With the last January Camp having been such a poor display that yielded very few lessons, the U.S.’s match against South Korea could only have been an improvement. Yes, Brad Davis, Graham Zusi, Brad Evans, Matt Besler, Chris Wondolowski, Kyle Beckerman, and Omar Gonzalez all started just like the last time the U.S. held January Camp, but this time they were accompanied by fellow MLS star Landon Donovan, as well as the U-23 and Gold Cup standout Mikkel Diskerud.
The difference was noticeable. Donovan had a hand in both goals, and Diskerud’s calm, savvy play in the middle of the pitch had the U.S. end the first half with 61% of possession. That said, these were among a few notes that could be taken from this game.
Diskerud delightful in central midfield – You can say it’s only January camp, but Mix continued to show his lovely mastery of the ball and understanding of the game. He seldom gave the ball away cheaply, and the U.S. was better in transition for it. To top it off, Diskerud showed a willingness to tackle and positional sense in defense that was probably missing a year ago. There are questions as to where Klinsmann views him as most useful, high up the pitch off the main forward like against Mexico, where he assisted the second goal, or deeper next to another central midfielder like Bradley, where he played the entire Gold Cup. What’s for sure is that Juergen likes Mix and will keep him around so long as he continues to play as well as he has.
Graham Zusi is a great option on the right – Taylor Twellman said it best when he pointed out how Zusi was almost shunted aside by Alejandro Bedoya and Landon Donovan as an option down the right flank, but he showed us against South Korea what he’s capable of, providing a vital helping hand in both goals. We all know of his crossing ability, but he also ducked inside and played smart passes when given the chance. He provides a nice variety to the team, and is at least a great substitute option that can provide excellent service and a dangerous shot.
Davis doesn’t quite do enough – Let it be known that I have the utmost respect for Brad Davis, who has been as consistent as just about anybody else in MLS, and got involved in the first goal here. He’s undoubtedly smart in possession and he still has a scary good cross. That being said, these attributes are a bit redundant when placed on the flank opposite from Graham Zusi, which is exactly the issue that occured last January. The U.S. needed a more varied, direct threat like the goal-scoring Clint Dempsey, the slalom-running Fabian Johnson, or even a pacy guy like Brek Shea, who could provide a different element to the attack. Instead, U.S. attacks tended to fade down the left, and Davis really failed to stand out or do much of anything special from that side.
Donovan could be played up top – This may seem a tad odd considering Donovan has been making his money for the U.S. primarily as a wide player, whether it’s the left or the right. Still, Klinsmann used Donovan up top here, and throughout the Gold Cup, in which he shone quite brightly. He’s seen success in MLS partnering Robbie Keane, and it’s not like he’s never been used there before. What’s more with Clint Dempsey’s form deteriorating, Landon could be the only other guy capable of stepping up and playing in that forward spot off of Altidore.
Beckerman consistent at the base of midfield – He may not be top tier material like Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones, but Kyle Beckerman gives the U.S. midfield a nice anchor to work off of. That’s been true since Juergen’s first game in charge, when Beckerman also held the fort against a speedy Mexican offense. Dreads may be slow, but his smart distribution from deep is valuable, and his tackling usually on point. Could he get outclassed at the World Cup? It’s possible, but I could also see the U.S. turning to Beckerman for what he specifically offers, similar to Maurice Edu in 2010. Don’t count him out quite yet.
We’re done with Brad Evans as a right back, right? – This is another MLS guy who I respect and whose contributions I appreciate. However, there is Geoff Cameron, who is playing literally the exact same position in a better league and getting great reviews. Evans was beaten a few times for pace down the right flank, and that is probably a preview of what could happen were he to face Cristiano Ronaldo or Lukas Podolski at the World cup. Evans’ time with this team is probably done.
Now, Michael Parkhurst, on the other hand… – Is a decent option anywhere on the backline with experience for the U.S.. He played well at outside back for Klinsmann at the Gold Cup, at times having to play as a stay-at-home full back, but also showing his capabilities as a marauding wingback (watch his movement on the winning goal against Panama in the Gold Cup final for evidence). He played on the left here, but he’s also comfortable on the right, and could free up Geoff Cameron to play in central midfield next to Michael Bradley, which is an option a lot of U.S. fans have been wanting to see since the Americans dominated Panama in Seattle with those two in the middle.