Top Stories

Denmark 3, USMNT 2: The SBI Breakdown

USMNT Denmark 3



The U.S. Men’s National Team may have given up two late goals, but there were numerous other problems throughout the friendly in Denmark that paved the way for the Americans’ latest disappointing defeat.

The U.S. suffered a 3-2 loss to the Danes at NRGi Park on Wednesday, with Nicklas Bendtner scoring two of his three tallies in the game in the final seven minutes to help the hosts rally to victory. The result and performance extended the second-half issues that have largely plagued Jurgen Klinsmann’s side since last summer’s World Cup, but there were a lot of other things that the U.S. needs to address.

From not being able to hold onto possession for large spells to failing to defend as a team in critical moments, the Americans were the inferior side in a number of areas on Wednesday. That was almost masked by the fact that the U.S. nearly grinded out a win, but Bendtner’s late-game heroics ensured that American spotlight was fixed largely on all the things that need improving ahead of next week’s friendly vs. Switzerland and this summer’s Gold Cup.

Here are SBI’s biggest takeaways following the Americans’ 3-2 loss to Denmark:


There was initially some confusion as to who was to blame for the first equalizer the U.S. conceded. Was it Timmy Chandler’s fault for staying atop the box? Was Gyasi Zardes the player responsible for not running over to get a body on Bendtner?

The answer is neither. The sequence in the 33rd minute came down to a number of individual mistakes, but none was greater than that of John Brooks. The U.S. centerback unnecessarily stepped up to try and close down a shot from outside the penalty area that Alejandro Bedoya looked to have covered, and then the dominoes fell. Michael Orozco slid to mark Brooks’ initial target, but that freed up Bendtner inside. Chandler and Zardes could have done better by recognizing the danger, but they both had the players they were initially covering in front of them.


Aside from Chandler’s 19th-minute assist – which, make no mistake, was misplayed by Denmark’s centerbacks – the U.S. received little in the way of offense from the players on the flanks. Chandler scurried up field with a purpose, trying to beat his man and whip in crosses somewhat consistently, but he was really the only one.

Fabian Johnson, Greg Garza and Zardes all had issues posing a threat on the outside, and so too did substitutes DeAndre Yedlin and Brek Shea. Part of it can be attributed to the fact that the U.S. severely lost the possession battle, but the wide players also did not do a great job of making good runs or keeping the ball when the Americans did have it.


While the U.S. did not come close to winning the battle in the midfield, Michael Bradley did his utmost best to try and make it happen. Playing in a No. 8 role, Bradley operated in front of Bedoya – who was tasked with doing more of the grunt work – and was quick and sharp with most of his decisions from the onset. Bradley also was one of they key figures when the U.S. sporadically high pressed, running with a dogged determination to close down the Danish defenders and midfielders.

The Toronto FC ace did have a couple of bad turnovers, but he was still the only player who effectively connected passes at a good tempo throughout the game. Bradley did get some help from Bedoya and reserve Alfredo Morales – after he shook his initial rough first few minutes in the second half – but the U.S. needed more of that type of composure on the ball to be more of a threat in this one.


Some might chalk it up to fatigue, others to the number of substitutions. Either way, there just was far too much space between the back line and midfield late in the match, and it proved costly.

After Aron Johannsson gave the U.S. its second lead of the game in the 66th minute, Denmark began to more aggressively throw numbers forward. Rather than be the compact and organized unit that they have been in the past, the Americans looked quite disjointed in their defensive assignments. There was often far too much space between the defense and midfield, and that’s what Denmark continued to exploit before Bendtner bagged his two late goals.

Morales could have done a better job of trying to stay right in front of the back four, but the U.S. midfielders all staying relatively high while the defense dropped deep is a telling sign of miscommunication.

It could be that the U.S. isn’t used to playing in a 4-4-2 formation anymore, or that the defenders were fatigued after chasing the ball for much of the 90 minutes. Regardless, it is concerning that the U.S. players were not on the same page in the final few minutes of a game it just needed to see out.


Michael Orozco may not be a fan favorite among U.S. supporters, but he showed Wednesday how useful he can be in Klinsmann’s system. Orozco not only put out several fires in the Americans’ defensive third, but he was also poised with the ball at his feet and hit a range of passes that were impressive. Orozco tried to build out of the back by finding Bradley or squeezing passes through tight windows, and his defensive positioning and decision-making were also good.

