[NETHERLANDS-USA] No excuses or apologies necessary for this defeat: a shorthanded USA squad wasn’t quite up to the task of subduing the Netherlands on its home field, even if the Dutch played most of the match at le
ss than full throttle.
Dirk Kuyt tucked home a penalty kick in the 40th minute and a deflected shot by Klaas Jan Huntelaar got past U.S. keeper Tim Howard in the 73rd to provide a 2-0 Dutch lead the Americans could only cut in half when Carlos Bocanegra got his head to a DaMarcus Beasley free kick for a very late goal.
More important than the result is which Americans played themselves higher on the depth chart or slipped further down the ladder. Those issues are addressed here.
The difference in class between the teams personified itself many times, even during substitutions, such as one in the second half when Kuyt, a nettlesome pest throughout the match, went off in favor of Ryan Babel. Both play for Liverpool, a trophy-laden club not graced by an American since goalie Brad Friedel left for Blackburn in 2000.
The two Americans who play for the other team on Merseyside, Everton, must be on their game in South Africa. Only one answered the bell in Amsterdam.
Keeper Tim Howard responded with a sharp performance overall and one breathtaking save, a full-length flight to parry a rocket off the foot of Rafael van der Vaart. Landon Donovan, rather than being the catalyst his team so desperately needed, struggled through a languid match marked by poor decisions on the ball – he didn’t get many touches it must be said -- and not much industry away from it.
Unfortunately for the Americans, while most of the Dutch players were rarely stretched until the final minutes, Wesley Sneijder worked it unmercifully. Whenever and wherever there was space, he found it to take possession and spray an amazing array of chips, lobs, dinks, through balls and pingers to feet, and occasionally take a crack at goal.
Ostensibly, the Dutch showed a 4-5-1 formation, but as Sneijder roamed behind Kuyt and between wide mids Arjen Robben and Eljero Elia to form a line of three attackers, center mids Nigel de Jong and Mark van Bommel pressed up the field to win back balls turned over in the middle third. Michael Bradley broke up numerous plays and hit decent passes, but too many Americans were too tightly marked too often.
To escape the starting U.S. central midfield pair of Bradley and Jose Francisco Torres, Sneijder often floated into a netherworld midway between the midfield line and edge of the penalty area while also drifting to either side.
One credo of head coach Bob Bradley is that forwards must also contribute defensively, and neither Robbie Findley nor Jozy Altidore were active enough and alert enough to apply pressure when Sneijder was in their area. While the Dutch rarely took shots, they rarely lost the ball, and usually got it back when they did.
Altidore did a heroic job getting to the high balls launched in his direction, nicking a few headers to Findley that the RSL forward usually squandered. Torres got off the only real U.S. shot of the half, a long-range effort from 30-plus yards that flew high.
The U.S. attack had to re-adjust in the 34th minute when right mid Stuart Holden hobbled off with a shin contusion courtesy of a ruthless de Jong tackle, yet still the Americans could have reached halftime at 0-0 if not for a horrible error by left back Jonathan Bornstein.
Sneijder glided into the penalty area to receive a pass from right back Gregory van der Wiel and Bornstein, caught on Sneijder’s outside shoulder, tugged him down by the jersey. Howard went to his left and Kuyt’s penalty kick hit the opposite side netting for a 1-0 lead.
Both coaches substituted liberally in the second half and the Americans gradually gained some traction in midfield, though Sneijder burned them again to set up the second goal. He ducked a challenge by substitute Alejandro Bedoya, and played a ball over the top that Rafael van der Vaart relayed to Klaas Jan-Huntelaar. Closer to goal, Bornstein was grappling with Kuyt, and Huntelaar’s shot caromed off the American and veered past an utterly stranded Howard.
Bedoya and fellow subs Maurice Edu and DaMarcus Beasley, who had replaced Holden, pressed the Dutch in the final minutes. Beasley drew a foul on the right flank and swung a left-footed set piece that Bocanegra headed home.
Another free resulted a minute later when a hard foul felled Bedoya as he chased a clever return ball from Bradley, but Beasley hit his shot right to Dutch keeper Maarten Stekelenburg, who later repelled a powerful blast from Altidore deep into stoppage time.
March 3 in Amsterdam
Netherlands 2 USA 1. Goals: Kuyt pen. 40, Huntelaar 73; Bocanegra 88.
USA -- Howard, Spector, DeMerit (Pearce, 70), Bocanegra, Bornstein (Goodson, 86), Holden (Beasley, 34), Torres (Edu, 46), Bradley, Donovan (Johnson, 76), Altidore, Findley (Bedoya, 63).
Netherlands -- Stekelenburg, van der Wiel, Heitinga, Mathijsen (Vlaar, 46), van Bronckhorst (Graafheid, 67), Robben (Huntelaar, 46), de Jong (van der Vaart, 60), Sneijder, van Bommel (Afellay, 74), Elia, Kuyt (Babel, 81).
Referee: Cuneyt Cakir (TUR).
USA / NED
Shots: 8 / 10
Shots on Goal: 3 / 6
Saves: 4 / 2
Corner Kicks: 4 / 3
Fouls: 17 / 17
Offside: 1 / 4