U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann had called this game against Belgium a barometer, “to see where we are.” After Wednesday night’s 4-2 drubbing in Cleveland, the answer is no place positive.
Although it can be folly to read too much into a friendly, by any measure this was a disjointed and discouraging performance by the United States. The highly regarded Belgians boasting a strong roster with 10 players from the EPL were a class apart from the U.S. and if the game on Sunday versus Germany goes anything like this then the Americans will head to Jamaica anything but confident.
With many expecting Klinsmann to stick with the same back four that shut out Mexico at Azteca, the coach replaced Matt Besler with Clarence Goodson, starting the same group that blanked Costa Rica in snowy Colorado. New centurion DaMarcus Beasley got the start at left back with Geoff Cameron manning the right full back spot.
Cameron and Gonzalez were both caught napping on Belgium’s 6th minute opening goal by Kevin Mirallas. Tim Howard made the initial save, but his defenders froze while Howard’s Everton teammate pounced on the rebound. Howard was furious at his backsmen and was not shy about letting them know it.
With the U.S. playing without Michael Bradley, Sacha Kljestan was given a chance to play in his preferred central midfield position. Kljestan didn’t exactly grab the bull by the horns, in what was nothing more than an average performance.
Cameron went some way towards making amends for his part in Belgium’s opener with his headed goal in the 22nd minute. A Brad Davis corner kick was headed back across the goal by Clint Dempsey to set up Cameron and the U.S. made it to the half tied 1-1.
Brad Guzan came on for Howard after the break and Eddie Johnson came on for Jozy Altidore, who looked to be pressing in an uninspiring effort. With the U.S. playing a bit better, a terrible blunder by Omar Gonzalez gifted Belgium a 3-1 lead. Gonzalez’ heavy touch in the box led to an easy goal by Christian Benteke in the 56th minute.
Eight minutes later Fellaini headed past Guzan and on the 71st minute Benteke added his second when he ran on to a Steven Defour pass and beat his Villa teammate as the game became a rout. The U.S. were awarded a penalty that Dempsey converted in the 80th minute, making the final scoreline misleadingly respectable. The penalty came from a good run by Beasley, one of several the U.S. Man of the Match made on the night. Beasley fed Johnson whose cross resulted in the penalty.
On a poor night for the Americans Jermaine Jones, Beasley and to a lesser extent Graham Zusi and Clint Dempsey were best for the home team. The keepers couldn’t be blamed for the goals, but the defense never jelled and the midfield were outplayed.
Stuart Holden made a late appearance to little effect and still seems unlikely to see time in the qualifiers. Bradley and Jermaine Jones should be available for selection Sunday against Germany, but Klinsmann must settle on a back line and let them build some continuity. Klinsmann’s decision to leave Landon Donovan out of this team doesn’t look good after a performance like this one, a reminder of the gamble Klinsmann has taken with that omission.
Again, friendlies can give rise to false hopes, or indeed an exaggerated sense of dread. Still, the U.S. will have to produce a far better display against Germany on Sunday afternoon in Washington, D.C. Another blowout heading into the Hex would be bad news for the U.S. psyche heading into Jamaica, with Panama and Honduras on deck.
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 1 2
BEL 1 3 4
BEL – Kevin Mirallas 6th minute
USA – Geoff Cameron (Clint Dempsey) 22
BEL – Christian Benteke (Kevin De Bruyne) 56
BEL – Marouane Fellaini (Kevin De Bruyne) 64
BEL – Christian Benteke (Steven Defour) 71
USA – Clint Dempsey (penalty kick) 80
USA: 1-Tim Howard (12-Brad Guzan, 46); 20-Geoff Cameron, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 21-Clarence Goodson (5-Matt Besler, 69), 7-DaMarcus Beasley; 13-Jermaine Jones, 16-Sacha Kljestan (11-Stuart Holden, 81), 19-Graham Zusi (6-Brad Evans, 69), 24-Brad Davis (25-Terrence Boyd, 63); 8-Clint Dempsey (capt.), 17-Jozy Altidore (18-Eddie Johnson, 46)
Substitutions Not Used: 15-Michael Parkhurst, 9-Herculez Gomez
Head coach: Jurgen Klinsmann
BEL: 1-Simon Mignolet; 2-Toby Alderweireld, 3-Thomas Vermaelen (15-Sebastien Pocognoli, 36), 4-Vincent Kompany (capt.) (16-Guillame Gillet, 72), 5-Jan Vertonghen; 6-Marouane Fellaini, 7-Kevin Mirallas, 8-Steven Defour (22-Timmy Simons, 76) 9-Romelu Lukaku (23-Thorgan Hazard, 83); 11-Kevin De Bruyne (14-Dries Mertens, 68), 18-Moussa Dembele (20-Christian Benteke, 41)
Substitutions Not Used: 12-Jean-Francois Gillet, 21-Thomas Kaminski, 13-Laurent Ciman, 17-Maxime Lestienne, 19-Jelle Vossen
Head coach: Marc Wilmots