Piecing Together The Puzzle Up Front

Clint Dempsey should start at forward cries seems to have subsided to a degree just as the teeter has tottered now in favor or Robbie Findley or should I say Robbie Findley!.

The Turk defenders saw a lot of this...the back of Findley's jersey. (courtesy, Matt Mathai)

So TSG doesn’t look like we’re jumping an any bandwagon, we’ll refer you here where we mentioned that Findley had the lead for a spot going into camp. Since we just tooted….our horn, we’ll also stuff a foot in our mouth, Herculez Gomez proved us wrong by sticking around. And we’d like to see more of him too.

The line-up and permutations will abound through this Saturday’s final tune-up with the ‘Roos and up until the hour before the whistle June 12th.

Let’s take a deeper look at what Bob Bradley needs to figure out–up front–before June 12th.

• Can Jozy Altidore mature quickly, hold, distribute, and be dangerous with the ball?

Those listening intently picked up on Bradley’s subtle and no so veiled comment on the forwards, Altidore and Dempsey, needing to do better, “be sharper” in the post-game presser after Saturday’s win with Turkey.

A hearty handshake, but there is more work to do (Courtesy, Matt Mathai)

The US strategy was over-the-top and press-hard. Both midfielders, up the pitch. As a note, Robbie Findley would have not have been nearly as successful if going for jump balls against fresh legs.

No, Bradley was looking and relying on a few things. Altidore to hold the ball and be a threat (like he needs him to be against Terry, King and/or Ferdinand on the 12th), Dempsey to possess and provide support and Donovan to create off of what transpired in front of them.

None of this happened.

The US wanted to control and maintain possession and physically suffocate the Turkey team. Again, didn’t happen. Well maybe a little, if you consider the fact that the strategy wore down the Turks for the 2nd half–or maybe that was all their running on the counterattack.

The question remains. Can Jozy do better when the ball is served to him?

I’ll throw it out here–and this is where not being in camp hurts this review–but Edson Buddle performed admirably in that hold-up role against the Czechs. Outside shot in my book that he is up top as one of the strikers against Australia. The big question on Buddle and Gomez by the way is “have they picked up the defensive scheme and understand, and play, their role in it?”

• Who is Herculez Gomez?

He won a spot, but will he factor draped in the #9 jersey. Gomez proved his mettle with an encouraging performance against the Czechs and a goal to cap it.

Just how good and ready he is? I’m not talking about starting or how where to deploy him, but whether you consider him a “poacher” or not, he is the only other forward capable of “streaking” towards the goal. It’s Findley and then a somewhat distant Gomez.

Here’s the thing. If you start Findley then who is your speed reinforcement off the bench. England, for example, will likely have Jermain Defoe or, in the odd chance he starts, at least Shaun Wright-Phillips now to provide some speed.

The States? Holden as a winger, but that’s about it if you deploy Findley early.

The Algeria game by the way is the one I think Gomez gets in (all pending of course) as he’s tailor-made to hop, skip, “poach” on some of the mistakes the Desert Foxes will make in the back.

• Where does Clint go?

Deploying the Deuce-i-nator (courtesy, Matt Mathai)

In many way, Bob Bradley has been wrestling with this for sometime. In Bradley’s system of tough defense, pressure, and tracking back after a turnover, Dempsey is not a Bradley-type.

But the Coach has been, say, logical in that Dempsey needs to be on the field.

Through most of qualifying Clint was in the midfield and routinely chided for his defensive integrity–many times rightfully so.

It’s clear that Clint’s best position is somewhere in the middle of the pitch–he doesn’t gain the corner well and cross and he’s not going to round anyone and issue a cutback pass.

With all this in mind–and maybe we should wait for our preview until Friday–but who might the US start up top against Australia?

