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USA fades in embarrassing scoreless tie
by Mike Woitalla, June 4th, 2012 3:53PM

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TAGS:  men's national team, world cup 2014

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I've never doubted that Jurgen Klinsmann, the worldly soccer man that he is, might help the USA reach a higher level. But his emphasis on improving the fitness level of American players, of teaching them how to eat right -- that always struck me as peculiar.

How likely is it that Bob Bradley or Bruce Arena didn’t know how to get their players fit enough? And I’m pretty sure they didn’t serve junk food at team meals.

If Klinsmann does have the secret to raising the level of U.S. players’ fitness it wasn’t evident in the scoreless tie with Canada on Sunday. The Americans didn’t look the fitter team late in the game when they should have been overwhelming their inferior soccer neighbor – instead of settling for an embarrassing scoreless tie.

THE CLARIFICATION PROBLEM. Before the Canada game, Goal.com’s Zac Lee Rigg reported that Klinsmann “clarified his comments,” made after Wednesday’s loss to Brazil, about his players needing to get nastier and willing to hurt people.

"That was not meant to be anything like hurting somebody or doing harm on anybody," Klinsmann said in Rigg’s article. "No, it's just closing down the spaces earlier, reading the game a bit faster and being ahead of the curve.”

Klinsmann was referring to his statement that "Maybe we're a little bit still too naive. Maybe we don't want to hurt people. But that's what we've got to do.”

So his clarification would have us believe that American players are so sensitive to their opponents’ feelings that they’ve resisted closing down spaces and reading the game faster?

TRANQUILITY IN TORONTO. There was, thankfully, no sign of nastiness in the Canada-USA game. The host was called for 13 fouls and the USA for 10. Canada got two yellow cards and the USA received one, predictably to Jermaine Jones, although this one for a foul not of his usual lethal quality.

THE 'TOURNAMENT.' The Canada game was the third in a month-long five-game series -- designed by Klinsmann to “mimic the circumstances the team will face in a tournament format, with meticulous planning dedicated to technical aspects, travel, nutrition, logistics and the rhythm of team movement to create a performance-driven environment,” according to U.S. Soccer.

The first two games – a 5-1 win over Scotland and a 4-1 loss to Brazil – were thoroughly entertaining and even in the loss the USA produced some impressive attacking play -- unlike the lackluster performance against Canada.

Next up are two World Cup qualifiers – the first official games of the Klinsmann era that has so far spanned 10 months and 13 games (6-5-2, win-loss-tie).

On Friday, the USA hosts Antigua & Barbuda, a country of 80,000 ranked No. 100 in FIFA’s world rankings. That’s an easy victory for the Americans, who then face a tougher foe the following Tuesday at Guatemala.

That game in Guatemala will be the true test of whether the ambitious training camp and friendly game schedule brings out the best of the U.S. players. Or whether it’s a spent squad that shows up at the Mateo Flores Stadium.



21 comments
  1. Amos Annan
    commented on: June 4, 2012 at 5:29 p.m.
    Pretty obvious that Klinsmann meant the US team was too soft and reluctant to make the physical contact needed at this level. We need MORE Jermaine Jones, not less.

  1. Amos Annan
    commented on: June 4, 2012 at 5:31 p.m.
    Perhaps we should make soccer a non-contact sport like basketball. That seems to be where it headed.

  1. Carlos Thys
    commented on: June 4, 2012 at 6:24 p.m.
    The game in Toronto should have been closed to the general public. It was a test match. The USMNT program should have never advertised it as something to "view." Sure, allow 1,400 local Toronto soccer enthusiasts to show up for free, but don't masquerade a training session as a competitive match. Immediately the organizers need to reduce by 25% all ticket prices for the Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida match versus Antigua and Barbuda. Last: Less than 16,000 at the BMO Field yesterday? That speaks poorly of Canadian AND US soccer -- quality levels. Or very highly of Canadian fans who were astute enough to foresee that this was a farce of a "contest."

