U.S. 2, Russia 2: Michael Bradley Is the Best American Player Right Now

The U.S. got a stoppage-time goal from Mix Diskerud to tie Russia 2-2 in Krasnador today in one of the more undeserved draws in USMNT history.

The Americans struggled to connect passes, were prone to fundamental mistakes (especially coming out of the back), and gave up several golden chances to the hosts.

If not for a few routinely great saves from goalkeeper Tim Howard, they would have lost by several goals.

But there was this from New Jersey-born Roma midfielder Michael Bradley:

Mama mia, what a strike. But over all, this was not the U.S. team’s best work. Here are three thoughts on the game:

• Bradley was fine in the first half, but he simply took over the U.S. effort in the second, making himself available all over the field, winning balls, marshaling possession, and attacking. In addition to his goal, he played in the long ball that led to Diskerud’s late equalizer. He got stronger as the game went on, and, well, see header above.

Fabian Johnson once again confirmed that he’s the solution to the U.S.’s longstanding left-back problem. He’s skilled, he’s athletic, and he doesn’t panic. Several times in the first half he extricated himself from tricky situations where a turnover would have been costly, and he was also a threat going forward. Second-best U.S. field player today.

• It might be a mental issue with Jozy Altidore when it comes to playing for the national team. Either that, or the Dutch league is just not as good as it’s cracked up to be. (Could be a little of both.) He did do a lot of the grunt work that Klinsmann wants his forwards to do, and, in the first half at least, he held the ball up a few times and allowed his teammates to get involved. But his second half was a washout. He gave the ball away too often and way too easily, and he failed to control a terrific pass in the box from Johnson that would have been a great goalscoring chance.

Then Juan Agudelo and Terrence Boyd came in and helped create both goals with athletic knockdowns to teammates. Here’s the second one, from Boyd to Diskerud (and in off a Russian defender):

One final thought: Klinsmann needs more skill in his midfield. Williams had a poor game (and not just because of his blatant error), and Jermaine Jones, while he worked hard, is a blunt instrument in the final third. He initiated several offensive forays but then killed them with poor touches in the box. He should have scored late on a cutback from Altidore but skied his attempt. He’s not an attacking player.

Klinsmann doesn’t need both Williams and Jones in addition to Bradley. One will do, and free him up to add another, more dangerous piece to the U.S. attack.

Klinsmann Calls Chandler, Gatt, and Gyau for Russia Friendly, U.S. Future Suddenly Looks Half Decent

In naming his 20-man roster for Wednesday’s friendly against Russia (ESPN2, 10:00 a.m.), U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann has, finally, opened up the ‘potential future stars’ wing of his national team program.

His side has qualified for the CONCACAF Hexagonal, and now, with many of his roster mainstays heading toward their mid-30s, Klinsmann is looking at younger players who can possibly take their places come Brazil 2014. He’s got some interesting options.

Here’s the complete group:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Tim Howard (Everton), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS (6): Carlos Bocanegra (Racing Santander), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Nuremberg), Maurice Edu (Stoke City), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Michael Bradley (Roma), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Joshua Gatt (Molde), Joe Gyau (Hoffenheim), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim)

FORWARDS (4): Juan Agudelo (Chivas USA), Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Herculez Gomez (Santos Laguna)

Five thoughts on the roster:

• He may have snubbed the U.S. for the last few friendlies, but defender Timmy Chandler now says he’s ready to commit to the team, and that’s good news for American fans.

Steve Cherundolo is a fantastic right back, but he’ll be 34 in February, and none of his understudies is as qualified as Chandler, 22. With Chandler on the right, Fabian Johnson on the left and Geoff Cameron in the middle, the U.S. has three-fourths of a very solid backline.

Notice Maurice Edu is listed as a defender on this roster. We’d take him over Goodson for that fourth spot.

In every World Cup cycle since 2002, the U.S. has had players emerge from relative obscurity (or simply the youth ranks) to become bona fide contributors to the USMNT. Speedy wingers Josh Gatt (above) and Joe Gyau could be those guys this time around.

Gatt, 21, is fresh from winning the Norwegian title with Molde (where he is coached by former Man U legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer). He’s extremely athletic and fast, with a growing soccer brain that will get tested in Europa League play this season.

Gyau, 20, is a quick and technical winger with an impressive genealogy: his father, Philip, earned six caps for the U.S. national team, and his grandfather, Joseph, played for Ghana. The youngest Gyau is currently on loan from Hoffenheim to German second-division side St. Pauli.

Here’s hoping Klinsmann gives them both a shot to show what they can do on Wednesday.

Klinsmann’s motivational gambit with Jozy Altidore should bear fruit against Russia. Altidore, fresh from doing this in the Dutch top flight on Sunday…:

…comes into the U.S. camp with something to prove and probably a chip on his shoulder after Klinsmann left him out of last month’s crucial CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers. Altidore has nine goals in 12 games this season; time for him to start transferring that form to the national team.

Midfielder Sacha Kljestan seems poised to move up the depth chart. He had a game-winning assist for Anderlecht against Zenit St. Petersburg in the Champions League last week, and he looked confident and skilled in his U.S. cameos last month. Look for him to start at attacking midfielder on Wednesday.

It’s good to see Juan Agudelo back in a USMNT camp. After being traded from New York to Chivas USA, the 19-year-old striker ran into some injury woes, but he recovered and finished the season well for the otherwise pitiful Goats. This call-up should help him keep his head up despite being marooned at the club level in the dead-end side of the Home Depot Center.