The United States began 2014 World Cup qualifying with a 3-1 win against Antigua & Barbuda and a draw in what should be their most difficult match of this stage of the process, an away game at Guatemala. Despite the US being atop Group 1 on goal difference (Jamaica also have four points after two games), many American fans remain underwhelmed with how the team performed over the past week. With two games now in the book, USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has a better idea of what it is going to take to earn that all-important trip to Brazil.
It's a start.
3 final thoughts on first two United States 2014 World Cup qualifiers: Perspective
I'm not sure what diehard American soccer fans expect from this particular squad going forward toward the team's upcoming qualifiers. This United States team was never going perfect in World Cup qualifying, and anybody who thought otherwise heading into Tuesday evening was only fooling himself. I understand that CONCACAF doesn't have the best reputation around the world, but winning five or even four games during qualifying is hardly a walk in the park. Many teams currently enjoying Euro 2012 football, such as Greece, Denmark, Sweden and even Italy, would struggle to go down to Guatemala and earn three points. I understand there are high hopes for the team now that we are about a year into the Klinsmann era. US Soccer may not compare to Spain as of the typing of this sentence, but things could certainly be worse, and I don't have any complaints with the US currently being on four points in the Group 1 table.
3 final thoughts on first two United States 2014 World Cup qualifiers: Still needs work
A USMNT team led by Klinsmann was supposed to produce both exciting football and goals. So far, so "meh." The US may have put three on the scoreboard against a lackluster Antigua & Barbuda side, but the team's attack continues to lack true chemistry while in the final third. In their past two games, US players literally clashed with one another inside opposing penalty areas, and they produced next to nothing in the way of quality through balls. Anybody can have two consecutive "off games," but Landon Donovan was especially shaky in the qualifiers, sending numerous poor crosses toward the penalty area, and also relying far too much on his pace. In short, Klinsmann's Starting XI, particularly those responsible for creating goals, still needs a little more time together to figure some things out.
3 final thoughts on first two United States 2014 World Cup qualifiers: Deserve credit
I realize that it's fashionable to often criticize Jermaine Jones, but I think he was quietly one of the more reliable players in the US team against both Antigua & Barbuda and Guatemala. Jones was all over the place on both sides of the field (and I mean that in a good way), he stayed away from sending multiple shots into the stands, and he frustrated opposing players to the point that they made mistakes. Michael Bradley once again put together two solid performances, and he continues to be the glue that holds it all together in the US midfield.
Players such as Clint Dempsey are going to steal headlines. That's perfectly acceptable, as that's exactly what we should expect from the team's stars. Guys like Jones and Bradley playing well and doing so deep into matches gives Klinsmann multiple options both before and during games. It's nice to have depth at every position, and the US are slowly but surely building a squad that can survive suffering a knock or two during such a tournament.
Now if they could only stay healthy at left back.