USA vs. Mexico Soccer Friendly: Reaction from Jurgen Klinsmann's USMNT Debut
Tonight's USA vs. Mexico friendly features the debut of Jurgen Klinsmann as the new U.S. men's national team head coach.
What will we see? Who will be his starting 11? How will they play? What will be more attack-minded about this U.S. team? And how much can be done in such short amount of time? Questions surround tonight's U.S.-Mexico friendly.
News from the U.S. camp has been positive with reports of a definitive change in the energy and feel to the team. Everyone's out to prove themselves and impress the new coach (including his temporary assistants). The slate's been wiped clean, and there's a lot to play for.
So even though it's a friendly, stakes will be raised, and not just for the United States. Mexico has reclaimed the top spot in this CONCACAF friendly after their convincing 4-2 win in this year's Gold Cup Final.
But, without star Manchester United striker Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, Mexico will be looking to prove they can beat the U.S. no matter who is on the field. They've brought back the same squad that played in the Gold Cup, so it appears the Mexican side is taking tonight's friendly in Philadelphia very, very seriously.
I'll be posting quick observations and reactions throughout the game, so be sure to check back and see what's developed.
86th minute: Clearly a red card foul by Torrado.
Robbie Rogers has done well in his last minute call-up. We'll see more of him.
Where was Mexico towards the end of the game? They lost control of it. They struggled under pressure. This will be a key in the future.
The younger players did well, and the team did better with less defenders and defensive midfielders on the field. The U.S. did much better with more technical players on the field and players with more confidence and brashness.
Klinsmann's debut was interesting. His positive approach seemed to lift the team; however, the team needed his approval to move forward, press high, and take risks. It's disconcerting to see a team so robotic. At some point, they will need to think for themselves.
Tim Ream mentioned it in his interview for Goal.com, and it should be repeated. What will happen to the more athletic, physical players: Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, and Ricardo Clark (didn't do much in his limited time)?
Klinsmann's post-game comments on Landon Donovan: "He does well with the goal in front of him."
When Donovan moved to the middle of the field, he had space and could move. Klinsmann will need to find that space for him in the future. It may not always be in the middle, sometimes it will have to be up front, other times out wide depending on the opposition.
For the future:
1. The team will need to work on team defense and high-pressure up the field. They will need to be comfortable with it and figure out how to handle the counter-attack.
2. The team does not have enough individual skill to have so many defensive players on the field. They're going to have to get more comfortable with less defensive players, taking risks, and utilizing their more intelligent, technical choices.
3. Klinsmann's personality is infectious. A better choice for the American team right now. They need hope and energy.
Mexico has lost its offensive rhythm. A little pressure goes a long way. Even with Dos Santos on the field, the Mexican team has not improved its chances. This should be noted for the next American/Mexican meeting.
The youth shall set you free: Brek Shea and Juan Agudelo have added some hope to the team. They have held some possession, they are better at getting position, and they have some brashness and confidence.
71st minute: Robbie Rogers enters the game for Michael Bradley.
Tonight, has Michael Bradley added anything to the game? Did he do anything to distinguish himself from domestic-player Kyle Beckerman?
72nd minute: Robbie Rogers scores.
Brek Shea keeps working on the left hand side, and it pays off in a goal.
Is it coincidence that the team picks up and scores once Michael Bradley is off the field?
Not to mention, how many defensive midfielders need to be on the field?
The announcers have finally picked up that the U.S. game has picked up as their pressure has picked up.
77th minute: Landon Donovan was clearly fouled.
The change in Donovan's position: this should be noted as well. He does better in a more fluid role. It the team chooses a 4-5-1 in the future, Donovan should play up top or in the slot behind the forward. He functions well when given space. He struggles when in tight quarters.
It's also interesting that Klinsmann stuck with his more technical players rather than subbing for more physical, defensive players.
58th minute: Dos Santos enters the game. Will he change the game? Will he put the game away?
