USMNT to use Brazil as measuring stick before qualifying


Photo by John Todd/ISIphotos.com


LANDOVER, Md. — The U.S. men's national team has had 10 months to fine-tune things under head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, and now they will get to see just how far they have come along.

The United States will take on five-time World Cup champions Brazil on Wednesday night at FedEx Field in a high-profile friendly that the Americans are using as to gauge where they stand before World Cup qualifying begins next weekend. 

The Americans are coming off a big 5-1 win after defeating Scotland in their first summer friendly on Saturday, and they are hoping to build on that against a Brazilian team that, despite missing several of their top stars, still has plenty of ability.

"They love to dictate their own game, they're used to kind of set the tone and they have wonderful players, there's no doubt about it," said Klinsmann. "But now it's interesting for us, the situation is how much can we take to them, how much can we go eye-to-eye on the field in certain areas and elements in terms of tempo, in terms of tactical approach, in terms closing them down and also play our game and go forward and cause them some trouble.

"It's an exciting benchmark that we face. It will tell us a lot about where we are in our process, and it will definitely help us for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers."

Klinsmann will likely once again opt not to start Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore. The two U.S. attackers are trying to catch up to speed with the rest of the team in terms of fitness after missing the first week of the U.S. team's training camp, and that should force them to come off the bench versus Brazil, if at all.

Who Klinsmann decides to put in their place is more of an unknown. He could go with Terrence Boyd and Jose Torres (the two players who filled in for the aforementioned duo against Scotland), or he could go with putting in a more experienced forward like Herculez Gomez or Chris Wondolowski up top, or he could switch from the 4-3-3 formation to something else.

Whoever starts, though, will be given the unenvious task of having to chase down Brazilian attackers. From Neymar and his dazzling dribbling skills to the prowess of Hulk, Leandro Damiao and Alexandre Pato inside the penalty area, the United States will need to put forth a disciplined defensive effort to give themselves a chance in the game.

"Naturally, they like to dominate the ball, dominate possession," said goalkeeper Tim Howard. "We clearly know that, but we were good the other night on the counterattack and our football was really good and how we possessed it. It'll be wide open and that's how they like to play the game, but we're going to try and do a few things to put the game in situations we like."

Taking the game to the young Selecao side is part of the plan for the United States. Just as they did against Scotland last Saturday and to a lesser extent against Italy in a historic win in February, the Americans want to try and get forward and exploit some of the space the Brazilians might leave as they push forward.

In the past, the U.S. team has been content to sit and counter. But Klinsmann wants players like Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley to try and push the tempo against the skilled Brazilians when they can, and he will also try and push his defensive line up the field if possible.

"Obviously, you see that during the game how far you can go high up and put pressure on them in their own half and make the spaces really tight and difficult for them to come through," said Klinsmann. "The fascination of the Brazilian style is obviously how they change positions. Their strikers how they come into midfield, midfield become strikers, even fullbacks become strikers if you look at Marcelo or Danilo, they are used to go and play right wingers. That's what their style is about: that everybody loves to attack from their end."

Containing the Brazilians is no easy task, but the Americans are no strangers to the South American powerhouse. The match against Brazil will mark the fifth time the two teams have met since 2007. And although the United States has never beaten the Brazilians in that window, the Americans are confident they can get a result if they play to the capabilities they have demonstrated in recent months.

"Every team has their strengths and weaknesses," said Klinsmann. "Undoubtedly they have a lot of strengths, but they also have some weaknesses, so hopefully we can take advantage of a few of them."

  • Brad

    And to be clear, I am not calling any of us uneducated soccer fans. I was referring to less avid fans that don’t read and post in one of the better soccer blogs we have.


  • Paula

    There’s asking tough questions, and there’s weird gonzo Tabloidism, which is how the British press treats the England team.

    It doesn’t help them, to say the least.


  • ACC

    The USNT will come out and play for the first 15 minutes or so. After that, they will bunker down and look for a lucky goal on the counter……Bradley style


  • GW

    I think if you sift through the huge amount of quotes that JK has put out all these month’s, it comess down to this.

