USMNT falls flat against Ireland in friendly in Dublin
DUBLIN -- A second-string Republic of Ireland side sent the USA crashing to a dismal 4-1 defeat at Aviva Stadium to add an ugly coda to the Americans' year.
Anthony Pilkington opened the scoring for Ireland inside the first 10 minutes, but Mix Diskerud restored parity six minutes before halftime. Diskerud's response did not lead to a second-half revival for the out-of-sorts Americans as Robbie Brady struck off a deflected James McClean effort to send Jurgen Klinsmann's side home with a comprehensive setback.
The heavy loss was no less than the Americans deserved on the night after failing to use their possession effectively, reduce the Irish threat on the break or steady themselves in defense. And, this dismal performance will leave Klinsmann with plenty to ponder over the next couple of months.
"The second and third goals, you can watch it yourselves. You can’t make those mistakes," Klinsmann said after the loss. "And those were experienced guys making those mistakes. That’s definitely something to address and something to talk about with them. Maybe even before today, already. Is that a concern? Absolutely."
Ireland manager Martin O'Neill invited the Americans to accept the burden in possession by making 11 changes from the 1-0 defeat in Scotland. Klinsmann fielded a relatively narrow midfield four with Kyle Beckerman once again deployed behind Alejandro Bedoya, Diskerud and Alfredo Morales to take advantage of the opportunity afforded.
The numbers meant the visitors enjoyed plenty of opportunity to keep the middle third, but they also carried the potential risk of exposure. Ireland pounced on a tamely struck pass from Bedoya to highlight the peril and open the scoring inside the first seven minutes.
Ireland burst forward after the turnover and used the space afforded with Beckerman pushed into a more advanced position. David McGoldrick benefited from the failure to adjust to play through the inviting channel in central defense. Pilkington dashed into the area behind Matt Besler and jinked over Bill Hamid to give the home side the lead.
The early goal reinforced Ireland's gameplan: they were largely content to sit back in a 4-4-2 setup, soak up pressure and wait for a chance to counter. It worked well enough with the Americans floundering in their attempts to create much from the run of play, though Fabian Johnson did skim the outside of the post from one of a procession of set pieces after 22 minutes.
Most of the thrust and parry favored the Americans without much profit, but the Irish posed a modest threat when they ventured forward. Hamid - selected ahead of Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando - rushed out and produced a fine block on Daryl Murphy just before the half-hour after his defense failed to cope with a long, hopeful free kick toward the penalty area.
After struggling to impress for long stretches in the first half, the Americans perked up as the interval approached and produced their equalizer six minutes before the break.
"We started out flat, but I thought, towards the end of the first half, the last 15-20 minutes, we got it together. We were able to get the goal back," Bedoya noted.
Diskerud channeled the tactics used to produce goals against Colombia and Czech Republic by applying timely pressure and winning the ball in a good area. The sequence eventually proceeded with Morales pinging a vertical pass through the line. The ball bounced out to Jozy Altidore on the left. Altidore clipped a ball back toward the far post for Wondolowski to knock down and Diskerud to stab home from close range.
The period proved a mere mirage with the Americans failing to build upon Diskerud's response, create more incisive spells in possession or prevent the Irish from unsettling them at the back. It ultimately cost dearly as the Irish - buoyed by a bright start to the second period - grabbed the second goal through their own willingness to chase and harry.
"It took the air out of us," said Bedoya.
Johnson found himself pinned deep in the corner and ultimately conceded possession. McGoldrick - continuing his fine debut - played Brady through the line with Johnson still in a position to keep him onside. Brady kept his nerve and tucked home from a sharp angle to restore the Irish advantage 10 minutes into the second half.
Brady's goal prompted a more stretched second half with the Americans desperate to claw back and the Irish looking to spring forward on the counter. Both teams made changes to aid the efforts with the arrivals of Shane Long and Aiden McGeady providing sharpness for the home side and the injections of Jordan Morris (in his USA debut) and Rubio Rubin (on for his second cap after debuting against Colombia) supply some youthful running for the Americans.
The best chance for the visitors fell to halftime substitute Bobby Wood after 67 minutes. Hamid thumped a clearance over the top to catch out the Irish defense. Wood dashed clear and opened up his body to strike toward the far post, but Given deflected the effort wide.
Ireland eventually went on to exacerbate the Americans' struggles late in matches and secure the victory with a pair of goals in the final 10 minutes.
McClean - another second-half substitute - benefited from Long's hit off the post and struck from distance. His effort caromed off Cameron and wrong-footed Hamid to snatch the Irish third eight minutes from time.
"On the second and third goal, we did not get away with it and they punished us," Klinsmann lamented.
Brady completed his double and drew a close to the Americans' miserable night with a stunning free kick three minutes from the end. His wonderfully placed effort offered a fine punctuation mark to the Irish victory and left the visitors to rue this ugly conclusion to their year.