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Friendlies

  • May 29, 2013
  • • 8:11 PM
  • • FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio
  • Referee: J. Solis
  • • Attendance: 27720
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United States 2-4 Belgium: Sloppy defensive play leads to friendly defeat

United States 2-4 Belgium: Sloppy defensive play leads to friendly defeat

Matt Sullivan

The Americans were unable to slow down the 15th ranked team in the world as defensive mistakes lead to a heavy loss ahead of a Germany friendly and World Cup qualifiers.

CLEVELAND -- Jurgen Klinsmann wants the United States to face the best teams in the world prior to next year's World Cup in Brazil.

After the Americans were destroyed by Belgium 4-2 in Wednesday night's friendly at FirstEnergy Stadium, it's clear to see that the team is not quite ready to compete with the top-ranked nations.

Belgium forwards Kevin Mirallas, Marouane Fellaini and Christian Benteke took advantage of U.S. defensive mistakes to make it an ugly night for the hosts. Geoff Cameron and Clint Dempsey scored for the Yanks.

It was the first time the Americans had conceded three or more goals since a year ago, on May 30, 2012, when they were crushed 4-1 by Brazil in another high-profile friendly on U.S. soil.

The United States will face the world's second-best team in Germany in Washington D.C. on Sunday followed by three World Cup qualifying matches.

"We just have to tighten up," goalkeeper Tim Howard said. "Most of the teams we're going to play have firepower, so it's on us to put the other teams on our terms defensively. We should be the ones taking the space away or giving them space. We should be dictating the tempo of the game."

Klinsmann entered Cleveland with question marks surrounding his back four and he walked away without any answers after a shaky performance that included multiple mistakes that led to goals.

Still, the coach is happy to challenge the best teams the world has to offer.

"This is why we want to play teams like Belgium and like Germany and like Russia." Klinsmann said, "because there is so much that you can read from those games and there is so much you can see. Obviously, you want to win them. But I would rather play Belgium 10 more times than El Salvador 100 times because that is when you learn."

Right after striker Jozy Altidore failed to finish a golden opportunity from right in front of the visitors' net early in the first half, the Europeans went on the counterattack and capitalized on their first chance of the night.

Howard met Romelu Lukaku at the ball and the U.S. defenders failed to clear the rebound, leaving Mirallas with an opening to beat the on-looking duo of Cameron and Omar Gonzalez and chip the ball into the net.

Mirallas celebrated by making the motion of hitting a baseball out of the park, while Howard screamed at the top of his lungs at his disappointing back line.

"I'm angry pretty much by every goal," Howard said, smiling. "Any time there is a defensive breakdown you want to correct it, and at this level often times you get punished for it. That's a lesson to be learned."

Cameron would, however, make up for his mistake on the offensive end moments later.

The right back moved forward on a corner kick and headed in a beautiful assist from Dempsey, who headed the long corner back across the six-yard box. It was Cameron's first international goal of his career.

The spotlight remained on the U.S. defenders as the teams started the second half tied at one goal apiece before another costly mistake set the tone for the second half.

Despite being one of Klinsmann's most promising young players, Gonzalez handed Belgium a gift after playing a strong first touch right into the feet of Kevin De Bruyne, who delivered a cross to Benteke to take the lead. U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who had replaced Howard at halftime, had no shot of making a save as his Everton teammate was set up for a simple finish.

"I took the touch a little bit too far," Gonzalez said. "But that's not going to deter me from taking that touch again."

And things would only get worse from then on as it only took eight minutes for Belgium to add another goal when Fellaini rose for a header at the back post off a brilliant cross-field feed from Steven Defour.

Moments later, Defour would pick up another assist when he found the streaking Benteke on the right side of the pitch. The forward easily burned Beasley before beating Guzan.

Klinsmann will more than likely rethink his back four ahead of the Germany game.

Without Timothy Chandler and Steve Cherundolo, both of whom decided to stay in Germany where they play in the Bundesliga, Klinsmann started Cameron, Gonzalez, Beasley and Clarence Goodson.

Prior to the game, Beasley was honored for earning his 100th cap with the national team. He became only the 13th U.S. international to accomplish the feat.

"I definitely felt the love today, it's great to see that they appreciate my style of football. I'm here to stay," Beasley insisted. "I'm not here just to get my 100th cap, I want to keep playing."

One notable roster omission for the match was Landon Donovan, who is second all-time in U.S. soccer history with 144 international appearance, including 133 starts. The LA Galaxy midfielder had stepped away from the game for a few weeks after the 2012 MLS season wrapped up and hasn't played for the United States since.

Also missing was captain Carlos Bocanegra, who has served as the team's captain since 2007 but lost his spot on the squad the last two sets of qualifiers. Klinsmann has turned to Dempsey to wear the armband.

Proving his leadership on the pitch, Dempsey ran in for the spot kick after Eddie Johnson had drawn a handball in the box. The Texas native beat goalkeeper Simon Mignolet to the left for his 33rd career goal in international play.

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