The result was meaningless, but there were some valuable lessons learned from Tuesday’s USMNT’s match against Azerbaijan.
Brad Davis’ Magical Left Foot
No surprise to anyone in Houston. Davis’ performance was a very fitting retort to anyone that mentioned his name over the last week in their articles about Landon Donovan’s exclusion from the roster. The best sign for Davis was not his world class set pieces resulting in two goals, but how frequently he popped up all over the field. Can he take the next step and push to start?
Fabian Johnson at RB
The team’s best left back played at right back, a position that Johnson excelled at with his club. He looked great, but I guess that means Demarcus Beasley and Tim Chandler are the team’s left back options? Am I the only one a little frightened? I guess it is only slightly less frightening than the thought of Chandler and Deandre Yedlin as the options on the right if Johhnson remains at left back.
The least experienced player on the roster did not get any playing time. Wouldn’t you want the young phenom to build some confidence before Brazil? I guess there were higher priorities on the night, but this seems a little troublesome.
He looked lethargic and disinterested. It may just be that he was uncomfortable not playing as a right back, but it was a troubling sign that should be watched carefully over the next two matches.
As for the five things we asked you to watch in advance of last night’s match, here is a quick rundown with some grades.
CB Pairing – Incomplete
Not really challenged much so it is difficult to draw too many conclusions. Houston fans know better than anyone the good and bad of Geoff Cameron as a CB. He will not dominate in the air and can be occasionally lackadaisical, but his quickness, recovery speed, and passing out of the back are exceptional. Can he and Matt Besler handle a legitimate aerial threat? No one really knows yet.
Jozy Altidore – D
He’s got three games to turn things around. Game one was not the most compelling argument as several on twitter commented that he just seems to do enough not to get fired. The US needs more from him especially when you compare the quality of the central defenders he was facing last night to those he will be facing in Brazil.
Jermaine Jones & Michael Bradley – B
Jones deferred to Bradley much more than he has in the past and that is a huge development for the USMNT. However, Bradley had a really poor game by his standards. Will Jones try to step up and contribute more to the attack in the next game?
US Possession Game – A
Against a much weaker opponent than they will face in the World Cup, the US dominated possession 70%-30% and got off 21 shots to 9 shots. The outside backs got forward at will and the US had 11 corner kicks. Very positive first step. Can the US execute better in the final third? Can they replicate this performance against much tougher competition in Turkey and Nigeria?
US Injuries – D – as in Dempsey
By all accounts it’s a minor injury that saw Dempsey scratched at the last second. The US should take every precaution not to exasperate the injury before Brazil and if that means he is done until Brazil, so be it.
Dwain Capodice is a freelance writer covering the Houston Dynamo and the US National Team for Keeper Notes and also serves as the Fan Blogger covering soccer at Chron.com. He can be reached on twitter @dcapodice or via email at email@example.com.