Last night’s performance was tough to watch. The United States came out to start the Copa American Centenario and fell flat on their face. The U.S. was dull on attack and struggled to keep up with Colombia’s forwards. But Colombia wasn’t particularly sharp on the night either. No, what really doomed the USMNT was the team’s insistence to shoot themselves in the foot. The team’s offense was nowhere to be seen. The midfield was disjointed. And the defense was constantly exposed. While most of the players saw their stock go down, there were a few moments that weren’t so bad. Let’s start with who saw their stock go up.
John Brooks and Geoff Cameron
Yes, Cameron lost his marker on the opening goal. However, aside from that moment, the center back pairing did a decent job. In spite of the players in front of them frequently making unforced errors and turnovers in bad places, John Brooks was good all night, smothering fires in the middle and helping out the overwhelmed Fabian Johnson. Cameron took initiative upon himself and stepped up into midfield on several occasions. On the ball, he was mostly calm and collected. This pairing looks to have a good future.
Nagbe’s stock went up mostly because Jones and Bedoya started instead of him. Jones and Bedoya were completely disjointed and really poor on the ball. By not starting, Nagbe ends up looking like a whole lot better of an option then he did going into the match.
On Thursday, I said the following. "Bradley isn’t going to be losing the ball if a single attacking mid put him under a little pressure. That would be an exceptionally careless move." Thank you, Michael. I will have you know, crow is not particularly nice to eat. I find it a bit gamey and deeply unsatisfying.
Bradley was bad. Really, really bad. His passes slowed the tempo down and made the American team listless in possession. When he tried to create opportunities through long balls, he over hit his passes. He repeatedly was dispossessed under the barest amount of pressure. Bradley couldn’t connect the attack to the midfield. That meant that the defense was repeatedly under pressure, even though the US had more possession. Bradley wasn’t complete trash. His corners were well placed and threatening. His positioning while on defense was decent and he had a number of good interceptions. However, Bradley needs to do a lot better moving forward. He is the linchpin of this US side and the team is dependent on him.
DeAndre Yedlin did not have the best game. He failed to push up into attack. On defense, he was repeatedly exposed by the Colombian attack. Zardes left a better note on that right side when it came to defense. And then, of course, the penalty. Yedlin is a starter at right back in the best league in the world. He has no business turning away from a cross. That is not the kind of pedigree that we expect from players playing at the highest level. In a sense, that penalty represents Yedlin’s whole performance. He couldn’t keep up with Colombia’s attack down the right and was all too often late on the play. We thought the USMNT had figured out what to do at right back. Yedlin needs to step up and show the same kind of form he had at Sunderland.
Fabian Johnson was one of the best players on a Borussia Mönchengladbach that played in the Champion’s League this season. He is one of the most technically gifted and creative players on the USMNT. And the only thing I remember him doing in Colombia’s half of the field was drilling a free kick into the wall. On defense, he was really bad. He was regularly torn up by one of Cuadrado or Arias. He regularly required John Brooks or Jermaine Jones to step in and help him out against a single player. And that hurt the team, especially in midfield. Take this quote from Jermaine Jones.
"Today was more focused on Colombia and on the left side to help Fabi, so we lost one guy in midfield. So it was tougher to play, yeah."
If the central midfielders are doing double duty helping out the fullbacks, the team’s shape falls apart. And we saw that yesterday. The USMNT needs the fullbacks to be able to handle their own on defense.
Everybody else on that starting line up
Jermaine Jones and Alejandro Bedoya were missing in attack. Bedoya’s shot may have reached Pluto by now. Bobby Wood and Gyasi Zardes may as well not have been on the field. Dempsey complicated matters by dropping into the midfield instead of putting pressure on the center backs. While Deuce functioned as a clear focus for the team’s attack, there are questions of whether or not his inclusion makes the team too one-dimensional. And then, there’s Klinsmann. This was literally the first time we’ve seen this line up start. The defense had never played a whole match together. The midfield was disjointed. No player played at the same level as with his club. And all that’s on Klinsmann. His constant tinkering and reluctance to play players in their proper positions (Dempsey is not a center forward. Bobby Wood is. Play them where they go) has led to a performance that lacked chemistry. The whole team needs to do better going forward.