American Soccer Now contributing editor Brian Sciaretta found several things to celebrate in the United States’ “dos a cero” win over El Tri in San Antonio. And then there was the pitch to consider.
April 16, 2015
NEITHER TEAM HAD ITS BEST players on the field, but that doesn’t mean we can’t glean some valuable lessons from Wednesday night’s clash at the Alamodome. Here are seven thoughts on the impressive U.S. victory.
1. JORDAN MORRIS CAN PLAY
You saw the strike. If not, here it is again.
Nice touch, nice goal. But the issue for Morris now will be maintaining consistency. As long as he remains in college, it will be very difficult for him to play at a high level. And if he prioritizes his Stanford education—and who could fault him for that?—there’s a chance that his professional career might not begin for another two years.
Is it realistic to think that he will be an impact player on the international stage while relying heavily on a short NCAA season to prepare him for the highest level of the sport?
The talent is there and good players will continue to come out of the college game. Jurgen Klinsmann likely sees the U.S. U-23 Olympic team as a priority for Morris but even then there is always a possibility that young professional players can overtake Morris on the depth chart simply because they are playing and training at a higher level year-round.
Having said all of that, the future does look bright for Morris.
2. Field of Screams
Hard questions need to be asked, and answered, about the abysmal field conditions at the Alamodome. Why play in a dome when there are so many open-air stadiums to choose from? Why was the sod such a disaster? It’s unclear whose decision it was to play the game indoors, but whether it was U.S. Soccer, the Mexican Federation, an outside party, or some combination of all three, it was a disastrous decision.
One theory is that the Alamodome simply offered the best financial incentive package. If so, was it worth it? This is the United States of America and there are dozens of worthy venues that would have generated significant revenue without making the field quality such a distraction.
Still, there is a potential long-term benefit: Conditions throughout CONCACAF are generally terrible and if a team can’t succeed on a bad field, it won’t win in this region. So players on both teams need to get used to lousy pitches. That said, you’d expect the United States to be a better host.
3. Perfect second half bucks the trend
For all the talk of the U.S. national team collapsing in the second half of games, Klinsmann’s squad put on an absolute clinic in how to finish a game Wednesday night.
After Morris put the United States in front, the Yanks actually raised their game to a higher level. That ability to take advantage of a lead, to demonstrate a killer instinct, has been absent from the U.S. national for a very long time. American fans no doubt were thrilled to see their team play like a winner.
4. Beckerman and Kitchen Played Well
When Kyle Beckerman has a good game, there’s a very good chance the entire U.S. squad is following suit. His passing acument, combined with his defensive prowess, often opens up the game for the rest of the midfield.
At his best, Beckerman makes the game much easier for the rest of the U.S. midfielders. On this occasion, he opened up the game for Mix Diskerud and Michael Bradley to have a big impact offensively. An injury forced the Real Salt Lake captain to leave the match just before the hour mark, but he put on a tremendous display up that point.
Despite his strong showing, Beckerman will turn 33 next week and it ‘s hard to imagine him being part of the U.S. setup when the Russia World Cup rolls around in 2018.
As we saw last night, however, Perry Kitchen is waiting in the wings and could fill the No. 6 role capably.
Kitchen has a lot to prove before we can pencil him in as Beckerman’s successor, but he is a decade younger than the man he replaced and possesses the same take-no-prisoners approach to defense along with a solid set of offensive skills.
5. Yedlin impresses in atypical fashion
DeAndre Yedlin showed another side of his game against Mexico. Primarily known for his speed and ability to get forward, Yedlin shined on the defensive front. He was rarely caught out of position, he forced a number of turnovers, and made several important clearances.
Maybe his new coaching staff at Tottenham is trying to turn the former Seattle Sounder into a two-way player? If so, it seems to be working.
6. Agudelo showcased pure skill
As we saw last night, Juan Agudelo didn’t forget how to play soccer during his European misadventures.
His shot that beat Mexican goalkeeper Cirilo Saucedo was solid but it was his first touch on the long pass from Bradley that made the play truly special.
A healthy and fit Agudelo could be a big boost to the U.S. national team, as he is a strong, athletic forward with lots of technique and creativity. If he can stay healthy and continue to play well in New England, maybe the Colombian-American will begin to realize his full potential.
7. Alvarado and Gonzalez make a good pair
Aside from a few rocky moments, the pairing of Ventura Alvarado and Omar Gonzalez worked out. Gonzalez was strong in the air and easily handled the physical play. Alvarado covered a lot of ground and made some smart plays to defend Mexican attacks before they became dangerous.
The United States’ central defense pool is moving in the right direction these days: Beyond Alvarado and Gonzalez, Matt Besler, Steve Birnbaum, and Matt Hedges are among the better defenders in Major League Soccer. Michael Orozco had two very good games during the March friendlies and John Brooks has been playing the best soccer of his career this season for Hertha Berlin.
When you factor in the strong play of both Geoff Cameron and Tim Ream, perhaps it’s time to end the Jermaine Jones-as-central-defender experiment.
Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter.