The past several years the US has held a camp in January for players on a winter break, mostly from MLS but some from the Scandinavian leagues. The camp is used to evaluate fringe players and to help key players get sharp for important matches that are scheduled for dates before the domestic club season; the camp typically concludes with a friendly against a domestic based team from Scandinavia. This year’s opponent was a Sweden side mostly comprised of U21 players. The US team was a mix of fringe first-choice players (Sacha Kljestan, Ricardo Clark and Brian Ching), 2008 Olympians (Klljestan, Marvelle Wynne, Robbie Rogers, Michael Parkhurst, and Charlie Davies), players looking to earn more prominent roles (Dan Califf and Jonathan Bornstein), and Internationally inexperienced players (John Thorrington and Troy Perkins).
The night belongs to Sacha Klejstan. Just back from Glasgow where he was on trial with Celtic, Kjestan scored three goals in his home stadium to power the US to a nice victory. The first two goals came from dead ball situations: the first was a 35 yard bomb that was hit with power and accuracy though a better goalkeeper may have had more to say about keeping it out; the second was a well-taken penalty earned by a marauding run by right back Wynne. Wynne impressed all night with his make-up speed on the defensive end and his powerful runs down the right side. The final US goal was a work of art. Califf hit a 50 yard pass over the Sweden defense that Ching wonderfully brought down over his shoulder with a leaping, leg-extended laces trap. Ching slotted a pass to an on-rushing Kljestan who calmly passed a far-post shot into the goal.
For the US, the players who should have stood out did. Kljestan obviously did well with the hat trick; Clark was very effective playing behind Klestan, breaking up plays, covering a ton of ground and passing smartly; Ching put in a workmanlike effort and though he did not have much other than an assist to show for it, he held the ball well, pressured well and drew several fouls in dangerous areas. Rogers, Davies and Thorrington had a few nice moments but neither made a big impact on the game. They didn’t do anything to convince Bradley to include them on the roster for next month’s crucial matchup with Mexico. Other than Wynne the defenders did not make a very good impression either. Both goals came on headers from soft crosses. Better communication and tighter marking in the box could have prevented both.
This type of game is more about what the managers learn about the players than the result. For me, what this game showed is that Bradley is managing the US talent well and the right players are in prominent roles. Next up: Mexico.