Bocanegra had a good chance on goal. It's why, as he gets older, he still has a spot on the field. He's stable (even if he can't move and has few foot skills), and if he gets on the end of a ball on a set piece, he can score.
60th minute: Juan Agudelo and Brek Shea.
Great sub, Shea for an ineffectual Jones. Jones really has to step up his play if he wishes to be considered in future rosters. Hitting players after they pass the ball is not a benefit to the team.
Agudelo is a great change. It's not just, as the announcers say, that he's young and Klinsmann will be a good influence, he's an intelligent player. Klinsmann has claimed that the main struggles have been the speed of play at the international level for many of the U.S. players, but this game has been comparatively slow-paced.
Beckerman and Shea seem to be doing well at this speed, so is it the speed of play or the intelligence of the players?
With the heavier pressure from the Americans, Mexico hasn't had as much of a cohesive attack. Will they get their second goal, or will the U.S. equalize?
Dismal: the word to describe the United States play in the first half. It doesn't look much difference than the team under Bradley. It could be a spill-over effect from the way they were expected to play under Bradley, or it could be the players, or it could be the coach. Only time will tell.
No one really stands out for the U.S. Beckerman looked to have the most energy and seemed to be a little more calm than others on the ball or in the tackle. Torres had a few moments of possession. Donovan and Cherundolo had a few moments as well, but without a concerted effort to get them the ball, they didn't have much of an impact. There wasn't much else. Michael Bradley needs to figure out where he fits in the midfield.
Klinsmann is upbeat at halftime. He also mentioned adding pressure and getting the team into the Mexican half. It's a good reaction, be stable, be calm, show your support for the players. He didn't make any substitution, and hopefully the players read that as: Don't Panic.
Mexico relaxed at the end of the first half, it will be interesting to see if they will come out the same way they ended or if they will up the pressure like they did at the beginning of the game.
The United States had five to seven men on the Mexican side of the field! Mexico attempted a counter, but it failed. Perhaps the U.S. has recognized the benefit of a higher pressure defense.
Mexico is reacting well to the pressure; they're picking up the tempo. Will the U.S. be rewarded for the pressure, or will Mexico punish the U.S. for pushing up the field?
Michael Bradley is playing too deep for his role. He will either need to change his position or be subbed.
Jose Torres has moved inside. He may be more comfortable in the middle rather than on the left hand side. Perhaps he should be the attacking midfield. Castillo seems to push way up the left hand side much like Klinsmann's German fullbacks during the 2006 World Cup. They're almost playing three at the back, especially since Mexico isn't threatening as much.
Buddle seems to enjoy heading the ball, but to whom? With one forward, it may not be the best choice. Buddle has struggled in this role and in this situation before.
Juarez for Mexico is issued a yellow, undeserved. It's been a quiet game for a U.S./Mexico rivalry. Is it because it's a friendly or because Mexico feels they have the game in hand?
Sometimes it's good to have players play through their troubles rather than making drastic changes. Without much in the attack, the U.S. is finally moving more. Yes, Bradley may be out of position, but now he, Beckerman, and Jones are moving a little more. It's freeing Torres up a little more.
Donovan has been out of the game. Will they get to him before half?
21st minute: U.S. has its first run of possession. It starts with a little footwork by Jose Torres right after the announcer comments on his inability to be involved so far. Torres does seem to struggle with his play on the outside. He seems a little uncomfortable. The ball was dropped by Beckerman.
Beckerman appears more comfortable in the game than a number of the more experienced, foreign based players.
Better play is coming out of the right side of the field. The U.S. may want to focus more of its possession and attack down the right side of the field with Donovan and Cherundolo as the focus.
Mexico seems to be content with its one goal and has backed off of its pressure. They must be confident that a one goal lead is enough, and a second goal will come.
Also, high-pressure isn't possible for ninety minutes. They might be taking a rest before the last fifteen.
29th minute: A bit of a fracas from a quick throw. Could have been cards, but the referee seems to have handled the situation.
