USA-Azerbaijan World Cup Countdown Debrief: Highlights and three questions

The U.S. World Cup team made unnecessarily hard work of breaking down a sub-standard Azerbaijan team that boasted an inert offense and inept defense, as reporter Elliott Almond wrote in his game story for our sister newspaper the San Jose Mercury News.

The game was not a pretty sight as a scant three and a half minutes of video highlights would suggest and while some players insisted the U.S. doesn’t need to be peaking yet and the performance was “fine” the unconvincing display didn’t bolster hopes that the U.S. is capable of advancing out of the group stage in Brazil.

The U.S. looked far from ruthless against a team it should have easily ripped asunder, which again hardly bodes well given the quality of opposition the U.S. will face at the World Cup.

Which reminds me: Nigeria, the U.S. opponent in the last of the three World Cup tune-ups scheduled before the USMNT heads south, plays Scotland at noon on GolTV. Mexico plays Israel tonight at 6 p.m. on ESPN2.

Here are three questions the U.S. must answer over the next month or so if it hopes for a decent showing in Brazil:

1. Much was made of the diamond midfield formation coach Jurgen Klinsmann employed last night. The bigger and much more basic question: Is Michael Bradley, who was positively ordinary against Azerbaijan, as much of a creative force without Landon Donovan in the lineup, either to take pressure off him or as an offensive foil?

2. If Klinsmann really considers Donovan a forward rather than a midfielder, how was the punchless Jozy Altidore, who spent the game displaying why he had an ineffective season in the EPL, ever considered “ahead” of the Galaxy playmaker in any respect?

3. There was no disputing the U.S. effort, but where was the flair, those moments of unpredictability that can turn a game? It’s easy to score from a set piece completely unmarked, it’s quite another to make something out of nothing. Does the U.S. roster have those sorts of players  especially when Clint Dempsey is injured and out of the lineup?

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  • Benjamin Hayes

    no, no, and no…. I sure hope this is all a ploy by Jurgen to motivate Landon and he finds a way to get him on the plane to Brazil. Landon may not be at his best and a bit out of shape, but he is still the most clutch player the US has.

    • Joseph D’Hippolito

      Benjamin, Landon’s not getting on the plane. Klinsmann doesn’t want him, for whatever reason. If this truly is a ploy to motivate Donovan, then Klinsmann is nothing but a specialist in cheap mind games.

  • Joseph D’Hippolito

    Nick, what you saw was the result of excessive physical training, the lack of cohesion on the field and the lack of self-confidence among the players. Donovan really wouldn’t have helped. All that is Klinsmann’s doing. He has done what even Steve Sampson couldn’t do in 1998: Break the Americans’ spirit and confidence, which were their most important assets as a soccer team. They will play with their tails between their legs in Brazil because they won’t know how to handle mentally the momentum switches in each game. Just look at the second half against Mexico and both halves against Ukraine.