USA 4 – Germany 3: Ten Things We Didn’t Learn On Sunday

Jozy had a ball today ... and a good blast too.

Jozy had a ball today … and a good blast too.

The US finished up its friendly tune-up series with a braggadocious first half performance followed by a “just-good-enough” second half against Euro powerhouse* Germany.

The Germans, of course, were missing much of their first string troops. Names like Ozil, Muller, Lahm, Gomez and Neuer weren’t pressed on the shoulder blades of any of the eleven on the field Sunday, on a sweltering day in the nation’s capital.

The States got up early on Jogi Low’s men through some calculated high pressure and abudant forward space for attacking man Clint Dempsey who profited off lax German defending. Dempsey drew a crowd in the 16th minute–three would-be defenders to be exact–and dished on the break to Graham Zusi–who continues to be a Swiss Army knife for the Yanks, filling in with whatever skill set is deemed necessary.

Zusi ran-on to the lead pass and drove a cross on a rope to Jozy Altidore who brought back a year’s worth of frustrations for Arsenal fans by slipping beyond a confused Emirates’ defender Per Mertesacker and knocking a one-time volley just inside the near stick.

The Yanks went up 1-0 and despite plenty of uneven play outlasted Die Mannschaft for the skinny victory, 4-3.

Here’s ten things we didn’t learn on Sunday.

10» Just how bright the future is for the German national team

The weather is and was a thankful excuse for Jogi’s Low team Sunday as its seems the Ecuadorian Party Flu bit the Germans in their friendly match in Florida against the CONMEBOL side Wednesday.

The Germans looked disinterested and uninspired through much of the ninety minutes and only seemed to muster any pace and initiative when the scoreline crept up the embarrassment scale.

You still have to make the plays, but the American certainly benefited from a German team that saw:

a) Hall-of-fame striker Miroslav Klose lolly-gagging offsides for a bulk of the first twenty minutes. Go back and look and the tape and this isn’t Klose testing the backline–though he did do that on a few occasions–this is Klose 3-to-5 yards offsides numerous times. However, that’s a veteran after a long campaign; there was much more.

b) 24-year-old Dortmund protege Sven Bender and Stefan Reinhart were downright negligent in taking space, making runs or making themselves available in the central midfield. Had either, especially Bender, played like they’re capable of the US could’ve found himself looking at a Belgium result after the first 45 minutes. (Bender was lifted at halftime for Max Kruse who had immediate impact.)

c) The back four of Jansen, Howedes, Mertesacker, Bender (Lars) offered a nice and roomy warehouse of space ahead of them for the US to (take their time and) find space or move on the ball.

The cushion given especially in the center by Howedes and Mertesacker was downright scandalous. Mertesacker was mercifully sacrificed at the break before his transfer value crept any lower.

d) And finally there was keeper Andre ter Stegen who looked like he was a third string and on loan from Toronto FC. Ter Stegen had a shocker.

This was a German team that didn’t want to be there with only a handful of players, Julian Draxler and Max Kruse, showing any of the class that precedes them on YouTube.

9» Tim Howard has trouble with the long ball.

Today it was Kruse off a pretty Draxler feed that was the culprit. Michael Bradley failed to apply enough pressure to Draxler who slotted to an incutting Kruse who left Omar Gonzalez in his wake. Kruse fired a precise–like German precise–strike inside the left post.

Howard was beat. Was it an above average strike? Yes. Did Howard fail to cover his right post effectively? Yes. Was it another example of shot from outside the box slipping by Timmy? Yes.

Then again, that German keeper had a howler of a day and it was really hot out there.

8» Clint Dempsey can score.

You have to imagine that Clint Dempsey playing today was akin to how O’Doyle felt playing dodgeball in Billy Madison. Either Dempsey was supreme to the counterpart attempting to mark him or he was met with blase defensive effort from one of the best strikers in German history.

The latter referencing Dempsey’s practice-field bender that curled passed the German keeper deputy after Lukas Podolski had went for soccer equivalent of the pump fake.

The key today of course is that with the US finally doing some work wide–especially on the right–and with Jozy Altidore making himself available. Dempsey had … space … and time and was asked to attack more than create.

That’s where the Spurs’ man is at his best.

Bradley Ray Evans, not singing a somber country tune today.

Bradley Ray Evans, not singing a somber country tune today.

7» Brad Evans is smart.

Commentating on ESPN, Taylor Twellman continuously praised the work from Evans at rightback. Evans had shown up playing the position with the first team in practice Saturday and was expected to give Geoff Cameron a respite there the following day.

The Sounder’s captain may have earned himself more serious consideration. In a game where it was tough to judge any collective or individual performance, Evans nevertheless showed well.

Evans has long been considered by fellow players–teammates and opponents–one of the smartest and most underrated players in the national team pool. And today, didn’t signal anything different.

Within the first five minutes, Evans had already knocked two perfectly weighted over-the-top balls to a galloping Jozy Altidore. It was Evans steady play and threat for that pass that in turn opened up Graham Zusi to do some work ahead of him. His play was very similar to that of Michael Parkhurst when he plays on the right, only Evans has arguably better handles and easily better wheels than the former Revs man.

Not only was Evans solid in possession, but his defensive positioning was near flawless, as he tucked in perfectly when the ball was on DaMarcus Beasley’s flank and then directed traffic when the attack was steaming down him. One sequence late in the first half somehow was picked up by the ESPN mics where Evans could be heard directing Michael Bradley on how to support him with two onrushing Germans barreling down.

Brad Evans is a student of the game.

Better from Gonzo .. for at least 45 minutes.

Better from Gonzo .. for at least 45 minutes.

6» The US centerbacks will keep fans on their toes.

While Omar Gonzalez was much better on the day–especially in the first half–and Matt Besler improved upon the play of Clarence Goodson Wednesday, nothing about Wednesday’s performance suggested that centerback stability is just around the corner.

