US National Team
Well, that was unsatisfying. At least Canadians can look at their win over Cuba and say, "Hey, it was on the road." The US don't have that luxury after a hard-fought, uneven 3-1 win over Antigua and Barbuda in Tampa.
I can't say I'm surprised. Disappointed, surely, but not surprised. This is a disjointed, confused, and somewhat rudderless US team.
Oguchi Onyewu is done as an international-caliber defender
Bad showing against Brazil? Hey, it happens.
But the same against the Benna Boys? You're done.
It's kind of deceiving because Gooch still looks like he did way back in the summer of 2009 when he had that great showing in the Confederations Cup, but the similarity ends there. His lateral quickness is nil, his passing has always been subpar and his reading of the game has actually regressed. The vast majority of MLS defenders would have bottled up that touch from Byers; Gooch rolled with it and gave him a direct line to Tim Howard's goal.
That's unacceptable in any context. In a game that matters, with a then-fragile 2-0 lead? It's mutinous.
Jurgen Klinsmann needs to bury Gooch on the depth chart. He's a liability against even the worst teams.
If it comes down to goal differential, the US are in trouble
How many goals will the US score in Guatemala City or Kingston playing like this? It's relevant, since Mexico only went through to the Hexagonal on goal differential four years ago.
The US will not have that luxury — not after this performance, and even more so on Tuesday. That means the margin for error is razor thin, and any loss will be a potentially crippling one.
Does that mean Klinsmann should add more attackers to the mix?
Absolutely. Not only was the output poor, but so was recovery of the second ball and pressure in the final third. Putting Jozy Altidore or Terrence Boyd in alongside Herculez Gomez from the start would have given the US a better chance at taking advantage of all those chances they created.
Set pieces are still a thing the US can do well
Landon Donovan's service was perfect pretty much all game long. Carlos Bocanegra, Clarence Goodson, Herculez Gomez, Clint Dempsey, Maurice Edu and Michael Bradley are all excellent targets.
That was the difference against the Benna Boys. (How horrible is that to contemplate, by the way?)
It will continue to be the area where the US have the biggest advantage throughout this semifinal round. Klinsmann's men will have to milk that for all it's worth, or there may be no Hexagonal in 2013.
Just suddenly having [Fabian Johnson] on the squad feels like finding a solution to a problem you'd gotten so accustomed to that you'd stopped even thinking of it as a problem. He's the soccer equivalent of laser eye surgery or getting air conditioning for the first time.
Is Fabian Johnson the irrefutable savior of American soccer? Alone, it's unlikely.
But in Brian Phillips' article on the US men's national team at Grantland, he argues that Johnson is just another reason why US soccer is poised to push the limits on how well – and subsequently, how poorly – they can play.
Essentially, with a more attack-centered mentality and a formation to maximize the talent in the midfield, the potential to produce big-time performances (we're looking at you, Scotland) are ever more likely.
With that being said, against powerhouse teams like Brazil – where a 4-1 loss seemed to sting a whole lot less than a scoreless draw with Canada because, well, the team looked better – the risk of being dumped with an unsightly scoreline is also on the rise.
It's time to drop the "up-and-coming" tagline (it's been far too long), start playing up to the talent available (not to say that the US will consistently take down the world's elite, but just ask the past two World Cup champions, Spain and Italy, if they still get a can't-wait-to-play-them feeling in their stomachs when they see the United States on their schedule), and stop accepting losses to teams well below the Americans' capabilities (a la Panama in the 2011 Gold Cup on US soil).
"By gambling that he can teach the USMNT to walk before it's really gotten world-class at crawling," Philips writes, "Klinsmann is taking an already chancy situation and stirring in a fresh vial of crazy."
With the 2014 World Cup as the ultimate showcase of Klinsmann's US side, perhaps straying from the status quo and going for glory is just the type of craziness we need.
