26 May 2012
When Sunil Gulati and Jurgen Klinsmann shook hands last July, this is exactly what both men had in mind.
For months now we have heard a lot about the philosophy Klinsmann is trying to instill in US Men's National Team. We’ve seen glimpses of it on the field, but in tonight’s 5-1 victory over Scotland, it all came together, and for a full 90 minutes.
The "Where’s Waldo" XI ran rampant from the off, scoring after just four minutes. The USA opened the scoring through hat-trick hero Landon Donovan after winning the ball with heavy pressure in the Scottish end twice in thirty seconds.
When Scotland did maintain possession, the US defense did one of two things. They either hunted in packs to win the ball with two to three (apparently numbered) jerseys swarming around the attacker or by getting back and squeezing the game. Making the field as small and narrow as possible, limiting the space for the Scots to attack.
The second goal from Michael Bradley was a blinder, but the set-up was just as delicious. Quick clever passing on a counter opened up the space for the volley after a smart knockdown from Jermaine Jones.
With that second goal, Scotland sat back and tried to pack it in but throughout the rest of the first and into the second half, the US showed a new facet of their game. With confidence, vision, and poise, the US found space where none seemed to exist with quick and sharp combinations. It was from this devastating inter-passing that the next three goals originated.
The understanding between the triangle in the middle of Mauricio Edu, Bradley, and Jermaine Jones was tremendous as was their ability to link with Donovan in the attack.
Torres also looked very smooth on the ball and had the confidence (of which every US attacker should aspire to) to take on the defense and create off the dribble.
Despite this being the best performance for the US under Klinsmann, there are still a few concerns.
Boyd was solid with his positioning and willing to work. His holdup play was also impressive, but his finishing and snap decision-making needs to be cultivated a bit more.
The defensive lapse which led to Scotland’s lone goal was a combination of allowing a cross that should have been blocked and the center backs losing sight of the Scot’s most dangerous attacker. There were also instances where the US could have doubled in the corners but the midfielders didn’t seem interested in coming all the way back, allowing more preventable crosses.
Finally, there were times in the beginning when the USA lacked width in the attack with the outside defenders slow to get up flanks. Once the defenders began to get forward and open that space, the US had another dimension and became exponentially dangerous.
Make no mistake about it. It will take something VERY SPECIAL for the USA to look like this against Brazil, but this is a huge step in the right direction and should be a massive confidence booster for the Stars and Stripes. An indication to both players and fans that they should try to play this way, no matter the opposition.
One thing is for certain. This is the kind of game US Soccer fans have pined for. The kind of entertaining high tempo soccer the fans crave and the beautiful game deserves.