USMNT v Ukraine Recap
Despite the turbulence and turmoil that occurred in the capital of Kiev in the past month and the current international conflict in the Crimean peninsula, the Ukrainian National Team put out a strong effort against the United States Men's National Team that gave the European side a 2-0 victory.
Having to move the game out of their own country, then rumors of possible cancellation and news of a car bomb in Cyprus, there was concern about the condition of the Ukrainian National Team entering Wednesday. However, minutes into the match in Lenarca, Cyprus, it was clear that this was not a half-hearted effort.
While the home team established a well-balanced attack from the start, the USMNT's performance was lackluster. The starting back four that consisted of Geoff Cameron, Oguchi Onyewu, John Anthony Brooks and Edgar Castillo was sub-par from the beginning of the match.
Ukraine's first goal came in the 12th minute when a ball was played from the midfield over the top of the central defenders. Brooks attempted to catch the Ukrainian attack with an offside trap but ended up chasing Denis Garmash who had a one-on-one opportunity with Tim Howard. The USMNT goalkeeper managed to block the initial shot, giving his defense a chance to come back and help. The rebound, however, ended up at the feet of Andriy Yarmolenko who easily put the ball at the back of an empty net.
From there, a series of attacks from the Ukraine exploited the defense several times. The USMNT's best chances came when the ball was played wide to give the wingers opportunities for swift crosses. One of the better plays came in the 51st minute when Sacha Kljestan connected with Alejandro Bedoya for a volley that went wide of the goal.
The second goal in the 67th minute was a mirror image of the first. A ball over the top split the USMNT defense which led to a one-on-one with Howard where he again deflected a shot only to be scored on by Marko Devic.
So what did Jürgen Klinsmann and USMNT supporters learn from Wednesday's match?
The good news is that Klinsmann's actual back four will consist of Brad Evans, Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler and Demarcus Beasley, none of which played against the Ukraine. The bad news is that Klinsmann still has spots to fill in the final 23-man World Cup roster.
Castillo, Onyewu and Brooks did not improve their stock. Castillo was slow on the left side and was beaten several times down the line by Yarmolenko. Cameron was nothing spectacular but kept the right side under control.
Brooks may as well have seen his ticket to Brazil torn up in front of him. Onyewu has never been able to recover his form from years past and his age seems to have caught up with him. Castillo had a poor game but might be able to earn a spot in Brazil.
Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore disappointed in the match. Dempsey tried to play under Altidore and Eddie Johnson but that role seems to be better suited for Michael Bradley who can better manage the field and create triangles that lead to successful plays. The Altidore saga continues for Klinsmann and USMNT supporters. Jozy was able to produce when it counted during World Cup qualifiers last year but could not establish himself in the attacking third in Cyprus.
With the North American players set to play Mexico in April, Klinsmann still has time to fill his roster. With his best team out there, the defense and midfield can hold attacks. The concern will be the attack. Bradley's role is critical in creating plays and distribution for the attack.
It should be noted that the USMNT were facing off against the highest-ranking FIFA team that did not qualify for the World Cup. The Ukrainian side they faced on Wednesday was no push over. Klinsmann should be content that he faced serious competition in order to get a solid temperature check on his European-based players.
The USMNT next and final friendly before the World Cup will be against Mexico in Glendale, Ariz. on April 2.