What we learned in United States draw with Scotland

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  • Two young guns helped themselves

Two 62nd-minute injections breathed significant life into the U.S. attack – Aron Johannsson and Brek Shea. And that bodes well for both.

For Johannsson, this was the latest in a string of impressive and intriguing nights for the late arrival (having just joined the U.S. program in September). The Icelandic American is skilled, aggressive and seems to have a nose for the goal. If he hasn’t already done enough to earn a spot on the U.S. roster for next year, he’s not that far.

Shea continues to be a fascinating case. He’s probably only in camp due to the U.S. lack of options out wide (since he isn’t playing at Stoke – and Klinsmann prefers not to use those who cannot get into their club lineups), and yet he continues to make a difference coming off the U.S. bench. His direct-line approach with the ball – get ball, run at goal … get ball, run at goal – provides a useful change of pace. He almost always manages to drum up some trouble for opposition defenses. He did again Friday at Hampden Park.

  • Friendlies are friendlies

We heard a narrative develop that perhaps this “friendly” would be less so … friendly, that is. But we should all know by now, so long as they don’t involve traditional rivals (think Brazil-Argentina, U.S.-Mexico … along those lines) then friendlies are friendlies are friendlies.

Yes, the United States took Scotland out behind the woodshed 18 months ago, but that was about Scotland looking forward to vacation. That was on the Scots, and any talk that they were looking to exact revenge was probably just hopeful hype.

These were two teams with agendas, sure – but proving something based on that match 18 months ago just didn’t seem to be one of them. Scotland is rebuilding, the United States is polishing ahead of a World Cup. But claiming some statement win was never a mighty focus. So what did we get?

A snoozer, a typical friendly that came alive just a bit at the end. But only just a little.

  • Michael Bradley, back in the fold

Broken record alert: This team is going nowhere without its midfield general, and what a welcome site his return was for the United States on Friday.

Bradley is easily the best man in possession in a U.S. shirt, and he’s so good at keeping the midfield organized on either side of the ball. Further, his playmaking from deep spots is sorely missed when he’s not around – as is his ability to cover defensively for the occasionally impulsive Jermaine Jones, who tends to vacate his post a little too often.

Here is the best indicator of how valuable Bradley is to the U.S. effort: The United States’ ability to move forward with some calm and structure suffered after about 70 minutes. Why? Bradley, coming off the bench now for Roma, was understandably tiring.

And without Bradley able to work as hard to be the ever-ready outlet, the United States just couldn’t put a foot on the ball as effectively in the midfield.

  • Eddie Johnson is not a wide player

Once again, we saw Klinsmann “reaching” for something due to the lack of options on the flanks.

Eddie Johnson, stationed along the left in that hybrid 4-3-3, can handle the job against lesser nations. But when the competition improves, we see time and again that he’s just not comfortable out wide.

Johnson dutifully attended to his defensive chores, assisting DaMarcus Beasely on his side, so that part wasn’t a big issue.  But on the attack Johnson is at his best – perhaps his only useful role – when he is near opposition goal, making runs and using those big hops. Further out, he loses the ball or slows the attack with negative passing. That’s not really his fault; again, he’s not a wide player. We should know that by now.

The United States had almost no attack up the left before halftime. Johnson paid more attention to creating some width after the break, but the U.S. still never truly bothered Scotland on that side until Brek Shea’s introduction.