USA vs. Belgium: 6 Things We Learned
On Wednesday evening in Cleveland, Ohio, the United States men’s national team fell to Belgium, 4-2.
The game was the first of a five-game series for the United States, with another friendly coming this Sunday against Germany to be followed by three World Cup qualifiers.
Here are six things we learned from the loss to Belgium.
Does Klinsmann Really Believe Clarence Goodson Is Better Than Carlos Bocanegra?
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
Over the years, Clarence Goodson has been a good servant to the USMNT, stepping in when the top options at center-back were not available due to issues with injuries or form.
However, his performance against Belgium once again proved that he is simply not an international quality center-back. Meanwhile, the man who has captained the USMNT for the last half-decade, Carlos Bocanegra, was left off the roster entirely.
Goodson was at least partially at fault on all of the first three Belgian goals.
On the first, Goodson did not track his runner, instead trying to catch Romelu Lukaku offsides. Then, as Tim Howard came out to stop the original shot, Geoff Cameron failed to follow Kevin Mirallas, who pounced on the rebound, and Goodson failed to fall in behind Howard.
Falling in behind your keeper when he is forced to come off his line is Defending 101—and Goodson failed to get the job done.
On the second goal, as Omar Gonzalez slid across to pick up a diagonal run by Lukaku, Goodson allowed Christian Benteke to continue his run, unmarked, into the area. Gonzalez took a bad touch and lost the ball, and Lukaku found a wide-open Benteke for the second goal.
On the third goal, Goodson was again beaten by Lukaku, whose ensuing shot was deflected by Brad Guzan out for a corner. The U.S. failed to clear the resulting corner, and the Belgians got their third goal of the night.
It is hard to believe that anyone, let alone the man being paid to coach the United States men’s national team, truly believes Goodson is a better option at center-back than Bocanegra.
If the future truly is Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler, that is something U.S. fans are ready to accept. However, to think that Goodson is truly the third-best option at center-back for the U.S. is truly unimaginable.
Eddie Johnson Should Always Play on the Wing for the USMNT
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
Another one of the more mind-boggling decisions made by Jurgen Klinsmann over the past few months is the use of Eddie Johnson at the forward position for the U.S.
While Johnson plays as a forward with his club team, the Seattle Sounders, Johnson has proved most effective with the USMNT on the wing.
Johnson’s U.S. revival started in the October qualifiers where Johnson picked up two goals against Antigua and Barbuda and the game-winning assist against Guatemala. In both of those games, Johnson played on the wing. However, since then, Klinsmann has primarily used Johnson as a forward against teams like Canada and Honduras.
On the wing, Johnson is able to use his pace and one-on-one ability to create chances for the U.S. As a forward, Johnson struggles playing with his back to pressure.
On Wednesday, against Belgium, the game changed instantly once Johnson was moved to the wing. Inserted into the lineup at the half as a forward, he rarely touched the ball. When Terrence Boyd entered the match and Johnson moved to the left wing, the U.S. attack was sparked to life.
In just over 25 minutes on the wing, Johnson repeatedly tested the Belgian back line and put four services into the box—about as many as the entire U.S. squad had prior to that point.
Eddie Johnson must be used exclusively on the wing when playing for the USMNT. It is troubling that Klinsmann has not noticed something that has been so patently obvious since last October.
The Offense Is Still Lacking
Paging Mr. Donovan
Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
While the U.S. did move the ball around well for much of the game against Belgium, there was still little going for the U.S. in the attacking third. Over the first three hexagonal World Cup qualifiers, the U.S. has managed a pathetic three shots on goal.
On Wednesday, the U.S. managed two shots on goal, bringing the total shots over the past four games to five.
U.S. fans were led to believe that Klinsmann would bring a more attractive, attacking style to the U.S. when he took over for Bob Bradley, and that change in style has not happened. To what extent that has to do with the exclusion of Landon Donovan from the roster continues to be questioned.
It Was a Fitting 100th Cap for DaMarcus Beasley
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
DaMarcus Beasley has had an up-and-down career for the United States men’s national team, particularly since a devastating knee injury in 2007.
Once one of the brightest up-and-coming players for the U.S., Beasley struggled for both club and country in the years to come after his injury.
However, Beasley has had a bit of a revival over the past few months after two fairly strong performances in the March qualifiers. Those performances earned him another call-up for this summer’s matches, and on Wednesday, Beasley earned his 100th cap.
Beasley had a game fitting of the occasion, doing well defensively against the powerful Belgian attackers and contributing as much to the U.S. attack as any other player on the pitch.
He was named the Man of the Match by U.S. Soccer—a deserved honor.
What Now for Sacha Kljestan?
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Sacha Kljestan was given a rare start on Wednesday night and, for the most part, performed well. Kljestan was not flashy, but he did well in his No. 8 role, recycling possession and giving his teammates good passing angles all night long.
Now the question, with Michael Bradley returning to the team, becomes whether or not he keeps his place in the starting XI.
Klinsmann must decide, going forward, whether the team is better off with a Bradley/ Jermaine Jones pairing in the midfield, or a Bradley/Kljestan pairing.
In the past, Klinsmann has shown a definite preference toward Jones, and it’s doubtful that Kljestan’s solid performance against Belgium was strong enough to change Klinsmann’s mind.
The U.S. Is Still Not Ready to Compete at an Elite Level
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
As much as U.S. fans can enjoy the occasional victory over a big-name opponent, the game on Wednesday proved that the U.S., in its current form, simply cannot compete with the world’s best.
The Belgians, who looked to be treating the game fairly lightly and without one of the world’s best players in Eden Hazard, still handled the U.S. quite easily. While the U.S. was missing some top players like Fabian Johnson and Michael Bradley, it still had one of its stronger lineups on the field.
Unless Klinsmann can correctly identify the weak spots in the U.S. lineup and get over his stubbornness with not calling in some of the key veterans, the U.S. is likely to continue to struggle outside of CONCACAF for the foreseeable future.
Follow me on Facebook www.facebook.com/AmericanTouchline.