Persistent U.S. defensive problems allow Switzerland to gain 1-1 draw at home.
By Robert Wagman
(Tuesday, March 31, 2015) -- What has been a troubling development has grown into a full-blown problem. Once again, the United States men conceded a late goal and the Americans had to settle for a 1-1 draw before an estimated crowd of 15,000 this afternoon at Zurich’s Stadion Letzigrund.
With the important CONCACAF Gold Cup approaching in a month, it remains to be seen if U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann has a fix for a back-line that gave up its eighth goal after the 80th minute in its last eight matches. In those outings, the Americans have managed only one victory. The U.S. has been outscored 12-1 in the second half of those contests -- holding a 11-3 goals advantage in the first halves -- while going 1-5-2.
The U.S. played well enough, taking a 1-0 lead into intermission when defender Brek Shea curled a left-footed free kick 28 yards into the top right corner of the net in the 45th minute. The shot just slipped between two opposing heads in the defensive wall to beat goalkeeper Roman Burki, who hardly moved.
For the Americans, who once excelled on set pieces, it was the first free-kick goal since August 2013.
The game turned against the Americans when striker Jozy Altidore was sent off with two yellow cards in the 68th minute. He clipped Swiss defender Francois Moubandje from behind to earn a yellow card, which quickly became red when he expressed dissent Italian Italian referee Luca Banti
The U.S. attack disappeared after that point, but being reduced to 10 men was not the reason the Americans were victimized for an equalizer. Poor communication in back was.
Reserve defender Granit Xhaka took a short left-side corner kick and crossed into the middle. U.S. defender Timmy Chandler and midfielder Alfredo Morales both went up to head the ball away, but neither was able to clear it. The ball dropped to Swiss substitute forward Valentin Stocker, who toe poked it home from two yards past helpless reserve keeper William Yarbrough, making his international debut.
Stocker’s strike was his first for Switzerland in four years. "It might be a theme, but it's not a problem," Klinsmann said of the late breakdowns. "In some games, we kind of ran out of gas earlier and then made individual mistakes. Or maybe now, this was a purely individual mistake, had nothing to do now with the physical condition, which is good."
The U.S. took the lead very late in the first half when Brek Shea lined up a free kick from just outside the penalty area and sent the ball skimming over the Swiss wall and into the top corner freezing Swiss keeper Roman Burki in place and giving him no chance. This was the first free kick goal by the U.S. since August, 2013.
Both teams played with numerous projected starters. This match as a whole was not much of an offensive show. In total, the U.S. had three shots on goal and Switzerland had only two. Most of the match was played in the midfield with neither team gaining much of an advantage.
On the positive side for the Americans, Shea and Chandler, from their outside defensive positions, were able to get forward for fairly-accurate crosses. There were no teammates to take advantage on the receiving end.
Klinsmann was forced to make several last-minute changes necessitated by losing both midfielder Fabian Johnson and striker Aron Jóhannsson to illness. He moved 23-year-old forward Gyasi Zardes up to run with Altidore, but the pairing was nowhere near as effective as Jóhannsson was with Altidore in last Tuesday’s 3-2 loss at Denmark.
This was not the same Swiss team that did so well at last year’s World Cup in Brazil. At 3-2-0, Switzerland has the same record as Slovenia, both trailing England (5-0-0) in Group E in qualifying up for Euro 2016.
Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic made six changes from the side that dominated Estonia.
The U.S. will now regroup for a friendly against CONCCAF rival Mexico April 15 in San Antonio, an 8:30 p.m. start that will be broadcast by Fox Sports 1 and Spanish-language UniMás.
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Nick Rimando - 6: He had little to do in the 45 minutes he played.
Defender Timmy Chandler - 6: A marked improvement over his dismal showing against Denmark. He went forward and crossed very well, but he still made some defensive errors that need to be cleaned up.
Defender Michael Orozco - 5.5: He was not put under much pressure during his 45- minute stint. He did little wrong, but still needs to make a strong showing if he is to contend for a place on the back-line.
Defender John Brooks - 6: Another player who had a better showing than he did against Denmark. He was strong both on the ground and in the air. A solid outing.
Defender Brek Shea - 7: He was good on the defense, was good going forward and crossing, and his free-kick goal gave the Americans the lead. Obviously, this was one of his best U.S. showings.
Midfielder Michael Bradley - 5.5: If more evidence was needed that he is much more comfortable and effective playing deeper in the midfield, today could stand as Exhibit A. He was pushed forward, playing under the front line, and had, at best, a so-so showing.
Midfielder Alejandro Bedoya - 6.5: Allowed to play in a more offensive role in the midfield, he responded with a string effort that shows a great deal of promise.
Midfielder Danny Williams - 5: Injury prone, he made his first start since early 2013 and his first appearance since early last year. Now that he is getting some playing time at Reading in England, he is starting to regain some of his former effectiveness and he looked good in a holding midfield role.
Midfielder Alfredo Morales - 5: An inconsistent outing, he showed promise going forward, but made too many defensive errors. He does not look like a starter in the future.
Forward Gyasi Zardes -- 5: This is the role he wants -- playing on top. He had a few good moments, but left much room for improvement.
Forward Jozy Altidore -- 4: At times looked good, but then his meltdown, turning a booking he deserved into a red card with his reaction, makes one wonder if this could happen at a key moment in a match that really counted.
Goalkeeper William Yarbrough (46th minute for Rimando) - 5.5: The 26-year-old, who grew up in Mexico as the son of American missionaries, is playing for Mexican side Club Leon. He looked quite settled in making his national-team debut, but had relatively little to do and could do nothing to prevent Switzerland’s goal.
Defender Ventura Alvarado (46th minute for Orozco) - 5.5: He had a few missteps in his second international appearance, but did enough right to make him a contender for a greater role going forward.
Midfielder DeAndre Yedlin (76th minute for Bedoya) - 5: He did little to impress in his short time playing.
Forward Jordan Morris (89th minute for Zardes) - no rating: The Stanford University player has been with the under-23 men, where he provided a strong performance against Bosnia and Herzegovina last week in a friendly. This was his first full international appearance, nut didn’t have time to leave an impression.
Defender Tim Ream (89th minute for Morales) – no rating: He worked hard over the past 10 days in training and deserved an appearance check.
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Brek Shea.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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