Where cohesion was needed there was confusion

[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).
11 comments about "Where cohesion was needed there was confusion".
  1. Kent James, March 5, 2014 at 6:21 p.m.

    The game was not pretty (especially in comparison to Spain v Italy that came on just after), but it was an important one for the US. Onyewu is past his prime, Brooks is not there yet. As Lallas said, Kljestan may be a skillful player, but at the national team level he rarely adds anything. Cameron definitely deserves to make the squad, but I'm not sure he's the best option at right back (as Ridge said, his best role is as a holding midfielder). Shea definitely made some things happen, though (as Twellman pointed out), he has trouble making good decisions in the box. He may make too many mistakes to be considered a starter, but if things need to be shaken up, he has a role. Castillo is not a good enough defender to start, but he does have a lot of offensive skills and might be worth bringing on if we need some offensive bite (though it would be at the risk of some defensive lapses). Overall, we have some work to do...

  2. cisco martinez, March 5, 2014 at 6:23 p.m.

    Brooks was horrible along with klejstan, oneywu play decent, bedoya and johanson played well. Klinsmann was very optimistic in his post interview, hard to be positive on such a need to play well before a world cup.

  3. Dan Phillips, March 5, 2014 at 6:50 p.m.

    No. Right Back is NOT settled!!! Timmy Chandler is much better as long as he is healthy. Much quicker and able defend against the fast attackers than Cameron, that we will be facing in the WC. Also Jozy Altidore needs to be off team. At least as starter. Aaron Johansson is much better than Jozy. Quicker, faster, better shooter. And Brek Shea needs to come off bench sooner. He adds spark to the team everytime he come in relief.

  4. Brian Bouhl, March 5, 2014 at 8:59 p.m.

    Woah woah woah woah. Did you watch the game?? Cameron's service was HORRIBLE. He had way more than one "balloon" out of play. The others he slammed low right into their players. He was awful. No way shape or form is that debate anywhere near over. You're crazy.

  5. John DiFiore, March 6, 2014 at 2:07 a.m.

    Ridge, I think Klinsi needs to take a good hard look at your boy Clint... comments?? And please tell me wy Jozy is still even being considered for this job???????? I've had enough of him doing absolutely nothing!! He is not "it" for us. I'd take Agudelo any day over Jozy...

  6. ROBERT BOND, March 6, 2014 at 9:34 a.m.

    Ukraine will not probably be an obstacle in 2018....

  7. Walt Pericciuoli, March 6, 2014 at 10:01 a.m.

    I think it was proven once and for all, Gooch is not the guy, Brooks is too soon and Sacha doesn't fit.I thought Brek showed a spark off the bench, which seems to be where hemay help.Other than that, no one else impressed at all. I would have liked to see more of Agudelo.We should be thinking of someone other than Altidore to lead us up top.Even when a forward is not scoring, he must at least be a threat.

  8. Mike in SoCal, March 6, 2014 at 10:11 a.m.

    Right back certainly is not settled! It's a much bigger question than LB. Fabian is more proven, yesterday he was tracking back a lot helping Castillo out and Beasley has the pace to allow him a little more leeway if Klinsy goes with him. But CR7 normally plays on the left, so does the speedy Marco Reus and Cameron didn't give the type of performance many of us were looking for, to take the position and make it his. For a player who is a regular Premier League starter at that position Cameron looked very shaky.

  9. Walt Pericciuoli, March 6, 2014 at 10:49 a.m.

    Mike, you're right. I don't see anyone in our stable now ready to defend the likes of the LW'ers we'll face at the WC. So, what happened to Tim Candler? At least he has the pace, and he plays RB regularly in a very strong league. (one could argue, stronger than the EPL)I had hoped he would get another chance.

  10. Dan Phillips, March 6, 2014 at 7:33 p.m.

    Timmy Chandler was injured. But he is slated to be back by April. Klinsy should use him in the Mexico game. So what it is not international fixture. I am sure JK can talk coach into letting Chandler go for one game. And travel? since when have we become such wimps that the guy can't get on a plane to US. Business people fly back and forth all the time for just a few days. And start Aarron Johansson. Jozy is a waste!

  11. I w Nowozeniuk, March 9, 2014 at 10:05 p.m.

    I look for simplicity, efficacy, and ability to make things happen...a scarce commodity on the USMNT. Team shape, ability to re-group, and ability to handle pressure situations happens here and there, no consistency is the bottom line.

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