Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 6/14/12

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 15: US National Soccer Team players Clint Dempsey (L) and Josie Altador arrive at the 2009 ESPY Awards held at Nokia Theatre LA Live on July 15, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. The 17th annual ESPYs will air on Sunday, July 19 at 9PM ET on ESPN. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for ESPY)

Clint Dempsey scored the lone goal for the US versus Guatemala.

I’ve always been under criticism for being too positive about the US Men’s National Team, this ranges from debates with my buds during the 2010 World Cup to the more recent state of the team. It’s easy to dissect every tiny issue with our squad and I normally view this as a good sign in increasing interest in the team, but recent critiques may be too excessive. With more than a two-month break until September’s home-and-home match against Jamaica, it’s time to step back and take an honestly look at the positives, negatives, and what “changes” are needed to finish the calendar year.

A look back at the five game stretch:

May 26th US 5 Scotland 1

The Yanks were bright in their first friendly since February, especially Landon Donovan who collected a hat-trick. Although Scotland didn’t have much to play for, the US came out strong offensively and never looked back.

May 30th US 1 Brazil 4

Four days after an impressive victory over Scotland, the US hosted world-power Brazil in front of 67,00 at FedEx Field. Although the US had plenty of quality chances throughout the night, they did not convert on the attempts as Brazil rolled to a relatively easy victory.

June 3rd US 0 Canada 0

In Toronto, the Yanks played to an unimpressive scoreless draw against northern rival Canada. The squad did not stretch themselves and saved their energy for World Cup Qualifying.

June 8th US 3 Antigua and Barbuda 1

The first World Cup Qualifier saw the Yanks play with more vigor against the underdog side of Antigua and Barbuda. The small Caribbean nation pulled back defensively and the US pushed the ball offensively scoring in the 8th minute. Antigua and Barbuda was able to score late in the second putting a damper on the overall performance for the home side.

June 12th US 1 Guatemala 1

In Jurgen Klinsmann’s first CONCACAF road qualifier the US wasn’t afraid to play aggressive in an hostile environment. However Guatemala was able to equalize late with a stunning free-kick from Chicago Fire midfielder Marco Pappa giving each squad one point in a 1-1 draw.

Total Record: 2-1-2

Total Qualifying Points: 4 out of 6 possible

The Problems

More Goals: Out of eight matches in 2012 the US has only scored on multiple occasions twice. No matter what team you are, it’s going to be difficult to be successful without scoring goals. This hasn’t been a Klinsmann-era issue though, goal-scoring slumps have been a plague for years that needs to be cured as soon as possible.

Health: The US hasn’t had a full-form healthy squad in it’s entirety since the 2011 Gold Cup, and certainly not under Klinsmann. Dempsey and Donovan just recently started playing together again, and the defense has struggled finding players in decent form. It’s rare to find a national team that is at one hundred percent health, but lack of consistency in the squad has hindered the team from discovering a true identity.

Leadership: Who are going to be the players that lead the US on the road to Brazil? The obvious choices are Howard, Dempsey, Bocanegra, Bradley and Donovan, but the leadership on the field still needs grooming. What players are going to consistently lead on field and make the big plays when the team needs it most? Right now it feels like an awkward jumble of players that are waiting for the other guy to make a play, especially between Donovan and Dempsey.

The US defeated Antigua and Barbuda 3-1.

Identity: This is the single most important problem needed to be solved during qualification for the 2014 World Cup. The players need to figure out who they are as a team and how that translates onto the pitch.

The Changes

Consistency: Klinsmann has had a long look at the talent pool from the US, it may not be a “best case scenario” but a more consistent lineup during qualifications will make it easier to obtain quality results.

Backfield: The age old defensive problems for the US are back with a twist. Disappointing performances from veteran defenders Oguchi Onyewu, Clearance Goodson, Carlos Bocanerga, and Steve Cherundolo may call for a shift to a younger generation.

Dempsey Sidekick?: The US needs to stop relying on Clint Dempsey to bail them out on goal-scoring. Herculez Gomez’s revival is one answer most people didn’t see coming, but Jozy Altidore and Landon Donovan need to be on the score sheet in the coming matches.

Is Torres the Man?: Jose Torres’ high praise from Klinsmann hasn’t seemed to translate onto the field and his struggles in big matches causes worries for the future. Can he be the creative midfielder that is the inception of the US attack? Klinsmann needs to decide quickly if Torres is able to carry the load or adjustments must be made in the midfield.

What’s Next: The US will play a home-and-home series against Jamaica beginning September 7th on the road. Playing the same team in four days will be a difficult situation for both squads with a spot at the top the group on the line. This is a make or break week for the US, two victories would seal the first position in the group while any other combination will make things interesting.

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.


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