Jurgen Klinsmann has succeeded in improving the overall US defense and–as often pointed out here–has positioned the centerbacks closer together to avoid getting run down the middle. Today that cohesion was not on display as the Besler-Gonzalez combination looked exceedingly “gappy” and had the Germans been more precise might have been exposed.

Both centerbacks often failed to track runners or were caught “playing spacer” rather than providing sport for their fullback. This was especially true of Besler on a few occasions who looked more sweeper-like often rather in pairing.

Nothing about today’s performance suggest the US centerbacks, much less the entire backline does not need to be compact and sit deep to not be exploited.

The examination continues Friday.

5» The US set piece defensive work in the box is [the opposite of iron clad]

The above is rather apt point giving the locale of today’s matches–nearly three and a half years ago Oguchi Onyewu when down to the ground clutching his knee after going airborne to defend a ball crossed into the box.

Since then, the closest the US has come to owning the box in the air is the present-day work of Omar Gonzalez. The US again today continued to lose attackers in the box on stopped-ball plays. Further, they often lost the second ball or worse again failed to control, deal with, corral, or expel errant pulls that fell to their feet.

It’s like a phobia or something right now.

4» Fabian Johnson doesn’t seem to like hot weather.

The US has played three matches now with Fabian Johnson starting where the conditions could be considered, generously, “muggy.” At Guatemala in a 1-1 draw last WCQ round, at Honduras during a sweltering day game earlier this year and Saturday in D.C.

In all three matches, the Hoffenheim winger has been silent. Sunday, Johnson left with an aggravated hamstring according to reports, so perhaps thinking that weather is that material is play is rubbish …. until he proves otherwise of course.

3» Edgar Castillo is a decent-to-solid defender.

US fans probably need to cut Castillo a break from today’s match. Castillo was awful today in the second half after he entered for a mostly solid DaMarcus Beasley. Castillo was broken down a number of times in 1-v-1 situations and with Brad Davis–not the owner of the fastest set of wheels in the house–ahead of him could muster little building from the back.

Castillo has radically improved his defense at Xolos over the last year and 2012 was perhaps his best in a US shirt when called up. He’s better than what he showed today.

Putting in the hard work...

Putting in the hard work…

2» Like any other good striker, Jozy Altidore thrives off, you know, getting the ball. Like always with Altidore, it’s now the next game that’s even more important.

Look, you can’t put it on Altidore that he often seemed to have a two-foot forcefield enveloping him that warded off German defenders. The Germans clearly had a serious allergy to stand-up defending today.

That said, no player was under the microscope more today than Altidore or was more polarizing as a narrative coming into this game.

Altidore–more than his well-taken goal or his deft passing today–seized the initiative today. He was involved. He understand the need to perform. And he kept coming. More so, he was committed defensively today–tracking back when there was even a sniff that he might be able to support the defenders behimd him.

Altidore beyond given space, thrived because he created space with his movement and he was put in motion.

Probably the smartest thing that the US did all day–and don’t think it wasn’t scripted by Martin Vasquez based upon his comments afterward–was get Altidore the ball early and over-the-top if necessary to get him involved. Inside of sixteen minutes from the opening whistle Altidore already had six solid looks come his way–two from Evans, two from Zusi,  and one each from Dempsey and Jones. And it got the Eredivisie goal king going.

These are the types of games that reaffirm the skillset that Jozy Altidore has, but they also often only happen in single isolated games.

Altidore’s game against Jamaica, at Jamaica, is in no small order, massive. It was Jamaica on the road last time that saw Altidore uninvolved offensively and defensively. What a good story another solid showing on Friday would be.

1» Friendly–good or bad results–are always just that, friendlies.

Some other quick observations….

> If Klinsmann can find a little freedom in possession for Graham Zusi, he’s going to be a lot closer to what Stu Holden was supposed to be for the Yanks rathe than a James Milner type. He’s older than 21, Klinsy, give me a license to drive.

> Here’s a sneaky little thing that’s happening without Landon Donovan in the squad and it’s not good (and may just be the most subtle, but best point of this piece).

Clint Dempsey is given some serious deferential treatment.

When Dempsey has the ball for the States–and by Klinsmann giving him the armband–Dempsey is given full reign. This is a player who never lacks confidence or needs any prodding to go to goal. But the respect given Dempsey–likely because he is the lone borderline Champion’s League attacker on the team–is probably a little too much.

Teammates ball-watch.

Or they clear away from Dempsey rather than checking too him.

There’s a sense of, “Let Dempsey work his magic know that he has the ball” or “he’ll do something.”

With Donovan on that squad, not only did the US have another player who could shoulder some of that “getting-on-the-ball” burden, but the rest of the squad was forced to continually to stay available–not least because Donovan might always spot you with a pass.

Today, the mere ability for Altidore to draw defensive attention was attack-enabling, but further with Altidore playing well with the ball at his feet it kept other players–Dempsey included–engaged in the attack. And that’s just as important as having Donovan back.

73 responses to this post.

  1. Please take this final point about Dempsey and sing it from the rooftops. Make it its own article. Get other folks talking about it. Make JK answer a question about it during a press conference. Make the players shrug it off as “nonsense” during post-game interviews. It is our responsibility to raise this questions. It will only make our team better. (For anyone who suggests that the players don’t pay attention to the media… you’re wrong. You’re wrong. You’re wrong.)


    • Posted by Tom Patton on 2013/06/03 at 12:52 PM

      That is an excellent point unnumstreet.

      We have 3, count them, 3 world class players( top 100 to 200 players in the world)and Donovan is not one of them anymore. ( Dempsey, Bradley , Jones – no matter how much most of you seem to hate the guy.)

      Neither is Howard in his current lack of form. I can see why Moyes threatened to bench him this year. He is going through a very shaky spell. Not that I am purposing a switch for Guzan at this time because I watched enough Villa games to know it was not all his young defense’s fault.


      • Posted by Nel on 2013/06/04 at 6:15 AM

        I’m not sure you get the point. Your comment seems in direct opposition of what the writer is meaning.

        Or maybe I’m not getting his point.


