The U.S. men’s national played its best game so far under Jurgen Klinsmann and made one of its best showings in years to defeat Scotland, 5-1, last Saturday night in front of a record crowd of 44, 438 at Everbank Field in Jacksonville (Fl.).
Klinsmann, who replaced Bob Bradley as coach last spring, had been under much scrutiny after going winless in his first four games with the team; many questioned his tactics, while the German coach insisted in patience as he tried to develop an “American style” of play. Well, it seems, after watching Klinsmann’s charges versus Scotland, that an American style has emerged.
“We are very pleased with the performance tonight,” said Klinsmann. “I think tonight you saw many elements of what we’re always talking about, what we’re trying step by step to develop. It’s a fast-paced game, it has tempo in it. It has one-two touch combinations through our midfielders as fast as possible finding the forwards up there, having pace, build up from the back, no long balls. All those elements I think we saw a lot today. I think we set the tone and the team kept their rhythm throughout the entire game. We kept the tempo going, the energy was high. We saw wonderful goals. For a coach, that’s obviously fun to watch, no doubt about it.”
Those “elements” Klinsmann mentioned were the difference in the game and were directly responsible for the total domination the Americans displayed Saturday night. The midfield trio of Maurice Edu, Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley, playing in a 4-3-3 formation, were superb in the middle of the park; they moved well off the ball and were able to keep the ball in constant motion, which made life miserable for the Scots. The moving ball is the hardest to defend and moving players are hardest to mark, as a result, all the goals were generated by the midfielders.
Edu played his usual defensive roll with his excellent ball-winning tackles; he got good support from Jones, who put on the best display as a two-way player among the trio, while Bradley was the predominant attacking schemer, a new role that has emerged for him based on his recent good development in this regard. The U.S. dominance in midfield led to Landon Donovan’s third career hat trick (3rd minute, 60th, 65th) and his 50th international goal to help the U.S. start a year undefeated (4-0-0) for only the second time; the 1998 team knocked off Sweden, Cuba, Costa Rica and Brazil. Donovan also set a record with his 125th start for the national team, a record held by defender Jeff Agoos (124).
The other two goals came from Bradley (11th) off an assist from Jones, while Jones completed the rout with a header in the 70th minute off an assist from Donovan. Jones also had an assist on Donovan’s second goal, while Bradley assisted on the third. The U.S. dominance over Scotland in midfield also meant much less work for its defense.
Anchored by world class goalkeeper Tim Howard, wing backs Steve Cherundolo and Fabian Johnson and central defenders captain Carlos Bocanegro and Geoff Cameroon, making only his fourth appearance for the national team, kept the U.S steady; Scotland’s goal came in the 15th minute when Cameron, facing his goal, accidentally knocked the ball, headed into the center of his goal from the right side, off his body into the net.
Donovan played wide on the right wing and Jose Torres on the left, with 21-year-old Terrence Boyd at center forward. Boyd was expected to be replaced by Jozy Altidore by the time the U.S. played Brazil on Wednesday night at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. He played very well versus Scotland as he was aggressive and did his job as a target man on the U.S. frontline. The measure of how good this U.S. team is and can be will be revealed against Brazil.
Klinsmann has done the very smart thing of naming his 23-man squad as early as possible and has almost decided on his starting team, which he will use in the four matches before the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers, which begin on Friday, June 8. The U.S. coach will know where the team’s shortcomings are against five-time champion Brazil and will have a game versus hosts Canada on June 3 to make improvements before the first qualifier on June 8 against Antigua and Barbuda at Tampa, (Fla.) and at Guatemala on June 12.
In the past, former coach Bradley couldn’t seem to decide on players early enough and experimented with the squad right to the last warm-up game, which put the team at a disadvantage. The result of his indecision on players reflected in the slow starts of Bradley’s teams, which couldn’t get into their rhythm early in games and would fall behind and to struggle rally. Not so with Klinsmann’s current squad, which exhibited poise and early fluidity in its game. The U. S. is now 6-4-1 under Klinsmann with 1-0 wins this year over Venezuela (Jan. 21), Panama (Jan. 25) and Italy (Feb. 29).
The U.S. complete squad: The goalkeepers include Brad Guzan (Aston Villa, England), Tim Howard (Everton, England), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake). The defenders are Carlos Bocanegra (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland), Geoff Cameron (Houston), Edgar Castillo (Tijuana, Mexico), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover, Germany), Clarence Goodson (Brondby, Denmark), Oguchi Onyewu (Sporting Lisbon, Portugal) and Michael Parkhurst (Nordsjaelland, Denmark).
The midfielders are Kyle Beckerman (Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Chievo Verona, Italy), Joe Corona (Tijuana, Mexico), Maurice Edu (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim, Germany), Jermaine Jones (Schalke, Germany), Jose Torres (Pachuca, Mexico) The forwards include Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar, Netherlands), Terrence Boyd (Borussia Dortmund, Germany), Clint Dempsey (Fulham, England), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles), Herculez Gomez (Santos Laguna, Mexico) and Chris Wondolowski (San Jose).
In MLS play last Saturday, Toronto FC finally got a win! Dutchman Danny Koevermans scored the lone goal as the Canadians ended an MLS record nine-game losing streak to open a season with a 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Union. Koevermans initial shot rebounded to him off goalie Chris Konopka, but he scored on the second try. ‘’It’s a big relief,’’ said Toronto FC coach Aron Winter. “Finally, other questions for you all.’’
In other MLS games that day, DC United topped New England, Colorado beat Montreal and Real Salt Lake defeated FC Dallas, all by 3-2 scores; Portland and Vancouver and Chivas USA and Seattle Sounders all battled to 1-1 draws; while Columbus Crew topped Chicago Fire, and Houston got past Los Angeles, both by 2-1 scores.
On Sunday C.J. Sapong (5th) and Kei Kamara (39th) scored to give Sporting Kansas City a 2-1 win over San Jose Earthquakes. Sporting (8-3-1) broke a four-match winless streak. Simon Dawkins (72nd) scored for San Jose (8-3-3. The U.S. senior women’s national team beat China, 4-1.