USA vs. Azerbaijan: 6 Things We Learned
On Tuesday night in San Francisco, in the first of a three-game send-off series before they head to the World Cup, the United States men's national team defeated Azerbaijan 2-0.
The win came on the back of goals by second-half substitutes Mix Diskerud and Aron Johannsson.
Here are six things we learned from the match.
Michael Bradley Didn't Look Like Himself
Although he was involved in several dangerous attacking combinations and helped set up the first goal, Michael Bradley was not his usual self on Tuesday night.
He uncharacteristically gave the ball away on multiple occasions, especially in the second half.
On one occasion, shortly after the break, his inability to maintain possession resulted in a dangerous opportunity for Azerbaijan.
Bradley's performance was certainly nothing like his last international match. After his performance against Mexico, El Tri head coach Miguel Herrera said, "Bradley looked as if he was the best player in the world."
A Mixed Bag from Jozy Altidore
Coming off a two-goal season for Sunderland this past year, one of the major concerns for U.S. fans heading into this summer's World Cup has been the form of primary striker Jozy Altidore.
On Tuesday, Altidore had a mixed performance.
He didn't get on the scoresheet and his touch was lacking at times, but he did well in his holdup role and was involved in several dangerous combinations. He also earned a number of free-kicks, turned well under pressure and hustled the entire match.
Some of his more notable contributions to the match were a sequence in the 28th minute in which he could have easily earned a handball for a U.S. penalty, and his nice set up of Brad Davis in the 53rd minute.
It Needs to Be Better from Alejandro Bedoya
In the first half, Alejandro Bedoya had his moments, including being involved in a couple of promising attacks.
He disappeared in the second half, though, and was finally withdrawn in the 71st minute.
Fair or not, with no Landon Donovan on the roster, Alejandro Bedoya will be expected to be an impact player for the U.S. after seemingly winning the job on the left side of the midfield—a role many predicted would belong to Donovan.
Bedoya didn't have the impact the U.S. will need to be successful in the World Cup. If he can't be successful against Azerbaijan, there's no reason to believe he can get it done against Ghana, Portugal or Germany.
It Was Tidy in the Back
Although Azerbaijan didn't offer much on the attack, the U.S. back line did well for the most part.
Matt Besler had a couple of shaky moments early in the game, but he settled in nicely to win a number of important challenges and help the U.S. to a clean sheet.
Geoff Cameron also did his job defensively, while DaMarcus Beasley not only defended well, but also got forward into the attack on multiple occasions.
Omar Gonzalez, who has been suffering through a knee injury, did his part in the second half.
Fabian Johnson Was the Best Player on the Field for the U.S.
Starting at right-back, Fabian Johnson had a great game.
He was the key player in many of the U.S.'s best attacks, jump-starting the offense with his delivery from the back, service from the wing and through his desire to get forward.
Can the Jermaine Jones-Michael Bradley Midfield Combination Work?
One of the big criticisms of the Jermaine Jones-Michael Bradley midfield combination has been that Bradley is often left sitting deeper, while Jones gets to move into the attack.
Meanwhile, when Bradley has been partnered with a true defensive midfielder, he has been able to get forward and produce some of his brightest displays for the USMNT.
On Tuesday, Jones was given the No. 6 role, which should have allowed Bradley to make a much bigger impact on the match. However, once again, the Jones-Bradley combination failed.
Jones did his part, sitting in front of the back four, just as a player like Kyle Beckerman would have done.
Bradley, however, struggled to impact the match.
Perhaps it was just an off night from Bradley, but the statistics on the Jones-Bradley midfield combination are not encouraging.
In the Jurgen Klinsmann era, in a two-man central midfield system, Bradley has two goals and four assists. All of those tallies have come when Bradley was partnered with a different midfielder (Danny Williams, Maurice Edu, Geoff Cameron, Kyle Beckerman and Sacha Kljestan).
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