Dans son unique match de préparation avant la reprise des éliminatoires de la Coupe du monde 2014, le Canada a fait match nul 0-0 avec les États-Unis. Un bon résultat dans l’absolu, mais il faut éviter de tomber dans l’enthousiasme démesuré.
S’il y avait une bonne discipline défensive, la construction du jeu était souvent déficiente, reposant davantage sur des inspirations individuelles que sur un collectif bien huilé. Le Canada a dominé la deuxième mi-temps, contre des Américains fatigués, et a même marqué un but annulé. Je rejoins toutefois davantage l’avis du capitaine des États-Unis, Carlos Bocanegra, qui n’a pas vu un grand match, que celui de Dwayne De Rosario, très heureux du travail accompli.
La rencontre a été précédée de diverses cérémonies soulignant le centenaire de l’Association canadienne de soccer. Sur la photo d’équipe, les joueurs canadiens (qui portaient un équipement rétro spécialement conçu pour l’occasion) avaient pris avec eux un maillot floqué du numéro 11 de Josh Simpson, leur coéquipier qui s’est cassé la jambe il y a une dizaine de jours.
Malgré le duel Canada - États-Unis, la MLS ne faisait pas complètement relâche ce week-end, et New England y a battu Chicago 2-0.
So in retrospect ... how bad were Scotland?
I expressed my concern that the 5-1 result for the US in that particular game was a bit of a false positive (usage, I know), and am now bemused in my correctitude. The US are still a mess, looking very much a team in "Who are we, really?" mode.
Canada, meanwhile, get the pleasure of knowing they were the superior team for 90 minutes against the US for the first time since maybe the mid-1980s. And the displeasure of another bad call going against them in this series.
Klinsmann's lineup choices are still baffling
About 95 percent of the Jose Torres-related comments we get on this site are positive. And that's fine — it's always nice to have a favorite player.
But if Torres was as good as you all seem to think, wouldn't he stand out in a game like this? Wouldn't the US have more than one win in 11 games with him starting? Wouldn't he find a way to carve out chances for his teammates — or even, heaven forbid, himself — when afforded time and space in the final third?
That's what he got plenty of on Sunday. And he produced nothing.
The problem is not just his lack of a cutting edge in attack, but that he's being asked to provide something that's not in his DNA in the first place. Torres' only outstanding attribute is his ability to put his foot on the ball and dictate the pace and tempo of the game. Put him in a central midfield trio in front of Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones, and you may have something.
On the wing? He's an absolute cipher, Klinsmann's white elephant.
That wasn't the only lineup choice that left me scratching my head. Against a Canadian side alligned to prevent up-the-gut penetration, the danger was always going to come from the US flanks. So that left just one forward — Herculez Gomez — to do the running and work of two. Even when Jozy Altidore was subbed in, he was tasked with playing wide on the left instead of as a No. 9.
It makes no sense. And the Scotland anomaly aside, this team feels no closer to realizing Klinsmann's vision than it did nine months ago.
The US have depth at left fullback
Edgar Castillo still has some learning to do, first and foremost when to put the ball into row Z instead of trying to play out of pressure. His turnover absolutely should have been a Canada goal.
But he was a demon patrolling passing lanes and the most consistent US threat on the night. And most importantly, he didn't look out of place physically against a big, strong team with some real power and pace on that right flank.
I'm not totally in love with the idea of him starting for the US in a game that matters — again, that giveaway was inexcusable — but hopefully Fabian Johnson's injury will be gone by Friday. Either way, though, this is a stronger position than it was two years ago.
Canada's two-thirds press caused the US more problems than Brazil's high press
Canada dropped off almost to the midfield stripe, then swarmed the US midfielders whenever they received a pass. Because of the way they were deployed, they always had numbers up, and were always on the verge of forcing a turnover and a breakout.
Truth is, they should have had three goals. The reason Brazil are Brazil is because they finish those chances; the reason Canada are Canada is that they don't.
But there's plenty of good to take from this for the Canucks. Their defense is certainly sturdier than the USA's right now, and from the run of play they allowed almost no real looks to a team that had Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan and Gomez all on the pitch.
