Belated Review of the USMNT Destruction of Scotland

Scotland’s lineup (4-5-1): Allan McGregor; Andy Webster, Gary Caldwell, Charlie Mulgrew, Phillip Bardsley; James McArthur, Scott Brown, Shaun Maloney, Matthew Phillips, Barry Bannan; Kenny Miller

United States lineup (4-3-3): Tim Howard; Steve Cherundolo, Carlos Bocanegra, Geoff Cameron, Fabian Johnson; Maurice Edu, Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley; Jose Francisco Torres, Landon Donovan, Terrence Boyd

Oguchi Onyewu for Bocanegra, 63
Kyler Beckerman for Edu, 64
Herculez Gomez for Boyd, 64
Joe Corona for José Torres, 68
Brad Guzan for Tim Howard, 71
Edgar Castillo for Fabian Johnson, 73
Bradley drove forward and laid the ball off to Jones who poked the play forward before falling to the ground. The ball rolled to Donovan near the PK spot who turned on his right foot to take a quick shot on his left foot. His first effort was blocked but he was the first to the rebound and roofed his second shot past 3 scottish defenders on the goalline.  1-0 to the U.S.A. in the third minute.

In just the eleventh minute, the U.S. doubled their advantage.  Donovan played a ball centrally to Jermaine Jones, who laid off a pass to Michael Bradley from over 25 yards out.  Bradley tries an audacious volley from range but strikes through the ball with beautiful form and fires his shot into the upper ninety.  2-0 U.S.A. on what has been called the best strike in recent memory for the Nats.  See the shot for yourself (and also Jurgen Klinsmann’s priceless reaction) http://imgon.net/di-QLL5.gif

A few minutes later, Scottish target man Kenny Miller headed a deep cross off defender Geoff Cameron and past Tim Howard into the net.  Cameron wasn’t in a horrible position but he got caught between Miller on the far post and the player he aimed his headed pass to.  The U.S. defense was trying to pull up and catch Scotland offside, but Miller played the trap perfectly.  Cameron didn’t commit to either man and ended up with an own goal after he was the only defender tracking the run of Miller and Bocanegra was too slow to react to stay with the runner to the other post.

From a tight spot on the sideline, the U.S. not only played their way out of a 3 v 3 but did so by opening up the Scottish defense and finding Donovan with space into the area.  Jones played a 1-2 with Bradley and made a run down the outside to receive the return pass.  He then cut it back first time for an on-rushing Landon Donovan who set his feet and sank his shot far post.  3-1 U.S. in the 60th minute.

In the 65th minute Bradley played a give-and-go with recent substitute forward Herculez Gomez before playing in Donovan on a diagonal.  Donovan did well to get the inside shoulder on his defender and surge into the box from the right side.  He blasted his shot with the outside of his right foot to send the ball off the inside of the far post past a dumbfounded Allan McGregor. 4-1 U.S.

After making several substitutions, the U.S. seemed to drop off a bit until Jermaine Jones stepped up big yet again.  Jones did well to carry the ball forward out of midfield by himself.  He played square to Herculez Gomez who passed the ball on to Donovan playing out wide right.  From just outside the area, Donovan chipped a ball in for Jones at the penalty spot.  Jones actually had to step back in order to get his head under the cross and snapped the ball back the way it came past a stunned Scottish goalkeeper.  McGregor could not believe how free Jones was on the header; there was nobody within 6 or 7 yards of Jones.  70th minute, 5-1 U.S.

And now some brilliant insights into what really was complete domination by the United States and the best counter attacking football I’ve ever seen the Nats play.

First and foremost, as everyone else in the world has said, Landon Donovan is back.  Landycakes scored 3 goals from 4 chances, he hit the post in the 50th minute, which is amazing clinical finishing.  One thing that has plagued the U.S. team is profligacy in front of goal.  Without two big shot takers on the field (Altidore and Dempsey), Donovan stepped up in the biggest way possible; by actually taking advantage of his chances and scoring goals.

Only one yellow card shown all game.  It was issued to Carlos Bocanegra in the 29th minute.  This surprised me considering the reputation of Scottish football and the fact that all three players that Klinsmann lined up in midfield are not shy about tackling.  However, the U.S. midfield stayed disciplined and the defense as a whole did not get caught out of position (aside from the own goal).

Terrence Boyd showed flashes of talent but his lack of professional experience definitely showed.  Boyd made promising runs and wasn’t afraid to shoot, but was often caught making poor decisions in the area.  In the future, especially with development through professional match experience, Boyd could easily be a challenge to Altidore at center forward.

Living in Mexico for 5 months, I saw a lot of Herculez Gomez.  Watching Futbol Picante regularly and reading the sports columns in local newspapers, I did not find any criticism of Gomez.  In addition to being an amateur Barack Obama look-a-like, Gomez was an important player for Santos Laguna in the team’s run to a second place finish in the CONCACAF Champions’ League and the Clausura Championship.  I’m not one to slag off MLS, but Chris Wondolowski has not shown me much of anything with the national team.  Juan Agudelo could be a big talent in the future, but he’s not there yet.  Herculez has been steadily improving in his career over the years and is coming off a hot run of form with Santos.  He has the ability and drive to perform for the team right now.

Fabian Johnson solidified his hold on the left back position. Castillo improved a lot at Tijuana over his ability while he was on the books at América, but he has not shown enough to beat a consistent starter in the Bundesliga to the starting XI.  Castillo’s performances under Jurgen Klinsmann have been solid but nothing world-beating.  I’d look for Castillo to start in the team’s third friendly against Canada to give him another shot of impressing Klinsmann.  Right now the position in Johnson’s to lose because of his comfort level with the ball at his foot and the ease at which he can transition into attack.  The only advantage Castillo has over Johnson is experience playing defense and knowing when to go forward and when to remain in the back.

After the game, Kyle Martino and Arlo White were gushing about how ‘If only the U.S. team could figure out how to play with Donovan and Dempsey on the field together, they’d become a team to be reckoned with…’ or some such dribble.  The interesting thing about that statement, is that everyone has known this for years.  Going into the 2010 World Cup and 2011 Gold Cup, we all knew Jozy Altidore wasn’t the answer to our goal scoring needs and that we needed production from both Deuce and Captain America.  Not much has changed.  Altidore has certainly improved during his time playing center forward in a 4-3-3 an AZ Alkmaar, but I don’t think he’s good enough to carry the country forward.  The Donovan-Dempsey enigma is still the same as it has been, but now will be even more frustrating if Klinsmann fails to succeed.  Donovan just dispatched his swarm of haters with a three goal performance and Dempsey is coming off of the best season for an American in the English Premier League (best league in the world?) ever.  This 2014 cycle could be the last important tournament appearances for both players; will we get to see what the two of them are actually capable of producing together for the national team?

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