The USA met Mexico in Glendale, Arizona on Wednesday night, for a World Cup tune-up which, despite its billing, was anything but friendly. After a few scattered opening minutes, the Americans established control with goals from Michael Bradley and Chris Wondolowski. However, they could not maintain their hold on the game through the second half, and Mexico scored twice to end the game tied 2-2. The US will point out that Eddie Johnson’s goal should have stood but was unfairly whistled for offsides, but ultimately the result does not matter. With the game coming so close before the World Cup, Jurgen Klinsmann will have watched these 90 minutes closer than most. And now everyone else will attempt to discern what he saw during that time. And if everyone else is doing it, Halftime isn’t about to be left out. So here they are, the key take-aways from USA-Mexico.
1. Those new Nike uniforms are bad. After going 2-for-2 after taking over uniform duties for US Soccer, Nike was bound to miss eventually. Unfortunately, the miss will be going to the World Cup. Yes, they look like popsicles, and yes, they look like any number of flags that do not belong to America, but the criticisms do not and should not end there. There is way too much red, the white stripe looks weird, and the numbers on the back look like something you fashion out of duct tape when you realize at the last minute that two of your players have the same number and one of those #8s needs to become a #81. Alright, the rant is over now.
2. If it was not already obvious, this has become Michael Bradley’s team. With Landon Donovan still on questionable terms with Klinsmann and Clint Dempsey in uncertain form, Bradley is both the team’s most important and most consistent player. In this game he sparked the offense, scoring the opening goal off of a corner and also passing well in the midfield. Beyond that, he constantly disrupted Mexico’s midfielders, winning back crucial possession for his team. More than any other player, the Klinsmann will need an in-form Bradley to have any hope of getting out of the group stage.
3. Julian Green will not lead America to World Cup glory in 2014. This was the first time many Americans got the chance to see Green play live, and he looked like what he is: a young, somewhat raw player who gives glimpses of potential brilliance. After coming on early in the second half he seemed hesitant, although he eventually seemed to find a rhythm. His best moment came as he took the ball on the left flank, charged at two defenders, and after a couple step-overs appeared to draw a foul on the edge of the penalty area. Play continued without a whistle, but this moment offered a flash of what American fans can look forward to in the coming years. More immediately, it showed why the US should bring the young Bayern Munich prospect to Brazil in June, as the team desperately needs quick wingers who can threaten defenses with pace and dribbling skill.
4. Nobody seems to know what Klinsmann will do when it comes time to pick the 23-man roster, maybe not even Klinsmann himself. He has said he will not name the squad until the June 2 deadline, giving players and fans more time to wonder what will happen. And according to the announcers of the game, not even Landon Donovan’s spot is assured. While that could always be a motivational tool and not the reality of the situation, the fact that Donovan did not start Wednesday’s game could suggest otherwise. Beyond that, did Chris Wondolowski’s goal do enough to get him on the plane? Did Klinsmann see enough of Green to take him? Kyle Beckerman has excelled in the defensive midfield for his club, will he now get the chance to do so for his country? And what back line will go to Brazil? Hopefully a better one than the the group which struggled against a scoring-challenged Mexican team, because Cristiano Ronaldo and an army of German attacking midfielders lay waiting at the World Cup.