It took awhile, but the United States took care of business in a 2-0 win over Azerbaijan at Candlestick Park on Tuesday night. While the result was nice to see, and a draw or loss would’ve sent USA fans into a panic, there were more important things than the result.
First off, don’t forget that the play was affected in a major way by insane winds and a late scratch of USA forward Clint Dempsey. Despite those situations happening, the United States showed us a few important things heading towards the World Cup.
Let’s get into the things the USMNT showed us on Tuesday night.
Michael Bradley is USA’s Most Important Player:
All the talk last week may have been about Landon Donovan being left off the 23-man roster, but the reality is he hasn’t been the United States’ most important player for a while now. That title belongs to Michael Bradley, and on Tuesday night his importance was on full display. When the United States was at its most dangerous, it was Bradley driving the attack and springing players on quick counter attacks. On the flip side, when Bradley pulled back and disappeared from the action, the United States appeared lost in attack.
For the United States to go anywhere in the World Cup, Bradley can’t disappear for large stretches of the game. In fact, the more he’s on the ball the better the chances of success for the United States. Dare we say: As Bradley goes, so goes the United States chances?
Jermaine Jones Can Be a Good Link to Bradley:
When Jones was announced as a starter on Tuesday, it was meant with groans and complaints on Twitter. Yet, as the game went on Jones proved the doubters (myself included) wrong. He was composed for the most part and did a good job of being the connection between the back line and the attack. In fact, one could see him pulling back at times when he would’ve gone full speed ahead. What was even better to see was the fact that Jones’ first instinct on Tuesday was to look for Michael Bradley.
I’d like to see Kyle Beckerman in that same role in one of the two remaining Send-Off Series games for comparisons sake. But, if we continue to see the version of Jones we saw on Tuesday he could be an asset instead of a liability in the World Cup.
More Yedlin Please:
There may not be a more intriguing wing option for this team in the World Cup than DeAndre Yedlin. On Tuesday night Yedlin saw 28 minutes of action, and it was an active 28 minutes at that. He re-energized the squad and wasn’t afraid to mix it up either.
If the United States does deploy a 4-3-2-1 formation in the World Cup, Yedlin showed on Tuesday that he may be the perfect option on the right of defense. He linked up well with the midfield against Azerbaijan and was a driving force in the consistent attack down the right side of the pitch. Yedlin’s future is bright with the national team, but his present is also very good. Tuesday night’s 28-minute performance should earn Yedlin more playing time over the next two games.
Wondolowski Still Has Work to Do:
Clint Dempsey’s sore groin gave Chris Wondolowski an emergency start up front on Tuesday night, but the striker didn’t do a ton to help his cause for playing time at the World Cup. Wondolowski missed a few early chances, including an open header, and never seemed to get in the flow of attack. One could argue that Wondo was unlucky to not put one in the back of the net in the 15th minute, as he forced Azerbaijani goaltender Kamran Aghayev to make a highlight reel save.
Yet, that was the highlight of his night, and the rest of the way he disappeared when needed most. Most worrisome is that over time, Wondo’s link play with the midfield eroded.
It also didn’t help that his sub, Aron Johannsson, scored the final nail in the coffin with a great—albeit, wide open—header.
If Wondolowski wants to earn time as the first man off the bench in attack at the World Cup, he needs a better performance than Tuesday’s effort.