The United States Men’s National Team has not missed a World Cup since 1990. It may not miss the one in 2014 but if they qualify, it would be in an unimpressive way.
USMNT have the advantage of competing in CONCACAF – the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football. The region is not known for its great soccer nations. The strongest team in the confederation is Mexico, who are 19th in the FIFA world ranking, and they are not even in the USMNT’s qualifying group. The US team is 32nd. Even on paper, they should not have a problem beating the rest of their group. Instead, they are tight with Guatemala, who are 81st in the world and 11th in CONCACAF.
USMNT played the last team in the group Antigua and Barbuda and won the three points with a lucky literally last-minute goal by Eddie Johnson, a player who was not trusted in the national team for two years. Even the head coach, Jurgen Klinsmann was unimpressed and admitted the team needed to do a lot better. For starters, it should create more opportunities to score.
The problem is not the individual players on the team. Major League Soccer has enough talented players Klinsmann can choose from. Johnson proved that against Antigua and Barbuda. Alan Gordon also played his part and Graham Zusi contributed as well with assists. It’s the monotonous and often chaotic play that’s the issue. The players look uninspired and they easily give the ball away. USMNT may have a European coach but there really isn’t any indication of the typical European possession soccer.
Klinsmann focused a lot on the defense positions (except in the last game) and not so much in the attacking. In retrospect, the back line is better than before as they play better under pressure.
Against Antigua and Barbuda, Klinsmann was trying to apply an aggressive 4-2-4 scheme but the defense was still shaky. In its last game against Antigua and Barbuda, USMNT had the ball for longer in the first half but the opponent still created only six shots compared the US’ eight, as Yahoo Sports reports.
USMNT unimpressive play so far in games other than friendlies could be an experiment. Klinsmann could be coaching a team straight for the World Cup and in the mean times doing just enough in order to make it to Brazil. Klinsmann is trying to be flexible and switching players around the field to see how well they can play in any situation. A flexible team would also be harder to beat but so far it has not quite worked that well.
In what many call a relief for the team, the US now needs just a tie against Guatemala in Kansas City next week in order to secure a spot in the next round of World Cup qualifying matches. Finishing in a tie may not be as easy as it sounds as Guatemala have had a good qualifying run so far but playing at home should help matters.