USMNT: Fantastic on Plastic
OTF’s Gold Cup coverage continues with a review of USMNT’s opening match, as Austin Fido looks for method in the madness of another rout for Die Klinsmannschaft…
Everyone got what they wanted out of USMNT’s 6-1 gad-about win over Belize.
Against hopelessly outmatched opponents, Klinsi’s men dominated possession from first to last. Two corners in the opening 90 seconds set the tone for a game that offered the Yanks little choice but to attack, and then attack again. Another six goals made it 12 scored in two games for this Gold Cup squad.
One feels this is what Klinsmann had in mind when he picked just about every attacking midfielder available for this tournament. The tennis match scorelines are unlikely to continue against higher-quality opponents, but let’s hope the style of play persists.
The Jaguars were on the hunt for humiliation, as required by Ruperto Vicente, the ebullient President of the Belize Football Federation. They found it twice.
First, in permitting Chris Wondo(w)lowski to score multiple goals, thereby ensuring that the TV cameras noticed the superfluous “W” on the back of his shirt. Second, by besmirching the scoresheet with a goal of their own.
Elroy Smith, one of the few professional footballers in the Belize squad, flighted a free kick into the box in the 37th minute, and Ian Gaynair planted a header past Nick Rimando. It was the consequence of a defensive lapse, as Clarence Goodson and Michael Parkhurst got themselves in a muddle.
But that shouldn’t diminish the achievement: Belize scored a goal against much better prepared, better funded, better-at-football squad. It was something more than anyone (except the magnificently deluded Vicente) had a right to expect.
Insofar as it gave him something to talk about at halftime, Klinsmann was probably grateful for the Jaguars’ goal. His players showed remarkable fidelity to a build-from-the-back game plan in the first half, despite it being transparently unnecessary after the first ten minutes.
If anything, Wondo’s first-half hat-trick highlighted the ease with which goals could be plundered from virtually any type of service into the box. The diligent rehearsal of low-risk, back-field passing looked labored and contrived. So, Jürgie made adjustments for the second-half.
Kyle Beckerman was removed — more because he was irrelevant than for any performance-related reason. Beckerman’s virtues are winning and keeping possession, neither of which was needed against Belize. Then Klinsmann unwrapped Stuart Holden, and the team’s focus shifted toward intricate, short-passing combinations around the edge of the box.
Wondo switched to a decoy runner role during the second 45, creating space for central midfielder Holden to move into and more options for the attacking trio of Torres, Donovan, and Corona. It was this approach that yielded another three goals for USMNT.
In the 58th minute, Mix Diskerud intercepted a pass and pushed the ball wide for Joe Corona. Corona had plenty of time and space to cross, and therefore we must assume he deliberately chose to bypass a wide-open Wondo. Instead, he sent the ball far post for Landon Donovan to head back into the six-yard box. Holden then arrived to crown this most recent phase of his comeback with a goal.
Klinsmann withdrew both Torres and Corona shortly thereafter, sending on Brek Shea and Alejandro Bedoya to join the fun. Shea created an opportunity by dribbling into a foul near the byline to effectively set-up a short corner, which Donovan duly dropped onto Michael Orozco’s head for the fifth goal.
USMNT’s sixth of the evening was won by Bedoya, who essayed a dainty chip into the box that collided with Ashley Torres’s shoulder. It was an undeserved penalty, but not unexpected: USMNT’s incessant close passing around the box made a spot kick all but inevitable.
A comprehensive victory, goals for those who needed them, positive contributions from all who took the field (even Rimando, who was forced into a couple of athletic saves): it was another good day for this CONCACAF-rules-say-you-can’t-call-it-a-B-team line-up.
In the competition for World Cup roster spots, no one did their chances any harm — even those who were left out. Klinsmann explicitly stated post-match that Onweyu and Gomez were held back to avoid any possible turf-induced aggravation of their past injuries. It’s too early to say whether Edgar Castillo was omitted because there’s no place for him, or simply because Jürgie wanted this match to be an opportunity for more attacking talents on the left.
Likewise, Corey Ashe, Tony Beltran, Will Bruin, and Jack McInerney may yet have roles to play in the tournament. And if Bill Hamid or Sean Johnson play at all, it will be a surprise; their presence in the squad is a statement about Klinsi’s plans for the future, not necessarily this tournament.
The Cubans are up next for the Yanks. Not much of a step up in class from Belize, but after losing 3-0 to Costa Rica, los Leones del Caribe looked a little more organized and capable than the Jaguars, as did Guatemala. So perhaps it is not unreasonable to hope for another emphatic win for USMNT come this Saturday afternoon.
Follow @canetop for short bursts of international soccer chat from OTF contributor Austin Fido.