25 January 2012
We have come to the end of the January friendlies for the US Men's National Team and this can only mean one thing - time to find out who helped their case for when World Cup qualifiers roll around and who fell flat on their face.
Both matches during this past week were rather uneventful and quite lackluster with the U.S. scrounging out two 1-0 victories over inferior opponents. These matches were meant to be learning experiences for many of these players, a test to see whether or not they will be of any use to Klinsmann once World Cup Qualifiers get underway. To be blatantly honest, there was not one player who grabbed this opportunity by the throat and took it.
Some of you may say Jermaine Jones did, after all he had two solid performances in which he went 90 minutes and captained an inexperienced side, but we already knew what Jones is capable of and this just confirmed his abilities.
If anybody made a bit of a splash in this friendly you would have to say it was Graham Zusi. He put in two soid performances along with a game winning goal in the Panama match. One telling sign that Klinsi liked what he saw out of Zusi was the fact that he chose to start Zusi on the right side of midfield instead of a more experienced player in Benny Feilhaber (don't worry, i'll get to Benny shortly).
Before the Panama game I would have said that the other winners from this camp would be central defenders Michael Parkhurst and Geoff Cameron. After the Panama game, well things have changed a bit. I will say Cameron was a bit unlucky to receive a straight red card, although he did take Blas down from behind and prevented a clear goal scoring opportunity.
Overall, the pairing of Parkhurst and Cameron was good at times over the two friendlies, but against Panama they allowed too many balls to bounce in over their heads and did not organize the backline well. One thing is for sure, they need to buy Nick Rimando a dinner because he saved them from embarrassment in the first half.
Now, lets move onto the guys who really MISSED an opportunity to show Klinsi they can be a reliable weapon in the US pool. First, let's throw all of the forwards into the ring of fire, yes all of them. Not one goal from any of them over the course of these two matches, that is what I call a missed opportunity my friends.
I am more so disappointed in the likes of Bunbury and Wondo, two guys who have been around the USMNT of late and could have easily secured a backup spot moving forward with a good performance in either match. I give Sapong a pass because this was his first real call-up and he did not see very many minutes. To me his inclusion in this camp was more of a "congratulations on winning rookie of the year, now let's see how good you actually are" situation more than anything else.
Secondly, I am going to go with Zach Loyd. The FC Dallas defender had a solid substitute performance against Venezuela, which warranted him the start against Panama. Well that turned out to be a disaster as Loyd only lasted 41 minutes before Klinsi decided to bring on good old Heath Pearce. You know you're having a rough night when you get replaced by Heath Pearce before halftime (sorry Heath, but not really). I was crazy enough to think that Loyd could put his name on the shortlist of possible left-back replacements, but certainly not after tonight.
Some people may not agree with me on this next one, but I think Brek Shea may have regressed a little during this camp. These two friendlies were his opportunity to be the US' offensive spark-plug, but that was clearly not the case. Don't get me wrong, Brek showed some flashes in the Venezuela game, but certainly not in the Panama game. This won't knock him out of the 'A' squad, but I don't think he is guaranteed a starting position at this point.
Lastly, we come to Benny Feilhaber. I think we can officially put Benny in Klinsi's dog house considering he was the only field player not to appear in the Panama match, not to mention that Zusi was chosen to start over him in a position that Benny was more than capable of playing. There has been speculation of possible unrest between Klinsi and Benny, as the two just do not seem to be on the same page. It's sad to see because Benny has been a terrific asset to this team in the past and I think he still has the ability to contribute, but from what I have heard, there needs to be some attitude adjustments before he will become any part of the US squad moving forward.