Fresh from a goalless draw in Scotland, the United States will be targeting goals and a win to put the seal on a record-breaking year when they take on Austria in Vienna on Tuesday. Jurgen Klinsmann has led his side to a record winning percentage and number of victories, while they also went on an unprecedented 12-game win streak. But Klinsmann is likely to have little regard for those accomplishments, which led to Gold Cup triumph and World Cup qualification, as he seeks to produce a squad capable of competing in Brazil.
In that regard Friday’s result and performance at Hampden Park will have been a disappointment. Scotland have improved under Gordon Strachan, but a U.S. side with pretensions of at least making the World Cup knockout stages should expect better.
Time is running out for players to earn a spot in the World Cup squad, with just one more friendly to come before it is named next March. The performances of those given an opportunity in Glasgow will largely have left Klinsmann underwhelmed.
Sacha Kljestan is getting regular Champions League action with Belgian title holders Anderlecht but he struggled when moved forward into an advanced midfield role. With Clint Dempsey absent, there is still no trusted alternative in that position. Indeed, with Eddie Johnson also failing to shine, the match reinforced the idea that the U.S. will need Dempsey, Landon Donovan and Graham Zusi firing on all cylinders if they are to make a mark in Brazil.
There were more encouraging signs form substitutes Aron Johansson and Brek Shea and they may get longer to impress in Vienna.
In Austria, the U.S. will face another European side that failed to make it to the World Cup, albeit one that got closer to qualification than Scotland. Marcel Koller’s team finished third in their group, behind Germany and Sweden, having lost the crucial match in Sweden last month.
Like, Scotland they are fairly workmanlike, although they do have one player of real quality in David Alaba. Such is his ability and importance to his country that the 21-year-old, who has already developed into one of the world’s best full-backs at Bayern Munich, plays in central midfield for Austria.
In Stoke’s Marko Arnautovic and Levante’s Andreas Ivanschitz they do have players going forward who on their day can do damage. Austria won four of their five home qualifiers, with their only defeat coming narrowly to Germany, and the U.S. will have to perform in order to avoid what would be a damaging defeat this close to the World Cup.
Ultimately, Klinsmann may have to settle for another draw that leaves him yearning for the return of his star creative talent.
Prediction: Austria 1-1 USA