The United States had one bad half Wednesday in Sarajevo – and then one that was just this side of stunning.
Even though it was just a friendly, the take-aways are important for Jurgen Klinsmann’s group, the confidence generated from a stirring comeback and from knowing that a difference making striker (Jozy Altidore, of course) is still on the case.
Here is what else we learned from Wednesday’s 4-3 victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The summer of Jozy Altidore lives on:
More on the fabulously in-form U.S. striker later at PST. But do know this: with Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan, all backed by the shrewd, timely passing of Michael Bradley, there is reason to be excited about the United States’ attack next year in Brazil.
Klinsmann gets the tactical change right:
I suppose some might suggest that Joachim Low phoned in that useful U.S. tactical change at halftime, right? Because Klinsmann doesn’t know his tactics, right? That was all his assistant’s work previously at Germany, right?
Clearly, that’s silly. Klinsmann’s forte is innovation and man management, but it’s not like he doesn’t know how many players to put on the field. The switch from a 4-3-3 into the 4-4-2 at halftime was critical Wednesday, getting Eddie Johnson into a far more comfortable spot. (Can we agree that he’s not a winger now? Please.)
That, along with Altidore’s ongoing sharp movement, unsettled the Bosnian back line. Yes, the home team’s substitutions made for diminished opposition, but credit the United States for taking advantage, and credit the tactical tweak for much of it.
Two successful U.S. debuts:
Center back John Brooks made his U.S. debut, just days after making his Bundesliga debut. Some week, eh?
The 20-year-old German American wasn’t perfect, relaxing momentarily late against Edin Dzeko and paying the price for it on Bosnia’s third goal. And the communication with Geoff Cameron was understandably shaky. But Brooks was otherwise dominant in the air and fine with the ball at his feet. Again, far from perfect, but promising for the youngster.
Iceland-raised striker Aron Johannsson had an active 30 minutes, demonstrating why the United States was excited about his switch. His energy was useful, his movement produced two good looks at goal and Johannsson’s passing was usually sharp.
Michael Bradley’s has a fabulous soccer brain:
But we knew that, didn’t we? Once again, we see that Bradley has a such a great instinct and feel for the game, knowing just when to play safe and when to lean in for something more assertive. Wonderfully weighted balls created two of the goals Wednesday.
The streak lives, for whatever that means: I have a sneaking suspicion that Klinsmann was secretly happy the United States took a punch in the nose in the first half Wednesday. Because Klinsmann has indicated the team’s 11-game winning streak was something of a tin man, a run built almost entirely at home, and all almost entirely against CONCACAF sides that are middling or worse.
Wednesday’s opponent was another level, and the United States needed a half to “get it.” Credit the team for finding the next level and overcoming a good team, one that is headed to the World Cup – the very type of team the United States will need to get by next year in Brazil.
As we always note, it’s just a friendly. But in this case, given the way it played out – a rally on the road from a two-goal deficit – you could argue that Wednesday’s achievement was one of the best moments of a highly profitable summer.
This is why Klinsmann needed a mix of young and old:
The United States was overrun in the midfield and exposed for some naiveté at times in the back in Sarajevo. I know there were some calls for running more of the young guys out there, but this is exactly why Klinsmann needed a young-old blend. Can you imagine what the result might have looked like if guys like Altidore, Bradley and Tim Howard weren’t around to provide some guidance and stability out there?
Left back remains a trouble spot:
You know how Edgar Castillo recently reminded us that he’s probably more effective as a left-sided midfielder than a defender?
And remember how DaMarcus Beasley keeps reminding us that he’s stretched as a defender, and therefore probably better as a midfielder?
Well, doggone if Fabian Johnson may not be better as a midfielder than a left back. Which would be OK … if only there was a solid solution for U.S. left back.
Johnson tends to make things happen when he gets into the opposition half — in a good way. Unfortunately, he can tend to make things happen in his own end — in not such a good way.