EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The U.S. men’s national team fell 2-0 to a star-studded Brazil team on Friday in a friendly. Brazil’s Roberto Firmino scored a too-easy goal in the 11th minute to open proceedings, and Neymar converted a 42nd-minute penalty after Fabinho earned a dubious penalty on the U.S.’s Wil Trapp.
The Brazilians, featuring many of the same starters from their World Cup team, were solidly in control, but they didn’t embarrass a young American team (average roster age: 23) that created a few scoring chances, mostly on set-piece opportunities.
The loss was the 11th straight by the U.S. vs. Brazil, a streak that dates back 20 years, and Dave Sarachan's side will look to move beyond it on Tuesday, when it faces rival Mexico in Nashville.
Here are my three thoughts on Friday's game:
• This U.S. central midfield has some promise
Let’s be clear: Brazil was never in any danger in this friendly, and parts of the U.S. team were severely overmatched (see below). But the U.S. central midfield of Tyler Adams (19 years old), Weston McKennie (20) and Trapp (25) showed no fear and had some solid moments against a Brazilian team that was playing with a bunch of starters from its World Cup outfit. That’s no small thing.
McKennie, in fact, had a few scoring chances (mostly off set pieces) on which he could have done better. There were occasions when you wished the U.S. would spring more quickly into transition after winning the ball—Brazil dominated possession—but Adams and McKennie were exceptions, showing a speed of thought that will serve them well at this level moving forward.
• Antonee Robinson got the full brunt of Douglas Costa
Robinson, the U.S.’s 21-year-old left back who’s playing for England’s Wigan Athletic, has a promising future in a position that has long been a bugbear for the United States. But he’ll have some scars from this one. Douglas Costa, the lightning-fast 27-year-old Juventus winger, took Robinson to school more than once. The first time, in the 11th minute, Costa blasted by Robinson (who took a bad angle) and fired a gorgeous cross into the path of Firmino, who evaded Matt Miazga and made the goal look easy.
Twenty minutes later, Costa torched Robinson again, and a few minutes after that Robinson “cleared” a ball right to Costa in the box. Look, it’s Brazil, and Robinson shouldn’t be singled out as the only reason for the loss, but U.S. fans will have to hope he uses the evening as a learning experience. At the same time, none of the U.S.’s wingers (and especially not starters Julian Green and Paul Arriola) were able to create the danger that Costa did constantly during his time on the field.
• Brazil’s “other guys” had a bigger impact than Neymar did
Yes, Neymar converted a penalty for his 58th career international goal, the third-highest in Brazilian history, which is insane for a 26-year-old. But while Neymar had a few typical ooh-and-aah moments on the ball—including a takedown by DeAndre Yedlin which Yedlin followed by saying to the referee, “Did you see the World Cup?”—the vaunted Brazilian wasn’t as dangerous on the night as Costa and Firmino were. (Philippe Coutinho was relatively silent, too.)
There’s still a lingering feeling here that if Brazil had had Casemiro for the entirety of its World Cup campaign—he was suspended for the loss to Belgium—and if Firmino had started up top instead of Gabriel Jesus, that it might have been Brazil raising the trophy in Russia.