The Runner Sports

Looking Ahead For USMNT

In a year that saw the USMNT fall short in nearly every manner that counts, 2016 offers an opportunity for a quick turnaround.  There are of course a number of friendlies that will allow for Jurgen Klinsmann to mix and match his lineups.  The excitement rests in the fact that three separate tournaments will be taking place that the USMNT will be a part of.  A bounce back year is needed after Klinsmann wasted a year of post-World Cup development with a poor showing in the CONCACAF Gold Cup and again in the Olympic qualifying tournament.

For those that have forgotten, the USMNT was badly outplayed all tournament long in the Gold Cup. Against the smaller nations of Honduras and Haiti, who shouldn’t be causing many problems, the U.S. achieved narrow victories.  Against Honduras, the U.S. suffered a 9-5 disadvantage in shots and the disparity was even worse in the Haiti match with a 15-5 disadvantage.  The same song could be sung the rest of the tournament with the exception of a 6-0 beatdown of a Cuba team playing at less than full strength. The U.S. had a 66-42 disadvantage in shots for the tournament after taking out the Cuba shot total.  These numbers might be acceptable playing against big teams like Germany, Brazil, or even Mexico, but this came against the likes of Haiti, Panama twice, Honduras, and Jamaica.

The pain continued in a hard-fought loss to Mexico in the newly minted CONCACAF Cup.  Across the year, Klinsmann had promised to experiment and figure out what he had, and while he has done just that, the tactical and personnel inconsistency was frustrating.  Every match he was playing someone out of position, with a new formation.  Klinsmann called in aging and already old players who couldn’t possibly be available for the next World Cup.  In short, we can all be thankful that 2015 is over and a new year is upon us.

To kick off the year, the USMNT will have their traditional January camp which is used to bring younger players into the squad.  This probably means many of the U-23s that will be playing in the all-important series against Columbia in March.  Failure to defeat Columbia in the two-legged series would result in the USMNT in missing out on consecutive Olympics.  While missing an Olympics isn’t the worst thing in the world, certainly missing a World Cup would be worse, the impact can’t be undersold.  An Olympics appearance would provide many players with an opportunity to play at a high level to showcase their talents as the world’s biggest clubs look on.  Matt Polster, Matt Miazga, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Wil Trapp, Jordan Morris, DeAndre Yedlin, and John Anthony Brooks are a few of the exciting prospects that have much to gain from the exposure associated with an Olympic soccer tournament.

Following the January camp in which I would expect many of the aforementioned names to be invited too, the U.S. plays two friendlies, one against a very quality Iceland team that qualified for the 2016 Euros and a frisky Canadian squad.  Both matches should lead to more knowledge of Klinsmann’s direction, but as all U.S. fans know, Klinsmann doesn’t care about things like continuity or building chemistry.

Next up in March, World Cup 2018 qualifying resumes.  In what should be an extremely straight forward group, the U.S. sees themselves tied for first, on four points.  With a home and home against third-place Guatemala, the U.S. has an opportunity to all but wrap up their spot in the hexagonal the following year.  As those that follow CONCACAF know, playing on the road is never an easy task and Guatemala won’t be an exception.  Bumpy fields that are often used for much more than just soccer in a hot humid environment will be an interesting test for the U.S. before they return to their de facto home of the USMNT, Columbus, Ohio.  It will be interesting to see what would happen should the U.S. fail to win the first away match as that loss would likely put then in third place and heap unwanted pressure on the squad.

In a busy year, the most exciting event will take place during the summer, and that is the Copa America Centenario.  Now the groups haven’t been set, thus the U.S. don’t have their group selected yet, but hosting this tournament is a massive opportunity.  Soccer has been gaining momentum in the United States for the past decade and hosting the national squads of Brazil, Argentina, Columbia, Chile, Mexico, and Uruguay could increase interest all the more.  Those teams are loaded with talent with names like Neymar, James Rodriguez, Messi, Alexis Sanchez, and perhaps the most underrated center backs in the world, Diego Godin.  All will be forgiven for the 2015 failures if Klinsmann can get his squad to the semi-finals.  You can count on TRS for wall to wall coverage this summer, with the tournament kicking off June 3rd with the USMNT playing in Levi Stadium.

As of now the U.S. has two other matches ahead in the 2016 calendar year, an away WWC match against and the Grenadines and a home match against Trinidad and Tobago.  The U.S. should make quick work of the predominantly semi-pro St. Vincent squad and if all goes well against Guatemala, qualification to the hexagonal should be a sure thing.

Two other factors to watch for this squad, are more players going to step up their level of competition by moving away from MLS to Europe and will Klinsmann finally find a true best eleven?  Those in Europe are playing quite well.  Fabian Johnson has been a key player for Borussia Monchengladbach scoring six goals across all competitions and achieving a 7.14 on Whoscored.com.  John Anthony Brooks has gotten back in the starting eleven at Hertha Berlin who is currently third in the Bundesliga.  The two Premier League regulars, Geoff Cameron, and DeAndre Yedlin have also been posting quality performances on a weekly basis.  I mentioned it earlier, but Klinsmann experimented a great deal with his tactics nearly exclusively to destructive results.  The U.S. needs to settle on an identity in the year 2016.

For some fantastic soccer coverage follow TRS new writer Carlo Valladares on twitter @C_V_News

John Harbeck

Ohio sports and all things soccer.If you like my writing follow me @JHarbeck5 on twitter

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