Heed the Word: U.S. Men’s National Team Players Produce Game Changing Performances
In an interview with ussoccer.com last week, U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann expressed his delight at seeing both Alejandro Bedoya and Aron Johannsson translating their international form into production for their respective clubs. The German manager went on to reiterate that he and his coaching staff continue to look for players who are not just playing with their clubs, but making a positive impact on the pitch.
With that call to arms sounding out across the U.S. MNT player pool, a large group of National Team regulars delivered game changing performances over the weekend in both leagues abroad and MLS.
Perhaps the best example of an American player translating good international form into production at club level this past weekend is none other than Jozy Altidore. After being handed the captaincy for the U.S. MNT’s final World Cup qualifier against Panama a fortnight ago, Altidore returned to England and in last weekend’s Tyne-Wear Derby, provided the game-winning assist in the dying minutes that gave Sunderland (England) its first win of the season.
Altidore wasn’t the only American striker to make the difference at a crucial moment in a European derby either. Terrence Boyd’s 88th-minute game-winner handed Rapid Vienna a 1-0 win over Austria Vienna (Austria) in the Wiener Derby.
American midfielders Michael Bradley and Sacha Kljestan also scored important goals for their clubs during the weekend albeit in different dramatic time frames. Bradley, coming on as a second-half sub for AS Roma (Italy), helped the Giallorossi continue their perfect start to the season by slotting home the match-winning strike in the 82nd minute against Udinese.
While his compatriots were delivering late-game heroics, Kljestan provided fireworks right from the opening whistle, scoring only 41 seconds into RSC Anderlecht’s 1-1 draw with Standard Liege (Belgium).
At the opposite end of the pitch, two of America’s best goalkeepers also displayed game changing ability as Tim Howard’s Everton and Brad Guzan’s Aston Villa (England) sides faced one another at Villa Park. Although Everton kept a clean sheet in a 2-0 win thanks in large part to Howard saving a penalty kick, Guzan also showed his shot-stopping ability by making a couple key saves to keep the Villans’ hopes alive late into the match.
Across the Atlantic, a second shutout performance came from Club Tijuana (Mexico) defender Edgar Castillo who helped Xolos keep Jose Torres and UANL Tigres off the board in a 0-0 draw in Tijuana.
In last week’s interview, Klinsmann once again expressed his desire to see MLS-based players make loan moves to European clubs over the MLS offseason.
It should therefore please him to see Graham Zusi continue his good international form with Sporting Kansas City. The midfielder scored the opening goal in SKC’s 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Union that secured second spot in the Eastern Conference for the Kansas City club.
The boss will also be happy to see Clint Dempsey among the goals again. The former Fulham and Tottenham (England) attacker scored his first MLS goal since returning to the league in the Seattle Sounders’ 1-1 draw with the LA Galaxy.
And to cap it all off, Brad Davis – the man whose cross supplied Zusi for the goal that turned the Hexagonal on its head – served up a game-winning assist that secured the Houston Dynamo a berth in the MLS Cup playoffs for the seventh time in the last eight seasons.