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Brazil -- Toughest test for Klinsmann's men
by Ridge Mahoney, May 30th, 2012 1:44AM

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TAGS:  brazil, men's national team


The education of the U.S. national team under Jurgen Klinsmann moves to its toughest test with a match against the very best: five-time World Cup champion Brazil.

Many of the names and faces will be the same from two years ago when the USA renews its series against Brazil Wednesday in Landover, Md. (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2, TeleFutura), yet the trajectories of the teams have changed.

As it did when the nations met to resume competitive play following the 2010 World Cup, Brazil has brought a lot of young players. It is using a series of four games -- this is No. 2 -- as preparation for the Olympic soccer tournament, a U-23 competition. Though many of the players are based domestically, teams such as AC Milan, FC Porto, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur are among those attached to names on the roster.

Its brightest star, Neymar, scored one of the goals when Brazil beat the USA, 2-0, in the Meadowlands in August of 2010. The other goalscorer that day, Alexandre Pato, is on the current team as well, as is prolific Porto striker Hulk, who scored twice Saturday as Brazil kicked off its quartet of matches by beating Denmark, 3-1, in Germany.

Thus the U.S. back line that cruised through a 5-1 pasting of Scotland Saturday isn’t likely to experience many leisurely moments. Nor will it face an opponent as inexplicably patient as Italy, which in losing to the U.S., 1-0, in February rarely cranked up its attacking tempo until it fell behind in the 55th minute, and despite its rich attacking talent failed to score.

Apparently the Italians believed their class would eventually prevail, but by playing a cultured yet determined game of their own, the Americans persevered. To cope with Brazil, they’ll need ample doses of the same patience, intelligence, and spirit that edged them past Italy, and a great game from goalkeeper Tim Howard wouldn’t hurt the cause.

One vital facet of that victory over Italy is how well and how often the Americans were able to control the ball when they got it, and though their possession game will need to be much sharper and quicker against Brazil, the confidence borne of outlasting one of the world’s great soccer nations can inspire them against the five-time World Cup champion.

However, while Brazil’s breathtaking magic in attack is its most revered trait, it is also renowned for long, seemingly languid periods of possession that suddenly erupt into a scoring chance. Neymar’s pace can burn the best defender yet the Americans also have to be wary that the next touch can be the one that springs him or Hulk or any one of several other players. Brazil preys on lapses in concentration, which inevitably occur as opponents grow weary of chasing shadows in what former U.S. coach Bob Bradley called the “shell game” Brazil plays so well.

As if trying to contain Brazil’s mesmerizing array of midfielders and forwards isn’t a daunting enough task, the defenders can play, too. While there’s not a comparable marauding outside back a la Roberto Carlos or Cafu, centerback David Luiz – who just helped Chelsea win the UEFA Champions League – is a superb passer who is very difficult to effectively press. Stifling balls out of the back is another in a long list of U.S. objectives.

Klinsmann has a few more players available then he did against Scotland, though Clint Dempsey’s groin injury seems likely to keep him out of the starting lineup and Jozy Altidore only arrived in camp Monday. Terence Boyd got the job done carving out space as a lone forward against the Scots, but a more mobile and experienced Herculez Gomez could get the nod versus Brazil if Altidore is deemed unready. The addition of a second forward is another option, though getting caught short in midfield against Brazil is usually costly.

The coach also has alternatives in the middle should he want to test out different partnerships in midfield and in the back, though Brazil is not the ideal component for extensive tinkering. Oguchi Onyewu, who came on as a sub against Scotland, could be paired with Carlos Bocanegra to give the Americans their most experienced centerback pairing. The ball skills of Michael Parkhurst would be valuable as well.

Eight of the men who played against Brazil under Bradley two years ago are on the current roster. There are also several returnees from the 2009 Confederation Cup final in which the U.S. jumped out to a 2-0 lead before succumbing to a 3-2 defeat.

Regardless of personnel, Klinsmann will want the same level of confidence and poise his players have shown in the past few games. Those are essential elements against players of greater class and skill, which the Americans have already proven can be dealt with.



5 comments
  1. soccer know it all
    commented on: May 30, 2012 at 2:11 p.m.
    what are we witnessing as us soccer fans? Jurgen klinsmann modeled his 06 german team from that of the top flight teams in the epl. he asked his germans to play ungermanlik; highpressure, uptempo, possession style (all leading to more goals) the likes of man u, arsenal,or chelsea. he has now modeled another team to play not like it's national team style(american) if you will, but an epl team similar to chelsea or man u. i always felt that building a team using this model would be preferrable as these teams play year round and are superior to national teams in style of play, cohesion, and effectiveness.

