The USMNT’s 1-1 draw with Swizterland last weekend has highlighted what could potentially turn into an alarming trend for the squad heading into their 2015 Gold Cup campaign this summer: The failure to see games out. The issue is certainly one that needs address as most USMNT followers would probably agree on and ahead of the 2015 Gold Cup, the US will look to solidify their defense. The upcoming friendlies the US will partake in including one against Mexico at home and another in Germany will provide the toughest test for if the US is ready to address the problem.
Is it really an issue however? Most definitely, and as mlssoccer.com has reported, here’s a list of the games amongst the UMNST’s last 15 across all competitions in which an opponent has scored in the final 15 minutes of the game:
World Cup Warm-Up
Friendly vs Turkey Goal Conceded: 90th minute Result: USMNT 2-1 Turkey
World Cup Warm-Up
Friendly vs Nigeria Goal Conceded: 86th minute Result: USMNT 2-1 Nigeria
World Cup Group
Stage vs Ghana Goal Conceded: 82nd minute Result: USMNT 2-1 Ghana
World Cup Group Stage vs Portugal Goal Conceded: 94th minute Result: USMNT 2-2 Portugal
World Cup Round of 16 vs Belgium Goal Conceded: 105th minute Result: USMNT 1-2 Belgium, AET
Friendly vs Ecuador
Goal Conceded: 88th minute Result: USMNT 1-1 Ecuador
Friendly vs Honduras
Goal Conceded: 88th minute Result: USMNT 1-1 Honduras
Friendly vs Colombia
Goal Conceded: 87th minute Result: USMNT 1-2 Colombia
Friendly vs Ireland Goal Conceded: 82nd minute, 86th minute Result: Ireland 4-1 USMNT
Friendly vs Chile Goal Conceded: 75th minute Result: Chile 3-2 USMNT
Friendly vs Denmark
Goal Conceded: 83rd minute, 91st minute Result: Denmark 3-2 USMNT
Friendly vs Switzerland Goal Conceded: 80th minute Result: Switzerland 1-1 USMNT
Looking at these games, the amount of dropped points from these positions is 12 and the US’s record in these games an unimpressive 3-4-5. In fact there were only three games in between where the US did not conceded in the final 15 minutes: their 1-0 loss in the World Cup Group stage to Germany, their 1-0 win over the Czech Republic, and their 2-0 win over Panama. 5-4-6 in their last 15 is not bad but certainly the USMNT is capable of better.
Whether they fix the problem is another issue. Some would suggest this points to a lack of fitness but others would say it is defensive immaturity. Personally, I think it’s a bit of everything: fitness, maturity, mentality, and overall lack of quality in the defensive role. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann has never had so clear an issue to work on ahead of a major competition, but he will certainly be looking to improve the defense somehow ahead of the tournament this summer.
The Gold Cup will take place in July, with a US win qualifying them for the 2017 Confederations Cup. The US would have to play the winner of the 2015 Gold Cup in a playoff (should they not win it) for a spot in the Confederations Cup.