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.