THE GOOD ...
- THE FIRST TEN MINUTES: No, that's not a typo. After cartoon-like disasters at the start of each game at the World Cup, the Americans actually came out swinging and looked the better team at the start. Landon Donovan had an awfully good case for a penalty kick in the third minute of the game, and if the US gets that early goal, who knows what the rest of the game would look like? Where was that opening fire in South Africa?
- DEBUT NIGHT: Young players like Omar Gonzales got their first sniff of international soccer in a great venue, in front of a great crowd, against a great (at times, REALLY great) team. Regardless of the outcome, that kind of experience is invaluable.
- THE AMERICAN GOALPOASTS: In the second half, as the Brazilians pretty much owned the ball and the game, it was the American woodwork that was the most effective defender for much of the period. Absent the doinks off the white bars, the score would have looked a lot worse than it ended up.
THE BAD ...
- THE REST OF THE GAME: Once Brazil got their legs underneath them, they pretty well ran the game. While the US had a few bright spots and a couple of chances, the game was pretty much all Brazil.
- DEFENSIVE INTENSITY: In an eerie flashback to the goals scored against the US in the World Cup, Brazil's goals came after a disturbing lack of pressure on the ball as Brazil was creating. The US, at least for one game, fixed the slow start issue, but has yet to address the not-playing-the-ball-tight issue.
- FECKLESS FORWARDS: In fairness, the US was playing a team a class above them and just about everyone else in the world. But it's just disheartening to see the US forwards offering nothing of any significant threat going forward. At some point, Jozy Altidore is going to stop being a young prospect and start having to produce.
... AND THE BRADLEY SWAN SONG?
US coach Bob Bradley is, at the time of writing, the leading candidate to replace Martin O'Neil at Aston Villa. Jurgen Klinsmann is still living in California, not managing a team. Both of those things could change in very short order. The uncertainty surrounding Bradley leaves the US national team stuck in limbo. Whether Bradley keeps the US gig, or whether Klinsmann takes the helm, the US needs to get a leader and a philosophy locked in.
THE BIG PICTURE.
There's no doubt that Bradley has done an admirable job getting the team to where they are now. There's no doubt he's qualified and has earned the right to continue in the job. There's also no doubt that bringing in Klinsmann to replace him would be a clear signal that US Soccer is not satisfied with how things ended in South Africa and wants to move forward and advance. As much as Bradley has convinced me since last year's Confederations Cup run, hiring Klinsmann would move the US team ahead in ways that Bradley simply cannot do. The best-case scenario would be for Bradley to get the Aston Villa job. That way, the profile of US Soccer gets a boost from the first American manager to get a job in the Premier League. Then, US Soccer gets Klinsmann as the national coach, giving them a new voice with the credibility of Germany's 2006 success.
THE GOOD ...