Bad decisions happen. Both teams play with the same referee. The U.S. had a goal disallowed wrongly. Clint Dempsey escaped what could have been a red card worthy elbow in the first minute. You can’t control the referee. You can control your performance. The U.S. did not win because their poor play dug them too big of a hole in the first half. The problem was not personnel. It was tactical.
Bradley needs to drop the straight 4-4-2. It is outmoded outside North America. It does not fit the players the U.S. has available. No team at elite club level or elite national team level plays it. It’s too predictable and leaves too much space in midfield. The U.S. has neither the strikers nor the midfielders to justify playing it. It forces the U.S. to choose between holding possession and effectively covering their defense. In the first half, they chose to do neither.
The U.S. did not have enough coverage for the back four. Bradley exacerbated it by marauding forward. Slovenia’s first goal from Birsa came in the gap in front of the defense where a holding midfielder would have been. The U.S. pushed higher up the pitch to account for that space. By doing that they left Onyewu out to dry for the second goal. He’s not fit. Even if he was, he’s not fast enough to cover that much space. This was a failure in conception, not execution.
Credit the U.S. for the changes made in the second half. They switched to a 4-5-1 with Edu solidifying the defense in a straight holding role. The firm base allowed Bradley to get forward and join the attack with impunity. It allowed Feilhaber, Dempsey and Donovan to hit the Slovenians from different angles and break through. The U.S. was more coherent and more versatile. They fought their way back, helped in no small part by superior fitness. Slovenia was tripping over the ball by the end.
Bradley and the team will focus on the referees for the media and gloss over failures. It’s understandable. It’s natural, but hopefully the evasion does not extend internally. The U.S. has been inspiring when forced to be, but they need to stop placing themselves in that position.