The United States played well, gave Brazil a tough game. And still, the Americans lost 4-2.
So what will it take for the U.S. soccer program to develop a player with the talent of Ronaldinho or Kaka?
"The $64 billion question," U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. "There's no simple way to produce those players. They're special. It's nice when we see some of our players at different levels show an occasional piece of skill that's in that category."
Ronaldinho split the defense time and again with the precision of laser surgery, lofting a corner kick to the far post for Brazil's second goal and then finishing off the United States when he spun a free kick over a defensive wall and inside the far post.
Buzzing like bees on the U.S. side of the field in their yellow shirts, Brazil was too much &
way too much &
for the United States to keep up with. The five-time World Cup champions overcame a tentative start, shimmying around defenders.
"I was actually proud of how we played," Landon Donovan said. "We're not by any standard an experienced team like they are. For us, we're still learning."
The Americans had their moments and entertained a crowd of 43,543 at Solider Field by taking an early lead and coming back to tie. But the United States dropped to 1-12 against Brazil and lost its fifth straight game overall, its longest skid in 13 years.
Bradley pointed to the ceiling when asked about the level of Brazil, the world's top-ranked team and inventors of jogo bonito &
the beautiful game. The Americans, ranked 17th, don't have stars anywhere near the caliber of Ronaldinho, a two-time FIFA player of the year, or Kaka, who could be voted the award this year.
The Americans are a regional power, winning the championship of North and Central America and the Caribbean for the second straight time. They started 10-0-1 under Bradley, playing all those games at home. But since then, facing better teams such as Argentina, Sweden and Brazil, the gap between American soccer and the rest of the world has been exposed.
Nine months before the start of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, it's a team in transition, somewhere between the group that advanced to the 2002 quarterfinals and the one that was eliminated in the first round at Germany last year.
"We've got to play better," DaMarcus Beasley said Saturday. "Our guys got a taste of CONCACAF opponents when we played in Gold Cup. But they never went to Guatemala. They've never been to El Salvador. They've never been to Costa Rica. They've never been to those smaller countries where you get (urine) thrown at you and the fans are crazy, you're going on the bus and they're hitting the bus with rocks and stuff like that.
"That can really mess up a young guy's head. But you can't really teach that. They have to just experience it for themselves."
In this one, they got only experience, not a win.
Captain Carlos Bocanegra put the United States ahead in the 22nd minute when Donovan's corner kick bounced off his chest and into the net.Brazil tied it in the 33rd as Ronaldinho fed Kaka for a shot that goalkeeper Tim Howard parried, but it ricocheted off defender Oguchi Onyewu and into the goal.
Twenty minutes later, Ronaldinho expertly lofted a corner kick that Lucio headed for a goal to make it 2-1. Then, shockingly, Clint Dempsey tied the score in the 73rd when he one-timed a pass from Steve Cherundolo past goalkeeper Doni.
Ronaldinho's 20-yard free kick just two minutes later wasn't even seen by Howard, who dislocated a finger on the play but stayed in. Elano added a penalty kick in injury time after Michael Bradley pulled down Julio Baptista.
The Americans marveled at the way Ronaldinho, Kaka, Robinho and Afonso weaved around the offensive zone.
"It's a little bit like the shell game, where they just keep moving things around," Bob Bradley said. "They wait for you to go for the wrong shell, and then they run through."
U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati said that Catalonia's federation asked Spain to reconsider its decision not to allow Catalonia to play an exhibition game against the United States on Oct. 14 in Barcelona.
Free kick boosts Brazil to 4-2 win over U.S.