USMNT v. Brazil: 8 Thoughts from the Loss

May 31, 2012

Following the United States Men’s National Team’s thrashing of Scotland last Saturday night, many U.S. fans were beginning to dream that after so many starts and stops, the U.S. had finally arrived on the world stage.

However, the Brazilians brought the dreaming Americans back to earth Wednesday night, thoroughly beating the USMNT 4-1.

Here are eight thoughts from the match.

Why did Jurgen Klinsmann switch Maurice Edu and Michael Bradley?

While Klinsmann made very few changes to the lineup between the Scotland match and the Brazil match, one change he did make that didn’t seem to make sense was moving Bradley into a defensive midfield role and moving Edu into an attacking midfield role.

In the Scotland game, Bradley had looked brilliant going forward along with Jermaine Jones, while Edu stayed home protecting the back-line. However, against Brazil, those roles were reversed which took Bradley out of the attacking flow and limited his runs forward.

Furthermore, in the match, Edu, in the more advanced role, struggled to make any substantive impact on the game.

Michael Bradley is becoming a world-class passer

It was tough to take too many positives out of the Brazil match, but Bradley’s performance was one of them.

Despite playing in a deeper role, Bradley’s impact on the game was still evident as his passing set-up almost every significant chance for the Nats.

His ability to find passes that other players cannot even see, and perhaps more importantly, his ability to then connect those passes continues to be impressive.

During the game, he found Cherundolo, Johnson and Gomez all in behind the Brazilian defense from 30-40 yards away, he set-up the U.S.’s lone goal with a ball to Johnson and repeatedly worked the U.S. out of trouble with cheeky passes to get the U.S. out of the defensive third.

The American defense had a shocker

Other than Fabian Johnson, the American defense struggled all night. Normally dependable defenders Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra and Steve Cherundolo all struggled.

Gooch was certainly more than a little unlucky to get called for a hand-ball in the box in the 10th minute which put the U.S. into an early hole, but he seemed to be out of the flow of the game all night long struggling in possession, in his clearances and his partnership with Carlos Bocanegra.

Carlos Bocanegra also struggled on the night looking shaky in possession at times, uncharacteristically losing a number of battles in the air and in not following his runner allowing a breakaway in the first half that Tim Howard came off his line to stuff.

On the right side of the U.S. defense, Marcelo and Neymar gave Steve Cherundolo fits, often combining for nice 1-2 combinations that left Cherundolo chasing the game.

While the U.S. defensive performance already has some fans calling for the heads of certain U.S. defenders, fans must realize that this is Brazil, and defensive breakdowns are going to occur regardless of who is out there. It is doubtful Clarence Goodson or Geoff Cameron (who are currently on the roster but were not used), or Eric Lichaj (who was criminally left off the roster) would have done much better.

Fabian Johnson was great again

In addition to Michael Bradley’s performance, and that of Herculez Gomez up top, Fabian Johnson also contributed to the U.S.’ few bright spots on the night.

Johnson’s repeated runs down the left flank were fantastic, he set up the U.S.’ lone goal and had a brilliant move in the 64th minute to set-up a cross that should have been put in by Gomez or Dempsey.

Herculez Gomez looked solid

Making his first appearance of the Klinsmann era, Herculez Gomez gave a good account of himself with a fantastic work-rate and the U.S.’ lone goal.

One wonders what Klinsmann will do going forward as Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore return to full match fitness.

Jose Torres was invisible for long stretches

After several solid performances for the Nats and a rising club profile, Jose Torres went missing for much of the match against Brazil ultimately being subbed off in the 56th minute.

Could the U.S. have benefited from a 2-striker set?

As good as the U.S. looked against Scotland in Klinsmann’s preferred 4-3-3, the U.S. attack seemed to spring to life against Brazil when the team changed to a 4-4-2 in the 73rd minute.

Against more dominant teams, like Brazil, a 4-3-3 often leaves the center forward stranded as the wings get pinned back and makes it difficult, if not impossible, to transition out of the defensive third which the U.S. struggled with most of the night. Against better teams, a 4-3-3 with one defensive midfielder also leaves the backline exposed accounting for many problems the U.S. faced Wednesday night.

The U.S., through both Klinsmann’s reign and that of much-maligned former coach Bob Bradley, has always played better with two strikers who can work off one other to start the team’s counterattacks.

A 4-4-2 also lends itself better to tougher competition because it allows for two defensive midfielders, something the U.S. could have used against Brazil. In the victory over Italy in March, Klinsmann went with two defensive midfielders in Bradley and Edu and two strikers in Altidore and Dempsey.

On Wednesday night, however, the point may have been moot, as neither Altidore or Dempsey were match fit for a 90 minute run out.

Despite the scoreline, the U.S. was extremely unlucky

Over the course of 90 minutes on Wednesday, the U.S. suffered from an unfortunate penalty call, uncharacteristically gave up a goal off a corner, had Gomez, Boyd, Bradley and Dempsey all miss chances from in close and had Onyewu hit the cross bar on a header.

The game could have easily ended up a 2-2 draw, or if the luck had gone the U.S.’ way, even a victory for the Nats.

John D. Halloran

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2 Responses to USMNT v. Brazil: 8 Thoughts from the Loss

  1. DE Dupuis on May 31, 2012 at 6:02 am

    JD, as usual good stuff.
    I totally agree about Bradley, Johnson, and Gomez.
    Even Gomez’s non scoring shots created additional chances. Gomez didn’t just have a good game he had it against 4 of the world’s best defenders – this guy is a keeper.
    I disagree about Torres. Although he did get caught a couple of times in possesion, usually the problem was that he had few outlets as the American movement off the ball in the middle of the park was poor (pretty good in the attacking third, but poor in the middle). Only Torres and Bradley (and Deuce of course) are composed and skilled enough on the ball to first look one way and then turn back to look at the rest of the field – Edu and Jones in particular once they looked one way were determined to pass it that way no matter what.
    Bradley, Torres, Deuce, and Johnson aside – most of the Americans demonstrated really poor first touches all night – decidedly not world class.
    I’m sure Castillo is a great guy, but why on God’s green earth does he keep showing up in a national team shirt? On Pato’s goal he might as well have been at Starbucks drinking a frapachino – Mex revisited.
    And with Gatt, Diskerud, and even Spector holding American passports what is Beckerman doing wear the red hoops?
    Edu and Jones will not get us to where we want to be.
    What was great though was that we fought hard to the end.
    And Jone’s tackle on Neymar was not dirty at all, a foul yes, foul play no – announcer’s silliness aside.

    • John D. Halloran on May 31, 2012 at 11:23 pm

      Not a fan of Castillo or Beckerman either.

      Would like to see the set-up back with Edu in the holding role and Bradley a little higher up the pitch.

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