There's a debate right now in Major League Baseball that revolves around who should win the American League Cy Young Award. Felix Hernandez has the best numbers, but barely posted a winning record on a terrible Seattle Mariners team. New York Yankees workhorse C.C. Sabathia led the league in wins while guiding his squad to the playoffs. Five years ago, the latter pitcher would win in a landslide.
But the times, they are a changin': Hernandez looks to be the front-runner for the award. Why? Because wins, it turns out, is a poor measure of performance.
The same can be said of international soccer. Friendlies, especially those in the months immediately after a World Cup, aren't about wins and losses; they are about assessment. When used best, they helped a coach decide what he can use, what he needs to jettison, and how to proceed on both fronts. Although the scoreline is the first fact people see, it's the secondary or tertiary concern for any international manager.
So does the result of Saturday night's US-Poland match, a 2-2 draw, matter? Nope.
Sure, the Americans probably should have won after going up by a goal on two separate occasions, but allowing two equalizers isn't the end of the world by any stretch. And yes, it's concerning that the US succumbed once again to "casualness," but they have time to work out those problems before their first real match. They don't play a competitive game until next year's Gold Cup.
Score aside, the positives of the performance outweigh the negatives. Poland's two goals came on failed clearances, one by a player making his debut and unfamiliar with his teammates (Jermaine Jones) and another by a bench-riding Oguchi Onyewu. On another day when both men are a bit more comfortable, neither of those mistakes are made.
In the attack, Jozy Altidore finally found the back of the net, while Jones showed his potential by tallying a beautiful assist on the play. Stuart Holden demonstrated he's for real, either on the wing (where he played against Poland) or in the middle (where he plays at Bolton).
The purpose of a friendly is to experiment — e.g., Maurice Edu at center back — and learn about the team. Did the US look strong Saturday night in Chicago? No. Did Bob Bradley discover some truths about his team? Without a doubt.