BY PATRICK MacDONALD
As the U.S. prepares for Antigua and Barbuda and World Cup Qualifiers, it’s time to look back at the series of friendlies the squad just played.
The team went 1-1-1 against Scotland, Brazil, and Canada in matches that really didn’t matter in terms of wins and losses. However, for players that are on the fringe or needed to make a name for themselves, the friendlies were extraordinarily important. They also served to heat up the seats under players who previously seemed safe.
Here are a few players that helped or hurt their cases for playing time.
Clarence Goodson – CB
Goodson didn’t see any time against both Scotland and Brazil, which was bizarre considering he was the starter alongside Carlos Bocanegra in the U.S. upset over Italy back in February. Going into these friendlies, it appeared that Coach Jurgen Klinsmann rated Oguchi Onyewu and even Geoff Cameron over the Danish league player.
Against Canada, Goodson supplied something that wasn’t seen against either Brazil or Scotland; stability next to Bocanegra. It’s hard to imagine anyone else will man the right centerback position against Antigua and Barbuda.
Herculez Gomez – F
It’s funny to think that only a few months ago, Gomez was nowhere to be found in the U.S. player pool.
Of course we’ve heard this story before in the lead up to the 2010 World Cup. As was the case then, Gomez has beaten the odds to seemingly gain the role of #2 striker behind Jozy Altidore. He was one of the few bright spots against Brazil, showing a ton of energy and repeatedly pressuring the opposition’s defense. He wilted a little against Canada, but so did the other 10 players on the field.
Fabian Johnson – D
It’s a shame that Fabian Johnson was injured for the match against Canada because at the moment, he’s possibly the most exciting young player on the U.S. squad.
Prior to these friendlies, fans and many pundits alike were lamenting the seeming loss of Timmy Chandler. Who was going to play left-back? Johnson was penciled in, and for a player making only his second national team start, some hiccups were to be expected. Instead, he hit the ground running and never slowed down. In the matches versus Scotland and Brazil, Johnson was easily one of the best players on the field. One can only hope he recovers from his injury in time for the qualifiers.
Jose Torres – LM
Torres seemed to be back in the eyes of many with an OK performance against Scotland in the beginning of these friendlies. Seemingly one of Klinsmann’s favorites, he plugged the young Pachuca midfielder in against Brazil and Canada. Torres was dismal against Brazil, being subbed off early in the second half. He also fumbled his chance at redemption against Canada, a team he should have had no problem with. Torres likely won’t lose his job in the upcoming qualifiers, but one has to wonder if Klinsmann has Brek Shea’s number on speed dial for the matches in September.
Oguchi Onyewu – CB
Onyewu had two cameos in relief against Canada and Scotland. In the middle of those two matches, there was a night to forget against Brazil. Onyewu just turned 30 and he has had far more bad appearances for the national team than goods ince a knee injury that practically wrecked his career. Questionable or not, his handball led to a goal that put the U.S. down early to Brazil. Another time, his poor clearance led to goal, and his painful pace on an offside trap led to the fourth goal.
It’s a shame that Onyewu’s career took a very sudden downturn, but he’s just not the player he once was, and his days with the national team may be over.