USA-Colombia: Cafeteros expose wide gap in talent

In the Dave Sarachan era, the USA has gotten several decent results -- 1-0 win over archrival Mexico, 1-1 tie with 2018 World Cup champion France, 1-1 tie with 2016 European champion Portugal -- giving a false sense of hope about how close the national team remains to the world's elite.

Thursday's 4-2 defeat to Colombia, on the other hand, exposed the gap between the USA and a top 10 team like the Cafeteros. The USA briefly led in the second half, 2-1, but Colombia came back with a devastating display of individual and collective talent to score three goals and win easily.

The U.S. defense was constantly exposed, and the U.S. attack created little besides the goals by Kellyn Acosta and Bobby Wood. In contrast to recent outings, the Colombia game marked the first time the young U.S. players looked discouraged, perhaps aware of the wide gap that exists between them and the Cafeteros with James Rodriguez, Juan Cuadrado, Radamel Falcao and Carlos Bacca, all established international stars.

Here's how the game went ...

1. U.S. comeback goes for naught.

In the nine games the USA has played since failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, five have been against teams that not only went to Russia but reached at least the second round.

And of those five, the USA has now led four of them. Tonight's first game marked the first time, though, it did not get a result after leading. It led all of three minutes after Tim Weah played a ball into Wood's path for the go-ahead goal in the 53th minute.

The left side of the U.S. defense never had any answer for Santiago Arias, and the Atletico Madrid right back fed Bacca for the equalizer. Colombia exposed the U.S. defense with both its speed and skill, going ahead on Radamel Falcao's goal off a rapid counterattack in the 74th minute and putting the game away on Miguel Borja's bicycle kick five minutes later.



2. Bradley can't stem the tide.

Michael Bradley's performance in his first game back since Couva personified his recent form with Toronto FC. In central midfield, he has an awareness and calmness about him that his heirs apparent, Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie, are still developing, and he used it to help develop the attack that led to Acosta's tying goal.

But he was exposed on the third goal, unable to break up the Colombia counterattack off a U.S. set piece at the other end that led to the third Colombia goal -- a play you'd often see him make with regularity, as recently as last year in the Hexagonal.

Thursday's game was the 141st of Bradley's international career, tying him with Clint Dempsey for third on the all-time U.S list behind only Cobi Jones (164) and Landon Donovan (157). It won't be his last, but it is hard to imagine him overtaking Jones or Donovan.

3. Flank play suffers at both ends.

Like against Brazil in the Meadowlands a month ago, Antonee Robinson endured a nightmare on the defensive end at left back. Time and again, Kenny Saief and Robinson were unable to contain Colombia forays down its right side.

Robinson atoned himself with another cross into the area that set up Acosta for the first U.S. goal -- like his ball that led to Tyler Adams' winning goal against Mexico. But it was a rare move from the wings for the USA.

Right back DeAndre Yedlin was again quiet in attack, while in midfield Saief and Weah created little from the outside. With his work on the Wood goal, Weah again showed how dangerous he can be in the open field but was totally invisible in the first half from a set position on the wing.

25 comments about "USA-Colombia: Cafeteros expose wide gap in talent".
  1. Wooden Ships, October 12, 2018 at 11:06 a.m.

    To a man, Colombian players are just better. They grow up and develop more effectively. Some random observations: it appeared to me that Bradley had an ackward effect on the players (wasn’t needed), Yedlin is as good as he will ever be (athleticism is all he offers), Saief is a more sophisticated player than those he played with, Sargent already has more tools and off the ball movement of any (I mean any) of our forwards, Acosta’ touch and passing aren’t consistent enough (yet, if ever), I like the potential of Steffen and Robinson, Green can be effective centrally if we have strikers that know what their doing (need to start Sargent and Novakovich along side each other against Peru. Last night didn’t upset me, we are looking at what players can do moving forward. Having said that, don’t play Bradley, Yedlin and Wood or Guzan, we know what they bring. Start Horvath. 

  2. Fernando Morisson replied, October 12, 2018 at 1:10 p.m.

    "I've had some of those purple berries and have not gotten sick once"'

  3. Wooden Ships replied, October 12, 2018 at 2:33 p.m.

    Well done Fernando. You aren’t related to Jim are you? Man, we could reminisce big time.

  4. Fernando Morisson replied, October 13, 2018 at 11:17 a.m.

    No relation, no relation to Van either, big fan of both though

  5. Wooden Ships replied, October 13, 2018 at 10:37 p.m.

    Agreed, forgot Van. “Moon Dance”

  6. frank schoon, October 12, 2018 at 11:52 a.m.