The announcers are talking about the lack of support for Buddle. John Harkes has finally mentioned that Michael Bradley is way out of position. Before this moment, the implication has been that the formation isn't working for the U.S.. It's not the formation, it's that the players, especially the attacking midfielder (Bradley) and the outside mids (Donovan and Torres) aren't supporting Buddle enough and getting Beckerman and Jones to follow up the play.
The U.S. is chasing heavily. What effect will this have on the team? On their fitness and energy? They're being slowly worn down.
Mexico is getting numbers up, overwhelming their opponent, and this is when more goals get scored as extra attackers get forward. It doesn't seem like Klinsmann and company are making adjustments in the first half.
John Harkes recommends changing the formation...so far the United States hasn't done anything to change the direction of the game.
Mexico presses from the opening moment. It can't be stressed enough how much of an effect it had in the Gold Cup final. The best teams in the world press heavily right now. It works.
The United States still don't press very much. It will be interesting to see if this changes over time with Klinsmann. I don't see how the United States does well if it doesn't start utilizing the press. The U.S. has always been respected for its fitness, health and nutrition, so why not implement a press?
Mexico has most of the possession, but part of that is because the U.S. has openly surrendered possession.
Spacing for the Americans is horrible. A number of times there's been six players within a thirty yard area. It may be because the players are unfamiliar with each other, but there is a sea of red in very small areas on the field. The timely switch could break down the defense. Why aren't the players adjusting once they realize they're in each others' space, especially on defense? There's little balance.
Mexico seems to be playing a much more patient game than they did in the Gold Cup. Maybe that's because they aren't down 2-0. Also, even though the U.S. is having issues with spacing, they're not as stretched out as they were in the final.
Is this the attacking soccer Klinsmann promised? Outside of a cross, they haven't had much possession or threatened Mexico.
Mexico is getting more confident and patient on the ball. As they settle in to the game, they're looking for the holes in the defense.
Goal in the 17th minute for Mexico off of a short corner. Michael Bradley is beaten (a bit of great finishing from Mexico), as the announcer asks, why is Michael Bradley defending in the middle?
Difficult beginning for the U.S.
Klinsmann was reluctant to disclose a preferred formation. Naturally, he would rather wait to see what players he has and what he thinks is best for them.
Now's time to see what lineup and formation he believes is best for this team and this game.
First off, Klinsmann has chosen to take the names off of the jerseys. He believes it will help the team focus on the team and the country they represent. This idea is pretty common at the collegiate level, but it seems to come with mixed results. Still, it's evidence of the micro-level and details Klinsmann finds important. Will it have an impact? Nike might be upset. So much for charging extra for names on the back of jerseys (for fans that is).
Six players from the Gold Cup are in the starting lineup with five players that haven't seen the field for the U.S. in over a year, if ever.
Biggest changes: Michael Bradley has moved out of the defensive midfield position. This may improve his game and influence on the field, or it could have the opposite effect, and he may not know what to do in his new role.
Klinsmann is not as concerned about size: Jose Torres and Edgar Castillo have gotten the start. Donovan plays in the midfield to start. Michael Orozco Fiscal gets a start as well. He's definitely looking to the United States' Latin players. Also, the defensive changes may have more to do with athleticism.
Tactical Formation: Klinsmann has gone with a 4-5-1, two defensive midfielders much like Bob Bradley.
Mexico sits Dos Santos to start. Clearly Mexico's coach is looking to improve other players, protect Dos Santos, or work on other aspects of his team's game. How will it look if the U.S. doesn't perform well without Dos Santos on the field?
Also, what about Mexican fans that bought tickets in the hopes of seeing Dos Santos or Chicarito? A little disappointing.
The U.S. team doesn't seem overly emotional during the national anthem, nor overly stern, more calm, perhaps a little nervous.
The camera pans to Klinsmann as they finish the national anthem. He smiles. A fitting moment as the United States begins the Klinsmann era.