USMNT Roundtable: So Far, So Good?

We've had some good times so far, but have they been good enough? (Photo: csmonitor.com)

We’ve had some good times so far, but have they been good enough? (Photo: csmonitor.com)

The broader context of USMNT’s World Cup will reveal itself soon enough. But how are we feeling right now, without knowledge of how it all ends? The roundtable considers…

It’s been emotional. A late win followed by a late loss draw. Portugal gave us 14 minutes to get used to the idea of being in the second round of the World Cup, and then snatched it away because Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t ready for us to have nice things.

But this isn’t about reliving that particular gut punch. If you want USMNT analysis, insight or (delicious) fluff, you’re in the right domain – but this roundtable is about simply taking stock.

The story of the Nats’ 2014 World Cup isn’t over, but at this moment – after two games and a wild ride of escalating hopes and rudely interrupted dreams – how are you feeling about their tournament?

Is USMNT meeting expectations? Exceeding them? Letting you down, lifting you up, or leaving you just about where you thought you’d be at this point in the journey?

The roundtable gives its views…

There have been bad times, but have they been that bad? (Photo: today.com)

There have been bad times, but have they been that bad? (Photo: today.com)

Lucas Hammer

I’m so conflicted.

I’ve been saying since the draw that the U.S. can beat Ghana and draw Portugal. Now they’ve done exactly that, I still have this nagging feeling that it isn’t good enough.

Giving Ghana the opportunity to eliminate us in a third World Cup in a row doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence, but had I been asked at half time if a draw would be enough, I would’ve happily replied, “Hell yeah.”

The U.S. are sitting undefeated in a group that many feared, and for that, I’m very, very happy. At the same time, they should be sitting with two wins. Two serious defensive lapses are the only reason that the U.S. aren’t already guaranteed a spot in the knockout round.

Overall, as upset as I am after the (lack of a) result against Portugal, the U.S. have met every expectation I had for them before the World Cup began. However, as the tournament has progressed, my hopes have risen, as I’ve seen how great the U.S. can actually be.

If you eliminate those simple, basic mistakes, the United States could be poised to make a deep run into the knockout round, but as they say in Alcoholics Anonymous (which I’ve only been to once), “One day at a time.”

Just a couple of things I'd like to take back, if you don't mind, ref.(Photo: stokecityfc.com)

Just a couple of things I’d like to take back, if you don’t mind, ref. (Photo: stokecityfc.com)

Rob Thompson

I honestly thought USMNT would win both games against Ghana and Portugal before the World Cup kicked off. So, if it wasn’t for just a brief moment of slack defending on the counter attack, then my expectations would have been met.

However, walking away with four points after these two games still leaves me quite satisfied with the performance of this team. In the first game against Ghana, USMNT proved they can win the ugly match where, for all purposes, they did not look the better side. 

The game against Portugal was a beauty. The USMNT outplayed their opponent in almost all categories in the match and looked dangerous going forward. This was one of the better offensive performances since the “Dos a Cero” match against Mexico in Columbus.

In the group of death, the USMNT has shown real courage in their belief they can win and that belief has been fostered by Coach Klinsmann.

Klinsmann can be brutally at honest at times with the media, but you better believe behind closed doors he is instilling this belief into the minds of our American boys. 

What they lack in technique compared to some of the other superior teams they surely make it up in their conditioning, courage, and team chemistry.

We all knew that it would come down to USA vs Germany. There are too many narrative threads to mention in this short article, but you better believe both teams are going out to win this one for pride. 

From the beaches of Natal, to the jungle of Manaus, the USMNT team will now enter the city streets of Recife to do battle with their biggest test to date.  I’m ready for this one are you?

Not all fun and games on the streets of Recife (Photo: updatesbreaker.com)

Not all fun and games on the streets of Recife (Photo: updatesbreaker.com)

James Vlahakis

It is hard to complain about four points in what has been referred
to as “the group of death”. For those of you who are occasional readers of
this website you’ll know that the phrase group of death is a registered
trademark.

Dempsey has played extremely well and the team appears to have finally
jelled against Portugal, Cameron’s blunder notwithstanding.

Even the best players miss an easy goal, so I’m not upset with Michael Bradley. And I’m not upset with him for the giveaway which led to the goal. He hustled his behind off for the entire game and mistakes happen. I don’t think he’ll commit that same mistake ever again.

The person I’m upset with seems to be the most popular and “blameless” player on the team: Tim Howard.

Howard is a world-class keeper, when he’s playing for Everton. But he could’ve done a heck of a lot better on both goals when he was playing against Portugal. That’s something that nobody seems to be saying on the internet or in the mainstream press.

He has decent reflexes, he made a great save by palming the ball over the bar, but he appeared to be sheepish on both goals. He didn’t cut down the angle, especially on the second goal.

Peter Schmeichel, Oliver Kahn, most definitely Harald Schumacher would have tore out-of-the-box, punched the ball and taken out the opposition. Tim Howard was never and is not that kind of keeper.

Having said that, I trust in the team and hope that he makes the game-winning saves of which it is claimed he is capable.

TJ Zaremba

Going into the tournament, had you asked me how I would feel about the US sitting on four points after the games against Ghana and Portugal, I would have taken it in a heartbeat.

However, I am concerned about leaving two points on the table after a bad turnover and piss-poor defending in the final minute against Portugal. I do not believe that will haunt them in the end, but it is disconcerting nonetheless.

Overall, the team has played on par with my expectations. I thought this side better than most experts (especially the non-soccer ones that fancy themselves as experts during the World Cup) gave it credit for, and I believe it has improved exponentially in the time Klinsi has been the team boss.

Klinsmann had a plan to peak in this tournament and has executed it flawlessly to date.

USMNT’s ability to adjust its style to the game is the one area in which this team has surprised me during this tournament. I know this has been a point of emphasis in the friendlies leading up to the tournament, but to actually see it happen against quality teams with such high stakes reinforces my belief in Klinsmann’s system.

The two matches played have dictated two completely different styles for the United States. The Ghana game was about compact defending because USMNT had the lead, and Ghana did not figure out how to solve it.

The Portugal game was the opposite. The Yanks were behind, Portugal was slow on the flanks and the United States theoretically had superior fitness for the oppressive conditions. Therefore they used their speed and fitness to their advantage to take the lead.

The other surprise has been the results the US achieved with less than typical performances from Michael Bradley. If he finally steps up to his potential, the Yanks will get the result they need and let fate be damned.

Il Generale uber alles? (Photo: soccerbyives.net)

Il Generale uber alles? (Photo: soccerbyives.net)

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For more roundtables, follow @OTFSOCCER

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Follow roundtablers @lucas_hammer, @roblthom66, @jvlaha and @TJZaremba.

To join the next roundtable, contact Austin Fido @canetop.

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