The USMNT defeated Scotland, 5-1, in an international friendly this evening. More than 44,000 packed the stands in Jacksonville, FL, and they and the rest of us fans of the stars and strips were treated to some of the most entertaining soccer played by the US in many years. Here are my quick takes on tonight's match:
Landon Donovan makes this team a LOT better - Despite missing two of its best scoring options (Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey both did not suit up but should be in the lineup before World Cup Qualifying starts in June), the US offense played a very open and attacking style. Much of that was due to Donovan's presence on the right wing for the first time in eight months. Donovan scored three times and had an assist, and he was around the ball often. The US's best strategy moving forward is the 4-3-3 formation they employed tonight, with Donovan on the right wing and placing Dempsey on the left wing and Altidore up top. That lineup will be quite formidable.
The key to USMNT success is in the midfield - While many will talk about Donovan's return to the lineup, you cannot say enough good things about the play of Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones in the midfield tonight. They controlled possession for long stretches of the first 60 minutes when the match was still up for grabs. Both Bradley and Jones also tallied goals, with Bradley's golazo in the first half ranking up there with one of the best goals we have seen from an American in quite a while, and Jones heading home a beautiful cross from Donovan. Bradley and Jones both also were credited with assists on Donovan goals. This midfield tandem will be crucial to the upcoming World Cup qualifying run.
Confidence is building with Brazil on the horizon - The US dominated all aspects of tonight's match against a decent Scotland squad. Next up for the stars and stripes is Brazil on Wednesday, which will come in with much more talent and technical skill. There is no doubt the US is riding a nice wave of positive momentum, and we could see Altidore, Dempsey, and Donovan on the field together for the first time in the Jurgen Klinsmann era. Tonight's entertaining victory only added to the energy building toward the USA-Brazil friendly.