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US falls to dominant Brazil in friendly

Steve Cherundolo
The US battled Wednesday night, but Brazil's class showed in its finishing.
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Ives Galarcep

Ives Galarcep is a 14-year veteran of the American soccer beat. He created and operates the popular American soccer blog, Soccer By Ives, which was voted Best American Soccer Blog by US Soccer in 2008, 2009, and 2010. Ives was also voted Best Football Writer by SoccerLens in 2010. 
 

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It didn’t take long Wednesday for the United States national team to realize it was facing a completely different challenge on Wednesday night than it did Saturday, when it thrashed an underwhelming Scotland side.

If the almost 70,000 fans at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., didn’t give it away, or the trademark yellow jerseys didn’t give them a hint, the Americans were quickly reminded of the tougher opponent in front of them when the opening whistle blew and Brazil began buzzing all over the field.

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FOX Soccer's Ives Galarcep will provide daily segments from Jurgen Klinsmann's USMNT training camp from Orlando, Florida.

 

The 4-1 final score suggested the Americans were overwhelmed, but the match wasn’t quite the thorough domination the Brazilians put on the United States in a 2-0 humbling almost two years ago. No, Wednesday’s match was about a Brazilian side that forced the United States into mistakes and finished its chances with clinical precision.

It was also about a US team that gave the South Americans a tough battle, and an American team that shook off a shaky start and pushed Brazil well into the second half, only to waste multiple quality chances before Alexandre Pato delivered a final dagger to make the final score 4-1.

“We’re all pissed off to have lost, and we’re all pissed off to have lost 4-1, but when you look at the game you can take a lot of good things from it,” said US midfielder Michael Bradley, the team’s best player on Wednesday night. “2-1 at halftime; I thought we started the second half pretty well. On a different day maybe you can make 2-2, but to be fair to them they make a good play and make it 3-1.

“I think 4-1 is flattering.”

When Herculez Gomez headed home a Fabian Johnson cross just before halftime to make the score 2-1, the United States looked very much like a team capable of mounting a comeback. The Americans never got closer though, as multiple chances were missed before Marcelo finished off a beautiful Brazilian sequence to make the score 3-1 in the 52nd minute.

“Good teams put you in bad positions, and when they’ve got 11 good players they can put you in a lot worse positions,” US goalkeeper Tim Howard said of Brazil. “We’re not going to overreact. They created chances, and I think against certain teams you don’t get punished for your mistakes. Against Brazil and Argentina and Holland and Spain, if you make one bad move they counter it. That’s the way it is.”

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The United States outshot Brazil 15-12, with Brazilian goalkeeper Rafael making several quality saves to keep the United States at bay.

“That’s the difference between us and Brazil tonight,” said Gomez, who missed a close-range volley and had a header cleared off the line. “They were clinical in their finishing. They made us pay. And if I was a little bit more clinical, and if I could make them pay, then I think we’re talking about a different score line. 4-1 wasn’t really indicative of how this game went down.”

You can argue that the United States should be above being content with moral victories, but considering the team is in a state of transition, with a coach preparing for his first World Cup qualifying cycle in charge of this group, it makes sense to look at both the negatives and the positives from a game that could have finished much closer than it did.

“We proved to them that we can play with them,” said Jurgen Klinsmann, who appeared visibly upset in the postgame news conference as he criticized the match referee and questioned several calls that went against the United States. “We have to improve still. Absolutely.”

“There are areas we’ve got to get closer to people,” Klinsmann added. “We’ve got to push forward a little bit more. You’ve got to be smarter playing out of the back. I think we were in the first 10-15 minutes a little bit too hectic.

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“Then they found their way into the game in the middle of the first half. They got better and better, and they were rewarded with the goal before halftime.”

The US team was upset with having lost, and by such a commanding margin, but there was an air of confidence coming from the postgame comments. There was a sense that this US team had shown good signs of improvement and is heading in the right direction as World Cup qualifying draws closer.

“I think you have to look at the way we played tonight,” Howard said. “There were some spots where we were good. We possessed the ball. We counterattacked, and I think the team’s getting better in the way that he (Klinsmann) wants to play.”

“We were fantastic against Scotland,” Howard added. “Look, it’s not always going to look pretty against Brazil. The reason they are who they are is because they don’t let you do the things you want to do.

“I think we’re getting better. It feels better as a player. The rhythm and the tempos we’re playing at feels better. The confidence that guys have on the ball is better. I think you can take tonight and we dust ourselves off and get back to where we want to be.”

Here are five more US observations from Wednesday night’s match:

GOMEZ MAKES A STATEMENT

The Santos Laguna striker was a late arrival into training camp because of Santos’ run to the Mexican Clausura title, but he made a quick impression on Klinsmann, who gave him minutes against Scotland and a start against Brazil.

All Gomez did was deliver two assists against Scotland before scoring the lone goal for the United States on Wednesday night. His two outings have helped push him into the playing-time conversation when World Cup qualifying commences. Jozy Altidore is still projected to start once he regains full fitness, but Gomez has played well enough to make Klinsmann consider ways to get him on the field.

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A SHAKY NIGHT FOR ONYEWU

Oguchi Onyewu was expected to slide in and start at centerback next to Carlos Bocanegra, but his outing against Brazil didn’t exactly instill confidence. He looked slow and unsure, particularly in the first half. To his credit, he improved in the second half, but he also kept Pato onside on Brazil’s final goal.

ANOTHER CLASS OUTING FROM BRADLEY

As much as Marcelo, Neymar and Rafael were outstanding for Brazil, it was tough not to watch Bradley and realize that he was putting together another top-shelf performance. He has established himself as the US' best midfielder, and his attacking qualities are really starting to come through on the national team.

A SETBACK FOR TWO MIDFIELDERS

Maurice Edu and Jose Torres drew rave reviews after their games against Scotland, but neither did much to assert their status in Klinsmann’s pecking order on Wednesday night. Edu was given a more advanced role and failed to deliver much from it, while Torres was relatively quiet and saw little of the ball. With Altidore and Clint Dempsey working their way back into the lineup and Gomez showing very well, Torres and Edu could wind up being the odd men out of the first-choice starting 11.

A GOOD NIGHT FOR THE 4-4-2

When Terrence Boyd came into the match and partnered with Gomez, the squad had the look of the team we might see plenty of in World Cup qualifying. Gomez works well in the 4-4-2, and Dempsey and Landon Donovan resumed their old roles of playing wide in the formation. It may have come late in the match, with Brazil coasting, but we saw enough from the 4-4-2 to suggest we haven’t seen the last of it, and it can still be effective.

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