USA vs Azerbaijan: What we learned about USMNT


The United States played Azerbaijan in a World Cup warm up match at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. The United States got a 2-0 win over the team, but it didn’t look as great as that scoreline indicates.

So what did we learn about the United States men’s national team?

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Jozy Altidore could be key

The United States needs Altidore to wake up and return to goal scoring form after a rough season in England. He didn’t really get any quality chances and looked pretty absent offensively, but he was able to do some to do some good things in the game, like being able to bring in and hold on to some desperate clearances. He was able to box out defenders when the ball was cleared and able to hold on the ball and allow the USMNT to counter attack.

Clint Dempsey fighting injury?

USMNT captain Clint Dempsey was slated to start the game along the left wing, but before the game he was scratched from the line up with “groin stiffness.” That is a concern, but if it is more than that it becomes a bigger issue for Team USA.

If Dempsey has a serious injury, it could force him off the World Cup roster. That could mean that Landon Donovan gets added back onto the squad, but do you want Donovan in lieu of Dempsey, ideally that wouldn’t be the case.

The team said it was a precautionary move, and hopefully it is just that.

USMNT too dependent on set pieces

One of the positive takeaways from the game was their quality on set pieces. The USMNT’s best scoring chances came off of set pieces, and both their goals came on plays starting as set pieces. That is a strength and a silver lining, but against teams like Germany, who have a dominant back four, and Portugal you’d have to think that advantage wouldn’t be so strong.

Dominating physically in set pieces against Azerbaijan isn’t nearly the same task as facing those teams. Plus you can expect the marking and scouting from the European giants they’ll face in group play to be considerably better. If the USMNT has to rely on set pieces to score, they could be in a lot of trouble.

The second goal for the USMNT was on a corner kick from Brad Davis and Aron Johannsson was unmarked. He was able to stand flat-footed among five defenders and put it in with ease.