It's important to remember when playing international exhibitions or friendlies (friendlys?), that the final score matters very little and the individual performances, or lack thereof, should be the focus. Yes, the United States got railroaded by a Belgium team that is could become a force in Europe for the rest of the decade. Yes, the USA beat a very solid Germany squad with a young keeper that had a pretty bad day. I don't like using the phrase "B Squad" for a team that has Miroslav Klose, Lukas Podolski and Per Mertesacker on it. But regardless, the USA has a lot of positives and negatives to take from their two matches vs. Belgium and Germany and a lot of attacking confidence heading into three very important CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers.
Clint Dempsey is a World Class goal scorer...
But he's not the player who makes the USA a complete team. That's Michael Bradley. The difference with Bradley in the midfield was night and day in the Belgium and Germany games as the US is able to possess and ball and counter very quickly with both Bradley and Jones in the two "holding" midfield spots. Sacha Kljestan is a very versatile player but Klinsmann's system he looked out of place in the deep midfield role.
...and (perhaps more importantly) a World Class captain.
Forget the goal scoring ability for just a few seconds. I was thrilled when Dempsey was named captain for a number of reasons including, obviously, on-field talent, marketability, seniority and Jermaine Jones' love of yellow cards. But it's Dempsey's professionalism, leadership and constant drive to improve that Jurgen Klinsmann sees and that have stood out in his short tenure as Captain America. His postgame quotes about the number of goals conceded as a team (and remember, Dempsey's more or less a striker, and rarely factors into goals allowed) in the two matches and needing to do better rang very true to most of the team and the fans. It was a reminder that while a win is nice, getting better is more important.
Remember when the USA couldn't find a left-back?
DaMarcus Beasley has locked down that spot temporarily but now it's the opposite side of the defense that's giving the USA problems. Geoff Cameron in particular and the entire USA backline (more on the center backs next...) had no answer for Belgium (to be fair, the rest of the world might not have an answer either) and Brad Evans, a deputized midfielder and occasional right back, put in a rather solid shift against Germany. I know that the US backline has been a rotating group of players over the last year, but at some point Jurgen Klinsmann needs to put down a back line in ink for Brazil. Paging Steve Cherundolo...
Omar Gonzalez and Matt Belser are the center backs of the future...
As in Russia 2018. The question remains are they the center pairing that can hold the fort in Brazil next summer. I have my doubts still, but there is a lot of time left in CONCACAF qualifying, MLS and a whole calendar year to calm my nerves. If Carlos Bocanegra lights up the Gold Cup I still want to see him in the back for one last World Cup run before passing the torch to the young guns.
Jozy Altidore's confidence is back in a USMNT shirt...
Or at least it was for 80 minutes. But this was the type of breakout performance that Jozy needed for the USA. He's been on fire for his club team AZ, with 31 goals in all competitions last season. But the USMNT goals had all but gone dry despite getting a rather uninterrupted run of caps. But after almost two whole calendar years, Jozy scored in the run of play (he did have a PK against Slovenia in November '11 but his last goal came in the 2011 Gold Cup vs. Guadeloupe) after smashing home a volley into the upper corner. Now if Jozy can string together a few games like he had against Germany in this next round of three WCQs, the USA should be in fairly good shape.
USA - Germany Player Ratings
GK Tim Howard (4) - No, that's not a harsh rating and I thought about going lower. This was one of Howard's worst games in recent memory. Germany had several opportunities in the first half that I think Howard could have done better with and if Howard was on his "A" game I think he stops one of the two long range efforts late. His final 10 minutes after he allowed the two goals were top notch and saved his rating from going lower.
LB DaMarcus Beasley (5) - Got badly beaten on occasion but overall did pretty well. The idea of having Beasley and F. Johnson on the left hand side worked very well.
Sub Edgar Castillo (4) - It's hard to knock Castillo's thirty minute shift in the back, as he did well getting forward in the attack, but not closing down Sam lead to the shot and rebound that led to Germany's third goal.
CB Omar Gonzalez (4) - Needs to prove that he can play 90 minutes at the international level and not just 70-75. Again, it's Gonzalez's eighth cap, but needs to prove to Klinsmann and the US fans that's he's ready for Brazil.
CB Matt Belser (5) - Didn't have a bad game but the organization fell apart late in the match and Belser almost gave away a late penalty (replays inconclusive) in the closing stages.
RB Brad Evans - (7) - For a deputized midfielder, Evans performance on the backline was solid with several acrobatic clearances. Like Beasley, I don't think Evans is a long term solution at right back, however, until Geoff Cameron's USMNT form improves, this starting spot is up for grabs.
LM Fabian Johnson (5) - Only had one half of play as he was subbed off as with an injury but Johnson fared well in the midfield with a decent two-way game but didn't make a serious impact on the game offensively.
Sub Brad Davis (5) - The left footed winger just isn't creating enough when he's on the field for me, but put in a decent shift in relief of Fabian Johnson. However, that late corner that found Jermaine Jones and almost was the US' fifth goal, is exactly what Klinsmann and fans want to see.
CM Jermaine Jones (8) - His usual hard-working self, if anyone deserves credit for that horrendous own-goal by German GK ter Stegen, it's Jones. His pressure off a short goal kick kept the ball in the German defensive third and eventually into the back of the net.
CM Michael Bradley (7) - For whatever reason, the USA just plays better with Bradley in the midfield. His distribution is always excellent and he is the best US ball controller under pressure and in my opinion he's one of the best box-to-box midfielders in the game.
RM Graham Zusi (6) - Had several dangerous crosses, including assisting on Altidore's opener but still showing his international inexperience (12 caps) on the defensive end in my opinion.
Sub Eddie Johnson (6) - Still proving he is a dangerous option off the bench offensive and continues to put in very solid two-way games on the outside of the midfield.
AM Clint Dempsey (10) - I don't want to hear that the USA doesn't have world class talents. Captain Clint took over this game in the second half and those two long distance strikes means he only trails Landon Donovan as the all-time USMNT goals leader.
ST Jozy Altidore (9) - Starting causing havoc for the German backline immediately after kickoff and was rightly rewarded with a brilliant volley for his first goal in the run of play since June 11, 2011. It wasn't just his goal, but his ability to create that was on display as his assist on Dempsey's first goal was sublime and his work rate for his 80-minute shift was outstanding.
Sub Terrence Boyd (4) - A ten minute cameo for Boyd as he really came on to save Jozy for the qualifiers. Not really enough time to make a positive impact, but Boyd needs to remember he's a lone, holding striker (in theory) and possess/distribute better when on the ball and not always look to shoot in traffic.