Here are some options you may see:

Mo' defense slides into our starting rotation (courtesy, Matt Mathai)

The Turkey: 2 to 1 odds

STR: Jozy Altidore

FW: Clint Dempsey

MID: Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, Stu Holden

Redress: Same as the parts on Saturday, only this time Donovan who had trouble working in enclosed areas moves back to the left where there is more open space and provides cover over Carlos Bocanegra. Holden starts, as he did against the Czechs, and the US still work the front right of the attack as much as Saturday.

Maurice Edu is up the pitch offering half-pressure and Michael Bradley slightly more reserved on the left and the distributor from the back.


The Battering Ram: 10 to 1 odds

STR: Jozy Altidore, Edson Buddle

MID: Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, Clint Dempsey

Redress: Look familiar? A certain someone with the initials T.S.G. had something similar a few weeks ago (only last name on the jersey was Ching, not Buddle).

Edson Buddle was deployed on the top right against the Czechs and did an admirable job. As we mentioned, we’re having handicapped as we can’t see practice. Maybe Oguchi Onyewu is having his way with Buddle on jump balls in practice. Who knows?

In this line-up Jozy sits to the left-center and Buddle is your target forward on the right.

Similar spots for Mo Edu and Bradley as “the Turkey” above.

The reason I love Buddle in this permutation, is if Australia plays a high line on defense, Buddle still has a knee speed to skirt free if the Yanks play a “chase” ball over the top.

The challenge here? Exerting enough defensive pressure high enough on the pitch.


Findley: A full 90' to start? (courtesy, Matt Mathai)

Speed Kills:  5 to 1 odds

STR: Jozy Altidore, Robbie Findley

MID: Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, Landon Donovan

Redress: Somewhat close to the 2nd half line-up against Turkey. The States use Altidore as the target forward in the general center of the pitch and then have Findley make incisive runs off of him. I don’t see this working to start against England and I doubt it’s employed because the Lions’ defense will be fresh and then the US counter with precisely what later in the game. Basically, you’re going to Gomez in the 2nd half there in the #9 jersey.

Getting back to the opening frame, Mo Edu is half-pressing up the pitch, but Michael Bradley is sitting deeper in the role that Torres played.

Something thing that leads me to believe this line-up isn’t an opener (right now), is Torres profited from Cherundolo supporting up the pitch and driving Turkey’s left flank back–I’m not so sure that Dolo can keep up that energy for a full 90 minutes against the best.


• Note: You will see that I don’t have Torres starting just yet here. He, as Donovan stated, brought a good ability of calmness on the ball, I’m just not sure he’s ready to hold up for 90 against what’s looking to be a Gerrard-Lampard tandem in the middle. He won’t be able to go to ground and gain the ball as frequently–that’s for sure. Nice holding play though Saturday.


(Note on how England strategy impacts the line-ups below: I think what the US wants to do is pummel Ashley Cole’s side and make his weary, physically, and wary, mentally of going forward, so they pound the ball there for the first half (like Turkey/Czech) and then through

As for Glen Johnson, Bob Bradley dares him to come up the pitch, hoping he gets caught out once or twice and the US can exploit that on a counter. More England next week….)

25 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Brian on 2010/06/01 at 7:57 PM

    What day does the “21th” fall on? I didn’t know we had a game that day : )


  2. I think you’re dead on w/ the Turkey lineup. It’s a conservative setup and will be useful against a physically powerful English side. Much as I’d love to see Torres starting, I don’t think he’s ready. I agree that he’d be much more useful as a second-half sub, when he could use his craftiness and cutting passes to do some damage against tired defenders.

    I was impressed with Findley vs. Turkey and think, with a little experience, he could be a drop-in replacement for Charlie Davies. He doesn’t have quite the speed IIRC, and he isn’t quite as strong, but he makes similar runs. That lovely chip pass to Landon for the first goal was a revelation. I didn’t think he had it in him. He’d always seemed more like a limited speed merchant to me, and it was great to see another facet of his game. If he adds to his repertoire he can be a dangerous player for us because his speed on diagonal runs will open up space for our midfield, thus preventing the English from compressing the field.


