Sorry to rain on the parade, but there's no celebrating this win.
Save me your conversations about the small field, the awful condition of the pitch and the drenching rain storm that soaked all at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium on Friday night. The United States Men's National Team needed a stoppage time goal to escape Antigua & Barbuda with a win. That one sentence tells you plenty about the current state of the Jurgen Klinsmann era. Returning home with three points was vital for the US, and that shouldn't be discounted. With that said, I remain plenty worried about this team after yet another lackluster and largely lifeless performance.
Antigua & Barbuda 1-2 United States: The man
It would be inaccurate to state that Eddie Johnson was the best overall player on the pitch. EJ looked very uneasy during the opening 15 minutes of play, and he was largely a non-factor in the second half leading into stoppage time. It should also be noted that his two goals were created by the two best crosses of the evening, and they were also aided by some horrendous defending.
None of that really matters, though, as Johnson showed exactly why Klinsmann called the Seattle Sounders star into the team. He twice started runs at the perfect time, twice got away from his marker and twice nodded the ball into the back of the net. Johnson's role in Klinsmann's side is to be the point man in the box, the guy who climbs the ladder and at the very least tests the 'keeper multiple times per match. Johnson gave his coach two memorable moments to justify his getting the start on Friday, and you can be sure that he'll again get the nod next Tuesday.
Antigua & Barbuda 1-2 United States: Ugly
Just how bad were the USMNT outside of the two goals? Bad enough that the 2-1 result doesn't change the fact that this was the worst the team has looked since Klinsmann took over in 2011. Guys were reading different genres of novels let alone not on the same page, the back line was badly beaten on four separate occasions that would have resulted in goals had the US been playing a better opponent (you're lying to yourself if you don't realize the United States should have been trailing 3-1 at the start of stoppage time), and the team's best attacking players were seemingly afraid to test a very shaky goalkeeper.
Klinsmann was loud and clear about his plan for US Soccer two summers ago. The USMNT were going to play a more attack-oriented style, one that resulted in fluid play and more goals. That certainly hasn't been the case during World Cup qualifiers. Not until Sacha Kljestan had a go from distance nine minutes from time did it even look like the US were remotely close to finding a second goal. Once again, a Klinsmann-led US team was completely incapable of turning possession into attempts on target, let alone goals. They've got to figure things out and quickly, because the US team that took the field Friday night isn't beating Guatemala, not even at home.
Antigua & Barbuda 1-2 United States: Miss me yet?
The biggest US Soccer story of the week heading into Friday's match was Jozy Altidore being left off the team. Despite the 2-1 win, I can't help but wonder if Klinsmann will be rethinking that decision over the weekend. Herculez Gomez had his worst game since returning to the national team in 2011, gifting away possession in the final third and displaying a first touch that I'll kindly refer to as "poor." Alan Gordon certainly deserves credit for delivering the pinpoint ball that was headed home by Johnson in stoppage time, but I'm not sure that I want Gordon being the team's best attacking option off the bench when in need of a goal against Guatemala.
Antigua & Barbuda 1-2 United States: Why?
Klinsmann's most curious decision of the evening came eleven minutes into the second half. With the score at 1-1 and the US attack out of sorts, Klinsmann chose to insert Jermaine Jones into the game. Hardly known for his ability to jump-start the midfield's creativity and also holding a yellow, Jones needed just six minutes to make his way into the referee's book after a silly foul eliminated any chance of his taking the pitch against Guatemala.
Whether or not that's actually a good thing for the US is up for debate.
I wouldn't have had any problem with Jones entering the match if the US were winning at the time. I do understand that several lineup mainstays are missing because of injury, but Klinsmann's decision in that moment of Friday's game really shows you the lack of depth in this squad. It's a major concern heading into a contest that isn't a gimme for the US.
Antigua & Barbuda 1-2 United States: Conclusion
Plenty would have to go horribly wrong for the United States to not advance to the next stage of World Cup qualifying. With both Guatemala and the USMNT on ten points in the group after Friday night, Team USA will essentially be hosting a "must draw, would really prefer to win" contest that could ultimately prove to be a one-game playoff for those two sides if Jamaica defeat Antigua & Barbuda on Tuesday (Jamaica are on seven points).
All gloom and doom aside, the United States are right where I expected them to be at this point of the process; one win away on home soil from finishing atop their group. A convincing two or three-goal win for the US on Tuesday would do wonders in making all supporters and analysts forget about just how poorly the team looked when away to A & B. I'd be lying, though, if I said that I wasn't more than a little nervous about next week's qualifier.
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