1. A ROAD POINT IN CONCACAF...
Is never a bad thing. If you win your home games and get results on the road you're going to advance. Is it a missed opportunity to push Trinidad down in the standings, of course it is. But in the grand scheme of things, the US is pretty much assured of getting out of this group and while they should win it, they don't need to finish first to qualify for The Hex.
This was a game however, that was begging to be won, from either side. Yet good chances were few and far between though Jermaine Jones tried his best from distance in the second half. Of all the games on the US schedule for this semifinal round, away to Trinidad and Tobago was always going to be toughest. There's playing to a hard fought draw, and then there's settling for one, and I'm not sure what the USMNT did yesterday, but it sure didn't seem like they were trying to win this game late.
SPI projections to advance, CONCACAF Group C. Good week for T&T (up from 54%); bad for Guatemala (down from 47%). pic.twitter.com/raR4ujBLbJ— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) November 18, 2015
The USA is likely going to favored in its four remaining games (at/vs GUA, vs TRI, at VIN) and anything less than a full 12 points could be concerning. It's going to be a very busy couple of years for the USMNT with Copa America next summer followed by The Hex and the Gold Cup in 2017. The US should be long past settling for road points in CONCACAF games, especially goalless draws, and Klinsmann can claim all he wants about his team progressing on the field, the results speak otherwise.
2. WOOD IS THE BEST AMERICAN STRIKER RIGHT NOW
Not the best striker on the US roster, I mean the best striker, period, in the American player pool right now. He's in form with both club and country and why Klinsmann decided to break up the promising partnership up top for the Trinidad game is beyond me. Klinsmann's drastic changes to the same formation made zero sense and at Trinidad, a game that was begging to be won, Klinsmann sat on his substitutions and seemingly played for a draw.
I say Wood is the best striker right now mostly based on production, but Jozy Altidore did not have a bad game yesterday. He was fairly active, tracked back well into the gaps an attacking midfield type player would operate in, and should have had at least one assist if Gyasi Zardes could finish. Do I think Wood would've converted one of those chances? I'm not sure, but I think a Wood-Altidore pairing would've created more chances overall despite the stagnant US midfield play.
Klinsmann talks about rewarding top players who perform in Europe, and while the second division of Germany is probably not a top league, Wood has routinely performed in 2015. He should have gotten the start in the USA's toughest qualifier over Zardes and at the very least, should have had longer than 15 minutes to win the game. Wood's international career was jump started with game winners off the bench against Germany and Netherlands, but that shouldn't be his role next year. It should be in the starting lineup.
3. DOES THE USMNT KNOW WHAT A COUNTER ATTACK IS?
This result will not quell any criticism of Klinsmann going into the winter. His squad selection for these two games was again poor, handcuffing his defense to four centerbacks with DeAndre Yedlin and Fabian Johnson playing midfield roles in Trinidad. Tim Ream has been a capable left back and Michael Orozco was fine yesterday but both defenders offered little support going forward for the midfield and that stopped more than one promising attack for the US.
Soccer has become so specialized now that it almost seems difficult for teams to play or transition back to a basic 4-4-2 formation, and the US struggled mightily to generate any offense. I understand that Klinsmann is trying to drill his teams into a possession based attack, and the US has shown improvement in general build up play at times under his tenure. But they've forgotten about the counter attack entirely, something this team has thrived on for years, and that poses a huge problem.
Klinsmann playing a flat midfield worked much better defensively that I thought it would, and that was with Orozco at right back. But sacrificing the fullbacks getting forward, Klinsmann not only killed his possession based attack but it gave the US almost zero opportunities to counter. The flat formation doesn't have enough players in position to get the ball upfield quickly, even with Michael Bradley making long runs into the attacking half and third.
Klinsmann tactics, or rather lackthereof, have been a sore spot for many fans over his tenure with the US National Team. Yesterday with a stagnant second half, he inserted Darlington Nagbe into the midfield and pushed Johnson back into defense. With the possibility now of an good overlapping fullback to get into the attack, the US decided to attack on Yedlin's right flank with little success. This made no sense and a 75th minute sub of Bobby Wood for Gyasi Zardes was at least 15 minutes too late, and in my opinion 75 minutes too late. Yes, the last two games desperately needed Alejandro Bedoya, but he's not a game changing player either, just a international caliber player that would have helped the stagnant US team, especially in Trinidad.
Starting with the winter camp in January, Klinsmann is going to have to figure out either a tactical plan that his team can succeed with or be prepared to adjust to his opponents. I think the US is versatile and deep enough to do both, and somehow they're doing neither right now. That starts at the top with the head coach. He'll have the winter camp to get a much better look at Darlington Nagbe and hopefully other MLS veterans on the fringe of/exiled from the national team (paging Dax McCarty, Lee Nguyen and Benny Feilhaber) to finally inject some creativity and substance to the US attack.
The USMNT should be a defensive first team, like it always has been in the modern era, that can build from the back just as well as they can blitz you on the counter. Right now, they can't do either, and if the head coach doesn't realize that's a problem then the critics of him will not go away quietly.