The US National Team walked away from friendlies against Costa Rica and Belgium with two 1-0 losses, but with Jurgen Klinsmann still kicking the tires of the program he inherited, it is the individual performances that are of greatest importance for US fans as the red, white and blue builds toward qualification for the 2014 World Cup. The PSP looks back at the player’s who helped their cause, those who struggled, and takes a guess at who should be next up to audition for their new manager.
Jose Torres: In the entirety of his tenure as the coach of the US National Team, Bob Bradley couldn’t figure out what to do with Torres. Klinsmann figured it out in 45 minutes. Playing as a second deep lying midfielder, Torres was a stand out for the US with his passing, vision, technique and yes, his defensive effort as well. Torres tough tackling chops were on display against both Costa Rica and Belgium and he already looks the part to lead Klinsmann’s USA as a box-to-box distributor.
Brek Shea: Hope you enjoyed watching his one-on-one battle with Sheanon Williams on August 13th, because given the amount of interest and money that will be thrown at the 21-year-old Shea and MLS come the January transfer window, it is unlikely we will be seeing the FC Dallas player in MLS next season. He’s big, strong, fast and technically advanced, all at an age that still has him labeled as a prospect. Sounds like good business for any team who can secure his services.
Jozy Altidore: What a difference a little bit of confidence makes. Fresh off his rampant start with AZ Alkmaar in the Dutch league, Altidore’s touch, vision and play with his back to goal looked much improved. Critics will point to the fact that he still didn’t manage to bury any goals, but he created chances for those around him and is still learning to play as a solitary striker. Once the US sorts out its midfield woes, Altidore should be primed to convert on his chances. The job remains his to lose.
Juan Agudelo: He remains a bit too rambunctious at times and hasn’t yet learned the nuances of playing for the US in CONCACAF. But the powerful, young striker continues to show flashes of the prodigious talent that should see him succeed at the highest level. As long as he continues to be a sponge, absorbing everything he can from club teammate Thierry Henry as well as Klinsmann, Agudelo’s rise should continue. US fans should begin to wonder about a 4–4–2 in which he and Altidore share the pitch for an extended duration.
Tim Chandler: The first World Cup qualifier can’t come soon enough, because with it comes the chance to permanently secure Chandler as an American international. The 21-year-old right back played with the composure and comfort of a veteran many years his senior, even showing off his versatility with a competent showing at left back. His service from the left side of the pitch was not what you would want it to be from an international fullback, but given his inexperience at the position, it is a minor criticism. Regardless of where he plays, Chandler’s name should quickly become one of the first on Klinsmann’s team sheets.
Robbie Rogers: His most recent 15 minutes in the spotlight should be his last for a while. Let’s face it, his energy and aggression versus Mexico resulted in a tap-in and being tackled as he ran behind the defense. Against Costa Rica, his lack of technical ability was exposed and worse was his play against Belgium when he failed to even provide a boost with his burst of pace. When the chips are down, Rogers still isn’t good enough to compete consistently at the highest level.
Landon Donovan: The US soccer media hailed Donovan’s performance against Costa Rica, but then again that’s exactly what the US soccer media is in place to do. On the pitch though, Donovan had a rough night against Costa Rica. He missed the target on a gilt edged opportunity setup by strong interplay between Shea and Altidore, failed to trouble the keeper with his free kicks and generally did not show the creativity required of a centrally located playmaker. The return of Stuart Holden to push Donovan back to a wing can not come soon enough.
Edgar Castillo: The latest to fail at locking down the left back shirt for the US looked at times timid and soft and at other times downright lost. When he found his feet, his technical attributes were clear, but those moments were too few and too far between, with Klinsmann ultimately electing to deploy Tim Chandler on the opposite side from his regular right back role. We haven’t seen the last of Castillo, but he needs to improve his poise and awareness before he should be back up with the Nats.
Jurgen Klinsmann: The results don’t matter, so fair play to the new US coach for being willing to experiment with players, formations and tactics. But with a team that struggles to score goals, bringing a team to Belgium with only Juan Agudelo as an offensive threat off the bench seems a little short sited. Developing defenders is great, but how about getting some strikers a chance to sink or swim? Hopefully, once the defense gels a bit more, Klinsmann will begin to look at creative options higher up the pitch.
Next five players who deserve a call up…
2. Mixx Diskerud: The US needs more creativity. Mixx can provide it…
3. Herculez Gomez: Veteran goalscorer who knows what to do with the ball in front of goal…
4. Charlie Davies: Gotta find someone who can score goals…
5. Freddy Adu: Once he gets match fit and starts pulling the strings for the Union, Klinsmann will be forced to take notice…