All that rhythmic, entertaining samba soccer that we missed so much from Brazil under Dunga's oppressive rule wasn't lost after all. It was only temporarily misplaced.
Then again, it really is unfortunate it had to be the United States on the business end of matters as the Brazilians re-discovered their true soccer spirit. A 2-0 win for the visitors in Wednesday's friendly at The New Meadowlands Stadium really doesn't paint at accurate picture of such thorough domination in both teams' first appearance after the World Cup.
A motivated bunch of Brazilians, essentially auditioning for new coach Mano Menezes, kept the ball for long stretches against a U.S. side often reduced to bystander status. If this is indeed coach Bob Bradley's last match -- and who could know, as little has been said by U.S. Soccer about the coach whose job status remains on the dangle -- then it's hardly a great way to go out.
The U.S. looked up to the job for about 10 minutes as the Brazilians adjusted to each other, to Menezes' less rigid version of the 4-2-3-1 formation and to the slow, temporary grass field at the New Jersey facility.
But Brazil found its stride and the U.S. sank beneath the weight of it all, as the five-time world champs awed the big crowd of 77,223 with a clinic on passing and movement. Two first-half goals told the story.
Menezes' side, young but still quite technical, strung together 11 passes in the 29th minute, the last few as left back Andre Santos began to gallop down the left side. Young U.S. midfielder Alejandro Bedoya was slow to track Santos on one side while fullback Jonathan Bornstein wasn't close enough to issue a challenge on young sensation Neymar on the other side. Goal.
A few minutes later, Alexandre Pato got the last of 13 successive passes to score again. This one was waved off, however, as Pato had bundled into U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard after getting inside of Omar Gonzalez.
No matter, Brazil assembled 18 passes just a few minutes later. Benfica midfielder Ramires had ample time to pick out Pato's run behind the U.S. defense. The AC Milan man rounded Howard easily as Brazil assumed a well-deserved 2-0 lead.
The South Americans toyed further with the home team after the break, hitting the post twice and testing substitute goalkeeper Brad Guzan repeatedly.
For the U.S., it was too much of the same old story. Bradley's side featured little striking power as yet another contest came and went for a bunch of forwards who just cannot lay claim to spots begging to be had. Landon Donovan was the best U.S. attacker, playing as a second striker rather than in his usual wide midfield spot under Bradley. Compounding the problem was the fact that the U.S. midfielders were overrun and when they had the ball, often misplaced their passes.
U.S. offensive highlights were few. Michael Bradley was two steps offside as he headed home off Sacha Kljestan's nice cross. Herculez Gomez came close on a six-yard header in the waning moments. And Donovan probably had a good argument for penalty kick when he tried to fight through a clumsy Alves challenge after just two minutes.
GK, Tim Howard, 5: Had two saves in 45 minutes, only one where he really had to extend himself.
D, Jonathan Spector, 4: The right back had his hands full, matched against 18-year-old Santos sensation Neymar. A little slow in moving the ball, too. In his defense, he wasn't getting a lot of the right kind of help from the overmatched Bedoya in front of him.
D, Carlos Bocanegra, 5: The veteran center back managed his positioning fairly well but did get beaten when drawn out and matched one-on-one in isolation.
D, Omar Gonzalez, 5: No one along the U.S. back line had a good night, although the Galaxy man didn't do anything especially badly in earning his first cap. He won a couple of one-on-one battles with the classy Pato.
D, Jonathan Bornstein, 4: Got forward a little more often than Spector on the right, but mostly had to stay back to deal with Dani Alves.
M, Alejandro Bedoya, 3: Looked quite slow and generally way out of his element, clearly not accustomed to the international speed. He held balls too long when he did occasionally get one in a good spot.
M, Benny Feilhaber, 4: Mostly a bystander without much to offer in his 45 minutes as a left-sided midfielder. Did drift into the middle often to help the besieged U.S. central areas.
M, Michael Bradley, 5: On the ball more than any U.S. player, active in defensive areas and doing most of the midfield linking. On the other hand, he had too many careless entry passes that turned into easy pickings and generally looked as uninterested as everyone around him.
M, Maurice Edu, 4: If the U.S. is going to play friendlies where they don't do a lot of tackling, then Edu won't be at his best. Playing centrally alongside Bradley in the 4-42, he got caught holding the ball too often, too.
F, Landon Donovan, 6: Played as a second striker and was the only player in the U.S. attack who seemed up for the job. Should have earned an early penalty kick and made more good choices in the final third than his teammates.
F, Edson Buddle, 3: Clattered around a lot but had little to offer the match aside from one early ball to Donovan.
GK, Brad Guzan, 7: This will be a helpful night for the U.S. backup, who replaced Howard at halftime and stood out with four quality saves. The best was a world-class effort on a point-blank effort from the unchallenged Eduardo.
M, Sacha Kljestan, 4: Worked inside from his spot on the left after replacing Feilhaber at intermission, but clearly hasn't shaken his funk. When he wasn't giving balls away his passes were often ineffective for lack of accuracy or authority.
F, Jozy Altidore, 4: Came in at halftime at striker and did a little more of Buddle couldn't, making things tougher on Brazil's back line. But only a little bit tougher. He scuffed a shot at a promising moment that was begging for a cross late in the match.
D, Clarence Goodson, 6: Never missed an opportunity to clear a ball from danger, doing nothing to over-complicate things. A solid half-hour of work after replacing Bocanegra.
F, Robbie Findley, 4: Came in for Donovan in the 62nd minute but looked a little clumsy, perhaps trying too hard.
F, Herculez Gomez, 5: Entered for Bedoya in the 67th minute, playing along the right rather than at his preferred striker spot. Came close to scoring on header from six yards out in the 85th.