The United States trotted out a squad with only 4 players with more than 10 caps against a Brazil side angry from a disappointing World Cup and stocked with European stars. As a result, the game was mostly defensive for the USMNT, with the Americans barely holding 35% of the possession. But, for the most part, the youngsters held on, losing 2-0 from an early goal and a suspect penalty. Here’s what we learned from the whole affair.
Antonee Robinson is Fast. He’s not Douglas Costa Fast.
Earlier this year, Antonee Robinson burst onto the national team scene with quick and exciting bursts up the left flank. It looked like the USMNT might have finally found an answer at left back that truly worked. Well, this match against Brazil showed that Robinson is still a work in progress. Players with tremendous speed often rely heavily on their pace, especially on defense. Alas, Robinson was not an exception, at least not in this match. And, it turned out, Brazil has a number of fast players, with arguably the fastest, Douglas Costa, lined up against Robinson. That situation was highlighted early with the opening goal. Costa peeled out wide, received a long pass, and then burned Robinson down the flank to put in a sublime cross that Fermino buried into the net. And that was merely the start. Brazil systematically attacked down the wing, especially down the US left side. And Robinson was repeatedly exposed, though the team didn't concede from play again. The good news is that, at 21, Robinson has time to grow. He actually showed some growth during the game, taking up better positions as the match progressed, and even making an important stop on a break away. There’s still a lot to look forward to with this young player.
Miazga Took Center Stage
While Robinson had a tough time out on the left, the center backs had a much better showing. While Brooks was left in the cold by Firmino on the opening goal, the pairing, and Miazga in particular, had a good display. While Brazil found purchase on the wings, the center was left almost entirely impassable. Time and time again, Neymar would attempt to dribble through to goal, only to run into the brick wall that was Matt Miazga. His passing was mostly good and his positioning was great. In general, Miazga made Yedlin and Brooks look better. Which is exactly what the USMNT needs considering how much flux the position has been in over the last few years.
While the defenders were mostly on top of things in the back, defending alone won’t win you games. Unfortunately, the US was limited and lackluster in attack. In particular, there was a clear gap in the connection between Bobby Wood and the midfield line. In total, Wood attempted 12 passes, completing 11 of them. Only one was in the final third, and only one was a forward pass. All told, the USMNT generated just 2 shots on target, and only threatened whatsoever off of set pieces. This team has a huge, glaring Pulisic-shaped hole. And this game goes to show just how badly the team needs to learn to distribute the scoring and chance creation because, if Pulisic, who is out from this international week due to an injury, were to miss a crucial game, this team could be in trouble.
People Aren’t Buying It
We’ve talked about how the USMNT has attendance problems before, but surely, this time, for a game against the celebrated Brazilian national team, the most successful international team in the world, surely the stadium would be packed, right? Er, nope.
Moments before kickoff. More Brazil fans than USMNT, but pretty empty overall. Looks like organizers banked on post-World Cup hype from fans but didn’t realize there’s actually a post-World Cup hangover. #USMNT #USABRA #USAvBRA pic.twitter.com/r6qJ3M9SFb— Franco Panizo (@FrancoPanizo) September 8, 2018
This has been a systemic problem for years. The team does not draw well enough to fill the stadiums the team plays in and, as a result, the stadium is left half empty, even with the scores of Brazil fans. At this point, soccer is popular in this country. We cannot blame the populous for not caring because we have seen repeatedly, whether by looking at MLS attendance numbers, World Cup viewing numbers, international club viewing numbers, or by other visiting national teams, that people really do want to watch soccer. USSF is not doing a good job organizing and promoting these games and they are charging too much. At some point, this sort of a bad look needs to sink in.
DeAndre Yedlin Cut His Hair
The US is not exactly known for its hair game. Indeed, we are better known for having excellent but bald players, specifically in goal. And, probably since the amazing debacle in 2002, the USMNT’s players have mostly leaned towards the conservative side for their choices in hairstyle.
That is, aside from DeAndre Yedlin.
Yedlin was one man willing to experiment with his hair. He was willing to go for the wild and the creative. Blonde highlights? No problem. Dreads? Can do. It was a single solo effort to at least try to elevate the American hair game.
When did this happen, and why didn’t anybody tell me?
What do you think? Did I leave something out? Talk about it in the comments below.