On the heels of the first US win under Jurgen Klinsmann, fans were left disappointed with a loss last night to Ecuador. While the Americans looked good at times, they were doomed by one bad miscue from out of form Tim Ream. They showed signs of the system Jurgen is trying to implement, as they played much more 1-2 touch balls and quick passes than US fans are used to seeing. But the result also brings to mind the fact that this will be a slow process. I think some fans are starting to feel that we should be seeing major changes already. As I have said before, that's simply not going to happen. I will start to judge personally around summer of next year, when WCQ kicks off. We will of course have our big guns playing all together at once, and Jurgen's system will have much more proper time to be digested. Until then, just be patient people. I know it's hard, but this slow progress is the price we have to pay if we want to truly take US Soccer to the next level. Join me after the break for a few thoughts on the match and player performances.
The first thing I think needs to be mentioned is how good Oguchi Onyewu looked. He was in great form just a few years ago, but injuries and an unstable club status threatened to de-rail his career. Well, he seems to be back and as good as ever. He bossed the pitch and even contributed on the attack at times. It's refreshing for the US back line to have an in form Gooch.
Former Fire alumnus Carlos Bocanegra put in a good performance as well, playing well in defense and also contributing with sharp, accurate passing. Tim Chandler also played well again. It seems as if he is really fitting in to the picture for a long USMNT career. I think he can keep it up, and the Americans need him to. The back line, especially the left and right back positions, are certainly up in the air when the veterans of the team retire. It's great to see some young talent (especially the influx of young German talent recently) begin to challenge the veterans.
My other two shout outs are towards DaMarcus Beasley and Brek Shea. Beasley played well I thought, with good movement and a couple of good looks at goal. I personally think he still has a lot left to give, and it's good to see him nearing the form I have seen from him in the past. Of course it's an extremely small sample size, but I think he has earned further looks for future matches. Brek Shea looked good vs. Honduras, as he has recently for the USMNT. Although he didn't have as good of a match last night as he did versus Honduras, he was still very solid and is really emerging as a young talent for the US team. Despite playing for an MLS team I don't like, I have to give him credit for really blossoming after a poor initial USMNT debut. It's no wonder that European teams are keeping tabs on him with his recent form. Manchester United and Liverpool are not small clubs.
The "meh" performances for me go to Steve Cherundolo, Johnny Spector, Maurice Edu, and Kyle Beckerman (hey, at least he didn't head butt anybody last night. He still has that dirty, horrible hair though). Young Danny Williams did ok as well, but I need to see more than two matches from him to really be able to judge his talent. Not a bad start for him though.
My goat of the match is Tim Ream. Man, his star is really falling. After an initial hot start, he has looked out of form and been poor in general the past few matches. He was responsible for the lone Ecuador goal last night. He did a terrible job of marking his man, and Ecuador made us pay. If you watch the replay on the goal, he wasn't even paying attention to his mark. When Ecuadoran Jamie Ayovi ran in front of Ream (which is a cardinal sin to let happen in the box), Ream's head snapped around almost as if he was in shock. It looked like he forgot there was an opposing team meber next to him. I know it was a quick mental lapse, but a split second lapse can cause huge ramifications. One split second mental mistake cost the USMNT the game. Ream needs to either pick his play up immediately or not be called up. We can't have constant mistakes like that on the back line. I hope he does get it together. He is still young and the US is still trying to get used to playing together with all these new pieces. Hopefully that's the main cause of Tim's problems. Either way, he needs to shape up or ship out, as he has had poor form in his last few appearances. I hope it's not a case of the hype being overblown, which tends to happen with young, up and coming US prospects.
While I would like to see more goals being scored under Jurgen's offensively aggressive system, they will come. Strikers are one thing the US is obviously shorthanded on, and that will take awhile to change. Jurgen has to find a way to mold the team around the current talent and increase scoring. Again, I will start judging next summer. I have no worries that Jurgen will get the team really playing smoothly, and the goals will come. It's just a matter of biding the time until that happens.
The one issue I do have with Jurgen is how he is handling the goalkeeping situation. He has done a good job of getting the youngsters in other positions playing time, but he leaves Bill Hamid to rot on the bench. Now don't get me wrong, if we have to win I want Tim Howard in goal. He is our best goalkeeper. I have no issue with him playing, I'm a huge Howard fan and am fine with him playing every USMNT game. However, if you are going to call the same guy up over and over, at least give him a look. While US fans and players want a win, these friendlies are when he needs to be looking at Hamid to see if he is a viable option or not. Obviously I am a homer and think Sean Johnson should be on the team and ahead of Hamid in the pecking order. However, if Sean gets called up just to sit on the bench, that's not constructive. Yes, he gets experience with the veterans and gets to train with the team, but the only thing that can simulate a match is actually playing in one. That is my one criticism of Jurgen so far. Use your backup keeper in these meaningless friendlies sometimes. Help save Howard for the games that really matter. Howard still has some years in the tank, but we need to start getting the next young keepers in line for succession. Leaving them on the bench is not accomplishing that. C'mon Jurgen, you know you want Sean Johnson in the USMNT house!