U.S. win big over Guatemala but have plenty of room to improve
Three quick thoughts on the U.S.' 4-0 win over Guatemala in their final Gold Cup tuneup Friday in Nashville.
1. U.S. get lopsided win with room to improve
Anyone who expected the U.S. to come out looking like the team that beat the Netherlands and Germany in road friendlies the past month was bound to be disappointed by the Americans' suspect sharpness in the first half.
The early hiccups weren't unexpected; the five European-based players in coach Jurgen Klinsmann's lineup were coming off their vacations, and Klinsmann used his 12th different back four of the past year, with starting center-backs John Brooks and Omar Gonzalez partnering for the first time since their lone appearance together in November 2013.
The recently re-sod field in Nashville (the venue hosted a Rolling Stones concert June 17) didn't help the hosts look good, either. But while this helps explain the lack of early cohesion, the U.S. has little time to become the humming, high-pressing machine Klinsmann wants them to be ahead of Tuesday's Gold Cup opener against Honduras.
The second half was better from the home team, to be sure, even if the visitors faded badly late. But Honduras will present significantly more resistance than the Guatemalans on Friday. If the Americans are to reach their goal and hoist the Gold Cup later this month, they'll need to get better from game to game as the competition progresses.
2. This wasn't Klinsmann's best XI
With Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey and goalkeeper Brad Guzan all on the team sheet, this was as close to a full-strength U.S. squad as we've seen in 2015. Still, there were some interesting names in Klinsmann's XI.
Defender Omar Gonzalez (playing his second game of 2015) and midfielder Graham Zusi (playing his first) started over Ventura Alvarado and Alejandro Bedoya. Mix Diskerud was deployed as a defensive midfielder, while veteran destroyer Kyle Beckerman remained on the bench. Young attacker Gyasi Zardes, who started six U.S. games in a row this year after making his debut in January, also began the match on the sideline.
Don't read too much into Klinsmann's selections in this dress rehearsal, though. The German coach knows he will need his full roster when the games start coming thick and fast in tournament play, and there's little question Beckerman, Bedoya, Zardes -- who once again added some much needed energy and danger after replacing Zusi at halftime to set up the Americans' fourth -- and Friday's other backups will see plenty of action this month.
3. Timmy Chandler's redemption?
The right-back has been a favorite whipping boy of national team fans for years now -- and not for nothing. Not only do U.S. supporters have long memories regarding what they perceive as Chandler's wavering commitment to the U.S. early in his national team career, the 25-year-old has also failed time and again to duplicate the solid form he has shown in the Bundesliga the past two seasons with the Yanks.
The first half Friday seemed like more of the same, as Chandler turned the ball over and roamed out of position more than once.
But Chandler looked like a different player in the second half. First, he served a beautiful 54th-minute cross into Dempsey, who uncharacteristically squandered what should have been a sitter. Then, four minutes later, Chandler conjured what was certainly his finest moment in 23 international appearances, with a gorgeous seeing-eye strike with his left foot that settled in the corner of Paulo Motta's net and gave the Americans a game-changing 2-0 lead.
With more moments such as that this month, Chandler could win over his detractors in much the same way fellow German-American Jermaine Jones did at last year's World Cup in Brazil.
Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.