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Godfrey's Column

Five Things We Learned From the Last Two Matches

Friendlies are fine and dandy, but the real learnings come from meaningful international matches like those against Jamaica and Panama. Here are a few observations about the true nature of the U.S. national team.
BY John Godfrey Posted
June 12, 2013
5:26 PM

1. Brad Evans is the New Conor Casey

Conor Casey is a solid professional but he was never a U.S. national team icon. He is not particularly fast, technical, or dynamic. And while he has made 19 appearances with the senior team, he has never played in a World Cup.

But in October 2009 Casey had the game of his life during a World Cup qualifier in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. He scored two goals and set up another in the United States' 3-2 win over Los Catrachos—a victory that secured the team's passage to South Africa.

Brad Evans is the same sort of guy. A reliable pro, absolutely. Versatile, yes. But does anyone see him making the trip to Brazil in 2014?

With fullbacks falling like flies in recent weeks, Evans stepped in and served his country well. He had the game of his life against Jamaica on June 7, scoring a stoppage-time winner that changed the mood of the team and the country. But four days later he fell back to earth and looked like an MLS journeyman playing out of position.

He is not the answer at right back. But for a short spell in June 2013 he did his job, and he did it well.

He may not get to Rio but he will always have Kingston.

2. Dempsey Isn't a Solo Act

For the first few months of 2013 Clint Dempsey was the national team's answer to Justin Timberlake. Talented and driven—and, according to my wife, quite handsome—Dempsey scored against Honduras and Costa Rica and Belgium. And then he got a brace against Germany. The Nacogdoches native commandeered center stage while his inconsistent teammates seemed to be there merely to fill out the lineup.

But then a funny thing happened on the way to the World Cup: Dempsey had a stinker against Jamaica and was just OK Tuesday night against Panama.

And the Yanks won both games anyway.

Jozy Altidore stepped up. DaMarcus Beasley overdelivered. The midfield put it all together. What's next—a Joey Fatone solo number?

Dempsey is supremely gifted—there's no doubt about that. But the fact that he didn't play particularly well and the team still came away with six points in two big games is a sign that the U.S. national team isn't just a one-man show.

3. Gonzalez Needs to Leave for Europe

We've come to expect certain things from U.S. national team matches. We know, for instance, that Jermaine Jones is going to get a yellow card. Eddie Johnson is going to average three step-overs per half. And Alexi Lalas is going to discuss the importance of set pieces at halftime.

And now, apparently, there's another recurring phenomenon to add to the list: the Omar Gonzalez brain fart.

Yes, we know the big guy is great in the air and that he anticipates extremely well and that his passing has improved, but it seems like he has one big gaffe per game, and it's got to stop.

His MLS contract is up in January, and hopefully Gonzalez will secure another overseas deal so that he can get blooded in a more intense environment. If he lands with a solid German or English team, he will have to fight for his spot every week (unlike now, where he is the undisputed leader of the Los Angeles Galaxy backline) and deal with faster/stronger/sneakier strikers week in and week out.

A move overseas will sharpen his game, and that's exactly what he needs in the buildup to the 2014 World Cup.

4. Jozy is the Key to the Entire Offense

A month ago, there was a simple and effective way to halt the American attack: Put two guys on Dempsey and then hack the hell out of him.

Since nobody else on the squad was posing much of a threat, opposing teams could take Deuce out of the match and challenge somebody else to put the ball in the back of the net. Jamaica did it last week. To a lesser extent, so did Panama.

The strategy worked, up to a point. But Altidore found his groove just in time and scored goals in both games. Was this an aberration, or is the Eredivisie Jozy here to stay? It's a hugely important question.

If the U.S. can line up two consistent, vibrant, in-form strikers against CONCACAF competition, it could run away with the Hex. The goalkeeping situation, as we know, is stellar. The defense is flawed but improving. The midfield is a strength.

And if the strikers round into form, the United States could become a very dangerous team.

5. Klinsmann Is the Man

Look at the Hex standings. It's all about results, and Klinsmann has delivered. Let's move on, shall we?

John Godfrey is the founder and editor in chief of American Soccer Now.

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