World Cup 2014: Part 3: USA-Azerbaijan As It Happened, Player Ratings, 5 or so Takeaways

USA. Azerbaijan. San Francisco. Read my preview if you haven’t yet.

Klinsmann FC Lineup: Howard; Beasley, Besler, Cameron, Johnson; Jones; Bedoya, Bradley, Zusi; Dempsey, Wondolowski*, Altidore

4-1-2-1-2, or “diamond” if you want to simplify it and like shapes. Besler-Cam at center-back, FJ at right-back, Bedoya at left-midfield. I like it.

Dempsey strained his groin. I hope he’s okay. Wondo is in.
If Dempsey can’t go to the World Cup, do you know who is most likely to replace him in the roster? I won’t say it in order not to jinx it, but his name rhymes with “Bandon Bonovan.” That would be nice (and awkward) but does it have to be Dempsey who goes out? It’s all pure conjecture, anyways.

Berti Vogts United Lineup: Agayev; Yunuszada, Budak, Shukurov, Ramaldanov; Dadashov, Abatsiyev, Abisov, Qarayev; Aliyev, Cavadov

Yeah, I don’t know any of these guys. Dadashov is the best they have, I hear. He’s been struggling for time in the German second division. Oh look, it’s a bird outside.

1’ – The game has begun!
2’ – The US has yet to have a serious chance at a serious chance. If the game doesn’t end as a multi-goal win, riots will break out.
3’ – FJ fouled. Wondo with the pass. Free kick.
4’ – Zusi…WONDO!…denied! Agayev! Wondo may have been just off-side, but it was close. Wonderful ball in by the SKC winger, a nice header, and a great save. Do I sound too positive? The marking was atrocious.
6’ – By the way, as expected, Mix Diskerud is in the #10 shirt. After Donovan’s departure, I thought that it would’ve been best to not give it to anyone, but Mix is likable and no one can blame him for taking Donovan’s spot. Oh, and they kind of have to, because FIFA hates numbers 24 and higher.
7’ – Matt Besler with a key pass–to the bad guys. Fortunately the Azerbaijani’s shot was saved by Howard, but he cannot do that against Ronaldo or Asamoah or, say, the entire German team. The corner kick is botched, but it doesn’t matter. Matt Besler with a mistake.
10’ – Zusi with another not-bad delivery. Cleared away by the bad guys.
12’ – Shukurov! The free kick, just off the post.
14’ – Ball sent into the six by Zusi; Bradley with the first pass. Michael Bradley is the architect of both the attack and the defense.
15’ – Zusi, short corner, Bedoya, cross, WONDO!!!! SAVE!!! Agayev AGAIN!
15’ – By the way, Chris Wondolowski has had the two best chances for the US so far.
16’ – Bedoya with a screaming run down the left, taken down outside of the box. Now Zusi has a great free kick opportunity. Bedoya at LM; Klinsmann has struck gold.
17’ – Jones with a first-time shot from about 20. Easy save.
19’ – Jermaine Jones miscontrols the ball, Besler back-passes to Howard weakly, Howard has to clear. All of this while being pressured by the Azerbaijanis. If they make simple defending look that horrifying at the World Cup, I will go insane by the Germany game.
22’ – Fabian Johnson horrendously miscontrols it, sending it like a rocket off of the field. He needs to show more composure in the World Cup.
25’ – Apparently Clint Dempsey’s injury was just a precaution. I hope so. There are many players I’d take out for Donovan. Dempsey is not one of them.
28’ – Oh look, an own-half turnover by Jones. There’s that bird outside again.
28’ – Beasley, Jones, long pass, nifty touch by Bedoya, Altidore, Wondo open, PASS, HANDBALL!!! NOT CALLED!!! Was it deliberate? Not sure. If so, it would’ve been a PK!
31’ – Collision between Bedoya and a bad guy! Bedoya’s okay, but if he was hurt can you guess who would be a likely call-up?
