USMNT’s Send-Off Series Match vs. Azerbaijan Was Worthless For World Cup Preparation Despite Results
Yes, the final result looked like a good one for the USMNT, but the body of work was nothing to talk about.
Social media had something bad to say about almost every one of the players that saw the field against Azerbaijan. Some made comparisons that the competition in the first of the send-off series matches could compare to Portugal in tactics. That was a big leap in logic. Azerbaijan just sat back until they could no longer absorb the attack, but it took the USMNT way too long to break them down.
There was good flow in the first 10 minutes, but it took another 65 for anything else to happen. The passing was bad, and it was the easy ones that looked the worst. When the midfield would recoil and pass back to the defense, there was little emphasis on importance. Azerbaijan challenged many of those back passes. Jermaine Jones sent two passes as a fastball at Jozy Altidore‘s head that had no chance of connecting. Even Michael Bradley looked to be off his superb game.
Part of this was because the team was using Graham Zusi as a conduit for the attack rather than one through the middle. Even when Bradley got the ball in space, he looked to play it to the right to Zusi. Alejandro Bedoya kept filtering in and interchanging with Zusi, but that partnership did not last into halftime. The entire game went quiet in the 25 minutes following halftime. The 12-13 straight days of training was showing on the USMNT’s legs.
There were some nuances to the match that may have been experiments for the World Cup. There were five players zoning in front of Tim Howard on set pieces. The USMNT went to a 4-4-2 with a diamond. In true Jurgen Klinsmann style, players were out of position. That could be the reason why Timmy Chandler looked so lost. They also had to deal with some questionable refereeing, which is sure to happen in Brazil.
Sure, the U.S. came out on top thanks to substitutes Mix Diskerud, Aron Johannsson and Brad Davis. They were the best players all night and can be happy with their performances. However, there was not much else to talk about on the night. Azerbaijan had 11 players behind the ball. The performance was not fluid, so expect complaints about it and hope that Clint Dempsey is healthy.