  3. Posted by DanPA on 2010/06/02 at 6:03 AM

    I hope that Sweatpants realizes that the the “battering ram” is not going to work and our personnel don’t execute pressuring high up the pitch or maintain spacing well (both central midfielders get pulled too far forward, too often). I might throw the TV out the window if we regress to lumping hopeful long-ball after long-ball over the midfield.

    The crux is getting space…

    I didn’t like what I saw in the 1st half against Turkey when Bradley & Clark were both high on the field. Even when the forwards won the ball or knocked back to the mids, they were nearly on top of Turkey’s defensive line, giving them little space ahead, but loads of space behind for Turkey to counter into.

    Plus, Dempsey and Altidore had very few spaces to move into with the central midfield so close to them. They either could receive a ball with several defenders close by or run to the corner… and neither is very willing/good at making the corner run.

    We absolutely need more vertical spacing between the central midfielders to give the forwards and outside midfielders space.

    I agree that we are most likely to see “the Turkey” on Saturday, but I would prefer to see Edu holding and Bradley pushing forward. Bradley is so much more effective at linking with the forwards and outside midfielders when he does not have the primary distribution responsibilities… he is also more dangerous as a goal poacher farther up the field. I think distribution skill is a push between Edu and Bradley, with Edu showing some very good composure and passing against the Czechs.


    • I think your comment about Edu holding and Bradley pushed up is on the mark. It has been said that it isn’t Edu’s forte to play the distribution but like you said is he really worse at it then Bradley? And isn’t the pairing and thus our team better off with Bradley forward and Edu holding?
      Personally I think Edu might be slightly better than Bradley at both roles but if that pairing is to be the way it is I think I would rather have Edu back to hound/pressure passes from the CM to CM or to a cutting Rooney than Bradley. Obviously this means Bradley is the one providing the pressure higher up the field so I could see how you could also say that Edu would be able to pressure higher up better. Ultimately it depends on who is errantly spraying balls all over the pitch less and who might be able to link up with the Donovan/Boca triangle better to spring the counter.
      Another thought is maybe Edu is able to provide better defensive cover on the left for Boca and Donovan.


  4. I agree with the above odds and analysis.
    I agree that the Jozy and Altidore pairing probably is the front-runner for the starting line-up (gets Holden on the field and can work better than seen with Turkey).
    Here’s the real question I have: will BB use the Australia match as a complete dress rehearsal (i.e. starting line-up then his second half preferred option). I think, as most have said, he would be wise to do that as A) the players need time to get comfortable (especially Altidore/Demps who had less than stellar individual preformances but also looked a little awkward next to each other). B) The best way to see if the line-up can work per your design is to have it tested in the half that it normally would be deployed (i.e. Altidore/Demps in the 2nd half doesn’t test give as good of an evaluation if used in the second half.

    The only reason I bring this up is BB likes to be tight lipped. He especially seemingly is reveling in the idea that he could be playing mind games with Capello and keeping his exact formations in his head. (it is questionable though how much of an effect that would have on Capello if the veil of secrecy is just Feilhaber switched for Holden). It is almost like he thinks he is playing a chess match and setting up his final moves with sacrifice moves ahead of time. Ahh chess the beautiful game….I digress. At this point I think even BB has to show his hand and see what happens in the Australia match. It would be much more worrisome if we started with a line-up against England that didn’t start/ see significant time against Australia. But there is something in the back of my head that keeps saying BB might see experiment with his another choice in the upcoming match, say Buddle starts in this scenario and then maybe he goes to the Altidore/Demps line-up in the second half to see both (or vice-versa he starts with Demps and switches to Buddle at half, then dodges the question of which is his starting XI). I guess overall I could see this happening as BB seems to be a “global thinker” when it comes to problem solving. He likes to see all the available options and permutations before making a choice (with personnel that is not formations). So he might still test how different pairings work.