    Saw only the 1st half, will watch second when the game is repeated tomorrow. What I saw of Robinson is that this is out of his league. He doesn't play position well, defensively speaking, that is why they go by him, time and again; and consider he is not known as a slow player , physically, but he is slow mentally, not able to read the game, and gets caught flatflooted one on one. If this  is the best leftback we have, then we've have some problems.
    Not to pick on Robinson, our whole defense doesn't impress me. Time and again, the defenders inside their own penalty area position themselves zonally, given the tricky Columbian players time and space to shoot at goal, just look at their first goal as an example.  That is the problem, and Robinson is a perfect example of a player brought up to play zonal defensive and lack the strong one on one  , man to man defense, when needed(especially in the penalty area) to stop a player.
    MB is a waste. Hugo Perez stated that MB would do be more effective having better players around him, but as far as I'm concerned if we did have better players we wouldn't need a MB, in the first place. MB passes have no effect on the tempo of the game, it is all one speed, slow. Everything he does, movement wise, is slow, furthermore his passes never or rarely beats an opponent. Everything he does is so predictable. The only thing that I can say that is positive is that he benignly brings a balance to the midfield for we have nothing but " Speedy Gonzaleses" as the other midfielders who ,when they get the ball, want to run with it; they haven't learned that ball movement is much faster than running with it.
    Bobby Wood is everything that represents what I'm American are good at...Run, Run, Run, Work hard, that's it. He was useless in the game for he never got the ball, which is not his fault, due "Speedy Gonzalezes, running around with the ball and making bad passes. Wood is not a creator, 
    but a worker. We NEED to begin to develop good skillful attacking players, strikers, a la Zlatan types who are good at taking on players , who don't need to use speed but saviness, ball skills to beat an opponent. Why hasn't the USSF ask the question why in the past 50 years have our strikers been basically been "piano carriers" , fighters ,runners, workers, instead of tricky, sly, quick technical ball handlers ? This should be the first stage the USSF Coaching School should begin to work on for if we don't produce a more sophisticated type of striker able to operate on a dime, then we'll remain at this level of soccer. 

  7. Wooden Ships replied, October 12, 2018 at 12:07 p.m.

    Well said Frank, I can’t add anything.

  8. Bob Ashpole replied, October 12, 2018 at 3:17 p.m.

    Frank, perhaps I watched a different game but I saw US players intentionally not passing the ball to a wide open Bradley in a better position. I saw lots of blind forced passes hoping something will come of it. Generally I saw extremely slow play on the ball, making the US attack at a snail's pace. Bradley was one of the few exceptions. The first half was actually painful for me to watch. I stopped watching and only watched the beginning of the second half after I saw reports that the US scored a goal. Turned out the US goals were completely against the run of play and extremely direct.

    What a huge contrast between the two teams. What a horrid game the US played. The US played like 11 individuals without a coach. I don't blame Bradley. No one should blame Bradley. Someone should explain to the other 10 players that it is a team sport, even if they are all more concerned with impressing people with their own play. Generally the team impressed, but it wasn't a good impression. Did they even practice before the match?

  9. Wooden Ships replied, October 12, 2018 at 4:51 p.m.

    Bob, it isn’t unusual to have divergent views of events. I saw players trying to string passes going forward, but too many times the pass was off, the first touch was off or players were static in receiving. With regard to Bradley, my eyes saw him usually to deep even with space in front, mostly playing square or back and deciding to sit. Maybe, some of the other players were wanting to link with someone that was thinking attack more than MB’s unwillingness to risk. I salute his US career, but this has been apparent, IMO, for awhile now. Reference was made to his calming effect, one could also describe it as sedative. Was the loss/game MB’s fault, of course not. But, if you think his presence on this roster is inspiring to our current roster and they’re glad he’s there, you’d be mistaken.

  10. frank schoon replied, October 12, 2018 at 5:58 p.m.

    Bob, Intentionally ?? I don't know about that, you might be right , maybe there is conspiracy going on, who knows. If you believe that it was intentional, perhaps it will come out later. Personally ,I didn't sense what you sensed. I only judged MB when he had the ball, not on why he didn't get the ball. This team of players who are a new lot to be looked at, I don't think, have been together long enough to even to think as a  group dynamic to sophisticately go after someone like MB ,for two reasons. One, there is no leader or hierarchy in the group because it's so new, and two ,they are not sophisticated enough to even try this. What I did notice is that MB rarely made a pass to the left side, flank, of the field when Robinson was wide open attempting a run down the flank, when MB had the ball he seemed to be more right side oriented. There was rarely an attack from the left flank.
    I don't know why MB concentrated more on the Right side of the field for flank attack from Yedlin who in no way was going to make attacking runs considering the danger the Columbian attack had on Yedlin's side.
    I'm in no way blaming MB for anything , i'm just described his style of play. To blame MB for the US loss would be highly unfair.  I would blame Earney Stewart, the USSF coaching school, before I would blame MB. Like I stated before, MB was a counterbalance to the "Speedie Gonzalezes" of the midfield. How can anyone be blamed for the US loss when as you state  Columbia was so much better. And furthermore we shouldn't be judging our team until we get a real coach, which is only the fair thing to do and this is why I'm only making individual judgements on players..

