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Newcastle still finding its way with McClaren's "possession football"

Playing out of the back created mistakes and goals against Club Atlas on Tuesday. Moussa Sissoko (pictured above) pulled one back, but not enough in 2-1 loss. Despite the result, new coach Steve McClaren sees plenty of positives from the squad.

Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

The days of continually hoofing the ball up the pitch are over and that was evident Tuesday in Newcastle United's second preseason friendly, this one in the USA against Club Atlas at Miller Park in Milwaukee.

The plan was in place and the players did their best to implement it, but more often than not against Atlas' pressuring style, it led to giveaways and scoring chances for the Mexican League side.

And those chances turned into two goals in the game's first 22 minutes, and nearly could've been three, if not for the crossbar. Newcastle pulled one back, but could not get the equalizer in an eventual 2-1 loss.

Despite the result, new manager Steve McClaren saw plenty of positives for the Magpies.

"We're asking them to do things that are quite new to them and credit to them; to do that takes courage," McClaren said.

The Mexican fans in attendance were not as thrilled with Newcastle's new play-it-out-of-the-back style because it threw a wrench in their love of yelling an obscenity at the goalkeeper during every goal kick. Instead, the one-word chant did not have quite the same effect with Newcastle's Tim Krul and in the second half Karl Darlow rolling the ball out to fullbacks Mike Williamson or Darryl Janmaat, or passing the ball up to midfielder Jack Colback.

It wasn't just Mexican fans who were miffed at Newcastle's style of play, many in black and white have grown accustomed to Krul's booming goal kicks up top to striker Papiss Cisse. Krul attempted one goal kick in the entirety of the first half.

"We've been working on a lot of things in training and the guys were trying it; being courageous, wanting to play and trying to play, and I think we played good football all the way through," McClaren said.

Club Atlas took it to Newcastle for nearly 30 minutes. The Magpies struggled to break through against Atlas' continuous pressing up the pitch. The Magpies trying to play the ball out of the back didn't help either.

A rushed clearance by Krul led to a throw-in and quick back-heeled move by Atlas' Juan Carlos Medina and Christian Alejandro Tabo, which sprung forward Gonzalo Begessio and forced Newcastle center back Jamaal Lascelles to make a decision.

In only his second match for NUFC after playing last season on loan to Nottingham Forest, Lascalles chose wrong, bringing down Begessio for a penalty. Begessio dispatched his attempt and Newcastle trailed 1-0 in the opening minutes.

In the 15th minute more pressure by Atlas led to a bad pass from Yoan Gouffran and a brilliant scoring move by the Mexican side. Gouffran's pass back to Williamson did not have enough pace, enabling an Atlas player to  ghost in and grab possession. Bergessio worked a give and go with Bergessio finishing with a perfectly struck volley past Krul and a 2-0 lead with just 15:58 elapsed.

Minutes later, another giveaway by the defense trying to keep possession with passing nearly cost Newcastle again, but Bergessio's hat-trick bid was denied by the cross bar.

The good thing after all of this, and something McClaren pointed to, Newcastle did not abandon its possession football style. Even trailing 2-0, the Magpies continued to play the ball out of the back.

"It took the boys time to adjust, but once we adjusted, I thought we dominated," McClaren said.

Added Siem de Jong, "You saw tonight that we improved on some aspects of the game compared to especially the end of the season last season. We want to play more from the back and keep the ball a little bit more.

"Of course it’s a little bit new for some players so we need to train (that way) and (implement it) in the games as well. Sometimes when you see in the games when we make a mistake, we make it harder for ourselves, but we need to keep on doing it and doing it in these types of games."

Newcastle was on the front foot from the opening whistle of the second half, buoyed by a goal from Moussa Sissoko in the closing minute of the first half.

The Magpies should've had an equalizing goal after Atlas keeper Miguel Pinto flubbed his catch off a glancing header from Cisse.

The ball crossed the line before Pinto could scramble it out -- and the replays showed this -- but the goal was not given.

The rest of the second half featured one-way traffic with Newcastle surging while Atlas preferred to soak up pressure, close down the wings, block shots and then try for quick counter-attacks.

"We were better in the second half; played much better with a higher tempo and pressed better," Janmaat said. "Only 10 days in training now, so we have time to improve and we can do that. But the second half was good."

Newcastle was unable to get its equalizer in a 2-1 loss, but McClaren was pleased with the fight his team showed, especially in the second half.

"I don't know how we never scored the second goal," McClaren said. "We had that one on the (goal) line and then plenty of chances, but that will come.

"Preseason games are difficult to gauge, so you just have to go on performance. As the game went on we adjusted and the performance was good."