England: The Book On Bob Bradley

For die-hard USMNT fans, the past few weeks have been filled with surprises in what has otherwise been a mundane and somewhat “sloggish” World Cup qualifying cycle.

Coach USA: Lots churning before Saturday

Throughout qualifying, you could count on a two things from men’s national team coach Bob Bradley. Bradley would entrust key qualifiers to a select group of experienced players. He would then supplement with primarily MLS players that had already bought into his system at other locations.

Bradley used 92 different players through qualifying interchanging newcomers on the periphery of the starting line-up and the bench. To use a parallel to baseball, Bradley kept “strength up the middle” and used the wide outfield spots to test out new players.

Strategically, Bradley employed a number of different formations, meandering from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 to a 4-5-1 and eventually back to the 4-4-2.

Bradley’s teams could be counted on to exhibit their leader’s focus on tough on-the-ball pressure defense, moving collectively as one and voraciously defending the backline and goal often at the expense of generating fluidity in the offense. Additionally, Bradley–as we learned through Filip Bondy’s book “Chasing The Game,” favors the on-the-ball defense and positioning upon a turnover as perhaps the crux to his entire system.

Casey: Instrumental in qualifying, absent on the plane...(courtesy, Matt Mathai)

However, flash forward to May of this year and the US Men’s Team seems to be more experimental than any other time in the qualifying cycle. As the 30-man roster was announced, Charlie Davies was unable to participate and long-time Bradley confidante Conor Casey remained unbeckoned in Colorado. Once again as the 23-man roster was announced, another notable was absent. Stalwart Brian Ching, a Cup vet and a dutiful servant to Bradley especially during the US’s “B-team” Gold Cup run last year, found his name among those not submitted to FIFA. In the veteran strikers’ stead were three strikers with a collection of single digit caps affixed to their international profiles–Robbie Findley, Edson Buddle and Herculez Gomez.

The surprises didn’t end there. Facing the task of figuring out the new collective of strikers to deploy, Bradley elected to move up a midfielder in Clint Dempsey just two Saturday’s ago in arguably the Yanks most intense test pre-World Cup friendly against Turkey. Using Landon Donovan in the hole on the right and seeking to group, arguably, his three strongest attackers (Donovan, Dempsey and Altidore)  in one locale on the pitch, Bradley tried to punt the ball into a mass of his strongest on-ball players.

Didn’t work well, but sure was surprising.

The second half  of that contest contained more surprises from the normally predictable Bradley. Though admittedly less surprising, Jose Torres inhabited a true holding midfield role and the US pushing a speed attack from the right side as Donovan directed Robbie Findley in front of him and Steve Cherundolo pedaling in from the rear. That’s the first time US fans witnessed a player in the true holding role since, since….perhaps Sacha Kljestan in some trials in ’08 and ’09 pending how you viewed his role and you may to go all the way back to Claudio Reyna to be matter-of-fact.

So what are we to expect from Coach USA as the US takes the field against the Three Lions in Rustenberg in what many label as the most important soccer game of the past 50 years for the United States.

We’ll kick off our ENG-USA coverage this week, with a view into the potential Bob Bradley playbook whose binding will be cracked this Saturday.

For all the dynamic changes of the past few weeks, there are still some historical examples that we can point to that should give us an idea.

• Defensive First Frames

First, expect Bradley to attempt to “steal” the game here. In it is rather academic to talk about the US “going for a draw” or “seeking a win.” The strategy will be dictated more by how the US can be most competitive and then by game circumstance more than anything else. If the US is up 2-0 and they were playing for the draw, well, what does that mean?

A better consideration is to be placed is on style, and you just need to look at three pivotal games over the recent run that show an identifiable pattern. Against the Mexicans in August, the Hondurans in October and the Dutch–in a friendly–in March. Bob’s playbook was a tale of two halves.

The US sat back and absorbed pressure in most 1st halves...

The first halves of these affairs were case studies in “defend, resist, and capitalize if opportunities somehow present themselves.”

The Azteca was the only game where the US knocked in a first half goal and the play was both extraordinary and brilliant, but not indicative of the US game plan that half. As you well remember, Landon Donovan took a pass in traffic and slotted perfectly–the marble had to be sent just so–to Charlie Davies testing the offsides line from afar.

That’s it–the only score in these matches in the first half for the Yanks. For a solid majority of the time, Bradley elected to camp back, defend his goal and take opportunities that didn’t see his team lose shape.

Expect this against England. It’s why you won’t see a Jose Torres deployed in the first half. It’s also why Bob Bradley commented in his press conference last week that the front line, in essence, should have been “sharper” with chances against Turkey–though possessions were the only scripted offense for the half. You can be sure that Jozy Altidore was one player Coach Bradley was talking about in that statement because his theoretical ability to maintain possession. Altidore is certainly a player that Bradley didn’t want to see missing pitch time this week.