  11. Bob Ashpole replied, October 12, 2018 at 11:17 p.m.

    Frank, from watching the match you can't understand why Bradley rarely put the ball on the left and generally passed the ball to the right, as far from the left side as possible? I would have done the same thing (attack up the right side rather than the left). Our left side was heavily outmatched. "Porous" would be an understatement. They needed all the time they could get in transistions and pushing higher than the right side would have been an extremely risky shape given our inability to possess the ball. Losing possession on the right flank was much better than losing possession on the left flank. I don't know why you didn't see that.

  12. frank schoon replied, October 13, 2018 at 12:04 p.m.

    Bob, we might be stronger on the right side on paper or rather chalkboard but ,in reality, in this game we had no strong side, only on defense perhaps a little better when you compare Yedling to Richardson. And why didn't we have a strong side when we had the ball, well, the low percentage of our ball possession rate gives us the answer. Without ball possession our attack was useless, and that's why the players like Woods ,who rarely touched the ball, and our supposedly strong right side we depend upon was useless. So there goes your theory of a strong side. 
    A strong side implies also combinational ball ,interplay between players and good attacking qualities but due to low ball possession that whole aspect is out the window. 
    The lack of interplay between players forces us to look more at  passing into open spaces to play the ball into. So now MB tactically has to be more aware of open spaces instead open man. And one thing MB does not do is look for open spaces which runs counter to his style of play of mostly passing to the players feet, which is another reason why he slows the tempo of the game...the manner of how he passes.
    MB reliance on the right side is totally useless, he should have positioned himself in a manner so he could quickly shift field of play to the left side, pass into space for Richardson to run into.From what I can remember our first goal came from a cross from the left. By switching quikly the field of play would have the effect of spreading out the Columbians defensive line and open up space for Wood to breath.Realize both goals came from open runs into space, not nice combinational play. 
     But instead MB just layed back in his reclining chair and made meaningless passes to someone's feet nearby. To the Columbians , MB style of right side orientation(there left side) made it very predictable and easy to play against.
     

  13. frank schoon, October 12, 2018 at 12:09 p.m.

    I don't know if anyone noticed the 'TOUCH" the Columbian players have on the ball, especially James who can a pass in a tight, confined space over defenders, in the penalty area in the air to a teammate who is guarded in front and back. Similar to the touch  at how he scored that first goal. I don't mean first touch which the Columbians also have but they have a touch or a "feel" when they pass the ball that we don't have. They pass the ball with 'feeling", which is difficult to describe but it is like when you try to throw a unboiled egg without breaking which requires a feel a touch, a follow through that our players lack in passing.
    When you look at the Columbians, ball handling, their foot movement with the ball, their ability to transport the without needing hardly any space, therefore able to possess the ball and control the game. This characteristic is not even exhibited by our players who play in Europe. Our team is basically can be described as bunch of hard workers, obvious not talented ball handlers, which is really where our direction of soccer needs to go. Pulisic like Wood would rarely have touched the ball if he played in this.
    I do think Saief has possibilities but I don't know right now where I would place him on the field.

  14. frank schoon replied, October 12, 2018 at 12:15 p.m.

    Sorry , our direction needs to go away and more towards better ball handling sophistation

  15. Nick Gabris, October 12, 2018 at 12:23 p.m.

    Agree with your comments Frank! Bradley added nothing to the game. Wood does not have the technical ability needed for a #9, reminds me too much of Altidore, not good! There were a few bright spots by the younger players, just need more experience as a team to improve. Glad that their playing tougher competition needed for improvement.

  16. R2 Dad, October 12, 2018 at 2:23 p.m.

    Until US Soccer starts choosing players who can beat opponents on the dribble, we will forever flail. Incidentally, this ability is evident at a young age--it's not something you pick up after 14. And there are tons of these players around--it's like Moneyball in this country with scouts looking at a "good body", "potential" and "the ball explodes off his foot"--that kind of nonsense.
    "if he's a good dribbler, why doesn't he dribble good?"
    Can we authorize Hugo Perez to run our scouting program? Seriously, Hugo picks the players and our coaches just coach what they're given. That's how big clubs do it.

