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What Do USA Need to Change to Have a Successful World Cup?

LARNACA, CYPRUS - MARCH 05:  Team USA poses for a picture before the Ukraine v USA International Friendly  at Antonis Papadopoulos stadium on March 5, 2014 in Larnaca, Cyprus.  (Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Getty Images)
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Getty Images
John D. HalloranContributor IIMarch 6, 2014

Last night, in one of the final friendlies before it opens up its World Cup qualifying camp, the United States men's national team lost to Ukraine 2-0. 

The loss was yet another disappointing away result for head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, whose team has now gone winless and goalless in its last three games in Europe.

With only two months left before final preparations begin for the U.S.'s trip to Brazil, here are five things the U.S. needs to change.

 

Fix the Defense

LARNACA, CYPRUS - MARCH 05:  John Brooks of the USA,  in action during the Ukraine v USA International Friendly  at Antonis Papadopoulos stadium on March 5, 2014 in Larnaca, Cyprus.  (Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Getty Images)
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Getty Images

There's no question that the U.S. fielded an experimental back line last night. With the Major League Soccer contingent of U.S. players not called up, the U.S. was missing regulars Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez at center-back.

Instead, Klinsmann selected Oguchi Onyewu and John Anthony Brooks. The two men struggled to communicate with one another and Ukraine was able to exploit poor positioning on numerous occasions to break down the U.S.

Before last night, Brooks was widely considered to be in contention for the fourth center-back spot on the U.S. roster, but now it looks increasingly likely that spot will go to Clarence Goodson.

 

Find Some Goals

LARNACA, CYPRUS - MARCH 05: Roman Bezus (R)  of the Ukraine stands over Clint Dempsey of the USA during the Ukraine v USA International Friendly  at Antonis Papadopoulos stadium on March 5, 2014 in Larnaca, Cyprus.  (Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Get
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Getty Images

In three consecutive games on European soil, the U.S. has not scored a goal. Again, there were a number of important USMNT players missing, but considering the fact that the U.S. fielded potential starters at all four attacking positions last night means there's no excuse for the lackluster offense.

Jozy Altidore's form at Sunderland is a continuing concern, especially with only two months left until the U.S. goes to Brazil. Things are no better with Clint Dempsey, who has been suffering through one of the worst periods of form in his career. Alejandro Bedoya and Fabian Johnson started on the wings, as they both could in Brazil, but both failed to produce.

 

Show Some Urgency

Petros Karadjias/Associated Press

As has become prevalent in the Klinsmann era, the U.S. once again got off to a slow start on Wednesday night. This has become an increasing concern, especially considering the teams the U.S. will face in the World Cup group stage.

If the U.S. heads to Brazil and it takes them 45 minutes to wake up, they're going to find themselves down three goals at halftime to Ghana, Portugal or Germany. And the U.S. simply isn't good enough to make up that deficit. It needs to be ready straight from the whistle and Klinsmann needs to do a better job getting his team ready to play. 

Another factor that was so shocking last night was that many of the players on the field for the U.S. are on the fringes of the World Cup roster and yet showed no urgency in their play. Perhaps that's because they're simply not good enough for international competition.

 

Win on the Road

As mentioned before, the U.S. has now gone winless and goalless in its last three games on European soil. While the World Cup represents a neutral site, so did last night's game, which was played in Cyprus. Many of Klinsmann's wins over the past year have come on American soil. When the team is on the road, especially in Brazil, where it will be traveling long distances between each game, Klinsmann needs to do a better job getting them ready to go.

 

Cut the Fringe and Stop Experimenting

One of the trademarks of the Klinsmann era has been his willingness to give many different players opportunities to play with the national team. But with the World Cup only two months away, it's time to stop experimenting, cut the fringe and get to work.

Edgar Castillo, once again, proved he is not an international-class player. Sacha Kljestan did the same. And Alejandro Bedoya, having started eight of the U.S.'s last 10 games, once again contributed very little to the U.S. attack.

Castillo and Kljestan should be done for this World Cup cycle and Bedoya should be relegated to the bench.

 

Follow me on Twitter @JohnDHalloran

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