  2. Posted by jwran on 2013/06/02 at 10:57 PM

    *opposite of iron glad = iron SAD


  3. Posted by jwran on 2013/06/02 at 11:10 PM

    Great coverage Matt! Loved seeing this, and I couldn’t agree more about your last point on Clint/Altidore. And it cuts both ways. When we win, like today, its a subtle encouragement for guys to get more involved in the attack. But in the long-run, and from a WCQ perspective, its even more helpful to think about your point as a potential *major* weakness, as it was after the 4-2 drubbing in the Belgian’s 24/7 Waffle House last week or could be if we can’t regularly manage to get more than one goal past CONCACAF opposition.

    Its been a long time since we saw the USMNT attack have a day in the sun (Scotland game and the pre 2010 WC match against Austrailia being the last time I felt anything like I did today when we were up 4-1). An admirable and enjoyable game from a gutsy side that has never ever ever learned to put a game away.


  4. Posted by justin on 2013/06/02 at 11:16 PM

    You play to win the game.

    And I’m glad I won. And we played much better offensively. But at times I felt like I was watching the NBA All-Star game. Extremely poor defense and everyone standing around watching to see who could produce the best alley-oop dunk.


  5. […] Here are 10 things that we didn’t learn according to The Shin Guardian. […]


  6. Posted by KickinNames.... on 2013/06/03 at 6:17 AM

    Saw it live or I wouldn’t really believe it. Great atmosphere at RFK. Horrible venue for a soccer match though. DC needs a soccer only stadium.

    Agreed that defending was comical at times (even for Per Mertesacker) but the flow and construction of US play was very enjoyable to watch.

    Really liked the way Bradley and Jones played throughout the game in interchangeable roles although Mike still seemed to be playing the holder role and Jones B2B more often. Jones is a wild card and turnover machine but man does he bust his ass and provide a level of class doing the small stuff that makes them a better side.

    Am weary of Donovans BS as most are but we do miss his class and sheer talent in driving the attack forward. Face it Klinsi, we are a countering team and need to stop being embarrassed about that. And Lando is gold on the counter.

    Nice goal by Jozy but still a lot of Roberto Duran touches with the ball to his feet that lose possession up top. And he hates hates hates playing with his back to the goal. Nobody roots for him more to succeed but he is very frustrating to watch over the course of a game. Hope he can build on the goal and put together a back to back performance and he did expend more energy defending which was noticeable and needed.

    BTW Boyd is really looking like a bit of a knucklehead. Not the first time he’s chosen the wrong option late when everyone in attendance knows he needs to take the ball to the corner and waste the clock. Bradley, Demps and everyone around him was shouting at him after that stupid shot. He’s done that more than once now. Not a huge deal but something you notice.

    I like Besler and Brad Evans was a surprise in both covering speed and effective defending throughout. The early opportunity when Shurrle undressed Beas and then Besler was a classic case of unfamiliarity and lack of game reps IMO. Given reps I think he’ll get that timing and positioning down better based on what we’ve seen. Let em play Klinsi.

    And last..captain or no captain….why was Dempsey and Bradley in for 90 yesterday in that heat with a qualifier on Friday up 4-1? Bizarre.


    • Posted by dude on 2013/06/03 at 6:53 AM

      Soccer is the only sport played at RFK.


      • But it was built for football and baseball. And it’s 52 years old. And a complete dump.


        • Posted by dude on 2013/06/03 at 7:51 AM

          Don’t disagree. Personally, I’d be fine with the football and baseball part if it wasn’t so old and decrepit. DC fans tend to endure RFK’s current state, knowing that another stadium is still a low probability.


          • Posted by CJ on 2013/06/04 at 7:13 AM

            Talk around town is United might get their own park next to the Nationals stadium…


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/06/03 at 7:35 AM

      Agree on Boyd. That’s two silly fouls in two games and lack of making the simple plays. He’s better than that. Maybe he’s going through his Juan Agudelo stage after scoring–what–17 goals for Rapid Vienna this year?


    • Jones too went 90…..I’m a-thinking that the spine is going to be gassed early in the game.

      If the US plays similarly, I’ll be greatly surprised. As Matt outlined, Germany sat back and awful lot in the first 20-25 minutes – I was thinking to conserve energy/heat or a combination of the two.

      The Argument of ‘confidence’ is now a non-issue. Never thought much of it as a reason to do poorly in Jamaica, but it was a talking point I suppose.


  7. Posted by JH on 2013/06/03 at 6:47 AM

    Am I the only one thinking that Timmy was a catastrophe back there? Too many awkward punches and gangly grabs. Every time the ball went near him it was like a pinball machine. He was timid (pun) coming out off his line, and then the old Timmy problems appeared again – poor positioning and lapses in concentration leading to too easy goals.

    Other thoughts: You just know that Klinnsman is going to do something utterly idiotic like completely change around this lineup and formation on Friday, instead of letting the team finally, you know, turn into a TEAM. He seems to think that players are interchangeable and can play basically any position based on their “attribute stats” like in FIFA or something. If the back line doesn’t have Gonzo and Besler in the middle on Friday… F*** Klinnsman. (I mean “FIRE”.)

    And what else do you know, surprise of all surprises, maybe having an actual wide player play wide leads to width. Which in turn opens up the attack as well as provides an outlet for the two central midfielders. (A lot of the midfield improvement probably has to do with the General returning from his Roman campaign.)

    Did I mention Klinnsman is a tactical jackass?


    • Posted by KickinNames.... on 2013/06/03 at 8:30 AM

      That’s good fire you’re putting out there brother!


    • Posted by CJ on 2013/06/04 at 7:15 AM

      Question. How did you find out about Besler and the Gonzalez pairing? Give credit where it’s due. Your hyperbole is entertaining.


    • I think somebody messed with my Favorites bar and switched The Shin Guardian with the ESPN message board. Lots of expert opinions from people a lot smarter and with more experience than Jurgen Klinsmann.


      • Posted by JH on 2013/06/05 at 9:12 AM

        The rhetoric was actually meant to be a humorous spin on the typical ESPN FC or SBI comment board, so thanks for picking up on that, but the substance of the comment, to me, was serious.

