If creating a World Cup roster is akin to building a car, the 32 teams heading to Brazil should be in the fine-tuning stages at this point. A little more speed here. A tad more force there. With just over two weeks before the World Cup officially kicks off, teams should be worrying about the little things.
For Jurgen Klinsmann and his U.S. Soccer 23-man squad, the little things will have to wait.
After Klinsmann's squad defeated Azerbaijan 2-0 in the first of three send-off matches before leaving for Brazil, parts are all over the garage and big things are still being decided. Do we need a new front end? Does anyone really know if the back line will hold up under pressure, or will it fall apart in the intense heat?
Following Tuesday's match, Klinsmann said, via Franco Panizo of Soccer by Ives:
I think it was exactly what we needed at this point of our preparation after two fully loaded weeks at Stanford with a lot of training sessions, a lot of work. They gave us a good game. We needed to grind it out. That’s what we told the players before. You’ve got to be patient. You’ve got to find a way to score a goal and then a second one.
The engine of Klinsmann's car is in place—we know who and what powers the USMNT—but with just two matches and a few weeks of training left between the official start of this World Cup race, a lot still needs to be done if anyone expects Klinsmann's team to go anywhere.
That said, the first send-off match will never be as crisp as the last, and while the opponent in Tuesday's victory is the weakest of the three the USMNT will face before leaving for Brazil—Azerbaijan is ranked 85th in the current FIFA rankings, while Turkey is 39th and Nigeria 44th—one must hope Tuesday's result was a 90-minute exercise in removing all of the rust.
There are questions that linger—we chose 11 loose parts, if you will—some of which Klinsmann may know the answers to, with others that Tuesday did little to fix.