The United States men's national team began their busy 2016 campaign with a dramatic victory over Iceland in the first of two January camp friendlies. The purpose of these friendlies is always to get the players fit for the upcoming MLS season and help identify new talent for later in the year, so results are always secondary concerns. Even so, it's always fun to win any match you play, especially via some late dramatics.
It wasn't the most eye-catching or fundamentally-sound performance by Jurgen Klinsmann's assortment of veterans and newbies, but it did offer us a glimpse at a few players who could help the cause in the future. Here's what we learned:
1. Jozy Altidore looks really good
This Iceland match was a chance for the world to meet a new-look Jozy Altidore. The 26-year-old striker is entering a vital year and has put in extra work to get himself in position to make it a successful one. Altidore arrived at this January camp a week earlier than was required and reportedly shed 10-15 pounds since we last saw him in MLS playoffs back in November.
The hard work has paid off as he looked to be in fantastic shape during the match going all-out for 75 minutes. His off-the-ball movement and work rate seemed drastically improved and he just looked like a man motivated to prove his doubters wrong. He scored a goal and looked a threat all match long. It's only one match, but Jozy looks primed for a monster year in 2016.
2. Jerome Kiesewetter is a game-changer
For anyone who has followed the U.S. U-23 team over the past year, Jerome Kiesewetter's performance against Iceland isn't at all surprising. The Stuttgart man has a penchant for getting up and down the right flank and making things happen. His chemistry with Jordan Morris that has developed over the past 12 months carried over to the USMNT as both came on for the final 15 minutes of the Iceland match and changed the dynamic of the American's attacking play.
As soon as the German-American stepped on the field he was a problem for the Icelandic back line. He created several good scoring chances in his 15 minutes and ultimately won the decisive free kick that Steve Birnbaum headed in to win the match. He's still a young and raw player, but his pace and dynamism off the bench makes him one to watch for in the future.
3. The USA have an abundance of quality midfield options
You already know about Michael Bradley, Alejandro Bedoya, Fabian Johnson, and the rest. It appears as if you can add Lee Nguyen's name to the list of midfielders at the disposal of Jurgen Klinsmann. The New England Revolution attacking midfielder has come into January camp and impressed Klinsmann. After the Iceland match, in which Nguyen impressed, the manager singled him out as the one player who has helped his cause the most during this process.
Nguyen and Darlington Nagbe both looked very good in this match and could both play big roles this year. You can never have enough technically-gifted midfielders and we haven't even discussed a certain talented kid in Dortmund who everyone is clamoring for yet.
4. Matt Besler cannot be trusted
Matt Besler is turning into the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde of the USMNT. One day he can look like the single best defender in the entire national team pool, then he makes horrible, glaring mistakes like against Iceland that make you wonder how he's even received a call-up. It's not the first time Besler has made such mistakes. His great performances only give him so much leeway in these instances. With John Brooks having a career year in the Bundesliga, Besler's spot is very much up for grabs after the Iceland match.
5. Jason Kreis is having an effect on the team
It's no coincidence that the USMNT looked as cohesive and organized as they've looked in quite some time with Jason Kreis in camp. The biggest argument that anti-Klinsmann supporters have is that the manager isn't tactically intelligent and they aren't too far off. Enter Jason Kreis, a manager with the reputation for being a man with a plan tactically. The U.S. lined up in an organized 4-4-2 in the first half with everyone's role completely understood. Fullbacks overlapped, players covered for each other, it worked like it was supposed to work. For the most part there was structure in the formation instead of 10 guys just scattered about the field. Could this be the sign of Kreis' impact on the tactics? It's not a complete stretch to believe it is.