Three postgame thoughts on United States-Antigua & Barbuda
The U.S. was less than impressive against a clearly overmatched opponent
Questions about left back loom as the U.S. gears up for tougher Guatemala
A bright note: Clint Dempsey looks like he has recovered from a groin injury
Three thoughts from the U.S. men's national team's 3-1 World Cup qualifying victory over Antigua and Barbuda:
1. The U.S. men took care of business but ...
That was about as disappointing a three-point haul as there can be in the semifinal round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. Ultimately, securing the three points is all that matters, and the U.S. men will ideally look back on this in two years and just remember it as a game that helped get them to Brazil, but they wanted to win, and wanted to win with style while padding their goal differential total early on. Instead, they're left with questions as to why it was so difficult to put away an Antigua and Barbuda side that was overmatched at every position. Yes, Antigua and Barbuda goalkeeper Molvin James came up huge to keep the score more respectable, but the lapses in concentration -- most notably substitute center back Oguchi Onyewu's gaffe that led to the Antigua and Barbuda goal -- as the game wore on were pretty inexcusable on U.S. soil against a pure underdog. Instead of building plenty of momentum heading into what will be a more difficult match at Guatemala on Tuesday, there is an air of disappointment and uncertainty clouding the U.S. mindset.
2. Who plays left back against Guatemala?
Fabian Johnson has a hurt calf. Edgar Castillo has a hurt hamstring. Makeshift left back Jose Torres hurt his ankle and was forced out of the match against Antigua and Barbuda. In vicious conditions on the road at Guatemala, who will Jurgen Klinsmann turn to if Johnson and Castillo are both not ready? Carlos Bocanegra is the safe answer, but Onyewu showed that Klinsmann can't count on him to slide seamlessly into central defense with Bocanegra moving to fullback, and the rather untested Geoff Cameron might not be primed for a big spot at center back in hostile conditions, which leaves Michael Parkhurst -- who was passed over Friday night with the U.S. men already in crisis -- as the other option out left. Klinsmann's hope is that Johnson, who looks poised to be the U.S. left back of the future, recovers in time, or else Guatemala, which can apply much more pressure than Antigua and Barbuda, will have a definite advantage on that side of the field.
3. Clint Dempsey is rounding into form.
For the first time in three games since coming back from a groin injury, Clint Dempsey looked like himself. Dempsey was inventive on the ball and played with the passion and gusto that made him a star in the Premier League this past season. The fact that he buried a penalty kick will do wonders for his confidence from the spot, a place that has exposed one of the few weaknesses in his game in the past, and his combination and link-up play with Landon Donovan took another step forward (remember, the two have played sparingly together in the past 10 months). With the United States seemingly refusing to shoot from outside the area, Dempsey finally took things into his own hands and had a go from distance that forced a tough save. An in-form Deuce is a must in order for the United States to be successful in the long haul, and it appears that he is headed that way.