USMNT to use Brazil as measuring stick before qualifying

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Photo by John Todd/ISIphotos.com


By FRANCO PANIZO

LANDOVER, Md. — The U.S. men's national team has had 10 months to fine-tune things under head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, and now they will get to see just how far they have come along.

The United States will take on five-time World Cup champions Brazil on Wednesday night at FedEx Field in a high-profile friendly that the Americans are using as to gauge where they stand before World Cup qualifying begins next weekend. 

The Americans are coming off a big 5-1 win after defeating Scotland in their first summer friendly on Saturday, and they are hoping to build on that against a Brazilian team that, despite missing several of their top stars, still has plenty of ability.

"They love to dictate their own game, they're used to kind of set the tone and they have wonderful players, there's no doubt about it," said Klinsmann. "But now it's interesting for us, the situation is how much can we take to them, how much can we go eye-to-eye on the field in certain areas and elements in terms of tempo, in terms of tactical approach, in terms closing them down and also play our game and go forward and cause them some trouble.

"It's an exciting benchmark that we face. It will tell us a lot about where we are in our process, and it will definitely help us for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers."

Klinsmann will likely once again opt not to start Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore. The two U.S. attackers are trying to catch up to speed with the rest of the team in terms of fitness after missing the first week of the U.S. team's training camp, and that should force them to come off the bench versus Brazil, if at all.

Who Klinsmann decides to put in their place is more of an unknown. He could go with Terrence Boyd and Jose Torres (the two players who filled in for the aforementioned duo against Scotland), or he could go with putting in a more experienced forward like Herculez Gomez or Chris Wondolowski up top, or he could switch from the 4-3-3 formation to something else.

Whoever starts, though, will be given the unenvious task of having to chase down Brazilian attackers. From Neymar and his dazzling dribbling skills to the prowess of Hulk, Leandro Damiao and Alexandre Pato inside the penalty area, the United States will need to put forth a disciplined defensive effort to give themselves a chance in the game.

"Naturally, they like to dominate the ball, dominate possession," said goalkeeper Tim Howard. "We clearly know that, but we were good the other night on the counterattack and our football was really good and how we possessed it. It'll be wide open and that's how they like to play the game, but we're going to try and do a few things to put the game in situations we like."

Taking the game to the young Selecao side is part of the plan for the United States. Just as they did against Scotland last Saturday and to a lesser extent against Italy in a historic win in February, the Americans want to try and get forward and exploit some of the space the Brazilians might leave as they push forward.

In the past, the U.S. team has been content to sit and counter. But Klinsmann wants players like Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley to try and push the tempo against the skilled Brazilians when they can, and he will also try and push his defensive line up the field if possible.

"Obviously, you see that during the game how far you can go high up and put pressure on them in their own half and make the spaces really tight and difficult for them to come through," said Klinsmann. "The fascination of the Brazilian style is obviously how they change positions. Their strikers how they come into midfield, midfield become strikers, even fullbacks become strikers if you look at Marcelo or Danilo, they are used to go and play right wingers. That's what their style is about: that everybody loves to attack from their end."

Containing the Brazilians is no easy task, but the Americans are no strangers to the South American powerhouse. The match against Brazil will mark the fifth time the two teams have met since 2007. And although the United States has never beaten the Brazilians in that window, the Americans are confident they can get a result if they play to the capabilities they have demonstrated in recent months.

"Every team has their strengths and weaknesses," said Klinsmann. "Undoubtedly they have a lot of strengths, but they also have some weaknesses, so hopefully we can take advantage of a few of them."

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68 Responses to USMNT to use Brazil as measuring stick before qualifying

  1. John says:

    I’m sick of all this talk of ‘benchmark’ games. I guarantee you Brazil isn’t talking about any benchmarks. They’re talking about dominating our midfield, and Neymar making us look silly, and kicking our butts. That’s the team I want. We’ve been ‘gauging’ what we’ve got since 1994. Enough already. Give me a national team with a national manager and national captain that want to talk about beating the best sides, period. We had these guys down 2-0 in SA, we beat Spain there to break the longest world streak, and we’ve won five straight. Go out and win, and you pundits can stick your yardstick up your backside.

  2. Ryan in NYC from NC says:

    +10000

  3. tdb says:

    Screw being realistic lets live in dreamland!

