Goalkeeping, Set Piece Defending at Root of USMNT Defeat in Ireland

The U.S. men's national team had a lead in Ireland, but concessions off a corner kick and a throw-in subdued the Americans after the momentum generated by the Memorial Day win over Bolivia.
Publish date:

The U.S. men's national team followed up a win over a green Bolivia team with a predictably more difficult affair, though it will be kicking itself for letting the result slip away.

The 2-1 loss to Ireland in Dublin on Saturday, in the second of three friendlies this training camp, was the first defeat of Dave Sarachan's interim manager era, and it was largely a result of sloppy circumstances. Ultimately, the game was decided off a throw-in, with Alan Judge, fresh off the bench, taking the ball off teammate James McClean's foot and beating Bill Hamid from close range for the 90th minute winner.

The U.S. had led, as Bobby Wood scored with the final kick of the first half, but Graham Burke equalized in the 57th minute, capitalizing after a poorly defended corner kick gifted the hosts the opportunity.

While the match marked the end of the international career for Ireland veteran John O'Shea, it ushered in the international careers of three more U.S. players. After six earned their first caps vs. Bolivia, defenders Tim Parker and Shaq Moore and midfielder Luca de la Torre came on as second-half substitutes to do the same.

The first goal conceded by the U.S. was its first since a November friendly vs. Portugal, after three consecutive clean sheets and 386 minutes, and the manner in which it and the second were conceded is the perfect place to unleash three thoughts on the draw:

Hamid shaky in net

Hamid will never want to play in Dublin again. He was in goal for the USA's last trip to Ireland, a humbling 4-1 defeat in 2014 in which the hosts blitzed the Americans with a three-goal second half. It was less demoralizing of a defeat on Saturday, but not by much, especially considering what could be at stake for Hamid at this juncture in his career.

The 27-year-old hasn't played much since leaving D.C. United for Midtjylland this past winter–300 minutes total over three matches in a 10-day April span–and while he won Denmark's championship with his new side, the individual rust was evident. He was strong in punching away James McClean's dipping blast from 25 yards in the opening half, but on a couple of occasions he looked a step off and not positioned to make the play. 

That was punctuated in the 57th minute, when he got caught off his line and behind traffic when coming out to defend a cross off a short corner. Ireland was gifted a chance as the ball fell to Darragh Lenihan, whose shot was redirected home by the onside Burke.

With the No. 1 job up for grabs, Hamid could've helped himself with a stronger showing. Instead, it's almost a certainty that Zack Steffen will see the prime minutes vs. France–which may have been the plan anyway, to be fair–while Hamid replays the moments that got away vs. Ireland on the bench.

Young USMNT Builds on Tactical Foundation, Eases to Win Over Bolivia

Young USMNT defenders roasted on set pieces

Much has been made about the strength the U.S. has in the center back pipeline, and between Matt Miazga, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Erik Palmer-Brown, the U.S. has three talents 22 and under who have the potential to be quite good. The problem is, they also have the penchant to make the mistakes that young players tend to concede. The U.S. gave up goals off a short corner and a throw in, and should have conceded off another free kick. That's not great.

Miazga, specifically, was all over the place in defending McClean on the match's final sequence, recklessly lunging in trying to stop him but instead gifting him the space in the box.

That's not to say Miazga was awful on the whole, as it was his header that put Wood in position to score his goal, but that's no way to close out a match.

Carter-Vickers, too, had a rough go of it. The physical tools aren't in question, but deploying efficiently and appropriately is another story. His reckless challenge on Jonathan Walters underscored his poor day at the office.

The USA's defenders got bailed out on another play which Ireland should have scored, with Parker appearing to keep Ireland's would-be goalscorer onside, despite the flag going up to let him off the hook.

The hope for these players is that the ups will heavily outweigh the downs, and as their careers progress and they achieve more success and consistency at the club and country levels, that will likely be the case. But Saturday was a day for the downs.

U.S. Soccer Backtracks, Drops Youth Technical Coach Tom Byer's Pilot Program

Wood a bright spot after dismal season

It seems every time Wood needs a confidence boost, he turns to the U.S. He's scored as many goals in his last two U.S. friendlies than he did in a forgettable Bundesliga season with Hamburg–two–and could use that boost to take into an important summer. He looked up for the occasion on Saturday, whizzing a 20-yard chance just wide of the net before his opener, which was well executed. As Miazga headed a free kick from Wil Trapp forward, Wood followed the play and extended his leg to poke home the go-ahead goal with the last touch of the opening 45. 

Wood didn't have that many opportunities otherwise, and as we've seen under Sarachan, sometimes the U.S. lacks a playmaking element. He's been consistent in deploying a 4-1-4-1, but often that set-up has been without an attacking midfielder. On Monday, Christian Pulisic slide into that role, but on Saturday, the midfield in front of Trapp consisted of Tim Weah and Rubio Rubin on the wings and Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams in the middle. That forces too much of the action to be created by the wingers, and while Weah, specifically, had his moments, it wasn't enough to generate more in the final third.