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Diskerud, the new U.S. No. 10, shines at windy 'Stick
by Paul Kennedy, May 28th, 2014 1:51AM

TAGS:  men's national team


[USA-AZERBAIJAN] No one has ever suggested that the player who beat out Landon Donovan for a World Cup roster spot was Mix Diskerud, but he did take the No. 10 jersey that Donovan wore at the 2010 World Cup. And the Norwegian-born midfielder was the unlikely hero for the USA Tuesday night in a match seemingly destined for a disappointing conclusion. Diskerud and Aron Johannsson scored in the last quarter of the hour to give the USA a 2-0 win over Azerbaijan in its first World Cup warmup at windy Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

Next Up:
June 1 -- USA vs. Turkey in Harrison, N.J., 2 p.m. ET (ESPN2, WatchESPN, Univision)
June 7 -- USA vs. Nigeria in Jacksonville, Fla., 6 p.m. ET (ESPN2, WatchESPN, UniMas)

DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER? Jurgen Klinsmann employed the diamond midfield in the 2-2 tie with Mexico in April, and the tactics remained the same against Azerbaijan despite the introduction of a new set of players -- with the arrival of seven starters from abroad. Perhaps the 12 days of training had taken their toll, but the USA was certainly sharper in the first half against Mexico than it was against Azerbaijan, coming off a 1-0 win over the mighty Philippines in its only other game in 2014.

Graham Zusi and Alejandro Bedoya, the outside midfielders, were pushed inside, allowing Fabian Johnson, in particular, lots of room to get forward. But except for two open headers by Chris Wondolowski, the USA did not create much for its edge in possession in the first half.

Wondo started because Clint Dempsey was a late scratch with tightness in his groin that had begun to bother him on Monday, and the absence of the U.S. captain was significant as the USA badly missed his ability to dart in and out of the attack and work with Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley. (Klinsmann said after a day or two of rest, Dempsey should be ready for Sunday's game against Turkey.)

At the bottom of the diamond as Jermaine Jones, who rarely ventured out the center circle as if to prove to Klinsmann he has the discipline to cover for Bradley.

THOSE 50-50 BATTLES. Three players came on to start the second half -- Timmy Chandler for DaMarcus Beasley, Omar Gonzalez for Geoff Cameron and Brad Davis for Zusi. All three moves were at positions that remain up in the air.

As expected, Johnson is now the starter on the right, so Chandler's only chance is on the left, and he could be in line to overtake the veteran Beasley. Klinsmann said Gonzalez came into camp behind everyone else because of his knee injury, and the U.S. coach will likely wait as long as possible to decide who to pair with Matt Besler in the middle.

Just who will play on the left side if not Johnson, a starter there for much of the Hexagonal, or Donovan, Eddie Johnson or Herculez Gomez, none of whom is in Klinsmann's picture, has been a lingering question, and that didn't change after the Azerbaijan match. Neither Bedoya or Zusi exactly lit it up. Davis as the starter at left mid at the World Cup still baffles many folks, though he did show to the surprise of no one that he can put in a wicked left-footed corner kick on Johannsson's goal.

THE LOST GENERATION. Afterward, Klinsmann praised Diskerud for overcoming the disappointment of not going to the Olympics two years ago. Klinsmann has on several occasions now said how much of a setback it was for a generation he was counting on to rise to the senior national team.

He credited Diskerud (and Terrence Boyd and Joe Corona) for returning to their foreign clubs and overcoming that bitter disappointment of missing out on the London Olympics. Klinsmann was also quick to point that others -- players like Brek Shea, Teal Bunbury, Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson -- fell into a deep hole when they returned to their MLS clubs and could not get out.

Diskerud was still not even part of the U.S. picture a year ago for the critical June qualifiers that set the USA on the path to Brazil, but he has clearly emerged as a Klinsmann favorite. He has mostly been used in Bradley's position the middle, but his chances of playing there in the World Cup are slim and none. The right side of midfield might be his ticket to a starting spot.

SO LONG TO THE 'STICK. Klinsmann bemoaned the conditions that made first touches and long passes difficult at Candlestick, the former Giants and 49ers stadium that will be demolished some time in the next year. But that just exacerbated what are well-known flaws in the games of the national team and its players and begged the question, why play at the 'Stick in the first place?

Klinsmann obviously does not know his baseball lore. Otherwise, he might not have picked the 'Stick to open the send-off series.

Few will shed any tears for the stadium by the bay at which pitcher Stu Miller famously was blown off the mound by the wind at the 1961 All-Star Game.

May 27 in San Francisco
USA 2 Azerbaijan 0. Goals: Diskerud 75, Johannsson 81.
USA -- Howard; Johnson (Yedlin 62), Besler, Cameron (Gonzalez 46), Beasley (Chandler 46); Jones, Bedoya (Diskerud 71), Zusi (Davis 46), Bradley; Wondolowski (Johannsson 62), Altidore.
Azerbaijan -- K.Aghayev, Ramaldanov, Shukurov (Girtimov 46), Budak, Yunuszade, Garayev, Abishov (Guseynov 46), Abasiyev (Medvedev 71), Javadov (Nazarov 60), Dadashov (Fardjad-Azad 66), R.Aliyev.
Att.: 24,688.

