Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Glimmers of Hope in USMNT Loss to Brazil

The USMNT lost a 4-1 friendly to Brazil in front of more than 67,000 fans at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, tonight. While the scoreline isn't good news, there were some things to be optimistic about from tonight's World Cup qualifying tune-up. The US certainly created some scoring chances, including a header off the crossbar and a handful of other shots that forced spectacular saves from Brazilian goalkeeper Rafael.

Here are my three positives from tonight's match:

1. The USMNT looks to have found its left back of the future in Fabian Johnson
Coming into this five-match stretch for the US, much of the news surrounding the defensemen was negative due to Timmy Chandler turning down an invitation to camp. It is widely believed Chandler is hoping for an invitation to play for the German national team, as his father is American and mother is German. Once a player plays in an official competition (non-friendly) then that player cannot switch national team allegiance. Chandler has only played in friendlies for the US, so he could still switch to Germany if he is invited to play for them. With qualifying matches looming, Chandler's choice is suspicious, yet predictable.

Chandler's absence has opened the door for Fabian Johnson, a 24-year old who plays for Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga. Johnson has sparked the US at left back over the last two matches. Tonight, he earned an assist on Herculez Gomez's goal and helped in created other scoring chances. Johnson plays with flair and is very offensive-minded, not surprising considering he has played significant minutes in the midfield for Hoffenheim. Left back has been a weak point for the US in recent years, so Johnson's continued rise will be critical to the future of this club moving forward as Jurgen Klinsmann prefers outside backs that are able to push the attack.

2. Michael Bradley continues to be a major contributor in the midfield
I applauded Bradley's effort against Scotland, though understandably he was overshadowed by Landon Donovan's hat-trick night. Against Brazil, Bradley once again was effective, though he was deployed in a more defensive-minded position than in the previous match. When Bradley was able to advance up the pitch he was a significant factor, including his service to Johnson that led to the Gomez goal. Bradley also had a solid header saved by Brazil's keeper. It is easy to forget that Bradley is still only 24 years old. There is no doubt he is becoming a leader on this team and could see many suitors for his club team services before the upcoming season.

3. Herculez Gomez shows flashes of a top-flight striker
The forward position for the US looked to be in good hands in recent weeks, as Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore posted significant scoring seasons in the EPL and top Dutch league, respectively. Lost in the shuffle, however, was the amazing run of Herculez Gomez. Gomez was sold to Santos Laguna in Mexico's top league six months ago, and he proceeded to go on a run of 11 goals over 12 matches helping lead his team to the second-half league championship and runner-up in the CONCACAF Champions League. Gomez impressed tonight, scoring a goal and nearly assisting Clint Dempsey on one of many scoring chances thwarted by the Brazilian goalkeeper. He could press for playing time in qualifying matches, maybe as a substitute for Altidore when the US needs more energy as Altidore rarely is able to give a full 90 at a high work rate.

Again, there were some positive signs from tonight's loss. It will be interesting to see how the US reacts in its next match this Sunday vs Canada in Toronto, the final tune-up before qualifying for the 2014 World Cup begins on June 8.


  1. Found my way to your blog via your Plain Dealer self-promo. Glad I did. Great writing; short, sweet, and informative. I have been looking for something to follow USMNT for a while. I wanted to follow them on twitter, but to do so meant receiving news on all levels of US Soccer, which I don't really have an interest in. I am a Clevelander living in Europe so I also appreciate your Club posts. Look forward to reading more. Regards. DMFW

    1. Douglas, thanks so much for your kind words! I try to balance posts between the USMNT and European football, especially the EPL. Which clubs do you support?

    2. Hi Al. Nice to hear from you. I do follow Bayern so that I have something to converse with my neighbors about and my son has something in common with his classmates. I also follow any club with any type of American association. I often work in Northern Italy, which has lead to me follow Vicenza - Series B. I assume they and Series B are off your radar, but having been to their stadium and followed their history, they remind me of Kent State (my Alma Mater) football. One decent season followed by fighting off relegation the next. I tend to pay more attention to international competition. I enjoy the parity (unlike La Liga, and for the most part Bundesliga), upstart teams like Croatia, and the eternal hope that USMNT will quickly become competitive. Basically, I am all over the place. I will say that I did enjoy following EPL this season. I rarely followed it in past seasons, but it was the most exciting finish from all the leagues and the run by Chelsea assured that I will pay closer attention next season. Take care.


    3. One of my best friends was born in Germany and now lives in the Cleveland area near me, so I've become a Bayern fan by extension. Great run for them in the Champions League, they certainly deserved to win that final at home which would have been a great story. My parents were born in Italy in a small village so I followed Italian soccer with my dad growing up - but he was a big fan of Inter so I rebelled and went with AC Milan. I also follow Napoli because they are actually the closest Serie A team to their village and Chievo Verona because Michael Bradley plays for them. I'm all over the place in the EPL too, also following Everton because of Tim Howard and Fulham because of Clint Dempsey. If Dempsey goes to a bigger club like Arsenal or Tottenham, they will probably become my favorite EPL team to watch. Gotta support our boys! Hope you keep reading...and let me know if you return home to Cleveland sometime and we will invite you to a game watch with my soccer friends!