    If there is anything I am certain of it is this: the pregame press conference will go like this: BB will say when asked about the starting XI: “Well, this line-up is close to our starting XI. But we need to see today how the team plays together in certain situations. We may try a slightly different variation for the England match. ”

    Post press conference: “We saw a lot of good stuff today. Places where some players played well and some where others didn’t quite perform to the level they can. As a team I thought we did well and put some nice pressure on at times. As far as who is to start against England the rest of the coaches and I will review the tape from today and add our assessments from training. There are a few different ways we could approach that game and we will solidify our starting line-up in the next few days.”

    No way BB reveals the starting XI before the announcers of that match do. We could be in a quarter final game of the WC and BB would still be saying “well we have to evaluate where we are at, at this point and choose the best line-up for this particular situation. We will evaluate how players played in the last match and go from there.”
    All in all I will be happy if BB figures out a goodl line-up for England and that line-up does not include JB. (I think he might have given up on JB in the last match but I still am not sure of that). Boca will get beat far less than JB period. Speed is irrelevant if you are never in position.


  5. Posted by KickinNames... on 2010/06/02 at 6:46 AM

    “In many way, Bob Bradley has been wrestling with this for sometime. In Bradley’s system of tough defense, pressure, and tracking back after a turnover, Dempsey is not a Bradley-type.” Good commentary on the Dempsey quandary. But as we saw on Sat he is bona fide goal poacher for the NT.
    The funny thing is, after watching his son jog around the pitch for a few years now for both club and country, it might be that young Michael isn’t a “Bradley-type” either.

    I just can’t shake this strong feeling that the MB automatic inclusion is warranted or the best option for the team at CM. Torres has his holes but just fits that role so much better especially paired with a strong, composed partner like an Edu. I just have this crazy dream of Demerit/Gooch(or Goodson) winning headballs in the box Torres retrieving the ball in traffic, holding turning and laying off to Edu who plays an accurate ball out to Holden who hits Donovan streaking up the left wing, who plays an early ball to Dempsey out wide who crashes home a 10 yd volley. Possession is the name of the game.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/06/02 at 6:52 AM

      You know KickinNames – I didn’t go there in this piece.

      I’ve not rewatched the USA v. Turkey game twice and there are multiple occassions (more in the first half), where Bradley simply–maybe it was confidence in his teammates or tiredness–just le a potential pass receiver go beyond him or jogged into position.

      Maybe I’m being too critical because I looked for it and MB was covering a ton of ground, but still.

      Note, in this game, Donovan and Feilhaber did that a little. Deuce was actually stronger defensively–in this game!


      • Agreed on Feilhaber, he hasn’t played much the last several months and I felt like it really showed v Turkey. He’s also not much of a winger, not that Holden is really a true winger either but his defensive qualities and workrate make him a much better option on the outside than Benny IMO.


      • Stop with this immediately. Dempsey is a solid defensive player who plays forward and midfield for a team so hard-working and well-organized defensively that they made it all the way to a European final even though they play in a wooden stadium… This will be the Dempsey that shows up in South Africa.

        I think Dempsey himself shed light on the real issue when he talked about keeping possession the other day. He just doesn’t feel like he should have to be chasing T&T as they stroke the ball around the pitch when he’s down in the Caribbean for a relaxing World Cup qualifier. Frankly, i agree with him.

        As for Junior, he needs to be paired with either Torres or Edu, not Clark as they are far too similar. Clark is the backup when Jr gets red-carded. Torres, Edu would also work, but Bradley offers a bit more when pressing and offering penetrative passing options. Bradley is a defensive player, best deployed as the more advanced midfielder as he isn’t particularly well-disciplined tactically.


    • Posted by DanPA on 2010/06/02 at 7:07 AM

      I’ve been critical of M. Bradley in the past, but I’ll jump in and defend him, a bit.

