[MY VIEW] The players were mostly the same but the U.S, team that lost to Brazil Tuesday at the packed New Meadowlands Stadium hardly resembled the one that endeared itself to the nation during the World Cup. Gone was the fighting spirit and in came the excuses.
The Americans may not have played polished soccer during the World Cup and they conceded early goals in three of their four games. But they never gave up. They battled until the end and scored late goals. They shook off controversial referee decisions. They got non-soccer fans excited about the sport.
When they reunited for their first game since South Africa to play Brazil in front of 77,223 fans, one would have hoped for a little bit of an encore.
It started with promise. The Americans came out fast. In the third minute, Maurice Edu found Edson Buddle, who precisely passed to Landon Donovan as he stormed into the penalty area. Thiago Silva bumped Donovan off balance and Andres Santos poked the ball to safety.
Exciting stuff so early in the game.
Perhaps Coach Bob Bradley, whose contract runs out in December, had motivated his players well and they’d prove he should stay on.
But Brazil found its rhythm, gained momentum, and the Americans seemed resigned to letting the visitors control the game.
“I felt we had a good first 20-25 minutes,” said Bradley. “Early on, the ball was moving quickly and we had good energy. The fact that we were not able to sustain that certainly is more of an indication of where the players are at this point in the year in terms of preseasons and things like that.”
In explaining their 2-0 loss, the Americans cited the field (a thin layer of sod on top of the artifical turf), the heat and the travel.
Of course, Brazil was coping with the same field and same temperature. It too had players flying in from their preseason training in Europe.
The USA fielded a familiar team – nine starters were 2010 World Cup players and two starters from the South Africa squad came off the bench. The Brazilians, on the other hand, started four World Cup veterans and gave debuts to six players.
The Brazilians may still have been favorites -- with players such as AC Milan’s Alexandre Pato and Robinho. But to lose with such a lackluster performance is a bitter defeat only made worse by excuses. And it did not help make the case for Bob Bradley.