For the US, the idea of playing through or around a two-thirds press seemed beyond them. Playing over it was a non-starter, since Kevin McKenna and Andre Hainault just about swallowed Gomez whole.
The situation called for two forwards. When the US are struggling to create, it often does.
But that's not what we saw. We saw a bad 90 minutes, a bad strategy and a bad result.
Wonder what we'll see next week when the games really matter?
Ce dimanche, le Canada reçoit les États-Unis dans les cadre des festivités du centenaire de l’Association canadienne de soccer.
Le premier duel entre les deux équipes est aussi le premier match à domicile de l’histoire de l’équipe nationale canadienne. Il a eu lieu le 27 juin 1925 à Alexandra Park, stade de Montréal domicile du club CNR (Canadian National Railway), basé à Pointe-Saint-Charles (si l’un d’entre vous sait où était situé ce terrain, merci de partager l’information).
Environ 3500 personnes ont assisté à la rencontre. Six joueurs du Québec faisaient partie du onze de base canadien. L’un d’entre eux, Ed McLaine, a inscrit le seul but de la partie peu après le quart d’heure. Finisseur redoutable évoluant au poste d’intérieur droit, McLaine a plus tard défendu les couleurs de Providence, dans le championnat des États-Unis, professionnel à l’époque.
Le match de ce dimanche sera le trentième affrontement officiel entre les deux pays.
Canada : Arthur Halliwell, George Campbell, Andy Clarke, Fred Dierden, John B. Foy, Bill McKean, Roy Faulkner, Jim Galloway, Ed McLaine, Dave McKenzie, Alex Smith
États-Unis : Jimmy Douglas, Irving Davis, Jock Ferguson, Tom Stark, Tommy McFarland, Henry Meyerdierks, Barney Battles, Davey Brown, Archie Stark, Bob Millar, Tom Florie
Arbitre : Horace S. Lyons
Le but : 16e McLaine (1-0)
When Jurgen Klinsmann was hired, the US were a mess. Their spacing was terrible, they couldn't get consistent performance from the fullbacks and the offense was inconsistent.
It looks like most of that has been cleared up. I'd go so far as to say that Klinsmann's done a pretty good job. But there are still some concerns.
This generation of US players is defined by their weakness in central defense
There's no disguising it against top-level talent. The US got a great result in Italy a few months back, but were protected throughout by a flag-happy linesman who blew five offside calls, and a handful of great 1-v-1 saves from Tim Howard.
Against Brazil, there was no such luck. Howard did make a couple of great saves and was bailed out by the post once, but for the most part, Brazil gave the US central defense the old orange cone treatment.
Oguchi Onyewu in particular — even without the (not remotely debatable) penalty — was awful. When defending on the ball he's on roller skates, and when defending in space he's basically lost. And he doesn't read the game well enough to make up for it against top competition.
What's even more disturbing is the US inability to hold a line. It happened at the beginning of the game, it happened in the middle, and it happened at the end with Onyewu (sorry to pick on you, Gooch), failing to step, leaving Pato to rip the fouth past a stranded Howard.
If you're slower and less skilled than the opponents — and against the great teams, that's always going to be the case for the US — then you have to be smarter and more organized.
This group is not. It's how Mexico killed the US last summer, and how Brazil killed them on Wednesday.
There were telltale midfield turnovers even against Scotland
And against Brazil, those turnovers became goals. It's something I stressed in our March to the Match podcast, but which went largely unnoticed otherwise since we were all stunned at the sheer ferocity of that 5-1 win.
I don't know how much scouting Brazil really did, but it's safe to say that the book on the US is "smother them, make them play combinations, and they will eventually beat themselves."
Even the Scots did it for a bit, specifically in minutes 15 through 35.
The Brazilians did it in minutes 1 through 90, and everyone on the US had their turn to play the goat. Including Michael Bradley and Fabian Johnson.
