USA-Bolivia: Klinsmann's men enter Copa on a roll

By beating Bolivia, 4-0, in Kansas City on Saturday, the USA enters the Copa America Centenario on a four-game win streak. The competition hasn’t been formidable during Coach Jurgen Klinsmann's fine-tuning for Friday’s opener against Colombia at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, but refreshing are signs of a new generation working itself into the team.

1. Signs of an evolving team

The second half of 2015 marked the nadir of the Klinsmann era, as after a fourth-place finish at the Gold Cup on home soil the USA blew a second opportunity to qualify for the 2017 Confederations Cup by losing a play-in against Mexico. All but one of the U.S. starters in the 3-2 loss -- a scoreline that flattered the thoroughly outplayed USA -- were part the USA’s 2014 World Cup squad.

USA-Bolivia: Player Ratings

The win over Bolivia, which followed a 1-0 victory over Ecuador, highlighted a group of non-2014 World Cup players we’ll be seeing at the Copa Centenario: midfielder Darlington Nagbe, striker Bobby Wood, 17-year-old Christian Pulisic, who became the youngest player known to score for the USA, and Gyasi Zardes, the one starter against Mexico in the Concacaf Cup not from the 2014 World Cup squad.

Nagbe, who had scored the winner against Ecuador, brilliantly set up Pulisic’s goal. Wood, who assisted on Nagbe’s gamewinner against Ecuador, served up Zardes for his second goal of the game.

2. John Brooks is now an undisputed starter

The German-raised central defender John Brooks, who famously came on as a sub in the 2014 World Cup opener and scored the winner in the USA’s 2-1 victory against Ghana, has claimed one of the central defender slots.

It’s not just that against Bolivia he scored his third U.S. goal and handled all his defensive duties adeptly. Brooks is coming off a season at Hertha Berlin, where his inconsistency had frustrated coaches. The only starts he missed in 2015-16 came because of injury. And Hertha finished seventh in the Bundesliga to earn a Europa League spot. Brooks, who turned 23 in January, has 66 Bundesliga and 29 German second division games under his belt.

3. The opponent must be put into perspective

You can’t argue with a 4-0 win, but Saturday’s USA’s sparring partner to prep for the Copa America Centenario is, next to Venezuela, the weakest team after the six rounds of South American World Cup qualifying with five losses and one win (4-2 at home over Venezuela in La Paz). Bolivia coach Julio Cesar Baldivieso didn’t have his full squad together until the eve of the game, when it practiced for only 30 minutes because of a power outage, reported Fox Sports.

Nevertheless, the USA enters its biggest tournament outside of a World Cup with momentum and perhaps its deepest squad since Klinsmann took charge in 2011.

May 28 in Kansas City, Kansas
USA 4 Bolivia 0. Goals: Zardes 26, 52, Brooks 37, Pulisic 69.
USA -- Guzan, Orozco (Yedlin, 46), Cameron, Brooks, Besler (Johnson, 46), Bedoya (Nagbe, 63), Bradley (Zusi, 73), Jones, Zardes (Pulisic, 63), Dempsey (Wondolowski, 72), Wood.
Bolivia -- Viscarra, Bejarano, Eguino, Cabrera, Gutierrez (Bejarano, 68), Melean (Ramallo, 54), Smedberg-Dalence (Zenteno, 74), Saucedo (Azogue, 46), Campos (Miranda, 46), Duk, Algaranaz (Castro, 46).
Referee: Elmer Bonilla (El Salvador).
Att.: 8,894.

12 comments about "USA-Bolivia: Klinsmann's men enter Copa on a roll".
  1. Wooden Ships, May 30, 2016 at 11:03 a.m.

    Over 5 years in. Is it an evolving team or hopefully an evolving coach? Players with technical abilities have been around and available. Maybe JK has underestimated and now is coming around.

  2. Bob Ashpole replied, May 30, 2016 at 1:10 p.m.

    The way the team has been coached and played during the last two friendlies gives me hope that a long-awaited improvement may have finally started. My hope is that the players and coaches are both evolving. JK has lived here long enough that I should start thinking of him as a US coach with German cultural values rather than a German coach. My guess is that JK is measuring US players through glasses tinted by German culture, particularly how they deal with authority and groups. My thinking is that this means he is more comfortable with players who share his culture and reacts harshly to players who are more independent or take breaks. Originally I thought it was ego getting in the way, but I suspect that culture is probably part of it too. US coaches generally interact with professional athletes differently than high school and college players, relying less on an autocratic style.

  3. Wooden Ships replied, May 30, 2016 at 3:04 p.m.

    I buy that Bob. Ozil broke the mold of tradition over there. We might not have an Ozil, but we have had some and still do, similar. JK needs to trust a little more. But, I'm excited.

  4. Scott Johnson replied, May 30, 2016 at 6:19 p.m.

    Pulisic only recently merit consideration for the senior team. Nagbe just got his US citizenship earlier in the year.

    Two key pieces, who know how to play the game, that weren't available until recently.

  5. Allan Lindh, May 30, 2016 at 12:33 p.m.

    The player pool has never reminded you of Spain or Argentina, but JK has made appalling lineup choices at times. All we can do is hope for the best, and prepare for the worst.

  6. Wooden Ships replied, May 30, 2016 at 2:59 p.m.

    Sounds like some of my Army mission planning days, soccer too. And, so true Allan.

  7. John Soares, May 30, 2016 at 2:10 p.m.

    All the other crap aside and JK has provided loads. Who cares if Bolivia was at "full" strength. This was one of the most consistent 90 minutes the USA has put together in.......... can't remember when. Yeah the win helps but the control and flow were a joy to watch.

  8. Wooden Ships replied, May 30, 2016 at 3:06 p.m.

    Roger that John. To me, the key is players being able to hold and get out of traffic. We also don't have to play the speed of the autobahn.

  9. Bob Ashpole replied, May 30, 2016 at 4:04 p.m.

    "Be quick, but don't hurry." -- Coach John Wooden.

  10. K Michael, May 31, 2016 at 10:36 a.m.

    Yep, Bob. I tell my kid and his teammates that all the time - "fast and calm." And the "calm" comes from technical skill. Woods, Pulisic, Nagbe, F Johnson,Bradley have it. Yedlin is beginning to display it; Bedoya must have it, though he at first glance appears fairly ordinary. Its coming along, for sure. Its up to JK to recognize this better tempo and nurture it.

  11. Wooden Ships replied, May 31, 2016 at 12:07 p.m.

    Absolutely agree K Michael.

  12. trebor gt replied, May 31, 2016 at 1:39 p.m.

    The true test of all of this is Friday. If we can hang even a little bit with Colombia its a boost. If we could get away with a tie I would be thrilled but the starting line up will probably answer most of our questions about where JK's head is at.

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