Rely On the Central Midfield To Cover The Pitch and Dictate the Play

Junior: Disruptor #1 (courtesy, Matt Mathai)

Perhaps the reason we need to back-off Michael Bradley–his challenges in distribution and penchant to make ill-timed tackles–is that Michael Bradley–in a style perhaps learned from his father–gives up on plays a lot less than his counterparts.

Combine this with Rico Clark–a more limited player in the same vain. And the elder Bradley is looking at two players that are, first, “disruptive defensively” in the midfield as opposed to catalysts or conveyors of the attack.

Rico: Disruptor #2 (courtesy, Matt Mathai)

I’m not as concerned about Ricardo Clark’s mis-positioning in the Turkey match because, well, that’s a fleet team. When you look at what England has in the middle of the field, it’s categorically not speed merchants. Players, and potential 1st game starters, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, and Michael Carrick (and even Gareth Barry) would lose a shuttle run competition to Bradley, Clark, or even Maurice Edu nearly every time.

This is an advantage that Coach Bradley will prey on.

In my opinion, whether it’s a fit Michael Carrick  or a returned-to-fitness Gareth Barry, the Lions need to be concerned about two things: (1) Can Barry or Carrick move the ball effectively against the ball-hawking pair of Rico and Junior and (2) Will Gerrard or Lampard, both who tend to eschew dropping back as a method of play, come back and help in possession, linking and general distribution.

Bradley knows this and his midfielders will be deployed somewhat high–not as high as the Turkey game though–in attempt to clog.

US wing fullbacks are tasked with keeping shape before going forward with one exception.

Anyone remember the Chicago qualifier in June 2009? How about the qualifier against Mexico in Columbus in February of last year?

Remember anything about the wide backers in these games? Whether it was Jonathan Spector (multiple occasions) or Jonathan Bornstein (a few occasions) against the Hondurans or Heath Pearce and Frankie Hedjuk against El Tri (both in abundance), the States’ fullbacks were involved in the attack for the States.

Now contrast this with three games I’ve cited above, add in the Turkey game and add in this past weekend’s tuner against Australia. Notice a difference?

Few occasions–except out of outright opportunity or lack of options–where the States flushed their fullbacks forward. Bradley’s going to keep with wingfulls home–whether they are up the pitch in concert with a pressing defense or laid back–they will be instructed not to lose shape even if it means a lost overlap option.

Could 'Dolo be the pivotal player for the States on Saturday? (courtesy, Matt Mathai)

The one exception? Whenever you see the US take a stab on Saturday on the “speed” side which now looks to be the right side with Donovan deployed above Cherundolo and aft of Robbie Findley.

…Which, in turn, makes vet Steve Cherundolo–as now most expect him to start–such a pivotal figure in this game. Can he defend for a full 90′ minutes against a more physically imposing side and will he have anything left to help make that attack lethal when it’s required ahead of him?

US Attack: Four Methods

….with movement off possession by Altidore

…. with set pieces from Landon Donovan

…. with whatever Deuce can think up or can muster

…. with speed up the Findley-Donovan-Cherundolo flank

And that may be all that is in the playbook. Sure you may see a moment when Michael Bradley or Rico Clark trail and shoot or Spector take another–and hopefully better foray–in central possession, but these opportunities will be anomalies.

The rest are expected. The biggest question from the list above will be how the former Princeton head man uses his speed. Will Bob Bradley opt for pace from the beginning to push England backline back to give him room to move the ball out of the back and through the midfield or will he wait on the speed deployment until the second half.

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

I think Bradley waits. While all the England backline players–with the exception of perhaps Glen Johnson–are rigorous in their defensive discipline, halftime adjustments–if it’s a close game–will likely have the biggest bearing on the final outcome.

This is why I think Bradley deploys Findley–pending game situation–during the 2nd frame. You just don’t know how to adjust in real time as well as if those coaching-enforced tactical changes come at half time.

The two players that will say aid in this decision for Bob Bradley–are the aforementioned Cherundolo and Bradley’s faith in Herculez Gomez ability to get loose on a seasoned defense. If Gomez can be considered a reliever, than Robbie Findley does have the potential to start.

Pending game situations–here is your basic Bob Bradley blueprint.

Throughout the week we’ll be adding more and more commentary on the England-USA affair. If you have questions or want us to add anything else. Well, just let us know.

