This is part one in a two part series illustrating the recent struggles endured by the US National Team. Part one analyzed Bob Bradley's influence, and part two will look at how specific players have helped or hurt themselves in the last month. For part one, click here.
In the first part of this series, I analyzed the role that the coaching staff has played in the recent struggles endured by the United States. Bob Bradley certainly can't go without blame, and neither can some of the players.
Whose recent performances have helped cement a spot in the squad? Who has been hurt by poor form? Who might be given a chance to shine during the upcoming Gold Cup?
Make room for these guys
Spector hasn't featured for the US too frequently due to injuries sustained by playing for West Ham, but US fans have recently been given a glimpse of what they've been missing.
His poise in defense and willingness to push forward are reminiscent of his predecessor, Frankie Hejduk. Only, Spector is a more complete talent and is at the beginning of his career while Hejduk's days are coming to an end.
During both the Brazil and Italy matches, Spector showed a great deal of tenacity and intelligence. He didn't make any foolish tackles, he made good passes out of the back, and did a fairly good job of keeping the right side of the defense locked down.
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder.
That definitely holds true in the case of Mo Edu and his knee injury.
Edu's injury happened at an awful time. His stock was rising at an astronomical rate thanks to some great performances for Rangers, and he would make a perfect compliment to Michael Bradley in the center of the US midfield. He's disciplined, he's athletic, and he's smart.
The US has definitely missed his presence in their last few matches. Defense has been incredibly erratic and Ricardo Clark and Pablo Mastroeni aren't the answer.
Edu has solidified his spot in the lineup by not appearing in the lineup at all.
Freddy Adu, Jose Francisco Torres
The most reliable offensive weapon for the US of late has been Landon Donovan—from the penalty spot.
Desperately praying for the football gods to award a penalty might yield three points against a minnow like Barbados or Granada, but not Italy.
To combat this offensive stagnation, it's clear that the US needs an aggressive, playmaking midfielder who is capable of making quality passes and maintaining possession.
Both Torres and Adu have provided a spark in their limited recent appearances, and the absence of a player with their qualities has been painful to endure.
It's time for a break
Run DMB used to be one of my favorite players. He had lightning quick feet and wasn't afraid to take on any defender.
He starred during the 2002 World Cup and in the following years, which led to a transfer to PSV Eindhoven.
Beasley's class helped spark a run to the Champions League semifinals for PSV and it seemed like he would have the left wing position for the US secured for years to come.
Then the injuries came.
Beasley hasn't been a regular fixture in the squad since a transfer to Rangers, and this has meant a dip in form. Knee injuries have contributed to a lack of pace, and with that lack of pace has come a lack of confidence. Beasley's self-esteem must be plummeting with each poor performance.
His play against Costa Rica was forgettable, and that's being kind.
Against Brazil, his inability to trap a simple pass led to Brazil's second goal. Bob Bradley mercifully took him out after the first 45 minutes, but the damage had been done.
Beasley needs to find a club that can guarantee playing time before he is readily welcomed back to the National Team. He's struggling mightily right now and needs to find a way to restore his confidence.
Klejstan's stock was soaring after the Beijing Olympics. He turned in some great performances against strong opposition and soon found himself turning out for the US team against Sweden. Kljestan picked up a hat trick and found an interested suitor in Celtic.
Celtic couldn't afford his price tag, and he has since returned to MLS, where his form has slipped considerably.
Gone is the decisive playmaking force with an eye for goal, and in his place is an immature player who struggles with the spotlight.
The red card he picked up against Brazil showed a lack of poise. While a straight red card seemed harsh, Kljestan should have been aware that teammate Ricardo Clark was given a straight red for a similar tackle in the previous match.
Just a few weeks ago, I was questioning why he hadn't been named as part of the squad for the World Cup qualifiers. He was leading MLS in scoring and seemed to be in good form.
Then Bradley inserted him into the match against Brazil, and Casey was very lackadaisical. When the US was struggling to win the midfield battle, Casey was walking around the pitch, neglecting to pressure the Brazilian defense.
He certainly wasn't tired. He came on as a sub in the second half, and no international footballer is that out of shape. That leads me to believe that he took himself out of the match on purpose, mentally checked out.
This lack of passion and energy has plagued the US when they fall behind, and it needs to be eradicated.