COMMENTARY | Before getting into the fun stuff, I think that we should all agree to, from this point forward, pretend that the recent friendlies that the United States Men's National Team played against Belgium and Germany never happened. Some may be quick to point out that certain Americans caught fire that carried over to the June World Cup Qualifiers on June 2 at RFK, but nobody would be looking so fondly at that contest had the US not also taken care of business in the matches that mattered. June 2013 was perfect for the US in that they went 3-0-0, they're atop their World Cup Qualifying group, and they can make hotel reservations for a 2014 trip to Brazil.
Are we sure there's no way we can move that US vs. Mexico match that will take place in Columbus to this coming weekend?
Wrap-up of June 2013 United States World Cup Qualifiers: Player of the month
I could think of up to four different players who should be listed on such an imaginary ballot. The stats alone helped me determine the winner. Five goals were buried by the US during their three WCQ. Three of them were scored by Jozy Altidore, who has emphatically merged his club and national team forms into one heading into what could be a very exciting summer for the 23-year old forward.
Numbers alone tell but a portion of what an in-form Altidore means for this team. Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has, in the AZ Alkmaar star, the front man he has been wanting to feature alone up top since taking the US gig in 2011. Klinsmann's desired formation revolves around Altidore, something that will work quite nicely as long as Jozy continues to average one goal per match.
Wrap-up of June 2013 United States World Cup Qualifiers: Zero
Numerous analysts and fans, myself included, made sure to point out the multiple miscues made by USMNT defenders Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez throughout the most recent qualifiers, and I even went so far to suggest during the Honduras match that Gonzalez is not anywhere near ready for a World Cup one year away from the start of that tournament. With that said, there's a fact that needs to be addressed:
The United States didn't give up a single goal in their two home qualifiers.
That's 180+ consecutive minutes without surrendering a single tally. Sure, goalkeeper Tim Howard produced several noteworthy stops after being hung out to dry by his teammates. Defending is a team effort, one that includes that final shot-stopper, center backs and those out on the wings. I absolutely agree with those who have stated that top-tier attacks would rip this US back line apart.
That's why it's ideal for players like Besler and Gonzalez to get silly mistakes out of their systems now rather than later.
Wrap-up of June 2013 United States World Cup Qualifiers: Landon's future
I fully expect that Landon Donovan will be back with the national team when the US are in Brazil next year. Where he will feature in the starting XI, if Klinsmann decides to give him a spot, is a bit clearer than it was two weeks ago. Eddie Johnson has been a loyal soldier in Klinsmann's Army, one routinely asked to play out of position and also one who scored a classy goal against Panama back on June 11. Unfortunately for EJ, he just hasn't adapted to Klinsmann's formation preferences, and I'm left believing that Donovan would be far more comfortable in that role when the US are facing the best of the best in 2014.
This doesn't mean that Johnson's national team days are numbered. I much prefer Johnson being on super-sub duty over the likes of Terrance Boyd or Sacha Kljestan (no disrespect meant to either man), and EJ could also act as cover for Altidore if the first-choice forward were to deal with fitness issues during the World Cup. All of this, of course, is dependent on Donovan earning a spot in the starting lineup one year from now.
Zac has been covering the USMNT, Holland, Tottenham Hotspur, New York Red Bulls, Major League Soccer and other soccer leagues for Yahoo! Sports since 2010.
- Sports & Recreation
- World Cup Qualifiers
- Jozy Altidore