If nothing else, Jurgen Klinsmann is a man of his word. The United States went out against Brazil and tried to play with possession. They tried to keep the ball and dictate things instead of putting nine or 10 men behind the ball at all times. Nobody in their right mind would call the U.S. passive. It was exactly the approach that Klinsmann promised when he took over as manager in August. It also resulted in a 4-1 loss.
After 90 minutes, the one thing that was abundantly clear was the one thing that everyone knew coming into the match -- Brazil is a lot better than the U.S.
The U.S. did have their moments. They poured the pressure on Brazil for a spell in the second half, forcing Rafael into a handful of good saves and rattling the bar once. The static and unsure attack that marred Klinsmann's first few months was gone. When the U.S. got the ball out from their own feet they attacked with purpose and confidence. They were active and assured. They were, at least in brief spurts, dangerous.
Those hopes do have to be tempered, though. With the exception of a few players, Brazil went with their U-23 team that they plan on sending to the Olympics. Their best midfielder hasn't been able to unseat Scott Parker at his club, and although no U.S. starting midfielder had fewer than 15 caps, that is what the entire Brazilian midfield combined for. They may have been wearing yellow and they may still be good, but they were not Brazil.
Despite playing a bunch of kids, Brazil were still heads and shoulders above the U.S. The team lacks the skill it needs to play in tight spaces and it showed. The U.S. players are still unclear about their roles, especially in the midfield, and can be outplayed by even the greenest of opposition, and it showed. Klinsmann has failed to adequately develop a young center back in the last nine months, and it showed.
"That match could have easily been 4-3" was a common refrain from U.S. fans after the match and they are right, but the match could have also easily been 7-1. The U.S. tried to play Brazil's game and fell woefully short.
But how much of the above is a surprise? What about the match at all was a surprise? Brazil is a better team than the U.S. Duh. The U.S. doesn't have the skill to work in tight spaces against good teams. Duh. The Americans' central defense is a mess. Duh. Draw any conclusion about the U.S. team after the match and what would your reaction have been before the match? Duh.
Until the matches start counting, it's tough to make any sweeping judgements about the team. But as the Brazilian kids proved on Wednesday, there is one thing that is clear about the U.S. -- they are very much a work in progress.
Michael Bradley- Bradley has been dubbed Il Generale by his Italian teammates at Chievo Verona and it is obvious why. That cultured and mature game that he showed against Scotland on Saturday was back against Brazil. He was back in passing lanes and despite some early giveaways, really came on late and influenced the U.S. attack even from a deeper role than he played in against Scotland. The gorgeous ball he played to set up Johnson, picking the right time to come forward, the right play and the skillful pass all in one.
With the way that Bradley is playing, there is no doubt that he's an automatic starter, but is it time to put him in the upper-echelon of U.S.players? Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard are obviously in that category, but if Landon Donovan is going to be there then Bradley has to be too. Before long, Bradley could be the first name on the team sheet.
Fabian Johnson- Remember when the U.S. was working on a more than a decade without a left back? It was Friday, but it looks like they have one now. Johnson was sterling on Wednesday, getting forward when he could and showing the skills you would expect from someone who used to play in the midfield while his improved positioning and tackling was also on display. There is no doubt who the top left back on the team is. Another match or two and that pesky left back question might be history.
Most encouraging for the U.S. is that Johnson is only going to get better. He is still very green as a defender, having just moved there permanently in January and his inexperience shows at times, but he is ready to take over the left back spot for the U.S. and for Hoffenheim. Give him a year playing the position for both club and country and look out.
Jurgen Klinsmann- The U.S. just got beat 4-1 and It could have been even worse. The loss came at the hands of an understrength team and the team has a lot of the same problems that it had nine months ago. Even so, what was the general review of Klinsmann? "Bravo!"
Losses, a nine-month refusal to acknowledge the perilous situation in central defense and a host of other problems cannot get U.S. fans to turn on their manager. Whether you chalk it up to his kept promise to attack, being a big name or good ol' hope, the shine is still very much on Klinsmann and he has a lot of rope left. For a manager overhauling a team, that's big.
Steve Cherundolo- Keep telling Cherundolo when he is too old because he clearly doesn't care. He will tell you when he is too old.
Oguchi Onyewu- Many U.S. fans are calling for Onyewu to never been called into the U.S. team again and you know what? They are not being completely ridiculous. The once-dominant center back has not been near the same since he tore his patellar tendon in October of 2009 and maybe it is time to stop hoping he will be once again. He was whistled for the penalty on Brazil's first goal (although that wasn't really his fault) and kept Alexandre Pato onside for Brazil's fourth goal. In between he was routinely late to step up when needed, couldn't turn and run when asked to and was an all-around disaster.
In Onyewu's defense, he was injured and played just three times for Sporting Lisbon since February 19 before joining up with the U.S. Twenty-eight minutes against Scotland on Saturday was hardly enough to get him fit and in form to play a team like Brazil. Klinsmann was basically hanging him out to dry, but this isn't a one match problem for Onyewu. He's working on three years without a string of decent matches for the U.S. Maybe it is time to pull the plug.
Out Of Position Players- One player played well, the other was awful and in both instances it was clear that they were woefully out of position. Herculez Gomez made his return to the U.S. starting lineup a good one with a goal and some other fine play. Nobody could say a bad word about Gomez's all-around active and influential play except for one thing -- he was out of position. Asked to play as a lone striker, Gomez couldn't do what is asked of a lone striker. He made his impact when several other players got forward and he could play more like a second forward or winger, which are his actual positions. Gomez showed why his absence from the national team was foolish, but he also showed just how good he could be if played in his correct position.
Maurice Edu was also out of position, but it didn't go nearly as well for him as it did Gomez. Not for the first time under Klinsmann, Edu was asked to play an advanced role in the midfield with instructions to close down the opposing midfielders. Like his other forays into an advanced role, Edu was dreadful, failing to cut out the time for the Brazilian midfielders and showing the kind of touch that usually keeps him deeper in the midfield. Edu is a defensive midfielder so let's stop pretending otherwise.
Jose Francisco Torres- Can Torres hack it against a high-level team? It's time to really ask this question because he was largely invisible against Brazil and it is not the first time that he was ineffective against a good team. When teams pressure and don't give Torres much time on the ball he has real problems. He isn't the least bit creative or the kind of passer that the U.S. wants him to be.
Torres is small and hardly puts in a tackle, nor is he particularly fast or quick. Torres makes his impact with his passing, but against good teams that much more a theoretical impact than real one.