In their final match before a crucial Confederations Cup playoff against Mexico next month, the United States were handed a chastening lesson by Brazil in a convincing 4-1 victory for the five-time world champions at Gillette Stadium on Tuesday. Jurgen Klinsmann’s side had sewed some shoots of recovery from a shock Gold Cup semifinal exit by beating Peru 2-1 last Friday, but they were thoroughly outclassed by a Brazil side still attempting to bounce back from their own disappointing summer.
After crashing out of the Copa America at the quarterfinal stage, Brazil beat Costa Rica 1-0 in New Jersey at the weekend. And just like then, it was an early goal from Hulk that sent Dunga’s side on their way to victory. The Zenit St Petersburg forward’s ninth-minute effort came amid an utterly dominant opening spell for Brazil in Foxborough, Massachusetts. And it was telling that Klinsmann was forced into changing his ill-conceived plan just 36 minutes in. Alejandro Bedoya was ignominiously dragged off, but it was his coach’s decision to line the Nantes man up in a deep midfield role alongside Jermaine Jones that was the true culprit.
Brazil remained entirely comfortable, with their high defensive press preventing the U.S. from getting any type of rhythm going and repeatedly setting the visitors up on dangerous counter attacks. The U.S. defense, which saw Geoff Cameron and Ventura Alvarado come in from the team last Friday, as in the Gold Cup looked far from secure. And it was exposed to decisive effect on three more occasions in the second half. First Cameron was badly caught out and brought down Neymar to allow the half-time substitute to score from the penalty spot. And, after Rafinha got his first goal for Brazil, Neymar grabbed his second midway through the second half, with fellow substitute Lucas Moura supplying both. Danny Williams’ outstanding 30-yard strike in injury time reduced the U.S. arrears, but it did little to lessen the gulf between the two sides.
It was the last things Klinsmann will have wanted ahead of what has fast become a pivotal match in his four-year reign. Unable to play in the proactive, possession-centric manner he has attempted to make the hallmark of his time as coach, the U.S. was also once more worryingly vulnerable at the back. And, as during the Gold Cup, Klinsmann’s experimentation failed to bear fruit.
The previously untested partnership of Michael Orozco and Ventura Alvarado struggled, while outside of them Cameron and Tim Ream are both better suited to playing in the middle. The biggest problem early on, though, was in front of them. Bedoya was repeatedly played around in an unfamiliar role, and was duly exposed as Brazil went in front.
Willian, the outstanding player of the first half, burst past Bedoya and through into the box before chipping in a cross that came back off the far post. Hulk reacted quickest, and, amid a penalty box filled with three opponents, fainted onto his weaker right foot and blasted past Brad Guzan.
The U.S. enjoyed a couple of encouraging moments in the opening period, both coming about thanks to DeAndre Yedlin’s pace down the right flank. But Brazil were in command and repeatedly counter-pressing to good effect.
The introduction of Neymar at the interval only exacerbated the pain for Klinsmann’s men. Less than five minutes after the restart, David Luiz played a sublime raking pass to find the Barcelona star wide open on the left flank. And, having already beaten Cameron once, Neymar cut inside the Stoke City defender, who hung out a leg to bring the forward to the floor. Neymar just beat Guzan from 12 yards to double Brazil’s advantage.
With Klinsmann unable to stem the Brazilian tide with his changes, the Seleção struck twice in three minutes midway through the second half to make the scoreline a justifiably emphatic one. Only moments after both came on, Lucas Moura found Rafinha on a quick break and the Barcelona graduate showed impressive skill to beat both defender and goalkeeper and net his first goal for his country in just his second appearance. After a Michael Bradley turnover, Lucas Moura provided the ammunition once again, this time for Neymar to easily beat three defenders and fire a clinical finish.
It could have been more for Brazil, and there was anger among Dunga’s team at Williams’ late goal. But this had been the sort of commanding performance Brazilian fans had wanted to see ahead of the start of World Cup qualifying next month. As for Klinsmann, the pressure is mounting for the Yanks' trip to the Rose Bowl on Oct. 10.