[UKRAINE-USA] The Americans roused themselves after a listless first half to put forth a more concerted effort in the second 45 minutes, but inefficient finishing and some glaring defensive breakdowns enabled Ukraine to post a 2-0 victory Wednesday in Cyprus.
Here are a few thoughts in the immediate aftermath of the final whistle:
RIGHT BACK DEBATE IS OVER. He’s far from the finished product but unless injury intervenes, Geoff Cameron should replicate the right-back role he plays for Stoke City at the World Cup.
He’d probably prefer playing central mid, as he did in college and at times while starting his professional career, but this athletic, versatile performer is best suited among U.S. candidates to handle this difficult position. Against Ukraine he got forward to hit several crosses and though one ballooned out of play, one of his other serves forced a good catch by Ukraine keeper Andriy Pyatov and another provided Jozy Altidore with a chance.
At 6-foot-3, Cameron can also defend high balls at the back post and contribute on set plays. He got his head to a corner kick late in the first half but directed it wide. He may not inspire great confidence matched up against the dangerous wide players deployed by Germany, Ghana and Portugal, yet unless head coach Jurgen Klinsmann plans on springing a last-minute surprise, he’s the best option.
CENTERBACK CONFUSION. Blown offside traps and missed communications plagued the Americans numerous times during the game, with left back Edgar Castillo burned on several occasions and centerbacks Oguchi Onyewu and John Brooks, playing together for the first time, slow to close down Denis Garmish, Andriy Yarmalenko and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk and other attackers. Where the USA desperately needed cohesion, there was confusion.
One of Klinsmann’s crucial decisions will be whether to add a centerback to the first three of Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler and Clarence Goodson, who are all based in MLS and weren’t called for this game. Cameron can also play in the middle, as could Maurice Edu if he makes the squad.
Onyewu or Brooks were facing tricky, polished opponents on just a few days of preparation, so problems were to be expected. Yet Brooks really struggled and neither defender was on hand to deal with the rebounds that produced both Ukrainian goals. Klinsmann will name a preliminary squad of 30 before the final cutdown to 23 in early June; will he give either or both of his starting centerbacks in this game a place in the 30?
MUDDLED MIDFIELD.The back line broke down numerous times yet the Ukrainians often had the run of midfield to send piercing balls into the attacking third, perhaps in part because a groin problem has been nagging Jermaine Jones. He hobbled to the bench late in the second half.
Susceptibility to the counterattack shows a dysfunctional midfield, and just one example came when Sacha Kljestan lost a ball on the Ukrainian side of the center line. Not only did he fail to win it back, he didn’t delay the resulting counter with a challenge or foul, and the Ukrainians got numbers forward quickly as the USA scrambled futilely to cover.
On a few occasions the midfield clicked to create effective attacking moves, but seldom was the USA able to hold the ball to establish tempo and make Ukraine chase. Kljestan and Alejandro Bedoya were especially deficient in this regard. Clint Dempsey’s loan to Fulham didn’t do much to sharpen his game and he’ll need every day of the next three months to shake off the rust.
March 5 in Larnaca
Ukraine 2 USA 0.Goals: Yarmolenko 12, Devic 65.
Ukraine --Pyatov; Khacheridi, Shevchuk, Kucher, Fedetskiy; Tymoshchuk, Yarmolenko (Morozyuk, 90), Rotan (Edmar, 78), Konoplyanka (Gusev, 66), Garmash (Bezus, 46); Zozulya (Devic, 46).
USA --Howard; Cameron, Onyewu, Brooks, Castillo (Shea, 64); Jones (Williams, 81), Kljestan (Johannsson, 64); Bedoya, Dempsey, Johnson; Altidore (Agudelo, 86).