So, the U.S. got its clock cleaned against Brazil last night, while Mexico, its opponent in the Confederations Cup playoff in Pasadena on Oct 10, was unlucky not to beat World No. 1 Argentina.
Where are the silver linings?
Well, to be clear, there aren’t many -- this was definitely a poor performance. Whether it was tiredness from camp, a lack of motivation from the coaching staff or general confusion caused by so many U.S. players playing out of position, it doesn’t matter: the preparation for this game was not good enough, so the U.S. got the result it deserved.
Before we get to the silver linings, let’s hear coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s assessment of this game:
"Their tempo, their speed of play, speed of thought and speed of execution, all those elements were very impressive," the USA’s German coach said. "For us, it was a huge learning curve. It was a completely different tempo they set, and we couldn't go that tempo. It's a tempo that is played in the [UEFA] Champions League. They're always two thoughts ahead. That's a level we're trying to catch as fast as we can."
Indeed, even Brazil coach Dunga was impressed with the “rapid pace” of his team’s attack.
Yep, Off The Post spends a lot of time watching the likes of Neymar, Willian and Douglas Costa, and they are pretty darn quick. So, how do you stop a forward line containing some of the world’s quickest players?
Well, here’s how you don’t do it: by playing four taller and slower center-backs across your backline. No offense to Tim Ream and Geoff Cameron: even if both players can reliably put in the odd performance at fullback, you don’t line up against one of the world’s fastest forward lines with two six-foot-plus central defenders playing right and left-back. Those are glaringly odd mismatches for the likes of Douglas Costa, Willian, Neymar and Lucas Moura to exploit in any counter-attack or one-on-one situation.
Sure, you could argue that Klinsmann was forced into these changes by injuries to Fabian Johnson, Timothy Chandler and DaMarcus Beasley, but OTP would argue back that the likes of Greg Garza and DeAndre Yedlin would have had a better chance in one-on-ones against players of similar size and speed.
But then again, as SI.com’s Grant Wahl points out, Klinsmann really likes to play his players out of their natural positions, and he especially likes to gamble during friendlies against top opposition. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it does not. Has Alejandro Bedoya ever played a holding midfielder role before? He said he had not, hence the introduction of Danny Williams after 36 minutes.
And what about Michael Bradley’s performance? Sure, he looked tired following his weekend exertions with Toronto FC, but is that center attacking midfield role really his best position?
OTP, for one, has never thought so. Bradley can be an old-fashioned box-to-box center midfielder, a role typically more suited to a 4-4-2, but he is also a ball-winner with an eye for a long pass, which means he could easily play a more defensive role in Klinsmann’s 4-2-3-1. However, instead of changing his tactics based on the players he has, Klinsmann persists with playing Bradley, and others, out of position. As OTP’s Soccer America colleague Paul Kennedy points out, Klinsmann’s recent comments seem to suggest, ominously, that he’s done everything he can with this group and could not possibly have done anything different.
So, with the Brazil thrashing behind us and the Confederations Cup playoff next on the horizon, OTP can think of three silver linings Klinsmann & Co. can take with them to Pasadena:
One: hopefully, Johnson and Beasley will be back and available for selection for the game at the Rose Bowl on Oct 10. The USA will need real fullbacks against Mexico, which likes to attack down the wings.
Two: Equally hopefully, Klinsmann will have finally learned his lesson at center-back and choose the best pairing the USA has available right now in Cameron and LA Galaxy’s Omar Gonzalez.
Three: Mexico is not Brazil. This may seem obvious, but Mexico does not have players with the same technical quality or speed of play as the Brazilians, so it will be a very different game. Ricardo “Tuca” Ferreti is also a more defense-minded coach than Miguel Herrera was, even if he did use the same 5-3-2 formation against Argentina that Herrera used at the World Cup last summer. Because of this, it should be a tighter contest.