Three matches. Three victories. It’s hard not to be a little impressed with how the US performed in its World Cup warm-up matches. However, results are relatively meaningless in friendlies. That being said, there were several issues the US needed to iron out in advance of the World Cup. Let’s look back at the five things talked about prior to the Azerbaijan match.
The CB Pairing (A-)
Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler have put together three good games. If you compare those performances to the performance of the defense over the prior year, the difference is night and day. While there still have been shaky moments for the pair, it seems safe to say that the US has found a formula that works better than any other formula they have tried to date. Omar Gonzalez though doesn’t look to be the most reliable option off the bench and Jon Anthony Brooks continues to look a little green. Can Besler and Cameron make it through all three games?
Jozy Altidore (B+)
One way to show you are ready for the World Cup is to score two goals in the final game before it kicks off. Altidore’s two goals were important, but so were the chances he seems to be creating for teammates. While it would be easy to give Altidore an A, he looked far from a finished produce the first two games. Is all the rust off now?
Jermaine Jones & Michael Bradley (C)
Jones finally deferred to Bradley for two full games, but the US quickly realized that Jermaine Jones as the lone defensive midfielder behind Bradley is a risky proposition for your defense. It was no surprise seeing a more defensive midfielder like Kyle Beckerman handle the role better than Jones. The surprise was seeing Jones flourish next to both Beckerman and Bradley. Bad news for Dynamo fans hoping to see a lot of Brad Davis at the World Cup.
US Possession Game (D-)
For all the bluster about changing how the US plays soccer in this country, the US lost the possession battle to Turkey 57%-43% and lost the battle to Nigeria 53%-47%. If they lost the possession battle to these two countries at home, how do they expect to do on a neutral site against Ghana, Portugal, and Germany?
US Injuries (A+)
After seeing so many countries lose an elite player in the last few weeks, the US has to feel great about the lack of injuries they have suffered over the last few months. The US is healthy for the most part as the World Cup opens tomorrow.
Overall, more things have gone right over the last three games than have gone wrong and that should give the US some momentum heading into the World Cup. Has Jurgen Klinsmann finally found the best formula for the team in the Nigeria match? Can the US build on it tomorrow in its closed door scrimmage against Belgium? Can the US get out of its group? We will answer some of these questions over the next few days in advance of the first match between the United States and Ghana.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.