Boy, do we have a treat for you this Monday morning.
TSG was able to convince contributor “Tuesday,” who hails from D.C. and is a virtual wikipedia of soccer knowledge to contribute our Netherlands preview piece.
A nice break from the typical at TSG and a big thanks to Tuesday on a Monday for letting the editors over here sit back, grab our java and get a good read to start the week. Thank you.
Without further adu, Tuesday with the customary TSG preview:
As always, we’ll follow the following format:
TSG’s “What We’re Looking For”
11 at the Whistle
TSG’s “What We’re Looking For”
• Can the USA hold it’s own against the #3 ranked team in the world?
The Netherlands have frequently raised expectations at the group stage of major tournaments before ultimately underachieving.
A series of experimental friendlies have left USA fans frustrated and hungry for positive results, but the Yanks face an uphill battle.
The Dutch are not El Salvador. This isn’t the same US team that needed an injury time winner to defeat their familiar CONCACAF foe. Bob Bradley has named a 20-player roster that’s lean, mean and mostly European.
Only four players that took part in the El Salvador friendly make the trip to Amsterdam and fit first-team players return to international action. Auditions for minor roles at the World Cup are limited in number, an indication that Bradley is taking this match more seriously than other recent friendlies.
• What to expect from the class of Europe’s northwest?
The Netherlands’ may be without Arsenal striker Robin Van Persie but are otherwise at full strength with a roster that looks very much like the passenger manifest for their flight South Africa.
Lining up in their traditional 4-3-3, the Dutch back line consists of ageless captain Gio van Bronckhorst, now of Feyenoord, along with clear first-choice center-back pairing of Joris Mathijsen (Hamburger SV) and André Ooijer (PSV). Everton’s John Heitinga and Ajax’s emerging Gregory van der Wiel will battle it out to be Bert van Marwijk’s first choice at right back.
The 3-man midfield fuses the silky talents of Inter Milan’s Wesley Sneijder with the steal of midfield anchormen Nigel de Jong (Man City) and Demy de Zeeuw (Ajax). Fresh off leading AZ Alkmaar to their 2nd Eredivisie title last season, De Zeeuw was enlisted in former Tottenham manager Martin Jol’s rebuilding project at Ajax. He has been in fine form scoring 5 goals in 15 appearances this season for his new club. The pair will look to win the ball and find Sneijder to spring dangerous counterattacks up the flanks.
Up top, Bayern Munich’s Arjen Robben and Liverpool’s Dirk Kuyt are slated to provide service from the flanks to AC Milan’s Klaas-Jan Huntelaar in the middle. Forced out at Real Madrid with the Galactico revival, Robben has been scintillating for his new club when he’s been fit, scoring 8 times in 14 appearances, a rate any striker would envy.
• ….and the following will give Bob Bradley and company fits….
TSG will be taking note of the Netherlands’ tactical approach to this friendly. The USA may have tipped its hand at last summers Confederation’s Cup and put the world’s top teams on notice that they’re one of the handful of mid-tier sides capable of claiming any scalp on their day. Will the Netherlands dominate possession, as might be expected, or will they choose the tactic of defending deeper to give us less space to run behind their back four, concede some possession, let the US set tempo and invite our best efforts to break them down before hitting on the counterattack?
The Netherlands will present two key tactical challenges for Bob Bradley’s side – defending the counterattack and dealing with speed on the wings.
How will we cope with the guile of Robben and the tireless running of Kuyt? Our outside defenders have often struggled against pacy wingers, getting pulled out of shape and leaving space in the box to be exploited. Without Dempsey, might Bradley sacrifice a wide midfielder for cover, asking him to tuck inside the fullback for defensive support?
“11 at the whistle”
With limited training, Bradley will go with the familiar, which is the same thing he’d do after a month-long training camp.
G: Tim Howard
DEF: Jonathan Spector, Jay DeMerit, Carlos Bocanegra, Jonathan Bornstein
The skinny: The back four will likely pair DeMerit with Bocanegra in the center. Bornstein likely gets the start on the left while Spector is tasked with trying to contain Robben on the right.
MID: Stu Holden, Mo Edu, Mike Bradley, Landon Donovan
The skinny: In midfield we’ll see Bob go with the “two destroyers” he tends prefer in the center of midfield against better sides. That likely means Edu, fresh off his injury time winner in the Old Firm, paired with Sweatpants, Jr. in the center of midfield. Donovan will shift over from the flank he occupies at Everton to start on the left of midfield with Holden, fresh off a good defensive effort in his Premier League debut for Bolton, tasked with helping to contain the threat of Robben on the right.
STR: Jozy Altidore, Eddie Johnson
The skinny: Up top we’ll see Altidore paired with Eddie Johnson in his return from the international wilderness. Johnson will be looking to make a statement with his second strike against a non-CONCACAF opponent, his first since netting a consolation goal in the 4-1 loss to Argentina at the 2007 Copa America. After sampling the best attacking wares of MLS, an EJ that has grown as a player to possess something beyond his physical gifts could be the best attacking option available.
Bob Bradley is still undecided about which of the wide players he’ll bring to South Africa and his search for the elusive patent medicine known to TSG readers as Charlie-in-a-bottle continues. That means we should expect substitutions early and often, at least in the attacking half.
Favorites to be among the first off the bench are Beasley and Torres perhaps as early as halftime. Look Altidore’s strike partner to be relieved around 60 minutes, with Findley getting a run out against top level opposition.
This friendly presents a test of the old adage “when you’re starting in the Premier League, you’re starting for the Yanks.” In his Premier League debut, Stu Holden held his own in the center of the Bolton midfield in their victory over fellow relegation strugglers Wolves. Might Bob Bradley pair Junior with The Iceman in the middle of the park?
The danger of the Netherlands’ counter-attack might call for an organizing presence to help keep possession in midfield. I don’t think Bob trusts Torres much on the defensive side and may not be inclined to be so adventurous against a top side. Still, given the injury of Feilhaber, might we see him paired with Bradley in central midfield?
Bob slots a true wide player (Beasley or Bedoya) on the wing, to emulate the counterattacking 4-2-2-2 that had such success at the Confederations Cup.
Robbie Findley gets the start over Eddie Johnson.
Heath Pearce gets a chance to stake a claim to the left-back position against competition of the highest level.
Bocanegra slides out left to deal with Kuyt’s physicality while Goodson and DeMerit patrol the center of the park.
Bradley goes all Arena and trots out a 4-5-1, with Altidore leading the line, Donovan and Beasley wide and 3 of Junior, Edu, Holden and Torres patrolling the center of the park.