An overmatched and timid U.S. MNT U23 squad dropped a 2-1 decision to a Brazil side that were a man down for most of the second half Wednesday night in Recife, Brazil.
Brazil were by far the stronger team, still it was disappointing to see Andi Herzog’s Olympic hopefuls standoff of their marks as the home team ran rampant until the game took a turn in the Yanks direction early in the second half.
The score was 2-0 by then, Brazil having worn down the stubborn American resistance finally scoring just as the first half was set to end.
Strong play by center back pair Cameron Carter-Vickers and John Brooks as well as some strong goalkeeping from Charlie Horton had kept the U.S. level until then, but the trio could not prevent Gabriel from breaking the tie.
Brazilian keeper Ederson showed good distribution skills throughout never more so than on the opening goal when he found Lucas Silva with his pass. Silva split the U.S. center back pair, rounded Horton, and the hosts had a halftime lead.
The visitors opened the second stanza with a quick attack, only to pay the price when Luan fired a second Brazil goal past sub keeper Jon Kempin.
Things were looking bleak for the U.S. when a rare bit of high pressure from Jerome Kiesewetter forced a turnover from Brazil captain Doria to earn a U.S. penalty kick and a second yellow card for Doria.
After a brief period of pressure from the U.S., Brazil reasserted control and ran out deserved winners.
Aside from the center backs and the two keepers there wasn’t much for Herzog to hang his hat on. Right back was a problem for the U.S. with Boyd Okwuonu struggling before limping off and replacement Oscar Sorto wasn’t the answer.
Eric Miller fared better on the opposite flank, but the midfield was overrun and the forwards, other than Kiesewetter, made very little impact.
The two teams go again Sunday in Belem. The U.S. are using this two-game set as groundwork for a March showdown with Colombia for an Olympic spot.
Herzog may want to rethink the 4-2-3-1 he trotted out tonight. The two defensive mids Matt Polster and Fatai Alashe failed to slow the dangerous Brazil attack and the front four simply could not hold the ball when the game was 11v11 and provided little to no threat when presented with the man advantage.
Shane O’Neill might be worth a look at either fullback or d-mid, but Herzog also needs to encourage a more aggressive attitude in his team if he wants to challenge the Selecao and prepare his team for Colombia.