  17. Wooden Ships replied, October 12, 2018 at 2:43 p.m.

    R2, I still want him as coach, but I’d go for him identifying too. I’m afraid it is moot though, for if what you desire takes place, the vast majority of the the US soccer machine would be excluded. You nailed it, as Frank mentioned too, developing a feel for the ball starts much younger than the teen years and it doesn’t happen in typical US organized practices. We’ve been drilled to death.

  18. Bob Ashpole replied, October 12, 2018 at 10:02 p.m.

    R2 Dad, forwards need to beat opponents on the dribble, not backs or mids. Dribbling is tactically too slow compared to passing whenever you need penetration.

  19. R2 Dad replied, October 13, 2018 at 1:16 a.m.

    Bob, I don't see it that way. Our outside backs can't dribble anyone, and they're too slow with their passing. Being able to dribble someone opens up the spaces in midfield, keeps the defenders honest, and give the team options. Of course we need attackers like Pulisic to run at defenders, but all I saw vs Columbia were our outside backs sending long balls down channels and that's just hoping for a good bounce. Look at the ratings for our best outside backs: Yedlin (4) and Robinson (2). If they can't dribble anyone, they should at least be solid defenders and we're not getting that, either. Hats off to Columbia, 2 of those four goals were excellent.

  20. Bob Ashpole replied, October 13, 2018 at 5:34 a.m.

    We see the game differently. If you had said fullbacks need to beat opponents on the dribble because they overlap into a wing position sometimes, I would have agreed. Instead you say fullbacks need to be able to beat opponents on the dribble because they fail to break lines by passing.

    The key to successful buildup play is combination passing in order to get the ball to the best 1v1 players in a good position in the attacking third. Fullbacks sending long balls north-south along the touch doesn't work because it is terrible tactics. Even if the forward receives the ball, they are isolated and usually pinned against the touch line making it very difficult for the forward to maintain possession. Diagonal passes are tactically superior to north-south or east-west passes. In my opinion, that is a fundamental of the game.

  21. frank schoon replied, October 13, 2018 at 12:20 p.m.

    Bob, R2, you guys are both right, good points either way.  We do need outside backs to be able to dribble and take on players but only in the opponents third, before that he needs to be running into space down the flank, now why is that? In the old days Ajax always had outside backs who were former wingers, who just lacked that extra to be the starting winger. In this manner, the outside backs were great crossers, good one on one dribblers, all which added an extra attacking dimensions to the game. Barcelona employed Puyol, Danny Alves, Alba, all former wingers who ended up as attacking defenders. What we have so often today  are outside backs with no wing experience who when crossing a ball give it a whack...this is one the problems why we see lousy crosses.
    We need to have the USSF coaching academy suggest in our style of play to employ former attacking players as outside backs. It is so much easier to teach defense to an attacker than vice versa...

  22. Philip Carragher, October 12, 2018 at 5:59 p.m.

    One problem with the USMNT is that they're not fun to watch. I usually fast-forward through at least 30% of their games. And I love the game. I don't blame the players. They've had poor coaching/development. If we're hoping to make a quick turnaround in our system, I think it will be difficult without entertaining soccer; otherwise, we'll continually lose great (potentially) national team players to other, more entertaining US sports.

  23. frank schoon, October 13, 2018 at 12:22 p.m.

    Hey guys , Holland vs Germany today , check the channels...the Hispanic channels are carrying it....

  24. humble 1, October 15, 2018 at 12:32 a.m.

    Grant Wahl recently interviewed Tony Sanneh (27Sept) on his podcast.  Tony had a comment that struck a chord - about youth soccer set-up - paraphrasing 'the current envoronment has players moving too much - and does not force them to learn to become good teammates'.  This is what you saw and will continue to see, a bunch of players, but not a team.  Of course 18 y.o. American's just beginning their professional careers, with loads of 'potential' cannot be expected to play to the level of the seasoned pro's Columbia played.   That was clear before the linups were released.  If you have not - check out that podcast with Grant and Tony - worth a listen and some good insight on one of the challenges the next coach will have - and much more - Tony's doing some very interesting work up north.  Keep it going S.A.  Good stuff!   

  25. Bob Ashpole replied, October 15, 2018 at 6:57 p.m.

    I saw a group of U10s play SSGs at a NSCAA convention a few years ago with more skill and better positioning than some of the US players showed. 

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