  1. Carlos Thys
    commented on: June 4, 2012 at 6:41 p.m.
    I hope that heads are shaking at the USA Soccer HQ. I mean, aside from Fabian Johnson, Juergen Klinsman has brought in no new faces, names, talents. He cannot even woo Tim Chandler. Could he have helped our US Olympic team assure qualification for London? Did he try? Amazing that the Brazilian coach Mano Menezes does wear both hats -- the coach of probably the most difficult federation in the world to keep under a lid and tamed. One of the first things that a new coach (launching a new "era!") does is professionally and quietly/in a dignified way -- remove -- the players who just need to go. This can be for a whole number of reasons. But the biggest is age in highest levels of dynamic competitive sport. So I cannot for the life of me understand why we see Bocanegra, Cherundolo, and Gooch. Frankly, all players over 28 should be considered, well, history. Is that cruel? No. All of them had their moment in the sun. It is time to build for the future -- and the only really tough match on this year's calendar is the one with Mexico in Mexico City. But it is just a "friendly." So there is very little real risk in RIGHT NOW fielding guys with less than 6 caps or, frankly, no caps at all. Part of being a coach is also being a very top level scout. Did anyone bother to see if Klinsmann has any "scout" in him before hiring him for, what? $2.8 million per year? (The American soccer public does need to know the parameters of the Klinsmann contract. Reveal it.) Yesterday was a bit of a homecoming for Klinsmann, eh? After all, he was with the Toronto MLS club -- doing who knows what as they had their worst season (prior to this year) last year with him. Americans: You are dishing out a lot of money for a guy who has a name because of what he was as a player; that does not at all equate to the wide array of training, coaching, development and management skills a coach MUST have.

  1. Carlos Thys
    commented on: June 4, 2012 at 7:08 p.m.
    Sorry -- third post in succession -- and I'll post here no more! Promise. Others know this game far better than I do. But noting that US GK Brad Guzan is now clubless, what US National Team coach would not have given the nod to Guzan to mind the nets yesterday in Toronto? Give him a cap, more for the resume, and perhaps some really nice highlight footage so that Guzan gets better offers right now. Surely Coach Klinsmann knows that we need -- and Guzan needs -- for Guzan to have a really good new club to ply his trade. (Maybe Everton coach Chris Woods should not be our USMNT goalkeeper coach. It is called conflict of interest.) Now, if Guzan is injured or not better than 90%, then, sure he does not get the nod for BMO Field. But...then play someone else other than Howard. (This is what test matches are for.)

  1. John Hooper
    commented on: June 4, 2012 at 7:10 p.m.
    What does Mike Woitalla have against Jermaine Jones? Yes, the guy has thuggish qualities, but plenty of very good players do. His yellow card on Sunday was a joke: that wasn't even a foul. I thought Jones' improved play--the best run of games I've seen from him for the USMNT--was one of the brightest spots of the three mixed-results friendlies. Remember when he first declared for the US and couldn't seem to play to even a remotely similar level for two consecutive games? That was so frustrating. At least now I think we can see what he offers and what his role in the team may be. Hinestly, I'd much rather have him than Edu, who can't trap or pass.

  1. Teymy Bahmani
    commented on: June 4, 2012 at 7:35 p.m.
    Mike - what's with the Klinsmann bias? Nasty = Ruthless - that is what Klinsmann meant i.e. go for the jugular - play hard/fair - but show no mercy - take what is there for the taking - want it more - win the ball and move forward with precision and speed. Let go Landon - use the Force - whatever! Someone else made the point that Klinsmann at least gives the media something to write about - unlike Bob and Bruce who resorted to the usual cliche "inside the team" wall of silence. Klinsmann has even allowed us into his suite to see who's getting cut and what order players are on the white board. We've never played Brazil as well as we did in our 4-1 loss - and that includes in my opinion our counter attacking miracle in the Confed Cup in 2009. So what if Scotland 2012 was like Austria 2008 - at least Jurgen wasn't going on after about how great his formation was a la Sampson. The US has basically 2 really good younger players right now in Williams and Bradley - the rest are aging veterans who Jurgen needs to squeeze a bit more performance out of via fitness and mental confidence. He seems to be doing a good job on both fronts - and should be commended.

  1. David Sirias
    commented on: June 4, 2012 at 7:45 p.m.
    I agree SA has it out for Jones. But he brings game every time he is out there, unlike say, Donovan and Dempsey who have been known to sleepwalk and be uninterested in several USMNT games over their careers. That they tend to show up big time in the games that count provides them slack from casual and hard-core fans alike. But they can only go so long on reputation. JK needs to remember that Donovan will get marked out of every game if he has to play wide against any top 15 team, and Dempsey's presence hurts more than helps if he plays anything other than free second striker. (Which is where Donoban probably has to play against good teams). That's the second thing Klinsmann must recognize; against many teams, going forward, there will be room on the pitch for only one of Donovan/Demsey. Finally, Klinsmann has to give up the pretense of "slowly" transition out of the Boca-Gooch era. Teams know they they can either a) ignore both of them when they have the ball because neither can distribute or advasnce the ball on their own which is critical to the Klinsmann system or b) press them like heck and get turovers because they can't dribble or pass their way out of pressure. So it's like playing 9 v 11 for large chunks of the game. Ergo, Klinsmann might as well go cold turkey and use Cameron as his natural left sided CB, later have Ream compete for the top spot, and Goodson at right CB until he is eclipled by John or Gonzo or a wild card. Most all minutes given to Boca/ Gooch (and Dolo for that matter) reflect lost time for their successors who need as much experience as possible for the WC in two short years.

  1. Ken Jamieson
    commented on: June 4, 2012 at 7:55 p.m.
    A lot of sour grapes from American fans who think the US MNT is actually better than it is. They still have yet to win more than twice in any World Cup Finals and have only reached the Quarterfinals once (except for 1930, but that must be taken in the proper context). Of course many will say Canada is winless in the World Cup and has only been to the finals once! True, but Canada does not commit anywhere's near the same level of resources into its MNT as the US (and the US failed to qualify for the World Cup consistently after WWII until 1990). It would be interesting to compare the investment made and the results for all the top 25 countries in the world, you would probably find the US MNT gets the least bang for its buck. Yes, Canada is fighting an uphill battle everytime it plays the US, but give us credit, we play with spirit. Perhaps the problem with the US MNT is that they believed they would win simply by showing up, imagine the comments that would have appeared had Canada taken its chance in injury time! Yes, Canada lags behind the US at the National Team level, however based on the evidence of the Canadian players in MLS and abroad, as well as the development work being done by Canada's MLS and NASL teams, I have to think there is more of an up side than with the US MNT. Just sayin'!!!

  1. Pelusa Bastida
    commented on: June 4, 2012 at 9:02 p.m.
    Nasty like this:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3RYAzL5lsUk can this guy play soccer?http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVv6n5obYMw or maybe this one? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBX-GmZzRB4&feature=related Maybe we need to ask to MR Klinsmann what is soccer bout?

  1. Mike Murray
    commented on: June 4, 2012 at 10:01 p.m.
    So, Coach Klinsmann thinks we should play 4-3-3 against Brazil and 4-4-2 against Canada. Coach Bradley wasn't briliant but his successor is embarrassing. The honeymoon is over. Divorce is in the offing.

  1. Ramon Creager
    commented on: June 5, 2012 at 12:26 a.m.
    The things Klinsmann mentioned: closing space, etc.; that's on the coach if it isn't being done on the field. Teams that do these things very well are invariably well coached teams. Just yesterday (Sunday), the highly ranked Spanish National Team were nearly beaten by unfancied China. The well-coached (by Jose Antonio Camacho) Chinese, not known for their technical ability, conducted a clinic in how to defend and counter as a team against a much more technical opponent--all without resorting to Jermaine Jones style nastiness (it took some magic by Iker Casillas and Andres Iniesta to finally beat them 1-0). The Chinese showed everything this edition of the US team lacks: solid teamwork, fitness, heart, coaching. It was clear from the start they had an idea of what they were hoping to do. So no, we don't need more Jermaine Jones (Ugh!) or better nutrition. We need better coaching. And the coach needs to find players who can and will do what he requires. Keep Fabian Johnson, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard and maybe a couple of others. The rest should be on notice that they can be replaced. This is NOT a good team, and nasty ain't gonna fix it.

  1. Scott O'connor
    commented on: June 5, 2012 at 12:33 a.m.
    It was a lousy, uninspired performance. I couldn't understand watching the game why guys who were so crisp with their passes and running off the ball in the last 2 games suddenly looked lost and unskilled. Canada was not doing anything but applying a little pressure on the ball and they completely took our guys out of their game. Clint Dempsey running from forward to just in front of the back 4 to 'get some touches' was silly and disruptive. It took away any possibilities of attacking forward. On the plus side the defense was OK but, again, this was Canada and they have very little offensive punch. Very disappointing game. Hopefully the "we were too tired" excuse had some accuracy and with a couple days off for travel and recovery they'll come out fresh against the Minnows of Antigua & Barbuda.

