On Wednesday the U.S. suffered a late loss in Aarhus against Denmark after yet another second half collapse.
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Jurgen Klinsmann’s side went down 3-2, despite leading with less than 10 minutes to go, and after giving plenty of youngsters a chance to impress, the USMNT are very much still a work in progress as Niklas Bendtner bagged a hat trick.
[ RELATED: Recap – Denmark 3-2 USA ]
Here’s three things we learned as Klinsmann’s men continue to fine tune things before the Gold Cup this summer.
Another friendly, another second half collapse
Okay, so this trend is getting very worrying now. Since the 2014 World Cup, the U.S. has been outscored 11-1 in the second half of games and are failing to shut games out time and time again with. 10 of the 14 goals the U.S. has conceded since the World Cup have come in the 60th minute or later of games and on Wednesday a new set of defenders, albeit it largely inexperienced at the international level, failed to close out a Danish side largely going through the motions ahead of their Euro 2016 qualifier next week, but still able to dominate play.
Michael Orozco did okay at center back, but he was the pick of the bunch as Timmy Chandler and Greg Garza had days to forget at full back, while John Brooks put in a shaky display at center back as Denmark’s hat trick hero Niklas Bendtner gave him the runaround. Sure, these guys need experience, but the fact the the U.S. could not see out a 2-1 lead in the final 10 minutes is distressing. Klinsmann, as you can see in the Tweet above, believes his side is defending well. Many would argue that the U.S. has not defended well since before the World Cup as the sit back, contain and then counter approach just isn’t working. Defensively, the likes of Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron and Omar Gonzalez must be feeling pretty safe with their place in the upcoming squads. But the bigger issue here is that the U.S. failed to possess the ball sufficiently and the only time they really put pressure on Denmark was a five minute spell before and after they went 2-1 up in the 70th minute.
In past friendlies in October and November, a hangover from the World Cup was blamed. In February, Klinsmann blamed fitness issues for the USA’s recent downturn. Surely fitness levels aren’t to blame this time, as the mentality of the U.S. side will be called into question after another late collapse.
4-4-2 fails as Danes outnumber U.S. in midfield
The U.S. got dominated in midfield in Aarhus, as Michael Bradley and Alejandro Bedoya barely got on the ball in the first half. Bradley buzzed around and tried to get the U.S. going, but the Danes had Kvist, Eriksen and Poulsen who are all comfortable on the ball and dictated the tempo.
Klinsmann refrained from switching to a 4-3-3 or a diamond in midfield but brought in Alfredo Morales for Bedoya at half time. Morales had a bit of a nightmare, giving the ball away three times within his first five minutes on the pitch and although his energy allowed Bradley to push up and pressure the Danish midfield high for moments in the second half, it was all too fleeting. With so much chopping and changing in friendly matches before the Gold Cup and World Cup qualifying cycles, we will likely see an entirely different midfield against Switzerland next Tuesday. Danny Williams could start in the holding role, as there’s a spot up for grabs in the center following Klinsmann’s decision to push Jermaine Jones back into defense. If the personnel isn’t sorted, one thing needs to be: what formation is best for the USA? Right now, 4-4-2 doesn’t seem to fit the needs of the players at JK’s disposal and a 4-3-3 system would be advisable moving forward. But, this is the perfect time for Klinsmann and his staff to experiment before this summer.
Altidore’s rich vein of form continues
Despite all of the distress around youngsters struggling in defense and mental lapses late in games, Jozy Altidore is continuing his rich vein of form for the U.S. Against Denmark he lashed home the opening goal at the back post in the 19th minute and set up Aron Johannsson to put the USA ahead after an intelligent run following Michael Bradley’s (who, by the way, looked so much better in a deep-lying role in central midfield) delightful chipped pass.
Altidore now has 27 goals in 78 games for the USA, but he is becoming a forlorn figure up top. The only saving grace is that his teammate at Toronto FC, Bradley, now appears to be playing in his preferred role for the USMNT and can provide him chances to score on a plate. For the last 18 months at Sunderland, Altidore hasn’t had that. His form for the U.S. national team (four goals in his last six matches) was one of the only bright spots to take from a drab display in the rain in Denmark.