Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Switzerland 1-1 USA: Altidore's mouth costs USA the win

Overall, this was a much better performance from the USMNT than we saw last week in Denmark. The defense was more stable, the midfield turned the ball over less, and luck didn't seem to be much of a factor. All this was true until Jozy Altidore experienced a bit of oral diarrhea towards the referee.

The first half looked rather familiar. The USA spent much of the time defending, but Switzerland never exactly threatened to score. Counters were the way the Stars and Stripes attacked, and they were rewarded eventually.

The USA goal came just before the halftime whistle when Brek Shea took a glorious free kick and deposited it into the top corner of the Swiss goal. It was the first free kick goal for the USMNT in almost two years.

In the 67th minute, Altidore committed an obvious foul at the far touchline. He was about to be shown a yellow when he looked straight at the ref and delivered the magic words, earning a straight red in the process.

Once the USA was down to ten men, the Swiss finally looked like scoring. And while they only scored once, they were unlucky to have not scored another. The chance they should have buried came as the clock struck 76 minutes. Xherdan Shaqiri took a short corner, something the Swiss oddly specialize in, which led to a cross across the face of goal. Pajtim Kasami was the recipient of the pass less than three yards from the goal. Fortunately, the header popped off the top of his noggin and well over the crossbar.

Switzerland scored three minutes later on another short corner. This time a low cross found the feet of Valentin Shocker to level the score.

The threat didn't exactly end there, but there also weren't any chances that really should have gone in. The USA defense was still on its heels, however, and it all stemmed from only having ten men on the pitch.

Jurgen Klinsmann lined his forces up in his familiar 4-1-2-1-2 midfield diamond formation. The back four of Brek Shea, John Brooks, Michael Orozoco, and Timmy Chandler was unchanged from the side that faced Denmark last week, Daniel Williams was in the holding midfield role, Alejandro Bedoya and Alfredo Morales were  central, and Michael Bradley in the attacking spot. Gyasi Zardes and Jozy Altidore were up front.

This was less of a "mad scientist" formation than Klinsmann has used recently, but it was still far from ideal. The back four was still below what you expect and I would like to see less of an offensive burden placed on Bradley, but other than that I have no complaints. The side actually played quite well, at least until Altidore ran his mouth.

As I mentioned above, the Swiss didn't look to threatening until the USA had fewer than 11 men on the pitch. Altidore's absence meant one fewer defender to guard against the Swiss and their ability to swing the ball into the box. Had Jozy stayed on, he could have been taken off for an additional defender which could have shored up that box defense and not allowed a goal to come through.

If you'd have told me the USA would draw with Switzerland before the opening kick off, I probably would have been satisfied., If Jozy hadn't been sent off for stupidity I would have been satisfied seeing this end 1-1. His sending off was entirely preventable. Jozy should know not to run his mouth at the ref, he should be able to keep himself in check, knowing that the best chance his team has to win is with everyone out there.

For that reason alone, I am not happy with the result. The team looked entirely different after the red card was shown, a red card that never should have happened.

There were positives, however. The Orozco-Brooks defense was a lot better, although the did allow too muchspace for crossing towards the end of the match. There weren't the glaring blunders in the back that led to the Nicklas Bendtner hat trick last week. The midfield was better at retaining possession, and even the forwards had a strong match before Altidore hit the showers early.

The minor outrage that fans showed towards Jurgen Klinsmann shouldn't really happen again after this one, so that's good. His tactics were a little more familiar and they worked, for the most part.

Next up for the USA is the final round of tune ups leading to the Gold Cup this summer. These won't be easy at all, however, as Germany, Netherlands, and Mexico are all high level opponents that will test this team even more than we have already seen.

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