Five Points: Brazil teach USMNT painful lesson

BY Kyle McCarthy • September 9, 2015


Forget about hiding places. The faults were laid bare for all to see. There were no excuses offered, no qualifiers delivered in the aftermath of this public setback. This performance fell well short of the expected standards from the United States. Brazil doled out the appropriate punishment by handing the Americans a deserved 4-1 defeat at Gillette Stadium.

“It frickin’ sucks that we got it handed to us,” U.S. midfielder Alejandro Bedoya said. “But, at the end of the day, everybody can look at themselves in the mirror and say this was s***, for lack of a better word. We know we have to do a lot better than this. We need to learn a few things from today. Mexico is going to be a whole different atmosphere, a whole different type of game. We’ll be prepared for Mexico.”

There is considerable work ahead between now and then. There are fitness concerns to monitor. There are selection questions to ponder. There are tactical issues to sift through. There is time between now and Oct. 10 to slide back on track. This display reinforced exactly how much this group needs that period to get healthy, locate the proper focus and sweep away the errors plaguing this dreadful performance.

Lack of pressure establishes suspect framework

The second half against Peru presented an object lesson for the Americans: close down space quickly and reap the benefits. The first few minutes -- full of energy and intent -- reflected the key points from that victory. The initial burst faded quickly, though. There were players still willing to close time and space, but the team as a whole struggled to manage territory and struggled to reduce the latitude afforded to a Brazil side more than capable of taking any ground ceded.

“Against a team like this, you have to be on your toes from the start,” U.S. forward Jozy Altidore. “It took us a while to get into the game. And then, boom, there was a goal. At the end of the day, you can’t play against teams like that and give the ball away easy because you’re running. It’s hard to tell on the TV, but just running back and forth takes a lot out of you. They wear you down and wear you down. They were the much better team.”

Imprecise work in possession leads to early hole

Hulk’s opener inside the opening 10 minutes captured the problem in a nutshell. The entire sequence started with a misplayed square pass by DeAndre Yedlin on the right flank. By conceding possession in that perilous spot in the middle third, the Americans found themselves stretched immediately. The seemingly inevitable sequence to follow -- swift work from left to right, Willian reaching the end line and striking the far post with a clipped cross, Hulk thrashing home from close range -- meted out the rebuke for the carelessness.

Brazil lacked the sharpness to replicate that particular feat again, but there were opportunities to do so as the first half progressed. The lack of precision on the ball and the questionable spacing throughout the shape led to errant passes and presented Brazil with plentiful opportunitiesl to counter. It constituted a fairly simply night for the victors. They just needed to sit back from time to time and wait for the U.S. to concede the ball in terrible spots.

“We had a lot, a lot of turnovers that were not necessary,” Klinsmann said. “When you make turnovers against Brazil with their counterbreak speed, you’re going to suffer.”

Bedoya serves as the fall guy for a peculiar selection choice gone astray

No one player suffered more than Bedoya. He spent his 36 minutes on the field chasing shadows as a holding midfielder. It represented a futile and patently unfair task for a player with scant professional experience in the position, particularly with two dedicated holding players in reserve and the evident threat posed by Brazil in space.

“It is what it is,” Bedoya said. “Whenever I play, I want to do my best for the team. It’s a different position for me. But I don’t know. You try to work on things in training, but, in the game environment, it’s a whole different thing. Against good teams like Peru and Brazil, it’s fair to say I got exposed a little bit, not really knowing how to play as a number six. I haven’t really played it as a professional. But everything is a learning curve.”

Klinsmann highlighted his faith in Bedoya by running him out in two peculiar positions -- half of a central midfield partnership against Peru, one of two holding players against Brazil -- in quick succession. His decision underscored his desire to find some spot on the field for the Nantes midfielder even with quicker options available on the wings. Bedoya’s tactical and technical prowess always warrant consideration for a place in the starting XI, but the situation on this night -- particularly with Klinsmann’s decision to retain Yedlin and Gyasi Zardes out wide -- proved unadvisable at the outset and untenable as the first half unfolded.

“Playing Ale in the center there with Jermaine [Jones] and Michael in front of them is a very good option,” Klinsmann said. “He showed in a couple of games after the World Cup that he can play inside. He just never caught up with the game. He was literally running after the ball and trying to get involved somehow. He just never connected. And that’s what you see then. You wait a little bit and then you say, maybe it’s better if we make a switch then.”

Killer second goal ends the game

Even with those concerns before the break, the Americans entered halftime with a one-goal deficit to overturn. Their proficiency after the interval in friendlies offered some encouragement for a turnaround. Klinsmann even praised the response of his side in the early stages of the second half.

Everything changed from the moment Neymar collected on the left flank. The Barcelona star -- surprisingly left on the bench at the outset for a second consecutive friendly -- located enough space to run and sliced into the penalty area. Geoff Cameron came through and clattered him to the ground. The resulting spot kick quelled any thoughts of an unexpected revival.

“The goal at halftime was to see if we could really push things and see if we could get back to 1-1,” Bradley said. “And we dig ourselves a deeper hole by giving away a cheap penalty. From there, when the game opens up, they are able to use a little bit of extra time and space and really punish you.”

Final stages reinforce the importance of pushing this game to the side

The final half-hour or so -- minus Danny Williams’ thunderbolt from distance -- doled out that punishment in due course. Brazil scored four times and squandered chances to further add to the total against an American defense in shambles by that stage. The final whistle underscored the evident gulf between the sides on the night.

At this stage, there is little reason to dwell on the defeat, though Klinsmann said he planned to cut pertinent passages and send them out to his players. There are bigger challenges ahead. It is all about getting ready for Mexico now, even if this defeat might sting for the next few days.

“Listen, we’re always confident,” U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan said. “We’re confident in our abilities as a team. We’ve got quality individuals. Tonight’s a tough night. You play one of the best teams in world football. To a certain extent, they taught us a lesson. So it’s not what we wanted, but you move on. We’ll be ready for sure come October.”