  4. PWR says:

    John I understand where you are coming from, but the simple truth is we are still an imature soccer nation in terms of quality of players. I am excited to see if we played well against Scotland or if the Scotish had one toe in the pool already for summer vacation. That game on Saturday was the most complete soccer game we have played in a long while, and to really move forward as a nation we need to do it every time out. I am optimistic we will give Brazil a good run tonight, Go USA.

  5. Eric says:

    Lol this guy cracks me up, it is a benchmark. That doesn’t mean they aren’t trying to win the game. A benchmark means they are trying to prove they are right up there with the world’s best like Brazil, a team that has already proven they are. That Confederations Cup was great but the point is the US teams needs to consistently find success like Brazil has. Which makes games like today’s a benchmark. Don’t get all worked up by rhetoric, they are there to win the game.

  6. Old School says:

    “The U.S. men’s national team has had 10 months to fine-tune things under head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, and now they will get to see just how far they have come along.”

    Because we play Brazil-quality teams in qualifying? It’s a good test but to say that “now they’ll see” is a bit of a stretch.

    To my knowledge, Dempsey/Alitdore won’t even start. Can we really say that we can see how far we’ve come when Donovan/Dempsey haven’t even player together?

    I think everyone has ALREADY seen how far they’ve come and it continues to be a work in progress leading up to Brazil 2014.

    When our players are healthy and in the lineup, I think the Scotland match shows us a sign of what we’re capable of.

    I have nothing but respect for Bob Bradley but if you can’t see a difference in our play style, playing against Brazil won’t suddenly show you the progression that continues for the next two years.

    In one year, this team barely resembles the previous four at times. Hopefully, everyone sees that but also understands it’s a constantly evolving style of play.

  7. Old School says:

    Speaking of “cracks me up”…believing we’re “right up there with the worlds best like Brazil” after a friendly win/lose or draw.

    The only true “benchmark” in soccer is the World Cup.

    End of story.

  8. John says:

    You’re missing the point. The point isn’t whether we’re better or worse than Brazil on May 30, 2012. The point is that the overall perpetual state of USMNT and every statement that comes out of it hasn’t changed in a generation. We are ALWAYS trying to figure out who we are. At what point does the leadership of US soccer know what kind of soccer team we are and what we can do?

  9. Charles says:

    I sort of agree with John. Grow a pair and quit hedging by saying things like benchmark game. It really says, we are ok with losing, as long as we are close.

    Benchmark to me says, if we lose 5-0 we have more work to do than if we lose 2-0.

    I would prefer: Not going to be easy, they are great. but we had them down 2-0, and we want to do the same, plus close it out this time.

  10. Taylor says:

    yea!!!!! we beat scotland, so now we’re better than brazil and spain and the netherlands and germany!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. David says:

    Tell that to the teams competing in Euro 2012. I don’t think they don’t consider it a true “benchmark” it seems to be serious business over there.

    Also, I don’t think these players got to where they are by not taking friendlies seriously. Sure they may only play 60 minutes, sure a few players may rest instead of risk aggravating an injury (Dempsey), but to the 22 players out there, I highly doubt they will be not taking the game seriously.

  12. bryan says:

    is it 8pm eastern yet?

  13. BSU SC says:

    Chill out, guys. This is a friendly game, not the World Cup. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the game. It’s not every day that we get to see USA vs. Brazil. Arguing over the word “benchmark” is silly and useless.

  14. Realist says:

    I can’t believe people are this much up in the air over a friendly, for crying out loud of course we will go out and try to win but we don’t want to get our azzes handed to us as well! Unfortunately the only true tests are FIFA tournaments and we won’t be playing in one until 2014. I say we sit back and enjoy the game tonight and hopefully we can get a result, that is nothing different than what most other countries would say right before playing Brazil. Hopefully in the future when my kids are at my age then we can say, lets go out and beat the sh*t out of Brazil tonight!

  15. louis z says:

    I’m Ok with losing, not OK if we get embarassed.

  16. bryan too says:

    approx 5 hours to go!

  17. kelso says:

    i can’t believe all of the fuss about the phrase ‘benchmark game’… US Soccer fans surely have more to worry about than this silliness

  18. Colin says:

    I’m jut pissed he used the term “measuring stick”. This is America we use “yard sticks” because the metric system is for suckers.

