[USA CONFIDENTIAL] Once a world-class striker, Jurgen Klinsmann watched his U.S. team create nearly nothing in front of the goal as it was shut out for the second time in two games. Here's what we learned from the 1-0 loss at Belgium on Tuesday ...
NO MIDAS TOUCH. Results may not matter in these early friendlies of the Klinsmann Era, which gets serious with World Cup qualifying play next summer. But one would have thought that the coaching change would inject more life into a squad that has now scored one goal in three games and remains winless through the honeymoon period. Since Klinsmann’s debut with a 1-1 tie against Mexico, the Americans have been shut out by Costa Rica (1-0) and on Tuesday, they fell to Belgium in another performance plagued by a depressing dearth of scoring chances.
DEMPSEY DISAPPOINTS. Clint Dempsey made his first appearance for Klinsmann on Tuesday, but seemed more interested in taking on refs than battling Belgians. Dempsey did manage the USA’s only two shots on goal. The first from a long-range free kick that skipped on the wet grass and came off keeper Simon Mignolet’s face. Jozy Altidore failed to reach the rebound. Late – too late – in the game Dempsey sparked into action. In the 70th minute, he finally beat a defender in the penalty area, but shot weakly to Mignolet. It was the second straight game that a key veteran disappointed. Landon Donovan, who wasn’t in Belgium, had missed a golden chance against Costa Rica.
DEFENSIVE CHANGES. Klinsmann started Clarence Goodson instead of Michael Fiscal Orozco at central defender (alongside Carlos Bocanegra) and also dropped left back Edgar Castillo. Veteran right back Steve Cherundolo returned, and Timothy Chandler moved to left back. Midway through the first half, the Belgians had the U.S. defense on its heels, and keeper Tim Howard bailed it out a couple of times. But in 55th minute, Marouane Fellaini headed a throw-in to Nicolas Lombaerts, whose shot from 22 yards out skidded under Howard’s hands for the only goal the Red Devils needed. Offensively, the center backs made no impact, Cherundolo's best chance to contribute ended with a cross straight to the keeper, and Chandler shot poorly on two occasions.
AGUDELO SHOULD START. Klinsmann opted again to use Juan Agudelo as a sub, this time coming on for Altidore at halftime. The Belgians resorted to fouls to stop him while Scottish referee William Collum kept his cards glued to his pockets. The 18-year-old Agudelo is more comfortable on the ball and a stronger dribbler than Altidore – and is simply the best hope for the struggling U.S. frontline.
NOT MUCH FROM THE FLANKS. On the right, Robbie Rogers did nothing to indicate a long national team career awaits and the 24-year-old Columbus player certainly didn’t look like a “forward” as the official lineup described him. Brek Shea had more of a presence, wrestling his way down the field to somewhat disturb the Belgians but without ever delivering a pass that created scoring chances. And he still coughs up the ball far too often. But he’s only 21 and Klinsmann favors him, saying after the game he played as if he has been a national team player for a decade.
A PROMISING NO. 10. The player who’s stock has risen the highest in the past two games is 23-year-old central midfielder Jose Torres, who as in the Costa Rica game was ever available for passes during attacking buildups and gave the USA whatever cohesion it had. He also again came close to scoring with a long-range effort, his bending free kick from the wing just missing the top far corner in the 18th minute. It would, however, be nice to see Torres in the opponent’s penalty area more frequently. In fact, it'd be progress to see any U.S. players in the opponent’s penalty area.
Sept. 6 in Brussels
Belgium 1 USA 0. Goal: Lombaerts 55.
Belgium -- Mignolet, Ciman, Alderweireld, Kompany, Lombaerts, Simons, Hazard (Ogunjimi, 63), Witsel, Fellaini (Hubert, 63), Mertens, de Camargo (Lukaku, 63).
USA -- Howard, Cherundolo, Goodson, Bocanegra, Chandler, Edu, Torres
(Larentowicz, 76), Dempsey, Rogers (Beckerman, 46), Altidore (Agudelo, 46), Shea.
Referee: William Collum (Scotland).