It took 120 minutes, but Mexico defeated the United States 3-2 at the Rose Bowl tonight. While Mexico heads on to the Confederations Cup, the U.S. has some questions to answer.
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Here are three things we learned tonight, although the list could have been much longer.
THE UNITED STATES HAS NO IDENTITY
Is the United States a possession team? Is the United States a counter-attacking team? Tonight against Mexico, the United States was neither. It’s been four years with Jurgen Klinsmann as manager, and the USMNT is still without an identity.
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Mexico controlled possession and kept the U.S. pinned in their own half for a good portion of the match. On the few times the U.S. got forward, they didn’t have enough numbers to create anything meaningful. One way to combat this would have been to slow down the play and control possession for a few minutes, allowing the tired players to catch their breath. Then, the team could move forward as a unit and try to attack. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen as Mexico walked away with a deserved win.
It looked like the U.S. went out as eleven guys playing a soccer game, with no gameplan and no identity. It showed, and it cost them.
DEMPSEY FAILED TO TAKE CONTROL
Clint Dempsey is one of the most important players for the United States, but was invisible tonight. While Dempsey tried to press forward, sometimes it would have been better suited for the U.S. for Dempsey to check back and demand the ball.
Dempsey is known for scoring goals, his 48 tallies are second all-time in USMNT history, but his biggest asset for the national side is his playmaking ability. Especially in a match like tonight when Mexico had more of the possession, if Dempsey was able to come back and collect the ball, he would have had an opportunity to dictate the tempo for Klinsmann’s men. Dempsey getting on the ball more often would have helped keep possession for the U.S., while allowing Clint to spread the play and then turn on the attack.
In the biggest moments, you want your biggest players to take control. Dempsey sat back as a bystander.
LACK OF CONTINUITY HURT THE DEFENSE
The defense continues to be a soft spot for the United States. While the back-line settled in and played better as the match progressed, early errors gave Mexico the lead. Mexico started the match flying, and their pace and continuous movement was a handful.
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On the opening goal, Matt Besler was pulled way out of position leaving acres of space behind him, and El Tri took full advantage. While Mexico players checked in-and-out and swapped positions on runs, a lack of communication left the defense exposed. The back-line of Johnson, Cameron, Besler, and Beasley played together in the 2014 World Cup, but since then, Klinsmann has failed to stick with a consistent defensive unit. The strongest national sides have defenses that rarely change, with four names locks to be in the starting lineup. Moving forward, the United States needs to choose a back-line and let them get a prolonged run of matches together as a unit.