USMNT Report: Missed Chances With Mexico

Despite a solid first half, the United States missed a chance for victory against their regional rivals
by Herb Scribner   |   Thursday, April 03, 2014

USMNT Report - coverage of the United States Men's National Team

It looked to be another “Dos a Cero” finish. The United States Men’s National Team was up 2-0 and all looked great for the boys in red, white and blue. Passing was on-point, they were denying Mexico’s pressure and everything seemed to be clicking just right.

But El Tri struck back in front of the raucous pro-Mexico Phoenix crowd, leaving with a 2-2 draw that put both the Americans and its neighbors to the south on equal footing.

And it was a game, at least for the USA, that offered a glimpse of what will work for them in Brazil.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Michael Bradley — The USA General shined brightly in the first half, notching the opening goal and creating an assist to Chris Wondolowski with an excellently placed pass off the head after a cross by Tony Beltran. Bradley also contributed nicely in the midfield, combining with Kyle Beckerman and other midfielders for good one-touch soccer at points. Coming off a demoralizing away loss at club level to RSL where he went head-to-head with Kyle Beckerman, it seemed he wanted to show his D-Mid counterpart, and American soccer, why he gets paid the big bucks. What he lost days ago at club level, he gained back in the first 45 minutes at international level.

ANALYSIS: For at least one half, the United States looked like a team that was very assure of itself. Mexico and the USA crowded each other, forcing a chippy and physical game that could have devolved into an unfriendly and untidy affair. But once the USA scored the opening goal, the play of both teams changed, and the Americans seemed ready to pull out the win. The same can’t be said for the second half, though, as Mexico recharged itself and pushed for more goals, which baffled the United States and led to an abundance of miscommunication in the back.

Both of Mexico’s goals occurred in front of a baffled defense. Omar Gonzalez played poorly in the center, and failed to find help on multiple occasions. He certainly didn’t receive any help from Michael Parkhurst, who was virtually invisible on the left and made too many offensive pushes. Tony Beltran was decent at times, but he often lagged behind, unadjusted to the speed of the international game.

Unadjusted seems to be the key word for Julian Green, too, who made his much-hyped debut for the United States. The youngster looked over-awed at first and didn’t play well, getting run over whenever he had a chance on the ball. A nice run here or there didn’t lead to any threatening chances, leaving more to be desired from the promising Bayern Munich player. It’s still early in his fledgling USMNT career, but so far he looks unprepared for the international level, certainly not the World Cup in mere months.

More is desired out of much of the offense, too. Wondolowski got on the scoresheet with one of his trademark poached goals off a well-timed and located shot, and Eddie Johnson did have a called-back goal that certainly warrants praise. But Clint Dempsey was once again lost in the shuffle and underperformed for his pedigree. Deuce continues to look frustrated, angry and unable to find the form he is capable of for club and now country. Most of it is in his head, as with many attackers, but as he ages, his skills are lessening, and he frankly may no longer be the player USA (and Sounders) fans want him to be.

Landon Donovan, didn’t start the game after Klinsmann saw he wasn’t 100% healthy, looked like a shadow of his former self. He tried to make quick runs but slowed back down to ward off Mexican defenders. He attempted to set up a player here or there, but failed in ways that Graham Zusi and Brad Davis excelled in the first half. The leadership and guidance that Donovan brings was also lost, as the USA couldn’t exactly put any offensive rhythm together in a Mexican-dominated second half.

And maybe that’s the message to come out of this affair with Mexico. There is no real rhythm for the USA. A 2-2 draw against the regional rival in a Mexican fan-heavy Arizona isn’t too worrying, especially given this was a MLS vs. Liga MX All-Star Game and the Mexican league has done considerably better than the Americans in years past. But the game did show somewhat of a changing of the guard. The USA was at its best when Bradley led the attack with Beckerman behind, Zusi and Davis tormenting the wings, and Wondolowski prowling the box ready to pounce on any ball. But once things opened up and bunches of subs entered the fray, it all fell apart, and the winning result faded from possibility.

Klinsmann has always been about testing and retesting new players and figuring and reconfiguring the US lineup. He’s brought in young ones like Aron Johannsson and more recently Green, or known veterans like Maurice Edu, to get a sense of if they belong. It seems after Wednesday’s affair that those who belong aren’t waiting back and trying to make the most of their opportunities. Zusi, Davis, Bradley and Wondolowski are all making things happen. They’re all playing brilliantly and are on-form. They’re meeting their expectations.

And if the USA is to fulfill its expectations at the 2014 World Cup, it’ll need to take advantage of those excelling players, whether they play well in North America or flounder in Europe doesn’t matter in Brazil, but results sure do.

NEXT UP: May 27 – Friendly: United States vs. Azerbaijan, Candlestick Park, San Francisco, Calif. 10 p.m. EST, ESPN2, WatchESPN, UniMas.


UMass Amherst
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FC Barcelona
SN managing editor and award-winning journalist, Herb has always been known as "The Soccer Guy" wherever he goes. He's a leftback in most outdoor and indoor leagues. He also writes for Deseret News National.