It's only a friendly.
In the grand scheme of things, it is clearly a more important friendly than the typical one, since you don't get to play Brazil every day and since the next game on the list is most certainly not just a friendly. But the USMNT's 4-1 humiliation on Tuesday isn't, on its own, a reason to call for anyone's job, or to banish player x, y or z to the neutral zone, or to throw up your hands and assume that everything's hopeless.
Nothing is hopeless at the moment -- it's just very, very bleak. This is the late-summer of our discontent, and it sure feels like winter is coming (**mixed literary references klaxon**).
Onto the game:
1. Experiment ad infinitum
Here's the thing that's really confounding about Klinsmann: He doesn't use the friendlies to build toward anything. This was a chance to see how partnerships could work against top competition, an ideal tune-up ahead of the CONCACAF Cup against Mexico next month. And nowhere on the pitch are those kinds of partnerships more important than in central defense.
So... we got Michael Orozco and Ventura Alvarado playing together for the first time. They were predictably off the pace.
And out wide? Out wide we got Geoff Cameron and Tim Ream, two guys who have played fullback, but two guys who are much more comfortable in central defense, where they're spending most of their club time these days. Go back and watch the first two goals, and you'll see what I mean.
It all added up to this:
Jürgen right now after that backline experiment. pic.twitter.com/U6mNzDyeYk— Pedro Heizer (@pedroheizer) September 9, 2015
About the only experiment we haven't tried yet is sticking with a consistent lineup. Doing so would be absolutely revolutionary at this point.
2. Pseudo Trequartista
Michael Bradley started as something of a False 10 -- which isn't a position that actually exists -- slotted into the gap just underneath lone striker Jozy Altidore. He fared about as well in that role as he did in last summer's World Cup.
And I still just don't get it. The US looked promising in this one when Bradley dropped deep, coaxing the Brazilian defense up the pitch and creating pockets of space to slide into. But with no playmaker out there, those pockets went unfilled and Bradley was forced to play directly into the teeth of the defense, and his passing map shows the difficulty of that:
That's more red than we're used to seeing from Bradley in that zone, but that's what happens when you give him (or pretty much anyone short of Zidane) limited options, and that's a lesson everyone should have internalized after last summer.
More to the point: Why are we preparing for Mexico by putting Bradley in the spot that Clint Dempsey is almost certainly going to play? How is that, in any way, shape or form, useful preparation?
3. The Scapegoat
Alejandro Bedoya was hurt, and Alejandro Bedoya was played out of position as a deep-lying midfielder (essentially a d-mid). The guy he was playing next to, Jermaine Jones, is also coming off an injury, and is one of the more difficult players in the US pool to play alongside since he does so much position-less running. And the backline Bedoya was asked to shield was, as we've just established, brand new.
Want more? Ok: Bedoya was also played on the left side of that central midfield, which means he had to be ready to flare out and protect down the flank because Gyasi Zardes isn't yet a good defensive player. Want to know why Brazil was attacking up that side for the first 40 minutes? There you go.
Bedoya, Zardes and Ream were overrun, and Bedoya was subbed off at the 36-minute mark as a sacrifical lamb, and then became the scapegoat:
A good carpenter doesn't blame his tools and a good coach doesn't blame his players. Especially when he's using a hacksaw to pound a nail:
It's just a friendly, so there's no reason for anybody to lose their minds.
But there are plenty of reasons to be worried ahead of next month's showdown with Mexico. Not so much about the result, as for the method -- or rather, the lack of one -- behind it.