While the score of a game isn’t the most important factor in most friendlies, there is a crisis concerning the US Men’s National Team when it comes to giving up late goals. The USMNT has allowed a late goal after the 85th minute or in extra time that resulted in a loss of points in six of the last nine games, including the World Cup games against Portugal and Belgium. Why is this happening? The USMNT got the reputation of being a team that never gave up but the results say otherwise. What is causing this to happen and can they prevent this against Ireland?
First thing to point out is that it’s not one player who is to blame. Since the World Cup, 32 players have played in those six games that resulted in late goals. Seeing that, it’s kind of impossible to pin it on a single player. Having said that, there are two possible reasons why the USMNT leak goals.
First, this could be a psychological issue. When Bob Bradley managed the USMNT, his teams had a reputation for allowing early goals and having to play from behind. It seemed that the US had to be a goal down to get motivated and into the game. In big games when they were ahead (2010 Confederations Cup Final, 2011 Gold Cup Final), they gave up leads after being ahead early. This could be the same instance, just under Jurgen Klinsmann. One thing Klinsmann has done is that he has a sport psychologist on staff so there is someone who can at least tap into the issue in a psychological case. And speaking of Jurgen Klinsmann, that leads to the second reason
The other reason may be a coaching issue. This team is known for being relentless and determined at all times but there comes a breaking point where a player or maybe even a few players hit the wall and that’s when the other team can attack and score. In an article featuring Matt Besler on nbcsports.com, he said, “I will say that the pre-World Cup camp was the toughest camp of my entire life. We were doing three-a-days for a month up until the World Cup.”
I get that Jurgen Klinsmann stressed fitness and wanted to be sure his team was in tip-top shape going into the World Cup but how much was too much? Three-a-days must’ve been brutal. It’s no wonder many of the US players have been running ragged after the World Cup. I’m surprised the players had any legs after that amount of training on top of their club commitments. Obviously, the fatigue excuse doesn’t apply to those who didn’t play in the World Cup but the fatigue factor should be considered for those who did.
To be honest, I believe it’s an equal combination involving a psychological issue as well as the coaching style leading to fatigue with a sprinkle of new, inexperienced players still trying to get their footing into the team. After the World Cup, a lot of young players have come onto the squad and they need game experience. It’s quite realistic to expect mistakes to happen causing goals to be scored late in the game. Unfortunately, this can rear its ugly head during the Ireland game. Quite frankly, I would rather see these youngsters give up these late goals now in friendlies than in a game where a result really matters.