Once again the U.S. MNT coughed up a late lead, settling for a 1-1 draw in Zurich against Switzerland. The Americans continued a disappointing trend that has seen the team surrender a goal in the 80th minute or later for the eighth time in eight games.
Coming on the heels of a very poor performance last week versus Denmark, the Americans were much sharper from the start tonight against FIFA’s 12th ranked side Switzerland.
Virtually every position on the field saw improvement for the U.S. with the exception of Michael Bradley, who worked hard, but often tried to do too much with his passes from his position at the top of the midfield diamond.
With Brek Shea and Timmy Chandler providing dangerous crosses from wide position and Alejandro Bedoya providing some excellent through balls, the U.S. were dangerous at times in the opening stanza.
The visitors came close twice in that good first half, and each time it was Bedoya that provided the telling pass. On the first Gyasi Zardes seemed caught between two minds, diving header, or volley, missing badly with a volley.
Later in the half Bedoya ran onto a nice through ball from Jozy Altidore and cut back a fine ball that Michael Bradley made a hash of.
Of course, it wasn’t all one way traffic, this Swiss team was seeded in Brazil, and are a talented crew. Swiss dangerman Xherdan Shaqiri was buzzing about as usual, although without the usual effect, until he slipped in behind an inattentive Chandler.
The diminutive Inter Milan attacker put his service on a plate for Admir Mehmedi, but with John Brooks contesting, the striker was unable to finish, even with U.S keeper Nick Rimando beaten.
With the half approaching the U.S. continued to press and a good run from midfielder Alfredo Morales earned a free kick in the 45th minute. Brek Shea brushed off Altidore’s interest and took the free kick, neatly depositing a gem in the upper 90, a skill Shea had previously kept to himself.
After the half came a flurry of changes, led by four Swiss subs, and including two for the U.S. Club Leon keeper William Yarbrough came on to make his U.S. debut, and center back Ventura Alvarado entered for his second cap.
The game was a bit sloppy with all the changes, but the U.S. appeared capable of hanging on for a rare close out victory. But it wasn’t to be, thanks in large part to a petulant Jozy Altidore. Altidore picked up a yellow card for a late tackle, which he then compounded by cursing the referee.
Altidore, who occasionally wears the captain’s armband for the U.S., showed no leadership skills, and was sent to the showers, leaving his teammates a man down for the final 34 minutes.
The U.S. were quick to remind any and all concerned that protecting a lead has become a foreign concept for this team, as panic set in through the side. With the Swiss reigning pressure on the U.S. goal, free kicks and corners were conceded at an alarming rate, with the home team coming close on a corner kick that was headed high from virtually inside the American goal.
Another corner was punched clear by Yarbrough, when he might well have caught, a choice that would prove costly. The ensuing corner kick was dropped invitingly into the U.S. goalmouth where Morales and DeAndre Yedlin, only just in the game, both leapt for it. Neither came close to winning the ball, which fell conveniently at the feet of Valentin Shocker, who gratefully tapped it past the stranded Yarbrough.
The shame of this latest collapse was that the American performance had been a good one for the most part, and U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann will have some positives to draw on from this match.
Danny Williams was very solid in a defensive midfield role, the fullbacks were good getting forward, and Shea is beginning to look like he could be DaMarcus Beasley 2.0, as he makes the switch from midfield to fullback.
Bedoya was excellent as a wide midfielder pinching in and the starting center back pairing of Brooks and Michael Orozco were composed, especially in comparison to the Denmark match.
Up next for the U.S. MNT is Mexico on April 15 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, likely an away game on an American soil, before it is back to Europe, where the U.S. will face the Netherlands (June 5) and Germany (June 10).
After that the games count with the U.S. opening its defense of the CONCACAF Gold Cup beginning on July 7 against Honduras. Then we will find out if all of Klinsmann’s experimenting has been worth it, and we will see too if the U.S. can learn how to protect a lead.