U.S. Finishes … Defense Still Suspect

Jurgen Klinsman’s boys flat out whipped Scotland 5-1, as Landon Donovan managed an impressive hat trick (and an assist for good measure). This was perhaps the most complete game in the Klinsman’s era.

“Tonight, you saw many elements of what we’re always talking about, what we’re trying step-by-step to develop,” Klinsmann said. “It’s a fast-paced game. All those elements I think we saw a lot today. It’s obviously a lot more difficult to play that way against Brazil or Italy, but the players they understand more and more what we’re trying to achieve. Today, it was really fun to watch.”

I loved the fast paced, possession style attack, with only one real complaint. On a couple of occasions, the U.S. had a couple of great buildups, only to kick it away without managing a shot on goal.

The United States completed 84.6 percent of its passes against Scotland (466 out of 551), its highest completion percentage in 11 games under Jurgen Klinsmann. Steve Cherundolo completed 90 percent of his passes (54 of 60), best on the team among those with at least 10 passes.

I know defeating Scotland is not the end all, be all, but anytime you completely dominate a Top 50 team, you can be sure you are doing more right than wrong, even if Scotland was not at full strength.

So what to make exactly of this U.S. performance? It should be noted that Scotland brought a seriously understrength side to this match, with players like Darren Fletcher and James Morrison among the missing either through illness or injury. And the Americans will no doubt encounter a much tougher test this Wednesday against a youthful Brazil side. The upcoming World Cup qualifiers — in particular the away date against Guatemala on June 11 — will also offer considerably more hostility and tension than Saturday’s match.

But it’s nonetheless encouraging to see the U.S. begin to show a level of comfort with the principles that Klinsmann has been preaching: namely, a more attack-minded approach with an emphasis on playing the ball out of the back and pressing high up the field.

Over the last few years I have been writing about Team USA’s lack of class quality finishers. I think Donovan more than rose to the occasion, and I cannot wait to see what happens when the U.S. is back to full strength with Clint Dempsey.

The U.S. defense is still worrisome; I don’t see how Klinsmann can sleep well with the current back four (Fabian Johnson, Carlos Bocanegra, Geoff Cameron, and Steve Cherundolo).


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