Thursday, May 31, 2012
Sports News

In 4-1 loss to Brazil, US learns it has to toughen

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[May 31, 2012]  LANDOVER, Md. (AP) -- When the United States plays soccer powers, the Americans have a tendency to look at the opponent with a little awe.

"Sometimes you see Brazil on the calendar, and you go in with a lot of respect because of their players," American forward Herculez Gomez said. "But they're just like us. They bleed. They hurt. So we got to get after it."

It didn't happen Wednesday night, at least not quickly enough.

Neymar converted a penalty kick and set up two more goals, leading the five-time World Cup champions to a 4-1 victory. Thiago Silva, Marcelo and Alexandre Pato also scored for Brazil, playing the opener of a three-game U.S. tour.

Gomez got the U.S. goal in his first start since the 2010 World Cup. The Americans had entered with five straight wins, including a 1-0 victory in February at four-time world champion Italy and a 5-1 rout of Scotland last weekend.

Brazil was another level.

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann, the former German star and coach, advised his players to toughen up.

"We need to get an edge, more nastier," he said. "Maybe we're a little bit still too naive. Maybe we don't want to hurt people. But that's what we've got to do. You've got to do that at the end of the day. So we've got to step on their toes more and get them more frustrated and make a case with the referee maybe as well, for us, not only the opponent."

Neymar, the 20-year-old Santos sensation, put Brazil ahead in the 12th minute after a hand ball on Oguchi Onyewu on Leandro Damiao's shot, a call the Americans disputed with referee Jeffrey Calderon of Costa Rica. Neymar then took a corner kick that Silva headed in for his first international goal in the 26th.

Gomez cut the deficit to 2-1 in the 45th following a fine run by Michael Bradley and cross by Fabian Johnson. But before an enthusiastic crowd of 67,619 at FedEx Field, Marcelo restored the two-goal lead in the 52nd as Jermaine Jones, Onyewu and American captain Carlos Bocanegra left him unmarked in front of the net. Pato entered in the 64th and added a goal in the 87th that the U.S. claimed was offside.

"We're the only team in the world that gets homered at home. It's unbelievable sometimes," Bocanegra said.

Against sixth-ranked Brazil, the No. 29 Americans played more offensively than in the 2-0 loss at the Meadowlands two years ago, when they were outshot 20-7. This time the U.S. had a 15-12 advantage in shots.

Gomez almost got another goal in the 64th, but his header off Johnson's cross was cleared off the goal line by Romula. Goalkeeper Rafael Cabral, making his Brazil national team debut, had a fine double save in the 76th, stopping Gomez with his left hand, then kicking away Terrence Boyd's effort. Cabral leaped to palm Bradley's header over the crossbar in the 85th, and Onyewu headed the ball off the crossbar on Landon Donovan's free kick.

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"I think you saw in the second half when we kind of pressed and imposed our game, they were the ones on their heels. They were the ones trying to hit us. They were the ones sweating and battling and fighting to track back," Gomez said. "So I think once we learn that we don't always have to be Mr. Nice Guy, and we could be a little nastier, like Jurgen said, we're going to be better off."

Klinsmann, a German who moved to California with his American-born wife after retiring as a player in 1998, said the U.S. team has to be more assertive with officials.

"You watch big teams in the world, what they do, and there's a call going against them -- Barcelona is one of them -- they come with 10 guys towards the referee," he said. "The referee is confused. He doesn't know, even know who to show a yellow card."

Donovan said "that's not really in our character as Americans."

"We try to play the game fair," Donovan said. "We don't really dive. We don't do those kind of things."

Brazil, which receives an automatic berth as the 2014 World Cup host, improved to 16-1 against the U.S. with a 35-11 goal difference.

"It's a promising team, but also it's a beatable team," Klinsmann said.

The Americans travel to Toronto for an exhibition against Canada on Sunday. The Americans play their opening World Cup qualifier against Antigua and Barbuda on June 8 at Tampa, Fla., then have their first road qualifier four days later at Guatemala.

Gomez may have put himself in position to start in the qualifiers along with Jozy Altidore, who only reported Monday.

"I think we found a striker that is very mobile with Herculez, one that is a fighter, that keeps defenders busy," Klinsmann said, "that is also nasty to do certain things."

NOTES: A game after the U.S. debuted new home jerseys with red and white horizontal stripes and gray numbers that couldn't be seen from a distance, Nike switched to larger dots that were more visible. ... Klinsmann said the team will play at Mexico on the Aug. 15 exhibition date and at Russia on the Nov. 14 date.

[Associated Press; By RONALD BLUM]

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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