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USMNT must rectify second half fadeouts


Every Nicklas Bendtner joke aside (and there are a cavalcade of them to be made), it’s another game for the United States that has brought up more questions than answers. It’s still early in a World Cup cycle, and the USMNT is now consistently playing difficult European away games, but when trends continue to play themselves out in every match, it’s hard not to worry.

The team has conceded seven goals in the 80th minute or later in their last seven games, and they’ve conceded 14 overall in second halves since the World Cup. Whether it’s fitness – which has been closely examined recently – tactics, too many substitutions and changes or even rushes of blood to the head, this is a frightening trend. It’s understandable that there will be mix-ups at the back when most of the players have not had any game time together, but the constant rattling of the XI isn’t doing anyone any favors. It caused multiple calamities against Denmark, and most all of they were preventable.

Jurgen Klinsmann has often talked about getting players out of their comfort zones and playing a different style away, which is wonderful on paper, but on the pitch is making life only more difficult for the USMNT. Playing a 4-4-2 with no defensive midfielder to break up the Danish passing chains didn’t help. These problems were only amplified with players like Fabian Johnson having an uncharacteristic off day, and Gyasi Zardes looking sadly out of his depth. Substitutions once again changed the flow of the match for both sides, but the trends did not. Denmark had the lion’s share of possession and the best chances, and the U.S scoring two goals felt incredibly fortunate by the matches’ end.

This is not the best squad Klinsmann can put together for sure. It is likely nowhere near the squad that will take the field in the Gold Cup in July. But even if they had stolen a result against Denmark, it would have felt wholly undeserved. Denmark’s defense was poor, but it was never consistently tested enough outside of the two chances converted to make a difference. With the U.S outnumbered in midfield, there was never a chance to consistently build up attacks without becoming outnumbered followed by giving the ball away cheaply in dangerous areas. Denmark scored three, but it easily could have been more.

Then there is the issue of second half and late goals shipped. There could be any number of explanations for this, but whether you believe it’s a fitness issue, or an understanding issue, it’s an issue, period. As time has progressed, the issues haven’t been fixed; in fact they’ve gotten worse. Playing for incredibly long stretches without the ball and having to run around to win possession back isn’t doing the team any favors. When you’re regularly conceding 60% of possession to the opposition, there’s no doubt that the players will lose focus and energy and tire quickly.

Klinsmann said “overall it was an even game”, but it sure didn’t feel like that. Not when the U.S can’t seem to put a chain of passes together and get any kind of attacking rhythm going. It’s great to see the USMNT almost pulling out results when they don’t deserve them, but at some point the goals will dry up, and the US will be left embarrassed not only on the pitch but the scoresheet.

Bobby Warshaw tweeted during the match that, “we could all cut and paste the same tweets from one USMNT game to the next.” Friendlies mean comparatively little, but they are good indicators of the future. And if this game was any indicator of the future, it might foretell more of the same in Zurich on Tuesday.


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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Javier

    March 26, 2015 at 1:52 am

    I’m all for experimentation this far away from the next World Cup but to me Jürgen has absolutely no idea who is going to feature in the Gold Cup this summer.

    The late game goals may be a fluke but the twelve game sample size seems large enough. Klinsmann continues to feature a variety of different players and that uncertainty is not good in creating chemistry and cohesion. Who are the best American CBs? Who knows as Cameron, Brooks, Orozco, Besler, Gonzales, Birnbaum, Ream, Alvarado, and Jermaine Jones are apparently all candidates. Multiple the uncertainty with the fullbacks as you have Shea, Garza, Ream at LB and Chandler, Yedlin, Johnson at RB.

    Which other national teams play musical chairs with these many different defensive options? Jürgen needs to narrow the candidates down and focus on communication, cohesion, and develop a leader in defense.

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