LONDON — As they so often do, the U.S. national team defended for their lives and put their bodies on the line against Colombia at Craven Cottage on Friday night.
[ RELATED: Three things we learned ]
In the end they coughed up two goals in the final 30 minutes and lost 2-1 after Jozy Altidore’s early penalty kick put them ahead, but head coach Jurgen Klinsmann was pleased with the way his team performed in a hostile atmosphere in London where Colombians made up the vast majority of the 24,000 plus crowd.
One of the big surprises came before kick off as Klinsmann started two German-Americans at center back together, as he continues to experiment by playing veteran Jermaine Jones out of his usual central midfield role with John Brooks his partner in the heart of the USA’s defense.
How did the defense do, Jurgen?
“I saw some individual performances that were just fun to watch. John Brooks seems to grow in his role and Jermaine Jones had adapted to that kind of center back leadership role with ease,” Klinsmann said. “Greg Garza seems like he has always been with us but he wasn’t with us at the World Cup and I think DeAndre Yedlin, besides a couple of mistakes, did well. Overall throughout the team. I am really pleased with that game, obviously you want a positive result but this game gave us a lot.”
Did Klinsmann learn that Jones, 33, and Brooks, 21, can play together long-term? We will have to wait and see. However the German born duo were full of praise for the performance of one another when asked after the game.
“For us it was good, it was fine. It is good for us because we can talk a little bit German,” Brooks said when asked about playing alongside Jones. “That makes it easier for us to communicate, so it was good.”
[ RELATED: Player ratings for USA vs. Colombia ]
As for Jones, he enjoyed playing alongside Brooks as they managed to keep Colombia at bay for large chunks of the match as they U.S. sat back and soaked up intense pressure.
“It is good. He is a young boy and a tried to help him to come in,” Jones said. “Of course both of us are unhappy that we lost that game but I think when you see the whole game, the way we worked together is not so bad.”
Brooks, a regular center back who plays for Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga, was asked if he’s had to help Jones fit into his new role in the backline.
“No not really,” Brooks smiled. “He has so much experience, so it is no problem for him. He helps me out, I help him. It is perfect.”
With Jones ripping it up in from central midfielder with the New England Revolution in Major League Soccer, many see Klinsmann’s decision to play him out of position as a strange one. When asked by ProSoccerTalk after the defeat to Colombia, Jones made it clear where he prefers to play, but is enjoying being a leader for the USA.
“I always say that my favorite position is midfield, when somebody asks me,” Jones said. “I want to always play in midfield but center back is different. It is not a big deal. I can play it if the coach needs me in that position. Anywhere I play, when I am the pitch I always try to be a leader and help the team. Now I am in the back I have the whole game in front of me. It makes it a little bit easier to see the whole game. We had some small mistakes that we have to learn from but I try to always be a leader.”
Are Jones and Brooks the long-term partnership at center back for the USA? Who knows. Klinsmann now has a plethora of options with Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler (who started the USA’s first two games at the World Cup together) plus Omar Gonzalez left off this squad as he focuses on LA Galaxy’s MLS Cup charge.
Brooks doesn’t mind who he plays with going forward and enjoyed the challenge against some of the finest attackers on the planet and the world’s No. 3-ranked team.
“I don’t care who I play with, everybody on the field or on the side is good enough to play. I don’t care,” Brooks said. “Every game is a good test and especially against guys like James and Cuadrado. It was a lot of fun… The pace was fast, you saw that. It was a good game, a tense game, but I thought we did a good job.”