By Paul Kennedy
The Jurgen Klinsmannera began with question marks about the U.S. national team's ability to score goals, and it will head into a World Cup year with the same questions.
For the first time since early in Klinsmann's era, the USA was shut out in back-to-back games, falling to Austria, 1-0, in Vienna on Tuesday night after tying Scotland, 0-0, on Friday.
To be sure, Tuesday's result was tainted by a no-goal call on Geoff Cameron's first-half header that looked on replays to have crossed the line.
Cameron's near-post header that could have also resulted in a penalty for handball was the third in a flurry of chances in a first half for the USA, which did better than it did in the first 45 minutes on Friday night in Scotland.
Jozy Altidorehad his chances, but he's now gone five games with only one goal for the USA after scoring in a record five straight games. Aron Johannsson, who already has 14 goals for AZ, has yet to duplicate his club form for the USA, also finishing with only one goal (the winner at Panama) in five games.
So the year that began with a tie and loss -- with a third Hexagonal title and fifth Gold Cup title in between -- ends with a tie and loss -- indeed a year of ups and downs.
CAMERON FOR RIGHT BACK. Is there anyone to play right back? When in doubt, go with Cameron.
Current first-choiceBrad Evans, who started at right back against the Scots, was sidelined with a groin injury, and Michael Orozco, who played there in the Costa Rica qualifier when Evans was injured, was taken ill before Tuesday's game.
Defensively, Cameron can handle the position, but he doesn't usually offer much offensively in terms of buildup from right back although he did have a couple of chances on Tuesday. He may be more better suited for center back or prefer to play defensive midfielder, but right back may be the only way he'll get on the field.
Seven players were used at right back in qualifying, and no one plays it better than Steve Cherundolo, who started the Klinsmann era as the incumbent. But knee problems make him a big question mark. The next month will be important for Cherundolo to see if he can get back in the lineup at Hannover 96, where he serves as captain.
ONLY ONE MORE TEST.Except for any January friendlies with mostly MLS players, there's only one more friendly with the full squad before Klinsmann must name his World Cup squad, or whom he intends to bring into pre-World Cup training.
That means this was basically it for players showing the boss what they can do.
It was a big missed opportunity for Brek Shea, who did well off the bench on Friday but showed nothing against the Austrians. Unless he starts to get playing time at Stoke City -- he hasn't seen EPL action since March 2 -- or moves on loan, he may be finished for the 2014 cycle.
Ditto for John Brooks. In his defense, he hasn't played at Hertha Berlin in almost two months after earning two quick Bundesliga Team of the Week selections, but he had a very shaky first half at center back, culminating with his failure to clear the Gyorgy Garics pass that Marc Janko put away for the game's only goal.
Brooks, who was slowed down by injuries this fall, has a better chance of playing at Hertha than Shea, who doesn't even dress for Stoke's EPL games, and has an upside that puts him in good position to claim the fourth CB spot behind Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler and Cameron.
BEST RECORD EVER.The USA finished the 2013 season with a 16-4-3 record for a winning percentage of .761. That beats the previous best winning percentage (more than one game) of .750 set in 2005 and 2012.
Nov. 19 in Vienna
Austria 1 USA.Goal: Janko 33.
Austria --Almer, Garics, Dragovic, Leitgeb (Wimmer 90+2), Fuchs, Alaba (Ivanschitz 72), Arnautovic (Suttner 80), Hinteregger, Hinterseer (Zulechner 84), Harnik (Klein 80), Janko (Kavlak 68).
USA -- Howard; Cameron (Lichaj 80), Gonzalez, Brooks, Beasley (Wondolowski 89; Bradley, Jones (Boyd 66); Bedoya, Johannsson (Diskerud 55), Shea (E.Johnson 55); Altidore.