Soccer US National Team

5 Observations On USMNT-Ukraine Friendly

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5 Observations On USMNT-Ukraine Friendly

USMNT-Ukraine Friendly
Dave Richard-USA Today Sports

Coming into the week, it seemed like the USMNT-Ukraine friendly would be cancelled. However, March 5 arrived and both teams arrived for their scheduled friendly in Cyprus. In front of less than 2,000 fans, Ukraine defeated the United States 2-0.

For the United States, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann came into the match looking for answers about certain players. For the most part, Klinsmann received answers, and certain fringe players will not be pleased with their play knowing they did not stick out in a good way. At the same time, other players showed why they will be making the trip to Brazil come June.

Additionally, Klinsmann was wise to schedule a friendly against a sound opponent like Ukraine. While their talent isn't equal, their style of play and offensive attack from wings is similar to USMNT's group stage opponents of Germany and Portugal. Likewise, Klinsmann can learn from the USMNT's poor performance ahead of their April friendly against Mexico.

On the other side, Ukraine shined throughout all 90 minutes. For a country in political turmoil and unrest, this match was more than just about soccer. Moreover, this Ukraine showed why it's a shame that they just missed out on qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.

This is not a game to lose sleep over if you are Klinsmann or the United States. There is a reason why friendlies are played, and the United States can learn from Wednesday's performance as they progress towards Brazil. Check out my five observations on the USMNT-Ukraine Friendly.

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5. Game More Than A Friendly for Ukraine

USMNT-Ukraine Friendly
Getty Images

From the opening whistle, it was obvious that the game meant more for the Ukraine team than just winning or losing. Wednesday's game united Ukraine, and the fans showed this as they cheered on their fellow citizens on the pitch. The 2-0 win is great on the field, but it means much more for those knee-deep in the crisis occurring right now in Ukraine.

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4. USMNT Passing Not on Point

USMNT-Ukraine Friendly
Kirby Lee-USA Today Sports

The passing was way off. This prevented the USMNT from finding many scoring chances in the first half. At times in the second half, the United States pressed forward due to their passing. With a squad made up of players who aren't used to playing together, communication definitely was not on cue.

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3. Tim Howard Shines Despite Scoreline

USMNT-Ukraine Friendly
Gary A Vasquez-USA Today Sports

While other areas of the USMNT squad struggled, goalie Tim Howard was on point. Yes, the United States gave up two goals, but they were not on Howard. On the second goal, Howard blocked the first shot and the second Ukraine attempt got by a mediocre defensive effort. Howard's performance Wednesday showed why he is the clear No. 1 USMNT goalie.

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2. USMNT Defense Struggles

USMNT-Ukraine Friendly
Kirby Lee-US Today Sports

The friendly was going to be an experiment in certain areas for the United States. The American back four was among them. At the center-back position, Oguchi Onyewu and John Brooks did not help their World Cup stock. Brooks' actions directly led to both Ukraine goals. However, Brooks best days are ahead of him and he is one of the USMNT's best players in future World Cups. He showed Klinsmann Wednesday though that maybe three caps is not enough for him to be called up for Brazil. It seems like Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez are the best center-back options for the United States. We should see both Besler and Gonzalez play in the USMNT-Mexico friendly in April.

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1. USMNT Did Not Play Best Squad

USMNT-Ukraine Friendly
Getty Images

Wednesday was about playing European-based USMNT fringe players. Klinsmann did not call up his best squad, and that was obvious. Yet, the result does not affect the team's 2014 World Cup result. The coaching staff will learn from the performance as they decide who is called up for the final camp before Brazil. There is no reason to sound the alarm.