Make no mistake about it, this was only a friendly, but in terms of the performance and the manner of the defeat, it said a lot about where Jurgen Klinsmann’s side is at right now.
Things are not looking good.
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Yes, Brazil is loaded with talented players but they way the U.S. collapsed in the second half was a shock and the Selecao could have easily scored more as they ran riot in their 4-1 win. It was the worst defeat for the U.S. on home soil since Brazil inflicted the same margin of victory three years ago and with the huge CONCACAF Confederations Cup playoff against Mexico coming up at the Rose Bowl on Oct. 10, this was hardly the type of result or performance Klinsmann would have wanted in his final game before that match.
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In his post-game press conference, here’s what Klinsmann had to say about Brazil’s dominant display as he urged his team to learn from this humbling defeat.
“Their tempo, their speed of play, speed of thought and speed of execution, all those elements were very impressive,” Klinsmann said. “For us, it was a huge learning curve. It was a completely different tempo they set, and we couldn’t go that tempo. It’s a tempo that is played in the [UEFA] Champions League. They’re always two thoughts ahead. That’s a level we’re trying to catch as fast as we can.”
Speaking after the match, U.S. national team captain Michael Bradley was trying to stay positive.
“We didn’t think we were the best team in world when we beat Netherlands and Germany in the friendlies in June, and we don’t think we’re the worst team in the world right now,” Bradley told reporters after the game. “We just have to maintain a level head and be able to look at things in a reasonable way. At the end of the day, this game is not the be-all, end-all for us this year.”
It’s true that a bad 90 minutes at Gillette Stadium — described as somewhat of a “debacle” by PST’s Nick Mendola here — will not be too decisive in the grand scheme of things, but after floundering to fourth place in the 2015 Gold Cup over the summer and plenty of question marks still surrounding Klinsmann’s personnel choices, the philosophy of the team and if things have improved since he arrived in 2011, you get the feeling things are unraveling.
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Rumors of a big divide among the players were thrown up by Fox Sports analyst and former U.S. national team forward Eric Wynalda, as a mishmash of players come together from the mostly German speaking German-American players who play in the Bundesliga, to young guys in MLS and veterans playing in the Premier League, plus even young college kids like Jordan Morris all in the same group. The identity of this team is the most puzzling thing. With so many players used by Klinsmann over the past four years (enforced due to MLS not playing to a FIFA calendar and various other issues with summer tournaments and player availability) and so many systems picked up and then chucked away, is there a clear direction? The U.S. put in a spirited second half display last Friday against Peru after a slow start at RFK Stadium, but if Klinsmann and his squad truly want to reach the next level and reach his oft stated goal of reaching the semifinals of the World Cup at Russia 2018, they have a long, long way to go.
Some of that is the players’ fault, some of it is Klinsmann’s and collectively there are plenty of issues throughout the team.
In defense things are especially all over the place, without first choice full backs for these two friendlies, both Tim Ream and Geoff Cameron were asked to play out of position at full back while their best positions are at center back. Those asked to play at center back — Omar Gonzalez, John Brooks, Ventura Alvarado and Michael Orozco — have proved on plenty of occasions that they are either not quite good enough for the international stage or are too young to make the step up. Klinsmann’s persistence with some of these players is perplexing.
Earlier this week Klinsmann also raised concern about the development of U.S. youngsters in the striking department and with Jozy Altidore looking sharp in the second half vs. Peru but struggling for the rest of the two matches, who else does Klinsmann have to lean on in attack? The likes of Aron Johannsson, Bobby Wood and Jordan Morris have all yet to fully take the chances Klinsmann has handed them.
In midfield, especially against Brazil where Alejandro Bedoya was hooked off in the first half as he struggled to contain Willian, the U.S. was overrun and although that was the case, long-term it seems like starting in a 4-4-2 system with Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones in the middle, plus Gyasi Zardes and DeAndre Yedlin using their speed down the flanks is the way to go.
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We have learned a lot about the U.S. over the past two games, must of which confirmed our worst fears and exposed glaring weaknesses as the hangover from a poor Gold Cup display has yet to dissipate. Klinsmann has already said it’s highly likely the vast majority of these players who turned out against Brazil will line up vs. Mexico in just over a month in Pasadena.
That will give Klinsmann’s staff, and many fans of the U.S. national team, plenty of sleepless nights as the German prepares for one of the biggest matches in his tenure as the USA’s head coach.