With Klinsmann continuing to look for more and more options at centerback, Orozco may have done enough vs. Denmark to earn another long look against Switzerland.


  1. The defenders looked like they had no idea what to expect from each other, nor what they could expect from the midfield in terms of defense. Perhaps not too surprising given their lack of time together. It was always likely they would make several tactical mistakes and they did not disappoint the Danes in that regard.

    When the US had the ball the backs stayed too deep, that allowed for pretty easy consolidation of possession for the Danes when they won the ball and provided opportunities to run at the US back line.

    The outside mids for the US were all disappointing nearly to the point that their absence might have been better since then they would not be counted on for any of the help that they too often failed to provide.

    Defense has been a strength of the USA over the last 20 years or so (since against the stronger teams the US seldom enjoyed better than 40 % possession, they had to be good defensively.) Good defense is tiring, requires fresh minds and a coherent, organized approach. That organization was lacking from the beginning. As the game wore on the defense tired, became even more disorganized, something that was not helped when a fresh, but new, sub was inserted. It was almost predictable that the Danes would score.

  2. Some players were outclassed, some players didn’t understand each others, some players had nerves. Reason USNT needs more games and some vs. weaker teams like El Salvador or Latvia.

    • Klinsmann said something like one game against a top European team is worth ten against a team like El Salvador or Guatemala. You don’t improve yourself by playing someone who isn’t as good as you are.

      • You recite Klinsi quotes as if they are the Gospel, and display unceasing faith in his “vision” as you repeatedly explain it to us.

        I disagree, and see him as a mediocre tactician — at best — who has consistently shown disdain and a total lack of respect for the American soccer community, players and fans included.

        Anyway, I could be wrong — or you might be. Don’t be so certain that you — or your boy Herr Klinsi, for that matter — have it all figured out.

      • “You don’t improve yourself by playing someone who isn’t as good as you are.”

        says who? even if that’s true for an individual, a team is an entirely different animal.

        if lesser teams are *all* you’re playing, then i can agree. but “easy” opponents can be very useful if you want to work on chemistry–or just try a player out–in a semi-competitive environment.

  3. This was an exhibition..

    A game scheduled by the USMNT quite some time ago..

    That being said.. The Danish national team is a tough, European-based opponent in relatively good form..

    This is a game where the USMNT mixed in European-based players, fringe guys, Cup vets, new call ups and a few prospects..

    Again.. Its obvious that the USMNT staff used this game to look at new players.. Evaluate players reactions to different in-game situations.. Get a few vets back in camp.. All against a quality opponent in the midst of Euro qualifying.. On home soil..

    Sure, as a whole, the loss was not desirable.. No loss is..

    But this is a run-up to the Gold Cup.. Olympics.. Confed,al..

    Some guys reacted.. Some guys didn’t.. Some decisions worked.. Some didn’t

    I’m sure the US Basketball braintrust does quite a bit of the same during the run up to the FIBA Tournament of the Americas..

    Unfortunately..’Fans’ seem to be more familiar with the stuff that comes out of that situation..

      • Lots of us do, don’t worry…. if you had shown me a list of results over the coming 9 months back in July, I would not have been surprised in the least (other than perhaps a “whoa what happened here?” for the Ireland game).

        I would’ve been far more interested in “what did we learn”, “who can we use that we may not have known about”, and “what are our needs”…

        I think we’ve learned plenty from these games. And that is the point of this part of the cycle. As you have said, the time for competition and results is coming soon, and I think we have set ourselves up well for this challenge.

    • like US Basketball, we will just be able to roll out a team of better players than an other country could even dream of having when it actually matters, right?

  4. I hate when people blame the players who were put in bad spots because another player wasn’t aware and caused the break toward goal/opposing player to be in the dangerous position to get up a scoring play. It happens all the time when CB’s are blamed for having to decide between their ball and the oncoming midfielder the midfielder let through due to their own error. 2 of the 3 goals had situations like this and it isn’t discussed in any of the write-ups i’ve seen.

    Goals are caused by what happens before the attacker gets in a dangerous position, and the USMNT is really great putting the other team in these dangerous spots.


    First goal was a mistake by Zardes for not stepping with the back 4, which would have put the player who took it to the endline offside. Its hard to mark players you are putting in a (should have been if not for Zardes being unaware what was happening) offside position.

