A year or so from now, if the United States National Team remains alive and well in the 2010 World Cup, they might look back on today’s embarrassing second half collapse against Brazil and remember it was then, June 28, 2009, when they got the kick in the ass they needed.
Wednesday, the U.S. “shocked the world” with a win over Spain to advance to the Finals of the Confederation’s Cup in South America. Today, they saw exactly what happens when a better team gets the bit between their teeth — and they saw, again, while they are not yet in Brazil’s class, as the Americans dropped a 3-2 decision after holding a 2-0 halftime lead.
And, to be honest, 3-2 wasn’t the justified final result.
The scoreboard read 3-2 at the end, but it wasn’t that close. Not remotely.
Two clinical finishes in the first half by Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan staked the U.S. to an unthinkable 2-0 advantage, but it was the play of goalkeeper Tim Howard in the opening 45 minutes that was the real story of the game. Howard rejected three close-range chances and was positioned superbly on two dangerous shots from the top of the box to hold the Brazilian’s scoreless at the intermission.
Then, the second half came around. And the Brazilians, as they are known to do, rose to the occasion. And the Americans simply caved in.
Barely a minute had expired in the second half when Luis Fabiano connected on a left-footed shot. How he got the ball at the top of the box was a prime example of why the U.S. isn’t yet ready for prime time. He stationed himself with his back to the goal and then merely collected a pass, bumped it over to his right and turned to unleash a left-footed shot past Howard, who, frankly, would probably admit that was one he COULD have had. But how on earth did Fabiano get the ball there, uncontested? Blame it on Jay DeMerit, who simply gave him the 3 yards of space necessary to complete the turn and shoot routine for Brazil’s first goal. DeMerit should know better. And play better.
And that was the start of the onslaught.
The Americans immediately retreated and played the final 44 minutes on their heels.
Benny Feilhaber had a decent scoring chance in the 55th minute but played the ball too closely to the end-line and lost his angle. The U.S. wouldn’t have an another opportunity to score until the 88th minute.
At the 73 minute mark, Fabiano struck again, this time scoring on a close-range header after Carlos Bocanegra lost his man in the box and the ball popped off the crossbar right to Fabiano, who buzzed it in to tie the score at 2-2. Bocanegra’s miscue in the box was inexcusable. And that’s how 2-0 leads get erased, particulary when you’re playing the smartest team in the world.
I forgot to mention that Kaka had actually tied the game for Brazil at the 60-minute mark but the refs didn’t rule the ball had crossed the line. It had. Oh well.
Brazil held the ball for another 20 minutes until Lucio connected on another header at the 83-minute mark. Dempsey made his typical defensive gaffe, getting outjumped by Lucio in the box. Howard – I thought – should have come off his line for that one, particularly when a right footed player is sweeping the corner kick into the middle of the box. That goal put Brazil up 3-2. And that was that.
Oguchi Onyewu had a glorious chance in the game’s final minutes, but his header from 10 yards out whisked over the crossbar. And there, plain for all to see, was the big difference in the two teams. When given the chance to put the nail in the U.S. coffin, the Brazilian’s complied. When the U.S. found themselves with a similar chance five minutes later, they failed.
All the good from the Spain game was primarily washed away with 45 minutes of men-against-the-boys soccer in the second half of today’s game against Brazil. A less-than-intuitive fan might say, “it was just one of those things…they got a couple of goals and then it was anyone’s game.” Wrong. That was a 45-minute half of soccer that gave Coach Bob Bradley and everyone involved in the U.S. National Team a glaring example of what’s wrong with our country’s team.
No one created a chance in the 2nd half. Jozy Altidore was in witness protection most of the game — essentially unseen until Bradley mercifully ended his effort (of sorts) in the 74th minute. Donovan ran a lot in the second half, but couldn’t get the ball from the other team. The goal at the 46 minute mark wrecked the U.S. game-plan. They weren’t able to establish any kind of flow to their attack and with Brazil coming at them in waves, it was kick-and-run for most of the second half, as the U.S. hoped for either a penalty kick to go their way or Howard to stand on his head. Neither happened.
On the plus side, Charlie Davies was effective in the first half, complimenting Donovan’s great field-length run with a nice crossing pass for the 2nd U.S. goal. Feilhaber continues to impress with his energy and work rate, but could be one of those jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none kind of players — no REAL position to play. Jonathan Spector was again decent in the defensive end and looks to be the odds-on favorite to play against Mexico on August 12 — a heady task for a player still getting his feet wet in the international game.
With six weeks to prepare for the Mexico World Cup Qualifying game, Bob Bradley has to take a careful look at the 2nd half of today’s game and use it for improvement. A year from now, today’s game might be one of the reasons why the Americans are still alive in the World Cup. The question is, which players from today’s game will be on next year’s team?