USMNT

Preview: Switzerland v USMNT

Following another disappointing late collapse versus Denmark, the U.S. Men take on fellow World Cup veterans Switzerland on Tuesday at noon Eastern. The team’s worrying new habit of giving up late goals and leads will be foremost in coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s mind as he prepares the squad for what will be stern test.

Groundhog’s Day

Klinsmann’s decision not to bring Landon Donovan to the World Cup seemed baffling for a variety of reasons, and injected a strain of uneasiness into the U.S. support at a time when Klinsmann and the U.S. were riding high. Escaping the group of death, then falling valiantly to Belgium, was deemed by most to make for a successful tournament, though, and regained the coach some of the goodwill he may have lost.

But the World Cup feels ever longer ago, and the record since the summer has been poor. What’s more, the team, in a variety of iterations and personnel combinations, has shown a worrying propensity for giving up the lead late in games. The U.S. has repeatedly taken the lead in the first half, only to give it away in the second period. There are many reasons why this might be, but when something happens enough times, regardless of the particular circumstances in the games, questions must be asked.

When does a series of coincidences become a trend? Who’s to blame—the players? The coach? And when do the calls for change enter the mainstream from the fringe?

Champagne football this ain’t

Perhaps even more frustrating for fans of the U.S. is the lack of growth in the style of soccer played. Pragmatism has its place. The U.S. can’t often hang with the truly elite ball-playing teams of the world, and so must rely on its more functional skills from time to time, especially when the games truly matter. But Klinsmann was hired to initiate a paradigm shift, not simply in results, but in style of play, and that shift has yet to materialize.

Surely, such a major transition takes time. The change will be best measured in generations of players and World Cup cycles, plural, rather than in the short four years Klinsmann has had so far. But what’s troubling is that the team hardly looks as if it’s trying to play pretty, let alone failing. Because beautiful failure would be a kind of victory. Scoring beautiful goals, bossing possession, and passing the ball around the opposition but losing would earn Klinsmann lots of goodwill. Yet this team looks like it doesn’t know what it should be doing at all. It’s not even playing direct in a coherent way. The recent goals have all been one-offs or down to individual talents, not the result of any clear plan.

We’ve heard all the rhetoric about building a better future. When will we see this team performing in the way Klinsmann’s words have promised?

Switzerland

The Swiss had an up-and-down World Cup, beating Ecuador and Honduras, but losing 5–3 to France. However, it took extra time for finalists Argentina to beat them in the Round of 16. and with players like Stephan Lichtsteiner, Gokhan Inler, Valon Behrami, and, most of all, Xherdan Shaqiri, they are fearsome. The U.S. has never beaten the Swiss, in seven attempts, but has also only played against them once since 1994, a 1–0 loss in 2007.

The Swiss offense revolves primarily around the attacking of the fullbacks and the creativity and finishing of Shaqiri. While the U.S. should match up well athletically, the defense from out wide was quite poor against Denmark, and will need to improve to avoid a succession of dangerous crosses from Lichtsteiner.

That said, the Swiss don’t have a No. 10–No. 9 connection like Christian Eriksen and Nicklas Bendtner, so the dinked ball over the top, which tore the U.S. apart repeatedly, should be less of a concern.

Predictions

At this point, it’s difficult to make positive predictions about the U.S. Until the team proves it can put together 90 minutes of positive play, rather than just the initial 45, it will have a hard time beating anyone of substance. And the Swiss are certainly that. 2–0 to Switzerland.

4 Comments

  1. “When will we see this team performing in the way Klinsmann’s words have promised?” When the coach after Klinsmann comes in. Hopefully. Klinsmann is great at recruiting, and seeing talent. What he is not great at is coaching, teaching, developing, and organizing that talent. He’s not a tactician. And that shows.

  2. The Swiss play well. Agree with your assessment completely. Funny to watch the USMNT and The Philadelphia Union these days- they are mirror images of one another it seems.

    • except that the USMNT can score. Our forwards fall over the ball, hesitate too long, overcook crosses, and can not even get shots off.

  3. If the Union want a lesson on counter-ball………I hope they watch the Swiss today. Except, they are playing the MNT……….which means they may be on the front foot for a majority of the match. Shaqiri is nasty good! I worry about him just dropping between the levels and tooling people at will. I’m looking forward to the Dutch and Spanish…..something pleasing to the eye after JK’s latest experiment…

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