Since the retirement of Claudio Reyna really, the U.S. has been in search of a dominant midfielder who can make plays that change a game. Landon Donovan isn’t really a midfielder, nor is Clint Dempsey, but Michael Bradley is and has shown the potential to fill that role. On Wednesday in Russia, Bradley was the difference in the Americans being clean sheeted and the two goals that rescued the day.
Ultimately, we’ll review the performance from the entire team and scrutinize players who made costly mistakes, but if there is one positive that can come from this result, it’s that it took just a few moments of brilliance from just a few players for the U.S. to come away with a result.
Jurgen Klinsmann continues to have work to do in getting a consistent lineup ready for World Cup Qualifying which kicks off on Feb. 6. At the present time, the U.S. doesn’t have a consistent center back pairing, is testing wingers like hot sauces at a chicken wing bar and is dependent on Tim Howard to keep opposing goal scorers from running wild.
This game showed that some of the players Klinsmann is investing heavily may not be ready to play consistently at the highest level while others that were considered to be written off a short time ago are the ones he’ll need to depend on.
Tim Howard: The Everton shot stopper stepped up in a big way once again for the U.S., getting his hands on six saves and keeping the Americans in the game throughout the second half. It doesn’t matter who the manager is, Howard just keeps performing at a high level.
Timothy Chandler: Apparently, Germany isn’t interested. So, Chandler will have to settle for the United States, but if he’s going to win over U.S. fans he’ll have to do with inspired performances that show his commitment to becoming the right back of the future. He provided some decent crosses, but in the end, Chandler’s final product didn’t change the game.
Geoff Cameron: His play with Stoke City is clearly having an effect on his confidence at the center back position. At times Cameron doesn’t seem to know what to do and plays it a bit too safe, but his reluctance to take risks also leads to less mistakes. If Cameron can just get comfortable in a consistent role for the U.S., he’ll be a great Klinsmann development.
Clarence Goodson: His first time partnership with Cameron was shaky at times as the pair gave the ball away stupidly in dangerous positions. In the end, it turned out to be a tough game for Goodson as he conceded the penalty that gave Russia their second goal.
Fabian Johnson: The best player on the back line all day, Johnson was active in winning the ball, making runs, getting forward and providing relief to the midfield. Performances like that will have him in the side permanently over the next year.
Danny Williams: Seeming outclassed, Williams had a terrible game in the midfield. His passing wasn’t very productive and he lacked the decision making to play centrally. His quick take of a first half free kick turned the ball over and led to a Russian counter attack that provided them an early easy goal.
Jermaine Jones: He spent too much time trying to get forward and wasn’t much help at times defensively. Naturally, Jones is more of a defensive minded midfielder and this game showed that he’d do well to stick to his identity.
Michael Bradley: The first U.S. goal was created by a Maurice Edu long ball that found the head of Juan Agudelo. Bradley did well to smack Agudelo’s knockdown first time off the post and in. He helped create the second goal with a ball over the top and was the most active player on the pitch throughout large chunks of the game. Claudio Reyna he is not, but being Michael Bradley may just be enough.
Maurice Edu: His defensive awareness and ability to see the game immediately benefited the Americans. His ball into Agudelo led to the first goal, but it was as much his defensive abilities that made him the best substitution on the day.
Jozy Altidore: With such promising club play, Altidore will be expected to bring goals to the national team. His performance on Wednesday was encouraging in that his work rate was pretty good, but when he finally got his chances in the second half as the U.S. found their attacking instinct, he couldn’t make the most of it. The lack of service for the first hour of the game wasn’t Altidore’s fault, but when the chances finally come your way, a good striker has to take them.
Herculez Gomez: His performances haven’t been as solid as he was in the early part of the Klinsmann reign, but he still does enough work off the ball to warrant his inclusion in the side.
Sacha Klejstan: Playing for Anderlecht has helped develop his game, but Klejstan still has a long way to go to fit into the national team. His play on the wing brings mixed emotions as a supporter. He got himself into a great position to put in a header on goal in this one, but opted to nod it down to Michael Bradley instead of being aggressive and taking a shot on goal. That type of play isn’t going to win him any points with the fans.
Juan Agudelo: It’s been a strange year for Agudelo who slipped into MLS obscurity with Chivas USA. His return to the national team was positive, however, as he provided Bradley with an assist and was at least active throughout his time on the field.Mix Diskerud: He only played a few minutes but his strike to tie the match in stoppage time was well taken. It’s his second big goal as U.S. national team player and more evidence that he deserves to be given more chances to prove his worth.
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