United States frustrated vs. Denmark as they turn victory into defeat again
AARHUS, Denmark — There was no shortage of long faces around the United States national team after this one.
That’s what happens when you squander a 2-1 lead with seven minutes left to play and end up losing 3-2, as the U.S. did here to host Denmark. The defeat was even more frustrating for the Americans because it was just the latest in a long line of late collapses dating all the way back to the 2014 World Cup.
“Call it what you want,” said striker Jozy Altidore, who gave the visitors a lead against the run of play with a wicked half-volley off a Timmy Chandler cross in the 19th minute. “The goals we gave up were just soft. We’re not hard enough to play against, and it’s really disappointing to give the game away like that. It’s just frustrating.”
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann was visibly frustrated, too, as he spoke to reporters following the match. Klinsmann, as usual, tried his best to put a positive spin on what had just transpired, saying that he “saw a lot of good things that we wanted to see on our end.”
What he didn’t want to see was his team concede two more goals in the final third of a game.
Of the 14 goals the U.S. has allowed since Brazil 2014, 10 have come in the final 30 minutes of matches. Some of that can be attributed to a slew of young, mostly unproven substitutes being introduced during the final stages of friendly matches early in the 2018 World Cup cycle.
Klinsmann made three of his five changes Tuesday after the 60th minute, and Denmark’s final two goals came after the German manager was forced to put national team debutant Ventura Alvarado on in place of fatigued fellow central defender Michael Orozco, who had asked to be removed with 10 minutes to go. But whatever the reason, or the excuse, it’s a problem that they seem utterly unable to fix.
“We have to step it up in terms of managing the game all 90 minutes,” Klinsmann said. “We didn’t do that.”
Nor did they deserve a result Klinsmann said they did. The coach called it “an even game,” but even if the U.S. nearly escaped with a win or even a draw, they were outplayed for long stretches. The Yanks managed just 36 percent possession in the first 45 minutes, their lowest total in a first half in four years.
Altidore’s opener came immediately after Denmark missed two clear chances. Michael Bradley suggested that the host’s desire to get right back into the game might have contributed, in part, to their early dominance.
“There’s always that natural flow to the game which means that the team that goes behind is now trying to push things and get back on the front foot. They certainly did that,” Bradley said.
Bradley admitted Denmark had the upper hand in terms of statistics and possession, but said there were bright spots for the U.S. as well.
“I still think in certain moments we were able to step up and squeeze them and win balls in certain spots and be dangerous ourselves.”
To be sure, scoring two goals (Aron Johannsson had the other in the stadium he played in for AGF Aarhus from 2010-13) on the road in Europe is nothing to sneeze at. Klinsmann was right that there were some good things to take away from the match.
“You’re always happy for your strikers when they score. Aron scoring in his second home and Jozy putting the first one in,” Klinmsann said. “I don’t want to go position-by-position, but there was a lot of good stuff taken away from the game definitely.”
The Americans also clearly earned the respect of Danish coach Morten Olsen, who called it “a very good game for both teams.” The Danish boss singled out Altidore and Bradley, whom he called “a marvelous player”, for praise.
“The U.S. is always a difficult team to play against,” said Olsen.
On this night, and many others recently, just not difficult enough.