Stinker exposes all that's worrying about the USA

By Paul Kennedy

It would be easy to say that one team came to play and the other did not, but the USA's 4-2 loss to Belgium Wednesday night at Cleveland's FirstEnergy Stadium once again exposed all that is worrying about the U.S. national team on the eve of its busiest stretch of the year.

The Red Devils scored with astonishing ease, punishing simple errors and lackadaisical play by the home team. The USA has played quite a few stinkers in the last two years, but this could have been the worst.

It was surely the worst defensive performance of the Jurgen Klinsmann era, and the scoreline would have been worse but for Clint Dempsey's late penalty kick on a dubious handball call, a worse call than on the handball not called on DaMarcus Beasley in the first half.

Beasley was celebrating his 100th cap with family and friends from Ft. Wayne in neighboring Indiana on hand for the occasion, and he was one of the few players to play with any commitment even if he was overmatched physically by the talented Belgian frontline.

SIMPLE ERRORS PUNISHED. The USA recorded back-to-back shutouts in its previous two matches -- both World Cup qualifiers -- but was lucky to get out of Cleveland having conceded only four goals against a team that didn't exactly come out with high energy.

Omar Gonzalez is considered the only sure thing on the backline these days, but he had a nightmare in Cleveland.

Geoff Cameron and Gonzalez were late to cover and Clarence Goodson was caught ball-watching on the rebound of Romelu Lukaku's shot stopped by Tim Howard, and Howard's Everton teammate, Kevin Mirallas, made the USA pay with a delicate chip into the goal for the Belgian lead in the 6th minute, shades of the early goals the USA conceded during the 2010 World Cup.

A 1-1 score at the half was a fair scoreline, but it all fell part for the USA in a 16-minute period in the second half.

Gonzalez was again at fault on the go-ahead goal in the 56th minute, his sloppy touch allowing Kevin de Bruyne to feed Christian Benteke for an easy goal.

Moments after entering the game, young forward Terrence Boyd failed get to a ball cleared from the U.S. box, allowing de Bruyne put it in back to the far post, where Marouane Fellaini beat Graham Zusi for an easy goal.

By now, the USA had been put on notice of the Red Devils' clinical finishing, but a collective brain-freeze allowed Steven Defour plenty of time to feed Benteke, who beat his Aston Villa teammate, Brad Guzan, who had entered after halftime, for the second time.

For those looking for some positives from Matt Besler after his introduction in place of the outmatched Goodson, the Sporting Kansas City defender, who played so well at Azteca Stadium last month against Mexico, was burned badly by Benteke and lucky not have conceded a penalty.

WHERE'S THE OFFENSE? The USA's defensive deficiencies will overshadow what was again a forgettable evening for the U.S. attack.

The USA generated all of three shots in Wednesday's game and two shots on goal (both goals). In the last three matches, it has recorded just 10 shots and three shots on goal (all goals).

Klinsmann started Jozy Altidore and Dempsey up front, but it's unlikely he'll go with Altidore, Dempsey and Herculez Gomez -- the trio that started the two March qualifiers -- any time soon.

In midfield, Sacha Kljestan got his first start of the Klinsmann era but he simply doesn't have the dynamism of Michael Bradley to spark the counterattacks the USA so relies on. Brad Davis, guilty of coughing up the ball on the play that led to the second Belgium goal, whipped in a few good crosses but won't put fear into opponents with his treks down the wing.

It's the same on the right side of the backline, where Cameron looks terribly out of place. Despite his tying goal in the first half, he adds nothing to the U.S. attack in the run of play.

If Klinsmann was looking for some answers on Wednesday night in Cleveland, he got none of them.

BELGIUM IS SCARILY DEEP. The Red Devils are the real thing. They showed why they are the third most expensive team in the world in terms of transfer values.

And this isn't even the complete first team. Fellaini, Lukaku and Mirallas aren't even starters on a team that was missing Thibaut Courtois (considered the best young keeper in the world) in goal and Eden Hazard and Axel Witsel in midfield, and began the game with Benteke on the bench.

17 comments about "Stinker exposes all that's worrying about the USA".
  1. Mike Cobra, May 30, 2013 at 1:23 a.m.

