As a US Soccer fan, this is getting frustrating. Tonight’s Confederations Cup Playoff game was against Mexico was the most important date on the 2015 calendar for this team, and half of them looked like they had never been to practice.
While the 2-3 scoreline doesn’t look so bad, neither does a 18-14 NFL loss, where the other team had 400+ yards of offense, but you held them to field goals, while your team only mustered 50 yards of offense, but ran back 2 kickoffs for touchdowns. That’s basically the soccer equivalent of this game.
The result would bother me less if the team looked like it had been set up to succeed, but the squad had the cohesiveness of a Pro Bowl team. I’m told that Clint Dempsey was on the field, but I have yet to be able to verify it. Jozy Altidore had one or two opportunities, but also stunted several attacks thanks to passing that was as accurate as a sawed-off shotgun. And the defense, which was mostly solid on the night, went AWOL on each Mexico goal by: 1) losing their mark, 2) having multiple defenders over-commit to chase the ball, and 3) leaving the goalscorer with an open opportunity on goal. If I didn’t know better, I would have assumed that 3/4 of the team didn’t even want to be there.
The performance of the defense speaks volumes about the lack of trust and chemistry on this team. Instead of the Belichick mantra of “Do Your Job”, there are too many guys trying to be the hero and do their job and cover for someone else. That leads to critical balls being dropped, which Mexico repeatedly took advantage of (and Jamaica…and Panama…) Combine that with the lack of chemistry going the other way, with numerous attacks stunted by guys being selfish, panicking or simply not building up an attack with team passing and movement, and you’re left with a team that depends on spectacular goalkeeping to save them.
Whether this is caused by a lack of consistent lineups, formations, ineffective training or even conflicting personalities, the problem falls squarely on the shoulders of Jurgen Klinsmann. It’s his job to figure out how to get the most out of the players at his disposal, but, over the past year in particular, it has felt like the head coach has shown a penchant for his “type” of guys, and tried to shove them into his preferred formations, no matter how well it worked on the field.
On this night, even the substitutions were puzzling:
- Yedlin in for Zardes (78′) – Swapping speed for speed in a game where the US looked sluggish at many times, instead of adding speed by subbing out Jermaine Jones, who wasn’t contributing much on this night.
- Wood in for Altidore (98′) – Not a complaint about the substitution, as much as when it was made. Altidore had proven he wasn’t having a significant impact on the game by the 60th minute, so why wait so long to infuse new blood.
- Evans in for Johnson (111′) – Probably the most critical tactical mistake, as this came right after Wood’s equalizer in extra time. Instead of keeping the foot on the gas, Klinsmann decided to pack it in for PKs. So, instead of trying for the win by sending in Woldolowski for an ineffective Dempsey, he decided to try not to lose. Way to inspire confidence, coach!
After this complete failure of a year for the USMNT, it’s time for US Soccer to bite the bullet, admit that the unprecedented 4-year extension given to Klinsmann back in 2014 was a mistake, and find a head coach that is more interested in the success of US Soccer than trying to prove how smart they think they are.