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.
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.