Team USA vs. Antigua: 5 Things Learned from World Cup 2014 Qualifier
The U.S. men's soccer team kicked off the semifinal round of World Cup qualification with a 3-1 win over Antigua and Barbuda.
Three points were expected from this encounter, but the end result does not show the performance by the U.S. players. Antigua and Barbuda have to be given credit for their play and for providing a scare for their opponents.
Here are six things to look at from this encounter.
There Are Still Defensive Issues
Taking nothing away from Antigua and Barbuda's performance, a team like the USA should be coming away from games like this with a clean sheet.
While the main culprit for the goal, Oguchi Onyewu, is obvious, there were other points throughout the game that the U.S. defense had problems with their opponents.
Granted, the team played with basically three natural defenders for the majority of the game, but that should not have had a major effect on the side given the difference in quality of their opponents.
Team Will Be Very Adaptive Tactically
Jurgen Klinsmann has already set the side up in different ways since taking over as coach, but his major move today was very interesting.
Jose Torres, an attack-minded midfielder, started the game at left-back and, as was mentioned by the commentary team, was meant to help the team keep possession as Klinsmann expected his side to have a lot of the ball throughout the game.
Would such a move have even been thought of during the Bob Bradley era?
That's doubtful. While one could say that playing Torres in defense is part of what made the defense a little suspect, you have to remember that the goal did not come until four natural defenders were in the side.
With Klinsmann's willingness to make decisions such as this, the U.S. team could be better prepared to adapt to tougher opponents when the time comes.
Players Need Better Focus in Remaining Games
There were times during the game that the USA's overconfidence and lack of focus was evident. Misplaced passes, lackadaisical finishing and a general lack of drive made the scoreline what it was in the end.
While they certainly will be more driven when facing Jamaica and Guatemala, U.S. players could still feel they have no need to worry.
Jurgen Klinsmann will want to instill an attitude opposite of that during his time in charge and fans will hope he has the team ready for what will be a tough match against Guatemala in four days' time.
Scoring Not an Issue with Herculez Gomez in the Side
Herculez Gomez scored yet another goal for the U.S. team and put even more pressure on his competition.
It may not be long before someone else steps up and takes his position, but for now, Gomez is the player that the U.S. needs to lead the forward line.
He had some good moments throughout the game and was unlucky to hit the crossbar on a great effort in the second half. As Klinsmann gets a more stable lineup, and the team gets used to each other, Gomez may find himself hitting the back of the net more often.
Possession Still an Issue at Times
In the overall scope of things, the USA had a fair bit of possession in this game. Still, they should have been camped in the Antigua and Barbuda half through the entirety of the game, especially with the inclusion of Torres at the back.
Instead, Antigua and Barbuda had its spells of possession—most notably in the second half—and were they a team with better quality, the result would have been very different.
The sloppy giveaways from the U.S. go along with a lack of focus, but even before then there were signs that the team has problems with a more possession-based game. Only against Canada did the U.S. effectively control its opponents in games this year.
This is something that has to get better as time goes on.