Brek Shea’s superb free-kick was canceled out by the concession of yet another late goal as the United States men’s national team drew 1-1 with Switzerland in Zurich. Shea’s strike, curled over the wall and into the net in first-half injury time, put the U.S. in front and appeared to set them on course for a creditable win on the road against one of the seeded nations from last year’s World Cup. But, having seen Jozy Altidore sent off, defensive errors piled up again late on to allow Valentin Stocker to poke in from close range with 10 minutes remaining and make it nine goals conceded in the 75th minute or later in their last eight matches.
Altidore’s sending off, earning two yellows in quick succession for tripping an opposition player and then very clearly directing an expletive in the referee’s direction, will doubtless be used as a mitigating factor for this latest disappointment. Yet it was ultimately familiar defensive shakiness that proved the United States’ undoing. Switzerland’s goal was just one of several chances they created late on as the U.S. struggled in particular to cope with balls directed into the box.
While still an encouraging result, the late goal will come as a disappointment for Klinsmann after what was for the most part a performance significantly improved from the one displayed in a 3-2 defeat to Denmark last week. Bucking a recent trend, Klinsmann made just three changes from the last time out, perhaps a sign that the U.S. coach has recognized the need to build some continuity and cohesion ahead of this summer’s Gold Cup. What he did do, though, was tweak the system. While the U.S. were outnumbered and out-passed so demonstrably against Denmark, this time a midfield diamond was deployed to give more presence in the center, a goal helped by Gyasi Zardes’ movement up front.
The standout player for the U.S., though, was Alejandro Bedoya. Moved into a wider role than against Denmark, the Nantes man excelled and was at the heart of most of his team’s best moments. It was Bedoya’s cross that found Zardes at the back post 15 minutes in, only for the LA Galaxy forward to go for a difficult ungainly volley and fail to control it. It was Bedoya, too, who set up Michael Bradley for an even better chance later on. But the midfielder, playing in a more advanced role, wasted it when shooting over the bar.
The U.S. was still solidly losing the possession battle, but they were creating the best chances. The success of the U.S. should still be taken in the context of Switzerland making six changes from the team that beat Estonia 3-0 last Friday in a Euro 2016 qualifier that, for them, had far more significance than this friendly. Certainly there was some evidence of a lack of intensity from the home side when defending in transition. And the U.S. could have been behind when Admir Mehmedi failed to touch in Xherdan Shaqiri’s cross after one of several errors from Timmy Chandler.
Yet, it was the U.S. that went into the break in front. Given a fresh life in the national team as a left-back, Shea showed the quality he has always possessed when curling a left-footed strike past inexperienced Swiss keeper Roman Burki.
The U.S. brought on William Yarbrough in goal for his debut at halftime, as well as another Mexico-eligible player in Ventura Alvarado, but Klinsmann’s men were still competing well into the second half. It was Altidore’s sending off that changed the flow of the match. At the same time Switzerland added some quality off the bench and began to firmly take the ascendency. While the visitors survived a couple of major scares, with Yarbrough struggling to command his area, the defensive shakiness was to prove costly. From a short corner, both DeAndre Yedlin and Alfredo Morales went for the same ball, leaving a wide open Stocker to touch the ball past an exposed Yarbrough.