  19. tdb says:

    Your initial statement doesn’t read like that at all and im pretty sure everyone else drew the same conclusion I did.

  20. Adam M. says:

    The irony of the above comments is that this game is probably more important for Brazil than it is for the US. Brazil has never won Olypmic Gold and this is essentially their Olympic side in a prep match. Its also important because Brazil has no WC qualifiers, so it has to really rely on friendlies to build cohesion for the WC that, oh by the way, they are hosting. Not to mention the Brazilian press is looking for an excuse to sack Mano. The good news here is not that this is a yardstick game for the US (it is), but that the US is good enough for this to be a yardstick game for Brazil.

  21. cj says:

    we beat spain and italy….

  22. josh says:

    I really want to see Jermaine Jones blow up Neymar with a well placed slide tackle.

    Super excited though, would like to see Herc up top to start tonight.

    ——Herc——

    Torres—Donovan–

    Jones–Edu–Bradley

    Dempsey in for Torres

    Altidore in for Herc

  23. ThaDeuce says:

    nicely done!

  24. skyman says:

    You’re obviously ambitious and excited about US soccer. However, Brazil has a history unparalleled in international football: it pervades throughout their culture, as it has for decades, and their style has been consistently (not always) beautiful.
    Klinsmann is developing a style here, but we’re not going to EVER be at Brazil’s level, unless it’s in 75-100 years.

  25. skyman says:

    +1

  26. CorkSoccer says:

    Amen bro.

  27. josh says:

    Sadly, I think Brazil is more likely to be more of a whuppin’ stick than a yardstick.

  28. America, F yea! says:

    hahaha, well said, Colin!!

  29. al17 says:

    We did what we were supposed to have done against Scotland. How we did was damn impressive and made me feel good for the Nats team. If we put in a similar performance against Brasil I’ll be happy. I’m part of that group that didn’t care for Klinsmann’s hiring but I’m starting to see what he’s trying to do. Do I expect to beat Brasil tonight – YEAH but keep in mind that when our Nats play I expect them to kick everyone’s asses and WELL. If we don’t win will I be disappointed? Maybe, depends on how we play. If it’s a match similar to how we played against them in the Confed’s Cup Final then no. If it’s like last summer’s match against Mexico then I’m pissed. Looking forward to seeing how we play against the Gold Standard in Football tonight.

  30. John says:

    History lesson:

    Until four years ago, the ONLY time Spain made it past the quarters of an international tournament was the 1984 Euros (NEVER in the WC until 2010). Their long history of footballing didn’t do it, and their great domestic league with the Real of the 50s and the Barca of the 70s and 90s didn’t do it. One man, Luis Aragones, decided what their identity would/could be, and they went with it. That was 2004. Del Bosque continued the program, and they were champions of Europe and the world in six years.
    Do you realize that, with 2010 qualification, USA is one of only five nations to have qualified for the last five tournaments running?
    We’re not 100 year of beach samba away. We’re a commitment to identity away,a commitment to winning and no excuses away, and that can begin any time. I hope that, under Klinsmann, it will. We’ll see.

  31. Bill W. says:

    Well said, sir.

  32. M-O-O-N spell Jim says:

    A benchmark helps me remember which bench is mine.
    And a measuring stick helps me to know the dimensions of my bench.

    However, both can be used to determine how capable these current players are at executing the system when face with stiffer competition.

  33. Nate Dollars says:

    +1

  34. Udi says:

    I’ll be you $5 that Jones gets a yellow card.

  35. Seriously? says:

    Why is benchmark a bad word to you? Maybe the benchmark could be that we’re better than Brazil. The point is, it’s a friendly, the result doesn’t matter. At this point evaluating, and developing the team for the games that do matter, is what’s truly important, for Brazil as well. If it were a tournament, I guarantee the US team wouldn’t be using such a term either.

  36. THomas says:

    Quick! I need a good Brazilian beer to drink during the game tonight. I have no idea why, but I like to drink a beer from the country we’re playing against.

    Help!

