United States must learn their lessons after Brazil capitulation
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- As ugly as the national team's 4-1 loss to Brazil on Tuesday was -- and it was a real stinker, make no mistake -- the United States' players tried their best to keep perspective following what was the worst home defeat for the Americans since they last faced the five-time world champions three years ago, when they went down by an identical score.
"We didn't think we were the best team in world when we beat Netherlands and Germany in the friendlies in June, and we don't think we're the worst team in the world right now," captain Michael Bradley said after the match.
"We just have to maintain a level head and be able to look at things in a reasonable way. At the end of the day, this game is not the be-all, end-all for us this year."
Not with qualifying games for the 2018 World Cup in Russia beginning in November, it isn't. And certainly not with what is unquestionably the biggest match of this year now just one month away, when the U.S. and archrivals Mexico square off Oct. 10 with a berth in the 2017 Confederations Cup -- the dress rehearsal for the main event the following summer -- on the line.
But as much as it makes sense for Jurgen Klinsmann and his players to have short memories following the rout, such a poor showing in the final tuneup before the games that really matter raises plenty of red flags, no matter the opponent.
"Obviously it's disappointing," Klinsmann said. "It's a result you don't want."
The coach insisted he wasn't concerned that any of Tuesday's bad vibes will linger and impact his team's next match, but it's hard to ignore the way the U.S. capitulated after going down 2-0 just six minutes into the second half.
"I don't think we handled it as well as we should have," Bradley said. "I'm not trying to just sweep it under the rug completely."
Nor should Klinsmann. The coach called the game "a learning moment" and a "lesson" and it was. Mostly in what not to do.
The U.S. were careless with the ball on the rare occasions they had it, and they dug themselves an early hole when a DeAndre Yedlin turnover allowed Brazil to go the other way and score through Hulk just nine minutes in.
"The first goal we give the ball away too easy and we get punished," U.S. striker Jozy Altidore said. "This is how it is at this level."
There were plenty of other mistakes too, and they weren't limited just to the players.
Klinsmann made at least one glaring selection error, shoehorning veteran Alejandro Bedoya into an unfamiliar, deep-lying defensive role. On the surface, it was a defensible idea. Bedoya has been one of Klinsmann's top performers over the past two years, usually on the right wing, and given the visitors' attacking prowess, using a dedicated destroyer to shield the back line made sense.
But Bedoya's lack of experience in that spot and the fact that he's not at full fitness following a summer spent dealing with pesky knee and hamstring injuries, meant it was never likely to work. It didn't.
"It's fair to say I got exposed a little bit in not really knowing how to play as a No. 6, which I haven't really played as a professional," a visibly upset Bedoya, who was taken off by Klinsmann with nine minutes still left in the first half, said. "You try to work on things in training but obviously in the game environment it's a whole different thing."
The loss was even more disappointing on the heels of last week's encouraging comeback win over Peru. In this game, the U.S. was deficient in every area.
"When you play against teams like Brazil, if you're not at your sharpest, if you're not at your best physically, mentally, tactically," Bradley said. "Then they make you pay."
With no more margin for error, no time left to experiment, the trick for the U.S. now will be to learn from the defeat while simultaneously trying to forget it.
"Tonight's a tough night," keeper Brad Guzan said. "You play one of the best teams in world football, and to a certain extent, they taught us a lesson. It's not what we wanted but we'll move on rather quickly. We have to."
Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.