FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Brazil demolished the U.S. 4–1 in a friendly at Gillette Stadium on Tuesday, and while the Brazilians were superior in every way, the story on the U.S. side was a second-half performance that raised plenty of questions ahead of the team’s Oct. 10 CONCACAF Cup showdown against Mexico.
After building a 1–0 halftime lead on a goal by Hulk, Brazil really turned it on in the second half with the introduction of superstar Neymar. The Barcelona forward provided instant energy and creativity and scored twice, the last of which came against a U.S. defense that looked clueless.
Danny Williams pulled one back late for the U.S. from distance to salvage something from an otherwise one-sided affair.
Here are three thoughts on the game:
This was a troubling U.S. effort
You can issue all the caveats you want: It was only a friendly, and the U.S. was without Clint Dempsey and Fabian Johnson, and Brazil was, well, Brazil. But while there’s no shame in losing to Brazil, there are red flags and warning sirens when a U.S. team appears to lose its will in a game. And that’s what it looked like for a bit in the second half on Tuesday.
U.S. teams just don’t do that, and some blame for that has to go on coach Jurgen Klinsmann. You can question other things too: Why didn’t the U.S. play in a 4-4-2, which gives Jozy Altidore a better chance to succeed up front? And why didn’t Klinsmann go for the best center-back partnership available (Geoff Cameron and Omar Gonzalez) instead of Ventura Alvarado and Michael Orozco? But the most worrisome thing is the general mood around this U.S. team right now.
Malaise described the Gold Cup vibe, and this felt the same way.
Klinsmann said he wouldn’t experiment, then he experimented
We’ve learned long ago not to hold Klinsmann to what he says, but he had said before the game that one doesn’t experiment against a team like Brazil—and then started Alejandro Bedoya as a holding midfielder in a 4-2-3-1. Bedoya (who doesn’t appear fully fit) was badly out of position and struggled defensively before being removed in the 37th minute for Danny Williams, an admission by Klinsmann of his mistake (though he didn't exactly take accountability in his halftime comments on ESPN's TV broadcast).
There’s nothing wrong with experimenting, per se, in friendlies, and the sense is Klinsmann likes Bedoya and wanted to find a place for him in the lineup. But Klinsmann’s tendency to play players out of their natural position is something he takes to an extreme at times.
Of the 10 U.S. field-player starters, at least five, and maybe six, weren’t playing at their best spot on the field right now.
How might the U.S. line up vs. Mexico?
Well, here’s one suggested lineup for Oct. 10 (if everyone is healthy): Brad Guzan; Fabian Johnson, Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler, DaMarcus Beasley; Alejandro Bedoya, Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, Gyasi Zardes; Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore.
It’s not perfect, but it gives the U.S. the best chance of winning the game. Klinsmann’s boss, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, has already said that Klinsmann’s job will not be in jeopardy even if the U.S. loses against Mexico, but this result against Brazil will have even more people questioning the direction in which Klinsmann has his team going.