I freely admit, I missed the second half of the United States-Switzerland game as I had to record it on my DVR and go to my afternoon class.
I was unhappy. Not because I was missing the game, but I was missing a game in which the USMNT was actually playing well. The defense was largely organized though there were a few nervy moments from Nick Rimando and Timmy Chandler. The midfield was solid, Michael Bradley running everywhere to find the ball and Alfredo Morales and Alejandro Bedoya pinching in to allow the fullbacks, Chandler and Shea, to overlap on the counter effectively.
Overall, the first half showed that the USA, and head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, had a game plan. They had some idea of how they wanted to play and executed for the most part very well. The US attacked with numbers on numerous occasions and aside from a woeful Bradley finish, they deserved to be in front at the half on this splendid Shea free kick:
Can I rate everyone properly from the first half? Not really, Timmy Chandler drives everyone insane but his offensive contribution was well worth it in the first half. I thought Bedoya was spectacular and really shined in this odd hybrid center mid/right wing role as Klinsmann used a diamond midfield that played more like a 4-1-3-2. And I don't like the formation or anything that has Bradley in a true #10 role, but it worked.
And Jurgen Klinsmann, for one game, deserves some credit. For the first time in a long time the US looked like a team that was prepared and knew how to play soccer instead of a bunch of guys that got of a plane and kicked off. See, that 3-2 game against Denmark.
Does that excuse the poor run of results and late game collapses that fans have grown accustomed to since the World Cup last summer? No. But it's true that the results of these friendlies don't matter as far as the scoreboard goes, it's just nice to see the US play well. A positive result, be it a win or draw, especially on the road in Europe, is just a bonus.
This is a good Swiss team, perhaps not world beaters, but solid on both sides of the ball and a really great bench mark to rate where your team is. With the Gold Cup only a few months away, the US and its players needed to be tested against high quality opponents and they rebounded well in the first half against Switzerland.
But about that second half...
46' - Two subs for the USA, GK Yarbrough in for Rimando and youngster Ventura Alvarado in for Orozco at centerback. Rimando didn't have his best game and I'm bummed not to see my guy Cody Cropper (who didn't dress for the game) but seeing Alvarado get a full half is much better than the awkward 8 minutes he had against Denmark where the backline got blitzed for two goals.
49' - Zardes earns a deep attacking throw out of nothing and then puts a header wide after out jumping the Swiss keeper in the box. Great effort from the youngster who played much better drifting around up top than he did as a true winger.
52' - Sigh...Timmy Chandler's crossing is just amazing. Another dangerous ball that's cleared by a diving keeper and it comes right to Bradley who takes a touch to settle the ball and then loses out as the defense recovers. Should be two goals for Bradley in this game.
60' - Lots of possession style passing around the midfield...[pressing the 20-second jump forward button a lot]...Yarbrough does like to have the ball at his feet, I'm sure Brad Freidel said something meaningful about him.
64' - Morales stuffs Shaqiri in the corner and then Zardes breaks forward. These are all things that didn't happen against Denmark I think, especially the counterattack.
68' - Well, congratulations Jozy Altidore. You're dumb. It's a tactical foul in your attacking half and that should probably be a straight red for verbally abusing a referee but it seems like two yellows, second for dissent, will suffice.
Now we basically have not much to go on for the rest of the game, but we'll try anyway. There's still some good combination play that the USA used to generate some offense. Alvarado got burned on the endline in the 74th minute and was bailed out by Yarbrough and Bradley as everyone was overstepped on the backline it seemed. Now the chaos starts and the US has to keeping giving up corners and should've given up the equalizer in the 75th. Yedlin makes an appearance as a right midfielder, his best position, and we fast forward to the 80th minute.
79' - Okay I lied, first corner for the Swiss that Yarbrough punches up and over. Wonder if he could've done more but that ball had pace...
80' - No short corners, and the Swiss are rewarded. Goodness that's a soft goal as Yarbrough is pinned to his line and two US players Yedlin and Morales go for it and miss for the most part, Valentin Stocker basically has a tap in.
FT - 1-1 - Okay, so the defense struggled late down a man as to be expected. It's not an excuse and the set piece thing has long been a problem, but I can look past that at least for today.
This is where you look past the scoreboard and look at the positives. You had a young goalkeeper and centerback essentially make their debuts during this trip and you discovered a workable and effective formation that your team, in particular Bradley and Bedoya, can generate solid offense out of. For the first time in what seems like months, the USA appeared to be dangerous in the attacking half which is exactly what they needed with only a handful of games and training camps left before the Gold Cup.
I can live with this result, down a man, on the road in Europe against a team that should qualify for the 2016 European Championships. Are there things I wish Klinsmann would do differently? Sure, throwing on Jordan Morris and Tim Ream for cameo appearances didn't seem like the best idea especially with your team down a man for the final twenty minutes. I'd like to see Klinsmann actually adjust to something in game and have it work in a positive way, especially in friendlies when you have more subs to use and can actually evaluate players in a game situation for longer than two minutes plus stoppages. Also, Michael Bradley needs to shoot more and especially after flying an early chance over the bar from close range.
But that first 70 minutes, maybe in the first 75, that is a style of soccer I can live with watching from my national team. And if it loses, then so be it, it's soccer, losing happens all the time. For a game like this, I can look past the scoreboard and focus on the positive moments from a match that had a lot of them. There will always be more set pieces to defend and shots that don't find the target.
But at least on Tuesday, there was some actually offense to talk about.