The U.S. national team beat Peru 2-1 in a friendly on a balmy night at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. on Friday.
[ VIDEO: Watch Altidore score twice ]
Jurgen Klinsmann’s side went behind to Daniel Chavez’s deflected early strike but in the second half they came flying out of the traps as a nine-minute double from Jozy Altidore turned the game on its head and help dissolve some of the negativity following the Gold Cup disappointment earlier this summer.
[ MORE: Recap – USA 2-1 Peru ]
Here’s three things we learned from the USA’s spirited comeback win, as they head to Gillette Stadium on Tuesday to take on Brazil in their final warmup before the huge Confederations Cup playoff against Mexico on Oct. 10.
CENTER BACK CONUNDRUM CONTINUES
Ever since the World Cup last summer the U.S. has failed to get a settled partnership at center back. That continued on Friday. With Omar Gonzalez and John Brooks starting against Peru, neither looked particularly comfortable and on Peru’s first goal you could see Gonzalez’s unease at having a Peruvian attacker running at him with five-yards of pace. The LA Galaxy man mysteriously dropped off and then turned his back as Daniel Chavez’s shot hit him and looped over Brad Guzan to give Peru the lead. Was Gonzalez to blame?
It was perhaps no surprise to see Gonalzez replaced at half time but the man who replaced him was a little shocking as Ventura Alvarado (who had a rough Gold Cup to say the least) came on in his place. What on earth does Geoff Cameron have to do to play in central defense for the U.S.?
He arrived at half time but played out of position at right back. This is a man who has excelled for Stoke City and started all four games of the current Premier League season at center back, plus has been handed a new long-term deal by the Potters this summer. Somehow he cannot find a place in Klinsmann’s defense as a central defender. Cameron missed the Gold Cup due to Stoke requesting that he rested this summer but he must surely start vs. Brazil on Tuesday. Tim Ream, another center back who was shunted out of position to left back, put in a solid shift and maybe Ream and Cameron should be starting together in quite possibly the only central defensive partnership Klinsmann has yet to try out. If experimentation is the name of the game ahead of the Mexico game next month, then why not, right? Both Alvarado and Brooks were guilty of giving the ball away early in the second half, then Matt Besler did well in the air after replacing Brooks for the final 30 minutes of the match. Brad Guzan did have to pull off a stunning double save with the score at 1-1 and 30 seconds later Altidore scored the game-winner. All of those center back changes inside 90 minutes proves one thing: Klinsmann still has no idea who his best central defensive duo is.
PACE OF ZARDES, YEDLIN CAN BE DEADLY
All night long DeAndre Yedlin and Gyasi Zardes gave Peru plenty of problems out wide with their pace. Zardes, in particular, soared down the left flank several times at the start and end of the first half forcing Pedro Gallese into two good stops after racing clear of his marker. Yedlin also caused some problems down the right as Klinsmann played with two out-and-out wingers from the start in a flat four across midfield in a 4-4-2 formation. As you can see in the video below, Zardes and Yedlin created chaos and combined to tee-up Altidore’s game-winning goal in the 68th minute as Yedlin first ran at Peru, then Zardes got off a shot which was tapped home at the back post.
However, the only issue with these two is that Zardes is usually a striker and Yedlin is usually a right back. That means that both men use their pace expertly to get in dangerous positions but at times either the final ball or cross into the box was not quite good enough. That will come with time but the main thing is that their pace is dangerous and if they actually play in front of two regular full backs (Ream at left back and Michael Orozco at right back both prefer to play centrally and failed to support their wingers going forward in the first half) then they can develop a relationship and work in tandem with a full back down the flank. They have the raw athleticism but if Zardes and Yedlin — 24 years old and 22 respectively — can hone their attacking skills and pick the right pass in the final third, you have two very strong wingers who will frighten most teams. Positive stuff.
ALTIDORE HANGS IN THERE
Ending things on a positive note, Jozy Altidore has now scored five times in his last three games and the Toronto FC forward finally looks to be shaking off his fitness concerns which have plagued him for the past six months. Altidore, 25, was left out of the USA’s squad by Klinsmann for the knockout stages of the Gold Cup and the U.S. missed him. Now he’s back and despite a few giveaways, looked sharp against Peru as his clever flick in the box won the penalty kick which changed the game in the 59th minute. Altidore saw that spot kick saved but he tucked away the rebound and he was in the right place at the right time nine minutes later to complete the turnaround. Wearing the captain’s armband for the night in Michael Bradley’s absence, Altidore proved, once again, how important he is to this team and with 29 goals from 84 matches for the U.S., his record at the international level speaks for itself. A job well done for Altidore, as he’s hung in there after a tough period.