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June 1, 2012

USA vs Brazil: Recap, Player Ratings, and Stats

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Okay let's get one thing straight, Brazil is definitely better than us. Should we have beaten them? No. Could we have? I'll source Little Giants for that answer.


Well maybe we've already used our one time with Kasey Keller.

Let's get to it: Why is it hard to play Brazil? It's incredibly easy to say that a team is great but why? And how do you beat them? Can you beat them? Everyone sees different things on a pitch but here are the five things that stood out to me about Brazil's play against America.

1. Intimidation - Easily the biggest problem for USA when playing America. The only players who looked poised were Jones, Johnson, and interestingly enough, Torres. I'll talk a little more on those players on their respective player ratings but the other starting eight looked shaky at the very least. Eh. Cherundolo looked himself. I'll throw him in the mix too.

2. High line of defense - Howard ended up taking three or four clearances with his left foot because he was pressed on simple pass backs. USA's midfield had trouble on their first touch because Brazil swarmed them so quickly. And if you're turning the ball over in the midfield you're giving your opposition a great field possession to start a counter.

3. Quick - They have some speed but more importantly they can go from standing still to a full sprint in a couple of steps. Their one-two passing is based off of this as well as through balls. But their quickness this translates to their passing as well. On Pato's fourth goal, Marcelo doesn't waste time picking his head up a second time to see if Pato is there. He just plays it off his foot as fast as he can. Check out the fourth goal and just watch Marcelo's eyes. (Starts around 7:05.)

4. Great garbage men - (Didn't really know what else to call this.) Brazil is great at picking up loose balls in the gap between the midfield and center backs. To be clear, this is the area I'm talking about:

Pretty crude rendition but it's that's gap between the defense and midfield. They send a forward as high as they can go and try to play him. If they complete the pass, great, they're in the 18 with the ball. If not, the ball gets cleared into this garbage gap. USA didn't have a solid CDM to clear the ball onward so Brazil would pick the ball up only 30 yards from the goal against a slightly disorganized defense.

5. They're pretty good at everything else. Not one dimensional. Even their goalie played great.

So how do you beat them?

1. USA exposed their back line by using similar tactics, lots of over the top balls to the corner and used their American muscle to hold the ball.

2. Because Brazil is so counter-attack based, their stay-at-home men usually aren''t the back four every time, someone drops off to keep the shape. Countering after their counter attack can open some holes.

3. More important than penetrating tactics is that every player has to be on their A game, specifically the defense. Klinsmann made a comment prior to the game about how important the CBs were this game and boy was he spot-on. America sported a solid attack but the back four + goalie definitely had room for improvement.

Player Ratings

+2.5 - Johnson - (8.5…5.5/3…80') - The converted LM-to-LB shined again, although most of the attack did go on down Cherundolo/Neymar's side. A couple of bad passes but his assist was suh-weet. Tracked back and shut down the left side.

+2.5 - Gomez - (9.5…6/3.5…90') - With Klinsmann starting him due to Altidore's unfitness he basically said he's our number two striker. The goal was fun and he was all over the place creating chances. I think him not playing an entire 90 really showed as he got a little sloppy but you could tell he still was giving it his all. Klinsmann is really drawn to that hunger to be the best, which is probably why Gomez got the nod.

+1.5 - Cherundolo - (7.5…4.5/3…73') - Did well against Neymar all things considered. He had little effective help from the CDMs and CBs. Still can't help but wonder where he'll be in two years. Hasn't shown too much of a drop off at his age, which is great to see.

+1 - Edu - (8…4.5/3.5…73') - Ended up playing a CAM/withdrawn striker role with Gomez. I don't know if that was intentional or if there was just the space for him to take (because there was) but I liked it. Most of my complaints with Edu is that he doesn't insert himself in the offense enough but today he was all offense. Ultimately I wish he and Bradley would have traded positions and let Edu man up on counters while Bradley gets into Brazil's 18.

+1 - Torres - (6…3.5/2.5…56') - Oddly played more composed with the added pressure. He had time to play against Scotland and turned over more passes, by the looks of it. I think Brazil was a good test for him but some consistency would be nice. If he could start getting more comfortable on the wing that'd help our attack immensely.

+1 - Dempsey - (3…2/1…34') - The offense didn't really miss Dempsey that much but the players' nerves definitely did. Jones helped but a lot of the players could have used another veteran who didn't get wobbly knees every time a Brazilian breathed near them. Looked strong and we can expect more against Canada and Antigua.

+1 - Beckerman - (1…1/0…10') - Came in late but did his part. I'm not sure if he's a better defender than Bradley but I think so...

+0.9 - Jones - (8.5…4.7/3.8…80') - Jones gets secret bonus points for knowing how to play against these guys. Yes he turns the ball over in the midfield but commanding the offense and fighting to get the ball (back, in some occasions) is such a rare trait on the team.

+0.5 - Howard - (7.5…4/3.5…90') - Not exactly thrilled on the last three goals. On the second goal, not only could he have come and get the ball but he reacts way too late. The third goal he gets caught guessing and follows his body's weight. He has to get set again there. The fourth goal he's looking to save it with his feet, which he did early in the game. Watch Howard's hands and right foot on the shot. His hands are wide, which is good, but the shot comes and he pulls them in, kicks up his foot to save it.  The ball sneaks in between his arm and leg, just like the second goal. Howard has this knack of getting his feet planted extremely wide on big time could-be-saves, which usually results in a kick save. Here are some examples:

All of these critiques aren't fixed by just a simple ten minute drill. We're talking about mental reflexes in a split second. All of the shots on him were rocketed in smart locations. In the end, should those goals have gone in? Yeah probably. Could they have been saved? Yes.

+0.5 - Boyd - (1.5…1/0.5…17') - I'd bet he finds the back of the next in the next two games. He's gotten so close in these last two games.

+0.5 - Parkhurst - (1.5…1/0.5…17') - Not the RB for our attack but I like him as a defensive option, which is why he went in.

+0 - Donovan - (10…5/5…90') - Touch was off all night. Kept getting in good positions to slice and dice but his footing failed him against Marcelo. He'll rebound, I'm not worried.

+0 - Castillo - (1…0.5/0.5…10') - Pato was offside to Castillo but Castillo was really far ahead of the offside line. Plus that's not really a place for the offside trap. Not like that.

-1 - Bradley - (9…4/5…90') - Let me preface this review with two things first. 1. Bradley should be in our starting 11. No doubt. 2. I hate to single out another writer. I hate blatant attacks on people. So I'll find some middle ground on both of those points.

Bradley is not the true CDM everyone thinks he is. He plays more of a deep CM who integrates himself in the attack. Here are some still shots on Brazil attacks. Notice how far off he is from where he should be.

He doesn't played the third defender very well, which is the CDM's role. (First defender = man covering ball; second defender = second man covering ball; third defender = man covering man off the ball/likely target) Our CBs, whoever they are, need a lot of help and Bradley is currently not the answer for that help. Edu definitely can be, which is why I would want the switch. So when people write that "Bradley [is] really, really good" they are referring to his command on the ball in a counter attack not his defensive skills. (I would like to add I completely agree with the rest of the article.) Hopefully he will press higher up next time, in his most effective spot, instead of sitting back, where he is questionable.

-1.5 - Bocanegra - (8.5…3.5/5…90') - Got involved on headers but we can't have him out there only for headers. Better than Onyewu but when our two CBs are unreliable all night winning comes at a high price.

-3.5 - Onyewu - (8.5…2.5/6…90') - Does not need to start. Too slow to react and played scared the entire time. But this was awesome:

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