For the most part, the Yanks escaped the bumpy, cratered field at the Estadio Pedro Marrero in Havana without incident. Christian Pulisic was clattered by hard challenges on numerous occasions in the first half, and was subbed off after 45 minutes. Steve Birnbaum was less fortunate, as the D.C. United defender received studs to the top of his head, opening up a gushing wound with 10 minutes left to go in the game.
All three of the USMNT’s first-half shots on target came via Green, a surprise inclusion in Jurgen Klinsmann’s starting lineup. The best of the bunch played out in the 23rd minute, when the Bayern Munich youngster broke down the left flank, cut into the penalty area, cut back toward the end line, and fired a left-footed shot low, but right at Cuban goalkeeper Sandy Sanchez, who made the kick save with the ball headed for the far post.
Cuba nearly opened the scoring long after, in the 28th minute, Roberney Caballero unleashed a speculative effort from from outside the penalty area. The ball looked headed for the inside of the far post, but 21-year-old goalkeeper Ethan Horvath, the youngest player to start in goal for the USMNT since 1994 (Zach Thornton), which occurred before Horvath was born, got fingertips to the ball and pushed it wide.
Maikel Reyes went inches from giving Cuba the lead just before the hour mark. The Cruz Azul striker raced down the right side of the field and into the penalty area, where he unloaded on Horvath with a shot to the near post, but came up with only woodwork as the ball clanged off the inside of the post and shot across the face of goal behind an unknowing Horvath.
Three minutes later, in the 62nd, the Yanks were on the scoreboard. Green cut inside from the left wing to fire a right-footed shot at Sanchez, who made the initial save. The rebound, unfortunately for Sanchez, fell right to the feet of Wondolowski, who hammered the ball into an empty net for the 11th goal of his international career.
Green grabbed a goal of his own — deservedly so, it must be said — to make it 2-0 in the 71st minute. It was Wondolowski who provided the assist, a simple cross across the face of goal with Green in all alone at the back post.
The USMNT’s final game before its World Cup qualifying showdown with Mexico, in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 11, will be a friendly against New Zealand at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., (8 p.m. ET) on Tuesday.
The reality check was a stiff one for those who believe the United States of America should compete on the same level with the world’s best, and overshadowed what was a goal-meeting, encouraging run into the Final Four of a legendary and difficult tournament.
For those who see the USMNT as a project, it was still tough to swallow. A semifinal is a terrific result, but could tactics have helped against Argentina? Were these our best players? Should we have expected more from Jurgen Klinsmann?
And what about the players? That’s the question we’ll answer today, as we evaluate the USMNT’s 23 men from a memorable tournament.
Kyle Beckerman Tournament dossier: 4 matches, 1 start, 90 mins total He’s served the States well in the past, but his days being useful against dangerous attacking teams seem behind him. Woeful in a tough spot against Argentina (Rating: 4.5)
Alejandro Bedoya Tournament dossier: 5 matches, 5 starts, 399 mins 3 shots, 2 yellow cards, 10 fouls committed, 2 fouls suffered An integral part of the team and a big reason the Argentina match was lopsided, Bedoya nonetheless did not have the impact we’ve come to expect from the Nantes man (Rating: 6)
Matt Besler Tournament dossier: 2 matches, 2 starts, 180 mins Did a job under tough circumstances, and could be a left back option for the 2018 World Cup if no one steps forward (Rating: 6)
Steve Birnbaum Tournament dossier: 2 matches, 31 mins Limited appearances, and one big mistake. Happy to go with letters here for a promising player (Rating: N/A)
John Brooks Tournament dossier: 5 matches, 5 starts, 450 mins It’s too early to say he’s come into his own, but Brooks belonged on the all-tournament team after showing a lot more wisdom in positions and decisions. (Rating: 9)
Michael Bradley Tournament dossier: 6 matches, 6 starts, 529 mins 2 shots His 12 crosses were almost unrivaled on the team, with DeAndre Yedlin the only other player with more than four (eight). The motor was still going for one of the country’s all-time players, but at times he was surprisingly bewildered. The giveaways were alarming, and perhaps there’s an argument for using him further up the pitch. Offensive production was limited. (Rating: 5)
Geoff Cameron Tournament dossier: Played every minute Versatile and at times dominant, Cameron showed us he could’ve been the difference in last summer’s Gold Cup. (Rating: 8)
Clint Dempsey Tournament dossier: 6 matches, 6 starts, 460 mins
3 goals, 2 assists, 19 shots, 7 on goal
Does this guy live for the summer or what? The ex-Fulham and Spurs man buried big shot after big shot one year after scoring a career best nine international goals. Consider these numbers:
Before Klinsmann: 22 goals in 75 caps
After Klinsmann: 30 goals in 55 caps (Rating: 9)
Brad Guzan Tournament dossier: 5 matches, 5 starts, 450 mins, 18 saves Led the tournament in saves and starred in several matches, including the stirring win over Paraguay, but had a couple rough matches along the way. Overall, he was strong enough to suit the side’s needs. (Rating: 6.5)
Tim Howard Tournament dossier: 1 match, 1 start, 90 mins Only got to play one game as the younger Guzan gets every chance to show he can be a World Cup starter. Was dynamite (Rating: 8)
Fabian Johnson Tournament dossier: 5 matches, 5 starts, 450 mins, four shots Some fits and starts for the left back, which is understandable considering how often he plays left wing for his club. That said, as we’ve seen with David Alaba at Austria, as a star and versatile player you have to fill the biggest need for your national team. Johnson did fine with that (Rating: 7)
Jermaine Jones Tournament dossier: 5 matches, 5 starts, 388 mins, 1 goal, 1 assist, 5 shots, two yellow cards, red card Loses a point for his red card, which looks worse and worse upon review. Still, he’s shown an ageless quality in athleticism, his guile is emblematic of the team, and he’s going to make the World Cup roster unless the USMNT fails to make the tourney or he suffers a major injury (Rating: 7)
Darlington Nagbe Tournament dossier: 3 matches, 47 mins Has the misfortune of being behind a well-function three-man midfield, and has done well enough for us to ask whether he’ll get a look over or next to Bradley in the next friendly.