  1. Ramon Creager
    commented on: June 5, 2012 at 12:34 a.m.
    Just to give us some idea of where this USMNT is, consider that Brazil's Olympic team (yup, that was not their full senior team), which beat us 4-1, was handled by the Mexicans 2-0. Mexico is the team to beat in CONCACAF, and I will not be shocked if we fail to qualify, at this rate. The Guatemala game will be a real test. Guatemala, Honduras and the Ticos could all pip us for that 2nd spot to Brazil.

  1. Scott O'connor
    commented on: June 5, 2012 at 12:35 a.m.
    I agree 100% with Carlos T. that Klinsmann should have given El Guzano the start to help him stay sharp and give him a better chance to get signed. Howard was not needed in that game, although he did make a couple nice saves.

  1. Scott O'connor
    commented on: June 5, 2012 at 12:42 a.m.
    I agree with Ramon. I watched the Mexico-Brazil game with great interest. While I hate Mexico as our bitter rival, I really respect them and I think they actually could get to the Semis or Finals in the big show. They can compete with anybody. They've beaten every big team that will come play them. That said, Brazil actually got screwed on a goal early. I think it was #9 Damiao who scored a goal low to the keeper's right but was called for offside when it truly wasn't offsides. My comment about that was, "At least Mexico can get a 'home team call' when playing a friendly against Brazil." Unlike in the game with the US where the ref called the questionable penalty. C'mon, we're the home team we should have gotten the benefit of the doubt there. All the Mexican and Central American refs though have it out for the US team, however.

  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: June 5, 2012 at 12:49 a.m.
    David S, recent call-ups: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USMNT#Current_squad would indicate there are a whole bunch of guys who aren't getting time anymore. As for Carlos T and Mike M, JK hasn't yet played a tournament--maybe we should wait until his team actually fails before demanding his head?

  1. Geno Genowicz
    commented on: June 5, 2012 at 1:25 a.m.
    Someone said that JK recently said, "they're all must-win games." If many of the folks in this blog had their way, that would be true. But it's not. American soccer is evolving, and evolution takes time. We must be patient. Let's see what happens when we are literally in must-win situations before damning everyone. Those of us who have followed the team since the eighties have seen vast improvement, really, in only thirty years. And we continue to improve over the long term, if not game to game. I agree that we played a very good match against Brazil, but they are a second team of a true soccer nation. It shows. There's a reason MLS is where it is (for now) and that our best players play in Europe (which we couldn't really say ten years ago). We have had some sparkling moments in the last three matches, ones we would have died to see back in the day. They are great to see. The growth is great to see. Patience. Enjoy the ride. Celebrate improvements. Relish the increasing instances when we truly play the beautiful game. There have been more this week than there were in all in, say, 1980 to 1990.

  1. Jack Niner
    commented on: June 5, 2012 at 10:01 a.m.
    Klinsmann is not the savior folks had hoped he would be. It should be apparent Klinnsman is NOT a good fit for where the USMNT - A coach who can recruit and develop talent. Anybody see Mexico beat Brazil? Mexico is actually the model for the US, if only the pooh-bahs in USSF knew.

  1. david caldwell
    commented on: June 5, 2012 at 10:38 a.m.
    Disappointing performance, sure. Sub-standard. But I think this match was mainly for training and conditioning purposes. JK wants a pressing, fast style - which we saw vs Scotland and 2nd half vs Brazil. I think most of us support that idea. This requires top fitness - he's railed against MLS and other forms of soccer in America for simply not playing enough games year-round. It's undeniable - the US is the only nation on earth with such a leisurely schedule! The only way for the Nat'l Team to acquire the super-fitness he wants is to play a whole lot of games. I support JK. This may be a "1-step back to get 2-steps forward" sort of thing. Playing faster, attacking soccer means you must build fitness. That will not always look pretty. Playing more reserves vs Canada probably would have been better for that game's result. But what he really wanted was to build fitness and cohesion with the top group. Time will tell. But I was not suprised and am still totally on board.

  1. Kerry Ogden
    commented on: June 5, 2012 at 10:21 p.m.
    A dismal game to say. What I was looking for was the chemistry between the players which didn't exist from the midfielders to the forwards. Gomez did great defensively but rarely recieved the ball of the pitch. Dempsey " though a good player for Fulham" doesn't seem to fit in with this group of players. The game against Scotland showed good chmistry, though not great, but it was a good start for the USMNT, I hope they do better down the road but I just don't see it happening!


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