Friday, November 11, 2011

USA Men Shut Out in France, 1-0

The growing pains continue for the United States under Jurgen Klinsmann as they were shut out for the 4th time in 6 matches under their new head coach losing 1-0 in France today. It was more of the same for the United States as they once again failed to generate serious chances, and eventually fell victim to a breakdown at the back. This time it was Marseilles midfielder Loic Remy who got on the end of a pass from Marvin Martin, fought off a challenge from Clarence Goodson and then buried a shot near post past Tim Howard for the game's only goal.
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Now let's be clear, there's no shame in losing a match to France on their home field. The French are ranked 15th in the world and haven't lost since September of 2010 when they dropped their opening match in Euro 2012 Qualifying to Belarus. Additionally their roster is loaded with talent including international stars Franck Ribéry (Bayern Munich), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid) and Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal). Losing to France isn't the problem. The problem is we're not getting any better.

Six games into the Klinsmann era the offense still isn't clicking. The 4-5-1 formation we are using hasn't been producing and not only do we not create a lot of opportunities, we haven't been able to capitalize on other team's mistakes. It's probably too soon to abandon the formation in favor of something else, so the right move is to probably stay the course, but as an outside observer I can't help but wonder if this group might be served better running out of a 4-4-2. Anyhow... Brek Shea, who had been playing at such a high level in recent matches, appeared merely pedestrian in today's match as the midfield was forced to once again line up without Landon Donovan. I appreciate the fact that Klinsmann hasn't had his two best field players (Donovan and Dempsey) on the pitch at the same time through his first 6 matches as head coach, but to me this speaks to a shocking lack of depth that we cannot produce without both of them in the lineup. And now match after match, Tim Howard is forced into being our best player. And don't get me wrong, he's an unreal goalie who we're lucky to have, but to depend on him night in and night out to make every save with the game seemingly always on the line is unrealistic. Hopefully we get some better results next week when they head to Slovenia.
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I will say though, the match was not completely without bright spots. Jozy Altidore played really well up top in the lone striker role. He used his body well and did an excellent job of holding the ball once it was played into him. I suppose the next step is building play off of that, but it was nice to see him involved. Then there was Dempsey who turned in his typical workmanlike performance. And finally, I thought the guys at the back - Bocanegra, Goodson, Cherundolo and Timmy Chandler - were solid. Sure there was the one breakdown, but the group only allowed one goal to a solid French attack on the road. So there were certainly good things to take away from today's game. But with World Cup Qualifying right around the corner, we're going to need more and we're going to need it soon. Someone is going to have to step up and make a play in one of these upcoming friendlies and hopefully it's contagious. A positive result or two would be huge in terms of a confidence builder before these matches actually start counting.

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