By Harrison Crow (@harrison_crow)
If you were to read through the headlines this morning, though I'm not sure I'd advise doing that, you'll likely find a good share of articles that talk about the United States' inability to keep the ball or build possession to penetrate Brazil's defense and create goal scoring chances. Others will mention a lack a terse focus for a back four that surrendered multiple goals that should probably have never happened. The rest will consist of sharp lashings that end with the inevitable and deserved questioning of leadership within the hierarchy of US soccer.
These are just general ideas that are hard, if not altogether impossible to argue.
The problem is that we've acknowledged possession means nothing. As my friend Jared Young wrote just a few days ago, quoting King Solomon of Israel, possession is "a chasing after the wind" and it's not really a determination of superiority.
Of course the Yanks were outshot 14-6, too. Though while not good it doesn't leave any real impression on the quality of the performance by the team as it's just another metric of quantity. The real issue is how they performed in the tied (0-0) and negative one (0-1) game states and where those shots were being launched from.
The US did find two strong quality opportunities in the roughly 50 minutes before they went down two goals. But regardless of if you're pitching a shutout or Jurgen Klinsmann is starting Ventura Alvarado, which I think we can roughly assume at this point is the equivalent of not pitching a shut out, those types of chances are just not good enough.
Meanwhile, Brazil created five of their first seven chances from inside the box. A team giving away those types of chances and not winning one-on-one duels, let alone 3-on-1 duels, is playing with fire and likely to concede to a goal scoring event(s).
What's really the saddest part about this whole evening isn't the 4-1 scoreline so much as the fact that this “warm up match” has really very little to do with the next and very important match against Mexico that will obviously present a very important opportunity for both the players and the country in it's preparation for the World Cup. The line-up overall was weird, the defensive pairings were odd, players that have no long term future were selected, others were deployed to awkward positions and asked to do things they've never done before or performed professionally.
This game means little in the long range except that maybe Klinsmann may start using the correct personnel or, possibly better, he gets fired and someone new comes in and does things less crazy.
Additionally, and this is a single thought that has been sitting on my chest for the last six months, Clint Dempsey is still in the top-2 for most important players in this pool. I think this game is much different with him in the line-up and I think Mexico becomes a different foe with his name as one of our XI bullets walking into Pasadena (that was a thinly veiled attempt at a shoot out or gunslinger reference. It probably didn't work but I wanted to still make sure you got it).
Adding Dempsey and Matt Besler back to the line-up improves this team, as does sadly removing Alvarado. The game against Mexico is going to be a lot of things and it's going to impact a lot of things going forward. As annoying as this single result is; it does very little more to influence the outcome of the CONCACAF Cup against Mexico next month. Yes, it would have been nice to move forward with back-to-back wins against top South American competition but I think at this point most of us would have just settled for a less terrible line-up.
That being said we left with a healthy Jozy Altidore, Dempsey and Michael Bradley. Besler finally is starting to look like the guy we took to qualifying and we've got two cracker jack goal keepers that are going to fight it out for a starting position. Add to that an experienced Jermaine Jones who might just be healthy for the first time in six months and a two dynamic attacking youngsters in DeAndre Yedlin and Gyasi Zardes that in multiple occasions this past weekend showed they might be kind of “getting it”.
I'm an eternal optimist so you'll have to forgive me of shinning the light forward and being a bit starry eyed despite this crap. As inferred to earlier; tonight wasn't good and it seemed kind of like a waste of time in the end. The crappy meal of stale meatloaf and under cooked/seasoned mashed potatoes that as a nine-year old you cram down to get to the delicious desert. Next month will live in infamy. Either the US fails on yet another historic landmark occasion or they “finally” get back on track and head to Confederation's Cup with a chance to make some noise prior to the World Cup. Regardless of which path we end up heading down, it's an event that will long stand in our memories much longer than some stupid loss to Brazil on a crappy field in New England (Sorry, Boston. It's true and we both know it).
Go, go, U-S-A!