[USA-BELGIUM] If it's true that one learns more from failure than from success, Jurgen Klinsmann's men got educated real well against Belgium on Wednesday, when in their fifth game of the year they failed once again to show any signs of an ability to play impressive attacking soccer.
After the 4-2 loss to the Belgians in Cleveland, Klinsmann said he's not worried that the result will have a negative effect on his team when it plays three straight World Cup qualifiers following a friendly against Germany on Sunday.
“Not at all,” Klinsmann said. “Those are games that you need to play. There is no player who is going to have sleepless nights over the next couple days. They understand that when they make mistakes they pay for it in a defeat. I don’t think that confidence comes into play there. They understand why certain things happen and then you can correct it.”
Before facing World Cup qualifying foes Jamaica (June 7), Panama (June 11) and Honduras (June 18), they’ll face a German team that, despite playing without its Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid contingent, trounced Ecuador, 4-2, on Wednesday.
Perhaps Klinsmann is correct. Two tough friendlies might be the right recipe to prepare his team for the games that really matter. But the dismal start to 2013 is discouraging regardless. The focus after the Belgium loss was on the backline -- a central defense that Klinsmann insists doesn’t need the veteran Carlos Bocanegra -- but more troubling is the impotent offense, which Klinsmann doesn’t believe needs Landon Donovan.
The year began with a pathetic scoreless tie in a friendly with Canada. Then came a 2-1 loss at Honduras in the first game of the final round of World Cup qualifying. A 1-0 win over Costa Rica in farcical Colorado conditions and a scoreless tie in Mexico gave the USA four points from its first three Hexagonal games. But it managed only one shot on goal in those two games -- Clint Dempsey’s goal against the Ticos.
There were, of course, excuses for the lack of anything resembling creative, attacking soccer. It was the snow in Colorado and challenge of Azteca Stadium in Mexico. Against Belgium, when the only U.S. shots on target were Geoff Cameron’s headed goal from three yards out and Dempsey’s penalty kick, it was “having guys come in on Sunday and Monday and throw them into a game right away,” said Klinsmann.
That may be, but Klinsmann took the helm nearly two years ago and the team continues to look like a work in progress that hardly ever establishes a rhythm no matter who the opponent may be.
“Every day’s work on the training field going through certain elements and principles that help us build toward Jamaica [June 7],” Klinsmann said. “That is what we are working towards. We want to make sure there is a better flow and a better understanding on the field and better communication for when the games come that we badly need to win. There is no problem with confidence.”
There may not be a confidence problem when World Cup qualifying foes play at a level below the Belgians do in a friendly. But there’s little confidence here that Klinsmann’s team will do anything more impressive than grind their way to the World Cup in Brazil.
May 29 in Cleveland, Ohio
USA 2 Belgium 4. Goals: Cameron 22, Dempsey (pen.) 80; Mirallas 6, Benteke 56, Fellaini 64, Benteke 71.
USA -- Howard (Guzan, 46); Cameron, Gonzalez, Goodson (Besler, 69), Beasley; Jones, Kljestan (Holden, 81), Zusi (Evans, 69), Davis (Boyd, 63); Dempsey, Altidore (E.Johnson, 46).
Belgium -- Mignolet; Alderweireld, Vermaelen (Pocognoli, 36), Kompany (Gillet, 72), Vertonghen; Fellaini, Mirallas, Defour (Simons, 76), Lukaku (T. Hazard, 83); De Bruyne (Mertens, 68), Dembele (Benteke, 41).
Yellow cards: USA -- Jones 90; Belgium -- Simmons 78.
Referee: Jeffery Solis (Costa Rica)
June 2: USA-Germany
Kickoff: 2:30 pm ET.
TV: ESPN2, WatchESPN, UniMas