One more note in closing here. When thinking about what Bob Bradley plans to do, focus on a player’s attributes and experience, not their name or precise attributes. For example, for Findley, think speed. For Donovan, counterattack. This is how Bradley views his players, as a collection of aggregated skill moving as one, not as unique individuals to fit into the master puzzle.

68 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Antonio H. on 2010/06/07 at 11:46 PM

    And can someone tell Lawless to shut the hell up? That little piece he did on where the U.S. quarters were was absolutely terrible. This guy never has anything positive to say.


  2. Posted by Bob on 2010/06/08 at 3:24 AM

    Excellent article, Matthew!!

    Imo, the past two friendlies were more about getting BB prepared for the WC rather than his players. He seemed to be making substitutions and altering tactics to change the tempo of each game in an attempt to win the last two games (unlike the Aussies for example who got Cahill off that dirt playground as fast as they could). That is why I think we saw LD and Demps play 90 and 80 minutes respectively last Sat. I really think he will surprise us again this Sat. against England. It is just a hunch, but the past two weeks suggest that he is going to go for it and make some lineup changes that will make us all either scratch our heads or proclaim him as a genius.


    • Posted by Tim on 2010/06/08 at 1:00 PM

      The next thing you know, sweatpants will be wearing a suit and tie to the stadium on game day. I really hope he does this.


  3. Posted by Dennis on 2010/06/08 at 4:47 AM

    I agree with you on Robbie Findley, I think sweatpants is going to start him. For better or worse, Gomez has the super sub label so he is out of the running (though he might be the best of the three).

    Between Findley and Buddle, Findley has the edge mostly because of his pace, but he is also superior in first touch and passing in my opinion. Aside from that awful open net miss and bad decision when he could have played Donovan through in the second half, Findley looked good on the ball and was more involved than Buddle against Australia.

    Buddle looked good too and has been finishing, and I know the knock on Findley has always been his final third play, but I just can’t see Bradley deciding to play Buddle and Altidore together.

    Bradley could go with Dempsey up top and start Holden on the wing, but I doubt that is the way he goes. On paper the lineup seems more dynamic with Dempsey and Donovan on the wings and Findley doing his best Charlie Davies impersonation – giving way to Gomez at some point.

    Personally I think he should put the best 11 players on the field and find a way to make it work. For me, that’s a 4-3-2-1-ish formation with Donovan and Dempsey behind Altidore, and Bradley, Torres and Edu playing behind them. Like you say though, it seems like he has just been tinkering these past few games and will inevitably go with the 4-4-2 we saw at the Confederation’s Cup.

    So if that is formation, it’s probably going to be Findley up top. You make some good points about sweatpants’ mentality and the way he values what Ricardo Clark does (unfortunately). I am really hoping Clark doesn’t start but it is looking like it is a good possibility. Edu or Torres would be an upgrade over him at the other central midfield position. Honestly the team looks so much more dangerous with Torres. Sometimes you just have to forget the tactics of the opposition and play the best player. Torres has the potential to be a Pirlo type player for us. How can you start Ricardo Clark over him?

    More broadly, this first half/second half approach in strategy worries me though. I don’t know if you can let England attack in waves for an entire half and expect to be level after 45.

    I’m just tired of all the speculation at this point, I just want to know the freaking lineup already!


    • Posted by Fireball on 2010/06/08 at 6:25 AM

      Yes, so tired of speculation, let’s go! But before that, let’s roll some more eyes: :)

      The first game might be a place where our fitness levels will help. England did not look fit against the Platinum Stars, and even with these last few days of acclimatization/rest they may not be as sharp for the full 90 minutes (as say, their next game, after 16 days at altitude). Capello has banked on some games slowing down in the last 25 minutes (Beckham comes in for Theo Walcott in qualifying) that last push might be the opportune time to go into our speed gear. So yeah, it’s rope-a-dope: tire the big guy with body blows up the middle, then see if you can with the thing with what you’ve got in reserve. Findley for Buddle, Holden (bigger than Torres, Prem experience) for Clark (Bradley moves back, Donovan slides in).

      One question: I still don’t quite know why Clark over Edu.

      And TSG, isn’t there a 5th method? Fullbacks serving to the box from just inside England’s half, Spector to Dempsey style.


      • Posted by Dan on 2010/06/08 at 6:50 AM

        You know, I felt like our boys got pretty leggy beginning around the last twenty five minutes or so against the Aussies. We might be more fit than England, but I can’t rightly say that we’re 100%.


      • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/06/08 at 7:32 AM

        @Fireball – you know, I can’t remember the next time after the Spector-to-Dempsey that US headed in a service from a fullback on the flank.

