Billy’s Beat on USA Soccer
While the play of the United States has been suspect of late; causing head coach Jurgen Klinsmann to call the fitness of his players into question, today’s performance against Panama at the StubHub Center was nothing short of extraordinary. Games like this should be very comforting to USMNT fans across the nation.
Man of the Match: Gyasi Zardes
While this comes as no surprise to LA Galaxy fans, a number of USMNT fans had no idea how talented the Galaxy’s young striker is. One of the most consistent strikers in MLS, Zardes has more than earned a spot on Klinsmann’s squad, which struggles with depth at striker.
MLS fans have watched Zardes tear up the domestic league for the better part of two seasons, with many of them clamoring for him to get a shot at the national team. Klinsmann finally called in the Galaxy man for January camp, and Zardes has more than taken advantage of it.
The highlight of Zardes’ day was his pass to set up Dempsey’s goal in the 37th minute. With moments like that under his belt, I fully expect Zardes to get future camp invites from Jurgen Klinsmann with the national team.
Must See Goal: Michael Bradley’s Olympico
In the 27th minute of the first half, Miguel Ibarra, the NASL MVP, earned a corner kick for the United States who had been putting its best shots on goal from set pieces all day. However, the USMNT wouldn’t even need a traditional shot on goal for the United States’ to notch its first goal of the afternoon. Bradley curled the ball from the right corner into the side netting of the Panama goal, out of reach for Panamanian goalkeeper Jaime Penedo.
While Jozy Altidore’s leaping header certainly distracted the Panama defense, Altidore ultimately did not even touch Bradley’s corner, making the goal from the Toronto FC midfielder that much more remarkable. Bradley has always been phenomenal with set pieces for the national team, but this corner was especially impressive.
Klinsmann obviously wants the United States to score more from the run of play, but goals like Bradley showcase an auxiliary skill that can help the United States win, especially in difficult situations against the world’s best. I look forward to Bradley wearing the captain’s armband for the United States heading into next World Cup, so his ability to hammer home corner kicks like he did today can certainly help the national team.
Storyline to Watch: Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore
Much has been made over the sudden return to MLS of a number of USMNT members, specifically Jozy Altidore, who signed with Toronto FC in the January transfer window. The move will allow Jozy to link up with Michael Bradley, which will hopefully build some chemistry between the two heading into future national team competition. Their combination play was on display today against Panama, and will only get better as the pair work continuously together in practice.
While Altidore struggled with his move to Sunderland, I believe he will regain his confidence, and thus his form with Toronto, as Michael Bradley, the most fit player in the national team pool according to Jurgen Klinsmann is sure to push Jozy to be the best he can be in hopes of making the MLS Playoffs. Without Jozy as a top goal scorer in the league, its hard to imagine Toronto making a deep run, and I am confident Bradley will do everything in his power to make sure his national team counterpart is scoring goals.
The chemistry between these two at the club and national team level is certainly something to monitor over the coming months.