The Vitalness of The Jermaine Jones Caboose

I’ve been trying not to type this column since I saw the Mikey B replay Sunday. TSG has written these thoughts before. The fans have suffered through qualifier after qualifier illuminating the sentiment contained herein. However, if I don’t write it, then I can’t come back and reference it at a later date for its braininess or its stupidity.

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Just an exquisite, amazing pass, a Donovan to be precise, from Michael Bradley for his club team, Bo’Munchen, to assist for a score against Bayern Munich this past Saturday.

<video removed by provider>

….and yet this splendid play brought out the curmudgeon in me.

I hated it for what is was “not”….hold this thought for one moment because we’re going to put it on a collision course with one below.

A polar observation:

The US draws England as the heavy in the World Cup group. Immediately I, and I’m sure you as well, had a niggling, pin-pricking voice in your mind that hinted at, “Yes, yes there is a chance we can knock down that victory.”

You’re next thought, or at least mine? How? How does it happen? How do we win that one?

The Brits, deployed in a 4-4-2. A strong 4-4-2 with maybe three exceptions or outright weaknesses: A target forward for Wayne Rooney to play off of, problems at wingfull with the shaky Wayne Bridge and oft-injured Wes Brown and Glen Johnson there, and, much like the US, a little bit unsettling situation in the midfield where James Milner might be making a play for time, but the rather limited Gareth Barry and the off-form Frank Lampard man the central pitch. These gents are flanked by very poor man’s Donovan Shaun Wright Phillips or Aaron Lennon and the Clint Dempsey of the England Steven Gerrard relegated to the wing.

Gareth Barry

Barry: Solid, but vulnerable

What I currently envision for how the game play–we can dream a bit, right?

The U.S. works to combat Wayne Rooney and holds firm. On the other side of the ball, a counter attack or two netted by Landon and Stu (or maybe even Robbie Findley or Marcus Tracy) after possession had been linked through the midfield.

It’s not secret that the U.S. will need and already need to maintain more possession in the middle of the pitch. However, how ironic is it that our very first opponent in World Cup 2010 will demand that strategy as the prescription to beating them.

Crash! Back to our weekend observation. Really a gorgeous play by Coach USA’s son, the type of play that Mike Bradley does well on. It’s a relative strength for USMNT midfield stalwart, his quick reception and distribution….and it’s categorically not the type of skill that the USMNT demands in its first match-up in South Africa. The US will demand possession, protection and carriage in their central midfield, not hot potato.

Which brings me to the title of my piece. TSG, and all our contributors and commenters, have reviewed the USMNT midfield before, exhaustively, and I’m sure we’ll do it many time again. TSG has championed for more Benny Feilhaber; only his 2009 pairing with MB isn’t nearly close to the rhythmic coupling the two had in the Gold Cup of 2007.

Let’s be honest, the USMNT 3rd highest leader in minutes played during qualification and would-be minutes leader if he didn’t earn a red card and have to drop a game, Michael Bradley will most certainly be on the pitch in June barring an injury.

We know Ricardo Clark is not the answer in attack from a possession standpoint and probably from a complete game standpoint. We know that Coach USA is looking at Benny as reliever and possible winger. We probably know that Edgar Castillo is flanking in the midfield or defensive third of the pitch, but flanking, not centering.

We know Coach Sweatpants will not waver from his borderline maniacal focus on defensive coverage in the midfield–which to his credit has time and time covered for questionable play by the wingfulls while allowing for the threat of Donovan and others on the outsides.

Only the USMNT midfield demands someone who can possess the ball in combination with that defensive intensity.

We’ve been waiting for a healthy Jermaine Jones midfield caboose to rumble into town. In a moment of brilliance from Michael Bradley, here’s another, or perhaps the best, reason why.

Jermaine Jones

Casey Jones you better speed it up....

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16 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/12/08 at 1:09 PM

    Author here. Just to be clear…loved the pass, but it reminded me of MB’s strengths and we need more punch in the mid….

