2012 COULD BE RECORD-BREAKING YEAR: With a 9-2-2 record, the U.S. currently holds its best winning percentage (.769) for a calendar year in the modern era. With one match remaining against No. 12-ranked Russia, the team will at least tie the record set by the U.S. squad in 2008 (9-3-2, .750).
DEVELOPING THE PLAYER POOL: U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has used 2012 wisely by developing a thorough understanding of the player pool. In total, 45 players earned at least one cap from the January games through World Cup qualifying. The U.S. went through a similar process in 2008, running out 46 different players.
… AND GETTING EXPERIENCE IN QUALIFYING: Official competitions are where players gain importance experience as well as get tested in the pressure-filled moments of a qualifying campaign. Here again Klinsmann advanced the pool, with 26 players earning minutes through the six games in the semifinal round. Additionally, 11 players got their first taste: Terrence Boyd, Geoff Cameron, Edgar Castillo, Joe Corona, Herculez Gomez, Alan Gordon, Fabian Johnson, Jermaine Jones, Brek Shea, Danny Williams and Graham Zusi. Boyd, Corona, Shea and Williams are all 23 years old and younger.
Three players appeared in all six matches: Clint Dempsey, Herculez Gomez and Tim Howard. An additional five players saw action in five games: Carlos Bocanegra, Geoff Cameron, Steve Cherundolo, Maurice Edu and Jermaine Jones.
SEMIFINAL ROUND: A TALE OF TWO HALVES: The semifinal round has the potential to be precarious with so little room for error, so it’s often hard to remember that points in game one mean the same as points is game six in the final outcome. The U.S. team started with two of the first three games on the road and collected a 1-1-1 record, winning at home before being undone by free kicks in Guatemala and Jamaica. The picture looked different in the second half of the round, with the U.S. running out with three straight victories and an unblemished 3-0-0 record. The U.S. finished on top of Group A with 13 points, tied for its second-highest point total from this round in the last four qualifying cycles.
SPREADING THE GOALSCORING WEALTH: Ten different players have put their name on the scoresheet in 2012, with two getting their first ever for the National Team (Michael Orozco Fiscal scoring the game-winner v. Mexico, and Graham Zusi doing the same against Panama). The production up top has been especially promising, as 14 of the 21 goals were scored by forwards. Clint Dempsey leads the pack with six, while Landon Donovan and Herculez Gomez potted three each and Eddie Johnson the pair that earned the U.S. a vital three points in Antigua.
STANDOUT PERFORMANCES: A review of the Budweiser Man of the Match honors from 2012 shows that key performances came from across the spectrum this year. Ten different players were cited for their standout efforts, covering every position on the field. Clint Dempsey earned the most, being named MOTM four times.
FALLING VICTIM TO FREE KICKS: Free kicks are an important weapon in any team’s offense, but it’s remarkable to see how badly the U.S. got punished on set pieces in the semifinal round. Consider this: of the five goals scored against the United States, three came off direct free kicks, and all three of those goals accounted for the points lost by the U.S. on the road.