        Granting that there have been injuries and other unavoidable absences, the team has still had a different lineup in – I think – every consecutive game under Klinsmann. That’s a terrible job of man management and coaching, especially when you’re a new coach trying to build a new style while integrating new players. And the mixing around of the back four is simply the most egregious failing in this regard. This is not a subtle point requiring a keen tactical mind. It’s an obvious, basic, fundamental concept that Klinsmann is clearly disregarding.

        I don’t think this idea takes any kind of expertise to understand, but he has to make “team gelling” a higher priority. I would say a much higher priority. And that isn’t even really for intangible ideas like camaraderie. It’s for basic, fundamental challenges like each player knowing what his role is and what are the roles around him. This is essential knowledge/trust between teammates required to make quick decisions about who’s marking whom, when to trade off, when to track, etc. Is it more likely that Omar Gonzalez, MLS’s best defender for 5 years straight, is dumb and clumsy? Or is it more likely that a different lineup with a different CB partner is confusing him and his teammates?


        • Sorry, I definitely bit on your spin. As a result, I heard the rant more than I read the comment. There was lot of venom in your post and I’m not sure how much or if any of it was tongue in cheek. Those other message boards can be way over the top in their criticism and are heavy on the negativity.

          I see what you’re saying about having some continuity in the lineups but you have to agree that JK has had to deal with a lot of club commitment issues and player excusals (Chandler, Donovan, Cherundolo, etc.). I wish I could go on but I have to bail because I’m at work. That said, I think we’re better off in WCQ than we could be considering the challenging early schedule.


  8. Posted by SyrioForrell on 2013/06/03 at 6:55 AM

    Think you’re being a bit harsh on Mertesacker. The awkward, gangling gait invites ridicule, but there’s a reason he’s keeping Vermaelen out of the Arsenal side at the moment. In their last 10 games, Arsenal have conceded 5 goals. He’s not Nesta, but he’s perfectly solid and capable.

    Otherwise, an excellent win. Ze Germans were obviously below par, but it’s encouraging how well the USMNT matched them, and how threatening they looked going forward. Altidore’s finding form at the right time.

    PS: Tim Howard badly needs dropping


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/06/03 at 7:17 AM

      Really on Mertesacker? He certainly improved by end of year, but I think it was Koscielny whose solid season made that pairing look better.
      It was Mertesacker at the beginning of the year that gifted away at least 6 points at one time.

      But maybe, perhaps, too harsh.


      • Posted by jwran on 2013/06/03 at 9:31 AM

        Watched a lot of Arsenal towards the end of the year and agree w/ SyrioForrell. Mertesacker gets a lot of stick, but he (and Koscielny) were freaking stout down the stretch. In the run of play Arsenal were absolutely unbreakable and Mertesacker was a big part of that. Look at the 5 goals that were scored in those last 10 games. 2 Pens, 2 set plays, and a garbage time goal against Reading when they were already up 3-0.

        Arsenal lost only 3 games in 2013 – to City and Chelsea in January, and once to Tottenham in March (Mertesacker got the Gunners’ only goal.) Don’t tell anybody, but I even brought him into my fantasy team and didn’t regret it.


    • Posted by Jared on 2013/06/03 at 8:41 AM

      The reason that Mertesacker is keeping Vermaelen out of the Arsenal 11 is the Vermaelen was having a really, really poor season. Koscielny was the one that really stepped up though as Matt said.


  9. Posted by dude on 2013/06/03 at 7:03 AM

    Maybe Eddie Johnson should get a look instead of Altidore. He doesn’t know his offensive responsibilities.


    This is the first time I’ve ever seen the team play with Jozy in mind, as if he’s a player that everyone should try and support instead of the other way around. The funny thing is, this is the best system for Terrence Boyd as well, who’s the only other player suited to that role right now, and he’s clearly got more work to do. So yes, balls over the top indeed.

    Fabian Johnson should play at that position, no matter how hot it is- unless Donovan comes back. He played at about 85%, but he was still extremely helpful in making the attack unpredictable and the passing game more dynamic- he had a few cuts inside that he would have punished if at 100%. I hear he had a hammy, which is too bad, because even though the German subs were effective, we lost control of the game once Beasley and Johnson were taken out.


  10. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2013/06/03 at 7:06 AM

    From a US point if view, it would have been nice to shut up shop, after the 4th goal – or at least put up better resistance.
    Obviously, Howard needs to shoulder his share if responsibility, but I did not like how the US stood off and let Germany shoot from just outside the 18 yard box. There was some nice build up play for Kruse’s goal but there was too much ball watching.
    Also, when you know Sam is an inverted winger, it’s just a matter of time before he cut in centrally – he did it a few times before – why wasn’t that area clogged up especially that late in the game?


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/06/03 at 7:19 AM

      Extremely solid point on Sam. US defenders I felt pushed centrally a lot all day long (regardless of foot) and the central back support wasn’t always there.

      Besler was specifically negligent on many occasions.

      Geroge, you were right in the preview — US took more of a 4-4-1-1 shape often than a 4-3-3 even though they were on the ball often.


  11. Posted by James H on 2013/06/03 at 7:19 AM

    I would like to more forgiving of Castillo but the evidence would tend to suggest that he is an absolute liability in defense, and offers very little going forward. He may have had a decent season down south, but it sure looks like Klinsman would be better served to find a “Brad Evans” for the left side to back up DMB. Personally, I am still mystified as to why Lichaj has not been given any looks under JK. Is he injured? I thought I saw him getting minutes at Villa at the end of the season…


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/06/03 at 8:11 AM

      I think Klinsmann wants speed and handles first at the corners. And he’s willing to sacrifice defensive “play” to get it. Castillo, Fab Johnson, Beltran, Beasley, Jose Torres, Beitashour all called in/run out at one point or another.