Speaking of ...
Michael Bradley and Fabian Johnson are really, really good
Bradley's probably too valuable as an attacker and too much of a risk-taker on the ball to play as a true, lone d-mid (as he was in Klinsmann's 4-1-4-1 for most of the game). The other options are unappealing against top sides, though: Maurice Edu has a poor first touch, and Jermaine Jones isn't exactly known for his ability to get out of traffic with the ball on his foot.
So for now, Klinsmann has to keep Bradley in that d-mid role and then find more dynamic players to put in front of him. I'd prefer to see Jose Torres or Benny Feilhaber in one of the "advanced midfield" roles, rather than the uninspiring Edu/Jones combo.
And as for Johnson ... there's not much to say but, "Wow." He's been the best, most consistent attacking force on the US team for the past three games. Who thought we'd ever say that about a left back?
Defensively he still has work to do, especially in 1-v-1 situations (he literally spun in a circle when trying to defend Hulk at one point), but he's got plenty of time to work on it before Klinsmann's side takes on the big boys in a game that counts.
So for now, it's clear that Klinsmann still has a little bit of a mess to clean up. But the good news is that he's already made progress with what was left behind for him in the first place.
For a change, it was the US national team coach's turn to tell someone else how to do their job.
In Tuesday afternoon's pregame press conference ahead of a massive match against Brazil, Jurgen Klinsmann on two separate occasions encouraged the Brazilian press on hand to support their national team. It was also an indirect message to the US soccer media on hand just before CONCACAF World Cup qualifying kicks off on June 8.
"[Mano Menezes, Brazilian national team manager] only has a chance to make that transition to integrate a new generation of players if he has the support by you — the Brazilian media, the Brazilian people," Klinsmann said in response to a question from a Brazilian reporter. "If you constantly doubt whatever he’s doing every game and every loss he has on the way to the World Cup in 2014, he’s going to have a really, really difficult time.
"I think you chose a very good coach and you have a very good coach and you've got to support him. So even if on the path to 2014 maybe it doesn’t work out perfectly, you have a new generation of players coming through. So I hope you give him the support and you don't doubt him every time maybe something goes wrong."
It brings up an interesting debate: Is the media's job to get behind their country's team? Or is the media's role to document, tell the story and analyze a situation when things go right and when they go wrong?
Fans of England's Three Lions may not want to read further. Klinsmann makes an example of the English national team to drive his point home later on in the press conference.
"It is very simple. In a soccer-driven country, which Brazil is, Argentina is, Germany is and England is, it all depends on how much you all go in the same direction," Klinsmann said when asked to share his experiences at the helm of Germany when that nation hosted the 2006 World Cup. "So you have two choices you can make: I support my team from a media perspective, too, or I given them trouble or give them doubts or give them nasty comments or whatever.
"If you look at England, England often beats itself. It's not the opponents necessarily. They make themselves so much problems they create before tournaments and you see how the last tournament went for then. So it’s the environment that you create. However, we were able to do that, the people started to be really positive [in Germany ahead of the 2006 World Cup]."
Does he have a point? The media has a role in the type of environment surrounding a sports team. But does the press really have any sort of moral obligation to their country?
Auteur d’un magnifique but samedi dernier contre l’Écosse, Michael Bradley s’est une fois plus fait remarquer positivement par les nombreux clubs qui le convoitent.
Toujours sous contrat au Chievo Vérone, l’international américain peut partir pour une somme que les médias italiens estiment entre 2,5 et 4,5 millions d’euros (3,2 à 5,6 millions de dollars). Le directeur sportif du club déclare d’ailleurs que « la possibilité de le voir sous le maillot de Chievo la saison prochaine est vraiment faible ».
Le milieu de terrain est cité dans plusieurs clubs italiens. La Gazzetta dello Sport mentionne le nom de Palerme, mais ceux qui reviennent le plus souvent sont l’AS Rome et Naples. Toutefois, il pourrait bien prendre la direction d’Anderlecht, qui pense à remplacer l’international argentin Lucas Biglia, annoncé en partance.
