A desperate USA team turned to its greatest strength, in its biggest time of need. It wasn’t a specific player, or formation that the US turned to though, it was a city. Enter Columbus, Ohio. The Mariano Rivera of US soccer. Columbus is like the Undertaker at Wrestlemania, with his 21 year winning streak. C-Bus might was well change its name to Soccer City, USA. The magic of Columbus struck again last night, as a truely desperate USMNT turned up the heat, and dominated a must win game vs Guatemala, 4-0. The US actually found themselves in a very similar situation four years ago, after losing a game in Jamaica to put their World Cup dreams on the line. They responded by beating Jamaica 1-0, in Columbus of course, and got their World Cup mission back on track. Last week, the US lost a horrible game in Guatemala, and needed a win in Columbus to once again right the ship. Last night’s win brings the Americans record in C-Bus to 8-0-3, and keeps their unbeaten streak alive in Soccer City.
As you can see, losing was not an option So before I jump into the game, we have to talk about Jurgen Klinsmann, the US coach. JK has come under a ton of fire lately, and deservedly so. He has a tendency to tinker with his lineup to much, and play people out of position. I’ll use Friday’s loss in Guatemala as an example. In that game he played Geoff Cameron at left back instead of center, and DeAndre Yedlin at the wing instead of his usual right back spot. He also played Mix Diskerud in a defensive holding position, when Mix is a much more offensively minded player. Injuries to other players had a little to do with this, but overall JK is not putting his players in the best spot to succeed. Not only that, but then he regularly throws the players under the bus for “not executing” after games, instead of taking any blame himself. I’m no doctor, but blaming a guy for a lack of execution while he is playing out of position seems pretty ridiculous. However, either Jurgen finally heard his detractors, or if he knew a loss would be his ass, he got back to a lineup that works for us.
Michael Bradley is much more effective when his security blanket, Kyle Beckerman is playing behind him. It allows Bradley to push up and create, knowing the dreadlocked midfielder has his back. He also put Yedlin and Cameron back into their usual spots, where each has thrived. Graham Zusi was a surprise starter, but he has played well for the US in the winger role before. The one issue is Edgar Castillo at left back, but once Fabian Johnson is healthy he should be the starting LB again. This lineup was the perfect 11 for the game against Guatemala.
Okay, now for the game. It was pretty obvious from the opening whistle that the US was going to be aggressive, and play with a fervor they clearly lacked in Fridays loss. That intensity payed off quickly, as Cameron sent a long ball to a streaking Zardes. Zardes was flanked by two defenders, and his run set up Clint Dempsey for an easy goal. The ball dropped right to Duece, and he blasted home the opening goal in the 12th minute. The US continued to dominate possession and tempo, and scored again on a set piece in the 35th minute. The goal was set up after Bobby Wood earned a free kick, and Bradley bent in a beautiful ball that Cameron headed past the flat footed keeper. Not even a minute into the second half, Zusi made it 3-0 on a loose ball in the box. Zardes had a poor touch, but Zusi swooped in a banged home goal anyway. After some subs entered, we will get to them in a moment, Jozy blasted in the capper in the 89th minute to complete the laugher, 4-0. It was an emphatic response to the hysteria and panic US fans have been feeling since Friday.
Young gun Christian Pulisic is now tied to the US for his career
This was a big win for the US, but there are still a lot of questions moving forward. Players who played key roles last night such as Beckerman and Dempsey will be 36 and 35 in 2018. It would be hard to lean on those guys for huge roles in Russia, if the US makes it. They really need younger players to step up. And that’s where Christian Pulisic could fit in. The 17 year old just became the youngest player to appear in a qualifier for the USA, and to be honest he didn’t look overwhelmed at all. Granted, it was against a tired and beaten back four, but he showed poise and good control. Pulisic was being courted by Croatia, so JK did the right thing by inserting Pulisic and making sure he represents the stars and stripes in his career. Yedlin is another young player who looks better and better each game. He has been improving at RB for Sunderland, and it has shown in his recent USMNT appearances. Ethan Finlay was a late sub and showed good speed and scoring ability. Finlay actually scored a clean goal, but was called offsides in an absolute horror of a call. The next big test for the US comes in the Copa America, whoch kicks off in June. Hopefully, this win got the boys back on track.
Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Sean