Jurgen Klinsmann utilised the World Cup warm-up friendly with Mexico to test some of the United States' fringe players in a difficult environment; a plan that nearly yielded the Americans a simple victory.
The German coach watched on as his side blew a 2-0 goal lead in the second half. Michael Bradley, fresh from his return to MLS, netted the opener on the quarter-of-an-hour mark. Chris Wondolowski added to the score on 28 minutes, delicately finishing Bradley's flicked header at the back post.
El Tri struck back after half-time. Goals from Rafael Marquez and Alan Pulido levelled proceedings, providing Klinsmann with plenty to think about in a match that was outlined as "the last MLS players' audition" before Brazil by Graham Parker of The Guardian.
Klinsmann acknowledged his experimental team lacked a certain sharpness after the match, suggesting the flow of USA's play needs to quickly improve, tweeted by UnivisionSports and via Soccer Translator:
J. Klinsmann: "There wasn't that sharpness you need at international level. Mexico is ahead of us in rhythm." via @UnivisionSports— Soccer Translator (@worldfootballcm) April 3, 2014
For those who missed the match, Klinsmann deployed a loose 4-4-2 system that aimed to utilise the smart passing game of both Bradley and Clint Dempsey, noted by the official US Soccer feed:
Landon Donovan, still the nation's biggest name at the age of 32, was omitted from the starting XI due to both an injury and poor form in training. Donovan entered the match for Graham Zusi in the 59th minute. Franco Panizo of MLSsoccer.com and ESPN's Jeff Carlisle provided the details:
Klinsmann says Donovan is bothered by a left knee issue but also didn't train well yesterday, which led to his benching. "He had no tempo."— Franco Panizo (@FrancoPanizo) April 3, 2014
Let me rephrase, Klinsmann said LD understood why he didn't start. #usmnt— Jeff Carlisle (@JeffreyCarlisle) April 3, 2014
A feature of the second half was USA's struggle against Mexico's improved attack. Having deployed an extra striker, the visitors appeared far more confortable when dealing with Omar Gonzalez and an ever-changing US defence.
Klinsmann appears unsure of who will partner the centre-back at the World Cup but insists the 25-year-old is likely to start when the stakes rise in South America, per LA Galaxy reporter Adam Serrano:
Carlisle suggested Klinsmann isn't ready to commit on his centre-back pairing, indicating there's plenty left to play for during the USA's remaining warm-up ties:
Klinsmann says competition for CB is "open. How much it is difficult to say." #usmnt— Jeff Carlisle (@JeffreyCarlisle) April 3, 2014
Despite a slightly disappointing result in the end, Klinsmann took to social media to thank American supporters for creating an excellent noise during the tightly fought battle:
thanks to all #USMNT fans for a fantastic atmosphare vs Mexico! It was an exciting match !!— Jürgen Klinsmann (@J_Klinsmann) April 3, 2014
Ultimately, the German boss will be pleased to have brought together some of his unfancied players for this match. Julian Green's cameo appearance hints toward a bright future for the USMNT, but many fans will be worried about the defensive situation at present.
Klinsmann is sure to take full advantage of the nation's remaining fixtures before heading to Brazil. He possesses a talented crop of players, a side that can cause most teams problems on their day. But there's little doubt USA need to up their intensity across 90 minutes if the World Cup is to produce any success.