    How long does the USA supporters have to wait for Klingsman to get Donovan back? OK he left the soccer world for a good period of time. He left the team empty but he is back and the USA surely needs his skills and vision.The Midfield was absolutely awful They gave away many passes they crossed balls across the field when they had overwhelming strength in front of them. IT has been too long watching an aimless attack. Altidore is totally out touch with the other players with him. Two years and not even a sniff at goal. He did not even have a shot at goal tonight.Without Bradly in the midfield there is no vision for the attack. Our forwards rarely touched the ball in the second half, there just seems to be little or no cohesive plan on how to penetrate opposing defenses.years ago the hope of the USA was Beasley and Donovan. Beasley is now playing left back and from this position, he showed more attacking skills than anyone else on the entire team....
    They moved him to left back because for some reason the USA cannot produce strong and highly skilled defenders.
    Our defenders are on average less than 175 pounds and are almost always undersized against all of the European players. Wait till we play Germany. They are greatly skilled and are the size of middle line backers in football.
    What are our highly regarded Olympic development coaches doing in America. All these Academy clubs and elite player development camps....
    We keep seeing the same type of players.
    Our supposedly best are shipped over to Europe and for the most part play for lower level clubs and no more challenged then if they played for our MLS teams.
    Our Goalies are excellent but they are drilled against the great teams because they can so easily exploit our porous defense.
    Klingsman was a world class player and for this reason the US Federation has trusted him with our future. Of course the record he has can be considered excellent. It is. We did not lose in Mexico but anyone honest observer would say with the grace of God that was a MIRACLE ACT to escape without having 2-3 more goals scored against us….
    When it comes to Hustle and high pressure defense the USA teams can always manage a great fight.
    That was in the past the way we managed to advance in major tournaments. A little bit of both might be what we need to get back into our US plan book. Whatever our coach is doing is not working.

    Our region is made up of teams from small islands with less people then live in most of our small states. Forget about the idea that we have more sports for kids to choose from and our best athletes play football, basketball etc…… etc……
    You have to look at the coaching and the style of play that is being implemented.
    The offense is just dreadful and the defense is just unspeakable.

    Let’s pray that another USA Coach rises to the top of the Federation list and he is given a chance to produce and deliver what the USA has been waiting for “USA STYLE SOCCER coached by an American”!

  2. Ivan Mark Radhakrishnan, May 30, 2013 at 1:28 a.m.

    Football's Developmental contradictions are responsible for all the erratic play by National Teams. The emphasis is on EXPORTING PLAYERS to Europe - to 'develop'! England IMPORTS where it can to 'develop' and Market its LEAGUE @ the expense of LOCAL TALENT. The 'results' are there to see! When is the World going to sit down and listen? Development of Local Talent to play Local Football is the KEY TO BOTH CONSISTENT LEAGUE and CONSISTENT NATIONAL TEAM FOOTBALL. And Development of Local Talent begins with a SIMPLE IDEA, 1,000 EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS - Primary School up to University - signing-up to supply the Names, Ages, Positions, Skills, Talents, Strengths, Weaknesses etc to a National Database of the 8 most Talented Players - 4 Female, 4 Male. This creates 4,000 TALENTED PLAYERS ANNUALLY to COMPETE in Local Football with excess for export. Development is as simple as this

  3. R2 Dad, May 30, 2013 at 2:51 a.m.

    On the one hand, it's a friendly and it was 1-1 at the half (before all the substitutions). On the other hand, 2 goals, 1 from a set piece and the other a PK from a questionable handling call, mean there isn't much of a cutting edge to the attack. Unfortunately for Holden his first 2 matches aren't against San Marino and Liechtenstein, but we certainly could use all the creativity he can muster. What about a 3-2-3-2 where both Jones and Bradley can play together? Or maybe that requires a world-class back line first. Too bad JK couldn't bother to call up John Anthony Brooks. If we thought this was bad, wait til the Germany friendly.

  4. Allan Lindh, May 30, 2013 at 5:02 a.m.

    We must have a backline -- period. And this just ain't working. Either put Cameron and Gonzalez together and pray they can work it out, or do the unthinkable, and bring Michael Bradley back to pair with Gonzalez. We have to have two solid players in the middle on backline NOW.

  5. Jim Williams, May 30, 2013 at 5:43 a.m.

    How many times have we heard about how many kids play soccer here in the States? So. after all these years, where is the talent? It's time to SOGOTP. As much as I love this sport our mens national team is an embarrassment. All the big talk about players going overseas for experience. Where are the results? Let's face it, it's about dollars more than experience. We have no real goal scorers coming up the ranks. Why? Other sports would be making the changes needed to compete. US Soccer needs to clean house and get people involved who can make the changes needed. I don't know what's worse. Not qualifying for the WC or going and getting destroyed before the world.

  6. Gary Levitt, May 30, 2013 at 7:42 a.m.

    You can all talk about issues with our player development and Landon Donavan. The reality is that the USMNT achieved results from many games with their commitment and fitness. Yes, we were missing Bradley and Edu but the reality is that the rest of the world, including some of CONCACAF, have made the commitment to equal or surpass our physical dominance. Dovetailed with their superior tactics and technical ability does not pose well for a great USMNT future.

  7. Bruce Gowan, May 30, 2013 at 8:25 a.m.

    Paul, you got it right in your analysis of the game last night. I can not add a thing. I will comment on the false notion that having US players go "overseas" to be trained. A few players do go to strong teams in strong leagues and are playing significant roles. Most are either not playing or are playing insignificant roles in weak leagues. Sorry, but if you are not world class at age 17-20 you will not get there just by going "overseas". If I'm wrong please give US examples!

