U.S. shouldn't hang heads after 4-2 loss to Brazil
Posted: Sunday September 9, 2007 7:54PM; Updated: Monday September 10, 2007 1:54PM
I can't believe I'm writing this: The U.S.' 4-2 loss to Brazil on Sunday in Chicago was much closer than the score indicated. Here are my five thoughts from the most entertaining performance Team USA has put on in months.
1. Good show, boys. Let's not go crazy here -- this was just a friendly, and no one expected the U.S. to actually beat the five-time World Cup champ. But the U.S. has every reason to hold its head up high. From Robinho's stepovers to Kaká's mind-blowing acceleration to Ronaldinho's maddening feints and flicks, Brazil was Brazil. And the Yanks didn't blink. They came out fired up and unintimidated. With a few bounces of the ball and a little help from the refs, this game easily could have been a draw. Stopping short of calling this a moral victory, the U.S. should be extremely proud of its showing.
2. The son also rises. I've been highly dubious of Michael Bradley since his father, U.S. coach Bob Bradley, made him a national-team starter before his 20th birthday, but I'm coming around. The holding midfielder really stood up to the challenge on Sunday and is my pick for player of the game. It's an impossible task to ask anyone to stop Ronaldinho, let alone slow him down, but Bradley put together one of his best performances in a U.S. jersey, doing just enough to throw off the biggest star in the world. Bradley also had some nice stops and tackles, and had a nearly spotless game until dragging Júlio Baptista down in the closing minutes to give Brazil a penalty kick for its fourth goal.
3. Deuce is loose. I'm not completely closing the book on Landon Donovan, but if you're arguing which player the U.S. should hitch its wagon to, I've moved into the Clint Dempsey camp. The 24-year-old Texan is quickly establishing himself as Team USA's best, most exciting player. Dempsey scored his ninth goal in a national-team jersey on Sunday and he's becoming more of a threat with each passing game. But more than that, his cocksure attitude is awesome. He has become a starter in the English Premier League, too, and he's beginning to realize he can be a factor against any opponent -- something any would-be American soccer icon needs to have.
4. Comings and goings. Three Americans are trying to force their way back into the national team after long absences. Veteran right back Steve Cherundolo made the most noise Sunday in only his second game since the World Cup, setting up Dempsey with a perfect flick for the Americans' second goal. On the other side of the ball, 'Dolo did a nice job limiting the space dribbling wizard Robinho had to work with. More importantly, he ended coach Bradley's need to platoon the position to as many as four players over the past year.
Conversely, Josh Wolff was back on the front line for Team USA, and he was mostly ineffective. The U.S. needs to find consistent scorers up top, but the 30-year-old striker isn't the answer. It's looking unlikely winger Bobby Convey will ever make a difference for the Yanks again, either.
5. Can every game be played at Soldier Field? Make that two pulsating, highly exciting U.S. games in a row at the home of the Chicago Bears. The last national-team match there was the final of the CONCACAF Gold Cup in June, where the U.S. staged an awesome rally against Mexico to retain its title. Sunday's game was right up there in terms of entertainment value. The U.S. Soccer Federation couldn't ask for much more in terms of the continuing marketing of the game in America.