    Second goal was a result of an attack that had crazy amounts of space because for some reason Bradley felt he needed to press the last man who was distributing the ball. This created space so Denmark was quickly on the attack, with numbers. You can say so and so should have rotated to fill but we dont play “Total Soccer” and those players have other responsibility as well. I dont blame Bradley for this as its a Jurgen thing, but is just illustrates JK’s lack of tactical and situational awareness.

  5. your comment about space between the mids, and back-line is off. The space was on the lb/rw side of things as JK pushed Garza up to flank the Danes… it worked for 20 minutes, but in the end they got burned in the space vacated by Garza.

  6. I’m all for experimentation this far away from the next World Cup but to me I’m not so sure Jürgen any idea who will to feature in the Gold Cup this summer. This is most evident on the backline where lineup and players seem to change each game.

    The late game goals may be a fluke but the twelve game sample size since the end of the World Cup seems large enough to suggest otherwise. Klinsmann continues to feature a variety of different players and that uncertainty is not good in creating chemistry and cohesion. Who are the best American CBs? Who knows as Cameron, Brooks, Orozco, Besler, Gonzales, Birnbaum, Ream, Alvarado, and Jermaine Jones are apparently all candidates. Multiple the uncertainty with the different fullbacks as you have Shea, Garza, Ream at LB and Chandler, Yedlin, Johnson at RB.

    Do other national teams play musical chairs with these many different defensive options? Sure since the U.S. has players in the both Europe, Mexico, and at home it is natural to have different options but going forward Jürgen needs to narrow the candidates down and focus on communication, cohesion, and develop a leader in defense. I’d like to continue playing with John Brooks who has highest ceiling out of all of our options. I can live with any errors he has while learning on the job but its time to find some consistency in the back with someone who we know will be there from game to game (barring injury).

    • Gee, yeah, it is confusing with all these defensive options. It was much easier when Cherundolo came out injured in the Gold Cup final against Mexico and the only option was Bornstein. Bob Bradley didn’t have to think about it at all. I’d like to remind you that in the World Cup we stuck with pretty much the same lineup except when Besler and F Johnson got injured. The exception was vs. Germany when JK brought in Omar Gonzales and he had the game of his life.

  7. At this point, does a reporter even need to state that the US gave up a late goal ( or two ) ?

    No, sadly no.

  8. I’m glad Orozco was mentioned. He was a standout for me in this game, both defensively and trying to pass out of the back. He almost singlehandedly held a patchwork back line together. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the two late Denmark goals came after he was subbed out. He needs to be looked at seriously for the Gold Cup.

    • In other words, excellent tactical substitution, inserting Alvarado, at our most vulnerable point in the match with an already dysfunctional back four. Genius come to mind, if squandering results was the objective.

      Alvarado deserves another run out IMO, as he was cool, clean and composed on the ball right after entering the game.

      JK must be measured against results, as Captain Tinker, he is putting up stinkers.

  9. What’s sad is I didn’t even remember this game was being played and missed it. Under Klinsmann, I just find myself caring less and less about this team.

    There was a time I never missed a single US game.

      • Yeah, I didn’t either. I feel like it’s half a team of mercenaries and doesn’t have that good old US fighting spirit. That and Klinsmann really isn’t a great coach. He was a hell of a player but getting to 3rd place of a WC in your home country is expected, even more so if you are Germany who love 3rd place finishes.

        Notice it was his assistant who actually won the thing and was given most of the credit behind the scenes when he was in charge.

      • My recollection is that because the German team was transitioning from one generation of players to another, they weren’t expected to do well and most Germans were happy with the third place as it was a little better than expected. Perhaps you can find contrary information to refute me.

      • If you think this US team does not have the “fighting spirit” that we have shown in the past, I can only assume that you skipped watching the World Cup, as well.

    • Dorkus, fair weather fan much? whomever the coach is, a fan would still watch the team play…. just saying.

      • I have two words–Steve Sampson. If you can watch the US during 1998, this is nothing. This US team is better than any except maybe 2002.

      • exactly, as long as the team doesn’t regress, a coach shouldn’t be “blamed”. after a certain length of time a coach may not be “favored anymore” but “blame is reserved for coaches who set a team back (e.g. Bobby Petrino – Falcons ex-HC who took a good team and won 3our of 13 and quit overnight by writing a letter to the team– with 3 games left in his first season)

      • nah, there’s a reason big-time coaches make that money, and it’s for them to have a positive influence on the team–to push them further than they would go otherwise, and certain hires have certain expectations. i’m sure klinsmann wasn’t hired with the same expectations (and salary) as bob bradley.

        in fact, if gulati holds klinsmann to his own words (which i seriously doubt), the expectation is to reach the semifinals in russia.

