A 4-1 loss to the Republic of Ireland in Dublin Tuesday night closed out the USA's schedule for 2014. An equalizer by Mix Diskerud and two shots off the woodwork weren’t enough for the Americans, who narrowly missed scoring on two other occasions yet conceded three second-half goals to lose their second straight game.
Robbie Brady scored twice for the Irish, which had lost a Euro 2016 qualifier to Scotland, 1-0, on Friday but despite fielding many backups took command after halftime and won going away. The Americans couldn't contain David McGoldrick, who carved them open numerous times and assisted on the first two goals.
1. Shaky in the Second Half
Spurts and intervals of polished, cohesive play contrasted with long periods of disarray during which the Americans, much as they had in the second half on Friday against Colombia, chased the game fruitlessly.
Giveaways in the middle and defensive thirds plagued the Americans throughout the match, and for all the endeavor and hard work by midfield linchpin Kyle Beckerman, the central defensive pairing of Matt Besler and Geoff Cameron rarely looked settled and only Alejandro Bedoya provided a consistent attacking presence. Beckerman and Alfredo Morales were seldom in sync and the center of the field usually belonged to Ireland except for brief intervals.
The first two Irish goals were scored in one-v-one situations against USA keeper Bill Hamid on balls played through the center of the USA defense. Both were set up by careless U.S. turnovers in its own half of the field. James McClean drilled the third goal from the edge of the penalty area and Hamid was beaten when the shot took a deflection off Cameron. The final goal was a spectacular free kick hit into the top corner by Brady after a foul by Cameron just outside the penalty area.
Diskerud started poorly yet scored to polish off an opportunistic sequence on an Irish turnover he helped create in the 39th minute. Bedoya crossed to the back post, where Jozy Altidore collected the ball and sent over a chip that Chris Wondolowski nodded down for Diskerud to stab into the net first-time.
Bedoya had several other good touches, though he put his defense under pressure with a careless flick. For the most part, he showed why he's started 11 of the last 12 USA matches. The goal marked the best of several good moments for the Americans, whose lackluster play overall -- whether because of fatigue or confusion -- allowed Ireland to take command.
2. Near Misses
Outplayed for much of the game, the USA still created enough chances to get a result but twice was denied by keeper Shay Given, and two other shots hit the frame.
Given nicked a low drive off the foot of Bobby Wood with his left toe and repelled another effort by substitute Greg Garza to kill off USA hopes of getting at least a tie. In the first half, Fabian Johnson hit the base of the post with a long-distance shot and a first-time blast by Jozy Altidore took a slight deflection on its way onto the crossbar.
Wood and Wondolowski struggled to hold the ball up when backup against opponents; both were more effective moving into spaces to collect balls at their feet. A nice turn and run by Wood drew a free kick in the second half. Altidore had a bit more success but the Americans' inability to keep possession offered too few opportunities to funnel the ball to the forwards and move into supporting positions.
3. Morris Debut
The arrival of Jordan Morris as a second-half substitute brought to 50 the number of players used in 2014 and he did what coach Jurgen Klinsmann wants his young players to do: seize the moment.
The Stanford sophomore ran down the left flank to set up Garza for a stinging low shot that Given parried with a superb save. Garza had dropped to left back when Morris came into the game at left mid and the pair combined like veterans to test the veteran Irish keeper, who seldom plays club ball for Aston Villa but made his 127th cap a memorable one.
Timothy Chandler had started for the USA at left back and he worked his way into good attacking positions a few times but like most of his teammates labored to keep his touches clean. Fabian Johnson’s play at right back was better than his poor showing against Colombia yet he committed perhaps the most egregious error of the night when he fell over trying to clear a ball near the corner flag, and Ireland quickly notched its second goal.