  1. soccer know it all
    commented on: May 30, 2012 at 2:23 p.m.
    SO REMEMBER, YOU HEARD IT HEAR FIRST! The US is gonna dominate brazil!! think germany-argentina 2010wc. brazil won't know what hit them. im a firm believer in teamwork,strategies and tactics over superstar players. JK has put a system in place for this US TEAM( OUR BEST EVER) to now ground and pound teams into submission. We have quality at every position now. One of the best functioning midfields of any national team in the world.(donovan-dempsey-bradley-jones) the world has been waiting for the american superpower to flex its muscle in men's soccer(football), with the win at italy, a demolition of scotland, and a domination of the great brazil, the world will finally be on notice what the US MEN'S NAT'L TEAM is capable of on the pitch. US 3-1

  1. Carlos Thys
    commented on: May 30, 2012 at 3:36 p.m.
    One face I don't think we will get to see tonight is Pato. I shouldn't think so. He's still injured and nowhere near 100% Let's wish him well and a very speedy recovery. He, Neymar, Ganso, Robinho and David Luiz lit up that tie in the new Meadowlands stadium in August 2010. That was fantastic atmosphere. It is great to have Brazil come. And great to know that the top national teams (just like club teams) love coming here for the exposition matches due to how lucrative this now is. American soccer: You have indeed arrived. Note that Brazil-Denmark match played in Germany. Why? Better money. It is the same when Mexico plays their games in the USA and other Latin or South American teams do the same. With club teams from Italy, England, Germany, France (PSG!) and Spain due here once again in their pre-season July warmups, the USA is decidedly on the world soccer map. Be glad.

  1. Scott O'connor
    commented on: May 30, 2012 at 3:51 p.m.
    SKIA (soccer know-it-all) - I sure hope you are correct but I think you've drank a bit too much of the Scotch-infused Kool-aid here. That said, what a splash they could make by getting the attention of the casual soccer fan here and get some World Cup-like buzz going ahead of the World Cup. However, to think that we are going to dominate a team as talent-laden as Brazil is a bit too much to hope for. We beat Spain 2-0 a couple years back. Did we dominate the game? No way. Spain pinged the ball around our 18 for 45 minutes. Some lucky blocks and saves and we got the W. We led Brazil 2-0 a couple years ago. Were we dominating? No way. We beat Italy 1-0. Were we dominant? No again, the goal came against the run of play and we held on as Italy again assaulted our 18 box for 30 minutes. We're showing signs of progess. Beating up weaker teams is actually growth (since we typically played down to our opponent's level). If we can annihilate the weaklings (rank 40th or worse), throw down evenly with the mids (rank 11-39), and hang on against the top ten, we have a decent chance to do well in the World Cup. I see us heading in that direction.

  1. Scott O'connor
    commented on: May 30, 2012 at 4:12 p.m.
    Having watched the Brazil-Denmark game and seeing what Brazil did to a good Denmark side I see a few keys that we need to see in tonight's game to not be embarrassed. First, we need to try to maintain possession (with or without a purpose) in the midfield. By controlling the ball, we shorten the game and make Brazil chase the game a bit. This will prove to be a terrifically difficult challenge. This young Brazilian midfield put intense pressure on the Danish midfielders and generated a lot of quick scoring chances off of turnovers in the Danish end. You will see two Brazilians running at the player with the ball to force a pass. They're very effective at taking the ball away should our player try to dribble out of trouble. Second, we need to finish the chances we get. We'll probably get only a few and making them count has to happen for us to have a chance at a close result. Next, we need to play hungrier than Brazil. Every guy needs to hustle and play hard. For example: Forwards jogging around behind the play when Brazil has possession rather than getting back and helping on defense could make a big difference; Defenders hustling back to be in position for Brazilian counters; Midfielders pressing the ball and cutting off passing lanes. Finally, Tim Howard needs to have a monster game. A couple of brilliant saves could frustrate the Brazilians and make them play to set up only perfect scoring opportunities, thus reducing their chances of scoring at all. If we see some of these elements come to pass, the game should be competitive and entertaining. The result matters less than the way it is obtained in this case. I'd rather lose 4-2 with an end-to-end competitive battle with Brazil's class just outmuscling us a bit than to win 1-0 by nicking an early goal and defending in our end for 88 minutes.


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