In their final tuneup before the Gold Cup, which will be their first competition in nineteen months, the United States Men’s National Team were torn apart by Venezuela, 3-0. Three first half breakdowns were their undoing and raise questions about whether or not the US are ready to play aggressively against quality opponents.
The USMNT started brightly with a number of dangerous balls from New Zealand transfer Tyler Boyd. Keeper Wuiker Farinez did well to catch a good header from Weston McKennie following a free kick from Boyd in the 8th minute. After that, it was all Venezuela.
Early on, Venezuela was content defensively to pick up the US at midfield, but eventually they pressed and it resulted in the first goal. An errant pass from Zack Steffen in the 16th minute resulted in a three-touch, three player goal where Salomon Rondon stretched to slide the ball in the back of the net.
The second goal resulted from a breakdown in shape. Matt Miazga came out of position on a throw-in leaving a large space down the middle where Real Salt Lake’s Jefferson Savarino took advantage. His first shot rebounded off the post, but he was afforded so much space he pounced on the rebound and slotted an easy shot past Steffen.
The third Venezuela goal was simply an example of what can go wrong when a press isn’t executed well. After failing to turn the ball over in their offensive third, a Tomas Rincon long ball left Aaron Long one-on-one with Rondon about ten feet in front of goal. That’s a mismatch for Rondon, and he made the US pay with a nutmeg strike.
Unable to crack a well organized Venezuelan defense the US relied on 33 wide crosses to generate offense. For context, that’s the most crosses by the US Men since the Klinsmann era before the 2014 World Cup. Venezuela was perfectly content to let that happen.
The majority of the US attack came down the right side with the combination of Boyd and Nick Lima providing the most promising combination. The pass map of crosses shows how unbalanced and unsuccessful the attack was. The red lines represent incomplete passes. The green line represent successful passes and the yellow lines represent successful passes that led directly to a shot attempt.
Boyd managed five key passes in his 61 minutes of action, which was half of the US total for the match. Weston McKennie provided the most danger in front of goal with two shots on target, which doesn’t bode well for the US strikers, but Jozy Altidore was positive as a playmaker in his 45 minutes as a substitute.
The bottom line is the US have looked outclassed in their last two friendlies against mediocre competition. Whether they are getting acclimated to a new system or getting used to playing together, they are unable to impose their will on the opposition and are paying for giving their opponents numbers on counter attacks.
The USMNT now have nine days to prepare for what should be a comfortable opener against Guyana in the Gold Cup. They will have plenty of opportunities to answer the questions that have been raised over the course of these last two disaster friendlies.