Douglas Costa is faster with the ball than Antonee Robinson is without it. All the swan dive GIFs on the internet aren’t going to shame Fabinho into staying on his feet. Your tactical hot takes are moot until Earnie Stewart makes his much-awaited coaching hire.
History and common sense told us Brazil were going to win this game, and they did. For all the handwringing on Twitter – one soccer attribute Americans can rightfully claim is world class – the US played just fine under the circumstances.
Dave Sarachan – rightly so, in my opinion – called in a squad with an average age a tad more than 23 years old. They’re only just getting to know each other, and if you thought Friday night was about the result, you were barking up the wrong tree. Eight years ago, the US and Brazil played in the same New Jersey swamp to the same result. Just six of the players who saw the field that day were on the 2014 World Cup roster.
So fire up the grill and enjoy the waning days of summer. Buy a bottle of wine, if you’re of age, some cheese and crackers and go lay on a blanket at the park. Support local soccer in person, or kick the ball around yourself. Tuesday is another day.
Here are three things I liked, in brief. Matt Doyle will have more for you tomorrow.
Matt Miazga and John Brooks
Doyle stanned hard for this center back partnership on ExtraTime Radio for good reason.
Both guys are calm and confident on the ball, both are better than average 1v1 defenders – see Miazga vs. Neymar in the second minute – and, while neither was perfect, there were no serious gaffes to speak of against an opponent that boasted 11 starters from UEFA Champions League clubs.
Now, it helps that Brazil looked content to play the match in second gear, but it appears the US have a first-choice center back pairing. That could change in the coming months and it certainly will against Mexico – Brooks is headed back to Wolfsburg – but it’s an encouraging sign to start the World Cup cycle. For what it’s worth, Brooks will be 29 and Miazga 27 when 2022 rolls around.
Set Pieces, Set Pieces, Set Pieces
We knew the US weren’t going to have the ball, and sure enough Brazil won the possession battle 65-35. Attacking cohesion will come, we hope, with continuity and a more defined style of play. In the meantime, you’ve still got to create goal-scoring chances, and the Americans did it via dead balls.
Wil Trapp whipped in some good corner kicks, the US got their runs right but couldn’t muster the final touch. We knew Miazga and Brooks (cue Ghana flashbacks) were dangerous in the air, but it was nice to see Weston McKennie get on the end of things. Almost doesn’t count, but it’s something to build on.
Roast me once, shame on me. Roast me twice…
No point in sugar-coating it: Robinson got smoked by Costa. He won’t be the first defender or the last to get that treatment. But he didn’t put his head down and that, more than anything, was what this game was about for the young Americans.
Brazil was going to land a punch or two or five. The question was how would the US respond. They may not have had the technical quality to score or the tactical nous to out-strategize one of the world’s best teams, but they certainly had the heart to avoid embarrassment and land a jab or two of their own.
That’s something, and while it’s not a result, it’s certainly something to build on as another cycle begins.