Preview: USMNT v Brazil

Photo: Earl Gardner

Friday’s victory over Peru did little to inspire confidence that the U.S. Men’s National Team is ready to face a foe of the caliber of Brazil. With no Michael Bradley or Clint Dempsey in the offensive engine room, the U.S. attack, already searching for creativity, found inspiration hard to come by.

Bradley returns for this game, though Dempsey does not, and Bradley’s relentless driving energy, allied with Jozy Altidore’s finishing (he scored two versus Peru, his first since March 25), might be enough to get the U.S. on the board. But keeping Neymar and Co. out is the bigger challenge.

Who scores the goals?

In addition to Bradley, goalkeeper Sean Johnson and forward Jordan Morris join the team. Matt Besler and William Yarbrough have been released back to their clubs. The arrival of Morris, in particular, is interesting, as coach Jurgen Klinsmann recently said that the lack of consistent goalscorers behind Dempsey and Altidore is the team’s biggest worry going forward.

There’s certainly merit to that. Since Landon Donovan’s retirement, the burden has fallen heavily on Dempsey and Altidore. Dempsey in particular has stepped up to the challenge, and in the biggest games, but at 32 years old, his time as a primary contributor is inevitably coming to a close (slowly, we hope). Losing Altidore at the World Cup was seen by many as the catalyst for the US’s struggles, and the lack of adequate backup was a big problem. Aron Johannsson might be the best pure striker on the team outside of those two, but he is still proving himself at the top level. Other options, like Gyasi Zardes or Bobby Wood, are young and inconsistent, while a phenom like Morris excites but has yet to have the opportunity to make telling contributions.

Finding that next second option (or first option) is what will ensure the U.S. can continue to evolve. At least in defense, which has been unsettled amidst rotation and growing pains from young players, there is no shortage of decent bodies to plug in (though a few more specialist outside backs wouldn’t go amiss). Without Dempsey or Altidore, who’s the best attacker in the U.S. fold? It might be Fabian Johnson, who spends as much time playing fullback as he does midfield. That’s problematic.

How long is Klinsmann’s rope?

As with the Peru game, tonight’s match against Brazil has less to do with getting a good result, per se, than with prepping the team to defeat their next opponent. No one will be too upset if the US fails to beat Brazil, but with every poor or underwhelming result, the grumblings about Klinsmann have grown louder. If the US fails to beat Mexico in a month, and thus fails to qualify for the Confederations Cup, how secure is his job?

To hear U.S. Soccer tell it, there’s very little, bar Klinsmann attacking a player, that will see him lose his job in the short term. His work at the structural level has been too important, and too much money has already been spent on implementing his ideas, for the relationship to simply be severed.

But disgruntled US fans can perhaps hold out hope that, should the run of results truly become untenable, perhaps a title change and move full-time into development could get Klinsmann out of the manager’s chair, and a better game-to-game tactician, player manager, and talent evaluator brought in.

Klinsmann, for all his detractors, has brought a great deal to U.S. Soccer, including a unique ability to recruit dual-national players that might otherwise slip from the U.S. pool (and don’t say it too loudly, but he actually has the best winning percentage of any USMNT coach in the modern era). But his talents as a coach have been mixed. While Bob Bradley wasn’t much loved while in charge, there are those that would welcome him back now. If only Klinsmann and Bradley could be merged into one chimera-coach, everything would be perfect. Right?

So what about Brazil?

It’s always a good thing to play the big teams in the world, and Klinsmann’s U.S. teams have done exceedingly well against them, but predicting a U.S. win over Brazil is folly. While Brazil ended the World Cup a laughingstock, since bringing back Dunga as coach, the seleção have returned to strength. I could name all the players you’ll recognize, but you’ll recognize basically all of them, so just click here to see the full squad. Suffice it to say that it includes Neymar (who didn’t start in Brazil’s 1-0 win over Costa Rica on Saturday) and a bunch of other really good guys. The US will do its best to bunker and counter, but in the end, Brazil wins, 3–1.


  1. I wonder at great length at times who is more frustrated…. JK or the collective ‘me’.
    I never expected a miracle and quite frankly believe it foolish to think he would radically change the style of US play- in the short term or even mid term.
    We do not yet have the technical expertise and FOR SURE lack the creative imagination in the opposition’s half. We are yet to identify a philosophy that is country wide. Many of the Union’s problems can be seen similarly in the quality of our USNT.
    Every once in a while Bradley has an idea…but otherwise its all jackhammers and crowbars.
    Our hope lies in the youth.
    Yes I am a cynic…one who knows at heart the quote by George Bernard Shaw regarding cynicism.

    • only certain kids wake up in the morning…go outside and play football in the hood with their friends…….the more that happens…the more your dreams will become a reality. No amount of money, academies, and tactics are going to change that cultural reality. More are doing it than when I was growing up 30 years ago……..but not enough. I think with little Johnny and Jane being able to wake up and watch every league on the planet on a given day is actually the start of things……a kid can finally see Eden Hazzard pull off a move in real time…then go outback and practice it until he or she’s got it! Just a thought…….

      • Good points.
        The access is a game changer for the modern youth and old heads “not going gentle into that goodnight” … second to Messi, Hazard is one of my personal favorites…well then there is Adrien Rabiot too – course can’t ignore Antoine Griezmann and Anders Herrera — when Van Gaal remembers to play him — or is it Raphael Varane I like the most these days…. but David Silva you say…. or Yaya Toure…shit…
        …so many to choose from…thankful for DVR that much I am sure.
        the players are like my collection of GI Joes as a kid.

      • Griezmann is the one that intrigues me the most……choosing the path he did to get to the top

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