This is how United States soccer is supposed to look. This is the performance we have been waiting to see. It has been a rocky road for head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and the national team, but the U.S. team has yet again made it to the final round of the World Cup Qualifiers. The starting lineup changes are working.
Sound Play All Around
Although Klinsmann comes off reserved and modest when addressing the team’s World Cup chances, deep down he is relieved and hungry for success. Tuesday night’s match against Guatemala displayed plenty sharp play and offensive chemistry in the first half. After an embarrassing Carlos Ruiz breakaway goal let up in just the 5th minute, the U.S. turned up the heat, scoring 3 goals between the 10th and 36th minute. Dempsey would score two of those goals, both requiring superb positioning from Eddie Johnson and Michael Bradley crosses. Everyone was involved however, creating a smooth victory with possession of 74% from second half substitutions.
No Landon, No Problem
Let’s be honest here, Landon Donovan has not played a match for the national team since mid-August, and he’s not returning anytime soon. Could he be healthy for the next leg of qualifiers in February? Sure, but he has spoken interest of retirement after the 2012 MLS season and may not be the same player we saw in the 2010 World Cup ever again. Dempsey is the clear captain and goal-scorer from this point forward. His 29th and 30th career goals against Guatemala now places him third all-time in U.S. history goals. In Dempsey’s last six starts, he has scored 4 goals and also leads the team with 6 goals and 13 points on the year.
With experience in Bradley, Bocanegra, and Howard in net, fans should not worry too much about the starting lineup. Injuries have plagued the team recently, but a consistent style of play is what must be found. The U.S. looked comfortable with the ball all game, but more importantly found a tight defense in the second half, something they have struggled to find all season. Klinsmann has made it clear that a possession-oriented approach is best, but we have yet to see the team hold the ball like a contender such as Spain. There is no question this team can make a strong run in the World Cup, but consistency and playing to potential will be key.