    ” We want the players to be in the best shape possible and then we will attack them as a team and if we are truly committed anything is possible”

    or my translation:

    “F++K “em. Let them worry about us.”

    I’ve watched JK over most of his career as a player and when you look at all winning teams he was on, they were great players but they were not the greatest players. The other guys were often more talented.

    But what they did have was an absolutely rock solid belief that they would find a way to win and they almost always did. Just thinking about playing those teams was exhausting because they absolutely refused to ever concede anything. A real arrogant, hard core, hard nosed bunch.

    It’s a good thing JK is so personable because most of those guys were pretty unpleasant.

    I see no reason to think JK will run this team any other way.


  • GW

    JK is not okay with losing.

    Never has been. Look at his career.

    What gets lost in his charm offensive is the man is a very poor loser.

    I’m sure he expects to win tonight.


  • dgoshilla

    The USMNT still hasn’t had a full side on the field at one time. It won’t again tonight.
    However, I like the timing of it all leading into qualifying.


  • JRP

    Beginning of a better story. Once upon a time there was a Know-It-All on a blog who thought a tournament that happens once every four years was the only true benchmark for a world wide sport. Since most soccer carrers only span two, sometimes three, Wold Cups it may be an important tournament but is by no means the only true benchmark.


  • JRP

    Where I live Benchmark is a rehab place for rich kids who’s parents found out they party on the weekend. They go their with a taste for pot and leave with a taste for hard stuff. Speaking of pot…go smoke a bowl and chill out. It is just a game.


  • Scott

    You set a goal, decide what you need do to achieve that goal and then use benchmarks to measure where you are against that goal. Benchmark is a good term. Maybe you can think about this while bagging groceries at work tomorrow.


  • Ryan in NYC from NC

    The fact that this conversation is even going on is a huge deal for soccer in the US. We have so much to look forward to. It’s a special time for us. #USMNT. Don’t tread!!


  • Seriously?

    This conversation strikes me as an example of the old saying that text is a reflection of the reader. I’m a bit mystified at how people think the word benchmark implies something negative, meaning that the coach or whomever uses it doesn’t care. I honestly see it as totally the opposite. If your coach or your boss were to say to you that they’re going to view the results as a benchmark on where you stand, would you take that to mean that the coach/boss was saying that they don’t care how you do, that the results of your performance won’t matter? That is very strange to me. If anything, my perception of the people who think it’s bad to use the performance against Brazil as a benchmark is that those people inherently think US players are inferior to Brazil’s, and therefore take it to mean that the US players can’t set a benchmark that’s higher than that of the Brazilians. That’s not what the term benchmark means, to me it just means we’ll see if your better, worse or even with.

    If you want Klinsman to say that he’s going to go all out to get a result, that’s just silly. If it were the World Cup, he’d be pushing to get players who aren’t 100%, like Dempsey, to play because the result is more important than the risk of injury, which I think would be dumb. Also, in a friendly, you might want to try a player who you might not put into a World Cup game being played today, but for whom the experience of playing Brazil might help him develop into a player to be used in a World Cup, or qualifying. So instead he uses a term that lets the players know that their performances matter, where they stand in the coach’s eyes will be based on how well they play. What’s so bad about that?


  • prredicto

    I have the same fear, that after a energetic start, brasil will beat us back so the counter is our only out. Hope not.


  • prredicto

    Strange that the expectations are due to the USMNT’s play in one game v Scotland. Yes, it was beautiful, it was sustained, and resulted in lots of goals. But one game.


  • Eurosnob

    Juan, Gooch is a starter for one of the top teams in Portugal so he is used to face fast skilled attackers, including Hulk, who plays in the same league. Plus he has a lot more experience than Cameron in playing in big games – e.g. Confederation’s Cup final against Brazil and semifinal against Spain, games against Mexico at Azteca, etc. Having said that, Brazil will be a handful. While Brazil is no longer the top team in the world, their talent pool is very deep and they can easily field 3-4 very good teams without a huge drop off.


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