photo by Jose L. Argueta/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
LANDOVER, Md. — The U.S. men's national team looked to its match against Brazil as a way to gauge just how far it has come in its first year under head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, and the U.S. men found out there is still work to be done.
Four days after routing Scotland to open their busy summer, the United States suffered a 4-1 defeat to Brazil in front of a crowd of 67,619 fans at FedEx Field on Wednesday night. The Americans created chances, but a failure to to finish combined with some shaky defending ended the U.S. team's winning streak at five games.
"It's a very good team, and that's what we expected, with very good individual players," said Klinsmann. "Neymar and his technical skils that he has, and he has this freshness in his game to try things out and make things that you don't expect. They have a very powerful forward with Hulk that is a handful, there's no doubt about it. They have a a very good group that are coming through the ranks that Mano Menezes is trying to build."
Neymar scored early on a controversial penalty kick and added two assists for the Brazilians, while Alexandre Pato came off the bench to cap the scoring. Herculez Gomez, who started for the U.S. team for the first time since 2010, scored the lone goal for the hosts with a headed finish just before halftime.
The Americans had chances in the match to pull closer but were unable to convert. Oguchi Onyewu thundered a header off the cross bar in the second half, while Michael Bradley and substitute Terrence Boyd also failed to put away chances against Brazilian goalkeeper Rafael.
Both teams began the match by sharing possession and feeling each other out. But the United States fell behind in the 12th minute when Neymar beat Tim Howard with a penalty kick that was awarded to the Selecao following a questionable handball on Oguchi Onyewu.
Neymar went from scorer to provider 14 minutes later, delivering a corner kick that Thiago Silva headed home.
"(Onyewu) says he hit him in the stomach and plus he was outside the box," said Klinsmann. "Then you get another set piece, you're 2-0 down, so you run after Brazil, which is very difficult because then you open up spaces and they can counter break you."
The Americans got a lifeline just before halftime, as Michael Bradley hit Fabian Johnson with a pass down the left flank. Johnson sent in a cross that took a slight deflection, and Gomez was there to head it into the back of the net from close range.
"I thought the team reacted very well," said Klinsmann. "They fought themselves back in the game, they scored that goal. We wanted to avoid, obviously, a third goal coming out for the second half."
That did not happen. Seven minutes after the intermission, Neymar got down the left side and sent in a low cross that Marcelo smashed past a helpless Howard.
The United States attempted to rally after that, but things got chippy in the match. Jermaine Jones was given a yellow card in the 57th minute for taking down Neymar with a sweeping kick, and Brazilian fullback Marcelo was cautioned three minutes later.
"I think we mixed it up in the second half," said Howard. "We made them uncomfortable. I thought it was a great tackle on Neymar from Jermaine. They were pissing and moaning and rolling around, and got a little bit of help from the referee. We stood up for ourselves."
The final goal of the game came three minutes before the death, when Pato chested down a ball from Marcelo and rifled a shot to the far post despite appeals for offside from the Americans.
"The fourth goal, my information is the guy was two yards offside," said Klinsmann. "So we're talking about a goal two yards offside, we're talking about a penalty kick that's not be, so that kind of pisses me off to be honest. But it is what it is. Congratulations to Brazil for the win."
The scoreline does not indicate it, but in terms of performance the United States did better than they have in the past against the five-time World Champions. Rather than defend and counter, the Americans tried to take the game to Brazil when they could. And while it did work at times, the lack of finishing and shoddy defending ultimately cost them.
"We did have good spells where we moved the ball around," said Clint Dempsey, who entered the game in the 56th minute. "But it hurts you to concede a goal so early in a game like this. It puts more pressure on you and we just never really seem to get those type of calls."
The U.S. team next takes on Canada at BMO Field in Toronto on June 3 before starting World Cup qualifying against Antigua and Barbuda on June 8 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Fla.
What do you think of Brazil's 4-1 win over the United States? Who impressed/disappointed you? Encouraged by how the U.S. offense played?
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