Join Now | 
HomeAboutContact UsPrivacy & SecurityAdvertise
Soccer America DailySoccer World DailySpecial EditionAround The NetSoccer Business InsiderCollege Soccer ReporterYouth Soccer ReporterSoccer on TVSoccer America ClassifiedsGame Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalkSoccer America ConfidentialYouth Soccer InsiderWorld Cup Watch
RSS FeedsArchivesManage SubscriptionsSubscribe
Order Current IssueSubscribeManage My SubscriptionRenew My SubscriptionGift Subscription
My AccountJoin Now
Tournament CalendarCamps & AcademiesSoccer GlossaryClassifieds
Jamaica series will offer peek at U.S. pool's depth
by Ridge Mahoney, September 7th, 2012 3:37AM

TAGS:  men's national team, world cup 2014


Okay, USA, this is what is needed to prove progress has been made.

Yes, it's "only" the semifinal round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, and the opponent for the next two games, Jamaica, has reached the finals only once, in 1998. and it must be said that aside from Theodore Whitmore -- the midfield orchestrator 14 years ago, the head coach today -- the times have certainly changed.

Historic road wins over Italy (in February) and Mexico (last month) are to be saluted and savored, yet despite the caliber of opposition and setting, neither brimmed with the intensity of the match Friday in Kingston and Tuesday in Columbus. Two wins would assure qualification, a win and tie will most likely suffice.

This is the proper test for what American administrators and coaches have sought for decades: an ideal blend of depth and determination. Seldom have the Americans lacked the latter; the former has been more problematic. Finding just one consistently reliable forward, for example, has plagued the U.S. program for years, and while that search still continues, the viable candidates do offer some encouragement that a suitable core could be in the making.

Compensating for the injury absences of Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley will require every player to shoulder a bit more of the burden, and if limited competitive activity for Carlos Bocanegra and Clint Dempsey the past few months limits their influence, there will be more pressure on the Americans. Yet these factors can also bring a valuable byproduct; infusing the team with replacements who can be counted on, and some day taking over those starting roles temporarily vacated.

Depth doesn't mean filling out the XI and hoping (or praying) for the best, depth refers to making such switches with little or no dropoff in performance, regardless of how the absences might change the formation or tactics. In every match, a team tries to play to its strengths and neutralize those of the opposition. During qualifying campaign, injuries and suspensions and poor form -- along with strategy -- will necessitate lineup changes. Are those moves stopgap measures or wise choices of players confident and ready to jump in?

To do so requires recognition of and reaction to patterns of play, along with the required physical demands. Everyone on the current U.S. roster, and perhaps a dozen others, are capable of playing international soccer. But against fast, rugged opponents, in a packed stadium buzzing with a boisterous crowd, can they steel their nerves, match Jamaica's fervor, and get the job done? If a few of the replacements get banged up and can't answer the bell Tuesday, is there someone to step in for them without the team muddling through a nervous, disjointed performance?

Since he was hired in late July of 2011, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has been nurturing a new wave of players, though most of the veterans he inherited from Bob Bradley are still on the scene.

In 2014, it will be known who has taken over for, say, Bocanegra and Steve Cherundolo, in the starting lineup, but by then it will also be much clearer how deep the pool has become, and whether the squad of 23 reveals options and choices the 2010 team did not have.

That on-going process can be examined for 90 minutes on Friday and again next week.

  1. Scott O'connor
    commented on: September 7, 2012 at 1:12 p.m.
    I think this game is a possible loss for us. Jamaica has been steadily improving. Speed is hard to defend. They do have a home field edge. Hopefully, our guys aren't resting on the laurels of the win at Azteca, figuring this is much easier. I want to see some hunger from some of the new blood. I want to see poise from them too. IF we can avoid the dumb mistakes and finish any chances we can generate, we have a shot. Jamaica is better than Guatemala and we only tied El Pescadito and company....
  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: September 7, 2012 at 1:46 p.m.
    Mr. O'Connor is overly pessimistic...when a squad like Jamaica fields Dane Richards and Johnson of TFC, two subpar soccer IQs, its prospects are dim from the start...2-0 USA with quite a few chances missed.
  1. Scott O'connor
    commented on: September 7, 2012 at 4:06 p.m.
    Sure hope so, I w!! Maybe I woke up on the wrong side of the bed today....
  1. Nor Rain
    commented on: September 8, 2012 at 6:37 p.m.
    Firstly, I am Jamaican and may be biased be biased, but I am of the opinion that history is on the side of Scott and I W is so wrong. It would be interesting to hear I W's prediction for the next match-up in the States.

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now



Recent Soccer America Confidential
Fire go outside the box to hire Paunovic    
One season with the Philadelphia Union is the full extend of Veljko Paunovic's MLS experience, yet ...
It's time to give pro/rel a rest    
In retirement, Landon Donovan, it seems, has too much time on his hands. If you follow ...
Breaking down Sunday's Timbers-FC Dallas MLS playoff game    
FC Dallas and Portland,MLS rivals for just five seasons, form one of the league's more intriguing ...
Breaking down Sunday's Crew-Red Bulls MLS playoff game    
Both legs of the Eastern Conference finals between Columbus and New York are sold out, which ...
Replacing Klinsmann is the lower-risk option: Time for a fresh start    
First of all, throw out of any equation to rate Jurgen Klinsmann's job performance the USA's ...
Andres Cantor on Hispanic support for the USA, MLS, women's game and his toughest assignment    
Andres Cantor has inked a multi-year contract extension with Telemundo, which sets him up to do ...
Round one points out higher price of semifinal results in Concacaf World Cup qualifying     
Honduras and Panama suffered costly defeats as the semifinal round of Concacaf World Cup qualifying got ...
Stuart Holden on the national team, soccer camps, retirement and, yes, Jonny Evans    
Stuart Holden is at the crossroads in his soccer career. He represented the USA at the ...
Chicharito's good start in Germany bodes badly for USA    
American fans concerned about their team and its rivalry with Mexico have another reason to worry: ...
MLS's big spenders and misers, who came out better?    
So who had money on the two faces of the MLS playoffs, coming out of the ...
>> Soccer America Confidential Archives