Now that the dust has settle and some of the anger has slightly subsided, let’s take a look back at the USMNT’s run in the 2015 Gold Cup. For me, the United States Men’s Nation Team Gold Cup can now but summarized by 3-Ds: disappointing, disastrous, and demoralizing. Disappointing - This was the USMNT’s chance to lock up the bid for the 2017 Confederation Cup and capitalize on the positive wave of soccer right now in the United States. Instead, we are now looking at a showdown against Mexico on October 9th to see who gets the right to play in the World Cup tune-up in Russia. Disastrous – As if not making the final for the first time since 2003 was bad enough, this was the worst US finish in the history of the Gold Cup. The losses came on home soil to teams that are not ranked in the top 60 in the Fifa rankings. Demoralizing - After the wins against the Netherlands and Germany earlier this year (Yes, they were just friendlies) but there was a lot of optimism built around the team. It is not just that the US lost, it is the way the US lost. They were thoroughly outplayed the majority of the tournament.
Trying to put together takeaways from the tournament and the head-scratching decisions by head coach Jurgen Klinsmann led to more questions than answers. Below is a compilation of the eye popping red flags that hopefully start up discussion of ideas on where the USMNT should go from here.
Takeaways from Gold Cup
1) Is there any stability on defense?
Six matches meant six different starting back lines for the US. There was a rotating door at Center Back and no one showed well. John Brooks had a horrid tournament where he was caught ball watching time and time again, out maneuvered, and out muscled. Klinsmann may be the only one who sees Ventura Alvarado as a starting CB and Timmy Chandler as a starting RB. The back line was under constant pressure throughout the tournament due to giveaways by themselves and the midfielders. Lack of cohesion can be an excuse, but individually, the play was extremely poor all around.
2) Where was the offense?
The United States had the lowest number of shots than any other team in the Group Stage and outshot by opponents 93-62 over the entire tournament. That includes teams that did not even score (sorry Canada). The offense starts and stops with one player, Michael Bradley. He is the lone distributor and the offense rides and dies with him and he was completely hit or miss this tournament. Clint Dempsey had a great tournament and well earned his Golden Boot as the leading scorer. That being said, there has to be more build up, there cannot be so many give away leading to counterattacks, there has to be more creativity. Aron Johansson tries hard but looks to lack the skill and finishing touch. DeAndre Yedlin’s speed is dangerous but needs work on his final ball. Gyasi Zardes showed some positive signs of learning how to be a wing, but his first touch is hard to watch. Jozy Altidore looked like he did not want to be out there during the group stage (Klinsmann rightly sent him packing after that) and had never touched the ball with his left foot before. The US struggled badly in the run of play and maintaining possession. You can blame some of it on the puzzling formations rolled out and the personnel, but the US should never be out shot in every group match and again in a medal game 25-5 to Panama.
3) Klinsmann – What were you thinking?
Maybe a bit redundant, but this was the question raised throughout the tournament. From personnel decisions to experimenting with formations, the team has no Overall, the team looks lost at times out on the pitch and directionless. This comes down to the head coach who seems complacent in defeat. Most teams would sit a player for poor form, Klinsmann does not even acknowledge it and instead rewards it by continuous starts.
Looking forward – 3 Topics
1) Let’s hope Mexico is a mess with their new head coach search
A lot must change for the USMNT before the playoff for the 2017 Confederation Cup on Oct 9 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. The match is on US soil but the crowd is expected to be heavily in favor of El Tri. Mexico was less than dominate through the majority of the Gold Cup and at times received a lot of help from the referees (Putting it nicely), however they were able to put their mark on the tournament in the Finale with a decisive 3-1 win over Jamaica. Mexico may be in a bit of turmoil with the firing of Head Coach Miguel Herrera due to his alleged attack on a reporter in a Philadelphia airport, but I would expect the team to be able to put forth a solid effort for a playoff against the US.
2) Ideas on defense
The United States needs to figure out which direction they want to go. Personnel, formation, and strategy are all in question. We need to solidify the back line. Bring back Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler for the Peru and Brazil friendlies to give them time to build chemistry again and get them ready for the big clash with Mexico. Give up on the Timmy Chandler experiment for now. We need a LB, either Fabian Johnson or give a Brek Shea another look when he gets healthy. How about Demarcus Beasley gives it one last run so that he does not end his USMNT career on a missed penalty kick.
How about just the same four for the two friendlies followed by the Confederation Cup Playoff? Is that too much to ask?
For Oct. 9, I would go LB- Fabian Johnson, Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron, RB - Demarcus Beasley.
3) Ideas for midfield and forward
The high pressure of the Concacaf teams are destroying the US attack and hold up play. The US does not feature enough precise movement or passing ability to deal with in your face style of defense. The answer here is to bring in another midfielder, ala Mix Diskerud or Benny Felhieber, to help with possession, or bring back a healthy (hopefully not lazy) Jozy Altidore and just play the long ball and hold up play. I am not a fan of long ball soccer but it beats being under constant counter-attacks every 30 seconds.
I really like what I have seen from Jordan Morris thus far. His speed and a tenacity add a new dimension to this team which it sorely lacks. But he is still in college. I say use him like the friendlies teamed with Yedlin as super subs.
For Oct 9, I would start five in the midfield with Dempsey the lone striker up top. LM – Zardes, CM – Mix Diskerud, CM – Bradley, DM – Beckerman, RM – Bedoya, FW – Dempsey