There will be more analysis to come; for now, let’s talk about the three major take-aways from a real eye-opener.
(See first-half notes here for more PST analysis.)
Transition game is flying high
We really should start here: Scotland is somewhere south of “just OK” at the moment, I mean, not to be rude, but … yeah.
So let’s filter all this, put a small governor on the engine as we all race to Vegas with fists full of cash to bet “United States to make the World Cup semifinal!”
Still, it really was something else to see the United States overwhelm, completely dominate a mid-level European side. This is what American sides do to CONCACAF minnows. Usually, anyway. But not European teams whose rosters are stocked with players from top-tier UEFA associations.
It wasn’t just the score that matters – it was the stylistic manner of achievement.
I’ve never seen the United States transition into attack so quickly. The American players raced aggressively, confidently into position upon gaining the ball. It really does make for a more entertaining visual. More importantly in the bigger picture, it can be very effective, especially in breaking down those CONCACAF underdogs who sit back, parking-the-bus style.
And that’s not an easy thing to accomplish, to fashion a system around just a few shared practices over nine months. It’s surely a credit to coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who has apparently put the emphasis in all the right places.
Said Landon Donovan: “The three guys in the middle really did a great job of moving and passing quickly. It really made it easy for Jose and myself wide. When you get that much space out there, you’re going to score eventually.”
Landon Donovan, of course … but there was another eye-popping performance
Donovan will earn all the Man of the Match mentions, and rightly so. His hat trick was just the start; the program’s all-time leading scorer was a direct contributor on the other two goals, as well.
But Michael Bradley’s night deserves special mention, too. He was an absolute force in midfield, with the ball and without it.
When you hit a goal like Bradley’s, a sublime half-volley highlight-maker that curled beautifully into goal, and that’s not even the man’s most significant contribution of the night, that says so much.
But it was, indeed, his overall body of work that helped manufacture such a night of overwhelming soccer. His tackling was forceful but prudent; the tendency to collect needless cards was something he needed to prune away from his game. Saturday, Bradley managed it beautifully, seeing the passing lanes and stepping into them and directing the team on when to press collectively and when to sit back and organize.
With the ball, he was the best at moving possession quickly, creating the tick-tick-tick connections that slowly degrade a defense. Again, don’t underestimate how important that will be against teams that dig in defensively; quick transition is so often the key to getting around those sides, speeding past them before they organize defensively.
Also file under “good performances”
Fabian Johnson may just make everyone forget about Timmy Chandler after all. Again, Scotland wasn’t the toughest of tests; Brazil is a different level, a challenge now dangling just days away.
And eventually, Johnson will need to be even more assertive in the offensive end; that 4-3-3 Klinsmann deployed Saturday depends on fullbacks for width in the final third. For his starting debut, however, Johnson did plenty.
Terrence Boyd doesn’t always make the best choices near goal, a measure of his youth and inexperience. But he’ll learn. For now, there’s so much to like, so very much upside in his energy, enthusiasm and ability to find great spots.
Maurice Edu was positioned perfectly all night, embracing his duties of “screen and distribute.” We’d probably be talking about how well Jermaine Jones performed two-way duty, except that Bradley’s blue ribbon work partially obscures some of the good doings of his central midfield mate. Truly, all three men in the U.S. triangle were on top of things.
Jose Torres had his moments, creative and quick — although he did seem stronger in the first 30 minutes than in the last hour.