      He is still one of the most accomplished, consistent, and improving midfielders we have in the player pool. I think a lot of the criticism stems from the way the papa sweatpants has handled his role.

      Over the last WC cycle, he has been a starting lock, rarely subbed, and no other player experimented in his position. We’re always trying to find a midfield partner for HIM That has set him up with some heavy expectations, that a player put in a similar position by any coach would face. He is still young and may not be fully mature enough to handle that responsibility, although I sense from his demeanor and comments to the media that he realizes the pressure is there.

      Also, within each game, coach sweatpants has seemed to try to force him into a holding/distributor role. He is just not that good at that… yet. Somehow, the media labeled him as a defensive destroyer early in his US career, and I’m not sure that is, or was, very accurate. Right now, he is much better when free of the distributor responsibilities and can be a true box-to-box player.


      • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/06/02 at 7:11 AM

        Agreed on your last statement Dan.

        Too late for much debate on this now.

        It is clear though that Bradley is neither a holder or distributor. He actually carries the ball well in possession and doesn’t a decent job on the run of finding open passes.


  6. Posted by KickinNames... on 2010/06/02 at 8:13 AM

    You guys are all dead on. I would really like MB in the team in a box to box role but his current role is not that. He does RUN a lot. He doesn’t defend well or position himself well defensively in either club or country role. And he has a habit of ole-ing ball holders and then giving up or jogging after them. He tends to be a liability in that role and a red card waiting to happen. My last Torres dream sequence until after the games…))
    Looking forward to the games.


  7. Posted by bigrobot on 2010/06/02 at 8:16 AM

    First of all, Jozy will not have to worry about maintaining possession against Ledley King. There is no way England opens the tournament starting Ledley King over the Terry/Ferdinand partnership (even though King is, in my opinion, better). I’ve noticed TSG loves Spurs (as do I) but Ledley is not the starter.
    As far as using the Australia game as a rehearsal for our attacking formation against England, that will be difficult to accomplish if you think about how different Australia and England are defensively. England will likely have two wingbacks playing in advanced positions down the field. The prospect of Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson running up and down the flanks is possibly the most frightening quality about England (when you think about it from the USMNT’s perspective). Australia does not have Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson.
    I think that attacking against Australia and attacking against England are two completely different endeavours. That’s why I don’t think we will see identical attacking formations in the upcoming games. The question that I am most interested in is this: how does Sweatpants respond to the Cole/Johnson attack?


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/06/02 at 8:38 AM

      TSG is a casual Everton fan through our love for Tim Cahill (I know, not the week for that) and Big T.

      In terms of Australia, agreed, when ex-Everton man Lucas Neil is your captain your defense is very different from England.

      That said, I think the US–like they did against the Czechs who didn’t provide the same as Turkey or England–tries to impose their offensive/defensive philosophy on England.
      I think you already see the playbook for containing the Lennon-Johnson wing which is tuck a halfback inside with a right foot (Dempsey, Holden, Donovan or Feilhaber).

      On the left side, I think–per my ending comments which I now notice I didn’t finish–I think the US “busts up” the Cole-RCB combination with on the ball pressure in the first and Altidore in the area making running.
      In the 2nd, perhaps the speed you saw Saturday with Findley/Donovan etc.
      I think the US tactics against Turkey in the 1st half will work slightly better against England if employed because:

      a) Gareth Barry is not 100% and may not play
      b) Either or both Lampard and Gerrard (pending players/formation) are going to have to help out linking through the middle a lot more.

      I think the US will want to win against Australia, but first priority will be tuning up their strategy for England seven days later — just my opinion.


      • Posted by John on 2010/06/02 at 11:47 AM

        Hey George, has there been a consensus on the Lampard/Gerrard situation and the playing of both or either yet?

        It always appears there is still a bit of question as to whether they actually work as a duo.


        • Posted by John on 2010/06/02 at 11:49 AM

          Incidentally I just found this nugget of information.

