A New Number 10 Lifts the USMNT Over Azerbaijan


May 27, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; United States midfielder Mix Diskerud (10) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against Azerbaijan during the second half at Candlestick Park. The United States defeated Azerbaijan 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

In a scoreless game with 15 minutes left to play number 10 for the US finds a way to break the deadlock, same old same old, right?

A new era of US soccer started last night, an era that does not include Landon Donovan. Instead it’s Mix Diskerud who dons the number 10, and finds late game heroics to lift the national team. Diskerud came off the bench in the 71st minute, and immediately made an impact. He scored just 4 minutes onto the pitch, and could have scored again.

The US started the game in a 4-4-2 diamond formation with Clint Dempsey partnering Jozy Altidore. Dempsey, however, was scratched just before kickoff with groin soreness. Chris Wondolowski took the captain’s spot in the XI, and almost scored just 4 minutes into the match. Wondo found himself unmarked from a corner kick and had his diving header saved by the Azeri goalkeeper. Wondo had another chance at a goal but had his header tipped just over the bar, and that was all the US could manage in the first half.

Subs at the half for Klinsmann included Brad Davis replacing Graham Zusi, and Omar Gonzalez replacing Geoff Cameron. Davis had a terrific impact on the game. Once he came on, his intensity created more for the US on the left side. He began to win balls and spray passes all over the pitch. Davis was a game-changer last night for the Klinsmann, and his corner kicks led to both goals for the Yanks. (He should have won a penalty as well).

In the 62nd minute Klinsmann brought on Aron Johannsson for Wondolowski, and 9 minutes later Diskerud for Bedoya. Diskerud, a Norwegian-American midfielder, was the “super-sub” that the US needs in Brazil. Just 4 minutes onto the pitch, after challenging for a ball in the box, he pounced on a deflected strike from Michael Bradley and notched the ball into the net. This gave the US a 1-0 lead after they had held possesion for most of the game. Then, in the 81st minute, another substitute, Aron Johannsson headed home a Brad Davis corner to double the US lead. Johannsson found himself unmarked by a few yards, and headed the ball into the top corner.

In a formation that included Fabian Johnson at right-back and Michael Bradley in the attacking midfield role, the US should have been able to create far more goal scoring opportunities. But the first 60 minutes were a struggle, and the match looked like a February, not a May, friendly. Azerbaijan did play with all eleven players behind the ball at multiple times during the match, but the US has to be able to widen play and create more chances, or at the very least use Michael Bradley to dictate the pace of play up the middle. Jozy Altidore did not have a real chance until the 60th minute, something that will have to change in Brazil. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Klinsmann use this formation against Ghana on June 16th; it gives the US attacking options in a must-win game. If they can sort out their play in the final third, the 4-4-2 can be lethal for the Yanks next month.

The USMNT play Turkey on Sunday from RedBull Arena at 1 pm ET.

US Lineup (4-4-2 diamond): Howard, Johnson (Yedlin 62′), Besler, Cameron (Gonzalez 45′), Beasley (Chandler 45′), Jones, Zusi (Davis 45′), Bedoya (Diskerud 71′), Bradley, Wondolowski (Johannsson 62′), Altidore.

Azerbaijan Lineup: Agayev, Ramaldanov, Sukurov (Qirtimov 45′), Budak, Yunuszada, Dzavadov (Nazarov 60′), Garayev, Abishov (Guseynov 45′), Abatsiyev (Medvedev 71′), Dadasov (Fardjad-Azad 66′), Aliyev.