DUBLIN — The U.S. men’s national team ended 2014 on a whimper on Tuesday with a 4-1 loss to a second-choice Ireland team. Yes, the U.S. was without Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones, and yes, it was a friendly without any real stakes, but it was still a disappointing performance by a U.S. team that won just one of its last eight games in 2014 after its World Cup-opening victory against Ghana.
Mix Diskerud had the lone goal for the U.S., a karate-kick finish off a nice Chris Wondolowski knockdown header, but Ireland got an early goal from Anthony Pilkington and the game-winner in the second half by Robbie Brady after a Fabian Johnson give-away. James McClean and Brady added late goals–the latter of which came on a tremendous free kick–to complete the blowout.
Here are three thoughts on the game:
• The U.S. is in a funk
There’s a malaise surrounding Jurgen Klinsmann’s team that didn’t just develop this week. It’s true that some of the U.S. leaders aren’t here, but team-wide the U.S. is suffering from a few problems: Conceding late goals (four after the 80th minute in the last four games); slowness of thought and movement; defensive miscues; and a lack of smarts on the field.
When Fabian Johnson faced a rare situation with the game tied at 1-1—deep in his own corner with two Irish players pressing in his grille—he tried to force his way out of it with a pass, only to give it away before compounding his mistake and playing Ireland onside for the go-ahead goal. You can be a possession team, as the U.S is striving to be, without being foolish. Just knock it out. But there were plenty more issues on the night. To wit:
• Alejandro Bedoya is the only U.S. player in good form right now
Good for Bedoya, who was dangerous against Colombia and continued that on Tuesday down the right flank. But it was hard to pick out many other positives. Matt Besler has been struggling since the World Cup and looked slow of foot and behind the play. His central partnership with Geoff Cameron wasn’t smooth and made you wonder if Omar Gonzalez advanced up the depth chart by not playing.
Diskerud had a nice play on the U.S. goal, winning the ball with pressure and finishing well, but overall he mostly struggled again despite a good opportunity against beatable opposition with Kyle Beckerman playing right behind him.
Jozy Altidore hit the crossbar but didn’t have a big impact, and you have to wonder how many more times Klinsmann will go to the well with Bobby Wood before he seeks other young sub options. At least Stanford's Jordan Morris got a few minutes in his debut.
• It’ll be a while before the U.S. is at full-strength again
This game will leave a bad taste in the mouths of the U.S. players, and it should. But it won’t be until March before we see a truly full-strength U.S. team again. The January camp will be composed almost entirely of MLS players, though you’d think the group would include Dempsey, Jones and probably Bradley.
But Klinsmann needs to find some answers, both by experimenting with young guys but also by getting more out of players from the World Cup squad who have struggled since the end of the World Cup. Those include U.S.-based players and Europe-based players, the latter of which won’t be wearing a U.S. uniform for another four months.