FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — A month from now, when the U.S. men’s national soccer team trots into a sold-out Rose Bowl for a showdown with Mexico, Tuesday’s lopsided affair against Brazil will have been long forgotten.
The Brazil game, after all, was a friendly. The Mexico meeting carries consequences.
Lessons learned and experience gained, but the 4-1 failure before 29,308 at Gillette Stadium was downright embarrassing and won’t exactly instill confidence within the squad or the supporters’ base ahead of the CONCACAF Cup on Oct. 10 in Pasadena, Calif.
“They gave us a lesson tonight,” Coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “In all aspects, it’s a lot to take.”
The Brazilians toyed with the Americans as if they were a pub team. The 1-0 halftime margin was deceptively close; Klinsmann’s outclassed crew chased yellow jerseys for most of the 45 minutes.
After intermission, Brazil scored three goals in a 16-minute span, the last two coming in artistic form over three minutes. As consolation, U.S. midfielder Danny Williams whistled a 30-yarder into the net in stoppage time.
The United States has lost 10 straight to Brazil since 1998 and fell to 1-17-0 overall. The previous meeting three years ago at FedEx Field also yielded a 4-1 outcome.
“Disappointing but nothing more,” midfielder Michael Bradley said. “We have no choice but to move on and get ourselves ready for, quite honestly, bigger things. This game is not going to make or break us.”
Last Friday’s 2-1 comeback victory over Peru at RFK Stadium falls into the same category as the Brazil match, though with far different results: a chance to gather the foundation of the team for a pair of tuneups against technically superior opponents from a superior section of the soccer world.
Attention now turns to Mexico and a game that will decide the regional representative in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, a dress rehearsal for the World Cup a year later.
If the Americans can take any comfort from Tuesday’s mismatch, it’s that Mexico is no Brazil. Even at this low point for Brazilian soccer – disappointing exits at the 2014 World Cup and this summer’s Copa America – the differences in technical skill, nuance and athletic ability were preposterously wide.
Dunga, in his second stint as Brazil’s head coach, selected nine starters from the 1-0 victory over Costa Rica on Saturday in New Jersey to line up against the Americans. Neymar, the Barcelona superstar, was left out again, demonstrating the depth of the Brazilian pool.
The group included players from Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Inter Milan. The bench’s credentials: Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal, among other elite clubs.
“It’s not only the technical tempo; it’s the speed of thought,” Klinsmann said. “They are always two thoughts ahead. It’s like chess. They’re two moves ahead. We try to catch up as much as we can. But if they turn it on and then you make a couple of mistakes, then you get punished.”
Klinsmann didn’t help the situation by starting Alejandro Bedoya, a lively attacker and winger, in deep central midfield.
“I haven’t really played there as a professional,” Bedoya said. “Sometimes versatility is a good and bad thing, maybe.”
In the ninth minute, after DeAndre Yedlin’s giveaway, Willian brushed off Bedoya’s challenge and infiltrated the penalty area. He took Tim Ream to the end line and chipped a cross that floated over goalkeeper Brad Guzan and clanged off the back post.
Hulk gathered the rebound, ignored Yedlin’s slide and finished with authority from eight yards.
With a rare first-half substitution, Klinsmann pulled Bedoya in favor of Williams.
Pressed to explain the decision to play Bedoya in an unnatural position, Klinsmann said: “It’s a very good option. He showed in a couple of games after the World Cup he can play inside. He just never caught up with the game. He was running after the ball to get involved but he never connected.”
The Americans enjoyed flashes of sustained possession but were a mild threat around the penalty area.
The second half was worse than the first. Geoff Cameron upended substitute Neymar in the box. Guzan appeared to get his hands on Neymar’s penalty kick, but the ball found the left side of the net in the 51st minute.
“That broke our neck,” Klinsmann said, “and then they don’t have the belief to say we can turn it around against Brazil.”
In the 64th, substitute Rafinha used clever footwork against Ream before flipping the ball past the beleaguered Guzan. And in the 67th, Lucas split two challengers and set up Neymar, who drew four defenders and beat Guzan from close range for a 4-0 lead.
“There’s no shame in losing to Brazil,” forward Jozy Altidore said. “Each player is a game-changer. We learn from it, and going into Mexico, everything is a fresh slate.”
U.S. notes: St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Guatemala joined the United States and Trinidad and Tobago in group play of 2018 World Cup qualifying, which will begin in November.