Last night was a wake up call for the U.S. Men’s National Team.
In the simplest sense, the Americans were beaten by a better team. Belgium has far superior talent in every position on the field. They’re also young, confident and seem to have a much better sense of each other’s role on the pitch than the U.S.
That being said, if the U.S. is going to qualify for the World Cup and actually compete while down in Brazil, they have to do the small things right. This, of course, is why friendly matches are played – to learn from your mistakes.
The mistakes began early last night.
After Jozy Altidore failed to convert Clint Dempsey’s cross in the 5th minute, the ball was cleared before eventually ending up on the foot of Ajax’s Toby Alderweireld, who hammered a 40 yard diagonal ball to Kevin de Bruyne on the left wing.
The ball caught Geoff Cameron off-guard and he worked hard to recover. The right back closed down de Bruyne and the tricky winger took advantage, cutting inside and leaving Cameron off-balance.
From the time Alderweireld’s ball was in the air until de Bruyne cut inside, Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku was begging for the ball to be played into the space in front of him. In fact, the Chelsea striker literally pointed to the space for about 5 seconds.
And yet, for some reason, Clarence Goodson was happy enough to be loping about, five yards behind Lukaku. It’s simply not good enough. Over the course of the last year, Lukaku has fast become a world-class striker. Allowing him five yards of space while on the run is acres too much.
Meanwhile, Cameron was so enamored by de Bruyne’s through ball that he slowed up and watched the on-charging Lukaku. Omar Gonzalez, merely a spectator at this point, looked to see whether Tim Howard could save the day.
And he nearly did. Lukaku’s touch wasn’t enough to get by the Everton keeper but the rebound spilled out to the corner of the box. Cameron should have been all over this clearance but his failure to think one step ahead prevented him from doing so. And Kevin Mirallas was there to punish the Americans with a delicate chip into the back of the net.
Was it a horrible goal to give up?
No. But it easily could have been prevented by Goodson and Cameron if they stopped ball watching and anticipated one to two plays ahead. Basic concepts for defenders, really.