[USA-BRAZIL] Brazil thumped the USA, 4-1, in Maryland on Wednesday thanks to spectactular efforts on both ends of the field, but there were bright spots from the USA. Ridge Mahoney explains ...
A GOALIE MAKES A DIFFERENCE. The roles were somewhat reversed Wednesday; normally, it's an American keeper bailing out his teammates against a dominant foe. In beating England (1993), Brazil (1998), and Spain (2009), incredible work by Tony Meola, Kasey Keller and Tim Howard, respectively, enabled the Americans to steal historic victories.
But while on the balance of play Brazil proved to be superior, it needed a few superlative saves from keeper Rafael Cabral, who was making his national team debut, to fend off a furious U.S rally in the final quarter of an hour. In particular, a remarkable fingertip save on a sharp Michael Bradley header and a spectacular, bang-bang double stop that denied Herculez Gomez and Terence Boyd prevented the Americans from getting any closer than 3-1, which made Alexandre Pato’s late goal and a 4-1 final scoreline somewhat deceptive.
ON THE OTHER HAND, HOW ABOUT THAT FINISHING? The Brazilians didn’t really give Howard any opportunity to break their hearts and perhaps give the Americans a chance to get at least tie.
Neymar planted his penalty kick a yard inside the post as Howard went the wrong way; Thiago Silva powered past three Americans to nail a header off a corner kick; Marcelo banged home the third goal from point-blank range after Neymar and Oscar had cut open the U.S. back line’s right side; and Pato, left unmarked at the back post on a botched offside trap, drilled a bullet into the far side netting so hard Howard didn’t have time to dive.
WHO’S READY? Fabian Johnson looks capable of starting at left back for about the next decade or so. The 24-year-old's pace and confidence going forward are enticing and while he wasn’t always capable of matching Brazil’s guile and skill, he won a lot of duels and also reacted well to combinations played in his area. He also created space with a Neymar-like move and hit a cross that yielded a Gomez header cleared just a few yards from the goal line.
Gomez barreled into the goalmouth and reacted quickly to a deflection to score with a header just before halftime, and hit another hard shot on goal that Rafael Cabral managed to parry. On the latter chance, a somewhat clumsy chest trap took him away from a goal, and on a couple of other occasions his first touch failed him, but for the most part he displayed the instincts and decisions you want in a goalscorer.
Bradley impressed again with some solid tacking, shrewd covering, and surgical passing as he tried to rally his team from an early 2-0 deficit. A great ball slipped between two opponents released Johnson to hit the cross that Gomez bashed into the net, and his late header from a corner kick would have narrowed the gap to 3-2 had not Rafael Cabral tipped it over the bar. He wasn't always up to the task of containing Brazil in the middle of the park but of the midfield triumverate, he had the best moments.
WHO’S NOT? Though he crashed a corner kick off the crossbar, defender Oguchi Onyewu played a very shaky first half and by reacting slowly played Pato onside to score the fourth goal. An early shot that caromed off his arm resulted in a rather harsh penalty kick, and though his play improved in the second half prior to Pato’s goal, he showed some rust.
May 30 in Landover, Md.
USA 1 Brazil 4.Goals: Gomez 45; Neymar (pen.) 12, Thiago Silva 26, Marcelo 52, Alexandre Pato 87.
USA --Howard; Cherundolo (Parkhurst, 73), Onyewu, Bocanegra, Johnson (Castillo, 80); Bradley, Jones (Beckerman, 80), Edu (Boyd, 73); Donovan, Torres (Dempsey, 56), Gomez.
Brazil --Rafael; Danilo, Juan, Thiago Silva, Marcelo (Alex Sandro, 89); Sandro, Romula, Oscar; Hulk (Casimiro, 82), Leandro Damiao (Alexandre Pato, 64), Neymar (Lucas, 84).