EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Dave Sarachan wanted to see a team that wasn’t afraid, that wasn’t intimidated by the big names or the famous jersey.
The interim US national team coach got that Friday night, but he also saw a team that showed early nerves, were punished for their mistakes and fought through those errors to have a better second-half showing in a 2-0 loss to Brazil Friday night at MetLife Stadium.
“This was a great game for us to play,” Sarachan said. “These types of games when you’re playing a team like Brazil who is arguably as good as any team on the planet, it just challenges you in a way that will improve this group as we move forward.”
Brazil took advantage of those early nerves, and a couple of defensive miscues, to race out to an early lead when Douglas Costa attacked the space given down the right flank and sent a cross to an open Roberto Firmino for an easy tap-in.
Most of the announced crowd of 32,489, donned in yellow-clad jerseys, rose to their feet in rapturous applause. The Brazil ‘A’ team wasn’t going to take their foot off the pedal. But Sarachan liked that his team didn’t back down.
“I think there could have been a situation where maybe the shoulders slump, the confidence was blown,” Sarachan said. “But I think that’s one of the things I’ve noticed in this group that i’ve had across many of these friendlies now, they don’t lack confidence.”
A second goal was conceded just before halftime when Neymar converted from the penalty spot, but the USMNT pressed forward and had some chances in the second half.
Those players who made mistakes early in the game, like left back Antonee Robinson and central defender Matt Miazga, got stronger as the game went on.
“It’s good to shake off some early mistakes and keep plugging away,” said Miazga, the former New York Red Bulls defender. “It shows our resilience and our attitude and mentality. We have to keep pushing. At the end of the first half we even had some good chances on set pieces where the game could have swayed easily if we got one goal back. You never know.”
A win against Brazil was always going to be a difficult task, but for a USMNT roster with an average age of 23 years old, the lessons gleaned from such a challenge was in many ways more important than the final result.
Sarachan said there was much more value in facing the five-time World Cup champions than beating up on a minnow.
“We’re earning stripes, man,” midfielder Wil Trapp said. “This is a game where lessons are learned and they’re learned harshly because a team like this can punish you and they did. Understanding that we’re only going to get better and we’re only going to improve from playing difficult opponents is a big step for us.”