U.S. creates little attack, falls meekly to Belgium 1-0.
By Robert Wagman
(Tuesday, September 6, 2011) -- For the second match in a row, the United States men were unable to create many scoring chances and they fell 1-0 to Belgium tonight at extremely chilly and rainy King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels.
On paper, the U.S. is playing a 4-3-3 system under new manager Jürgen Klinsmann, but the reality is the outside players in the front three drop into the midfield and the U.S. is left with a lone striker. This has been shown to be completely ineffective.
In previous matches, going back to the 2010 World Cup, the Americans' biggest problem has been an inability to finish its opportunities. Tonight, the problem was a total inability to create any chances. Over 90 minutes, the U.S. had two chances to score, one off a free kick and the other on a header that actually did find the net, but was disallowed on an offside ruling.
The U.S. midfield was completely ineffectual. Clint Dempsey was put into the middle, not his most effective position. He did not work well with Jose Torres and the play in midfield was generally aimless.
The Americans finally came alive in the final 10 minutes as Belgium tired and dropped into a defensive shell, allowing the U.S. more space in the middle. Midfielder Maurice Edu put the ball into the net on a header, but the assistant referee raised his flag on a disputed call.
The American defense was generally fine tonight. When there were breakdowns, goalkeeper Tim Howard was there to make stops. Belgium went ahead in the 55th minute on a long shot from outside the penalty area from defender Nicolas Lombaerts, a blast that went through traffic and Howard saw late. Belgium pretty much lost interest in pushing forward after that and put little pressure on the U.S.
"We need these types of tests and this was a very good test," Klinsmann said. "We have a very strong core in the group and now we have youngsters breaking in who are hungry for their chance."
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Tim Howard - 7: He kept the U.S. in the match with several fine saves in the first half and can't be faulted for the long-range strike that beat him in the second half.
Defender Timmy Chandler - 5.5: Normally a right-side defender, he played tonight on the left and did well. He managed to get forward several times, but his crosses from the left side with his right foot were lacking.
Defender Carlos Bocanegra - 6.5: Whether on the outside or the middle, he was the best defender for the U.S. tonight.
Defender Clarence Goodson - 5.5: An experienced defender, he was rarely out of position and won most of the air duels.
Defender Steve Cherundolo - 6: He is a steadying influence who rarely makes a misstep. Against some quality attackers, he did well.
Midfielder Maurice Edu -5.5: In the first half, playing as the lone defensive midfielder, he had problems and was not as his best. In the second half, with more defensive help, he seemed more comfortable and was able to get forward, even putting a ball into the Belgium goal.
Midfielder Clint Dempsey - 5.5: He played as a central midfielder, not his best position. He was closely marked for most of the match, but in the final 15 minutes or so, when he got some space, he was the main offensive threat.
Midfielder Robbie Rogers - 4.5: From the beginning, he looked tired. He was never really in the match and too often, when he did get control, he pulled the ball back rather than push forward.
Midfielder Brek Shea - 6: A tale of two halves. In the first half, he did not move well off the ball. He had a very different second 45 minutes when he moved well and caused problems for the Belgium defense, but in both halves, he did not make decisions quickly enough. Once again, he looks as if he needs more experience at a higher level.
Forward Jose Torres - 6.5: He was active and worked hard, both on the offense and dropping back on the defense. Most of his passes were on the mark, but he had troubles with the physical Belgium defense.
Forward Jozy Altidore - 5: He showed once again he can't do it alone. He received no service and as a result faced multiple defenders and could create little.
Forward Juan Agudelo (46th minute for Altidore) - 6: He was able to use his fresh legs to create space for himself even though, like Altidore, too often he was left on his own.
Midfielder Kyle Beckerman (46th minute for Rogers) - 6: Provided needed defensive coverage, but was absent on the loose ball that ended up in the long shot that found the U.S. net.
Midfielder Jeff Larentowicz (76th minute for Torres) - 5: Not a long appearance, but he did fine.
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Tim Howard.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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