June 1, 2014
By Charles Cuttone, Executive Editor
WORLD CUP READY?
U.S. still needs to work out some kinks
HARRISON, N.J. - The United States National Team is not ready for the World Cup.
Jurgen Klinsmann knows it, but he’s hoping by the time the event kicks off in Brazil on June 12, that won’t be the case.
Klinsmann, who made some surprising roster selections in cutting down to his final 23-man squad well before Monday’s deadline for submitting the names to FIFA, is using the three send-off games as a way to decide who is likely to see significant playing time in Brazil.
“Overall what we expected,” Klinsmann said following Sunday’s 2-1 win over Turkey,a less than spectacular performance that showed deficiencies throughout the U.S. eleven. “Overall it was a good game based on the workload these guys have on their legs the last two weeks."
Klinsmann used the friendly at Red Bull Arena to give as many players as possible significant playing time, using all six of his allotted substitutions before the 70th minute, including giving Brad Guzan the entire second half in goal.
“We tried to time the subs and give them all their minutes,” Klinsmann said. “It is important to see who is dealing with the workload. We have to give everyone an opportunity to step in.”
The U.S. seemed confused at times in the first half, as a somewhat fluid diamond midfield caused a few problems on the defensive side of the ball.
Still, there were some moments of brilliance, when Michael Bradley blooped a pass into the penalty area to an onrushing Fabian Johnson, who beat goalkeeper Onur Recep Kivrak for a 1-0 advantage.
“A beautiful goal by Fabian Johnson, with Michael Bradley chipping the ball over the back line,” Klinsmann effused.
The U.S. almost had an earlier goal, but it was called back. A second half goal on a tap in by Clint Dempsey provided the margin of victory, but still Klinsmann is waiting for Jozy Altidore to break his slump, joking that it would be OK for it to happen against Ghana.
After making three changes at halftime, swapping out the goalkeepers, putting in Kyle Beckerman for Jermaine Jones and sending in John Brooks to replace Matt Besler, Klinsmann made the rest of his moves around the hour mark.
DeAndre Yedlin went in for Johnson, Julian Green replaced Brad Davis and Mix Diskurrud took over for Graham Zusi.
Green, the biggest surprise selection for the World Cup squad, seen by many as taking Landon Donovan’s spot on the roster, struggled in only his second half-hour in a U.S. uniform. But Klinsmann said he was OK with where the 18-year old is now.
“In every session he gets stronger and fresher,” Klinsmann said of the German-born Green, who split time at the youth level with both U.S. and German National Team programs. “He’s coming along. He feels more and more part of it.”
Clearly Green is still getting to know his teammates, and two weeks before the World Cup doesn’t seem like the best time to be in that position.
The U.S. has one more tuneup game, against Nigeria on June 7, before being thrown into the pressure cooker of what is being called this World Cup’s "group of death." Typically the tuneups are arranged to replicate the first round of the World Cup, and simulate at least the style of the opponents in those games. Azerbaijan and Turkey have hardly been comparable to Germany and Portugal, but the next test, in Jacksonville, could give the U.S. a real indication if they are indeed ready for the World Cup opener against Ghana, a team that has beaten them at each of the last two World Cups.
Ready or not, it starts in two weeks.