33’ – Bradley! Deflection! Corner!
33’ – The corner doesn’t come to much.
33’ – BenchCam. Green, Brooks, and Davis hanging out. The latter two are laughing. Green looks like he would think it was funny but…he has other things on his mind.
37’ – Bedoya and Zusi seem to have switched wings.
40’ – Good attack by the US. Nice hold-up play by Jozy, good attacking play by Bradley, corner won. The corner leads to Matt Besler giving Agayev the ball. Nice. Oh look, the bird outside has a friend.
41’ – I know it’s annoying for me to comment on the commentary, but Taylor Twellman just said something a bit off. See, there is a BIG difference between a Messi-like “false 9” and a non-goal-scoring hold-up play center-forward.
44’ – I’m surprised that the US hasn’t scored yet. Maybe they can alleviate that before half-time.
44’ – The anarchist in me says that players should be allowed to argue with the refs, but they aren’t and Jones needs to be careful.
45+1’ – End of the first half.
46’ – Second half. Davis in for Zusi. Gonzalez in for Cameron. Chandler in for Beasley. All like-for-like changes.
48’ – That was a penalty, but it wasn’t called! Chandler to Davis, Davis taken down. Free kick, although it was in the box so it should’ve been a PK.
49’ – Bradley! Over the crossbar. Again, it should’ve been a PK.
52’ – Nifty work in tight spaces by Fabian Johnson.
57’ – Bad guys in the box. The US still hasn’t scored. I think the bird is writing a match report on my match report. He’s making a face that looks like he just made a cultural reference.
57’ – Bradley TO SPACE!!! Davis has done well, and Bedoya-FJ on the same side seems promising.
61’ – Double-sub. Wondo out (he kind of deserved a goal, but he’s been getting so many already) Jóhannsson in, FJ out (he’ll be key in the World Cup) young DeAndre Yedlin in.
64’ – Jóhannsson with a nifty lay-off pass…to no one.
66’ – Giveaway and then foul by Yedlin. Michael Parkhurst once went an entire season with only 5 fouls. Just saying.
69’ – No, Taylor Twellman. DeAndre Yedlin is not a good option off the bench. Aron Jóhannsson, Chris Wondolowski, Mix Diskerud, and whoever doesn’t start of Bedoya/Davis/Zusi are all better attacking options.
71’ – Here comes Mix Diskerud for Alejandro Bedoya; the last US sub. Mix, as I said earlier, is #10. He seems to slot in at RM.
73’ – DeAndre Yedlin just flattened that guy. Where did he go in the NFL draft again?
76’ – Apologies.
76’ – In 2010, Benny Feilhaber was either the first or joint first non-injury sub to come on the bench in three of the four US games, when the team was looking for a result. That is Diskerud this year. He, Jóhannsson, and Wondo are the main substitutes to chase the game. Beckerman is the defensive sub in my eyes; the closer.
81’ – Unruly ball in the corner, Davis sends it in, KEVIN BACON!!!! Ahem, ARON JÓHANNSSON!!!! GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAALL!!!!!
82’ – How do you say two-nil in Azerbaijani? I’ll just keep it Spanish: DOS A CERO!!!
83’ – Again, though, a 2-0 win isn’t that great vs. Azerbaijan. I mean, the Sealand National Team beat them 3-0! (Not really, I just wanted to mention the Sealand National Team.)
86’ – Chandler sends in the cross, corner. Davis…’keeper saves.
87’ – Jermain Jones went down, but he’s okay. You know, if he were to get hurt he’d probably be replaced by…Maurice Edu.
90+2’ – The final whistle.
The USMNT seemed a bit a bit dull. As if they were devoid of energy because they have been running around for a long time for the last couple of weeks. Why? Because they have!