      • Posted by Creige on 2013/06/03 at 8:59 AM

        Fans and writers have been giving Castillo too much credit for his play south of the border. He has been dreadful for the US since day one and there are many other players that can play this position with aplomb. It is beyond me why Zach Loyd who was our top player in his one USMNT match against Chile isn’t being called in to play this position or right back. Maybe he can find a grandparent who immigrated from Europe and play in a Scandanavian league because that seems to be the only way to get a call up by Klinsmann.


        • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/06/03 at 9:11 AM

          I think you’re being unduly harsh on Castillo.

          I encourage you to go back and watch the US-Mexico 1-0 win from last year.

          Part of the reason that DMB is at LB himself now is that he was fairly negligent/positionally completely unaware in that game.

          Klinsmann did not bring him for some time after that.

          Castillo was basically left on an island at LB against Pablo Barrera with little CDM helped and he played shutdown defense for the final 45 minutes.

          I think Zach Loyd is a good shout though. He stands up defenders better than anyone else and that’s a good and a bad thing.

          He’s been beat in a US shirt a few times because he pushed too far up the field and got caught on a through ball.

          But he deserves a look ahead of players like Beltran and right now Beitashour as well.

          Loyd’s another guy who I think might be terrific some day at CB.


          • Posted by AdamFromMich on 2013/06/03 at 10:22 AM

            Count me as someone who would like to see Castillo get some more time. His performance in this game worried me a little, but I still think he has something to offer. Of course, fan opinion doesn’t matter, our lack of depth/injuries means he’ll most likely play some during the next 3 games.

            I’d also like to see more of Zach Loyd in the USMNT. He did well against Chile (as mentioned above). But at 5’9″ and 170 lbs I don’t think we’ll see him at CB very often.


            • Posted by panchomiguelmoralesdeconejo on 2013/06/03 at 11:19 AM

              I’m with Adam, I don’t remember Castillo getting burnt to the endline- maybe he did, but I don’t remember it. What I remember is allowing his man to turn inside and getting no help from an exhausted MF and no Davis in sight. Exemplary D, no. But not horrific.

            • Posted by HuntDaddy on 2013/06/03 at 11:39 AM

              Agreed, Zach Loyd is way too small to be an effective CB.

              Also, I don’t remember Castillo playing anything close to “shutdown defense” in Azteca. He got burned badly a few times, but Barrera’s final ball was usually so poor that Mexico wasn’t able to take advantage. He still feels too much like Bornstein 2.0 to me. Serviceable backup LB for CONCACAF play.

            • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/06/03 at 11:51 AM

              Go back and watch the USA-Mexico game specifically 50th-75th minute and see how often DaMarcus Beasley is just entering the left side of your screen after the play is almost over.

              Or go back to the USA v. Canada draw when Castillo was asked to deputize after Fabian Johnson was a late scratch.

              I agree Loyd is too small — but they said the same thing about Ayala (5’9”), Cannavaro (5’8”), Puyol (5’10” generously), Danny Blind (5’9”)

              And too a *much* lesser extent the decently performing DeLaGarza (Gonzo is his George John), Zach Scott, Marvell Wynne (who the Rapids won a Chmpaionship with next to Drew Moor.”),

              All depends on the pairing.

  12. Posted by Jared on 2013/06/03 at 8:45 AM

    I was very disappointed in Gonzalez losing his marker for Westermann’s goal. He completely misjudged the flight of the ball. That type of play is not one that he should struggle with as aerial balls are supposed to be his strong suit. If he keeps making one or two big mistakes per game then he shouldn’t be in there.

    I still think Cameron needs more of a run out at central defense.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/06/03 at 8:58 AM

      Was mentioning to a broadcaster yesterday that the unless the US plays a deep defensive line in numbers, what you’re getting from the back four is going to be a crapshoot.

      Unfamiliar line mates, unfamiliar opponents, environments etc.

      I concur with you in that Gonzo made instinctual (failing to close down Kruse) and miscalculated mistakes.

      To me, Besler had just as much of an off today, but his mistakes are more correctable. Caught zone marking when he should have been man-marking — not supporting DaMarcus Beasley etc.

      And Besler’s distribution save one pass is still extremely solid.


      • Posted by Jared on 2013/06/03 at 9:08 AM

        The unfamiliar lineups drive me crazy. I understand with the left back situation that Klinsmann has his hands tied with player availability but messing around with the Gonzalez/Besler tandem didn’t make much sense unless it was to play Cameron with one of them. Goodson has zero upside at this point and really just isn’t good enough as he’s repeatedly shown.


        • Posted by dth on 2013/06/03 at 7:20 PM

          Klinsmann’s weird in that he’ll get fascinated by a player for no good reason. Torres was the big one. (Shea was also a bit curious, but explicable because the team really needed width.) Goodson is strangest of all, maybe: he keeps on turning back to him even though he’s so inadequate, and offers zippo upside. Might as well commit to Gonzo/Besler for a while, I think. (well, at least until we offer Brooks a world cup spot.)


  13. Posted by sleepy on 2013/06/03 at 8:57 AM

    Been said before, but it’s a shame that one is repeatedly distracted from such good commentary by the many grammatical errors on this site.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/06/03 at 9:11 AM

      You’re right, but it will always be thus until the site pays for itself and we get a copyeditor. I wish I had a better answer for you though.


      • Posted by Jared on 2013/06/03 at 9:31 AM

        Maybe sleepy would volunteer his/her services for free to copy edit?


      • Posted by jwran on 2013/06/03 at 10:16 AM

        I’ve worked professionally on a blog for about seven years, and would be happy to volunteer some time to copy-edit for team TSG. I’m not an English major or anything, but can put an extra eye on simple spelling/grammar stuff. Its the least I could do after enjoying two years of really incredible content from you guys.


      • Posted by sleepy on 2013/06/07 at 9:07 PM

        Listen I love what you guys do here and appreciate that you do it. My comment was maybe a bit of a “drive-by” insult but what I’m getting at is that the site could really get next-level, professional polish with just a second look at posts before they are published. I concede that it’s tough to criticize – even mildly! – something that I don’t produce or pay for, but 99% of the errors are just typos or spelling mistakes, so you guys are already just about there.

