U.S. Falls To Denmark 3-2: What Does It Mean?

The U.S. again fails to impress as it surrenders a late lead thanks to three Nicklas Bendtner goals. How worried should we be?

The United States Men's National Team lost 3-2 to Denmark on Nicklas Bendtner’s late goal, which gave the Dane a hat trick on the day. The winning goal proved to be the culmination of an extremely disappointing performance for the Yanks. Let’s look at the key talking points following this match.

Yanks’ Defensive Woes

The Yanks continued their recent defensive struggles, as they looked completely disorganized and out-of-sorts for most of the match. On all 3 goals, Bendtner had plenty of space to operate and was not the slightest bit troubled by the U.S. defenders, despite the fact he was clearly the most dangerous attacker on the pitch for the Danes, so you’d think the U.S. would have made it a priority to cover him. The U.S. was also consistently out of position and dissected by the quality passing of the Danes, who went over, under, and around the American defenders seemingly at will. While Denmark is currently leading its 2016 European Qualification group and has Bendtner and Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen on the squad, they are not exactly a juggernaut. Yet their superior quality was on display, as they bullied the Americans throughout the match.

The match also continued the recent trend of second-half U.S. struggles. Coming into the match, since the World Cup, the U.S. had been outscored 9-0 in the second half of its matches, after outscoring its opponents 10-3 in the first half. But the inability of the U.S. to hold onto leads in the second half was also a factor at the World Cup, as the U.S. surrendered late equalizers to both Ghana and Portugal. 

The U.S. simply does not have the playmakers in its system at present to try to outscore or dissect top squads through its technical abilities; it will have to rely on its tenacity and a well-organized and disciplined defensive unit, which it lacked in this match.

Yanks’ Offensive Woes

I know what you are thinking: what offensive woes, they scored two goals! Yes, Jozy Altidore’s opening goal was a thing of beauty as he outmuscled two Danish defenders to get on the end of Chandler’s cross and slam the ball home. And yes, Altidore laid the ball off nicely to his striking partner Aron Johansson for the second goal. But other than those two moments that came against the run of play, the U.S. struggled to muster any kind of consistent, coherent attack going forward, generally and on the counterattack. The Danes mastered the midfield and for the most part, the American forwards struggled to hold the ball up and the link-up play between them was non-existent. At times, the Americans had trouble stringing more than one or two passes together in an attack before they were dispossessed of the ball, often in crucial areas, which put their already shaky defense in increasingly dire situations.

The big takeaway for us on the goals in this match were that the Danish ones seemed inevitable and the American ones seemed...lucky. When U.S. manager Jürgen Klinsmann took the job, he spoke of transitioning the Americans into a squad that could take the match to the opposition. The quality required to do that to top European squads was nowhere to be found in this match.

Who Wasn’t There?

The Americans were missing regular starters Clint Dempsey (hamstring), Jermaine Jones (hernia), and Brad Guzan (wife having baby). Additionally, Klinsmann did not call up several of his MLS stalwarts including defenders Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler and midfielders Graham Zusi and Mix Diskerud. The Americans could have used their steadiness at the back and their creativity up front in this match, as their replacements did not do much to show Klinsmann they deserve a shot in the starting 11. Admittedly, I never thought the phrase “man we really could have used Mix Diskerud out there tonight” would ever cross my mind and yet it did several times today. I really was hoping for more today out of the Yanks. This sucks.

(deep breath)

And yet for all the negativity just expressed, this is exactly what friendlies should be all about: trying new things. There is a reason that you cannot read too much into the results of friendlies (good or bad). Though there are competitions in the interim, Klinsmann is just starting a new four-year cycle that will culminate in the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Jürgen is not focused on winning this friendly; he is focused on winning in 2018. No one’s spot on the squad is guaranteed and he’s going to give as many players as he can a shot to prove that they can play at this level...or demonstrate that they cannot

What’s Next?

Well, it certainly doesn’t get any easier for the Americans. They have another friendly with Switzerland next week on the 31st and they play Mexico on April 15th in San Antonio, before June friendlies on the road against the Netherlands and Germany. Well then. Klinsmann is taking his new squad and throwing them straight into the deep end to see if they can swim. Although it could (and likely will) be painful, Klinsmann has stated that his goal for 2018 is to make the semifinals. In order to achieve that goal, these are the countries the U.S. will have to go through, so it will not do anything for him to schedule matches against nations he knows the U.S. can beat. Let’s see how we do against the big boys, after all, who really cares about the results of these friendlies? 

Yep, I’ve talked myself out of the negativity. U-S-A, U-S-A.

Bring it on Europe. But seriously...not in the face guys.

Follow Mike Smith on Twitter @thefootiegent

Writing that much negativity about something American hurts Mike’s soul.

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