Player Ratings

Everyone was mediocre. Hence the short blurbs:

(Note: the ratings aren’t as bad as they look. I like to use all the numbers 0-10, so 5 is average. Most people seem to only use 4-8.)

5.0 Tim Howard – he didn’t do much, but he made a couple saves and got a clean sheet.

4.5 Matt Besler – he wasn’t tested much, but he looked nervy in the first half. Hopefully he shakes that off.

5.0 Geoff Cameron – he wasn’t tested at all, really.

5.5 Fabian Johnson – he was active, but, again, the whole team was dull.

5.0 DeMarcus Beasley – he was only on for a half, and wasn’t tested much.

5.5 Jermaine Jones – yeah, okay, he didn’t do much memorable outside of general Jermaine Jones WHAT IS HE TRYING TO DO?!?!?! stuff, but he stayed solid in the #6 role, and that will be very helpful in the World Cup.

5.5 Alejandro Bedoya – yeah, the whole team was dull. And Bedoya didn’t do much outside of the first 30 minutes, and even then he was no Messi. But I’m feeling generous today.

5.0 Graham Zusi – he only played one half, and he did a few good things on set pieces. But he wasn’t really Cristiano Ronaldo.

5.0 Michael Bradley – playing Bradley as a #10 is like a band playing their drummer as a piano player. Sure, the diamond is great, but 4-2-3-1 Klinsmann. Bradley is better when he is sitting back and he can playmake when the opportunities arise, and where he can also defend and set the pace of the game Pirlo-style, as opposed to pressing him forward where he is forced to do #10 stuff all the time.

5.5 Chris Wondolowski – he did well! Sure, he could’ve taken those chances a bit better, but I’ve seen players miss worse, and those were good saves. Plus, not many other players were getting in positions like that. It’s what he does, he gets in position.

5.0 Jozy Altidore – some people are too critical on Altidore. The US needs a target forward, whose job isn’t really to score goals, but to hold the ball up and bring other players into play (the team will need to defend, like, a lot, so when they get the ball back, the other players will need time to get forward). The player who can play this role best in this squad is by far Altidore. Stop acting like he’s the worst ever just because he doesn’t always score.


5.5 Brad Davis – he came in and changed the game. The only drawbacks are that he’s slow, and as good with his right foot as I am with my tail. I don’t have a tail. But his left foot is insane, and he continues the tradition of people from St. Louis going to the World Cup.

5.0 Omar Gonzalez – he was barely tested at all.

5.0 Timothy Chandler – he wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t great.

5.5 Aron Jóhannsson – the Iceman didn’t have much time to do things, but he scored. And even though he had 16.3 acres of space in the box (I measured it) a goal is a goal is a goal.

5.0 DeAndre Yedlin – didn’t do much for me to move it away from the average of 5.

6.0 Mix Diskerud – he gets an extra half point for the interview afterwards, where he was asked about wearing the number 10 and he said something like “it’s not about what’s on the back of the jersey but what’s on the front of it” while pointing to the US crest. This guy’s great!

5 or so Takeaways

1. Super Subs
Both goals were scored by substitutes. A lot of the best plays (PK, assist) were by Brad Davis, another sub. I can’t really comment about the defensive subs, because no one did any defending! The three subs not in the back 4 were the most effective players in that second half.

Substitutions will be very important. And no, DeAndre Yedlin isn’t an attacking sub. Because he’s a defender (in theory, at least). This is how I see the midfield and attack in the starting XI:


I’ve got Fabian Johnson as a full-back.

Attacking/midfield players not in that 11: Jóhannsson, Wondo, Davis, Diskerud, Green, and Beckerman.

Klinsmann has several options. He can only add 3 subs a game. I think that they all have different uses:

Jóhannsson: put him on for the worst playing attacker to get a goal in the last 30 minutes. Role: all-use Super-Sub.

Diskerud: you need a creative player to unlock stingy defenses. Role: creative sub.

Wondo: you need someone to finish chances and score a goal in the last 10 or 15 minutes or so. Role: kitchen sink sub for finishing.

Davis: another creative player is needed and you’ve used Mix. Role: kitchen sink sub for creativity.

Green: you’re down 3-0 to Germany in the 85th and whatever. Role: throw-in-the-towel sub.

Beckerman: you’re up and you need to kill the game. Role: John Obi-Mikiller.

Substitutions are powerful. They can change games for the better. Overall, how a coach uses the bench can be the difference between winning and losing. Klinsmann has 9 subs in the group stage (3 per game). 9 chances to either unlock the defense with fresh legs, or just waste another opportunity.

In a group that’s so hard to get out of, everything will need to go right. All the decisions, all the breaks, everything. Including substitutions, because they matter. Which was kind of the only thing this game taught us.

2. Everyone was mediocre.
I only have 2 takeaways in my “5 or so takeaways” segment. It took me an extra day and a half to finish my review. This is partially because I’m an amateur blogger and thus quality is about 7th on my priorities, even behind making Bruce Arena jokes. But it’s mainly because the team was as dull as Bruce Arena if he isn’t allowed to complain about stuff and is a little worn out because he was just in a rap battle with Mike Petke.

Yes. It happens. What goes on in scouting combine stays in scouting combine.

Anyways, it was dull. The subs generated some nice play in the last 30 minutes or so, and some of the starters (Wondo, Bedoya) generated some nice play in the first 30 minutes or so, but overall it was super-dull. It was like each player was in an election campaign to become the Mayor of Dull City. Like each player was auditioning for a starring role in The Dull Show. Like each player was, uh, well…it was dull.

I mean, if the US would’ve played Germany, Portugal, or Ghana like that (a few bad defensive plays here, lackluster attacking there, the second goal coming from legendarily horrific marking, etc.) the final score would’ve been something like 4-0 against the US.

Hopefully the Turkey and Nigeria games will be better.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s