        Thanks again for a terrific site, and thanks for supporting US soccer. Nice goal Evans!


    • Posted by panchomiguelmoralesdeconejo on 2013/06/03 at 11:21 AM

      Grammatical errors? Such as starting a sentence with ‘Been said”?


      • Posted by KickinNames.... on 2013/06/03 at 6:36 PM

        Aaaaaaaand the Grammar Douche is vanquished!….it’s a blog. Free content. Serious douchery to come and comment on a free site that does what it does this well and threaten not to read it. And use poor grammar in your comment.
        Just go to and enjoy the good grammar and the 6th grade commentary.


  14. Posted by Freegle on 2013/06/03 at 9:38 AM

    The real shame is that people get distracted by grammar so much that they can’t appreciate that these fellow fans take time out of their busy personal lives to put together a first-class website. Shin Guardian has the best insight and (usually) the best conversations around. Matt and the others sacrafice their own time/money/energy to bring it to us for free. People aren’t here for an english lesson so get off your soapbox. Perhaps if it upsets you this much you could volunteer some of your own time to edit the pieces instead of making passive-aggressive comments that offer nothing after taking advantage of the service ShinGuardian offers.


    • Posted by JW on 2013/06/03 at 10:15 AM

      Here here. Much Freddy Adu about nothing, I think. Hope we get a diary from the Jamaica game, been missing those.


    • Posted by Jared on 2013/06/03 at 10:21 AM

      Absolutely agree regarding the quality of the insight and analysis. It’s my first stop when it comes to soccer blogs especially around US Soccer games.


    • Posted by fellainis'fro on 2013/06/03 at 11:13 AM

      Excellent point regarding the grammatical errors on this site. I understand that someone who might write for a living or even possibly an educator will catch what I consider small grammar mishaps. But hands down this site provides the most comprehensive and intelligent analysis of our national team by both the website content writers and the public commentators. When it comes to national team analysis, news or commentary The Shin Guardian is where I come first, followed by with Grant Wahl and Avi Creditor, ESPNFC and finally if I am jonesing for any news and feel like slumming it,


  15. Posted by Cornelius on 2013/06/03 at 10:56 AM

    Impressed: Altidore, Dempsey, Beasley, Evans, Jones, Bradley, Zusi

    Disappointed: Castillo, Boyd, Gonzalez

    So-So: F. Johnson, E. Johnson, Davis, Howard, Besler,

    I loved the hustle and press from the US forwards this game, especially from Altidore. The passing and understanding between Jones and Bradley was better than any other time I can remember. I think I want this same starting lineup in Jamaica, but my one hesitation is the center back pairing.

    What to do with the center back position is a real conundrum. Would you replace Gonzalez with Cameron next game (giving the third different pairing in as many games)? Or give Gonzalez and Besler back to back games to gel and sort it out?


    • Posted by jwran on 2013/06/03 at 10:57 PM

      If Cameron showed up on the team-sheet Friday instead of Gonzalez, I don’t think many of us would shed a tear. But, long-term, I really think/hope Gonzalez could develop into a fantastic CB and you have to think his upside is better than that of Besler’s, although I’ve seen less of Besler.


  16. Posted by HuntDaddy on 2013/06/03 at 12:11 PM

    Great observations, Matt. I’d be interested to hear what you believe the best UMSNT XI is at this point in time and where Donovan fits into the picture once he returns to top form.

    Also, Beasley has shown pretty well in the past few matches, but is anybody else still nervous at the prospect of moving forward with him as the team’s starting LB? I still think Fabian Johnson is superior to him at LB.

    I think it also bears worth mentioning what Brad Evans’ emergence could mean for other fringe players like Danny Williams, Beckerman, Parkhurst and Edu. If Evans can put together some strong performances in the Gold Cup he could put himself in a good position to be on a plane to Brazil as a utility player come next summer.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/06/03 at 12:28 PM

      I think you’re spot on with the word “nervous.” I’ve talked to a number of media folks and that’s precisely the word they bring up with Beasley. Not that he can’t do it, but that just one day he’s going to go AWOL. Hopefully that does not happen.

      I’m going to do a depth chart like (revise it) like this one:
      after this series and add the Best XI in there.

      With the current personnel (JK’s current roster), all things being equal and everyone fit. I probably would’ve went with the following line-up:

      G: Tim Howard
      DEF: Fab J, Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler, Beasley
      MF: Graham Zusi, Brek Shea
      WF: Dempsey
      STR: Altidore.

      With that lineup, I’ve got serious questions on Fab J still out of the back, but I want Cameron back in the middle.

      I also have a question on the aerial though I think Cameron can handle.

      Obviously Shea’s been injured/unfit, it would be Herc or EJ in that role.

      With the current roster as much as I like Brad Davis I don’t think he’s fast enough to play the wing role that JK demands of him. JK’s almost looking at him as a stay at home guy if Beasley overlaps. If Beasley is overlapping then Davis sits back and authors a cross or lead pass.

      But the above — *from this roster* is everyone fit.
      I like Danny Williams a lot but he hasn’t performed well in a US shirt when the team is under duress.

      At this point–as I’ve always had–I have reservations of Gonzalez’s speed of play, but I think folks need to realize that he’s probably just now fully getting back from his kne injury.


      • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/06/03 at 2:35 PM

        Would I add to the above as well is that it’s going to be very difficult to switch out Gonzalez with the US having to deal with Ryan Johnson and what are likely to be a lot of crosses in Friday’s match.


  17. Posted by Chazcar2 on 2013/06/03 at 12:12 PM

    Watching the game I thought it was clear that jozy needs to touch the ball regularly to play his best. TSG has called him the “Drifter” before I think it continues to be true. He got 3-4 touches in the first 10 minutes and produced a great game.

    Its true of all players, getting the ball makes you feel more involved and makes it easier to work hard. Just seems especially true for Jozy.

