The USMNT defeated the Netherlands in an absolutely wild game in Amsterdam Friday. After falling behind 3-1 early in the second half, John Brooks and Danny Williams found the net to tie the game before Bobby Wood of all people scored in the 90th minute to give the United States the win. Here are a few thoughts on the game.
This was the US’s biggest non World Cup win in the Jurgen Klinsmann era
The US has had a few landmark wins in friendly matches under Jurgen Klinsmann but make no mistake this one was the biggest. They beat Germany’s “B” team at home, picked up a friendly win at the Azteca, and of course had that famous win over Italy in February of 2012. The win over Italy may rival this, but there’s a big difference between beating Italy in Genoa and beating a nearly full strength Holland in their home stadium as they prepare for a Euro 2016 qualifying match.
The 4-3-3 is the US’s best formation
Okay so I didn’t learn this one from today’s game but has actually been on my mind for a while now. Given the current make up of the squad and the players the US has available, the 4-3-3 is the best formation for them to use. It allows them to have a player like Kyle Beckerman or Danny Williams to sit in front of the back four, and then have two other central midfielders getting up and down the field.
At the top you can then have players like Fabian Johnson and Gyasi Zardes playing up on the wings, positions that they have been tremendous in. When Clint Dempsey comes back he can slot in on either of the wings, or in the middle of the front three, as over the course of his career the 4-3-3 has been his best formation as well.
The US needs a creative midfielder
Ever since Jurgen Klinsmann took over the national team, he promised a change in the style of play the US would play. He wanted to get the team away from playing a sit back and counter attack type of game, and be a team that controlled more possessions. As I’ve said many times, this kind of change takes time and can’t happen immediately. Some people, most notably Alexi Lalas, have been very vocal about how the change has been taking too long, but today we were finally able to see a possession based game taking shape as the US took the game to a Dutch team that wasn’t expecting them to.
The thing about playing a possession-based game is it requires a creative midfielder to get your attack going. That midfielder isn’t Micael Bradley, no matter how much Jurgen Klinsmann wants it to be. Bradley’s best position is as a No. 8, sitting somewhere between Beckerman and the attacking midfielder and making late runs into the box. The sooner Klinsmann stops the Bradley as a No. 10 experiment, the sooner we can figure out who the No. 10 will be. Alfredo Morales was given the start today, but didn’t seem too impressive in the role. A year ago we would have thought Mixx Diskerud would have that spot on lockdown by now, but unfortunately he’s struggled to impress as well.
For as well as the US played in terms of keeping possession, three of their four goals today were still scored on the counter attack.
Gyasi Zardes needs to go to a European club
Since breaking into the team in January no US player has been more impressive then Gyasi Zardes. Not only did he score a sensational goal for the US in the first half, but today he showed that he can flat out play. Jurgen Klinsmann needs to push Zardes to join a European club ASAP. Zardes is a talented kid and it would be such a shame to see him waste his entire career by not challenging himself and staying in MLS.
It’s also important that he goes to the right team. US players have seemed to struggle in England, so he should be wary of going to the Premier League. I’d like to see him go to Germany, Italy, or France, and hopefully play for a team in the Europa League. Those clubs are small enough where he can get good minutes, and playing in Europe would greatly help him. As of now no European clubs are openly interested in him, but if he continues playing like he did Friday over the summer and during the Gold Cup that could change.
The US is still looking for a striker
Aron Johannsson was given a golden opportunity to steal Jozy Altidore’s starting spot and he turned in a pretty ‘meh’ performance. I’m a big fan of Johannsson but there are still parts of his game that he needs to work on, namely his hold up play. Johannsson is out there for his ability to create his own shots and be able to score goals, something we didn’t see much of from him today, though his teammates did miss him a few times when he was open.
The thing about Johannsson and Altidore is both of them seem to strikers that do some things real well but need a compliment. That’s a problem in todays game as playing with two strikers in international football doesn’t work anymore. The US can get away with it if their second striker is someone like Clint Dempsey, but if they want to truly compete with the best teams in the world, they’ll need a three man midfield (with a creative central mid) and a more complete striker.
If you read my breakdown of the USMNT roster for this friendly, I devoted a large chunk to wondering why Bobby Wood was included in the team. There was good reason for that, Wood plays for a team that was just relegated out of Germany’s second division, has scored just 18 goals in 109 first team club appearances, and right now his own club is selling his jersey for 30% off. I laughed when I saw that Wood was included in this team, mainly because players like Jordan Morris, Julian Green, and Rubio Rubin were away with the US U23 and U20 teams (Morris was called in late to replace Jermaine Jones).
It was even more perplexing when Jurgen Klinsmann replaced Aron Johannsson with Wood with about a half hour to play. But I guess that’s why Jurgen is managing the USMNT and I’m sitting on my couch watching on TV, and most importantly that’s why Bobby Wood is left with the last laugh.