          The odd couple

          22 Games Gerrard and Lampard have started in central midfield for England (winning 14, losing 5, drawing 3)

          3 years since the pair have both started in central midfield, in the 1-0 victory against Austria in November 2007.

          0 starts together in central midfield under Fabio Capello in 16 squads the two have both been selected for.


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/06/02 at 11:57 AM

          I think the general consensus is that they can play in midfield but not in the same midfield band – this separation is vital. They do not gel playing side by side as CMs, and it’s been tried so many times. Personally, I think Gerrard’s best position is centrally, further up the pitch, but he will no doubt start on the left and drift in, on his right foot / back post.


  8. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/06/02 at 11:45 AM

    I feel playing Australia will be a reasonably well matched game, therefore I am not too sure why Bradley chose them as a warm up to England, as opposed to a better team ‘where a draw would be a great result’…

    What I would look for: first and foremost, shape and discipline of your six ‘defensive’ players, and then the mini-relationships on the field (LB & LM, RB & RM, DM & CB so on and so forth). Cahill has great timing so it will be interesting to see how Bradley sets his stall out to deal with him. Somebody like Kewell who’s technically a good player – and is also an offensive threat, so it will a good match up for the US wide-mid.

    Dempsey will put one past Schwarzer, and Cahill will score against Howard…


    • Posted by iliketuesday on 2010/06/02 at 12:44 PM

      Cahill as a player that works in the same space that Rooney does is my suspected answer. Different sort of player, similar sort of Challenge. It’s also odd that they are a potential Round of 16 opponent. Measuring stick, perhaps? I’d prefer me some revenge against Germany or Ghana in the Round of 16.


      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/06/02 at 1:10 PM

        I agree. Who do you think will be tasked to track Cahill’s late runs into the box?

        Germany will always put a well organised team out, but they’re missing experience – Low opted to graduate players from their winning U21 team. All the Group D teams must be thinking that all their Christmases have come at once. Good time to meet the Germans…


        • DeMerit was frequently stepping out into midfield against Turkey, taking up positions in advance of the fullbacks. Granted, the back 4 was frequently too flat against Turkey.

          In the second half, DeMerit would step out a few yards, while Torres would be just in front of the attacking player to prevent the ball into him in this area. Torres and Bradley both did a good job stepping out and preventing Turkey’s midfielders from turning and picking a pass into this space.

          My photos give some insight but I really wish I just had a video of the entirety of both matches from my vantage point up high behind the goal. It would surprise me if US Soccer doesn’t have someone filming up there. If they don’t, they really should. There’s simply no better way to figure out what the hell happened positioning-wise than that viewpoint.

          The sideline camera offers minimal tactical insight. I loved Sky interactive’s coverage in the UK where you can select that view and watch the whole match that way.


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/06/02 at 2:36 PM

          So, do you think Bradley will go for his to side-by-side CMs or play more of a diamond to possibly take advantage of Barry’s absence and no suitable alternative DM? Quite frankly, Carrick has been poor.

          Sky’s coverage is second to none. I do miss it. Especially the post match tactical analysis where they start freezing the frames and colouring in zonal areas of the pitch.

          The best I have seen in print is Wilson in The Guardian and sometimes ZM crane-shot type photos from row Z behind the goal.


        • Posted by Tom M on 2010/06/02 at 4:13 PM

          If I remember right when Nowak was a coach with the USMNT he would sit up high with the ability to talk to the coaches on the field.


  9. Posted by Tom M on 2010/06/03 at 9:41 AM

    I just saw on Sports Center that Jozy sprained his ankle and was taken to the hospital. No break and they are calling it day to day. This is not good.


  10. […] pride of New Rochelle, NY belongs and deserves playing time down in South Africa. As we mentioned on Wednesday and earlier in May, Buddle is an exciting player combining physique with speed and a good final […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 258 other followers

%d bloggers like this: