The USMNT capped off the 2014 schedule in poor fashion, losing 4-1 to a weakened Republic of Ireland side in Dublin, making it four games without a win – the worst run of form in Jurgen Klinsmann‘s tenure.
Klinsmann has come under some pressure as a result, but the performances on the pitch are what’s costing the team at the moment, and the long rest before the next international game leaves much to work on.
Defensively, USA looked as vulnerable as they have ever been against Ireland, while they failed to capitalise on some good spells of possession at the other end.
One game (or run of games) cannot take away from what has been a remarkable year for US soccer. But the manner of the defeat tonight will leave a sour taste in fans’ mouths until the next time a ball is kicked.
Here are five takeaways from the game:
1. Concentration levels are a major concern
The deeply concerning trend of conceding late goals continued against Ireland as the USA let in two in the final ten minutes to put the game out of reach. Those two goals mean that the team have now conceded 11 goals in the final ten minutes in their last 11 games. Whether it’s fitness or focus, Klinsmann must address this issue urgently to ensure things change in 2015.
2. Defensive frailties are being exposed too frequently
Klinsmann shuffled his defence once again for the game against Ireland – a fair move in a friendly as that’s ultimately what they are for, but it backfired greatly. Fabian Johnson looked better and his place in the side is not under threat. Timothy Chandler failed to impress at left-back and his chances must be running out. The major problem was in the heart of defence as Matt Besler and Geoff Cameron looked vulnerable throughout.
Besler has looked exhausted since the World Cup and needs an extended break to recover, whereas Cameron is making too many mistakes in the centre of defence and should be deployed elsewhere. The Jermaine Jones-John Brooks partnership used against Colombia looked solid and needs to be used again come next year. But things are far from certain in defence.
3. Mix Diskerud missed his time to shine
Diskerud had the chance to impress the nation in the two friendlies but failed in both. He grabbed the goal against Ireland but that was a tap in from close range and his inability to influence the game from midfield is a worry. He is a free agent in January and has been linked with moves to MLS among other leagues. There were believed to be up to 15 scouts watching him tonight but he didn’t exactly take his chance to shine against an average Irish side.
4. Bobby Wood a bright spark
Bobby Wood gave at least one positive to take from the game as he looked lively and energetic when brought on at halftime. He made a great chance for himself in the second-half but saw his one-on-one agonisingly saved by Shay Given. Wood looks like a player with a bright future if he can work on his finishing, and his ability to bring others into play make him a valuable member of the team going forward.
5. Bill Hamid needs more time before being handed a starting role
The DC United goalkeeper cannot be blamed in any way for the loss, but he didn’t look as convincing as Brad Guzan does between the sticks and needs to be introduced more gradually now if he is to eventually take the starting job between the sticks. There was little he could do about the deflected goal and the wonderful free-kick, but he could have been off his line quicker for the first goal, and will be disappointed with how easily the second was scored. Hamid is the man for the future, but that is not now, and he needs time to work with the national team.
What did you make of the USA’s display against Ireland?