Sunday, May 27, 2012

Offensive energy stands out for U.S.

International friendly or not, it was entertaining to watch the United States dominate a solid Scotland side, 5-1, on Saturday night in Jacksonville.

Here are a few thoughts on the match:

-- The energy and smooth flow into the attack was as good as I've seen from the U.S. in years. It seemed like for stretches during Bob Bradley's reign as coach, the team settled into a bunker mentality - let the defensive-third work carry the day and rely on set pieces and the occasional counterattack. But under Jurgen Klinsmann, the approach is clearly different. Yes, there is still a strength in defense, especially as long as Tim Howard is in goal, but the attacking energy and quick combination work is really a nice thing to see. We'll never be Brazil, but Saturday was a nice indication of hopefully what we can do going forward.

-- I've always felt Landon Donovan's best role on the national team was as an attacking midfielder - not constricted by the possessive needs of midfield and not entirely reliant on the service of others as a striker. In this role, regardless if it's left, central or right, it allows Donovan's creativity to really be on display. He is such a natural playmaker for himself and for others, and it showed once again Saturday with a hat trick. Donovan is as good an offensive talent as we've ever had in the U.S. starting 11.

-- It's also nice to see some new faces working their way into the lineup in advance of the 2014 World Cup. The U.S. is in a transition period - by 2014, Donovan will be 32 and Clint Dempsey will be 31, and it will probably be the last big international tournament for reliable defenders Carlos Bocanegra and Steve Cherundolo. Klinsmann is working new players into the system, some from MLS, some playing abroad. It is refreshing to see, say, a Fabian Johnson or a Terrence Boyd getting a callup and valuable minutes on the pitch in the process.

- Chris Lillstrung


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