If it seems like many soccer writers in this country have been recycling the same game recaps, features and columns about the US Men’s National Team recently, your eyes are not deceiving you. After another harrowing performance against a team of pedigree in the international game, there are more questions than answers going into one of the most important games in recent US Soccer history.
Many of these stories end up echoing similar themes and story arcs: Jurgen Klinsmann trots out a lineup where players with established strengths are put in positions where they cannot succeed (i.e. “testing their limits”), and it ends up backfiring for the German, in many cases catastrophically. Against Brazil, putting Alejandro Bedoya and Jermaine Jones together again in central midfield was a disaster. It didn’t work against Peru, but Ricardo Gareca’s men didn’t do almost anything with the ball to punish the broken midfield. Tonight however, Klinsmann’s experiment backfired so badly that Bedoya was substituted in the 36th minute.
Brazil was taking the US to the cleaners, and by the 60th minute the game was over and the US was humiliated. For argument’s sake, the back four seen tonight will in no way be anywhere near the back four that plays Mexico in October due to injuries and form over the next month. Still, there are no excuses for the basic errors that have cropped up again. The US conceded possession in midfield, let Brazil run the show with and without Danny Williams in the match, and it never looked like the US ever stuck even a toe in the door of the match.
Under Jurgen Klinsmann, the US has never been as bad as performances like this would indicate, nor have they been as good as wins in Italy, Mexico, Holland and Germany have indicated. The truth lies somewhere in the middle; a large grey area that has been left untapped and unexplored. Klinsmann has brought the pressure upon himself, proudly proclaiming that the team is making progress and needs to test itself against world powers, only to, in many instances, end up with egg on their face when it matters the most. Starting Geoff Cameron at fullback when he’s comfortable playing centerback at Stoke, then saying “we have other centerbacks we believe in” doesn’t help his case, among the host of other examples in the recent past.
He is also the manager that put the utmost of importance on qualifying for the Confederations Cup to earn that big match experience, as well as seeing success at youth level. The first 13 days of October will tell the soccer public plenty about the state of the game in this country. It is a crossroads, almost as it was the last time the US played Mexico at the Rose Bowl. But Klinsmann has no one to blame but himself for the pressure he’s now facing, although taking recent history into account, he probably will say everything is fine… just discount set pieces.