    Reply

  2. Posted by Matt B on 2009/12/08 at 2:15 PM

    Am I crazy, or does needing possession in the midfield just beg for Torres’ inclusion in the lineup? I’m not exactly sure where he would play or who sits, but his presence would be very helpful in keeping some possession.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2009/12/08 at 2:24 PM

      I don’t think you’re crazy Matt B. But I do think that Bob’s defined a bit of his “general” non game specific strategy for RSA in terms of keeping the ball on the wings to reduce offensive pressure.

      With that notion coupled with Paco’s banishment following his defensive display against Costa Rica in the beginning of the year, he’s just not that first selection.

      Ricardo Clark for all his offensive struggles continues to get recalled and start some minutes. He’s a great defensive player, but he is threatening no Cup bound team.

      Reply

  3. Posted by Jeff on 2009/12/08 at 3:10 PM

    Unfortunately, since Coach will undoubtedly be starting his son, we will be missing out on the best possible pairing. It seems clear that we would hold possession best with Jones and Feilhaber in the middle, or even subbing Jones for Edu and Feilhaber for Torres. It’s not to say that young Bradley isn’t one of our best 11 players (he is, especially when you consider injuries, our questionable left back situation, and the fact that we have somewhere between zero and one good forward), but he shouldn’t really be in our starting 11, due to the glut in midfield talent we possess.

    Reply

    • Excellent point, he is one of the more talented players in the squad, but he doesn’t always have a place on the field. In 2007 he was a revelation in quick distribution with a little, if reckless, bite. In 2008 & 2009 he has kind of fallen back into the pack of other midfielders and doesn’t set himself apart.

      The US has talent, but not enough to coast on talent alone, therefore, we need to put the best team out on the field even if it means leaving some of the better players off from time to time. I used to say the same about ‘Cakes but he’s turned into a legitimate match-winner (at least for a nation of our quality level) and begrudgingly so has Deuce, which is why they have to be on the field if healthy. Sweatpants Jr. is not a match-winner and therefore can be sacrificed if the situation demands it. Against England, I think it would be wise to consider someone other than Mikey in the middle, someone who is better at holding the ball before making the incisive pass. Or, maybe consigning baby-Bob to a more disruptive force who hangs back instead of pushing up. If there is a game where Bobbo needs to prove his tactical mettle, it would be the England one. So, man up Bob and make the right decision.

      Reply

  4. Can you clarify what you mean by possestion in the middle? Because I think we’re being crazy if the addition of one or two players to the mid will make us a “possessing” team. I’ll take a midfield that can quickly link defense to offense, wing to wing — while providing defensive cover. A good countering midfield. I think slowing down our attack will only suffocate it.

    This is all well and good, but what you are suggesting seems unrealistic in this WC cycle. Time is our greatest enemy now.

    Reply

    • Spelling is terrible, sorry. iPhone needs spellcheck.

      Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2009/12/08 at 10:05 PM

      Sure Patrick…I don’t mean the USMNT is going to play Barcelona ball…certainly not. What the US needs more of (see USA-Mexico, August 12th and our 969 punts) is somebody who, upon a turn of possession, can own the ball for a few seconds–not move it–until the midfielders who are streaking up the field or merely settling into open space get to the open routes and spaces.

      The USMNT has a little bit of it. Robbie Rogers when he draws in instead of going wide. Stu Holden when he circles the ball back.

      Two games stick out for me this year: T&T, when Bradley and Rico were playing a game of “You take it. No, you take it.” and the Mexico game where it was up-and-over to Ching.

      We’re a counterattacking team, but when we do have the ball, we need to know when to hold, move or just protect it. I don’t see that as Bradley’s strongest trait or Rico’s.

      To use another example, this is the same issue Liverpool has without Xabi.

      I actually did a quick reach for “Xabi” and “Liverpool” and this article expresses how Macherano is taking over that role a bit….

      http://www.adifferentleague.co.uk/default.aspx?Tab=2&Page=6&Article=842

      We won’t be a possession team, but we need more possession.

      Reply

  5. Posted by Antonio H. on 2009/12/08 at 11:28 PM

    vitality?