    Other big thing I noticed was how nicely Fabian and Clint and Jones switched. I think that was an important difference that really made the attack work. When Clint dropped deep either Jones or Fabian moved forward to keep numbers in the attack. I particularly noticed it with Fabian. Clint dropped to the left wing a couple times and Fabian moved closer to Altidore. This really helped keep Germany spaced open for our midfield. You could see how that changed a bit with Davis on.

    Lastly. Jones is a great hustle player, but he always gets caught in possession by a striker tracking back. Its super annoying. He also tries to do much with his passes. When he keeps the passing under control and is making his great runs he is at his best. Hopefully he focuses on that the next few weeks.


  18. Just reading this again. This is really excellent work, Matt. I disagree with some of the points — particularly on Castillo and Evans — but it’s all well-reasoned and the product of careful, excogitated analysis. As I tell everyone, your work is not only the gold standard of US Soccer coverage, but it spawns excellent analysis from the rest of this community. Kudos, all.

    Below are some of my thoughts after having watched match action from both sides of the pitch (if you can get any kind of German highlights, watch them. Fascinating angles that you can miss by just seeing the other broadcast IMO).

    1) First thing I’ll say is that not enough is being made of how the USMNT’s defensive high pressure was both good AND bad in this match. People are using it as one of the USMNT’s main tactical paths to success against Germany… and it was. But, nobody is also talking about it as our downfall in the last 20 minutes.

    [A brief note I am interested in bringing up, which people are free to disagree with (perhaps I’m being too harsh on soccer writers, who, for the most part, do an excellent job to offer tactical insight on the game): Too often “high pressure” becomes a tactical buzzword with which people don’t engage with requisite complexity. Very few teams on Earth are able to sustain high pressure all the way throughout the park for 90 minutes in a game against talented opposition. Very few. The way we write about it, you’d think teams like Barcelona and Dortmund do it automatically, all the time, without effort. They don’t… and even more important than how good they are when they’re chasing the ball like rabid bulldogs 70 yards up the pitch is how they compensate for fatigue by dropping in, staying close to marks, shutting passing lanes, and communicating well.]

    The USMNT defended high up the park excellently for longer stretches than I’ve ever seen before. But, even then, the wheels fell off around 70 minutes (not surprisingly, when Germany scored goals 2 and 3). It’s great that we write about defensive tactics with such precision and nuance, but it becomes incumbent upon us to discuss how these schemes and strategies are living, breathing, symphonic entities they are — not inflexible set defenses that come off for 90 minutes. Now, maybe that’s obvious, but I think not mentioning it clearly stunts our understanding of how this team played on Sunday.

    During those spells of superb “full court press” to steal a hardwood term, we were excellent. I was particularly impressed with Clint and Jozy, who can both be accused of being disinterested on that side of the ball in recent years. More than anything either did on the offensive side of the ball on Sunday, that’s what impressed me. Klinsmann has gotten these guys working from 1 to 11 when we’re behind the ball better than any other manager we’ve ever had. Period. And, for me, that’s huge. In the Bruce era (mostly the second half), we lived and died with conceding space in the middle third of the pitch… and it was why we were consistently beaten by better teams (even in the glorious Italy triumph, most of their chances came from essentially walking the ball up the flanks without much pressure). This team performs well against better opposition in my opinion not only because they have a belief that wasn’t there in past eras, but because they actually have a defensive awareness, from goalkeeper to strikers, that they need to be working 100% of the time, with their heads on a swivel. When approaching the “bigger teams” of the world, Bruce preferred to tuck in, win the ball, and explode forward (I’d call it a counter attack, but it was almost like a single Pacquiao shot to the jaw after absorbing three rounds of punches), Bob was similar, but with a more rigid defensive structure… and I never felt confident under either when we were playing better teams. I always felt we were riding our luck. With Klinsi, I feel very secure (regardless of attacking impotence) that we’re working our tails off on defense to keep the ball away from dangerous spots on the pitch… and it’s the biggest tactical revolution I think we’ve had in style, in quite some time. The big question is — what you do when it falls away? Against this German B-team, the answer was, “Nothing good.” That’s what has to change. The defensive line fluctuated WAY too much as the match went along, we got sloppy in terms of a mixture of man/zonal marking, as Matt pointed out (which is a MASSIVE, MASSIVE PROBLEM. That should never ever be an issue. You make a decision on that front with the backline and stick to it. Especially as substitutions happen. End of.)

    2) In terms of Castillo, I’m writing this one off. I remain unconvinced that he’s a good defender, but I haven’t been able to watch him play much for Xolos this year. With a USA shirt on, he’s done some good things and had some good performances — but the bottom line is that he gets beat way, way too often in that part of the pitch for how our backline is set up. We use our wingbacks — even our most attacking postured ones — as dams against service. Stem the run down the flank, try and force him to his opposite foot, try and block the cross. That’s 90% of outside back play under Klinsi… it’s not pressure the ball and risk getting beat, it’s stay back and restrict service. With Edgar, he doesn’t seem to do either nearly enough — he doesn’t get in the way of the ball, or the man, and frequently gets beat by both.

    3) Brad Evans had a very good game with some bright spots that really surprised me. I’ve been hot on him as a player in MLS, but I didn’t think he’d show up on Sunday. I was wrong…… until that third goal. This is one of the worst cases of ball-watching I’ve ever seen from one of our defenders. I want to say I’m being harsh, but I really don’t think I am. Absolutely no awareness of the rebound, no awareness of the pouncing Draxler, no awareness of his body position (only player on the line not actively playing with back to goal). By the time Timmy makes that save, he’s five yards away from his mark, who started running onto that rebound from a very deep position. It’s not international-level defending… and I’m sure he’ll get better as time goes on, but I can’t just write that one off. That’s more than nerves or inexperience, it’s positional sense that goes to the very heart of being an international-caliber defender.

