The canary yellow jerseys were everywhere in the first half. Brazil obviously had done their homework because every time Landon Donovan got the ball he was set on by at least two defenders. The USA were also pinned deep in their half by a physical Seleção who used a full court press. Against the swarm, the three man midfield of Maurice Edu, Jermaine Jones, and Michael Bradley were not allowed to define themselves like they did against Scotland.
Bradley in particular drifted back deep into areas to assist Edu who was being overpowered by Sandro and Oscar. With Bradley pushed back the creative onus lay on Jose Francisco Torres deployed centrally rather than out on the left as was the case against Scotland. The few times the USA did get the ball not much came of it with Donovan shadowed and Hercules Gomez isolated well beyond the supply line. With Bradley forced to play out of position Torres was tripped up, hacked at, and slowed down by the Brazilians to ineffectiveness.
Gooch’s return to the national team pairing up with familiar partner Carlos Bocanegra was not a happy one as his handball was controversially ruled a spot kick offense. Neymar duly converted after Tim Howard went the wrong way. The USA minutes later had a defensive meltdown as Jones failed to get in front of Thiago Silva to challenge him and the defender with all the time in the world directed his header well beyond the reach of Howard.
Just when Brazil looked like they were running away with it the US were able to win the ball back. Bradley now restored up field split the defense with a heads up outlet which found Fabian Johnson arrowing down the left and centering to a quickly reacting Gomez placing himself between two defenders and the goalie to head the deflected ball home. The USA could breathe again as they ended the half on a positive note with Johnson catching the eye with his attacking instincts down that channel.
The second half saw Brazil add to their score as Marcelo who was equal force of nature and street thug initiated a counter which found Neymar cutting back to find the Real Madrid left back who slammed the ball past Howard. It was 3-1 and a mountain to climb. Time was running out for build ups. There had to be speed and instant strikes from set pieces. Klinsmann brought in Deuce and Boyd and suddenly the attack had teeth.
For the next 10 minutes, the USA laid a mini siege on the Brazilian goal. Dempsey floated a clever ball to Gomez who took it wide and smashed it with his right foot but Rafael effected a remarkable reflexive save which pushed the ball towards Boyd whose shot was again stopped by the jackknifing custodian. Moments later from a corner Rafael was able to push a header from Dempsey out. The newbie goalie was having a whale of a game. Luck too played its part as Gooch found the crossbar with his header.
With the USA in full flow, Brazil’s final goal was anti-climactic. On a counter again, Marcelo laid off a nice juicy diagonal for newly arrived Alexander Pato to crash home from an acute angle. The AC Milan striker with the lovelorn look and a thickened midriff showed he still has his instincts. It ended 4-1.
Reality check as they say. But the displays by Fabian Johnson and Hercules Gomez were definite positives. Klinsmann shows a lot of faith in Johnson and its easy to see why – he has the speed and the craft to be a genuine wingback. With Timmy Chandler, the left back position now has an embarrassment of riches, a far cry from the endless days of Jonathan Bornstein. Gomez had some excellent moments up front. He has speed and an unflagging motor. There was an incredible sequence where he tracked back all the way to dispossess Neymar. On the other hand, there are obvious questions at the heart of defense – Gooch looked slow and rusty. At right back, Steve Cherundolo is getting on in years and today was overmatched by Neymar and Marcelo who were free to roam at will down that left channel.