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Five Quick Thoughts On the United States Win Over Guatemala

Opinion: Five quick thoughts on the USMNT’s win over Guatemala

The United States completed their final 2015 Gold Cup warm up match Friday by thoroughly defeating Guatemala 4-0 in Nashville. Here are a few quick thoughts on the match.

No thanks Graham Zusi 

Let me start by saying I love Graham Zusi, and I always will. It’s a connection that goes back to when he played for the University of Maryland and scored the winning goal in the 2008 College Cup final. It continued during the last World Cup cycle where I hoped he would make the World Cup roster over Landon Donovan (he did) and of course followed that up by crossing in the corner on John Brooks’ winning goal against Ghana. So while I love you Graham, it’s time for you to no longer be starting for the USMNT.

It’s not that Zusi isn’t good anymore, he still crosses a ball better than anyone else on the roster. But that alone doesn’t mean he should be starting, as this past year has seen the emergence of other young players that not only have done a better job then Zusi but have a lot more upside. Gyasi Zardes has done everything right since January and I thought taking away his starting spot was unlucky for him. Plus, we’ve been seeing since last summer what DeAndre Yedlin can do on that right wing. Both players provide a lot more upside than an aging Zusi, who at 28 years old is sneakily much older then you’d think (he’ll be 31 by the next World Cup, Donovan was 32 last year and was deemed too old).

DeAndre Yedlin needs to start

Since last summer’s World Cup I’ve been on the ‘DeAndre Yedlin is our right back of the future’ train, and I wasn’t too happy about Jurgen Klinsmann trying to play him as a midfielder. Furthermore I started to love Yedlin’s emerging role as one of the best impact subs around, as he’s come in and completely changed around matches on more then one occasion (Portugal, Netherlands, and Germany games come to mind). While he certainly may end up being our right back of the future, I was very happy with the role that he was playing, coming on against tired opponents and running them ragged.

That all changed last night when Yedlin was given the start in right midfield. It wasn’t just that he created all sorts of problems for Guatemala early in the match, it was that in the 89th minute he was still creating all kinds of problems for the Guatemalans. If he can run like that for 90 minutes then what a weapon he is and no matter what formation Jurgen Klinsmann chooses he’s going to need to find a spot for Yedlin.

I’m not sure how I feel about this formation
The past year of friendlies has seen the US role out more formations then I have fingers, and despite picking up big wins against the Netherlands and Germany we knew there would likely be another new formation Friday night to accommodate the return of forward Clint Dempsey. The US came out in what looked like a standard 4-4-2 formation, playing with Dempsey up top and using a midfield partnership of Michael Bradley and Mix Diskerud, relegating holding midfielder Kyle Beckerman to the bench.

While the Diskerud-Bradley partnership wasn’t bad by any means as Bradley already is, and Diskerud is becoming, a very good box-to-box midfielder I’m just a little concerned about this going forward. The US can get away with playing two central midfielders against CONCACAF opponents, but the bigger teams in the world will run over them if they play that formation in the future. This isn’t an immediate concern as the US should still move through the Gold Cup, but I certainly hope we haven’t seen the last of Beckerman.

US Soccer needs to do a better job of picking their host venues 

I wasn’t at the game last night in Nashville, but the reports are there were many unhappy fans who took to twitter to voice their displeasure on the match-day experience. Fans complained about long security lines, understaffed concession lines, lack of ushers, and a stadium that just didn’t seem to be taking the game seriously. I’ve been to two USMNT matches in the past year–the send off series match vs. Turkey at Redbull Arena and the Landon Donovan farewell match in Hartford in October–and I can say both stadiums had the exact same problems that people were complaining about Friday night.

Soccer is growing in the United States and no team is more popular than the USMNT. Stadiums need to realize this and if they want to host a game they need to be ready to treat this match like an NFL game (Nissan Stadium is an NFL stadium) to give fans the best possible experience. If a stadium can’t do that, US Soccer simply shouldn’t let them host national team games anymore. There are plenty of stadiums that do a great job with the USMNT, if one can’t give them the respect they deserve then they shouldn’t get the privilege of being a host venue.

Just start the Gold Cup already

Seeing how the competition level of the Gold Cup is pretty abysmal, it’s easy to expect that fans would barely be able to muster up any kind of excitement for it, and yet here I am anxiously awaiting it to start. I finally figured out how they tricked me into these feelings, by smartly holding this tournament after a year of nothing but friendlies. Sure the wins over the Dutch and Germans were nice, but ultimately those games don’t mean anything. For the first time in a year we’re going to see the US play in a game that matter, and let’s get it started already!

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