Michael Orozco Tournament dossier: 2 matches, 1 start, 129 mins, two yellow cards While we still would’ve liked to see Eric Lichaj or another full back who could hold his own over Orozco, he didn’t kill anything. Yes, even with his silly red card against Colombia (Rating: 5).
Christian Pulisic Tournament dossier: 3 matches, 85 mins Looked dangerous, promising, lovely… and 17. Will be a force one day, and the experience will help him (Rating: 6)
Chris Wondolowski Tournament dossier: 2 matches, 1 start, 57 mins His form in MLS hinted that he might be able to do a job for the Yanks, but he was statuesque at times and unfit as a hold-up player at the Copa America Centenario level. We don’t want to beat down one of the all-time good stories in USMNT, so let’s move onto this —
Please get well soon: Aron Johannsson, Terrence Boyd or Jozy Altidore.
See you soon: Jordan Morris, Jerome Kiesewetter
Improve: Julian Green, Fafa Picault
Please write letters to Jurgen: C.J. Sapong, Mike Grella, maybe even Will Bruin (Rating: 3.5)
Bobby Wood Tournament dossier: 5 matches, 5 starts, 399 mins, 1 goal, 5 shots, 13 fouls suffered, 11 committed If Wood’s finish was on point, he would’ve potted 4-5 goals and been the breakout start of the tournament. That aside, he was borderline dominant and the embodiment of what U.S. fans want to see in their strikers (You know, aside from the goals) (Rating: 8).
DeAndre Yedlin Tournament dossier: 5 matches, 5 starts, 408 mins red card, nine fouls committed He’s much, much improved and still has a long way to go. The motor is fine, and the speed is wonderful. You can tell he gained savvy in defense under Sam Allardyce at Sunderland, but still has to learn tricks of the trade like when a player like Carlos Bacca is going to give that little tug that pushes him to a razor-thin goal (Rating: 6.5)
Graham Zusi Tournament dossier: 5 matches, 1 start, 138 mins 1 goal, 1 shot on goal Not going to be the first name on the team sheet any time soon, but could prove to be one of the unsung heroes of a dicey time in USMNT history. His work in the big win over Guatemala kickstarted a rebirth of sorts that prove Klinsmann knows he has an asset in Zusi (Rating: 6).
Gyasi Zardes Tournament dossier: 6 matches, 6 starts, 539 mins
1 goal, 1 assist, 6 shots, 11 fouls suffered The most difficult player to judge in American soccer history? Klinsmann keeps trotting the big man out there despite matches where his body never catches up to his brain. It’s clear he has a great understanding of the game and is improving in wonderful ways. If only his first touch — which is not being criticized too harshly, could improve a bit — he’d be a 1-2 punch with Zardes that would overwhelm most back lines in CONCACAF. (Rating: 6)
The U.S. national team’s run at the 2016 Copa America Centenario is over (mostly — they’ll still play the loser of Colombia versus Chile in the third-place game on Saturday). It should be said, before anything else, that the Yanks reached Jurgen Klinsmann’s stated goal in advancing all the way to the semifinals.
On the whole, this tournament was a success for a USMNT that so badly needed a run of positive results in order to re-establish a semblance of excitement and intrigue around U.S. Soccer. In that vein, it was a success. In wondering whether or not it means a step forward for the program, much less is clear…
The lineup was wrong, but we knew that (Part 1)
Disclaimer: No lineup Klinsmann could have selected would have resulted in anything even marginally better than what transpired Tuesday night. Inversely, no lineup Klinsmann could have selected would have resulted in a performance worse than the one we witnessed Tuesday night.