  10. Good analysis. That possession battle was tough to watch as it was as much giving it to Denmark as much as Denmark play it so much better.

  11. Something’s gotta give it’s simply not acceptable to lose the same way over and over. Aside from that our wide play is still a work in progress although I expected a lot more from Fabian. Klinsmann’s really feeling the heat now he has to respond to the criticism now more then ever.

    • Anyone who could actually make Klinsmann feel the heat ie Gulati understands these are friendlies and Klinsmann is exploring the depth of the roster. Die hard fans and media are the only ones who will overreact, and that is nothing to JK. The Media in Germany is much tougher and more interested, The USA Media is a cake walk for JK. wait for the GOLD cup to see how the actual team plays.

      • This is a good point for me to put in my semi-rant. Before the next WC, there are 4 and only 4 important events as far as Klinsmann is concerned and everything he does is built around getting ready for those events. Chronologically, they are the Gold Cup, the South American Cup, WC qualifying and the Confederations Cup. In importance they are qualifying first, followed by the Gold Cup, the Confederations Cup and the South American Cup. He has to get ready for the Gold Cup while also building for the future in qualifying and the next World Cup. I came to the realization 2 years ago that Klinsmann thinks strategically and long term. When you look at what he does,in those respects, then what he does makes perfect sense. A good example is when he didn’t call up Jozy for the national team to, in effect, teach him a lesson and set a lesson for the team. And it worked. When JK does these things it’s not aimed at the next friendly but at one of the next significant events. He will gladly sacrifice an interim unimportant result in order to build for the long term. The fact that the US lost due to two late goals in a friendly against Denmark is really unimportant. What was important to JK was how the new players reacted to the stress and higher level of play. Even from the standpoint of friendlies, the Swiss game is more important since the players will have a game and a couple of practice days more together and they won’t be as jet lagged.

  12. missed the lineups, and so i didn’t notice bedoya was on the field until about 20 minutes in. then i forgot again.

    and hopefully morales wasn’t asked to “stay right in front of the back four”. that’s not his game; he’s a true box-to-box mid–more so than bradley, who is better in the regista role–and he thrives when he’s free to run the length of the field.

    saying that, i’d like to see morales start in place of bedoya next game, but with him as the 8 and bradley as the 6 (if klinsmann sticks with the 4-4-2). or with morales out wide, with danny williams as the 6 and bradley as 8.

    • JK tried Morales out wide one match and he looked totally out of his comfort. i’d say the morales 8 bradley 6 option would be best. if bradley’s the 8 then williams should be the 6

      • which match was that? it does seem vaguely familiar now.

        he’s played wide a lot in his club games (lower level, of course) as a shuttler in a 4-3-3; he’s not a pure winger in the slightest, but he’s got energy and a decent touch on the ball.

      • yea to me he’s most comfortable in a 433 (4213 more specifically) where he has a CM partner so he may favor one side but really he’s working the middle with some liberty to step up and hit a Gerrard shot or create, etc. I think that’s been JK’s plan to eventually get to a 433 by using a 4231 at first to perfect the pivoting CMs and back tracking LW/RWs (defense-capable wingers rather than line pushing Ronaldos)

  13. Why does Bradley get praise for playing the ball back, and might be the next donavon who can do no wrong. People need to be realistic they had possession but a lot of it was their back four passing it around for mins at a time.

    • Bradley didn’t really have good options. It’s not his fault when other players can’t have good movement off the ball. He did what he could and helped us keep possession until someone else screwed up. Sometimes it’s important to knock it around a bit to get a bit of a rhythm passing wise before players start attacking more. Unfortunately for Bradley, everyone else except Jozy wasn’t active. And Bradley can’t get to Jozy unless there’s a linkup in midfield.

      • I agree with the lack of movement. Everyone seemed to be chained to the field and rarely were there many dynamic runs made in the center of the field. US players like to point to their feet while they stand still, with little understanding that a defender is baiting them into thinking they have space.

        It’s funny, maybe these friendlies will be really beneficial because we can see that the team just won’t get much better from just practicing.

