For those thinking the United States was near a breakthrough at the World Cup, Brazil's young, new-look team showed that the Americans still aren't close to catching up with soccer's elite.
In the first match for both nations since a disappointing World Cup, a mostly young and largely inexperienced Selecao rolled over the United States 2-0 in a high-profile exhibition Tuesday night before an excited near-sellout crowd of 77,223 at the $1.6 billion New Meadowlands Stadium.
"I think due to our age and inexperience, we were a little naive," Landon Donovan said. "You can see Brazil had a little more savvy. They're a little more clever, and that makes a difference in a game like this."
Neymar scored in the 29th minute of his national team debut, and Alexandre Pato added just his second goal for Brazil in first-half injury time. Soccer's Samba Kings outshot the U.S. 20-7.
"Any time you play Brazil, no matter who they put on the field, it's going to be difficult," said goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who replaced Tim Howard at the start of the second half. "When we left the World Cup, we felt positive about ourselves and positive about the direction we were going. We didn't build on that."
In what may have been coach Bob Bradley's final game, Donovan thought the Americans should have been awarded a penalty kick in the third minute, when he was freed by Edson Buddle's pass in front of the goal and whacked by AC Milan defender Thiago Silva. Canadian referee Silviu Petrescu didn't blow his whistle, and Andre Santos cleared.
That was the best American chance, and Brazil improved to 15-1 in head-to-head matches. This Selecao moved the ball more impressively than the veterans eliminated by the Netherlands 2-1 last month in the World Cup quarterfinals.
Neymar, the 18-year-old Santos sensation, lived up to the great hype. He had just switched with Robinho, one of four World Cup veterans on Brazil's roster, and moved from the left flank to the center when Andre Santos came down the left side and crossed. Neymar beat Jonathan Bornstein and sent a 9-yard header inside Howard's left post.
"I was running back toward the goal, and all of the sudden I saw the ball curling in," Bornstein said. "I tried to jump to it, but it was curling away from my head and went straight to their player."
Pato doubled the lead when Ramires' through ball split Bornstein and American captain Carlos Bocanegra. Howard came out, the 20-year-old AC Milan forward blew past and put the ball into the open goal, his second in nine appearances and first since his debut against Sweden in March 2008.
"They put you in such difficult spots defensively," Bocanegra said. "I made the decision to step, and probably should have went the other way and maybe tried to run back."
New Brazil coach Mano Menezes, promising to restore "Jogo Bonito (Beautiful Game)" as Brazil prepares to host the World Cup in 2014, jettisoned the dour defensive tactics of Dunga, who was fired after last month's defeat, regarded back home as a national embarrassment. Menezes unveiled an attack-minded 4-3-3 formation with Pato between Neymar on the left and new Brazil captain Robinho on the right.
"That's the line that we will establish from now on," Menezes said through a translator.
Neymar and Pato, overlooked by Dunga for his World Cup roster despite public clamor for their selection, appear likely to be regulars during the next four-year cycle, which includes Brazil's defense of its Copa America title next July.
"Everyone was very comfortable playing together," Neymar told Brazilian media. "Mano gave us a lot of freedom to do what we always do on the field, and that helped a lot. That's why we were able to play so well."
Bradley's contract expires at the end of the year, and it's not certain whether the U.S. Soccer Federation wants to retain him. Before he was hired four years ago, former Germany coach Juergen Klinsmann withdrew from consideration.
When the Americans gather next, it likely will be for an Oct. 9 game against Poland in Chicago.
"It was agreed after this game there would be some more discussions and we will see where those discussions go," Bradley said.