Scuttlebut ahead of the Game

Is it a World Cup warm up? A B Team exercise? A little cash grab? Probably the first option. Despite USMNT coach Juergen Klinsmann’s anger at a few MX Liga clubs for not releasing players, it’s hard not to see the core of this USA midfield in Brazil.

There was the usual Dos a Cero stuff:

Then we had the “split team” theory, in which the Mexico game would showcase some of the MLS side of US talent, giving fans a way to compare some key components to the “European” selects.

For Mexico, and more importantly for Miguel Herrera, this was another chance to slap a recognizable squad together out of the wreckage of El Tri’s problematic World Cup qualifying campaign.

Team Selections

The obvious chin-wagging on the US came from Landon Donovan starting on the bench, alongside the USA’s Theo Walcott, 18-year-old Bayern Munich prospect Julian Green, who got his fair share of shots during the first half where he spent some time “developing.”

Bradley started at the top of a midfield diamond ahead of Zusi, Brad Davis and Kyle Beckerman, which raised a few eyebrows.

For Mexico, Herrera was without some of his preferred options including Aguilar and Vazquez, though Rafa Marquez was at the centre of Herrera’s three man defense. Herrera put Jesus Zavala at holding mid, and gave Brizuela a look for a possible option in Brazil.

The Kits

USA’s kind of looked…not great? The lollipop candy stripes disappeared into a dull shade of red. Loved Mexico’s wrestling-inspired get up.

The Game

An exciting, fast paced game, end to end. Also a tale of two halves, and a kind of How Not to Defend Set Pieces video for both sides.

The US stormed out with Bradley rampant, working well with Beckerman behind him and with Wondo to his left. Despite his ostensibly forward position, Bradley did much of his work from his more familiar deeper position, and resembled in many ways a kind of quick passing Yaya Toure.

He scored the first goal on a corner won by Omar Gonzalez (with Zavala making a meal of his mark) and then assisted Wondo for USA’s second. Ian Darke hyperbole’d on the best half ever from the US, but the cohesiveness of the midfield will surely be one of the major strengths of this US side.

Herrera meanwhile spent much of the time yelling, eventually at the referees at the end of the half. Mexico were too thin at the back and had trouble with the US breaking through the middle.

Then the second half, and a total reversal. Rafa Marquez scored on a corner, with Beckerman “picked” out of the play, allowing the Mexico vet to steam in unmarked for the header. Then Pulido scored after a failed clearance.

After that it was a total reversal, with the Mexican wingbacks coming into play and forcing a few very good chances and spending time in the US final third, though Nick Rimando looked confident in goal. The US back four though…man. Omar Gonzalez wasn’t in great form, having trouble at times, and Besler with a rough start to the game, nearly losing his mark and exposing Rimando. They looked inconsistent all night long.

The Controversy

An 85’ minute Eddie Johnson “goal” that was ruled offside but which was not offside! A foul on the Bayern teen sensation Julian Green at the edge of the box that was not awarded! Yeah, the US got jobbed a little.

The Takeaway

While many will look into issues of the team’s resolve, it’s hard to pass judgment with so many subs coming in the second half. The team can be built around Bradley though, who’s in some form. Basically the US defense sucked. That should be the focus of whatever Klinsmann is going to do between now and June, if he can. And defending set pieces a little better.

For Herrera, it wasn’t his first choice squad, but he should be pleased he could make adjustments so quickly. Mexico is gambling on the 3-5-2 fashioned at America, so the coach needs his best to make it work. Some bright moments though, particuarly from Pulido.