Takeaways from USMNT-Azerbaijan Friendly

courtesy of US Soccer Facebook page

courtesy of US Soccer Facebook page

The US Men’s National Team (USMNT) took on Azerbaijan Tuesday night at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. There was a slight change to the starting lineup right before the teams took to the field. Clint Dempsey was subbed out of the lineup while dealing with a groin issue. Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann stated it was more of a precautionary measure. Chris Wondolowski was inserted as the other forward along side Jozy Altidore.

Here are my five takeaways from the match:

Chris Wondolowski

Chris Wondolowski showed in the first few minutes why he was selected over Eddie Johnson. Four minutes into the match he was left unmarked in the box on a Graham Zusi free kick. If Wondolowski places the ball in any other direction, the US would have had an early 1-0 lead. Eleven minutes later Wondolowski got his head on another header that the keeper did a great job keeping out of net. I am extremely excited to see how he will play in Brazil.

Graham Zusi

Graham Zusi was in charge of most of the free kicks in the first half. For the most part Zusi service into the box was spot on. If it weren’t for a few good saves by their goalkeeper, Zusi would have had two assists in the first half. Without Landon Donovan being on the roster it will be imperative for Zusi and Brad Davis to provide that great service on all free kicks.

Omar Gonzalez

Omar Gonzalez entered training last week with a slight left knee injury. He did not get the start tonight but did come on as a second half substitute.  He was tested early after a bad back pass fell to the feet of an Azerbaijan striker. Gonzalez was left to that striker one and one and did extremely well in pushing him away from goal and not allowing him to get a good shot on goal. I believe he will be ready to go by June 16th when the USMNT face Ghana.

United States Back Line

This was the part of the team I was worried about the most. Prior to the roster being released last Thursday May 22nd, I had a feeling the back four would consist of DaMarcus Beasley, Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez and Brad EvansWith Evans being left off and the knee injury to Gonzalez I was immediately concerned. The back line did okay on Tuesday night but it was only Azerbaijan. No offense to them but they are not Germany, Portugal or Ghana. There were a few mistakes made tonight that I’m sure either one of those three teams would have made the United States suffer.

United States Team

Yes the United States won the game 2-0 on Tuesday night but if they are wanting to progress out of the “group of death” they will need to play much better. At times there was some sloppy play that led to turnovers in bad parts of the field. They are lucky they were only facing Azerbaijan. I mean no disrespect to Azerbaijan, but there is a reason they did not qualify for the 2014 World Cup. Klinsmann still has some work to do and we will need to wait and see how serious the injury really is for Dempsey.

Lastly, this is just one of three friendly so we shouldn’t over analyze parts of tonight’s performance.

Related Links:

Road to Brazil: United States vs Azerbaijan Match Preview

Chris Blakely writes for Stoppage Time Soccer. You can follow him on Twitter @TheRealCBlakely.

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