  8. Luis Arreola, May 30, 2013 at 9:15 a.m.

    I didnt see the game but its more of the same I am sure. If all here take a closer look at the younger USA teams, with the exception of the U20's. you will see why our USMNt looks like it does. The scouting is focused on a select few and is geared more towards political decisions/future employment/keeping the right people happy. Now we hear of so many USA born and raised players representing other countries in large part due to this same issue. How can this be with our resources, infrastructure, technology, etc.? There are many excuses like they would pick Mexico first anyway or USA is too big and we cant possibly scout everyone or the famous "we are not picking soccer first". Fact is Soccer is one of the most played sports in USA and the most played of any other country. Fact is we are simply either missing or ignoring players only because they are not part of an Academy structure designed for scouts and coaches to network amongst them for job security. Fact is we dont want to scout outside of this small structure because the money isnt out there.

  9. beautiful game, May 30, 2013 at 9:15 a.m.

    Last night the USMNT brought nothing to the pitch and the TV commentary was as awful as it gets. Time to put all the critiques to rest. Those that want to remain delusional about what the fix is for the USMNT, save your breath. The big picture is quite simple and hardly ever addressed. The squad has no true leader. Most, if not all of the players are of equal ability and they lack team chemistry. Big plays are created by visionary players, where are they? The player(s) soccer IQ is generously average, and the team IQ is below par. I.E., why is Altidore so successful at club level and not on the Int'l scene? It's the players around him!!! BTW, Bruce, you're RIGHT.

  10. BJ Genovese, May 30, 2013 at 9:20 a.m.

    The USMNT lacks depth. Its scary to think that Belgium did not even have Kompany or Hazard on the pitch. Donavan is not the cure all to the team We need to bring in players that are technical and on fire. Why would we not bring in Nevin Subotic? He just played in the CL final and was superb. I would be looking for that depth right away. I dont think its totally Klinsmans fault though. He needs a solid pool to draw from.

  11. Luis Arreola, May 30, 2013 at 9:36 a.m.

    DAvid, I too dont think its totally Klins fault. Actually it would be ludicrous to even think that. He has shown a strong inclination towards the German born Americans that has not really impacted the team as first thought. He has not pursued the Mexican based players as strongly. So in a way he is paying for his decisions. The Mexican based players are playing meaningful minutes in the 2nd strongest league on our side of the world. Do you guys honstly think Donovan would have made that much of a difference last night or even with Bradley??

  12. Vic Flegel, May 30, 2013 at 9:44 a.m.

    David,Nevin Subotic plays for Serbia.

  13. Walt Pericciuoli, May 30, 2013 at 10:41 a.m.

    Let's remember, these are just friendlies, but I do agree, we are not showing any progress. A lose to a strong side like Belgium or Germany, is not the end of the world, but I would expect by now at this stage of our development and expenditure in time and money,that we would be capable of putting on a decent showing vs. quality international sides (especially at home)and easily qualify out of the weak CONCACAF region.But sadly that is not the case.I do not blame Klinsman. I put the blame squarely at the top, US Soccer. Until we completely change our player development approach, we will never see the quality players coming through the system that will improve our standing. I've been waiting a really long time.

  14. Eric Schmitt, May 30, 2013 at 11:40 a.m.

    Funny how the same people who refuse to give any credit for friendly victories are so quick to rip the team apart after friendly losses.

  15. Chris Sapien , May 30, 2013 at 12:58 p.m.

    Well said, Eric.........same 'ol, same 'ol.....The real concern is not with development, it is with desire! It is not technical ability or tactics alone, it is competative greatness that leads to success! In a team sport, that means everyone is tirelessly supporting everyone else. That is where the US is suffering more than anywhere else. The most frustrating part is the dozens of times you can site where our players possess and turn, find space to go forward and make defenders commit, and we choose rather to defer to an unnecessary, and low percentage pass. You will never open-up lanes for anyone to exploit unless you commit forward with the ball, which also allows the team as a whole to keep a measure of compactness. Donovan and Bradley have done this most consistently in the past.

  16. Alex G. Sicre, May 30, 2013 at 4:19 p.m.

    Right Chris, Donovan has always been a leader and so has Bradley. These two may not be the complete answer, but they would be part of a puzzle that is imcomplete. Beasley is not a left back he is a left side winger, put him where he belongs. We need a true left back, who is he?Good question. Kliestan at midfield, no way. I hope Holden develops quickly. Klinsi depends to much on his Germans which is obvious. There are a few better Mexican Americans that play in Mexico, that would love to play for USA, whats the problem Klinsi?

  17. Luis Arreola, May 31, 2013 at 12:13 a.m.

    Eric, I am one of those you speak of. I have not had a chance to watch the game but from what I have read it seems USA showed nothing soccer wise. In friendlies you will see good soccer that many times doesnt reflect the score. Why? Because the superior team's only interest is to try different players and not risk injuries, etc. while playing under a scheme and defiend style of play that can still be appreciated. So when USa wins or ties by bunkering back and not showing much else, be it friendlies or not, then that is what is alarming. Hope you understand soem of us better now.

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