L’information annoncée en Italie par Tuttosport et en Belgique par Het Laatste Nieuws est relayée par de nombreux médias. Le site officiel du championnat de Belgique (l’équivalent de mlssoccer.com) mentionne même que son agent dément les contacts avec Rome et Naples, et confirme des discussions de longue date avec Anderlecht.
En signant chez le champion de Belgique, Bradley y deviendrait coéquipier d’un autre international américain, Sacha Kljestan.
I don't have the words to explain how cool this is. I'm sure you understand.
I owe Jurgen Klinsmann that much after panning his lineup before the match, since it was chock-full of central/defensive midfielders. I worried that they would spend 90 minutes bumping into each other and checking back to the ball instead of finding gaps and exploiting them at pace. My worries were, as it turns out, totally unfounded.
A few things:
The formation was a 4-3-2-1
It's called the "Christmas Tree," and like most tactical innovations, it was brought to us by the Italians. The strength of it lies in having a pure d-mid — in this case Maurice Edu, and later Kyle Beckerman — sweeping directly in front of the backline. This both protects the somewhat fragile US central defense (still the area of main concern) and allows the other central midfielders to push forward both with and without the ball.
Edu wasn't flashy, then, but he was effective. And with Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones pushing up, Scotland hardly had time to breathe when they were trying to play out of the back.
Offensively, the width was usually provided by overlapping fullbacks, which allowed Landon Donovan and Jose Torres to help crowd the midfield, forcing turnovers and moving quickly into space. In a 4-3-3 (which is what Scotland played — and they did so without a true ball-winner, which is suicide), they would have started much wider.
Boyd's off-the-ball movement was stellar
The other thing that made the formation work was Terrence Boyd's unselfish running. He looked like a more athletic (and far less polished) version of Conor Casey out there, and the similarity is no accident: Like Casey, Boyd has spent time learning in the Borussia Dortmund system, one where the center forward is expected to do as much work creating space off the ball as he does with it.
The best example of that came in the 11-pass sequence that led to Donovan's shot off the post in the 50th minute. Instead of showing for the ball, Boyd cut diagonally through the box, dragging two defenders with him and opening the lane for another touch and that cheeky cut-back shot.
If it had gone in, Boyd wouldn't have gotten an assist—- or any note in the box score at all. But it was a huge, heady, veteran play from him.
And hardly the only example on the night. His activity opened space for Bradley's golazo, and he was instrumental in forcing the early turnover to make it 1-0.
Wide play is a concern heading into the Brazil match
The weakness of the formation, of course, is that you give up a lot of width. Yes, Donovan and Torres pulled a bit wider on defense than in attack, but the few times Scotland got by them, there were acres of space to exploit. That's when the Scots were very dangerous — and where the goal came from. Geoff Cameron gets the blame, but it was a central midfield miscommunication that left Bardsley wide open to pick his spot for the cross once he was past Torres.
This was somewhat of a recurring theme throughout the evening. It's also a real worry because neither Steve Cherundolo nor Fabian Johnson are great 1-v-1 defenders, and because Brazil love to overload the flanks.
Landon Donovan never wanted to be Batman
He wanted to be Robin. I don't doubt for a minute the sincerity of the interview he gave last week, but I think the underlying cause is what's telling.
Donovan has worn a heavy mantle during the last 10 years, almost always regarded as the US' best player. The fact that the team and the league have progressed so dramatically with him as the focal point says something about his talent.
But as soon as the pressure's off, as soon as it's someone else's team, he starts playing without the weight of expectations. We've seen it at Everton, we've seen it in flashes over the last three years since Clint Dempsey has started to really challenge for the mantle of "Best US Player," and we definitely saw it Saturday night.
Expect more of the same for as long as people are saying this is Dempsey's team. Landon seems totally at ease with the notion, and when he's feeling like that, the scoreboard tends to light up.