Skip to content

Belgians pick apart U.S. defense, roll to easy win in Cleveland

May 29, 2013, 10:04 PM EST

Belgium v United States Getty Images

Combine the promise of a young and emerging Belgian national team with a disorganized United States defense and you get Wednesday’s result. Taking the lead in the seventh minute before scoring three times in the second half, Belgium saw goals from Kevin Mirallas, Marouane Fellaini, and two from Christian Benteke defeat the U.S., the 4-2 final understating the extent to which the Belgians controlled the match.

The visitors out-shot the U.S. 10-3, including 8-2 advantage in shots on goals. Before their final, 71st minute goal, Belgium rarely allowed the U.S. enough positive possession to penetrate their attacking third, with the game’s final 20 minutes seeing a resurgent U.S. battle back amid the disappointment of a match that was prematurely settled.

The night got off to a bad start for the U.S., who gave up a goal inside seven minutes. Belgian attacker Kevin De Bruyne, with no pressure on him at the edge of the attacking third, played onto his right foot from the left flank ahead of a through ball into Tim Howard’s area. The Everton star charged off his line but couldn’t get to De Bruyne’s pass ahead of Romelu Lukaku, who had blown past a U.S. defense frozen, assuming Howard would collect the ball. Lukaku’s poke ended up ricocheting to Kevin Mirallas, the defense failing to get back before Howard’s club teammate chipped home the opener from just inside the 18-yard box.

Over the next 20 minutes, Belgium retained control of play but not the score, with the U.S. equalizing in the 23rd minute off a corner kick. A restart initially played short was crossed far post for Clint Dempsey, who’d won space from Vincent Kompany, allowing him to head the ball back toward the left post.  Geoff Cameron had gotten a step on Jan Vertonghen and, partially making up for his part in the preceding goal, headed home to made it 1-1.

(MORE: Breaking down Wednesday’s defensive breakdowns for the United States)

It was the U.S.’s only shot on goal of the half. Belgium, conversely, recorded five shots, three of which tested Howard, though one of the biggest threats, a ball from Lukaku that ended up in the back of the net in the 27th minute, was waved off for offside.

Another strong Lukaku chance, blasted toward Howard’s right post from inside the arc, was pushed wide in the 40th minute, allowing the teams to go into halftime tied, 1-1.

Whereas the Belgians had brought on Sebastien Pocognoli (for Thomas Vermaelen) and Christian Benteke (for Moussa Dembele) in the first half, Jurgen Klinsmann waited until after halftime to make his first changes. Brad Guzan and Eddie Johnson were brought on, with Howard and Jozy Altidore giving way.

Over the first 10 minutes of the second half, the U.S. had appeared to pick up their intensity in defensive. Then a through ball for Benteke to the middle of the U.S. area was cleared weakly by Omar Gonzalez into the right of the States’ area. De Bruyne got to the ball and touched it back toward Benteke, who Gonzalez has left to pursue the errant clearance. Benteke’s one-time shot from just outside the six-yard box put Belgium back in front, 2-1.

In the 64th minute, after Klinsmann had brought on Terrence Boyd for Brad Davis, a long ball played through a high U.S. line allowed Lukaku a shot from 16 yards out, a try that was pushed out at the near post. Off the resulting corner, the second ball in was sent far post for Marouane Fellaini, whose sharp-angle header down at the left post beat Guzan to give Belgium a 3-1 lead.

Seven minutes later, after Brad Evans had been brought on for Graham Zusi, Benteke got behind the U.S. defense to chip a bouncing ball over the oncoming Guzan. The Aston Villa star’s sixth international goal put the visitors up, 4-1.

In the 80th minute, a handball called on Belgian defender Toby Alderweireld on an Eddie Johnson cross allowed Clint Dempsey to convert from the spot. His 10th goal in his last 13 international appearances pulled the U.S. within two.

