Gonzalez scores pair, powering Chile past U.S., victim of another late defensive breakdown.
By Robert Wagman
(Tuesday, January 28, 2015) -- Veteran Chile striker Mark Gonzalez twice victimized a porous United States defense after intermission, turning a one-goal halftime deficit into a 3-2 victory over the Americans in front of 15,560 tonight at Estadio El Teniente in Rancagua, Chile.
The Americans have been prone to conceding late goals in recent times.
U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann termed his January training camp, and this match, as experimental -- a time to try new players and new tactics. The major change for the Americans was a new formation featuring a pair of strikers and five midfielders playing in front of three defenders. This 3-5-2 alignment is being seen more and more at the club level in Europe, but it is the first time Klinsmann has used it with the U.S. team.
Jermaine Jones, continuing to make the shift from midfield to defense, was in the center between Steve Birnbaum, earning his first international start, and regular Matt Besler. In the midfield, Brek Shea and DeAndre Yedlin were on the wings and both had the responsibility to drop back wide on defense when Jones went forward or when Chile attacked down the flanks. This theory often proved to be less than effective.
As might be expected in trying something new, at times it was rough going for the U.S. Both of González’s tallies were scored from wide-left positions when the Americans were simply stretched too thin and susceptible to counter-attacks. Chile’s opening goal came when there was confusion between Jones and Besler about whose responsibility goal-scorer Roberto Gutierrez was.
The U.S. was only two weeks into training at the start of its season while Chile was already into its club season and thus the host was much fitter. By the middle of the second half, most of the U.S. veterans were visibly slowing and the Americans did not manage a shot in the second half.
Meanwhile American Jozy Altidore was much helped by a second striker, Bobby Wood. Shea gave the U.S. the initial lead with a sixth-minute goal and Altidore gave it a 2-1 advantage at the break, converting a pass from midfielder Mix Diskerud in the 31st minute.
The match was played outside of world governing body FIFA’s international match dates, so neither coach was able to call in European-based players. Klinsmann was able to include his players now appearing in Major League Soccer, while Chile’s Argentine coach Jorge Sampaoli only had available two members of Chile’s 2014 FIFA World Cup squad: reserve defender José Rojas and reserve goalkeeper Johnny Herrera.
Chile’s roster was made up of players from its domestic league, but they included a number of veterans such as González, who was a star of the 2010 World Cup side in South Africa. A number of Chile’s starters play together on major domestic club teams, such as Universidad de Chile and Colo-Colo.
Klinsmann has said his twin goals in 2015 are to win the CONCACAF Gold Cup and for the under-23 men to qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil. To this end, he has had a total of 14 uncapped players in his California training camp, eight from MLS whom made the trip to Chile: defender Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), defender Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), goalkeeper Jon Kempin (Sporting Kansas City), midfielder Perry Kitchen (D.C. United), defender-midfielder Shane O’Neill (Colorado Rapids), midfielder Dillon Serna (Colorado), midfielder Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew) and forward Gyasi Zardes (Los Angeles Galaxy).
The U.S. has lost three straight matches following two draws, the longest winless streak during Klinsmann’s tenure. The Americans host Panama February 8 at the Stub Hub Center in Carson, Calif.
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Nick Rimando - 5: He was not at fault on the first Chilea goal, should have done better on the second before making a terrific save on the third only to give up a rebound directly to González in front of an open net. Otherwise, he had little to do on the night, making only one additional save.
Defender Matt Besler - 6: He shared responsibility for the first Chile goal, but otherwise had a good night as he often had to cover for Jones, who pushed forward while he received little cover from Shea.
Defender Jermaine Jones - 5: Not a natural defender, he is making the switch and, at times, it’s painful. He is also being asked to do way too much, pushing forward on attack and, over the final 20 minutes when the U.S. went to a more traditional 4-4-2, was often playing as a midfielder. He needs to play more within himself and concentrate on defending.
Defender Steve Birnbaum - 5.5: A very impressive international debut for the MLS “Rookie of the Year.” He had to work hard because he was often left alone and he made few errors.
Midfielder Michael Bradley - 6.5: Given the three-man defense behind him, he spent much of the night cleaning up the middle defensively. He was able to get into the attack from time to time and rocketed a hard shot off the crossbar in the second half.
Midfielder Brek Shea - 5.5: Scored the opening U.S. goal, converting a beautiful pass from Besler to strike powerfully from the left side. He seemed to have problems knowing when to drop back to aid the defense and by the middle of the second half, he was clearly out of gas.
Midfielder Mix Diskerud - 6.5: At times. he was the best U.S. player. He got around the Chilean defense and pulled the ball back to Altidore on the second American goal. He started to tire midway through the second half and was missed after he came out at the hour mark.
Midfielder DeAndre Yedlin - 5.5: He led the U.S. attack in the first half, causing the Chile defense constant problems as he attacked down the outside. But he also failed to get back on defense too often and was at fault on the second Chile goal.
Midfielder Clint Dempsey - 5: He had a good first half, but was much less effective after that.. He lacked fitness and was bounced around by the physical Chilean defenders as the match wore on.
Forward Bobby Wood - 4: His 1860 Munich coach does not even use him as a substitute and his lack of match fitness was clear from the start. He contributed little and was pulled at the half.
Forward Jozy Altidore - 6: He scored a beautiful goal and had a high work rate until he, too, visibly tired. Playing with a second striker clearly suits him as he does not have the pressure of leading the attack alone. At times, he was effective on defense, dropping far back to help relieve pressure.
Forward Lee Nguyen (46th minute for Wood) – 5: He started slowly after starting the second half. Did better later, but missed the Americans’ best chance in the 77th minute when he wasted Bradley’s feed with a wide shot..
Midfielder Wil Trapp (60th minute for Diskerud) - 4.5: He had the misfortune of entering the match at just about the moment when too many around him were starting to fade, but he did not have much effect on the match in what was a less than effective half hour.
Midfielder Gyasi Zardes (68th minute for Dempsey) - 5.5: His fresh legs were a bright spot in the closing minutes. He got too little help from those around him in what was not too bad of an international debut.
Forward Chris Wondolowski (75th minute for Altidore) - 5: He sent one strong header at goal, forcing a good save from the Chilea keeper Johnny Herrera. Otherwise, he had little impact from too short of an appearance.
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Michael Bradley.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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