Wednesday, June 17, 2009

ATH: US v Brazil

Scouting Report: Brazil

By Graig Carbino - ALBANY, NY (June 16th, 2009) USSoccerPlayers -- The US National Team will need to rebound in a hurry if they want to move forward in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup. After losing to Italy under somewhat controversial circumstances on Monday, they're left with a rough consolation prize waiting just three days later in the form of Brazil.

The US team has to take at least one point from this contest if it is to have any chance of making it out of group play and into the knockout phase of this tournament. They will also have to do it with at least one philosophy change in terms of their playing formation.

Ricardo Clark will be suspended for the next game after his red card from the Italy match. His absence will force coach Bob Bradley out of playing two defensive minded central midfield players. Michael Bradley will most likely be paired with either Benny Feilhaber or Sacha Kljestan in the middle. Either choice will be required to shoulder some of the defensive load in the central part of the field.

If there were any game to play somewhat defensive, this might be it. You never want to just sit back and hope for a draw, but the US would have most likely preferred to defend and counter in this game. They cannot really afford to overexpose their defensive third of the field when a draw would at least get them a shot of moving on heading into game three against Egypt on Sunday.

Having a plan on defense and then actually being able to implement and sustain said plan tends to be two very different things when matching up against the attacking flair and dynamism of Brazil. With World-class players like Kaka and Robinho leading the offense, the US will have their hands full just getting the ball off of their opponents from time to time.

That said, Brazil didn’t exactly look like World beaters in their opening 4-3 victory over Egypt. Hitting four goals in one game is nothing to hang your head about, but Brazil really did not score or create in their typical fashion.

Kaka hit the first for the Selecao after jinking his was through a few Egyptian defenders and sliding the ball past the onrushing Essam El Hadary. The new Real Madrid signing is certainly one of the best on the planet, but it was pure comedy defending from the Egyptian defense that let him in.

Brazil relied on set pieces for their remaining three goals, not something all together typical of a squad that’s more “play it on the ground and dribble it around you” than anything resembling a free-kick and/or corner kick reliant side.

The hopeful part for the United States is a repeat of Brazil relying on set pieces. The US does a pretty decent job of defending any set piece situation. What they will certainly lack for in technical flair and attacking nuance compared to Brazil will certainly be made up for in pure athleticism and grit. As witnessed against the Italians, pushovers they are not.

Another positive to take away from the Brazil-Egypt game if you are the United States would be the three goals scored by Egypt. The Brazilians have never been known for their defensive prowess, and they would not have changed any minds with the three goals leaked on Tuesday.

Egypt got down the flanks with ease and it was no shock really when an unmarked Mohamed Zidan headed past Julio Cesar from a few yards out for the Pharaohs' first goal. They were let in far too easy on their second as well, Mohamed Aboutrika cutting a ball back from the left wing to a wide open Mohamed Shawky at the top of the 18-yard box. Shawky practically had time to shave and shower before shooting past Cesar.

All credit to the Africans, but come one, they did lose 3-1 to Algeria last week in World Cup qualifying. This is Brazil we are talking about!

Zidan wrapped up the Egyptian scoring from a chance sort of similar to the ones provided for both Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore by the foot of Landon Donovan against Italy. A cutting ball from the middle of the field sent him into the box on the left, and he finished superbly to stun Brazil. The US attackers could take a note or two in regards to the Germany-based ace’s aggression and single-mindedness in front of goal.

The last time the States took on Brazil was back in September of 2007 at Soldier Field in Chicago. That day ended in a 4-2 loss for the home team, but two goals against the number one rated team in the World at the time should have given the team a few positive vibes back then. They scored one from a set piece and one from the run of play in a game that was dominated by an in-form Ronaldinho.

Well, Ron is no longer in the picture and the US will be looking to defend tighter than a few years ago while still creating a few chances of their own. If Brazil’s first Confederations Cup match of 2009 is any indication, they should at least get a few looks at goal. Couple that with the South Americans lack of creativity and reliance on set plays in game one, and the United States might just be catching Brazil at the right time.

At least that’s what they will be hoping for. We’ll see on Thursday whether or not Kaka and Robinho and Luis Fabiano and Elano and Pato and, well you get the picture.

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