If only international games ended after 80 minutes. Then, maybe, the USMNT could hold on to a lead and not give their fans heartbreaking result after heartbreaking result. A rainy Tuesday in Switzerland saw the US take the field for their second friendly of the international break. After a disappointing 3-2 loss to Denmark last week, Jürgen Klinsmann brought in some new faces to the starting eleven as Brek Shea came in at left-back and Danny Williams made his first international start since 2013.
The Yanks looked a more confident team in Zurich as they held their own against a Swiss midfield with stars like Xherdan Shaqiri, Fabian Frei and Gokhan Inler. It was another new starter, Alejandro Bedoya, who created the first real chance of the match when his targeted cross nearly saw Gyasi Zardes put the US up in the 14th minute. Bedoya proved to be the key man in attack for the US in the first half as the FC Nantes midfielder should have registered an assist finding Michael Bradley in the box, only to see the captain put his effort wide. Bedoya almost finished one himself later in the half with a headed effort but it was right at the keeper.
Where the Americans thrived on the attack, they struggled on defense. Timothy Chandler and the rest of the backline seemed ill equipped to handle the darting runs of Shaqiri on the flanks. One of these moves from the Swiss was unlucky not to beat Nick Rimando after Shaqiri’s cross was inches away from being knocked in by an onrushing Admir Mehmedi.
The Americans would get a timely goal with the last kick of the half. A foul on Alfredo Morales at the top of the penalty area gave the US the perfect opportunity to take the lead, and Jozy Altidore and Shea both wanted the kick. Shea managed to talk his way into striking the ball and promptly showed the crowd why he wanted it. The former Stoke City player struck a picturesque effort over the wall and into the corner of the net leaving Roman Bürki helpless and the Americans in front.
The second half saw Mexican-American goalkeeper William Yarbough get his international debut replacing an impressive Rimando. However, the biggest storyline of the night for the Americans came in the 68th minute. After being called for a reckless challenge, Altidore, who had been talking to the officials for most of the match, immediately received his second yellow card of the match and was sent off. In replays, you can make out Jozy mouthing some profanity straight to the referees face after the call, which probably didn’t help his case.
The remaining 20+ minutes of the match saw the Swiss dominate the game, and also the collapse of the American back line. Cross after cross came into Yarbough’s penalty area and there always seemed to be two or three unmarked players attacking the ball for the hosts. A Swiss cross somehow saw the home team miss an open header from inside the six-yard-box. The breakthrough finally came in the 80th minute when second half substitute Valentin Stocker tapped home from a corner.
This goal continued the US trend of losing their heads late. In the last game against Denmark, the Americans had a 2-1 lead going into the final ten minutes only to lose 3-2. For the most part, fans will be happy with how their team played, but will only settle for draws for so long. Even though this Swiss team is better than almost every team the US will face at the Gold Cup this summer, the habit of letting their foot of the gas late will have to change to compete for silverware. Hopefully, the return of Clint Dempsey in the midfield and players like Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler in the back line will bring some stability and composure to the struggling American side.