Goalkeeper Tim Howard is getting all kinds of well-earned props for saving more shots than any keeper in the history of the World Cup. We knew we had a great one in Howard already, and he follows in a line of world class American net minders (Keller, Friedel). Of course this number of saves also means that our defense was under enormous pressure the entire game, and one disappointment was that coach Jurgen Klinsmann clearly had no idea how to relieve it. Only once desperation time arrived did the US get sustained chances in an wide-open affair.
It also did not help that Klinsmanns tactical and strategic choices were poor. Bradley had a horrible Cup, but he played out of position every game. A superstar of a defensive midfielder, Bradley played offensive mid. Jones, who gave supreme effort, was excellent in Bradley’s defensive mid spot, but it’s hard to be certain that the the US was ultimately better off. Dempsey did very little after Altidore’s injury because he’s not a holding forward and Klinsmann only brought one. There is no reason to think that the US would have been worse off had we taken Landon Donovan, and in fact he could have been an excellent sub a various points in the tournament. It’s not like this is a new thought, but it bears stating for the record.
Big props to DeMarcus Beasley for an excellent Cup. I’ve never cared for his game since his passes are errant and his shot nonexistent. His pace, though, remains excellent, and he was by and large fantastic as a fullback this time after having played midfield in previous Cups.
Fabian Johnson, until his injury, was great, and capably replaced by a very speedy Yedlin. Those two are the future of the squad right there. The youngster Green, whose first touch was good enough for a goal, may also be part of this youth movement.
MLS players did not shine. Zusi was awful, Dempsey was mediocre in a miscast role, and Wondolowski missed a wide open shot that would have tied the Belgium game. As much as MLS has improved over the years—and make no mistake, it is in all respects a dramatically better league than it used to be—it’s clearly not world class. It remains a league for second class players and first class players past their prime. If Klinsmann is right about anything, he’s right about the need for US players to get into the European leagues. They remain the best, and if the US hopes to produce a great national team, we need to have players playing against the best players more consistently.
I have from the beginning of Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure argued that he’s the wrong man for the job. I have not changed my opinion.