US Men National Team must focus to keep World Cup dream alive

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

By Andrew Ryan
BETCRIS World Cup US Men National Team

The argument could be made that the U.S. Men's National Team held onto Jurgen Klinsmann far too long. Klinsmann was a disaster at the end of the Copa America Tournament, and that probably should have been the last straw after a terrible Gold Cup in which the team finished fourth. In fact, the Americans barely made it out of the fourth round of World Cup qualifying, needing wins over Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad & Tobago in the last round of qualifying just to get into the Hexagonal.

But the end for Klinsmann came in the first two duels of the Hex. The club was beaten by Mexico at home and Costa Rica on the road in the first two matches of the final round of World Cup qualifying, and the 4-0 thrashing in San Jose was the last straw. Klinsmann was fired and replaced by Bruce Arena, the one-time boss of the club and one of the best managers in the history of the MLS.

Arena's returns have been questionable to start. The friendly results haven't been great. The team drew Serbia, beat Jamaica and most recently, drew Venezuela on Saturday night in Utah. The first offering for Arena in a match that mattered though, was great. The Yanks beat up Honduras 6-0 before going on the road and taking a point from Panama.

The good news? If the United States can get four points from every two-match sequence in the rest of the Hexagonal, it'll surely be in the World Cup. The bad news? The team scored six against Honduras and has only scored a total of three goals in its other four fixtures against other teams in the second Arena era.

The real test for Arena is going to be how he develops some of the younger players on this roster. Christian Pulisic is one of the top teenage players in the world. It's why he has started to get some attention from some of the top clubs in Europe on the club level. He scored against Venezuela to help rescue a draw in an otherwise drab match for the Yanks, and that proved to be the moment of the match.

But it isn't just Pulisic. Darlington Nagbe is also going to be a part of this midfield for years and years to come. Bobby Wood will be one of the men up front. DeAndre Yedlin will become a permanent part of the wing defense. All four of these Americans were in the fold for the draw against Venezuela, and that probably isn't a good sign going forward.

However, at least the Americans seem to be settling down defensively. This was the big problem at the end of Copa America and the Gold Cup. John Brooks doesn't seem to be the answer as a central defender, but he's the best the Yanks have to bring to the table. But putting Michael Bradley back in the back piece of a 4-man diamond in the midfield has helped out dramatically. Tim Howard is back in good form as well after missing a bunch of time due to a couple injuries.

Coming up this week, the United States will host Trinidad & Tobago and visit Mexico in the next round of qualifiers. The Americans are sitting on four points in four fixtures. A point per match will probably get the job done to get to Russia, but better is going to be expected. If the Yanks were to lose to T&T, it would be a disaster of epic proportions and would probably leave the Americans in bad shape going into Estadio Azteca. A win against T&T though, would take the pressure off. Anything that could be gotten in Mexico would be icing on the cake.

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