IRENE, South Africa -- Jonathan Spector is convinced the U.S. defense will solidify ahead of the Americans' World Cup opener against England on June 12.
The U.S. struggled in the back last week in a 4-2 loss to the Czech Republic and a 2-1 victory over Turkey, and several players have said the team must improve its defense as a whole.
"We'll be working in training as a unit. We'll be watching video of the games to see where we went wrong, whether it be positionally or individually," Spector said Wednesday before the team's second training session in South Africa.
"Diagrams, things like that, all are extremely helpful, but I think it takes a little bit of time just to get used to playing with one another again," he said. "We all come from different systems with our club teams and fortunately, you know, we've laid the groundwork in the past for working together, but it does take a little bit of time just to get adjusted and become kind of in synch with each other."
When Spector lost possession on a run from right back Saturday in Philadelphia, no one covered defensively and the U.S. was caught upfield for Arda Turan's first-half goal. There were numerous breakdowns four days earlier against the Czechs in East Hartford, Conn.
"You're talking about an exercise that takes a whole lot of time, and we don't have a whole lot of time to do it," goalkeeper Tim Howard said. "A lot of it is body language. A lot of it is timing and familiarity, and it's just something that you don't do overnight,"
The U.S. outscored opponents 42-16 during World Cup qualifying, better offensively but poor defensively than the 35-11 during qualifying for the 2006 tournament. While CONCACAF and Europe aren't an even comparison, England outscored opponents 34-6 in qualifying.
"The thing that sticks out to me just at the moment is to be a bit better defensively and solid, have a better team shape from the back towards the front," said captain Carlos Bocanegra, who started at left back against the Turks.
In five games this season, the Americans have allowed 11 goals in going 2-3. The U.S. likely will need a strong defensive performance to advance from its first-round group, which also includes Slovenia and Algeria.
"It's not really a concern of ours," Spector said. "I know we're going to get there. but as I said, it will take a little bit of time."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press