The opinions expressed in this article are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of other Massive Report writers. Disclaimers like this are necessary these days when talking about the U.S. Men's National Team.
Our boys lost to Denmark 3-2 yesterday in what is now becoming Ground Hog Day for Jürgen Klinsmann and his team.
I hate losing. I know it's a friendly and it doesn't really matter, but I hate losing. I hate it even more when "U.S.A." is on the uniform. I don't care if its soccer, swimming, polo, water polo, or something called "skeleton," I want to see my country be the best on the playing surface at all times.
I take losses hard and have failed to give any reasonable explanation for this in meaningless games. I guess, if you feel the same as I do, no explanation is needed. And if you don't, then I envy you, as your life is probably much more emotionally stable.
This article is fueled by patriotic passion with a little soccer knowledge thrown in. Here are my 6 thoughts on the game yesterday, feel free to fire away at me in the comments section.
1. USMNT: Defense Optional
Confusion at the back seems to be the common factor in all goals given up in this game. It isn't shocking that breakdowns in communication occur when a different back four are chosen for each game and subs are made halfway through the contest. I can only blame the players so much when the system they are operating in changes from game to game.
I can however, blame the players for stupid mistakes.
Letting Nicholas Bertender unmarked inside the 6-yard box is not a system problem, it is a focus problem. This defense is unfocused and is not talented enough to cover for lapses in judgment. Greg Garza was simply outclassed all game by the Denmark attack. Timmy Chandler was frequently caught out of position and unable to chase down the play. The central defense looked underwhelming most of the game.
What is most alarming is regardless of the personnel or scheme, the porous defense problem remains the same. Perhaps the first choice defense will be decided upon and selected for a run of games to fix this issue, but it doesn't look promising.
2. Christmas in Denmark
That is the only explanation for the sheer number of giveaways by the defense and midfield in this game. Too many "hoof and hope" passes, too many lapses in communication, and too many unforced give aways led to yet another defeat.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: this team needs Wil Trapp to succeed. This isn't a homer line. Trapp excels in pass completion and smart distribution decisions. He can land a long ball on a dime and seems to always make the short pass that gets out of trouble and retains possession. No other U.S. player since the World Cup has demonstrated this ability.
3. Oh, Fabian Johnson Where Art Thou?
I, with the rest of America, fell in love with Johnson during the World Cup where his work rate and talent were undeniable. Since then, we have seen him get benched with his club team and make no discernible impact for country. I am left to wonder if what we saw during last summer was an aberration, and the real Johnson is what we have seen so far this campaign.
4. Jozy Altidore and Aron Johannsson Might Just Work
They didn't get much service this game, but they did well with what they had. I don't want to nitpick on each little pass or wasted opportunity from the duo because together they combined for two goals and one assist, but in a results business, the end result was there from them. The two seemed to work well together, and chemistry appears to be developing. Altidore's assist to Johannsson is evidence that this partnership may work well and be a pillar of the side moving forward.
5. Klinsmann and Company are Unable to Solve Glaring Issues
Once again, this is a results business. The results are staggering: seven goals allowed in the 80th minute or later in the last seven games.
The process isn't great either. Defensive holes, a midfield that struggles to complete passes or show creativity, and forwards that are left on an island. The losses bother me, but not as much as the losses coming the same way each game.
Think what you want about Klinsmann, but the evidence is mounting that, for whatever reason, he and his staff are unable to fix these issues. Maybe it's because of the player pool. Maybe it's because of the inconsistency in the team selected for camp. Maybe it's because of the change in system game to game. Whatever the reason, Klinsmann deserves blame on all counts. He picks the team, he picks the system, and he picks the preparation process.
Results are not up for debate, and the results show Klinsmann is unable to solve the problems most apparent to those watching the USMNT. Wherever you sit on the Klinsmann fence it must be acknowledged that this team is not getting better, and as the head man, that falls on him.
6. Do the Stars and Stripes have a best player?
Like I've said previously, I'm a results oriented writer. The results on the field leave me wondering just who is our best player? I know Bradley is renowned as fantastic by players, coaches, and analysts. Fabian Johnson was arguably the best outfield player for the U.S. at the World Cup. Tim Howard has long been the eraser that covers up mistakes defensively, but he is on leave.
All players considered the "best" for this team are out of form and have been for quite some time. When I think of our best player I look at results on the field, and I don't know that I see any one player stand out above the rest.
Nick Rimando is a difference making goalkeeper, but he has given up too many goals lately to be considered the best player.
Could Jozy Altidore be considered our best player at the moment? Since the World Cup a case can be made that he is. Even if he makes his fair share of bone-headed plays he is scoring goals and tallying assists ,which is the main job of a striker. Vote below to let us know who you think the best player is.
Hopefully, for all Americans, things get sorted out soon.