Surrendering a two-goal lead to Mexico proved that Jurgen Klinsmann still has work to do to get the USMNT right ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
The German coach should concentrate on two key areas. The first must be fortifying an alarmingly generous defence.
Against Mexico, L.A. Galaxy centre-back Omar Gonzalez was the biggest culprit. He struggled to identify midfield runners or track the movement of Mexico's forward line all night.
Sports Illustrated writer Grant Wahl outlined how Gonzalez contributed to both Mexico goals:
After a terrific first half in which Michael Bradley led a tour-de-force U.S. performance, the Americans let down their guard in the second half as an improved Mexico got back in the game and earned a deserved tie. The big concern for U.S. fans will be the play of center back Omar Gonzalez, who was unable to fight through a pick and lost his man on Mexico’s first goal and got caught ball-watching on El Tri’s second.
The heart of the back four rates as the most obvious weak spot ahead of the World Cup, with Gonzalez its shakiest member, as Goal USA editor Seth Vertelney emphasises:
The obvious answer to plugging the chasm the wandering Gonzalez creates, is to plug Geoff Cameron into the gap, as Brian Sciaretta of AmericanSoccerNow.com points out.
It's a move Klinsmann should make now.
Currently plying his trade for English Premier League outfit Stoke City, Cameron would at least be a more aggressive stopper.
The ex-Houston Dynamo is comfortable on the ball and offers an obvious physical presence. Cameron would certainly be a more reliable figure at the back than Gonzalez.
His defensive statistics, via WhoScored.com, are encouraging:
|Geoff Cameron Defensive Numbers|
|Tackles per game||Interceptions||Clearances||Blocked Shots|
Cameron currently spends his time raiding the right flank as a full-back for The Potters. But he is versatile enough to shift into a central role.
Klinsmann would be wise to begin working on that transition now.
He would also be smart to find some support for schemer Michael Bradley. There is a distinct danger of becoming over-reliant on the Toronto FC playmaker.
Bradley was in imperious form against Mexico. He scored the first goal for the USMNT and then provided the second with a clever touch for striker Chris Wondolowski.
Bradley showed the kind of difference he makes. The problem is few other members of the squad share his creative instincts.
Bradley's guile prompted Klinsmann to move him into a No. 10 role, according to MLSSoccer.com writer Andrew Wieber. While it worked against Mexico, a lone creative ace will soon find himself isolated and nullified at a World Cup
Klinsmann must surround Bradley with like-minded players. Sadly, that's a tough task given the diminishing skills of forwards like Clint Dempsey and particularly Landon Donovan.
But Klinsmann may have found a potential gem in the form of 18-year-old dual-national forward Julian Green.
USA Today scribe Kelly Whiteside reported that Green's brief cameo against Mexico left Klinsmann impressed:
You saw in some moments what this kid is actually capable to do, how he goes in the box, draws two guys and should have gotten the penalty. Obviously he was nervous to play his first cap in front of 60,000 against Mexico, here and there you slip, lose your balance like it happened once there.
But the team welcomed him with open arms. When you are among other players you check each other out, and within 10 minutes (you know) whether he's a good player or not. Julian is a very good player.
Klinsmann's words are high praise for the Bayern Munich reserve. Green's pace and trickery would be an excellent foil for Bradley's clever passing.
The USMNT needs a clear way to frighten defences this summer. Unleashing Green on an unsuspecting tournament could give Klinsmann exactly that.
Green needs to be counted on as a regular starter sooner rather than later.
In the next two months, Klinsmann has to find ways to shore things up at the back, as well as adding more sparkle in attack.
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