  37. bryan says:

    it’s funny you say that about the press. i just listened to a pod cast yesterday about JK answering questions from the Brazilian press. he was telling them they need to take it easy on the coach and get behind their team. he used England as an example of what happens when the media does not.

    whether or not you agree with JK’s assessment that the press should get behind their team rather than ask tough questions (or do both) is one thing, but it’s funny you said that about the press.

  38. tdb says:

    You can’t be serious with that comment. We are much more then a commitment or identity away from winning a World Cup.

  39. THomas says:

    Brazil is tough enough as it is, but without a defense or goaltender we’re really going to be up against it.

    Just joshin.

  40. prredicto says:

    Whatever is said is just words. The game is the thing. If the USMNT can deliver the style of play they did against scotland – even if they lose – I’ll be happy.

  41. John says:

    Well put.

  42. b says:

    Best comment in the thread.

    US soccer fans just need something to complain about at all times, now we are nitpicking words…

  43. b says:

    Brahma Beer

  44. bryan says:

    leaving my office near Union Station and heading to Eastern Market for drinks before the game! PEACE! USA USA USA!

  45. Eurosnob says:

    I am not a beer expert, but you should be able to get the Brahma brand in most major cities in the US. They have funny commercials too.

  46. juan says:

    This is basically Brazil’s Olympic team… not their WCQ team. I expect a very strong showing from the USA with a win not out or the question.

    Not sure about Gooch though as a starter. A big, lumbering, defender against a fast skill team is not a good idea. Think I’d stick with a more athletic Cameron and see how he does

  47. Lil' Zeke says:

    Let’s follow sports without getting angry :)

  48. Lost in Space says:

    For the first time in my 30 yrs of watching the USMNT I feel we are in a position to really define a lasting style of play. With the current players and the potential of the youth players comeing throught the system we are to a point where we can shed the concept that we are mearly a hard working athletic side. I believe that our players have greatly improved in their technical and tactical ability as well.
    I truly believe by the time the HEX comes around we’ll have a ligitimate chance of beating Mexico on their home soil. Furthermore, by WC 2014 we could be a side that no-one wants to match up against.
    Granted both are in the future, and there are plenty of challenges we have to overcome before then…but IF
    1) Our young players continue advancing at the same rate…Gatt, Gyau, Corona, Boyd Wooten, Agudelo, etc..
    2) We can find replacements for some of the aging stars (Dolo, Boca, Gooch, Goodson, Jones)…biggest concern to me is the Center Backs.
    3) Our core/star players can stay healthy (Howard, Dempsey, Donovan, Bradley, Johnson, Chandler, Lichaj, Jozy, Holden)
    Than I think we’ll be able to demonstrate a consistancy and style that will be compairable to all but the truly elite nations…and even then we can push them to their limits.

  49. hogatroge says:

    We didn’t beat Spain recently. We lost to them 4-0 last year. 2009 is long gone, bud.

  50. Brad says:

    I agree that the use of the word benchmark is a little tedious, but I have always written it off for a couple of reasons.

    First, I think it is used to quell the often uneducated USA soccer fan. We as a country have a long history of assuming we are #1 at everything we do, and it comes from our capitalistic nature. This mentality has helped us achieve great things, but often leads us to conclusions that are off base. I was talking to a friend of mine, who is not soccer savy, and he asked if we were going to win today. I said that it is possible, but not probable, but that my main hope, is that we score a goal from the run of play. How many other sports in the USA would that be a good goal for a team? Their is not a lot of experience with the idea of a good loss, or even a good draw.
    I guess that benchmark is a defensive word….and that is what John seemed not to like, but it seems helpful in terms of reminding us that it is not as black and white of an issue as you might think.

  51. Brad says:

    And to be clear, I am not calling any of us uneducated soccer fans. I was referring to less avid fans that don’t read and post in one of the better soccer blogs we have.

  52. Paula says:

    There’s asking tough questions, and there’s weird gonzo Tabloidism, which is how the British press treats the England team.

    It doesn’t help them, to say the least.

  53. Turgid Jacobian says:

    Sort of agree with your laast point.

  54. ACC says:

    The USNT will come out and play for the first 15 minutes or so. After that, they will bunker down and look for a lucky goal on the counter……Bradley style

  55. Eric says:

    I don’t think there are any takers.

