stopper, if not the best distributor. He needs to get playing time and probably needs to come back to MLS, but let's hope that goal gives him confidence to get back what he lost in South Africa. Perhaps this camp will be what he needed to do that, and his inclusion should be lauded for that alone.
Play to the referee
At some point, the United States players needed to realize that the referee wasn't going to call a foul unless you freight trained another player's legs. Benny Feilhaber (and later Chris Wondolowski) were mugged during corner kicks. However, Wondolowski got up and complained later, and, because his defender was on the ground, found himself on the end of a cross. Both Teal Bunbury and Feilhaber went to ground too easy at times, when about ten minutes in, I could tell the referee wasn't going to call the fouls. This is my kind way of saying if the referee sucks or just seems indifferent to the play, play until the whistle. There was a real fear that as the game got chippy and the referee still failed to call anything that we would lose someone to injury at some point.
Klinsmann's strategies were intriguing and confusing, but solid
He came out in the familiar 4-2-3-1 and he result was similar. Teal did a great Jozy impression; most of his play coming from holdup play and long created chances. All of the front men were making great runs, most of all Shea onto a Feilhaber through ball and Zusi's free kick. When he had Shea and Zusi switch sides, I was intrigued then angry then indifferent. I figured he wanted the wingers to make more inside runs, instead we watched Shea's refusal to use his right foot to cross from the right. (Only Zach Loyd had a wrong-footed cross placed on frame by his target). Eventually, it took Zusi and Shea out of the game, and I just hoped they would switch back.
The insertion of another forward (and another forward) made it seem like "we were going for it" (announcer speak), but then we at one point were running a 4-3-3 that with Shea's defense played like a 4-2-4. The best move from this was a back-heel by Wondolowski into Bunbury's path which Bunbury took left-footed for some reason and weakly missed wide. Until Evans made his cameo, we had three strikers, one winger, two CDMs, three natural right-footed center backs and a right back at left back on the field. Odd, but no less effective.
In the end with zero shots on goal and control of the possession throughout, the coaching was solid. If the finishing was there this was a 3-0 or 4-0 game.
Jones was the best player on the field, but came up yellow again
If you look at the whole game, Jones was the man of the match. He was active in attack and controlled the middle of the field. Like every match where the United States has seemed to be pressing for a goal lately, Jones pressed the hardest, leading counter-attacks and providing the right service to the wings to get forward. However, once or twice a game he makes a mistake that just boggles the mind, then to compound that tries too hard to correct it and gets a card. Don't get me wrong, that was a clinical definition of a professional foul and what you would do in a top-level match if you just gave away a break. I'm just not sure he can avoid the cards enough to be a full 90 minute player for the United States.
When I worry about my rose-colored glasses again, remind me I left them with ESPN.
Watching the Panama game is going to hurt if the announcers spend as much time kissing the American's asses. I was watching the game on ESPN3 and every time they said anything it was almost cringe worthy. Venezuela's performance was not impressive, but the announcers made it seem like they put baseball players on the field. If that was the case, the defensive performance from Venezuela should get extra credit.
All of the back-line played great
No need for analysis here. Good distribution, no chances anywhere near the 18. Every cross in was met by Michael Parkhurst and Venezuela's best ball behind was escorted firmly out of play for a goal kick by Geoff Cameron. Heath Pearce didn't attack as much as expected but A.J. DeLaGarza did often. Zach Loyd attacked like I thought Pearce would, but isn't a left footer so he had to rely on his right, almost assisting for a goal. Center back depth and right back depth is certainly not a problem, although the competition didn't help judge their first team merits.