USA Men’s National Team vs. Brazil: The Glass is Half…

I haven’t visited the half-full vs. half-empty review style in a while, so before I hit the web, Twitter, and fifteen different views of player ratings which will inevitably color my perspective, let’s dust it off.

To level set though, let’s remind ourselves that for all intents and purposes, the USA vs. Brazil game was a meaningless friendly.  It was clear that we’d hear lots of Bob Bradley rumor mongering, see many substitutions and get a glimpse of some new faces on either side.

My only hope all day was for it to be a good game.  For it to be fun.  For us to see something a bit new.   And before the we fill or empty our glass here in our traditional style, let’s examine why I left this comprehensive loss a little more at ease than I should have.

The primary reason: Brazil is back.  While it is hard to imagine it being so clear after only one game, it does seem like the positive, exciting, energetic and yes, happy, Brazilian team might be making a comeback.  Mr. Dunga, thanks for nothing.

The USA will always be my team, but  Brazil at their best should be everyone’s team (unless maybe you’re Argentine).  I hate for the USA to lose, but I’d rather see a fast moving, positive playing Brazilian team beat us three times over than re-watch a 0-5 result against Mexico in the Gold Cup Final.  And I don’t care if it was a “B Team” or an “F Team.”  Sorry.

Brazilian skill on the ball is always superb, but what kept my attention all game was the unbelievable off the ball movement.   Between brazen one-touch keep away games, instantaneous changes of pace and sly off the ball runs, I can almost understand the ball watching the USA displayed far too frequently.  Almost.

With that, let’s get back to reality…

Glass Half Full View

  • The USA didn’t give up an early goal.  Yes, this half-full sentiment is really the absence of a negative.  However, USA fans have grown so accustomed to being behind after fifteen minutes, it was a noteworthy and welcome change.  In fact, for about the first 20 minutes, the USA played very well.
  • Tim Howard and Brad Guzan both looked up to the task.  This isn’t a surprise, but when you are so thoroughly outplayed for 70 minutes or so, you take out whatever positives you can.
  • The USA got to test out some new talent.  Omar Gonzalez, welcome to the fire.  You will be invited back for more.  It’s pretty obvious that Gonzalez has a future with the USA, and since Brazil ran right through our midfield on a number of occasions, he got a fast and furious introduction to international defending.   Alejandro Bedoya wasn’t fully convincing, but if you need potential future US National Team players to get experience, this was the kind of game to do it in.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
  • 77,000 fans created what looked like a great atmosphere in the new Meadowlands stadium.  Let’s say that again… 77,000 fans.  We’ve been spoiled by recent crowd sizes in the USA for games lately, but let’s not forget how much has changed in 15 years.

Glass Half Empty View

  • The USA was outclassed by an extremely young Brazilian side.  Irrespective of how good the Brazilian team played, the USA team should have made it much, much harder on them.  There’s work to be done as the cycle starts anew.
  • Where will the USA find some offense?  Yes, it’s clear there are issues at forward.  We keep hearing how confident Edson Buddle is from his MLS success – but why does he never look to be playing with confidence when with the USA?  Jozy Altidore is still raw.  Herculez Gomez is still breaking through with the USA.   Aside from moving Clint Dempsey and/or Landon Donovan up top, the USA’s finishing capabilities are not going to scare many opposing defenses.
  • However, our midfield sure isn’t offering our forwards much in the way of creative support.  One reason Landon Donovan can be successful is that he can check back, and use pace to create opportunities out of midfield – and not rely on too much creativity from around him.  Otherwise, our forwards wait for great service, which aside from occasional early first-time crosses from wide, rarely comes.
  • Michael Bradley and Maurice Edu are both good players but are too similar and – especially today – got caught being too casual with their passing and possession.   What is just as troubling is with two reasonably defensive-minded midfielders in the center of the field, you would expect the USA to have much more “bite” that we showed today.  Brazil passed through the US midfield far too easily, far too often.  This is undoubtedly why Bob Bradley was hoping to get Jermaine Jones into the mix, and maybe someday he will.  The USA’s only other real option for “bite” in the midfield is Ricardo Clark, and while his career is not done with the USA I imagine, Bob Bradley would have been a very brave man to call him into this camp.

And with that, the USA must move forward.  It’s dance toward mainstream relevance might have tripped up tonight as casual fans expected the same drama and even games as they saw in South Africa.

The Brazilians, however, appear to be ready to Samba once again.

And that’s something.