    4) Many are talking about Jermaine Jones’s superb effort and composure. I completely agree. Something else, though: His service. He plays some absolutely world class passes in this match. We’ve always known that he can pick out a man… but how valuable is it to have someone who can pick out a man, get stuck in, keep with runners through the center of the park, and always make himself available as a passing option as we go forward? Tremendously… and we haven’t had someone that multifaceted not named Michael Bradley in quite some time.

    5) I don’t expect Klinsmann to settle on lineups any time soon. Part of his style (and downfall, in my opinion, as a manager) is that he hates settling on a first choice XI. He didn’t even have to qualify for a World Cup in 2006 and he was tinkering with his 23 (forget XI) until the weeks before the tournament in a way that would have been deeply unsettling if I was a German fan. I fully expect to feel that way in the run-up to Brazil, no matter how sterling the performances become from a certain group of players.

    Thanks for listening to me ramble.



    • Posted by WatertownMA on 2013/06/04 at 4:07 AM

      Enjoyed this insight!


    • Posted by seamusbklyn on 2013/06/04 at 7:02 AM

      +1 on Jones. That was a fantastic launch to Jozy on Dempsey’s first goal. From a replay shown from behind the play it looked like Jones saw the opportunity first and when Jozy saw where Jones was looking he took off into that space. Hard to be sure, maybe they both had the same idea. In any case, Jones is inconsistent at times, and when those slicing passes get picked off I groan, but his vision is a huge plus in the midfield and his workrate and tenacity are unsurpassed. I see people on commenting on other blogs about how awful he is or saying harebrained things about “commitment” and I just shake my head. We are so lucky to have him.


      • Posted by Jim on 2013/06/04 at 9:53 AM

        He’s not my favorite player for sure, but as others have said and I continue to believe, there is a reason why he is continuously performing for a Champions League club.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/06/04 at 9:28 AM

      Thanks for the addition Zack and no need on the plaudits. I’m going to go back and watch that third German goal.


      • Thanks. And, the plaudits on your end are well-deserved, so I’m going to keep throwing them out until you’re sick of me 🙂

        I’ve watched the third goal a handful of times since writing that — and I fear I may have been a bit harsh. I still think Evans makes a big mistake, but it’s hard to say that’s much worse than a lot of other miscues we’ve seen our backline commit, even in the past year (and especially given the fact that Timmy DOES fumble the shot).

        I do wonder, though, if that play is symptomatic of the difficulty a lot of converted midfielders face when switching to a more defensive role and mode of thought at such a quick game speed.


        • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/06/04 at 5:37 PM

          I bet on Evans…however this comment more to assure you that–though likely chock full of grammatical errors–the USA – JAM preview will be our best ever.


          • Posted by KickinNames.... on 2013/06/05 at 7:11 AM

            Looking forward to it. Pressures on now that El Tri finally found out how to win.


    • Posted by James H on 2013/06/04 at 9:55 AM

      Awesome analysis. I would just add, in respect to Jones’ performance, just how vital it is to have an active and viable target in Altidore. When Altidore is showing, cutting and running it allows the US to effectively bypass that mid to final third of the field when pushing the ball up. This also takes advantage of what Jones can do with great skill, place a ball over the top or occasionally through the opposing backline. It also invited further attempts from Evans and Zusi out wide. This allows us to avoid having to seek out that upper midfield linkage from Dempsey that he is supposed to provide as the tip of the midfield three. And given that sort of play is not exactly Clint’s strong suit, so much the better. Of course, the continuing problem for Klinsman is what to do when Jozy is ill, pressed up high or marked out of a game. Take away that target, and Jones becomes much less effective as well. And we know that it will happen again. I think this is why it is critical to get an on-form Donovan back in the fold. All credit to Zusi, but Donovan is a must consider for opponents. Having three legitmate threats to contend is nightmare.

      Now consider this: what if Klinsmann fielded an attacking front four that features Dempsey on the left, Donovan on the right, Altidore up top, and Bradley as the attacking mid, supported by Jones (in his Germany mode) and solid defensive mid. We know Bradley has a shot and the ability to pass into the box. True, you might give up some defensive ability on the flanks, but I prefer to have attacking players attack. Theoretically, more pressure and possession in the other team’s half might also relieve some of the pressure on our defense. But would Klinsman ever consider it? Is it too farfetched?


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2013/06/04 at 10:21 AM

      The thing about using Barcelona as an example about pressing is that:
      1. They have so much possession, they’re conserving a lot of energy (relative to the team without the ball), so they can press aggressively for the whole game.
      2. The team without the ball are generally reduced to two banks of four, so it’s hard for them to keep possession (front players too isolated), and it’s much easier to press a square pass (hence why people talk about 4 band formations / triangles). Plus, many players cannot receive the ball when they’re being marked, so this reduces passing options. Barcelona have so many competent one touch players who can receive the ball when having a man on – this is a huge difference.
      3. It is a philosophy – the whole team needs to play this way.

      IMHO need to be pragmatic when playing a team like Barcelona or Spain. You would be committing football suicide if you tried a full press against them – they would pass around you easily. This years CL semi is a perfect example. Bayern had less than 40% possession, and played with two bank of four -*but* the movement was like Space Invaders in terms of the whole unit shifting across, up and down, maintaining the predetermined shape /space between players that they worked on on the training ground.

      Re. Germany’s third goal, I think you’re being very harsh. Could he have been more alert? Of course he could have. But when there are many defensive errors prior to this, I find those harder to ignore; the three obvious relates to Sam getting his shot off in the first place, Besler not getting a block in, and Howard not pushing the ball away from play rather than into traffic. I think you should watch that goal again and reconsider!!


      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2013/06/04 at 10:34 AM

        People might think I have contradicted myself – but Bayern have incredibly talented players. Not many teams have the skill or tactical discipline to execute that game plan to perfection. Perhaps Capello’s Milan in 1994 is another example of pragmatic pressing.


  19. Off topic, but I’m watching the rerun of the Chicago v DC game on univision sport and the commentators gave mild praise to the collegiate soccer system in the U.S.


  20. […] Good on the Yanks (sorta) in their USMNT win over a seriously weakened German side, including 10 things we didn’t learn in that match. […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: