By Ryan Fleming
After watching the 0-0 yawnfest that was the United States Men’s National Team against Colombia and then a mediocre performance by the Yanks against Poland just a few days prior I was stricken with some revelations.
1. Are they really any good?
Did the Yanks overachieve in the World Cup? It has been known for sometime now that you cannot value a player based alone on his performance in the world’s greatest sporting spectacle. Sure, their 1-1 tie to England in both of the team’s opening games of the tournament was lucky, albeit maybe deserved. The Yanks came out on top of the group, ahead of the Three Lions, as well as Algeria and Slovenia an overall mediocre group even with the likes of England present.
Since being eliminated by Ghana in the second round, the USMNT lost to Brazil, 2-0, then came away without a win over mediocrity once again this past week.
The USA really hasn’t put forth an impressive performance since its 3-1 win over Australia just days before the World Cup. Sure, it managed some thrilling, late-game heroics over Algeria and Slovenia, but does that constitute an overall “good” showing?
2. The U.S. lack someone potent up front.
Now, Jozy Alitdore is a fine player. I’m not quite sure what he is doing on Villarreal, but maybe that’s just me. Like inconsistent players, he has moments of greatness, but also the miscues of a novice … he lacks the necessary skills to make him a proven player.
Altidore is a decent-sized striker. What he doesn’t do is use his size to his advantage. Altidore consistently looks lost, plays a poor first touch and often doesn’t put himself in good position to receive the ball.
Something that personally drives me crazy is when a player is offside on a goal kick. Now, that happened in the Colombia game … wonder who that was?
This topic is something, that if you follow the USMNT, you already know, but the severity of this issue is something that doesn’t get a lot of attention. Perhaps people think that the issue will simply fix itself or some great, new player will come along or the reliable Landon Donovan or Clint Dempsey will just pick up all the slack.
News flash, they’re getting old and no one has come along yet.
In the absence of Charlie Davies, who was once touted as the Yanks’ savior, more pressure has been put on Altidore and other U.S. forwards to perform and score some goals. Scoring is something the Yanks have a hard time doing and so far there has been no answer or a glimpse of hope into one.
3. If the Yanks want to have any success, Jermaine Jones could be the answer.
Jones, a midfielder for Schalke 04 in the German Bundesliga, proved in Tuesday night’s exhibition against Colombia how valuable he is. The Chicago, Ill. native has been fighting injury issues and missed the entire 2009/2010 season due to a shin fracture that he had surgery on in the summer. What I also gathered from last night is that his supporting cast, Michael Bradley and Maurice Edu may not be the best options to aide the 28-year-old.
Or maybe, it is the formation.
Last night, USMNT coach, Bob Bradley experimented with a 4-3-3 formation with Edu, Jones and Bradley in the midfield. The three were caught in close proximity at times, looking like lost mice after a lone piece of cheese. The Yanks barely managed any offensive chances and were held at bay by a stingy Colombian defense. Yes, they weren’t supporting the nation’s best wingers, Donovan and Dempsey, but they didn’t assist newcomer, Brek Shea or Stuart Holden much either.
Against Poland, Bradley utilized a 4-5-1 formation with more success, but left Altidore alone up top. As of now, it appears as if Bradley should move someone up top to aide Altidore. Maybe the 4-3-3 is the way to go, for the U.S. with two attacking wingers and the midfielders supporting. Whatever his choice, Jones has to be the centerpiece.
Bradley has a tough job. We know this. Right now his main focus should be getting Jones in a partnership that works and experimenting with his best players, which will bring the most positive results.
Ryan Fleming is an editor and writer for The Soccer Guys. He can be reached at Ryan.Fleming@thesoccerguysonline.com.