The U.S. MNT followed up last week’s 2-0 win in Cuba with an unimpressive 1-1 draw against New Zealand Tuesday night before a minuscule crowd at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC. With just a month to go until the U.S. MNT face Mexico and Costa Rica in the final round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers, aka the Hex, the question is, what have we learned from these final pre-WCQ friendlies?
In the absence of Tim Howard and Brad Guzan, which of the second tier keepers, if any, impressed? Did anyone else make a case for a place in the Hex squad? Did anyone fall out of favor?
Here are a few thoughts.
Horvath Holds Off Competition for 3rd Keeper Role- Easily.
Jurgen Klinsmann elected to leave Howard with Colorado for the Rapids 3-2 win Saturday over Houston and Guzan with his Middlesbrough club where he continues to fight for playing time. Horvath was Klinsmann’s number three during this summer’s Copa America giving the 21-year-old Molde (Norway) keeper the edge coming into these friendlies.
Horvath maintained that advantage with a good performance versus Cuba, in a game where he was much busier than expected. Klinsmann then let William Yarbrough and David Bingham split 90 minutes versus New Zealand with Yarbrough taking the first shift.
Despite keeping half a clean sheet against the Kiwis the 27 year Club Leon keeper was frankly poor, bobbling one ball, looking weak in one aerial challenge, and punching another ball into danger. The Mexican-born and based keeper did nothing to inspire confidence and even less to press for Horvath’s place.
Bingham seemed the more confident of the pair, although the San Jose Earthquakes man did concede New Zealand’s goal on a screened shot. DC United number one and former U.S. heir apparent Bill Hamid was called in for the New Zealand game to replace Horvath but was not used.
Julian Green is Back
From World Cup goal scorer to forgotten man and back again and still just 21 years of age, Julian Green is back in the U.S. MNT picture after scoring against both Cuba and New Zealand while also picking up a helper against the Cubans.
Green played himself into consideration for the Mexico match next month but the Bayern Munich club man is far from a lock. Klinsmann used Green as a winger in a 4-3-3, a formation that Klinsmann tends to abandon when the big games roll around whereas Bayern boss Carlo Ancelotti sees Green strictly as a center forward.
Not surprisingly, with Robert Lewandowski ahead of him on a packed Munich squad Green has yet to play a Bundesliga minute this season, making it questionable that Klinsmann will call in Green for two vitally important matches if he continues to ride the pine between now and November 11.
Kljestan Has Earned a Spot
Klinsmann handed Sacha Kljestan’s international career an unexpected lifeline when he called the New York Red Bulls midfielder in as a late injury replacement for a pair of World Cup Qualifiers in September.
The U.S. won the games by a combined 10-0 score against minnows St. Vincent and the Grenadines (6-0) and a weaker than expected Trinidad and Tobago (4-0) with Kljestan picking up two goals and two assists while establishing a nice rapport with U.S. superstar to be Christian Pulisic.
Kljestan wasn’t great against Cuba but awful field conditions made that game one to forget for almost everyone. Against New Zealand, however, Kljestan showed the vision and range of passing that has him atop the MLS assist chart and back in the U.S. MNT picture.
And finally, Terrence Boyd
Sometimes referred to as the most American of the Germericans, German-born players on the U.S. MNT, striker Terrence Boyd made his national team return last night with a late cameo, a big moment in his continuing comeback.
Boyd tore his ACL in December 2014 and with his comeback complicated by cysts that required three more operations to his calf, the RB Leipzig man had to wonder if he would ever line out for the U.S. MNT again.
Boyd is still playing reserve games in the German fourth division as he works his way toward first team minutes with Bundesliga newcomers Leipzig. Last night was a small step but an important one for Boyd and here is how he felt about taking that step.