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Old Guard & Prodigal Son deliver for Klinsmann
by Mike Woitalla, October 17th, 2012 2:34AM

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TAGS:  men's national team, world cup 2014

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You can talk all you want about tactics, fitness, motivation -- but the keys to the USA advancing in World Cup qualifying have been Clint Dempsey, a few other veterans, and the prodigal son.

On Tuesday, for the sixth time in history, the USA hosted Guatemala in a World Cup qualifier. And for the sixth time, the Americans won. They dashed Guatemala’s hopes for a first World Cup appearance and kept alive theirs for a seventh straight.

Needing just a tie to advance to the Hexagonal, the Americans, after giving up an early goal, cruised to a 3-1 win over Guatemala in Kansas City. Dempsey set up the first goal and scored the other two. He had scored three goals in the previous five games of this semifinal round.

That's what Dempsey does. He delivers crucial goals for the USA. He scored five times to help the USA qualify for the 2010 World Cup, where he scored in the 1-1 opening tie against England. He helped set up the last-gasp Landon Donovan goal against Algeria that sent the Americans to the second round in South Africa.

During the USA’s runner-up finish at the 2009 Confederations Cup, Dempsey scored the third goal in a 3-0 win over Egypt that clinched a semifinal spot. In the next game, he scored the second goal in the 2-0 win over Spain – after assisting on Jozy Altidore’s opening goal. Dempsey also scored the first goal in the 3-2 final loss to Brazil.

Dempsey scored the goal in the USA’s 1-0 win at Italy last February.

Donovan, the only other individual who makes as significant an impact on the U.S. national team as Dempsey, was injured for the Guatemala game. Donovan and Dempsey have paired up only three times during the Klinsmann era. One worries where the USA would be if neither of them were available.

But other veterans -- Michael Bradley, Carlos Bocanegra and Steve Cherundolo – were also crucial to the U.S. performance on Tuesday.

Bradley marshaled the midfield and created Dempsey’s second goal. Bocanegra scored the equalizer, latching onto Dempsey’s header, for his 14th goal -- a record for a U.S. defender -- in 109 games for the USA. Cherundolo’s attacking propensity from right back unsettled Los Chapines and he sent the brilliant pass to Eddie Johnson that led to Johnson’s cross for Dempsey’s first goal.

Bocanegra and Cherundolo are 33 years old. Dempsey is 29. Bradley’s a youngster at 25 who has already played 65 times for the USA. Donovan is 30.

Johnson is 28 and looked washed up after five unsuccessful years abroad. So credit Sigi Schmid for reviving his career at the Seattle Sounders and Klinsmann for bringing him back into the national team fold. Johnson scored both goals in Friday’s 2-1 win over Antigua & Barbuda.

The veterans came through to send the USA into the six-team final round. The top three qualify for Brazil 2014 and the fourth earns a playoff. There’s hardly any doubt that Klinsmann -- or anyone with a basic grasp of the game -- couldn’t steer the USA to qualification with those odds.

But the average age of the USA’s 11 starters on Tuesday was 28.6 years. The Hexagonal begins in February and by October 2013 the USA should be qualified for Brazil.

What we’ll be looking for is the younger talent the team will need at the World Cup in 2014.



10 comments
  1. Keith Wendel
    commented on: October 17, 2012 at 9:25 a.m.
    There is always plenty of love for the goal scorers. I like Dempsey too, but IMO Bradley and Zusi are the keys to the success.

  1. Walt Pericciuoli
    commented on: October 17, 2012 at 9:59 a.m.
    Yes,I agree and we need more like Bradley and Susi but,Susi is already 26.Are there any youngsters out there in the 20-22 yr old range that could make the impact by 2014 like Ramos,Reyna,Donovan and Dempsey did when they on the scene at about those ages?

  1. D Vb
    commented on: October 17, 2012 at 10:25 a.m.
    I disagree that Bocanegra's involvement is "crucial" to the U.S. performance. His lack of speed and effort on the Ruiz goal is evidence that a change is needed sooner rather than later. Thanks for your loyal service Carlos, but father time is at the front door.

  1. Gak Foodsource
    commented on: October 17, 2012 at 10:32 a.m.
    great question Walt. no team can survive a decade of stagnant youth development. I'd love for soccer america to give us some info on what Klinsi is doing at the youth levels inside the federation, especially as we get closer to knockout style matches with the national team, where the importance of winning will overshadow the style Klinsmann has been trying to implement.

  1. Futbol Genio
    commented on: October 17, 2012 at 11:27 a.m.
    AS THESE THINGS GO, a win is a win, just ask Canada, Portugal & Guatemala. WCQ games are difficult, and the HEX very challenging. CONCACAF

  1. Futbol Genio
    commented on: October 17, 2012 at 11:31 a.m.
    SORRY ABOUT THAT...CONCACAF is not as tough as CONMEBOL, UEFA, so when we get in to WC, we may have "lost" (i.e., leg strain)less in the HEX than others. USA, MEXICO, HONDURAS, COSTA RICA r all that matter now. I certainly am proud of the USA!!

  1. Bill Anderson
    commented on: October 17, 2012 at 12:07 p.m.
    The defenders will have to be younger, faster, stronger for the World Cup. The lack of experience will kill us there, but qualification will call for the older, more experienced players. Sadly, Bocanegra is slow and old. He will get shredded by quicker younger attackers (think Carlos Ruiz without the beer belly). The attacking players will all be useable except for Donovan, who looks to be on his last legs now, and could only be a bench player at Brazil. Klinsmann is inviting young attacking players into camp, we need to see the youth in defense too.

  1. Walt Pericciuoli
    commented on: October 17, 2012 at 3:04 p.m.
    I love Bocanegra's dedication and leadership,but it is time to find a replacement.Perhaps his role now should be to come off the bench to steady a youthful defense late in matches.I think he still deserves to be on the squad through 2014. Cherundolo is also aging,but does not seem to have lost a step yet. With Johnson,Ream,Gonzales,Goodson,Parkurst,Castillo,Chandler hopefully and maybe also Edu,I think we have enough options to be able to piece together a solid defense by 2014.But they need to play and gain experience.

  1. Jonathan Alexander
    commented on: October 17, 2012 at 3:09 p.m.
    We do have some solid youth players getting experience with their clubs. We need to find games to integrate them to the international level. I agree with some above that Boca is going to struggle to maintain an international level by 2014, as well as Donovan. I think Dolo still has enough to hold the right back spot. The young players that I hope start getting or continue to get serious looks are Josh Gatt, Mix Diskerud, Luis Gil, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, Alredo Morales, Eric Lichaj, Boyd, and Holden (when recovered). They are our future and only US games will tell us if they can make the transition.

  1. Karl Ortmertl
    commented on: October 17, 2012 at 5:17 p.m.
    Dempsey and Donovan are special talents that, frankly, I'm surprised came out of the US system. It certainly isn't the coaching that got them their terrific soccer savvy. The next group will have to have numbers to match this group because I don't see anyone with the individual brilliance. We do have some decent looking young players tho' like Bradley, Torres, Ream, Cameron, Altidore, Agudelo, F. Johnson, Chandler, Shea.


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