By Robert Cross / AO: Portland
USA defeats Ecuador 1-0 behind Darlington Nagbe’s goal in the 90th minute.
Nagbe was flawless in his second half appearance showing command on the ball, relieving pressure, and netting the first goal of his USMNT career. AO nation awoke after a sleepy first half, as player substitutions and a critical position switch led to USA’s improved performance in the second half. What did we, and hopefully Coach Klinsmann, learn tonight?
Klinsmann has been stubborn and insistent in playing Bradley up the field in a creative role that he ill suited for. This has been going on for about two years now and it has been two years too long. As Bradley has shown so far this season with Toronto FC, he is very good playing the 6 as a deep lying MF, making the first pass out of the back, and springing an occasional long ball. Please, leave him there. Everyone will be better off, including me.
Nagbe is an ideal dance partner for Bradley, start him and don’t look back.
Nagbe has shown flashes of promise since his rookie year with the Portland Timbers in 2011. He has often frustrated many observers due to his penchant for drifting in and out of matches, unwillingness to go at times, and uneven, inconsistent play. Nagbe was central to the Timbers’ MLS Cup run in 2015 after a position switch to the 8 in a 433 sprung the Green and Gold to a trophy finish. Darlington is adept at soaking up pressure, maintaining possession, and transitioning the ball up filed. He needs to be a regular moving forward.
Christian Pulisic has been trotted out on Dortmund’s LW, why not give him a run against Bolivia?
There is no question in my mind that Pulisic is a player. He reminds me of Landon Donovan when he first broke through the USMNT lineup, not in style of play or position but to the eye, he belongs. Pulsiic earned rave reviews for BVB in the Bundesliga in his rookie campaign. There is little to be lost by affording him a spot start against Bolivia this Saturday. He is part of the future of U.S. Soccer in Russia in 2018 and beyond.
Clint Dempsey has had his day, but it is Bobby Wood’s time to feature.
Dempsey is sitting on 49 goals in a USA kit. There is no question that Deuce is one of our all-time very best, but he is doing little to nothing if he is not on the ball these days. The USMNT future at forward is promising with the cast of Jordan Morris, Rubio Rubin, and Wood. Wood has parlayed 17 goals a strong season in the Bundesliga II to a transfer to Hamburg. He is strong, with a nose for goal and has earned his chance to lead our line.
Fabian Johsnon and DeAndre Yedlin looked the part at fullback.
What else needs to be said? The outside backs have been a constant sore sport for our backline for years now. Johnson is deployed up the field for club, but is capable and adept playing as a back when needed. Yedlin is much improved, in particular in regard to his defensive positioning, and was able to get forward regularly against Ecuador tonight. Problem solved? One may only hope, I do believe!
About The Author
Robert W. Cross is a founding member and former President of American Outlaws Portland and a lifelong football fan and supporter of both club and country.
*** Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect those of the American Outlaws. ***