Three takeaways from USA-Colombia

By Paul Kennedy

Colombia rewarded its heavy contingent of support in West London with a 2-1 win over the USA on Friday night. A few bright spots for the USA can't erase the reality that it continues to struggle in the post-World Cup cycle.

1. Forty-five minutes aren't enough.

In the last three friendlies against Ecuador, Honduras and Colombia, the USA has taken a lead into halftime. In all three games, it came away without a win. If you go back the last six games, it has been outscored 6-1 in the second half. That's certainly not a sign of a team making progress.

For all the attention to the late goals the USA conceded in these last three friendlies -- Enner Valencia's 88th-minute equalizer for Honduras, Maynor Figueroa's 86th-minute equalizer for Honduras and Teo Gutierrez's 87th-winner for Colombia -- the reality is Jurgen Klinsmann's team has failed to show much from beginning to end in the second half.

Friday's game was the toughest test, for sure. And Colombia showed after it went behind on a Jozy Altidore penalty that it was in another class from the USA, coming close in the first half when Carlos Bacca hit the outside of the post and being unlucky not to get a penalty call on a Jermaine Jones handball.

Except for an early header by Rubio Rubin and chance for Bobby Wood created by Lee Nguyen, there were few moments of good play for the USA in the second half.

2. Opportunity lost for Mix in midfield.

There was lots to be concerning -- once again -- about the U.S. game in midfield. Its ability to hold possession inevitably led to the Cafeteros taking control of the match and pulling ahead. Colombian-American Alejandro Bedoya had a good game -- the kind of solid effort to showcase his talents for a possible transfer move in January from French club Nantes -- but the rest?

Klinsmann has been counting on Mix Diskerud to take charge as a two-way player and primary outlet in a central role, but he failed to stamp his mark on the game. It's hard to imagine Klinsmann sticking with Kyle Beckerman, who turns 33 in April, as he moves deep in 2015. But most worrying was the game from Fabian Johnson, a shadow of his World Cup self in the first half in midfield -- and then at right back after the break when he left Bacca to run on to the loose ball for Colombia's equalizer.

As for DeAndre Yedlin, he took over on the right side in midfield for the second half and showed nothing we didn't already know -- he's got plenty of speed but remains very unpolished.

3. Bright debut for Rubio Rubin.

Rubin is 18 years old. He signed his pro contract and has only played nine pro league games. But the first-year FC Utrecht forward was one of the few bright spots for the USA with an excellent showing against Colombia in his international debut -- all the things, in fact, we're been seeing all fall from him in the Eredivisie.

He'll be remembered for his role in the opening goal, undercutting Pablo Armero to earn a rather fortunate penalty kick on a handball by the Colombian, but his sharp passing, poise on the ball and alertness to get open for two headers belied his inexperience. At Utrecht, he's evolved into a No. 10, he wore No. 9 for the USA, but he is a true trequartista, as the Italians call an in-between player.

Along with Greg Garza at left back, Rubin is a player Klinsmann can point to as being a building block to build the team around for the future.
6 comments about "Three takeaways from USA-Colombia".
  1. F. Kirk Malloy, November 14, 2014 at 6:28 p.m.

    Biggest walk away is that USA can't yet compete for consistent ball possession against the highest quality teams. Way too many unforced errors and turnovers resulted in one-way traffic. The speed of play at the highest levels spins the record just too fast for the USA squad, but we're getting better.

  2. Chris Sapien , November 14, 2014 at 6:43 p.m.

    Agreed F.K., but I would also add, our middies still don't consistently move into space providing two or three options to relieve pressure.....hence the non-stop 50-50 balls that we lose more times than not. Jozy didn't do us too many favors up top either, as he continually was found on the wrong side of play to hold a clearance. Also, what is so wrong with lifting your head, seeing no one applying pressure to you, and carrying the ball forward into space?? The mentality of pass the ball quickly, should not apply unless you have a clear out-numbered counter opportunity, or you are quickly closed-down. Some middies are just too enamored with tiki-tak, leading to simple give-aways, if you ask me.

  3. Kent James, November 14, 2014 at 7:59 p.m.

    I just got to see the 2nd half; I thought the US did quite well for the first 10 or 15 mins of that half, then Colombia took over. I was pleased to see that unlike the WC, the US did attempt to attack as much as possible. The speed of play was incredible (so much for the slow, South American style). How quickly Colombia threw players forward on the counter was amazing. I thought we did do a lot of good passing under pressure, but give-aways certainly hurt, and I think Chris has a point that sometimes we passed for the sake of passing, when carrying the ball forward might have been a better option. I thought there was a lot of intensity for a meaningless friendly, and generally, our players handled it well (I thought the refereeing was suspect, since the ref seemed to let a lot of physical play go, like the time Yedlin was pulling away from the Colombian defender at top speed and the defender pushed him down with his foul? It was clearly a tactical foul, and deserving of a card). I was also disappointed with ESPN's camera work, since they seemed to be unable to show an instant replay (or just missed numerous opportunities to do so...).

  4. Thomas Brannan, November 14, 2014 at 9:01 p.m.

    When the USA can put 11 players out there that were born here and learned their soccer here and that can compete against a team like Columbia that will be success. OK 9. Everything else is just simply missing the point.
    This is the real question: WHY CAN'T THAT BE DONE.

  5. cony konstin, November 14, 2014 at 10:44 p.m.

    I want to shout out to my boy Rubio. WESTSIDE SC. Rubio started with us when he was 8 years old. He has something that no one on the team has. It is called picardia. You don't get that from coaching. You get that from playing everyday on concrete, grass, dirt, broken glass, living room carpet, kitchen table, basically where ever. We need a soccer revolution in the USA. 300,000 futsal courts inner our inner cities and another 300,000 in our suburbs,so kids starting at the age of 5 can play for free, 3 to 5 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and with no stinking adults interfering. When we do that then we will conquer Germany 8-0, Mexico 9-0, Brazil 6-0 and basically everyone else as well. Mean while we are going to continue to go down the same path of mediocrity. We need radical change. We need an unorthodox approach. We need radical thinking. We need to put an end to the status quo. We need a REVOLUTION!!!!! I am truth is you can't make chicken soup with chicken s#$%. You need a chicken. Talented magical warriors win championships not coaches.

  6. beautiful game, November 15, 2014 at 12:45 p.m.

    This team could have practiced together for a month and I would not expect anything different. Plain and simple, noot enough individual Soccer IQ to get the job done. All these players are known commodities and on a given day give a good effort, but still can't do it on a consistent basis. We know Jozy, who get mediocre service; we heard about Ibarra and he plays zero minutes. We know Nguyen can play in the MLS, why is it he only saw 13 minutes? Why sub-out Yedlin for Green in the last minutes of the game?

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