Thursday, May 31, 2012
After a very slow start in the Jurgen Klinsmann era, the U.S. Men's National Team is on fire as they head into World Cup qualifying in a couple weeks. Their current 5-match win streak includes two wins in Europe against 2010 World Cup teams, including a win at Italy. But during this streak, they have looked no better than they did they past Saturday when they pasted Scotland, 5-1, in Jacksonville. They appeared to be able to do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, and the final score could've been worse if Klinsmann hadn't called off the dogs.
As great of a high as the U.S. is on right now, they can add an even bigger notch to their belt if they can get a result against Brazil on this warm late May evening. I will be liveblogging the match.
Pre-Match: Some guy I don't recognize in a Landon Donovan jersey sings the national anthem. He jazzes is it up a bit. I always hate that.
1' Ahoy, matey! The U.S. is unsurprisingly wearing their awful new uniforms that remind me of french sailors. Thank goodness they change these up every couple of years.
12' Brazil gets a penalty kick because the Brazilian striker fired the ball into Oguchi Onyewu's arm. Handballs are only supposed to result in penalties if it was deemed intentional, which this clearly was not and Onyewu didn't even get a card, standard practice for intentional handballs. Infuriating. Brazil's Neymar buries the penalty and goes up 1-0.
12' The Brazilians celebrate with a choreographed dance that was straight out of a Las Vegas gay bar's Carnivale Night. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
13' The U.S. looks like they are fighting mad as a result, as Maurice Edu come down and fires a shot wide. And now the ref goes from bad to worse and books Jose Torres, apparently for dissent. I say "apparently," because the announcers can't figure out what the card is for, either.
17' Wow. Tim Howard is still world class. He denies Neymar 1-on-1 when it looked certain Brazil would go 2-up.
23' More opportunities abound for Brazil. They are controlling the momentum and run of play. It's not like I expected the U.S. to cast aside Brazil like they did Scotland, but this is still disappointing.
26' Thiago Silva scores off a corner kick, and commentator Ian Darke correctly called it "criminal defending" by the U.S. Sigh. 2-0.
29' A monster throw-in from Onyewu found Landon Donovan in the penalty box, and he uncharacteristically booted it over the bar. Gonna be that kind of night, I guess.
44' Well, we just need to get to halftime. Brazil's domination is total and now they ... what's this? Michael Bradley displaces a Brazilian defender? And the flawlessly finds Fabian Johnson who gets it to Herculez Gomez in front of the net? He heads it in effortlessly! 2-1! (In Eddie Murphy Nutty Professor voice) Herka-leez! Herka-leez! That was the type of execution we saw constantly from the U.S. against Scotland. It must be said I thought that Bradley fouled the Brazilian defender. Well, the ref owed us.
Halftime: Well, we got the goal we needed to get some momentum back, and Clint Dempsey should play much of the second half. Some miscellany: this is the 17th time Brazil and the U.S. have played. The United States has won once. Brazil has won the last eight.
48' As poor as the U.S. has looked, especially defensively, Michael Bradley has just been on another level, with a sick lofted pass to Donovan, who got dispossessed. I don't think I've seen Donovan ever play so out of sorts.
52' As soon as the announcers praised the improved effort of the US coming out of the gate in the second half, Neymar scores another one for Brazil, on a setup pretty similar to the U.S. goal (except kicked in rather than headed). 3-1.
56' CLINT DEMPSEY IS ON THE PITCH! With the year Dempsey has had in England, if he can somehow get a brace here and equalize for the U.S., he's gonna overtake Donovan as the U.S.'s foremost soccer star. And I realize Donovan had a hat trick against Scotland.
60' Neymar's hair looks like this, and there are children in the crowd!
64' On a great pass from Fabian Johnson, Dempsey looked sure to score, but for an incredible bit of last-minute defense from Romulo.
65' And now Gomez gets another shot on goal. Can a second U.S. goal be far behind?
66' U.S. dodges a huge bullet as Alexandre Pato hits the post for Brazil. Opportunities are coming fast and furious, seems like 2 or more goals are coming even though there's less than half an hour to play.
76' Heart-wrenching opportunities by Gomez and Terrence Boyd go wanting thanks to great saves by the Brazilian keeper, Rafael.
86' Another amazing save from Rafael, and the U.S. hits the bar on the ensuing corner. Damn, damn, damn. U.S. has looked like the better side for the last 10 minutes; tons of opportunities.
87' Pato scores against the run of play for Brazil. 4-1.
90' It's over.
The only U.S. players that can be said to have been really impressive tonight are Michael Bradley and Herculez Gomez. For Brazil, horrible hair and all, this Neymar is something. He's only 20, and has 9 goals for his country in just 17 games. He made Michael Parkhurst look really foolish on a deke move besides his two goals.
Pretty frustrating that people will see this result in the paper and figure the U.S. was blown-out. They weren't. Well, not in the second half anyway. They had even more opportunities than I wrote about here and I am certain now that they can score against any country, any time, anywhere. Looking at the stat sheet they got 17 shots off (6 on target) compared to Brazil's 13 (7 on target). They also had more corner kicks, 8-5.
That said, they really were dominated in the first half and the back four, who looked suspect against Scotland, continued to demonstrate that they are this team's glaring weakness. None of Brazil's goals were ones Tim Howard should've stopped. If every ball that hit the woodwork or could not have been handled by a merely average goalkeeper went in tonight, the final score would've been something like 6-4, Brazil.
This means get ready for some high-scoring fireworks, unfortunately going both ways, as the U.S. heads into 2014 World Cup qualification.