Soccer: U.S. attack, at long last, fluid and dangerous
Sandy • When Jozy Altidore's right-footed volley hit the corner pocket against the Germans two weeks ago at RFK Stadium, an invisible weight was lifted, a floating hex surrounding the Americans' recent inability to score goals in bunches seemed to have evaporated.
And it's stayed evaporated.
The United States Men's National Team has scored 10 goals in its last four matches and is close to achieving its goal of maximizing its points total in this round of World Cup Qualifying in the CONCACAF Hexagonal.
The task at hand, players reiterate, is Brazil, the chance to make it to another World Cup and play the best teams across the globe, but those who have watched the U.S. in the last four matches have seen a team finding its footing and a team that is weaving through offensive fluidity.
And unlike previous matches this year the U.S. scored just two goals in four matches through March 26 the flair is now there.
"It's about staying true into what we believe in our locker room and what the manager has set forth of trying to perform and develop here as a team," said forward Eddie Johnson, who scored in last week's 2-0 win over Panama in Seattle. "I think we're all firing at the same cylinders and everyone is on the same page, so that's what making our style of play in the games so fascinating and fun to watch and be a part of."
Fascinating and fun is an appropriate summation for a team that had been starved for creativity and thorough goal scoring. Graham Zusi, a midfielder for Sporting Kansas City, has been a revelation on the right side of the midfield for coach Jurgen Klinsmann. Zusi's role at right wing has been cemented with two assists to Altidore in two weeks.
And the rest of the midfield is getting in on the action as Altidore and U.S. team captain Clint Dempsey, both of whom scored in the last World Cup Qualifier at Rio Tinto against El Salvador in 2009, try to continue to make good on the emerging fluidity of the offense.
"Making good decisions in the attacking third and scoring goals," Dempsey said, "that's what you get with experience."
In the thick of things is midfielder Michael Bradley, arguably the most important and versatile player in this Klinsmann-driven offense, and he's seen the growth and evolution of the U.S. attack since the disheartening 2-1 loss to Honduras in San Pedro Sula on Feb. 6. He said the team talked before the summer started about emphasizing the opportunity to get three points each outing - "I think now is the time for us to really have the killer instinct," he said and the outpour of goals is starting to help.
"Now is not the time to take the foot off the gas," Bradley said. "We've got to have an aggression and a mentality and a spirit about us tomorrow night that says we're looking to win and really put a foot in the door in Brazil."