  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: May 28, 2014 at 8:57 a.m.
    Was it worth the price of admission? Against such a mediocre opponent, the NT squad again relied on hopeful long balls, and little patience to build on successive interchanges. The TV commentary and small talk, was simply boring and belongs on the real diamond of MLB. TV video-casting showed too many facials, once being stuck on Diskerud for about 15 seconds. Close ups of players walking around does not bode well for the game. Why SF as a venue, perhaps a lesson in wind play.

  1. Charles Stamos
    commented on: May 28, 2014 at 9:47 a.m.
    Not much of a test, as not much of an opponent. Nonexistant marking by Azer defenders led to several six yard shots and the 2nd goal. Grades on all players should be incomplete. Too bad we don't have a real challenge on the send off schedule before the WC, say an away game to an European or South American WC qualifier. Not much settled except for the cental players and now Dempsey 'tweaked'. Some glimpses on Chandler, Yedlin, et al, also grading incomplete. Zusi's and Davis's services below LD standards, let's give them another chance. On a positive note, I did like the 4-4-2 l/u. A lot more options open up, especially spreading the field, although I wonder if the real WC formation remains the same. Good luck USA!

  1. Thomas Brannan
    commented on: May 28, 2014 at 9:50 a.m.
    It was exactly what we needed after two fully loaded weeks of training sessions. … Everyone did fine. They did exactly what we hoped they would do." -- Coach Jurgen Klinsmann Really? How can he get away with that spin? These are supposed to be the best from America and other places. They are supposed to be in their physical prime. Jones quit getting back one time. He has had them for how long now? This makes over trained and under coached look like the best comment I've seen in a long time. I gotta quit getting upset about this stuff. It is what it is.

  1. Robert Heinrich
    commented on: May 28, 2014 at 10:21 a.m.
    Biggest concern for me were the several loose giveaways and near-giveaways in our own half. We will get punished for those mistakes in our group. There is still time to sharpen up their game. That's what these warm-ups are for. Let's be honest. We don't have the world class players to blow teams away. These guys are going to have to fight for 90 minutes. We can create chances. We can win games; just can't be sloppy with the ball in our own half.

  1. Walt Pericciuoli
    commented on: May 28, 2014 at 10:42 a.m.
    Once again, Gonzalez proves to me he does not belong. Things did not pick up for USA until the youngsters got into the match. Perhaps Klinsi does know something? As an aside, I thought that was one of the better games for Jones.

  1. Mark Hardt
    commented on: May 28, 2014 at 10:49 a.m.
    Klinsman is going to great lengths to protect players who did it the Klinsi way. Donovan went on sabbatical and did not play for everton when he could have. Altidore left a cushy position in Holland for Sunderland and got crushed. He is still crushed. 90 minutes did not help. Meanwhile Johannssen is on top of the world. Klinsi is going to lose the first round in order to protect his beloved Altidore if he is not careful. He needs to set Altidore on the bench and use some garbage time to try to get him a goal. Otherwise there is always next summers gold cup or a move back to Holland or Belgium.

  1. Gus Keri
    commented on: May 28, 2014 at 11:47 a.m.
    The only take home message from this "running exercise" is the discovery that it wasn't Landon Donovan who was scoring all these goals for the USMNT. It was the magic of number 10 shirt. I recommend to let Jones wear it in the next game. He might score few goals.

  1. cisco martinez
    commented on: May 28, 2014 at 12:18 p.m.
    No creativity whatsoever, klinsmann s 4-4-2 diamond formation requires the two wingers to have tactical, technical, and speed everything donovan had.

  1. Mark Torguson
    commented on: May 28, 2014 at 1:09 p.m.
    I'll put aside comments on the game to talk about what a disaster Candlestick Park is for soccer. Yes the wind (but surely they knew about that before). $35 for the cheapest ticket (basically a scrimmage with excessive subbing), $30 cash only to park and with only half the parking and concessions open, bottleneck everywhere in the stadium. Hour long waits just to get into the parking lot, maybe 5,000 fans still waiting to park as game kicked off. Not the greatest thank you from US Soccer, good riddance to Candlestick. Narrow pitch, fans far away from the action, glad to have the USA in NorCal, but surely a better venue available.

  1. Brett Wyatt
    commented on: May 28, 2014 at 1:09 p.m.
    ^ HAD. As in, NO LONGER HAS.

  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: May 28, 2014 at 1:41 p.m.
    On more comment about this friendly...if the refs in friendlies don't caution players for serious infractions, it sends a bad signal and injuries result.

  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: May 28, 2014 at 2:36 p.m.
    Anyone notice the movement off the ball?

  1. Dan Phillips
    commented on: May 28, 2014 at 6:51 p.m.
    Should have kept Donovan, and should have included Brek Shea on National team. Big mistakes.

  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: May 29, 2014 at 5:35 p.m.
    Dan P, keep watching your favorite MLS team and count those unforced turnovers for a change...than explain why Bret Shea sees no playing time in England; and LD's inconsistencies over the years.

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