by David Fleenor
The U.S. men’s national team squeaked out a win against Panama on Wednesday night and it was far from convincing. But let’s be honest, this was a makeshift roster to compete in a meaningless friendly so what did we really learn from the 1-0 win for the Red White and Blue?
Not very much! But let’s try and piece something together regardless.
Nick Rimando – In one half of action, Nick Rimando came to the U.S.’ rescue when the rest of the defense had failed to do their jobs. The Real Salt Lake netminder made a key save on a breakaway shortly after the Stars and Stripes took the lead and then with the half winding down made a foot save off a shot from the 6-yard box to keep the U.S. with the narrow lead at the break.
Unfortunately for the 32-year-old, the great night probably means very little for his national team future. The rungs to climb for a regular spot in goal or even on the roster for the rest of the year or for the World Cup is a long one with Tim Howard and Brad Guzan the frontrunners for the top 2 spots and a younger Bill Hamid making his push for the third spot and plenty of other keepers working their way into the mix.
Rimando earned his last cap with the U.S. during last year’s January camp and in that game he also split the duty with Sean Johnson, the goalkeeper for the second half on Wednesday.
HAVE YOUR SAY…Should Rimando get more looks with the U.S. national team?
January Camp – The January camp is great for all the top MLS players who are in the off season to stay fit but does it really provide any meaningful moments for the future of the senior national team at this point in the development of the game?
Sure it allows more players to come to a national team camp, get some experience with the coaching staff, play at a faster pace, etc, etc but are these players future stars or just extras auditioning with the hope of becoming a star?
The challenge of the January camp is tough for the players as well. The young up-and-coming players get no time with the regular starters their chemistry with the full national team is not even answered at the camp.
The January camps from 2004 and 2008 (similar to this year’s camp in that they were two years out from the next World Cup) each provided 6 players to their respective World Cup rosters but with more of the U.S.’ top players overseas this number should start to decrease, from a pretty low starting number to begin with.
There must be some better solutions for January.
HAVE YOUR SAY…How important is the January camp? Did you think any player stood out (especially anyone getting one of their first looks?)
Players Earning their First Cap – At some point during the tenure of Bob Bradley it became fashionable to track the number of players earning their first cap under the coach. Hats off to every player that earns a cap with the national team but this tracking is nerve wracking because at times it appears men’s national team coaching staff is taking a ‘no stone left unturned’ approach to finding talent rather than identifying the best talent and then working to develop it.
For those keeping track at home: Four players made their U.S. MNT debut on Saturday, with goalkeeper Bill Hamid, defender A.J. DeLaGarza and midfielder Graham Zusi earning their first cap in starting roles, and forward C.J. Sapong debuting 14 minutes into the second half. Defender Jeff Parke made his debut against Panama coming on in the second half.
HAVE YOUR SAY…Does the number of new caps worry you? How many of these first time cap winners will go on to earn 5+ caps?
ESPN Kicks the Ball to Touch – ESPN has stepped up their game when it comes to covering the U.S. national teams and even the sport in general (it is great to see some Barclays Premier League on weekends) but what gives with the last two matches? U.S. fans were forced to watch on ESPN3 or for many fans turn to Spanish language TV to watch the U.S. play.
Maybe the answer is that the ‘worldwide leader in sports’ realizes these January matches feature a watered-down U.S. roster against sub-par and water-downed competition and that college basketball is a better option for ESPN and ESPN2.
HAVE YOUR SAY…Should ESPN make a commitment to show all the U.S. games on one of their two primary channels?
Bunbury Assist – Teal Bunbury did not have his best game by any stretch of the imagination and even the Sporting Kansas City forward must have been a little surprised to see his name on the score sheet with an assist on Graham Zusi’s goal.
Zach Loyd played a great ball in from the left flank and Bunbury was well positioned at the top of the 6-yard box but missed on his play on the ball only for it to carom off his leg and fortuitously back to Zusi at close range.
It only goes to show that being in the right spot at the right time can work wonders. And got to love how the U.S. had two forwards in the box on the Loyd service. That is progress to build on in 2012.
HAVE YOUR SAY…Should Bunbury get an assist for his knock-on?
What did you learn from Wednesday night’s match?
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