By Ridge Mahoney
In their first match of 2015,
the Americans twice took the lead on the road but were unable to avert a 3-2 loss to a Chilean team returning just two players from its 2014 World Cup squad.
Here are three impressions
from the match, which was the USA's third straight defeat. 1. Wide men Shea and Yedlin need work.
skillful team like Chile on the road was always going to be a daunting task, and head coach Jurgen Klinsmann
knew this well. Still, he sent out his players, as
expected, in a 3-5-2 formation with Jermaine Jones
in the back flanked by Matt Besler
on the left and debutant Steve Birnbaum
on the right.
Also as expected, DeAndre Yedlin
played on the right flank and Brek Shea
took the left side. Shea stunned the Chilean crowd, and more than a few American fans as well, by stinging a shot inside the far post to open the scoring.
Yedlin supplied plenty of attacking push and set up the second U.S. goal by working a nice combination play with Mix Diskerud
from a throw-in.
Neither wide player looked confident or comfortable defending in the first half and even when the Americans switched to a 4-4-2 in the second half that pulled them deep into outside back positions,
they labored to measure up. Still, Shea at least battled for balls in the air --- he'd been overpowered when he went up late for a ball in the first half -- and both he and Yedlin snuffed out more
plays after halftime. Both lasted the full 90 minutes, with Yedlin -- who started training with Tottenham Jan. 1 -- running fairly strongly towards the end of the match.
This looked like
a training match for several players, forced into unfamiliar roles and situations by a new formation. Chile injected more energy into their game after halftime and though Shea and Yedlin were playing
deeper they still needed to do a lot of running. The demands of defending out wide, whether in a 3-5-2 or 4-4-2, at the international level are challenges both of these players will face. Games
like this are part of the learning curve. 2. USA remains too dependent on Jones.
reasoning for moving Jones into the back line is partly based on reducing his workload, the player apparently didn't get the memo.
In the 3-5-2, he often fronted Besler and Birnbaum
and rather than holding his spot when the U.S. gained possession, he repeatedly pushed into midfield to get on the ball and do something with it. He hit several good balls and also committed some
costly turnovers, such as the atrocious giveaway that only a swatted save by Nick Rimando
rescued in the 37th minute. As Michael Bradley
picked his spots to attack, Jones stormed around the field aggressively and a couple of times was stranded near the midfield line as Chile raced forward. Yet the USA's
aggression paid off in a pair of nice goals even as the defensive shape took a beating.
Jones played his usual robust role in the second half as substitutes Lee Nguyen
and Wil Trapp
were brought into midfield, and only seldom were the Americans able to hold the ball and stem Chile's momentum. Jones may
be 33 and a longshot to play in the next World Cup, and perhaps in a year or two Klinsmann will begin weaning the team off his range and spirit and dynamic persona. Until then, there is a significant
dependence on his presence and performance. 3. Streaks are for stat nerds.
A third straight loss leaves the Americans winless in their
last five games and with just one victory in their last nine. Klinsmann and his players don't seem all that concerned. Clint Dempsey
didn't get all
bubbly -- at least publicly -- when the USA registered an historic 1-0 defeat of Italy in Genoa, and during a postgame interview on Fox Sports 1 Jozy Altidore
focused on the next game against Panama rather than his goal.
If poor results start to erode the players' confidence -- nothing seems to shake Klinsmann's buoyant mood -- and performance
there will be cause for concern. This game had plenty to criticize. But clever passing and crisp finishing produced the goals and three players got their first caps -- Birnbaum, Trapp and Gyasi Zardes
-- in difficult circumstances. This was a disappointment, not a disaster. TRIVIA.
The USA has now
allowed nine goals in its last three games, the most in three games since 1993. Jan. 28 in Rancagua Chile 3 USA
Goals: Gutierrez 10, M.Gonzalez 66, 75; Shea 6, Altidore 31. USA --
Rimando; Birnbaum, Jones, Besler; Yedlin, Bradley, Dempsey (Zardes, 68),
Diskerud (Trapp, 60), Shea, Wood (Nguyen, 46), Altidore (Wondolowski, 75) Chile --
Herrera; O.Gonzalez, Rojas, Cornejo; Espinoza (Fierro, 72), Pulgar,
Medel (Diaz, 79), Valdes (Delgado, 60); Carrasco, Gutierrez (Vilches, 90+4), M.Gonzalez (Sagal, 90).