      • “US players like to point to their feet while they stand still, with little understanding that a defender is baiting them into thinking they have space.”

        exactly… good teams know that once a pass is made the rest of the team can’t stand there even if they’re not directly involved, they need to move towards open lanes to give options which if nothing else forces the opposing defense to move with them. all too often the US would make a pass, look upfield where no one was moving and then pass back to defense who would boot a long ball; aka MLS’s favorite “kick ball” strategy.

      • People misread my comments and think I’m being negative. The american soccer players to be looking at is coming through the ranks now. A lot of talent.

      • you’re questioning positive comments (“praise”) that you’ve misrepresented (no one’s praising bradley for “playing the ball back”); how is that not negative?

        i don’t think bradley had a great game, but i can remember at least one perfect pass that he played *forward*.

  14. This is a good article.
    I’d add a few things:
    Aron J. seemed AWOL till his goal
    The days of Lazy Altidore seem to be over. Remember the times when he would just lollygag around till he made a run? He was very active
    Still love FabJo, but he ran 13 km in the win vs Bayern, and it showed
    Morales entered to a nightmare, but then had a very composed run out for about 25-30 minutes.
    Everything else has pretty much been covered.

    • “Still love FabJo, but he ran 13 km in the win vs Bayern, and it showed”

      holy sh!t. was about to rip into fabian for being pretty anonymous, but i guess i’ll hold my toungue for now.

      • yea every time they showed a close up of FJ he had the “holy crap i’m tired, is this game over yet?” look on his face. even in the first 30 minutes

      • Sometimes we forget about things like this. Also, see my example of what Zardes went through after playing Saturday afternoon. It would have been similar for the Mexican based players. At least F Johnson had a relatively short trip to make.

  15. I agree. Good job.

    Maybe the reason we give up late goals is the high pressure we play throughout, and at tne end there is not much left in the tank. When you are tired, most guys default to what is easiest. The easiest is rarely the best option defensively.

  16. Solid analysis. That game was tough to watch.

    I hope this is all part of some grand Klinsman plan that will reveal itself at the Gold Cup.

    • Once you understand where Klinsmann is coming from you realize that this is a good game from his standpoint. People should listen to what he says and take him at his word. He always talks about taking players out of their comfort zones. The backline had a lot of inexperience and guys who had never played together and who had only two days at most to practice together. Zardes, who looked so good against Panama playing in his home city, now had to fly about 7 thousand miles, 7 times zones, spend most of one day in travel and then go out and play against better players than he had ever faced before. JK sees how the new players react to these situations and, more crucially, how they react afterwards. Do they get discouraged or more determined to improve? I think he is applying the same strategy as applied to doctor interns. Interns are required to work 24 to 36 hour shifts in hospitals and even emergency rooms. If they can handle that, then they can handle anything.

      • Medical errors are 3rd largest cause of death in the US. Kind of like defensive errors result in goals against. Perhaps the system(s) you are a proponent of need(s) to reviewed.

    • Agreed. To further his points, I think our biggest issue was more formation and less about the players chosen. The midfield was overrun to an extent, but the biggest issue for me was coverage on the wings. It looked like we were trying to defend the middle with a compact shape, but they would just run the wings and find a ton of space. Cross after cross was going through.

      Pressing can certainly cost you in terms of energy, but the pressing didn’t work as there weren’t enough of our players to cover theirs on the press. Thus, an outlet was easily found and down the wings they went. This also attributed to our lack of possession. When you are all bunched up, you will just lose the ball unless every player is named Messi. The wide play lacked as a result.

      If you want Bradley being the more offensive midfielder, you need a destroyer to cover him. Bedoya is not a destroyer. I don’t think they work well together in midfield unless their positions are swapped. In either case, while Bedoya can get some tackles in, he’s an offensive player with a good work rate and track back ability, which doesn’t translate to defensive per say. I think this is why Mix is so vital to the team. He is getting better on the defensive side and his prowess on the ball and passing are among the best on the team.

      In any case, based on how we played, we either need to drop a striker, which also doesn’t seem to go well for us, or drop Bedoya for Williams in order to have better defensive cover and shape. We may actually keep the ball for more than 5 seconds this way. It will also relieve our back 4 quite a bit.

      Johnson Williams Bradley Zardes
      Garza Brooks Orozco Chandler

    • +1. I think these “SBI Breakdown” pieces following USMNT matches have become the best content on the site. Well done, Franco.


Leave a Comment