- The Washington Times - Friday, June 19, 2009

PRETORIA, South Africa | If this was a dress rehearsal for next year’s World Cup, the United States showed it’s far from ready.

The United States was hammered for the second time in a four-day span at the Confederations Cup, falling to Brazil 3-0 on Thursday.

Felipe Melo scored off Maicon’s free kick in the seventh minute, and Robinho made it 2-0 in the 20th, completing a counterattack that began when DaMarcus Beasley and Landon Donovan failed to combine on a short corner kick. Maicon added the third goal in the 62nd.

“They’re always going to be the better team, right?” U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard said. “It’s just for us about going out and trying to give a good showing of ourselves because the best team doesn’t always win. Today it did. We were overpowered, and sometimes you just come up against Goliath and David doesn’t win.”

Brazil outshot the Americans 23-9, including 11-2 in shots on goal.

And the United States (0-2) finished a man short for the second straight game. Sacha Kljestan was ejected by Swiss referee Massimo Busacca in the 57th minute for a rough foul on Ramires.

“He played the ball off before I got there, and I got him in the foot,” Kljestan said. “I don’t know if it was a red or not, but the end state is that I let my team down today.”

Combined with an opening 3-1 loss to Italy on Monday and Egypt’s 1-0 upset of the Azzurri on Thursday, the defeat left the United States with an outside chance, at best, to reach the semifinals. The Americans could advance by beating Egypt by at least three goals, and either Italy scoring three fewer goals than the United States in a loss to Brazil or the victory margins of the United States and Brazil totaling seven or more.

Missing injured defenders Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo and Frankie Hejduk, the United States has been shaky in the back. Melo’s goal marked the third time in four matches the United States fell behind within the first seven minutes.

“It was a very nervous, tentative start to the game,” U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. “The early goal in a set piece put us in a difficult situation right from the start.”

Brazil (2-0), the defending Confederations Cup champion and a five-time World Cup winner, opened with a 4-3 victory over Egypt and is virtually assured a berth in the semifinals going into its final first-round match against Italy on Sunday.

“For us it’s important to win all the time, for Brazil to win all the time,” said Brazil’s Kaka, the 2007 FIFA player of the year. “Spain is in a good moment. Italy is the actual World Cup winner, so we have a good challenge here.”

Melo beat defender Jonathan Spector for the first goal, taking Maicon’s 25-yard free kick following a foul by Michael Bradley and heading it past Howard from about five yards.

The second goal came on an end-to-end effort after Beasley fumbled Donovan’s short corner kick. With Beasley slapping the ground in frustration, Andres Santos cleared to Kaka, who touched the ball to Ramires. He dribbled 50 yards upfield before dishing off to Robinho, who celebrated by faking an interview into a microphone at the advertising board to the right of the goal.

Maicon got the third goal off passes from Kaka and Ramires, with the last pass bouncing off defender Jonathan Bornstein right by the goal.

The closest the United States came to scoring was when second-half substitutes Benny Feilhaber and Conor Casey hit the crossbar in the final 10 minutes.

“It hasn’t been great, these two games for us,” Howard said. “One of the things I always say is that if we can take this into the Gold Cup and World Cup qualifying and learn from some of the lessons and not be so naive in certain instances, it could be a success. But that’s only if you apply it, not just if we talk about it.”

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