Posted February 02, 2014

Three thoughts on the U.S.’s uneven 2-0 win over South Korea

2014 World Cup, Alexander Abnos, U.S. men's national team
Omar Gonzalez

Omar Gonzalez and the U.S. defense had some shaky moments, but were still able to keep a shutout in the U.S.’s 2-0 win. (Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

The United States got their World Cup year off to a winning start on Saturday, defeating South Korea 2-0 at StubHub Center in Carson, Ca., thanks to two goals from Chris Wondolowski. Here are three quick thoughts on the game, which featured an intriguing mix of players on the World Cup roster bubble and those that are looking more and more like locks for a ticket to Brazil.

1) Biggest winner: Wondolowski — A couple players gave decent-to-good accounts of themselves against South Korea, but perhaps no player took his opportunity with both hands like the man they call “Wondo.” While Kyle Beckerman’s rangy passing put the South Korean defense on its heels and Graham Zusi’s crossing in the final third and all-around energy led directly to both Wondolowski goals, such actions are expected from those players. They’re regulars. They proved they can do those same things with the “A” squad on multiple occasions already.

Wondolowski, fairly or not, still has the reputation of being unproven on the international stage. Showing Klinsmann he can bury chances, no matter his level of involvement in the run of play, will certainly work in his favor when it comes time for selecting World Cup squads. In short: he proved he can do exactly what Klinsmann wants him to do.

2) For a month’s worth of work, the U.S. could have played better — The 2-0 win is nice, but the scoreline masks a few worrying aspects of the performance against South Korea. Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad had a month to prepare for their opponent, get used to playing with one another, and become acclimated to the day-to-day of a major U.S. camp that doesn’t land in the middle of a club season. On top of that, they had the opportunity to do all of that in Brazil, in the same spot where the team will base its operations for the World Cup. As a player, this was about as good of a scenario for a dress rehearsal as you were likely to get.

Yet too often in the game itself there were errors in defensive positioning and attacking shape, and the result was a team that at times looked like it had been hastily assembled instead of carefully selected and prepared. South Korea did well to turn these slip-ups into pressure on the U.S. goal, after which the U.S. would regain the ball, try to build out of the back, then give the ball away again and start the whole cycle over. This pattern repeated itself in multiple iterations throughout the match. A better team, like any of the squads they’ll face in Brazil, would have made the U.S. pay.

3) College basketball takes too long to end — Those that tried to catch the game on ESPN2 will understand the sudden change in subject with this one. Because Clemson and Florida State decided it would be a good idea to take as many timeouts and commit as many fouls as possible to end the game that preceded the U.S. broadcast, soccer fans were left counting the minutes it took for seconds to tick off the clock so the ESPN2 feed could switch from a game that was already decided to a game that was just getting started. That is, to put it mildly, a frustrating wait. Especially if you weren’t lucky enough to get the Spanish-language channel UniMas on your cable/satellite package (they were also broadcasting the game). The fact basketball’s slow end caused many to miss Wondolowski’s first goal in the fourth minute made it even worse.

However, at the risk of turning this into a smarmy “teaching moment,” the delay was also a nice reminder of how far the sport has come in terms of popularity and respect paid to it by the television powers-that-be. It really wasn’t that long ago when delays exactly like the one that occurred today happened on the regular, and for much more important games — like World Cup Qualifiers. Saturday’s delay was frustrating, at least in part, because it doesn’t happen nearly as often these days. And that’s pretty cool.

That said, can there be some kind of petition against basketball coaches taking consecutive timeouts? Please? I’ll sign.

12 comments
usamnt
usamnt

S. Korea were not at their best. It was still high enough caliber of a team - playing the right way (as opposed to how many CONCACAF teams might have played) to be very useful. Their style alone gave us a challenge that a better team playing a different style wouldn't have. I am now uncomfortable w/ Brad Davis at RB. Ready for Dolo and Cameron. I think Donovan was always the better player than Zusi when talking RM. But am now ready for Zusi as LM and FabianJ at LB. Problem solved. Then you have your pick of Jozy/Aron/Deuce rotating up top based on form/fitness/situation. S. Korea was a great game and the list of 30 questions should now be down to 25.

nautiluspos
nautiluspos

I don't quite understand this Donovan / Zusi controversy.Where is the logic? Is one of them going to get benched while the opposite midfield position is occupied by...who? Fabian Johnson over either of them? Brad Evans? DMB? The obvious answer is to play both Donovan and Zusi on the two wing midfield slot.


The other issue that is clear to me - and I sure hope JK comes to an epiphany - is that the USMNT is better as a 4-4-2 than a 4-5-1. Then end up as a 4-4-2 most games, anyway. Why not start Deuce and Johannsson up top? While I know it wot happen because of retirements, I would love to see Johannsson and Deuce as dual strikers, Zusi and Donovan on the wings, with Bradley behind Diskerud in the Central midfield. And if there was a way to get Omar, Besler, Cameron and Brooks into a single line of backs, that might be interesting. I realize that 3 of those 4 are really central defenders ( 4 if you consider that Cameron only plays wing for his club, and central for USMNT)

RickHendrick
RickHendrick

If South Korea can finish plays a bit more often, they could steal a point or three in Group H.

hfuhruhurr
hfuhruhurr

Who is this "Korea" to which you refer?  I'm pretty sure we played the southern part of Korea, not the entire territory.  Whatevs, reporter.  I was just glad to be impressed by some sustained control of the ball.  Honestly, South Korea looked more like what I remember the US looking like a couple of years ago...respectable but not yet deserving of international praise.  Now, I actually have a good feeling about Brazil!

leehwgoc
leehwgoc

@hfuhruhurr  I'm also pretty sure there are other nations in the Americas than just the United Sates of America, but everyone still understands what's being referred too when the USA is simply called 'America'.  Whatevs, comment poster.


As for South Korea, they were playing with a gutted line-up, even much more so than the United States..  Yesterday's game should not be considered much of an indication of South Korea's strength.

anabnos
anabnos moderator

@hfuhruhurr  That's my bad on "Korea." Trust me, I'm well aware there's two of them...but apparently not enough to look like I do, especially in the second thought. Went back and fixed those references. As for your other point, the comparison is a good one -- I like how S. Korea plays a lot, and in many respects they were the perfect opponent for the U.S. at this time. They may not be as skillful as years past, but those players will always give you a hard-fought game.

ConnGator
ConnGator

@hfuhruhurr I disagree (with the content, not the name).  The giveaways on our own third were a constant WTF!? to me the entire game.  A better team would have beaten us 4-2.

Abumax
Abumax

@anabnos @hfuhruhurr  For what it's worth, I work in close contact with (South) Koreans and travel to (South) Korea frequently, and no one refers to themselves as South Korean or to their country as South Korea.  It's just Korea.  Or if you want to distinguish from the North, then Republic of Korea.

BrayFurryWalls
BrayFurryWalls

@anabnos @hfuhruhurr  I'm sure the situation was the same for the Americans, but a lot of players who have the skill to "finish" the players that would lead for some goals were not present in that matchup. I know the 2002 world cup was quite scandalous but the South Koreans had a good team then and probably would never match that level of play ever again, but I think we have a team that can contend for the round of 16 in the group H. As for the Americans, it's going to be a tough group, but the quality of those games will be amazing.

hfuhruhurr
hfuhruhurr

@ConnGator @hfuhruhurr  I admit I only saw from minute 55 on.  Now that you mention it, I also remember cringing quite a bit, especially when the back was passing back and forth with Rimando.  I guess I'm just an optimist.