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Bob Bradley coached like a wimp and the US started the game playing like scared wimps. From the opening whistle the US played like a team that lacked togetherness, belief, and conviction – all traits that American teams and players are known for.
Relying on out of form, slow, uncoordinated, unmotivated DaMarcus Beasley and playing with one forward, the US surrendered two goals in the first 20 minutes to a Brazil team that expended the minimal amount of effort required to humiliate the Americans. I’ve expressed my disdain for one forward formations before and perhaps Jozy Altidore feels the same; he was unwilling to take on the Brazilians and showed no desire to battle for the ball when it was near him in a completely disinterested performance. The US only began to come to life when Beasley was replaced by forward Conor Casey at the half and the US went back to a more traditional 4-4-2. Unfortunately the good stretch of form only lasted for 15 minutes until the Swiss referee decided Sacha Kljestan’s rash challenge was bad enough to merit an ejection and thus crush any hope of a decent half of football. This same referee gifted the Brazilians their first chance when he called a phantom foul on Michael Bradley which resulted in a headed goal that was preventable. The best comment I have seen on refereeing was by a commenter named Jphubba on Steven Goff’s blog after the US/Italy match:
Enough about the referees, however. Any ball, like the set piece served on the first goal, that enters the six yard box in the air belongs to the goalkeeper. Tim Howard weakly stayed planted on his line and Jonathan Spector was beaten to the ball. Thinking about the second goal makes me rage. Donovan played a short corner to Beasley. The ball rolled under Beasley’s foot. He missed the simplest of traps and Brazil took the ball 90 yards in three passes without being touched. Jonathan Bornstein had an opportunity to foul early on the play, but other than that all the fault goes to Beasley.
In the second half the best forward movement came down the right side. Spector nutmegged the Brazilian right back, received a flick from Donovan, played the ball across to second half substitute Benny Feilhaber who rattled the cage with a powerful shot. It was unlucky for sure. Later in the half Conor Casey put a headed shot off a Donovan set piece off the crossbar as well.
Clint Dempsey brought out all his tricks but was again ineffective in producing anything more than a few oohs and aahs from the crowd. He needs to be banned from taking shots in dead ball situations as well. Also, whenever he lost possession he fell and since he is not Brazilian or Italian he doesn’t get phantom fouls called for him.
Donovan and Spector were once again bright spots for the US. Donovan gave up possession too easily a few times in the first half but eventually found his way. His work rate was excellent and his service much improved. Aside from the first goal Spector was excellent defending and one of the few Americans able to maintain possession. Michael Bradley was solid, not spectacular. He was playing for two because Kljestan was nowhere to be found. The occasion proved too big for him. Central defenders Oguchi Onyewu and Jay DeMerit also put in solid performances. None of the three goals came from the middle which speaks well for them and Bradley. The third goal was an unfortunate deflection off of a sliding Bornstein. Bornstein looks naive in certain situations, but is a player who could grow into the position. He doesn’t shy away from the challenges which is more than can be said for most. Second half substitutes Casey and Feilhaber both hit the crossbar and both played with more conviction than those they replaced (Beasley and Altidore). Feilhaber’s tendency to lose the ball in difficult positions still make him somewhat of a liability though his passing is more incisive than the other US central midfielders. Casey is decent cover for Brian Ching, but he is not the forward we want to be relying on in big moments.
With Egypt’s win over italy this afternoon it leaves everything to play for Sunday. Not for the US though. Its -5 goal differential leaves it virtually eliminated. The best thing I can hope for is that Bob Bradley will give a chance to lesser used players like Freddy Adu, Jose Torres, and Charlie Davies and that those players make a case for themselves so we don’t have to suffer through watching Beasley in any more important matches.