Euro 2012: 5 Things Team USA Learned from the Last Month of Action
The USMNT might not have participated in this year's Euro 2012, but there are plenty of things it can still take away from the last month of incredible football action.
Learning from other teams' mistakes is a vital procedure for any team with championship hopes. That procedure has never been so easy, as some of the best in the world battled on one of the biggest stages for Team USA to observe.
Here are five things Jurgen Klinsmann and his men can take away from Euro 2012. Enjoy!
Attack the Superior Opponents
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One of the biggest lessons many developing soccer nations like the USMNT have learned is that the Goliaths have to be attacked.
This lesson was most clear in Spain's games, as they truly are the most talented team in the entire competition.
Teams such as Ireland or France chose to try and contain the Spanish rather than attack them, and this resulted in completely dominating losses. Their passivity allowed Spain to wear them down to a point where even attempting to develop an offensive rhythm seemed impossible.
However, going by the old saying "Offense is the best defense," Portugal's aggressive tactics and high pressure kept their superior opponents from creating any real dangerous chances throughout the match. If the U.S. can take on a similar mindset in big tournaments, they might just find themselves going farther than ever before.
Team Unity Is Everything
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If this tournament has taught us anything, it is that talent alone simply doesn't bring results.
After witnessing the devastating collapse of a highly talented yet completely disjointed Dutch squad, Jurgen should make sure to maximize the team-bonding exercises in the future to avoid a similar failure.
If you want to read more about how a team can virtually implode from the inside, look no further than this article. Keep everyone on the same page, on good terms and in good spirits, Mr. Klinsmann.
We Need a Playmaking Maestro
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When looking at the Euro 2012 finalists, it should come as no surprise that both teams feature a playmaking maestro in the middle of the field.
For Italy, Pirlo has been the mastermind of the offense, completing passes most midfielders would only dream of attempting. Spain has a few creative CAMs as well, with Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas all capable of being the premier No. 10.
That type of player has been the one thing missing from the USMNT lineup for the past several years, and it has become evident that, to compete at the highest level, the country needs to develop one.
Stuart Holden had some qualities that could have filled this role, but his injury problems make it impossible to rely on him to develop into the true playmaker they need. Down the road, maybe Luis Gil or Mix Diskerud will become the No. 10 we have been dreaming of, but until then, USMNT just will be a team missing a vital piece of the championship puzzle.
Speed Kills—in the Second Half
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The U.S. has plenty of speedsters in their player pool who are desperate for a chance to prove themselves. Players such as Josh Gatt, DaMarcus Beasley and Freddy Adu all have breakaway speed, but rarely get the call-up to the National Team.
Hopefully, this changes; Jurgen Klinsmann witnessed multiple teams at Euro 2012 succeed after super-subbing a very influential speedster in the second half.
The most obvious of these occurrences was when Theo Walcott came into the game for England against Sweden and immediately made an impact, using his incredible speed to his advantage against the already exhausted opposing defenders.
The introduction of Pedro and Jesus Navas also completely changed the tide of the Portugal-Spain game, as their speed on the flanks made it so that Coentrao and Pereira couldn't push up and help any Portuguese attacks.
Speed is an unbelievable asset to have, but it can be even more effective if used properly. The names I listed above might not be the most talented in the player pool, but they could hold the biggest impact.
Opponents Must Be Finished off
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Possibly the biggest disappointment of the tournament was the early exit to Russia from an incredibly weak Group A. After destroying Czech Republic in their first game, it seemed as though the Russians never really had that intensity or killer instinct to finish off Poland and Greece when they needed to.
We have seen this happen to Team USA many times before, most recently against Guatemala and Ecuador last fall. Not being able to seal the deal in games has always been a problem for the USMNT, and if they learned anything from Russia, it is that this has to change before the 2014 World Cup.