3 Thoughts on United States vs Ireland
By everyone's account, the 4-1 loss by the United States Men's National Team to Ireland on Tuesday was disappointing.
In an effort to end 2014 on a high note, the team failed to give itself any momentum heading into the new year.
Here's proof of that disappointment:
stupid soccer is really stupid stop soccer— Stars and Stripes FC (@StarsStripesFC) November 18, 2014
4-1 Ireland. Wheels off.— The American Outlaws (@AmericanOutlaws) November 18, 2014
4-1 Ireland, great free kick by Robbie Brady. This has been a poor #USMNT performance.— SB Nation Soccer (@SBNationSoccer) November 18, 2014
FT Ireland 4:1 USA. Poor from the Americans, who won just 1 of their last 8 games in 2014 after beating Ghana at World Cup.— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) November 18, 2014
However, as disappointing as it was to see the US lose 4-1 to a team outside the top 60 FIFA Rankings, was it really a good indicator of the state of the United States Men's National Team following the World Cup? No. What can be learned from today's thrashing?
Klinsmann Is Less Concerned with Results
The team Klinsmann brought to Europe was less than full strength. It was stacked with youngsters and potential-type players that needed to be assessed. With that said, a 4-1 loss to an equally weak Ireland is an unacceptable result. But Klinsmann has to be less concerned with results than talent pool development and style. What Klinsmann focused on during camp was clear: trying to keep possession and playing a more positive brand of soccer. On Tuesday, the US tried to play from the back throughout the game, playing short on goal kicks, corner kicks, throw ins, etc. The effort was valiant, but proved costly at times. Ireland's game winner (goal #2) was a result of Fabian Johnson trying to play his way out of the back. As frustrating as it may be to watch the back line struggle to ping the ball around, it is an important aspect of developing a top end team.
It is clear Klinsmann wants the US to play a more attractive style of soccer and Tuesday was a step in the right direction (as ugly as the scoreline was). Warning: more growing pangs are expected.
Midfield Lacks Depth
The absence of Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones and Graham Zusi left a glaring hole in the midfield and raised a ton of questions for Jurgen Klinsmann about depth. Outside of Alejandro Bedoya, the midfield turned in a wretched performance, failing to control the pace and flow of the game. Bedoya was menacing throughout the first half, making darting runs and surgical passes into the box. That was good to see considering he has often been lackluster for the national team. He waned in the second half as Ireland asserted their will in the middle of the park though was the lone bright spot in attack. Some may argue that Mix Diskerud played well. However, there were long stretches of play where he was absent, played half-hearted defense, and failed to hold the ball when the US needed a reprieve at the back. He did have a nice impromptu finish for the lone US goal but otherwise failed to have any significant impact on the match.
Ireland capitalized on the failing midfield in the second half, pinning the US in their own half, attacking in waves. If the US are going to seriously compete for a World Cup, they need to develop the kind of depth that leads to position battles and allows for tactical changes depending on the opponent.
They aren't there yet.
However, fielding talent in high pressure friendlies tends to expose character more than comfortable friendlies near home.
There's a Trend Developing
Before Tuesday's friendly against Ireland, the United States had given up a goal in the 86 minute or later in three consecutive games.
After Tuesday's friendly against Ireland, it was four.
Giving up late goals has officially become a trend. And one to certainly worry about. In previous matches, late goals cost them wins against Ecuador and Honduras as well as a draw against Colombia. Inconsistent center-back partnerships could be to blame. Matt Besler and Geoff Cameron often looked out of sync against Ireland. Besler has looked a step slow for club and country since the World Cup. Could fatigue be an issue?
If there's depth at any position, it is at center-back. John Brooks and Omar Gonzalez are a fully competent pairing to go along with Besler and Cameron. With the ever durable Tim Ream in the mix, the US can afford to tinker with pairings during friendlies in preparation of upcoming tournaments.
Overall, it was a performance to forget for the USMNT. Though it is not the end of the world, their is certainly plenty for Jurgen Klinsmann to iron out before the 2015 Gold Cup this summer.