The first half of the scoreless draw with Scotland looked like it was a game with no meaning against two teams that had nothing to prove. Which, for a large portion of the players on the field, isn’t too far from the truth.
Scotland players are coming off of another disappointing World Cup qualifying campaign which sees them miss the tournament for the 4th straight time. Klinsmann fielded a starting XI of mostly “safe” players who would be considered snubs if they miss the roster next summer. It was a surprisingly disjointed start for a USMNT with so many first team regulars who had beaten their opponent 5-1 a year and a half ago.
The second half was a bit more lively after Klinsmann switched to a 4-4-2 formation, introducing Brek Shea, Aron Johannsson, and Mix Diskerud in the 62nd minute. This injection proved the most exciting and influential for the American attach. Twice Johannsson was in a position to score that he will wish he had back. The second of those chance came from a classic Brek Shea run down the left, burning his marker, and getting to the end line, before cutting the pass back to Johannsson who curled the shot just wide of the far post.
On the defensive side of the ball Tim Howard made a great save on Scotland’s best goal scoring opportunity. A free kick by Robert Snodgrass looked destined for the back of the net. As a West Ham fan, I had flashbacks to last weekend when he put away the exact same free kick for Norwich City to beat the Hammers, as the ball was flying through the air. Tim Howard proved his worth though as he got to the top corner to deny the goal.
So what did we learn from a game with very few highlights?
Don’t sleep on Brek Shea. He may have fallen off the radar at Stoke city, but he looks healthy again and a loan spell during the second half of the season could see the left winger in good form when Klinsmann is making his final decision. He isn’t at a point where he is challenging for a starting role, but in a position like the Scotland friendly, he can come off the bench and cause problems for opposing defenses when a spark is needed.
Aron Johannsson is the undisputed second striker in the player pool. It has not been long since the young striker filed the paperwork to allow him to play for the US national team instead of the Icelandic national team he had previously represented. He shows great poise with the ball at his feet in the box. He only has the 1 goal scored against Panama to his name, but as he continues to settle in and get more minutes he’s going to be a great addition to the offense who was woefully short on options before he picked the USMNT.
Mix Diskerud and Sasha Kljestan are in a battle for a spot on the plane to Brazil. They aren’t exact replicas of each other, but there is limited space in the team for central midfielders. Bradley and Jones are the obvious starters. Geoff Cameron has also proved to be a favorite of Klinsmann to cover for any openings in the defense and central midfield. The cover spots in central midfield will need to be decided between Diskerud, Kljestan, Danny Williams, Maurice Edu, and Kyle Beckerman. The other three options are much deeper lying players while Diskerud and Kljestan are the most dangerous going forward of that 5. There’s a good chance there will be 1 selected from each group, all depending on how many central mids Klinsmann decides he needs.
The team will return to action on Tuesday as they take on Austria. Keep an eye out for our Review here and further analysis as the 2014 World Cup in Brazil draws closer.