FOX Soccer Exclusive
U.S. still can't hang with Brazil
Whether it was a case of preseason legs, post-World Cup hangover or just a plain flat performance, the U.S. men’s national team’s first match since South Africa was forgettable, though not completely useless.
The 2-0 loss to Brazil on Tuesday night served to remind us just how little depth the Americans have, a fact made even more glaring by the impressive display put on by what was a young Brazilian B-team. Brazil’s youngsters flourished in their first match under new manager Mano Menezes, while their American counterparts struggled to keep up.
The irony was that after a World Cup filled with slow starts, the Americans actually enjoyed a good beginning to Tuesday night’s match. Landon Donovan started well and combined with Edson Buddle on a sequence that could have resulted in a penalty if Donovan had chosen to go to the ground rather than stay on his feet.
The good start didn’t produce any goals for the Americans, and by the time Brazil found a good attacking rhythm, the domination was on. Neymar, Robinho, Ganso and Alexandre Pato passed and moved and danced and dribbled around the American defense, proving too quick against a U.S. squad that looked a step slow all night.
Once the tone was set, Brazil’s goals seemed inevitable. First-half goals from Neymar and Pato were followed by a second half that consisted mainly of Brazil knocking the ball around (and hitting the post twice), Brad Guzan making a handful of stunning saves and American defenders chasing yellow jerseys in vain to the delight of the thousands of Brazilians in New Jersey.
In the grand scheme of things, Tuesday’s friendly is pretty meaningless. Competitive matches for the United States won’t come until next summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, and it remains unclear whether Bob Bradley will even be the head coach by then. What Tuesday’s match did do was remind us that the U.S. team isn’t really equipped to operate at optimum level without the strongest possible collection of players.
While Brazil can afford to leave players like Maicon, Lucio, Luis Fabiano and Julio Cesar home and still field a strong and dangerous team with high-priced talent at every position, the United States simply doesn’t have the depth of quality to perform without the likes of Clint Dempsey, Steve Cherundolo, Jay DeMerit and Jozy Altidore (who did play, but didn’t start).
The search for depth, and new blood isn’t likely to truly begin until 2011, but two new faces were given chances Tuesday. Omar Gonzalez made his first national team appearance and while he struggled with Brazil’s speed at times, the Los Angeles Galaxy defender avoided any major mistakes and gained what should become a valuable 90 minutes of experience for a player regarded in some circles as the U.S. team’s most promising defensive prospect.
Alejandro Bedoya’s night wasn’t quite as memorable. The young winger looked overwhelmed at times and when he wasn’t struggling to connect with his teammates in the attack, Bedoya was lagging behind defensively. One bad match isn’t likely to change the fact that he is still one of the more promising young midfielders in the national team pool, but it showed that he still needs a considerable amount of seasoning.
If there were bright spots for the United States, they were a pair of young but experienced players who showed good glimpses. Maurice Edu was composed and confident in central midfield while Guzan stood out with some outstanding saves in his 45 minutes. Jonathan Spector delivered some quality passes and could have done much worse against the relentless runs of Neymar and Brazilian left back Andre Santos.
Overall, the match was a disappointment for the United States, but not a complete waste. Some young players gained experience, and U.S. fans had a chance to see some of the players who made the 2010 World Cup an unforgettable experience. On a night when a young, talented and motivated Brazil stole the show against a tired, shorthanded and overmatched U.S. team, there wasn’t going to be much more.
Ives Galarcep is a senior writer for FoxSoccer.com covering the U.S. national team and Major League Soccer.