Brazil 3 USA 2: US Choke In First Major Final

28 June 2009

The US were forty-five minutes from an impossible double inside four days. Instead they leave the Confederations Cup asking themselves 'what if'? After Dempsey and Donovan gave the US the most improbable of leads, Luis Fabiano got Brazil back into the match before Lucio's header finished off the US.

Before I go any further, I should spell out my philosophy for the US National Team. I expect them to dominate inside CONCACAF and to win every Gold Cup that qualifies into the Confederations Cup. At competitions like the Confederations Cup, the World Cup, and even Copa America (if we ever get invited back), I expect them to play with purpose, heart and good tactical sense. From there, let the chips fall where they may. It's a philosophy that has made World Cup qualifying frustrating and turned the first two games of this Confederations Cup such a nightmare. But the US turned it around and made it to their first final... a final no one expected the US to be in.

The first half started nervously, but couldn't have gone more perfectly for the United States. Despite being stretched more than the US were during their ninety minutes against Spain, the two banks of four held their nerve. The US didn't attack much, but when they did it was with purpose. The opener was a bit lucky however. Spector's cross did find Dempsey perfectly, but the volley wasn't hit all that well. Cesar didn't see the shot until late, but it wouldn't have mattered. The US second goal was just a perfect counter attack led by Charlie Davies and Landon Donovan. Tactically, Brazil looked dead. They tried to break the US down the middle just like Spain did, and failed miserably in doing so.

The second half was a tragedy only William Shakespeare could write. It took less than forty seconds, but Luis Fabiano changed fortunes. Bob Bradley admitted in the post game press conference that was a body shot blow to US chances, and it was easy to see why. The ball was played up the middle quickly and with no help, DeMerit and Howard were left hanging out to dry. It was the first moment of serious doubt to the tactics the US were playing, and the first moment that showed Brazil had figured out how to break the US down.

That was only part one to Brazil's master plan. The second part was exposing the serious lack of width the US have. Carlos Bocanegra was spent by the 55th minute, and Bornstein should have come on for him there. With the US exposed wide, Brazil used the flanks to tear the spine of the US apart. Kaka's effort on the hour did cross the line, the referee, however, saw otherwise. Fifteen minutes later, Brazil equalized. The ball starts out wide through Kaka, the ball turned into Robinho who forced Howard into a great save... and right into the near post. Fabiano had an empty net to head into. It was the moment I knew this game was going to end inside ninety.

The game winner was, in truth, an easy set piece goal. Elano sent a perfect cross in from the corner kick and Lucio was the only one to leap for the ball, leaping over Clint Dempsey. Howard was caught out of position, and there was little Jonathan Bornstein could have done to stop it. To do so would have risked a red card.

Bob Bradley needs to be taken to task for one thing; his substitutions. As mentioned above, I agree with Bornstein coming in, but it should have been for Carlos Bocanegra and not Benny Feilhaber. Sasha Kljestan is being slotted into the role Brad Guzan was put in last summer (nothing more than getting caps to be transferred to a European league), but he is not an international player. Torres should have come on for Feilhaber; at least he had fresh legs. Jozy Altidore should have never been subbed out of this game. If anything, Conor Casey should have replaced Ricardo Clark about five minutes before Lucio broke US hearts.

When the tears dry up and the dust settles, the United States showed what they can be. They also showed how much further they have to go before they can consider themselves with the elite footballing nations. Going back to my expectation of the US National Team, today they played with heart and with passion. Their tactics showed we still have a way to go in terms of making critical adjustments at halftime and in game.

But most of all, these last two games have shown that you need depth to win major competitions. Bob Bradley has got to get out of his nepotistic ways and play guys that may not jive with what you want a footballer to be. Torres and Adu should not be on the fringes. Maurice Edu, when healthy, should play. Beasley and Kljestan should never see national team duty again.


eplnfl June 28, 2009 at 7:18 PM  

I agree with much of what you have said today, but strongly disagree with the choke headline.

Yes, we could of won today. Bradley's substitutions too late did not help. Brazil was able to break down the defense in the 2nd half in way they couldn't of in the first 45.

Let me say that your tactical insight is among the best of any soccer writer on the web and your pods give a insight in the coaching moves during a game that is hard to find in other podcasts. That said I agree with you tactical discussion on this game.

For me, the significance of today was the US was there and Italy, Spain, and Egypt, all champions were not! For that Bradley deserves a big Thank You from all American fans. Everything up to 2010 in South Africa is a learning process for a coach. Bradley learned a lot about his team to get the performance we have seen over the last week. Let's hope he learned a few thing more about himself and his team today and that he puts them to good use in 2010.

I can't wait for the Gold Cup and see what are B Team looks like and who can help for 2010. One more thing who thought Davies would be the player we saw the last week. That alone should give us hope. let's say YES WE CAN in 2010!

Anonymous June 28, 2009 at 11:05 PM  

Torres not playing was unforgivable. Bradley is still over his head. Two good games don't make a good international manager.

KoreAmBear June 29, 2009 at 7:35 PM  

Dear Bob Bradley,

More Benny, Jose and Freddy. These guys can hold the ball and maintain possession. We don't have guys who can do that too well. Well, I hope Freddy plays tons in the Gold Cup. Good luck getting Castillo.


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Johnathan Starling, the self proclaimed 'most brutally honest man on the net, dishes out his own unique brand of opinions, and analysis on the Premier League, Bundesliga, and all things US Soccer.

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