Photo by John Todd/ISIphotos.com
By AVI CREDITOR
LANDOVER, Md. — In the middle of his post-game comments following Wednesday night's 4-1 loss to Brazil, Jurgen Klinsmann let slip what has been speculated for some time: That the U.S. men's national team will play Mexico and Russia in friendlies in August and November, respectively.
When talking about developing the team's overall attitude and growth and doing so against the world's more talented teams, Klinsmann alluded to both matches, which have yet to be officially announced and confirmed by U.S. Soccer.
"With these games against Italy, against France, against Brazil, we get those experiences and how to deal with them," Klinsmann said. "In August with Mexico, later on in the year we play Russia in Russia. Those are the benchmarks.
"We want to play the big nations. Out of those games we learn a lot. We got a lot out of this (Brazil) game."
Here are a few more notes from the United States' loss to Brazil:
ONYEWU DISPUTES PENALTY CALL
Oguchi Onyewu's return to the U.S. men's national team's starting lineup was one of the more scrutinized aspects of Wednesday's loss, and for fair reason. Onyewu's night got started off on the wrong foot, with him being whistled for a 12th-minute penalty for handling Leandro Damiao's shot in the area. In Onyewu's eyes, referee Jeffery Calderon's call was harsh.
"I watched the replay, and I'm actually amazed that he would even call the penalty, one, that early in the game, and two, seeing that it wasn't intentional, my arms were inside my body," Onyewu said. "By no means was my arm spread out to block the shot. I was shocked, but you have to be prepared for this, this might be what we see in the qualification process. You have to accept it and move on to the next one."
Onyewu was not alone in his assessment of the play, as Klinsmann was also highly critical of Calderon's call. Klinsmann said he was "furious" and that it "kind of pisses me off, to be honest" with both the penalty call and the final Brazil goal, in which replays showed that Onyewu played Alexandre Pato onside despite Klinsmann's contention that Pato was "two yards offside."
JOHNSON EARNS RAVE REVIEWS
One player to emerge with passing grades from the two opening friendlies of this five-game stretch is left back Fabian Johnson. The versatile German-American displayed his quality against Brazil, most notably in his forays forward and providing width to the U.S. attack.
Johnson assisted on Herculez Gomez' goal with a trademark run into the box and cross toward the goal mouth, and he had a hand in setting up a few other chances as well. He inspired a strong fan reaction with his second-half move to fake out Danilo and create space for a cross to Gomez that was headed across goal toward Clint Dempsey before being put out of play.
"He's a player now that gives us high quality, international-level quality," Klinsmann said. "He knows what he's doing with the ball, he can time the runs, he can play killer balls into the space."
Johnson, who was making just his fifth appearance for the national team, has asserted himself as the top-choice left back and has won over his new teammates in a rather brief time.
"His ability to read the right times to get forward and use his quickness and agility to find space out wide in behind the other team's outside back, he's done really well for us," said Michael Bradley, who played Johnson through down the left for his cross that led to Gomez' goal. "He's somebody who, going forward, I think is going to be an important guy for us."
Johnson was subbed off for Edgar Castillo in the 80th minute because of a minor calf issue, according to Klinsmann, but the substitution was more preventative than anything else, and Johnson is expected to be fine for Sunday's match against Canada.
DEMPSEY RETURNS TO ACTION
Dempsey made his return from a groin injury, entering as a 56th-minute substitute for Jose Francisco Torres to finally appear on the field at the same time as Landon Donovan under Klinsmann. After returning to full training on Monday, the match against Brazil came a bit too soon to insert Dempsey in the starting lineup.
"We hope for every day of training of progress from Clint," Klinsmann said. "Certainly a fully fit Clint Dempsey makes a difference in our team, there's no doubt about it."
Dempsey was involved with a couple of scoring chances for the United States. His ball over the top toward Gomez led to two shots that were saved expertly by standout Brazilian goalkeeper Rafael, and he also had the chance at the goalmouth that was cut out at the last second by Thiago Silva. With 34 minutes under his belt and a couple of days to build more fitness leading up to Sunday's match, Dempsey could supplant Torres in the starting XI in Toronto.
"We had to deal with his groin injury, we had to build him," Klinsmann said. "We couldn't play him against Scotland. He's not 100 percent yet, so we said, 'Let's bring you on in the second half.'" Hopefully now every day we see an improvement, every day we see more sharpness. He needs to be confident, he needs to believe in his body that everything is fine. We'll try to catch up as fast as we can, and hopefully he's available from the start against Canada."