30 May 2012
The score-line was anything but just as the USA fell 4-1 to a young but very talented Brazil.
The US were on the wrong end of a controversial penalty, fell asleep twice at the back, and perhaps were unlucky the flag didn’t go up on Brazil’s fourth (no, it was onside). Had it not been for a crossbar, some tremendous saves from Brazilian goalkeeper Rafael and maybe one or two calls going their way, however, we would be talking about a very different game.
"Obviously, I think 4-1 was maybe not a score line that was indicative of the overall game," US goal scorer Herculez Gomez said after the game. "I think for long stretches of the game we kind of imposed our will on them and we were unfortunate not to get some [goals]. I think the main difference was that they were clinical in front of goal and we weren’t. If I put some of those away, then it’s different game."
The USA continued playing a high pressure, fluid and dynamic possession game, which they displayed in their victory over Scotland. The fact that the mentality didn’t change in the face of Brazil is a huge step up for this program. Their confidence on the ball was apparent. No better example then Fabian Johnson's juke move on Oscar to work his way out of the corner early in the first half.
With that said though, it was times when the US were too comfortable on the ball.
The penalty, although very unlucky, originated from a sequence in midfield when Michael Bradley was too casual on the ball. Other players were also culpable, as the US need to realize when to play with that utmost confidence and when to move the ball on a bit quicker.
The biggest difference between the Scotland and Brazil match was that Brazil was always going to break the US’ high pressure and the biggest question Jurgen Klinsmann wanted to know (this is why he schedules these friendlies against world powers) is how the US would cope when their resistance was broken.
For the most part it was stellar. The US recovered well and didn’t look overrun in midfield. The right side of defense was where the USA struggled with Steve Cherundolo beaten on both of Brazil’s goals that came from open play. Not all the blame can rest on the Hannover man as he was not helped out by whichever player of the interchangeable midfield three failed to track back far enough to help double in the corner.
The other thing to take into account, as Grant Wahl pointed out to me in the tunnel was that he was dealing with Neymar and Marcelo, both of whom are a level above world class.
Going forward, the US played with a confidence that you would not have seen a year ago against the world powers such as Brazil. The chances created were not the odd counter attack, but the end product of a desire to run at defenders combined with silky inter-passing between players constantly switching positions. The US also did a solid job of quickly switching the field of play from one side to the other and back to try and open up holes in the Brazil defense.
The lone goal was the perfect illustration and the culmination of the Klinsmann attacking philosophy. Johnson made an overlapping run, Bradley held the ball and slipped in his perfectly timed pass into the channel where Johnson crossed for Gomez, who snuck in between the center backs and prodded home.
Bradley was always a good ball winner in midfield but he has added a smooth passing game to his repertoire, which shined through even though he was instructed to play a little bit deeper against Brazil.
The US never let down The high pressure caused Brazil to make mistakes at the back. Trailing 3-1, the Stars and Stripes almost got back into the match. Rafael and Thiago Silva combined to make a ridiculous double save with the Santos shot-stopper first thwarting Gomez’s volley before Silva made a crucial block on Terrence Boyd’s rebound.
Minutes later, Rafael spectacularly tipped Bradley’s header over from a pin-point Donovan free kick and Gooch hit the crossbar on the resulting corner.
The USA forced an astonishing 8 corners to Brazil’s five. I am not a stat man but this is numerical evidence to show that tonight the Yanks went toe to toe with the mighty Brazilians.
Tonight was a friendly. I care about the performance, not the result and tonight the USA stuck to their principals despite the opponent. The kinks can easily be worked out. However, I will definitely be writing a whole different type of article if results do not emulate performance when World Cup Qualifying begins.