Three things we learned in USA’s defeat to Ukraine

17 Comments

During the USA’s 2-0 friendly defeat to Ukraine on Wednesday, head coach of the U.S. national team Jurgen Klinsmann found out plenty of things about his team.

Some good. Some bad.

But the most important thing is that the match was worthwhile, as some of the areas the U.S. need to work on between now and the World Cup this summer are glaringly obvious. This tuneup acted as the final audition for most of the USA’s European based players, so it was an important 90 minutes for many in the Stars and Stripes.

Let’s have a look at three things we learned in the defeat against Ukraine in Cyprus.

  • U.S. defenders Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler have nothing to worry about

When the U.S. team sheet for the friendly vs. Ukraine was announced, the most intriguing selections looked to be in central defense. That proved to be the case after the game too, as Oguchi Onyewu and John Brooks struggled to contain Ukraine’s lively attack. The first goal came from a miscommunication between Onyewu and Brooks, as the former stepped up high and Brooks remained deep to keep Denys Garmash onside, who teed up Andriy Yarmalenko for the opener. Several times the U.S. looked out of sorts at the back, which also saw a gaping central hole appear for Ukraine’s second goal, as putting together a makeshift defense was always going to be difficult. A back four needs time to gel, and with youngster Brooks still learning and Onyewu given one last chance to prove his worth before the World Cup this summer, it seems as though both could be long shots to be on the plane to Brazil. MLS duo Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler must feel pretty confident their place in the heart of the USA’s defense is secured after watching this match, especially as they have a water-tight partnership that has developed overt he past 12-18months. Hertha Berlin product Brooks is one for the future, while Onyewu’s future with the U.S. national team could be hanging in the balance.

  • Up top, the U.S. are looking a little light

Jozy Altidore played like he has done for most of the season in a Sunderland shirt as he lacked confidence and only had one header that went anywhere near the goal. Altidore cut a forlorn figure up front, and with the likes of Terrence Boyd and Juan Agudelo coming on late and not having a chance to impact the game the options now seem a little sparse. Someone who did was Aron Johannsson, as the Icelandic-American forward sent a sumptuous volley towards goal late on that was cleared off the line and his clever runs showed he’s of international caliber. Right now, Johannsson could jump ahead of Altidore and start a few friendlies before the World Cup, however it’s still a bit much to ask the 23-year-old who has just one goal and a handful of USMNT caps to his name, to lead the line this summer. But Klinsmann might have to.

  • Cameron is the USA’s starting right back

One of the few U.S. player to come out of the game with his head held high, Geoff Cameron proved he should be the USA’s starting right back in Brazil this summer. His marauding runs down the right flank in the first half were the only plus point for the U.S. and he was solid as a rock defensively throughout as the rest of the USA’s defense imploded. In his last twelve appearances for the USA he has played four games at RB, four at center back and four at holding midfield. His versatility is key for Klinsmann this summer and after the inept defensive displays from Onyewu and Brooks, the Stoke City defender could also slot in at CB with either Gonzalez or Besler. Right now, the USA’s other right backs, Steven Cherundolo, Michael Parkhurst and even the likes of Brad Evans, will find it extremely hard to jump ahead of Cameron in the depth chart.

Barcelona plan Cruyff tribute at club’s training center

Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images
Leave a comment

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) One year after his death, Barcelona says it will name the future stadium at its training center after Dutch great Johan Cruyff.

The new stadium at Barcelona’s training center just outside the Catalan city will be called “Johan Cruyff Stadium” in honor of the club’s former player and coach.

Barcelona says in a statement that “the most emblematic building in the facility where future Barca players are coached is to be named after somebody who played such a central role in fostering youth talent at the club.”

Barcelona also says it will commission a “commemorative sculpture” of Cruyff, who died of lung cancer on March 24 last year at age 68. The statue will be placed at Barcelona’s main Camp Nou stadium.

Cruyff is largely credited with launching Barcelona’s era of trophy success, both as a player and a coach.

As a player, Cruyff joined Barcelona midseason in 1973 and led the middle-of-the-table team to its first national title in a decade.

He later returned as a coach and guided Barcelona to four consecutive Spanish leagues from 1991-94 and the club’s first European Cup in 1992.

“I think the tributes are very warming,” said Cruyff’s son, Jordi Cruyff. “It sort of changes the sadness that we might feel as family to lose a father, a husband and a grandfather. It changes to a certain kind of pride to understand that he left something behind.”

MLS Snapshot: Defense optional — Crew SC outlast Timbers, 3-2

AP Photo/Bryan Woolston
Leave a comment

The game in 100 words (or less): As far as teams who get out in the open field and score the lion’s share of their goals on the counter-attacking, there aren’t many MLS teams better than Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers. The two sides met Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, site of their MLS Cup 2015 clash, and lived up to their reputations. Of the five goals scored, two were notched on flat-out counters and two more came to pass through quick transitional movements. Portland (9 points) dropped their first points of the season, falling 3-2 to goals scored by Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Niko Hansen, while Crew SC have back-to-back wins and find themselves level on points (7) with the New York Red Bulls with each side having played four games.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Asprilla opens the scoring early on — 2017 Crew SC defending, same as 2016 Crew SC defending.

11′ — Meram fires home the rebound for 1-1 — One of Portland’s biggest weaknesses last season was their set-piece defending. Looks like not much has changed.

19′ — Higuain feeds Kamara for a 2-1 lead — The question mark that Portland will eventually have to answer is this: How much, if at all, have they improved defensively in the open field? Based on this Crew SC counter-attack, the answer might be “not much.”

45+3′ — Adi recovers to make it 2-2 — Everything Adi does these days (even the bad things, like this first touch) ends up being good.

84′ — Hansen cleans up at the back post for 3-2 — Jake Gleeson made a spectacular reaction save to deny Kamara his second goal of the game, but the rookie, making his MLS debut, was in the right place at the right time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Asprilla (4′), Meram (11′), Kamara (19′), Adi (45+3′), Hansen (84′)

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
Leave a comment

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

AP Photo/Armando Franca
Leave a comment

A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia