EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions below are those of Soccer Outsider Jeff Maurer and not Soccer Insider Steven Goff.
Jurgen Klinsmann says he’s treating these upcoming friendlies like a five-game tournament. You know: one of those tournaments where Antigua & Barbuda and Brazil are both in your group. And four out of five games are at home. And you can make six subs a game. And nobody criticizes you if you, say, try Brad Guzan out at left back. You know — that kind of tournament.
Seriously, though, I get where Jurgen is coming from. He’s trying to instill a competitive mindset. And he’s right that we’ll learn a lot about the state of the team over the next several games. The team is relatively healthy, they’ll play some quality opponents, and most importantly: the first meaningful games of the Klinsmann era — the World Cup qualifiers against Atingua & Barbuda and Guatemala — come at the end of this run.
Tonight’s opponent: Scotland. You may remember Scotland from the movie Braveheart, or if you’d prefer an association with a little less Mel Gibson (and wouldn’t we all): the movie Brave. So: safe to assume they will be brave. To wit: the Scottish team has brought their sunburn-prone pallors to Florida in late May, which is already pretty brave.
Tonight’s lineup (or at least the lineup until the second half sub-fest): Howard | Johnson (Fabian, not Eddie, obviously), Bocanegra, Cameron, Cherundolo | Edu, Jones, Bradley | Torres, Donovan, Boyd. I do not assume this is Klinsmann’s favorite eleven; this is just the eleven who make sense for this match. This mix of friendlies and qualifiers is going to give us lineups where the logic is “let’s rest our top guys against Brazil so they’ll be fresh for Antigua & Barbuda.”
Here’s kickoff in front of a loud and pretty substantial crowd in Jacksonville. Good job, Jacksonville.
1’ - The U.S. is wearing their
new home uniforms tonight. Obviously, the uniforms are inspired by Where’s Waldo and pay a visual tribute to the important role Waldo has played in the history of our nation.
3’ - GOAL USA! It’s Donovan, and already it’s 1-0! Scotland were defending very deep, allowing Donovan to collect his own rebound and smash the ball into the top of the net. That goal reminds me a bit of Donovan’s goal against Slovenia; the only thing missing is the ‘keeper hiding behind the post. Because this Scottish ‘keeper is brave.
7’ - The color scheme Nike chose for the numbers on the new uniforms is apparently bone on taupe. Or possibly eggshell on beige. Thanks, Nike: I can’t read the numbers even though I’m watching in high def.
11’ - GOAL USA! 2-0! It’s Michael Bradley with an amazing goal! Wow, what a goal — the buildup was nice, and Bradley’s half-volley from 25 yards into the top corner was amazing! Somewhere in Egypt, Bob Bradley is cheering (and then probably being silenced by military police).
13’ - Do the new jerseys remind anyone else of the 1994 shirts (the waving flag ones, not the denim ones)? Is anyone else feeling an urge to listen to Smashing Pumpkins and get the latest on the O.J. trial?
15’ - Goal Scotland! Sort of — goal Geoff Cameron, actually. Wow, what’s the worst thing that can happen if you’re a defender trying to work your way into the national team setup? I mean, short of an injury. Or your pants falling down. Or hitting on the coach’s wife. Or accidentally saying your credit card number into an on-field mic. Okay: what’s the fourteenth worst thing that can happen? That’s right: an own goal.
22’ - Torres doesn’t wait for the whistle to take a free kick and somehow misses an open net. Good plan, bad execution.
34’ - Jones almost gets a yellow. You know what: if Klinsmann is treating this like a five game tournament, then at some point he needs to sit Jones, because there is no way that guy is making it through five games without picking up at least two yellows.
36’ - Martino is pointing out that U.S. strikers have scored a lot of goals for their clubs. And he’s right, but look at the pattern: Dempsey: 23 goals in England. Altidore: 19 goals in Holland. Gomez: 19 in Mexico. Wondolowski: 11 goals already in MLS. Boyd: 20 for Borussia Dortmund’s reserves. Great numbers, but the leagues get gradually worse and worse. If Martino had kept going it would have been: Dave Mears - 46 goals in the Southern Michigan Coed Beer League.
37’ - Terrence Boyd plays for Borussia Dortmund’s reserves, who play in the fifth tier of German football. Fifth tier...is that even a league with proper teams and fields? Or do you just bring lights and darks and maybe you’ll get bumped by an ultimate frisbee game?
39’ - The USA are dominating this game. Scotland are completely pinned back and aren’t threatening our goal at all.
44’ - Jermaine Jones has covered so much ground in this half that I almost think he’s been told that he’s only playing 45.
Halftime: Completely dominant performance by the U.S., which in soccer equals a narrow one-goal lead. But if things keep going like this, the lead will grow.
49’ - Donovan off the post! The U.S.’s buildup play has been outstanding, but the finishing has been a bit lacking. We could easily have three or four goals by now.
53’ - The U.S. uniform is such a literal interpretation of the flag that I almost wonder if the players are afraid to slide tackle so as not to get grass stains on Old Glory.
55’ - Over the next few weeks, we’ll get to see how Brek Shea performs in a U.S. shirt. He’s not on the roster, but we’ll get to see how he plays in the shirt, since USA’s new hoops are basically the same as the ones worn by FC Dallas.
59’ - Goal Donovan! 3-1! Another great buildup, this time involving Bradley and Jones, with Donovan finishing from 12 yards out. Nice goal — the U.S. has looked sharp and deserved a third.
62’ - Fabian Johnson gets forward and wins a free kick. He hasn’t had much defending to do tonight, so it’s good to see him getting into the attack.
64’ - Another goal - hat trick for Donovan! This time it’s Bradley with a nice assist and Donovan makes no mistake with the finish. Everton: check the sofa cushions for change. E-bay your old X-box games. Buy this player.
69’ - Goal USA - this time it’s Donovan feeding Jones! 5-1. Wow. We look sharp, but it has to be said: Scotland also look dull. If Scotland keeps playing like this, they’re not only not going to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, they’re going to retroactively un-qualify for the 1998 World Cup.
73’ - The subs have been entrusted with mop-up duty. Out are Bocanegra, Edu, Boyd, Torres, Howard, and Johnson, and in are Onyewu, Beckerman, Joe Corona (best name in the national team pool), Gomez, Guzan, and Castillo. Remember Edga Castillo? He’s alive, and in the game.
88’ - A few idiot fans are singing “Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him) Goodbye.” I hate that. I’ve always thought that was bad sportsmanship. And also: this is not UNC-Duke. USA-Scotland is not a rivalry; no need to revel in the other team’s defeat.
Full time: 5-1 USA. Whenever the U.S. plays a European team, I always wonder if we could qualify for the World Cup if we had to do it in Europe. Based on tonight’s performance: we quite possibly could. And Scotland definitely won’t.
Howard and all the subs: No rating because you didn’t really have anything to do. But thanks for coming out — you still get access to the post-match buffet.
Johnson: 6. I hope he’s USA’s left back of the future because I think Timothy Chandler is quite possibly Germany’s left back of the future.
Bocanegra: 6. He couldn’t really score higher than a six because he didn’t have much to do.
Cameron: 5. I don’t care too much about the own goal — own goals happen (though his marking on that header was less than stellar). I’d like to see him against better competition.
Cherundolo: 6. Same as Bocanegra.
Edu: 4.5. If you’re choosing two of Jones, Bradley, and Edu, I definitely choose Jones and Bradley. And I maybe choose Kyle Beckerman if you’re picking three.
Bradley: 7. I saw him play a grand total of one match for Chievo, and that was months ago. Glad to see he’s in form.
Jones: 7.5. Monster game. And for the record: Bradley and Edu were definitely stationed behind him. Klinsmann positioned Jones at the top of that triangle.
Torres: 7.5. I am on record as a Torres skeptic — I think U.S. fans like his style of player more than the player himself — but he had a great game tonight.
Donovan: 8.5. It looked very easy for him tonight. He’s obviously bored in MLS — he needs a permanent move to Everton.
Boyd: 3.5. I’m optimistic about Terence Boyd, but he showed his inexperience tonight.