Bobby Lemaire, Staff Writer
On Tuesday, October 16, the United States men’s national soccer team defeated Guatemala 3-1, guaranteeing them first place in their third round group stage, which will allow them to advance to the final stage of qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The last stage is a final six team grouping comprised of the six North American or Central American teams that finished first and second in the previous round.
It is not a shocker that the U.S. has made it this far because they have had previous success in qualifying for the World Cup; they have taken part in every World Cup since 1990. But,the Americans have been remarkably inconsistent against teams they should have no problem beating. They have played in games which they dominated play, such as their last game against Guatemala and a convincing 1-0 win against Jamaica. However, along with those wins the team has shown some ugly performances. On September 7, they lost to Jamaica 2-1, which was their first loss ever to them. Later on October 12, they played a horrendous match against lowly Antigua and Barbuda. The U.S. ended up with a 2-1 win, but that was only due to the heroic effort of Eddie Johnson, who scored both goals (The game winner coming in the final minute of the second half).
If the national team wants to qualify for the World Cup, they are going to have to greatly improve their effort. This starts with head coach Jürgen Klinsmann. Klinsmann was brought in to bring a more up-tempo kind of offense, which is very different than the strategy of Bob Bradley, the former coach of the team. The biggest problem with Klinsmann is that his offense is not producing the results that were expected. No matter who he puts in at the striker positions, whether it’s Herculez Gomez, Terrence Boyd or Jozy Altidore, they just were not able to put the ball in the back of the net. They may have found something with the return of Johnson at forward, but two games is not enough time to tell if he will be able to keep being the difference maker on offense.
In addition to the lack of scoring from the forwards, the defense has shown some weakness as well. Team captain Carlos Bocanegra who is 33, is starting to show his age. The team also has a lack of depth on defense that Klinsmann can count on in the big moments of games to make those much needed stops. With Bocanegra, the only other guaranteed defensive spot will go to Steve Cherundolo, who is known to jump into the offense to start a rush. Some of the players who are going to try and gain a starting position on defense are Kyle Beckerman, Clarence Goodson and Geoff Cameron.
While some adaptations are going to be made, there are still solid parts of the team that America can count on. Tim Howard is one of the best goalies in the world, and is best known for his attention to detail, while telling his defenders where to go.
America also does not need to worry about is the midfield. With Landon Donovan, Clint Demspey and Michel Bradley all starting and able to play both sides of the ball, other teams are always going
to have to be on the look out for them. Then if they are losing and are in need of a goal, they can move either Donovan or Dempsey up to forward and sub in a player like Maurice Edu, Brek Shea or Jermaine Jones without missing a beat.
Even though the United States showed some struggles in their previous round of qualifying, it is not necessary for the fans to worry. Qualifying for the World Cup is a long task, which gives Klinsmann plenty of time to work out the kinks and make his strategy successful.