It would be the last chance of the night for the U.S., a team that struggled to muster a consistent threat against the high-powered Belgians. The visitors, on the other hand, saw little resistance through midfield, with long passes through the U.S. defense taking advantage of a unit that lacked organization.

  1. term3186 - May 29, 2013 at 10:29 PM

    The first two goals were really disheartening to see, simply because they were AWFUL plays from the defense. 3/4 members of the back line WATCHED the goal get scored. Only ONE Belgian player was in the play after Howard’s initial save and almost the entire back line just ball watches as he collects it and scores. Inexcusable.

    Then Omar. Oh Omar. What a mistake. It simply cannot be done at the international level. I’m just glad this is a friendly. A couple of important lessons to be learned.

    Never saw a definitive replay on the 4th goal. How close was it to offside?

  2. docstraw - May 29, 2013 at 11:57 PM

    Why doesn’t Klinsmann like to have his team play with any sort of width? I have to assume that is the case since he has guys like Davis and Zusi as outside mids and Cameron as a right back. What is his system? At the point that you have to play someone like Davis, why not put Clint in that spot and see if Jozy and Herc can do some things together up top. Jozy always seemed to play better with another forward lined up with him, and Clint has always been better running from midfield. Jozy is being wasted and seems to get subbed out earlier than any other player which makes me think Klinsmann blames him for the team’s inability to create scoring chances. And what is his fascination with Zusi? He creates nothing, can’t get to the endline regularly and I can’t name one thing that guy does well. Seems like we’ll never see creative types like Adu and Feilhaber get a real chance on this team. The scoring chances from the run of play will continue to be non-existant when there are people on the field incapable of creating them on a regular basis.

    • charliej11 - May 30, 2013 at 10:41 AM

      Jozy is not the answer. I would be willing to bet his goals per game round down to zero, rather than up to 1/2, at the nat team level.

    • dreadpirate82 - May 30, 2013 at 12:44 PM

      You obviously haven’t seen Benny play lately. He barely made a dent in the US Open Cup match Tuesday against a 4th division squad from Des Moines. I’ve always been a fan, but he’s bringing nothing to the table right now. I think that ship has sailed.

      Trying to think of some more idioms to use, but I limit myself to 3 per paragraph.

  3. boscoesworld - May 30, 2013 at 10:51 AM

    This game was disheartening on several levels. The major point for me is offensive not defensive. The defensive mistakes can be corrected with stability and experience. What really bothers me most is that this team as is normal cannot create ANY offensive flow. We have no one that runs off the ball! When a ball is won for instance Beasley’s play. He dribbles up and ends up cutting back to pressure because there is just nowhere to pass. Time and time again that is the M/O. You watch teams like Belgium and even Mexico they are like sharks in the water on the attack. I like JK but am expecting much more from this team offensively. Even Donovan wouldn’t be able jack this anemic attack up as it sits.

  4. talgrath - May 30, 2013 at 4:28 PM

    They did their best against a team that is a Dark Horse candidate to win the World Cup next year, I felt. While it’s never fun to see your side get beat by two goals, I would point out that towards the end the USMNT had two decent chances on cross from Eddie Johnson and the game was 1-1 for a good stretch. The USMNT was clearly outmatched, but we scored two goals (even if one was something of a gift), which is more than an entire European group has managed to do against these guys in qualifying. Overall, I felt this wasn’t that bad of a friendly for the US as people make it out to be.

  5. player169 - May 30, 2013 at 5:35 PM

    Zusi didn’t have a good game offensively, however he did shut down the right side defensively. With Davis and Beasley on the left side, they almost invited the attack from that side though. Goodison didn’t have a good game and I think we will see Besler solidify his spot next to Gonzo against Germany.

    I have a tough time picking out what exactly is the system on the attack. While I like that Jurgen has brought in numerous people to the NT, it’s getting to the point where we have so many changes to the lineup that it feels like a bunch of individuals out there with no direction.

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Featured video

PST Extra: Top 4 showdowns on Sunday