USMNT: Fringe Players Fail to Impress vs Ukraine

By Greg Sulik
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The U.S. Men’s National Team completed its latest World Cup warm-up game against Ukraine today, losing 2-0 in a game that meant far more to the Ukrainians than the Americans. The game was overshadowed by the ongoing turmoil in Ukraine, and the small crowd in neutral Cyprus was mostly Ukrainian. From a soccer standpoint, there were quite a few players in the lineup hoping to make an impression on Jurgen Klinsmann and earn their spot on the final roster for Brazil. Unfortunately, those players failed to impress, notably those on the back line. The second half was certainly better than the first, but the damage was already done for a few players.

We’ll begin with left back Edgar Castillo, who was absolutely torched by Andriy Yarmolenko before being subbed out in the second half. Castillo is more known for pushing forward than his actual defensive skills, but both were lacking today. Castillo is favored by many to make the squad as a reserve behind DeMarcus Beasley, but his performance tonight can’t help his cause. In truth, even if Castillo makes the team it is unlikely that he will play over Beasley or Fabian Johnson.

Moving inside, the center back pairing of John Brooks and Oguchi Onyewu was an absolute disaster. Brooks was completely out of position on Ukraine’s first goal, and neither was anywhere to be found on the second. With Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler and Clarence Goodson still ahead on the depth chart, it is safe to figure that Onyewu’s slim World Cup hopes are gone. Brooks is one of the USA’s top prospects, which will keep him in contention, but this performance was very disappointing and he is clearly not ready.

In the midfield, Sacha Kljestan didn’t make much of an impact, and he simply can’t seem to find a place in the team. Kljestan was taking Michael Bradley’s place in this contest, but he wasn’t able to control the midfield and was quiet defensively. Kljestan still has a chance to make the team, but he did himself no favors. Two other starters with something to prove in this game were Geoff Cameron and Alejandro Bedoya. Cameron is trying to prove he should be the starter at right back, and he was the only defender to turn in a decent game. Still, Cameron didn’t do enough to push entirely ahead of Brad Evans. As for Bedoya, he was solid overall and brought his usual energy, and it seems more and more likely he will make the team as a reserve.

Finally, the substitutes were relatively quiet. Brek Shea had a solid performance, but certainly not strong enough to really force his way back into contention for the final roster. Aron Johannsson was solid as well, and he should be a lock for Brazil. Danny Williams and Juan Agudelo made late appearances in their returns to the national team, but neither played long enough to make an impact.

Friendlies such as these are played as a way for coaches to see some more of their players and work on different lineup combinations, and that’s what Klinsmann accomplished today. He would have rather seen some positive impressions, but he certainly learned about some of his players today. It’s only one game, but for fringe players it could go a long way towards determining who goes to Brazil.

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