Let’s go back over a year to Juergen Klinsmann’s first game in charge of the U.S. Mens national team. The 72nd minute or so, to be more specific. Robbie Rogers had come on for Michael Bradley, son of the freshly fired previous coach, Bob Bradley, and was the third substitute after FC Dallas winger Brek Shea and New York Red Bulls forward Juan Agudelo. A minute later, Shea and Agudelo combined to set up Rogers with an open net, and a goal that brought the U.S. level with Mexico in that game.
The moment was fairly symbolic. In the past year, the U.S has, at times, seen some less than encouraging attacking play, particularly on the flanks. The U.S. has seen lethargic play from a very tired-looking Brek Shea since his hot start, and we’ve seen the offensively inept (if hard-working) Danny Williams fail to generate anything down the right. Jose Torres as well has, save for an excellent performance against Scotland, looked pretty out of it on the left flank.
When the U.S. played against Antigua & Barbuda and Guatemala recently, the unexpected hero of those games actually turned out to be Eddie Johnson. Scoring two and assisting one of the five goals the U.S. scored between those two games, Johnson offered the kind of direct approach on the flanks that you would expect out of a forward. Along with Herculez Gomez, he ran at defenders, darted into the channels, and got into the box as often as he could.
That kind of immediacy added to the attack is exactly what the U.S. needs to offset the intelligent ball-play of guys like Mihael Bradley, Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, and Graham Zusi.
The most recent U.S. roster has a collection of pacy, winger-forward types that will add the kind of directness and pace the U.S. will need to complement our more sophisticated players. Players like Josh Gatt, Joe Gyau, Jozy Altidore, and Juan Agudelo all missed out on the Olympics when the U.S. U-23 failed to qualify, and now is their best chance before qualifying to truly set themselves apart.
It’s starting to look a little bit more like the pieces are coming together, or that Juergen is putting the pieces together for a side ready to make a difference in the Hexagonal.