A (record) year of ups and downs

By Paul Kennedy

The Jurgen Klinsmann era 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 Altidore had 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-choice Brad 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.
3 comments about "A (record) year of ups and downs".
  1. Dan Phillips, November 19, 2013 at 6:59 p.m.

    I cannot understand why JK does not call up Timmy Chandler. He is the best Right Back option, and gets maximum playing time with FC Nurnberg. Also stop with the one forward format it does not work. Use the 4-4-2, it works better for the US. And forget about Altidore. Slow, lumbering, and inconsistent. Use Aaron Johansson and Eddie Johnson at forward. And Brek Shea is still good coming off the bench. Keep him. Stuart Holden will be back in Jan. Use him at midfield.

  2. Allan Lindh, November 19, 2013 at 7:29 p.m.

    I cannot understand what Paul is talking about when he denigrates Cameron's offensive contributions. As Taylor Twellman pointed out repeatedly, he looks better going forward than any other US back, can handle the ball in traffic, and delivers excellent diagonal balls into the box when he does range forward. And he scored our only goal, although it was erroneously disallowed. He is not possessed of great foot speed, so cannot push forward to the touch line to whack in crosses, but neither do any of the other US right backs. Moreover right backs are defenders and shouldn't range that far forward anyway. I have a hard time believing that Paul Kennedy and I watched the same match.

    The other obvious takeaway from today's match is that without the two Ds, we have no, like in NO, attacking flair in front of the box. And given their ages, and propensity for injury, they cannot be counted on in Brazil. Diskerud looks like the next best hope.

  3. Chris Sapien , November 20, 2013 at 10:13 p.m.

    I am less concerned with the result on foreign soil, in a driving rain no less, than I am with the fact there is no appearance of defined roles amongst the positions! Bedoya was clueless about what to do when Cameron tried to get forward, and likewise between Shea and Beasley on the left.....both "wingers" also cut inside almost immediately instead of driving to the goal line to open seams or deliver crosses....simply niether good or inventive enough! Big step back with all the negative movement....lastly, I mostly agree with PKs assessment, minus the idea Brooks would be the fourth CD???? Hello, forget about Goodson? Certainly CG is more consistent there than what Cameron showed this year......

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