As I’m about to board my plane here on an early Chicago morning, here are my day after thoughts about yesterday’s 4-2 US defeat at the hands of Brazil:
Our effort yesterday deserved an A+ grade, and I have to say this is the first time since our veteran leadership trio of Reyna, Pope and McBride retired from the national team that we have played with confidence versus a superior opponent. (Even against Mexico quite honestly.) However, the mistakes at the back will continue to haunt the US. As I have said on the Major League Soccer Talk podcast, this is the worst US backline since the early period of Bora Milutinovic’s reign around 1991 or 1992. The fine attacking flair we showed and the goal Dempsey scored which was a thing of beauty continue to be overshadowed by giving away free kicks in bad spots, committing bad fouls against the run of play, allowing breakaways on the counter attack and poor positioning by the center backs. Oguchi Onyewu’s own goal was caused by our guys being out of position on a counter attack where everyone had pushed up and was chasing back forcing Tim Howard to come off his line and make a great save……Onyewu and Carlos Bocanegra clearly out of position were chasing back and Gooch got unlucky with the touch, but still he was out of position scrambling to get back in position.
After we leveled the game at 2-2 and the crowd is going crazy, Brazil takes the restart and draws a foul right away. It may have been a poor call but again Bocanegra was too busy celebrating and not busy getting into the right position.
Clearly, the US has an attacking flair particularly pushing the ball down the flanks that gives us a quality many teams in world football lack. But we will continue to lose games 4-2, 4-3 even 5-4 or 6-5 if our backline continues to be so poor, and so prone to fatal breakdowns at the wrong moment. Any quality team in the world can find countless goal scoring opportunities to bury the US as long as we continue to have organization and spacing problems at the back. These matches are certainly more exciting to watch and beat the 1-0 type losses we used to play versus Brazil from an entertainment standpoint, but when we slowed down the game and positioned ourselves well and only counter attacked instead of throwing guys forward recklessly at times we could have a shot to beat Brazil as happened in the game in 1998 when we beat them 1-0 thanks to Preki’s wonder goal even though they dominated play. Yesterday, they did not dominate play by any stretch but they outclassed us because when we attacked their defenders knew their responsibilities and covered for one another. I don’t know how much more proof Bradley needs that Bocanegra and Onyewu despite their individual attributes cannot play together. Both are too slow and have a bad positioning sense. If we are going to continue to play this up tempo attacking style Bradley seems to like which emphasizes flank play including getting our outside backs forward, we’d better figure things out at in the center back position otherwise these next few years will be among the worst we have had since we re-emerged on the world scene with our qualification for Italia 90.