Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Denmark 3-2 USA: Faulty Defense Brings Down USMNT

The USA was in the lead twice, but failed to hold each time and ended up on the wrong end of an international friendly in Denmark.

The story of the night was shady defending leading to a Nicklas Bendtner hat trick. For a USA team looking to revamp it's back four, today was a step in the wrong direction. Michael Orozco and John Brooks were the center backs in charge of keeping Christen Eriksen and Bendtner at bay. At no point did those guys look to be on the same page, especially on all three of Bendtner's tallies.
On the other side of the pitch, the USA attack was good at creating opportunities out of nothing at all, as exemplified on their first goal of the game. A particularly non-threatening long ball came in to Jozy Altidore, who was in a rather non-threatening position. Altidore collected the ball perfectly and roofed a shot inside the far post to give the USA a 1-0 lead.

The first Denmark goal came when they created a nice string of passes down near the end line that drew Brooks and Chandler towards the left side of Nick Rimando's goal. Orozco correctly drifted over to cover the Danish attack from the left, however Brooks also allowed himself to wander away, leaving Bendtner wide open for the tap in.

The USA took the lead on a superb ball in from Michael Bradley, followed by a perfect lay off from Altidore to Aron Johannsson. The Iceman buried the shot perfectly to make it 2-1 to the US.
The second Danish goal was very much the same story as the first. Denmark was spearheading an attack down the right flank, the cross came in, Timmy Chandler got a head on it, but not strongly enough and it fell to Bendtner who, again, was lost by Brooks.

To complete the hat trick, the USA back like lost track of Bendtner on a break, allowed him behind the line where he smashed the easy goal.

USA had a chance to equalize with less than a minute left in the three minutes of stoppage time. John Brooks was able to head a free kick from Brek Shea towards the goal, but it sailed wide.

There were many obstacles that the USA had to overcome right from the start here, but none of them make good excuses. Clint Dempsey injured himself in training so he was unavailable, but the attacking depth for the USA should be able to overcome his absence. For the most part they did just that. Michael Bradley, while not taking up the true number 10 like Dempsey, did well to facilitate the attack. Aron Johannsson picked up from what Bradley couldn't do by being the secondary strike option the Dempsey will sometimes play.

The problem lay with the defense alone. Orozco and Brooks are clearly not the center back pair for this team in the future. They are going to face much more prolific attacks than the Christen Eriksen/Nicklas Bendtner squad they faced today, and they will need to improve communication between them in order to succeed.

Thankfully, it is likely we won't see these two together in many competitive matches. Jermaine Jones has been playing center back at the international level since the conclusion of the World Cup, and he is out injured at the moment. Omar Gonzalez is also better than the two today as well, so come Gold Cup time, he should be in the team as well.

Of equal concern is the team's inability to finish games. They have conceded 10 goals after the 70th minute in their last 14 matches. This is not a good way to go about the end of games. Conceding a late goal almost cost them against Ghana in the World Cup. It did cost theme in the World Cup against Belgium. A team can't win consistently if there is the constant feat of conceding a tying or losing goal late in games. Today was just the latest example of it.

Today's result was disappointing, but it is far from the end for the Jurgen Klinsmann and the USMNT. As with every unfortunate defeat, there is a cry to fire the manager and those cries are always unfounded. It seems that people have forgotten the unexpected World Cup run this summer in Brazil and the ambitious goals for the squad that followed this summer in Brazil. People don't seem to realize the time it takes to build a national team. It can't be done in a series of friendlies that, let's face it, don't really matter in the long run.

Klinsmann's team has disappointed recently against teams they really should beat, but let's wait until they have played in some competitive matches this summer before calling for the boss's head.
At the very least, let's see how they do agaisnt Switzerland, Mexico, Netherlands, and Germany leading up to the Gold Cup. These will be large tests of where this team stands. They will probably lose two, three, or maybe even all of these friendlies. If they play like crap and get run over in all of these friendlies, then lay an egg in the Gold Cup, then we can talk about canning Kilnsmann.
For now, let's just relax and let the man do his job.

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