It's been a roller coaster of emotions for US Soccer fans in the past eight days. Just one week ago, the United States were a team on the verge of "figuring things out" under head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, a side that was coming off of an impressive 5-1 rout over lowly Scotland. Since that time, the US were outclassed by Brazil, and they were somewhat lucky to escape Canada with a scoreless draw. USMNT fans with both hands pressing down on the panic button would do well to remember that this was the last friendly for the Americans until they begin World Cup qualifiers. It may have been far from pretty, but the US also looked like a team that's very done with exhibition football.
Bring on Antigua & Barbuda.
The controversial moment: Was a bit of bad luck for the hosts, but I can understand why the assistant referee called the foul in that scenario. Roughly 11 minutes before the halftime break, Dwayne De Rosario made a run down the right wing before being cut off by Edgar Castillo. David Edgar rushed in to help De Rosario, and Edgar swung his right foot toward the left leg of Castillo right as Castillo committed an awful turnover that ultimately allowed Nikolas Ledgerwood to find the back of the net with a brilliant strike. The assistant referee, who had his view somewhat obstructed by De Rosario, immediately called the foul the second Edgar's foot made what was honestly very little contact with Castillo. While it was a harsh decision, it wasn't nearly the controversial decision I thought it to be when watching the match in real time.
Up and down night: Castillo, given a chance to start at the last minute after Fabian Johnson picked up a knock while warming up on Sunday evening, started out brilliantly. He was all over the place in a good way during the first half-hour of play, and his curling volley from about 40 yards out nearly beat goalkeeper Lars Hirschfeld. Castillo got a bit shaky after the half-hour mark, however, committing four turnovers in an eight-minute window, the third of which would have resulted in a goal for Canada had Edgar not been called for the foul. In all, I'd say Castillo didn't do quite enough to earn himself a spot in the Team USA starting lineup assuming Johnson will be 100 percent on Friday.
For those in panic mode following the events of the past week: Relax. The US slapped around a lackluster Scotland side in Jacksonville, Florida on May 26. They then traveled up north to Maryland and played much better against Brazil on May 30 than the 4-1 scoreline would lead you to believe. Truth be told, the US could have, with the benefit of a couple of fortunate bounces, earned a draw in that match. Four days later, they earned a draw when away to Canada in a final meaningless exhibition game. As much as Klinsmann talked about treating these games like a mini-tournament, he also tinkered with the team's formations in each of the three friendlies. The last week was all about a feeling-out process for both squad and coach. You may all freak out if the US fail to score against Antigua & Barbuda on June 8.
Overall: Take away the final 90 seconds, during which both sides came close to producing a match-winner, and this was one rather boring game. The US looked happy to enjoy a game of kickball throughout the opening 40 minutes of play, and highlights of the evening included Landon Donovan taking brief jogs down the far right wing without much purpose, Jermaine Jones hilariously flopping to the ground on multiple occasions before eventually picking up an expected yellow card that he actually didn't deserve, and Tim Howard producing a couple of solid saves and getting a bit of help from Lady Luck en route to holding onto the clean sheet. Those of you feeling concerned about the United States before World Cup qualifiers begin may be asking what Sunday night's result means for Team USA going forward. The quick one-word answer is simple.
- Sports & Recreation
- Edgar Castillo
- Jurgen Klinsmann
- Dwayne De Rosario