  56. GW says:

    I think if you sift through the huge amount of quotes that JK has put out all these month’s, it comess down to this.

    ” We want the players to be in the best shape possible and then we will attack them as a team and if we are truly committed anything is possible”

    or my translation:

    “F++K “em. Let them worry about us.”

    I’ve watched JK over most of his career as a player and when you look at all winning teams he was on, they were great players but they were not the greatest players. The other guys were often more talented.

    But what they did have was an absolutely rock solid belief that they would find a way to win and they almost always did. Just thinking about playing those teams was exhausting because they absolutely refused to ever concede anything. A real arrogant, hard core, hard nosed bunch.

    It’s a good thing JK is so personable because most of those guys were pretty unpleasant.

    I see no reason to think JK will run this team any other way.

  57. GW says:

    JK is not okay with losing.

    Never has been. Look at his career.

    What gets lost in his charm offensive is the man is a very poor loser.

    I’m sure he expects to win tonight.

  58. dgoshilla says:

    The USMNT still hasn’t had a full side on the field at one time. It won’t again tonight.
    However, I like the timing of it all leading into qualifying.

  59. JRP says:

    Beginning of a better story. Once upon a time there was a Know-It-All on a blog who thought a tournament that happens once every four years was the only true benchmark for a world wide sport. Since most soccer carrers only span two, sometimes three, Wold Cups it may be an important tournament but is by no means the only true benchmark.

  60. JRP says:

    Where I live Benchmark is a rehab place for rich kids who’s parents found out they party on the weekend. They go their with a taste for pot and leave with a taste for hard stuff. Speaking of pot…go smoke a bowl and chill out. It is just a game.

  61. Scott says:

    You set a goal, decide what you need do to achieve that goal and then use benchmarks to measure where you are against that goal. Benchmark is a good term. Maybe you can think about this while bagging groceries at work tomorrow.

  62. Ryan in NYC from NC says:

    The fact that this conversation is even going on is a huge deal for soccer in the US. We have so much to look forward to. It’s a special time for us. #USMNT. Don’t tread!!

  63. Seriously? says:

    This conversation strikes me as an example of the old saying that text is a reflection of the reader. I’m a bit mystified at how people think the word benchmark implies something negative, meaning that the coach or whomever uses it doesn’t care. I honestly see it as totally the opposite. If your coach or your boss were to say to you that they’re going to view the results as a benchmark on where you stand, would you take that to mean that the coach/boss was saying that they don’t care how you do, that the results of your performance won’t matter? That is very strange to me. If anything, my perception of the people who think it’s bad to use the performance against Brazil as a benchmark is that those people inherently think US players are inferior to Brazil’s, and therefore take it to mean that the US players can’t set a benchmark that’s higher than that of the Brazilians. That’s not what the term benchmark means, to me it just means we’ll see if your better, worse or even with.

    If you want Klinsman to say that he’s going to go all out to get a result, that’s just silly. If it were the World Cup, he’d be pushing to get players who aren’t 100%, like Dempsey, to play because the result is more important than the risk of injury, which I think would be dumb. Also, in a friendly, you might want to try a player who you might not put into a World Cup game being played today, but for whom the experience of playing Brazil might help him develop into a player to be used in a World Cup, or qualifying. So instead he uses a term that lets the players know that their performances matter, where they stand in the coach’s eyes will be based on how well they play. What’s so bad about that?

  64. Jeff says:

    Xingu

  65. prredicto says:

    I have the same fear, that after a energetic start, brasil will beat us back so the counter is our only out. Hope not.

  66. prredicto says:

    Strange that the expectations are due to the USMNT’s play in one game v Scotland. Yes, it was beautiful, it was sustained, and resulted in lots of goals. But one game.

  67. Eurosnob says:

    Juan, Gooch is a starter for one of the top teams in Portugal so he is used to face fast skilled attackers, including Hulk, who plays in the same league. Plus he has a lot more experience than Cameron in playing in big games – e.g. Confederation’s Cup final against Brazil and semifinal against Spain, games against Mexico at Azteca, etc. Having said that, Brazil will be a handful. While Brazil is no longer the top team in the world, their talent pool is very deep and they can easily field 3-4 very good teams without a huge drop off.

  68. Yellow Submarine says:

    that LITERALLY happened. nice call