Tuesday, September 8, 2015
It had been a mostly positive 2015 for the U.S. men's national team with signature wins over Germany and the Netherlands counterbalancing a tough loss to Jamaica in the Gold Cup semifinals. This obvious progress came to a screeching halt at least for one night though as Brazil came into Gillette Stadium and embarrassed the Americans 4-1 in a friendly that wasn't nearly that competitive. Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has to hope that the after-effects are short-lived since his team's next game is Oct. 10 vs. Mexico at the Rose Bowl to decide who gets the final spot in the 2017 Confederations Cup.
Tim Howard was on the bench all night, Clint Dempsey remained in Seattle to rest and Fabian Johnson continued to rehab from an injury and all of their collective absences added up. Granted, the U.S. could have fielded their best players of all-time and they still probably would have lost by a few goals. Brazil is no longer the powerhouse that they used to be (they haven't won a World Cup since 2002 which to them is a long slump) but they brought back the glory days for 90+ minutes in front of a partisan crowd that was mostly wearing yellow.
Hulk got the party started in the 9th minute after Willian's cross hit the post and the striker was able to crush the loose ball in the box past Brad Guzan. Still, after a rough start the U.S. started to gain some possession and find their way back into the game. Trailing only 1-0 at halftime gave the Americans some hope for a second half comeback. That is until early in the second half when their defense went down in flames. First, Neymar (who came on as a substitute to start the 2nd half) drew a clear penalty kick on hometown hero Geoff Cameron and converted it in the 51st minute for a 2-0 lead.
Two American players (Michael Orozco and Danny Williams) were issued yellow cards two minutes apart and then Rafinha scored a sweet goal (if you are a fan of Brazil) in the 64th minute (seconds after entering the game). Neymar topped it with his second goal three minutes later where he beat at least three U.S. defenders then poor Guzan. Williams salvaged the only shred of dignity for the U.S. with a golazo in garbage time-the 91st minute. He hit a shot from at least 25-30 yards out that cleanly went by Brazil's goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe. It's hard to believe that was only his second goal in a U.S. uniform because he clearly has a special ability to hit the ball.
A win against Mexico will erase most of it not all of the negativity stemming from this terrible performance. It's important to keep in mind that as ugly as this was, it really doesn't mean a whole lot (assuming of course that the U.S. shows up vs. El Tri). That is the weird world of international soccer for you where there are so many matches year-round with varying degrees of importance that are affected by a million different factors. It simply wasn't the U.S.' night while Brazil looked dominant, (checks calender) it's 2015 right? Oh well, see you in a month. PS beat Mexico!