    I actually like Robbie Rodgers coming on as a sub in the 65th(or even starting) in the England match up. i think his “attacking winger” mentality, as opposed to Stu’s “cross first” mentality can provide us a trump card.

    Let’s be real though people, BIgB will not, and I mean WILL NOT sit his son in south africa. It’ll take something as much as an injury or an epiphany of the rarest kind to come to that conclusion. Or yellow card accumulation. Another thing, i don’t think it’s possible or a very good idea to confine Mikey to the defensive side of the pitch because he’s a box-to-box Mid by nature. Doing that will just decrease his effectiveness in my eyes. I mean come on, he scores goals, its not like with Rico’s situation where he has 1 goal in all of 2009

    Reply

  6. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/12/08 at 11:39 PM

    Actually vitality and vitalness are two different words, but both words. It’s “it’s” I have a problem with. :>

    I don’t think anyone thinks we’re sitting MB and, in fact, we know until JJ or Edu comeback, Rico is probably in there as well. Mike B is done; he’s in the XI

    Nick said above, but Mikey B is a tweener….not strong enough offensively or defensively but a serviceable package and then some.

    The point of this piece is what the USMNT needs in the middle. Maybe they get the possession from Stu and Robbie drawing in–which is what happened from Costa Rica through the Denmark friendly.

    Similarly like Rogers…the guy has size and speed, now he just needs to mature.

    Reply

  7. Posted by Mark T on 2009/12/08 at 11:48 PM

    I’d prefer to see Benny out on the left wing, the same position he plays for his club, before Rogers. One good 20-minute showing by Rogers isn’t enough to convince me he should be in the conversation for the starting XI.

    By the way, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bradley rolls out the 4-5-1 versus England to play for the one goal win / draw.

    Reply

  8. [...] Tagged: Jermain Jones. Leave a Comment Fresh on the heals of our piece earlier this week “The Vitalness of Jermaine Jones” comes a new (and better visually, worse audibly) highlight vid of the Great German Hope [...]

    Reply

  9. Posted by Rhodie on 2009/12/10 at 9:14 AM

    This is my first post so bear with me please.

    First I would like to ask the authors and the readers hear why they have such a distrust (possibly read dislike) of Bob Bradley. Do we not remember Bruce… Bradley has done nothing but improve the team, improve the players (think Donovan and Gooch, both playing their best soccer ever, much of that thanks I believe goes to Bradley), and find young talent: Jozy, CD9, even to a lesser extent Holden and Spectre. The results in qualifying and the Confed Cup are enough for me to trust the Sweatpants judgment at least through this cup.

    Second in response to Matthew’s comment on Xabi, I believe that it is just the opposite, what the mighty Reds need is not someone to hold the ball longer (Lucas can do that till the cows come home), what I believe that Liverpool need is someone to make the incisive pass, someone with passing creativity who can split a defense and move the ball up the pitch. Is that not exactly what we have, with Jr. Sweatpants. Clearly he is not in the same conversation with Xabi, but that is at least the style player that he is, someone who will recieve the ball and play it forward.

    I will agree that Jr. has not had his best games in qualifying, but is that any reason to sit our only proven linking midfielder for a great hope that we haven’t seen yet?

    Reply

    • Posted by Mark T on 2009/12/10 at 9:24 AM

      Rhodie,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      “Jr. Sweatpants”…that’s a new one…love it.

      No dislike for Bob Bradley here at TSG. But it does seem like he has tweaked just about everything except Jr.

      For my quick take on Bradley see here: http://theshinguardian.com/2009/11/23/guus-for-thanksgiving/ (scroll to bottom of post)

      Jr. Sweatpants hasn’t done much linking for the USMNT in the last five or so months to the point that in multiple times during the qualifiers you had the defense bypassing Bradley and Rico altogether..

      Reply

  10. [...] The positive: Only 3 yellow cards on the campaign for Mikey Bradley. The negative: Only that one assist that we pointed out a month back. C’mon Mikey, pick it up. Bo Munchen takes on VFL Bochum on [...]

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