Kyle Beckerman as one half of a midfield-two versus Argentina? It’s easily the most offensive thing Klinsmann has done in his five years as USMNT head coach — and there have been some doozies. Klinsmann failed to realize this game would be too fast for a 34-year-old defensive midfielder who only ever sits in front of the backline. That’s a serious problem.
Not only is it an obvious misstep on paper and in theory, but has been such in practice on a number of occasions over the last 24 months. I wish I didn’t see this coming, but…
Not-so-bold prediction: Beckerman starts tomorrow night, never plays for #USMNT again. #USAvARG
In the year 2016, Chris Wondolowski started a semifinal against Argentina in a major tournament. With Bobby Wood suspended, we all knew Klinsmann would pick Wondolowski rather than moving Gyasi Zardes, an athletic, physical forward who actually complements Clint Dempsey (sort of), up top. Wondolowski’s a canny operator inside the penalty, but here’s the problem: the ball just about never got into Argentina’s penalty area, where he excels. Instead, that photo at right is the entirety of his contributions on the night. Over the course of 90 minutes, the USMNT failed to register a single shot. Not a shot on goal — a shot. Not great!
How I’d have done it, because someone will demand to know: Zardes starts up top; Graham Zusi plays wide right; Fabian Johnson starts wide left; Matt Besler starts at left back. Far from ideal, but functional.
What made the defense so strong in the USMNT’s victory over Ecuador was the (essentially) three-man backline of Besler, John Brooks and Geoff Cameron. Three mobile center backs, they’re capable of covering a lot of ground and stepping into passing lanes after making smart reads. Alejandro Bedoya, who was suspended against Argentina, served as the de facto left back, shielding Besler, actually a central defender, while deployed wider than usual. It was a wise tactical wrinkle from Klinsmann. Johnson, for everything he is as an attacker, isn’t a great defender, so throwing him back out wide to defend Lionel Messi was unwise in hindsight.
Messi is the greatest, and it was a pleasure losing to him
What is there to say about this guy at this point? He’s inarguably the best player in the world, and he’s probably, at the age of 28, the best player in the history of the game. But you knew that already. The 2015-16 season was statistically his worst in seven years — he still scored 41 goals in 49 games for Barcelona (all competitions).
At this point, we’re numb to the numbers, though. We’re numb to the goals that leave us without words. We’re numb to the fact that we live on the same planet, at the same time, as someone who can do this … and that’s a truly beautiful gift we’ll never deserve.
The time has arrived. The much-anticipated matchup for the USMNT against Lionel Messi and the Argentinian machine for a spot in the Copa America finals is here.
With Alejandro Bedoya, Bobby Wood, and Jermaine Jones all suspended for yellow and red card accumulation, Jurgen Klinsmann has been forced to swing things around. There was much speculation the last few days about how he would shuffle the deck, and now we have the answer.
The German has decided to change to a static 4-4-2 formation, bringing in Kyle Beckerman into midfield in place of Jermaine Jones, Graham Zusi in for Alejandro Bedoya on the wing, and the biggest surprise of all, Chris Wondolowski into the attack in place of Bobby Wood.
It could be a moment of redemption for Wondolowski, who sees his first start since the 2015 Gold Cup 3rd place match against Panama. It will also be a massive test in the middle of the field, using 34-year-old Kyle Beckerman to hold the center of the pitch. Beckerman will have just Michael Bradley next to him to hold down the fort against Lionel Messi and the speedy Argentinian attack.
For Argentina, Nicolas Gaitin is suspended and Angel Di Maria is injured, so in comes 31-year-old Ezequiel Lavezzi. Lionel Messi starts for the second straight game after coming off the bench for the first two games of the tournament. The Argentinian bench is stacked, with Sergio Aguero, Erik Lamela, and Javier Pastore able to provide reinforcements.
United States – Guzan; Yedlin, Cameron, Brooks, Johnson; Zusi, Beckerman, Bradley; Zardes, Dempsey. Wondolowski.
But Klinsmann opted for in-form San Jose striker Chris Wondolowski, and it has become old hat for MLS players to gripe when their name is not called by the German boss (See: Benny Feilhaber, Brad Evans and Landon Donovan).
Don’t count Morris in that group. Of course the youngster doesn’t have the tenure to rally against the man who gave him his shot in the first place, but that hasn’t stopped others from acting entitled to a roster spot.
“[Klinsmann] told me not take it too hard and that there was a lot of competition,” Morris said. “I completely respect his decision. There were a lot of good forwards playing and they’re all playing really well. I wish those guys all the best. It’s going to be a lot of fun to watch this summer.”
The youngster did admit increased motivation from his omission, stating that “it gives you fuel to your fire to try and get back in the mix a little bit”. We have a feeling he won’t be out of that mix for long.