The United States warms up with an early kickoff in the States Saturday against a potential later stage opponent Australia.
Kickoff at Ruimsig Stadium is 5:30 a.m. PST and the match will be broadcast live on ESPN2 and online at ESPN3.com.
The Socceroos of Oz will make an acceptable warm-up for later stage US foes Slovenia and Algeria. They’ll try the counter some, but likely be more proficient with set pieces–see a man named “Jesus” below– and crosses into the box–probable starters Oguchi Onyewu and Jay DeMerit should be tested a fair amount.
It all starts for the ‘Roos with an experienced midfield as the fulcrum of a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Those that are earnest followers of the English Premier League will recognize many of the names from that midfield including: the duo of (recovered) Brett Emerton and Vincent Grella from Blackburn and Hull City’s Richard Garcia. Of course, Everton’s aerial master Tim Cahill leads the group. Marco Bresciano rounds it out, no slouch playing at Serie A’s Palermo this year.
Up top, manager Pim Verbeek can select from much-traveled ex-Liverpool man Harry Kewell or Joshua “Jesus” Kennedy who plays in the quick-paced Japanese league with Nagoya Grampus and netted 14 times in just 25 games. Oh, he’s also 6’4”.
The defense is what the ‘Roos two holding midfielders will attempt to protect as it is aging and missing Middlesbrough up-and-comer Rhys Williams out with a controversial injury.
Captain Lucas O’Neill, dispatched by Everton this year (if you weren’t going to make Everton’s defensive backline this year that says something about the way your game has been trending), who is accompanied by Craig Moore in the middle. The outside flankers are either old (Chipperfield) or traveled (Wilshire.) Sound familiar?
The goalie is Fulham’s battle tested Mark Schwarzer–more than capable.
Frankly the Australian national team plays like your mid-table Premiership team. Whereas the Turks attacked with verve, the Australians prefer to build their attacks more methodically through the center of the pitch.
One other note here, Australia’s coming up off a 1-0 victory against the US November series friendly opponent, Denmark.
It will be interesting to see just how much pressure the US puts up the pitch on the ball in the face of a 5-man midfield and if the US will try to flip the ball over the top or depart from that strategy if Jozy Altidore is resting his injured hinge.
For the most part, I think the US will mix group stage game plans with a strategy to beat the Aussies–if that makes sense.
Ok, now to our customary preview.
As always, we’ll follow the (now-patented) TSG format:
TSG’s “What We’re Looking For”
11 at the Whistle
TSG’s “What We’re Looking For”
• The central midfield: Who plays, do they press up the pitch and who moves the ball?
Looking back at our piece from early Wednesday, I feel pretty comfortable suggesting that you’ll see Michael Bradley and Maurice Edu in the middle. Given that the ‘Roos will have an extra man in the middle, I think you’ll likely see the Yanks distribute the ball a little earlier to the flanks where Donovan will be manning one and possibly Holden, or even Beasley, the other.
• Do the Yanks protect one or more flanks?
If you noticed in the Turkey game, around the 30th minute I believe Landon and Benny switched sides.
With Turkey eating up Jonathan Spector on the right, Bob Bradley basically knew that he couldn’t keep Donovan up the pitch on that side and expect to protect that flank. Feilhaber was authorized to hold back and Donovan moved more centrally on the left side, able to push the attack wide and allow recovery, but also “potentially” factor in the offense.
I’m not sure what you’ll see here, but my guess is that it will be the blueprint for the England game and that you’ll see Holden tucked inside on the left to start.
• Have the calls for Cherundolo grown loud enough?
This is a tough one here. Jonathan Spector had one of the toughest assignments on Saturday. Without a ton of cover to start, Spector got burnt. With a pretty good view of his play, Spector had an exceedingly hard time just staying in front of Turan for the Turks.
But Spector won’t face a speed freak against England and he’s accustomed to playing against the English. Will Bob Bradley go with Cherundolo who impressed versus the Czechs and the Turks or will he stay with Spector who matches up a little better against the physical Australian side.
This one is a coin flip and may come down to strategy more than anything. Is the US is going to play and go for the counter, you’ll see Cherundolo with Donovan ahead of him. If they elect to go toe-to-toe with the Aussies, then it will be Spector.
I think we’ll see Spector in this one–but I will likely kick myself when Cherundolo is written on the opening line-up card.
11 at the Whistle
G: Tim Howard
The skinny: No kidding.
DEF: Jonathan Spector, Jay DeMerit, Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra
The skinny: No surprise for me if Cherundolo gets a run-out. I would be aghast if you didn’t see Onyewu. Bradley seems to be thinking he’s fit. If he’s starting against England, well then he has to start Saturday. No Onyewu, then he’s likely not taming the Lions.
MID: Stu Holden, Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, Landon Donovan
The skinny: See our disclaimer below, but the Aussies goes 5-strong in the midfield and you’re going need to use two hawkers to clog things up. Maurice Edu has clearly shown himself to be the more disciplined and assured tackler. Both MB90 and Edu press the holders for Australia.
STR: Jozy Altidore (Edson Buddle), Clint Dempsey
The skinny: If Bob Bradley wants to mimic an inured Altidore, the best way to do it is with Buddle. In fact, I am quite intrigued to see the Galaxy man out there. He’s arguably got a little more speed and better first touch, but he doesn’t pack as much strength nor is he experienced obviously. Clint Dempsey will sit reserved.
• The US goes speed. Dolo for Specs, Findley for Buddle.
Highly possible here. The Australian backline can be challenged and the US may deploy a more standard 4-2-2-2 using Holden and Donovan to link through to Dempsey and Findley.
• The US goes 4-5-1 — yes I just wrote that. One of Altidore, Findley, Buddle remain up top. The US midfield is Dempsey, Edu, Torres (holding), Bradley, Donovan
Bob likes to match up. He’s not going to go 4-2-3-1 I don’t believe, but he could go 4-5-1 (or 4-1-4-1) and use Torres as a holding midfielder and press Edu and Bradley up the pitch. I don’t see it; we haven’t seen it yet either, but it makes sense here.