U.S. bright spots against brilliant Brazil

[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).
Att.: 67,619.

18 comments about "U.S. bright spots against brilliant Brazil".
  1. Carlos Thys, May 31, 2012 at 5:09 a.m.

    I think that should be "Gouch" Onyewu's last game. Sorry for his injury at AC Milan and for his missed World Cup games in 2010. But, let's face it, he hardly played so much at Sporting Lisbon this past season -- and for probably valid reasons. Yes, he has size and experience. But he had way too many bad moments on the field tonight, moments a seasoned player should never have (I am not at all referring to the hand ball situation). There was one simple cross field pass to Bocanegra (with no pressure at all on Gouch) in the first half that was a howler. These are mental breakdowns one would not accept in a 22 or 24 year old. He was roundly outsmarted by 20, 21 and 22 year old Brazilian players nearly a full decade younger than he is. Goodness! Gouch has over 63 caps! It is just not meant to be for him. He's not the caliber for now nor can he be (due to aging -- bigger guys have it worse than the "shorties") for a World Cup 2014. I mean, let's be realistic: Where would Gouch be as a 32 year old defender heading to Brazil in June 2014? Is that too old? No. But I don't see Gouch's body holding up. Is that a shame? Yes, it is, but it is also reality. As we see matches like Scotland, Brazil, and Canada, it is nice to see positive scorelines for the USMNT, but the reason for these "test matches" is to bring into the fold the players for the future -- just as we saw the Brazilian coaching staff do very well with their 20 and 22 year olds last night.

  2. Gak Foodsource, May 31, 2012 at 8:27 a.m.

    No argument from me about Onyewu, Carlos. Fabian Johnson cemented his spot at Left back, I agree. But I would argue this team is doing things they don't usually do. That Johnson run off Bradley's pass was not something we are used to seeing from our national team. Give Klinsi, and also the club teams in Germany and Italy, praise for instilling that vision in our players. I think the US could very much resemble this years Bayern team. Attacking wingbacks( Cherundolo and Johnson), talented wingers that serve balls and can score( Donovan), a strong central midfielder that moves the ball (Bradley) and a big forward that can score in the air and apply pressure ( Gomez).

  3. Valerie Metzler, May 31, 2012 at 10:30 a.m.

    Agree, agree, agree.

  4. Walt Pericciuoli, May 31, 2012 at 10:33 a.m.

    I agree Carlos and GAK.We cannot play Bocanegra and Onyewu together.Both are very slow.Both need to have a partner quick enough to cover for them.Carlos stays for his leadership,but he needs a strong quick partner to help him.Bradley was nowhere in sight to help defensively.I'm not sure why he was switched back to the deeper lying MF of the 3 holding MF, Edu, Jones and Bradley.He didn't cover that space and forced our central defenders to step up,thereby exposing lots of space behind them.I think Edu is better suited for that role. Bradley was more effective in the 2nd half as he stepped forward into the attack.I thought Johnson and Gomez had great games. Donovan was a little off, but with any luck at all, the match could have been a 3-2 result which would have been very respectable.

  5. Julio Vargas, May 31, 2012 at 12:05 p.m.

    Onyewu needs to have a break from the national team until he starts playing better or at least 90minutes in his club. I was very happy to see how Gomez played. He very much did what he was supposed to do. I would like to see him as the official number 9 for a few more games. Overall, I think we played good, and Brazil played very good, they fought all the balls and pressure none stop, Brazil took this game seriously and the pressure did not let our midfielders to create our own game. As soon as Donovan had the ball, there were 2 Brazilians on the top of him. They did not gave us room to do much. As far as Klinsmann, I loved the fact that instead of pulling everybody back and keep a 1-3 score, he put Boyd on the field and keep trying to score. There is a difference how you lose a game...and we lose the game, but trying to score. I am sad that we lost, but I think this game gave us more answers than questions. I think 1-4 is a little bit unfair...but this is soccer, does not need to be fair.

  6. John Foust, May 31, 2012 at 12:13 p.m.

    The player who still is the most confident on the ball, with the vision to distribute, is Torres. He had an off night, but Klinsmann needs to refine his lineup so Torres remains for the entire game. He seems much more attuned defensively than Bradley of late, so perhaps moving Bradley up a bit and dropping Torres back to a de facto fifth back might cover some of last night's glaring deficiencies. Gooch is done - no pace, and lack of peripheral vision in the goal mouth. Need to play some youth in the CD positions or we'll be toast in 2014.

  7. Joseph Pratt, May 31, 2012 at 12:14 p.m.

    Agreed on Onyewu, especially now that the US is trying to play out of the back like grown-up teams. In the old days, with Howard booming punts (I don't recall him punting even once last night), and the center backs clearing and not possessing, Gooch made sense. But with Klinsmann's insistence on possession (thankfully!), Gooch and even Bocanegra look uncomfortable. Regarding the game, I was puzzled by the difference in tactics: Brazil played very high pressure, putting the heat on our back four, making the US effort to play out of the back an even sterner test (ironically, if there was ever a game when the long ball would have been a good tactic at times in order to counter the pressure, this was it). The US, in contrast, put almost no pressure on Brazil's backs, giving them all the time and space they wanted until they got to midfield. Were we that afraid of a counterattack? What does that say about the ability of our centerbacks to recover? I thought we should have changed tactics sooner after we were down, in hopes of forcing a giveaway and maybe stealing a goal.

  8. Scott O'Connor, May 31, 2012 at 2:24 p.m.

    Gooch = gone. Johnson = Timmy who? (although Chandler would be a more natural fit to replace Cherundolo if he wises up and sees that his beloved Deutchland isn't going to call, so I'm still hoping). Bradley = #10-like. Torres = confident on the ball, not as bad a game as many are saying he had IMO. Dempsey = needed swagger for the squad. Gomez = The next striker (Klinsmann the striker has to see how much more quality he has than Altibore). Edu = poor with the ball making it hard to play out of the back. Bocanegra = not going anywhere (hard to go from Captain to dropped). Jones = glad he sent that showboat punk a message (also glad punk was OK).

  9. Raveen Rama, May 31, 2012 at 2:31 p.m.

    Very well said, Julio. As you mentioned also, the most noticeable thing to me was that when Brazil got the ball they had time to control, pass, and move, whereas when as soon as we got the ball Brazil was upon us giving pressure, and winning a lot of the balls. I think this was one of the glaring differences between the two teams.

  10. Carlos Thys, May 31, 2012 at 2:38 p.m.

    The question: Who is ready? Well, maybe not Jose Torres. We need to learn why he got that early first half yellow card. Let's find out why he got that card, shall we?

  11. Stuart d. Warner, May 31, 2012 at 2:49 p.m.

    What no one has mentioned is Onyewu's complicity in the second goal. Brazil did not quite earn the corner that led to the goal; instead, Onyewu had plenty of time to clear the ball over the touch line, but his touch let him down and he simply pushed the ball over the goal line. He is tough and fearless, but he has nowhere near the quality we need. Whether the right person is Goodson or Camerson, we'll have to see. However, what was neat is that we actually created more chances than Brazil in the second half.

  12. david caldwell, May 31, 2012 at 2:55 p.m.

    More on Gooch: He was somewhat responsible for 3 of the 4 goals! A diabolical performance, really. OK, first one was very unlucky (poor call on handball.) 2nd goal, he and Jones miscommunicated. Not sure who was at fault...I'll give Gooch benefit of the doubt. 3rd Goal: BRA counter attack, 2-on-1 on Cherundolo's side. Gooch was nearest, but failed to mark the passer or the central runner. And he was slow to move up, keeping Pato onside for the 4th tally. His 3 colleagues on the backline all reacted, he didn't.
    The defensive plays he did make were not confidence inspiring either - particularly one clearance he mis-hit that actually went backwards.

  13. Kerry Ogden, May 31, 2012 at 4:37 p.m.

    Gomez did shine throughout the game and a few other players but other than that I feel that the team fell apart in the first half due to the physical and sometimes thuggery assault by the Brazilian players , Klinsmann saw this and wanted his players to return the effort which they finally did in the last quarter of the match which led to some good opportunities which they didn't and weren't able to caitalize on due to good tending efforts by the Brazilian goalkeeper. Tactical positioning is part of the problem with the USMNT and panicking under pressure is just another weak point in their game if Klinnsmann can get these issues addressed then we'll do good on the road to the world cup. We still have time to introduce new players down the road which may make our mens team stronger but Klinsmann has to be the one to acknowledge this and make the changes! Cherundolo, Onyewu and Bocanegra definitely need to be replaced, their better days are behind them and I hate saying it and they hate hearing it.

  14. Philippe Fontanelli, May 31, 2012 at 6:25 p.m.

    It is strange that Brazil has a great keeper who saved a couple of certain goals. The score line would have been very different if the two keepers have been on the opposite teams. We the US used to have goalkeepers with the same bravado as this Brazilian. Which is lacking with today's US keepers. Howard is OK but he is not a game winner as he should be. Not to mention the CDs, "forget about it". Bradley was also playing in a slot that not his forte Edu plays better there. Still the score line should have been closer and in spite of all I think there is a good possibility of this USMNT w/o the above glitches; judging by the last couple of games including this very last one.

  15. Fred Omond, June 1, 2012 at 1:49 a.m.

    Let us be fair here, Gooch had a bad day at the office but I think he should not be crucified yet. Klinsmann should give him another chance against Canada before the world cup qualifiers begin. He sure was tentative and always slow to react. Could this be a result of a long lay off after that nasty injury in Italy?

    In my estimation Gomez, Bradley and Torres seem to have cemented their positions. I also thought that Tim Howard lacked his normal agility; the second goal would not have gone through him if his regular impulses were present.

    Donavan was over marked by the Brazilians’, and they were smart to do that. He is normally dangerous. Poor Dempsy, still nursing his injury found himself a victim of the prevailing circumstances. All in all, the US needed this defeat to whip them back into reality.

    They still don’t belong with the best, but they sure showed lots of potential.

  16. Phil Love, June 1, 2012 at 8:42 a.m.

    I believe Torres' yellow card was for continued griping about the hand ball call on Onyewu. I'm a Gooch fan, but I admit he's not looking like The Man. Question is, who takes his spot? Goodson and Cameron haven't impressed me much. Torres at least needs to be on the roster if not on the field. We have enough grit and toughness. We need more skill on the ball like Torres has. When will Jones learn that "But I got the ball!" doesn't justify his reckless dangerous challenges? Ladies and gentlemen, we have a left back! Fabian Johnson, welcome to the starting 11!

  17. Scott O'Connor, June 2, 2012 at 11:52 a.m.

    Phil, good comments. I agree Torres' card was for arguing (he speaks spanish and gave it to the ref in his native tongue). I like Gooch too but he just isn't the same player anymore. I love his attitude and we definitely need more attitude like that on the team but we also have to back up the attitude with solid play. Jones will have us down to 10-men at some critical point in the future. That's what scares me about him. Fabian Johnson is a spectacular find and fit for this team. He just stabilized our perennially weak position, LB.

  18. soccer know it all, June 2, 2012 at 9:06 p.m.

    strategies and tactics USA vs Brazil

    Posted on June 2, 2012

    I believe JK’s pregame strategy and in game tactical adjustments are his biggest weakness; a blindspot that was at least partly negated by Joachim Loew along with higher qualilty and seasoned players when JK was coach of Germany. Brazil came out in a 4-2-4 formation with all forwards high pressing the US backline, this aggressive pressing defensive tactic deployed by the brazilians was extremely effective and exposed the US teams lack of skill on the ball, and thought process when challenged. Understand that Barcalona does the samething to opponents in la liga/champions league, and the best counter strategy is to employ in game defensive tactics the likes of Jose Mourinho’s inter milan 2010 team and Chelsea’s strategy this yr in CL. No team can apply this much defensive pressure for a whole 45 minutes, not even young energetic brazilians, it’s to exhausting; but there strategy from the start of both halfs was to use this tactic to throw the US team off its game and score goals, which is exactly what they did. Once the brazilian pressure subsided we witnessed a US side that was able to apply there new found offensive abilities: teamwork, tactics and goalscoring chances effectively, which is JK’s biggest accomplishment with the US team so far along with his infectious energy and enthusiasm . The brazil game can be viewed as a great learning tool for future world class opponents who will enter the game with superior players; skilled, and tactically aware of US teams weaknesses, and how to develop a counter strategy for US team to imploy when facing such opponents.http://soccerknowitall.wordpress.com/2012/06/02/strategies-and-tactics-usa-vs-brazil/

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