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Analysis: USA 1-4 Brazil

First things first, let’s be real: Brazil were better than the U.S. last night. They scored four, two of which were very fine, and could have had more. Their first half pressure was relentless, and several of their players showed just how highly skilled they are.

And yet…

And yet, the first two goals Brazil scored were cheap, and the U.S. had its chances. Herculez Gomez, superb all night, scored one and could have scored another, Oguchi Onyewu put a header off the bar, and Brazil’s keeper, Rafael, made several excellent saves as the U.S. piled on some pressure of their own in the second half.

In short, the better team won, but the U.S. could have gotten more from the game.

The keys
  • 1st half pressure: Where the US was the aggressor against Scotland, here the roles were reversed. The early stages were cagey, but after the opening goal, Brazil dominated play. Oguchi Onyewu was being pulled out of position and looked poor on several occasions, and the midfield wasn’t able to hold the ball for any length of time.
  • Michael Bradley: Against Scotland, Maurice Edu formed the base of the midfield triangle. Against Brazil, Michael Bradley filled that role. Defensively, this probably helped the U.S., as Bradley is a calm and intelligent defender, but offensively, the U.S. missed his drive and vision. And wouldn’t you know, as soon as he got a touch of the ball in the offensive third, he split the defense with a through ball for Fabian Johnson, which Johnson crossed to Herculez Gomez for the U.S. goal.
  • U.S. pushing forward in the 2nd half: The U.S. stopped sitting back and absorbing Brazil’s pressure in the second half, and this improved their offense but left themselves open to the counter, which Brazil promptly exploited, scoring a fine counterattacking goal. Alexandre Pato should have scored another midway through the period, and when he did score to finish the game off late, it was directly following a spell of U.S. pressure on the Brazilian goal.
The goals
  • The penalty was harsh. I’ve seen them given elsewhere, but Onyewu’s arm wasn’t far out from his body, nor was he reaching for the ball. In fact, he was pulling it back. Though he calmed down, I think the PK was more about the referee’s nerves than anything else, as he was way too big of a factor in the early going.
  • Jermaine Jones wishes he could try that again. He allowed Thiago Silva to get away from him for Brazil’s second–no more, no less. If he’s on his man, that goal doesn’t happen.
  • As I mentioned above, the U.S. goal was the result of Michael Bradley getting on the ball in the attacking third. He needs to be further up the pitch than he was for much of last night’s game.
  • The other two goals were pretty simple: Brazil is good at soccer. If you give them space, they have the players to make the most of it.
Final thoughts
  • Herculez Gomez had a great game. He ran, ran, ran, and ran all game long, working so hard, took his goal well, and looked even better once Clint Dempsey got on the field. He’s done himself no harm, and may be in with a shout to keep the starting spot once Jozy Altidore returns.
  • Dempsey’s return was a welcome one, and he improved the team immediately. I expect good things from him and Landon Donovan (who before tonight had not played together under Juergen Klinsmann), and he looked comfortable playing on the left side of the attacking three or as a wide midfielder in a 4-4-2.
  • Speaking of 4-4-2, the U.S. switch to it late in the game was both understandable and effective. I think 4-3-3 is the preferred formation for this squad, which is stronger in midfield than at forward. But the extra striker definitely gave the team more directness and nearly paid dividends with a goal or two.
  • Marcelo is a little bit of a poor sport, wouldn’t you say? Clearly, the man has talent, but what is his problem? Neymar didn’t make me a fan either, with his petulant play after being fouled (hard, I admit) by Jermaine Jones.
  • The anthem was much improved. No finger-waving or pitch issues here, just a good-old-fashioned dude singing about freedom. I think that’s something we can all get behind.

It hurts to lose by three goals. The players in the U.S. locker room will be steaming that they let Brazil do that to them. But they must know that they were capable of getting more from the game, and that Brazil, even the mostly-Olympic-age squad that played last night, is one of the best teams in the world.

Canada, watch out on Sunday, because I think the U.S. will come out wanting to prove they are more 5-1 winners than 1-4 losers.


  1. James "4-3-3" Forever says:

    It was a good challenge for us. Clearly we need to work on developing players who can both handle the ball under pressure and also be smart enough to make good runs to alleviate that pressure.
    Sadly that stuff is really best done at a youth level, or good quality leagues. Which is why players like Dempsey, Holden and Altidore have improved so much since leaving the MLS. And personally I would throw Sacha on that list too, I don’t know why he doesnt get called up

  2. First, JK is right, in that we lost 2-1 if this match took place in a land with officials who don’t have their heads up their asses.

    Second, Marcelo is an absolute whiny little punk (which I suppose is a criterion for Real Madrid players).

    Third, is Michael Bradley our best player? Combine his league form with his form on int’l duty and he might be. Just outstanding lately.

    • Jeremy L. says:

      Yeah, Bradley’s been pretty great, and the thing is, he’s been good for the U.S., consistently, for a long time. Whether he got his first caps as a result of nepotism is by now immaterial. If he’s not our best player, he’s certainly top-three, and simply must start every meaningful game.

    • McMohansky says:

      I like him and all, I think he should be on the field, but lets be real. Bradley was completely at fault for Brazil’s third goal, which I think decided the match. I would agree he is better suited to an advanced, CAM role. He tackles well in open space but that goal illustrates bad communication and suspect defensive decision making.
      Edu, not Bradly, should be sitting in front of the back 4.

  3. Nice article, the only thing i’d like to criticize is, although one can argue the penalty call, one can’t deny that Neymar expertly scored it. Secondly, I wouldn’t consider the second goal cheap. It was a perfectly taken kick by Neymar, and Thiago Silva eluded defenders and headed that ball nicely into the net. I don’t consider that cheap.

    • Jeremy L. says:

      Good points. What I quibble with isn’t so much the execution of the goals, per se, simply that they were both preventable–the PK if the ref keeps his whistle in his pocket, and the corner if Jones stays with his marker. They didn’t happen because Brazil were superior, but because of other factors.

    • Rich Wilhelm says:

      FIFA & the USSF just finshed re-emphasizing to us Referees that time & distance & intentions are to be considered when struck by a shot ball for hand penalty. Ridiculous call by a minor league, not going to be trusted anytime soon w/ a BIG match in CONCACF. Cheap call. Awful to flavor the match w/ a handicap at start. ugh.

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