        Of headers I remember that scored: (El Sal was Landon to Deuce and Landon to Altidore), (Costa Rica was a set piece Rogers to Bornstein), (Netherlands was Beasley to Boca I believe), (Czech was Stu to Mo and Stu-Goodson-Gomez) … none have been in the run of play from defenders.

        Am I missing any?


        • Posted by DanPA on 2010/06/08 at 7:50 AM

          I don’t know if this counts, but wasn’t Buddle’s 2nd goal against Australia served in from Cherundalo, from wide and above the box? I could be remembering wrong.


        • Posted by Fireball on 2010/06/08 at 9:58 AM

          I guess I’m thinking if the fullbacks stay at home, it gives you another option to have them involved. Otherwise you only have two running options: Through Altidore’s possession or Dempsey magic. And you’re right, for some reason Spector would have to be in for Dolo (unlikely) and Dempsey I think would be up top with Jozy.

          Oh, and Spector to Dempsey produced another Confed Cup goal v Brazil, but off Clint’s foot/shin/air. Take that!


        • Posted by Antonio H. on 2010/06/08 at 12:39 PM

          It wasn’t above the box, it was actually pretty close to the endline


      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/06/08 at 7:33 AM

        Fireball, the one thing that has not been mentioned is that England keep the ball better than the USA. Yes, I admit, we’re not Spain, but we can keep the ball. If we can play like we did in the first 30 minutes against Croatia at Wembley, we’ll be the ones who will be conserving energy and you’ll be the ones who will be expending a lot of energy. I guess it will all boil down to how effective and intelligent your pressing is on the day.


        • George, I’m not sure where you’re getting this sometimes. England often struggle to keep the ball under a bit of pressure. You keep going back to your best performances in qualifying but you won’t have Barry for this match and he’s really the engine that makes possession happen for you guys.

          They’ve definitely lost the possession battle at times in their warm-up friendlies. If Gerrard and Lampard are paired in the center I expect a lot of questionable distribution and difficulty finding a rhythm. Because they’re a team that are missing key pieces, rather than a Spain or Brazil, England are not at such a higher level that there isn’t going to be a contest on Saturday. What we’re talking about here is a team in a Europa league slot against a midtable team.


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/06/08 at 8:37 AM

          Tuesday, I conceded that we were not a Spain (or Brazil) when it comes to keeping the ball. The fact is that even though we might be poor at keeping possession at times, I feel the US is even worse. Barry is absolutely an important part of the England jigsaw (which is why Capello took him injured rather than a fit Huddlestone or Parker).

          Of course the USA will be up for it and give England a game on Saturday – I never said that it would be any other way But I guess where our opinion differs is our perceived difference in class. You think the gulf is a lot smaller than I do. Not sure where you pull the “Europa league slot against a midtable team” analogy from…

          I guess we will both find out on Saturday, won’t we?


        • Posted by Tom M on 2010/06/08 at 9:13 AM

          I usually don’t like to get into it with you George because it can’t be easy coming on these boards being virtually the only English supporter even though its mostly all in good fun. The statement you made above was that the U.S would give England a game, but in a previous comment you stated England would win 4-1. Maybe 30 years ago a 4-1 loss would be giving them a game, but not now. You and many of the English press and supporters almost feel the U.S. don’t belong on the same field. To me the gulf between the all teams in the top 30-40 is much smaller than it used to be. Its almost like how tennis has evolved. 20 years ago it was almost always the top seeds going through. Now if a 30th ranked player beats the 2 seed its not seen as that big of a deal. The point i’m trying to make is I believe that gulf has shrunk and will continue to shrink, but only time will tell.


        • What Tom said.

          George: I’m happy for England to mis-underestimate us. I just think you’re expectation is wrong. Two teams not great at keeping possession tend to make for a disjointed and scrappy game – it does not mean a team that’s only decent at keeping possession suddenly look like Brazil against a team that is a good pressing team but only half-decent at keeping possession.


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/06/08 at 9:50 AM

          Tom, what I meant was that you’re not going to stand there and take it and not try. I can also see it being tight for 35-40 minutes – just depends how well you carry out Bradley’s instructions. Personally, I do see England winning in the end by 2 or 3 goals. I am not trying to antagonise or “flame”, that’s just *my* honest opinion.

          I have watched the US for a few years now and you have never been defensively sound even when your first XI have been 100% fit. (I have alluded to this when mentioning your WCQ record). Even in the warm-up games (and I know they’re warm-up games like the name suggests), some of the *basics* were horrendous.

          As for being a snob, or a US-hater (as I feel you are implying) I think that is unfair or I am being misinterpreted. Just because I want the USA to lose in one game (against my homeland / country of citizenship), doesn’t mean I won’t be supporting them wholeheartedly in all other games (I already said I was one of the only people in 2006 pulling for the US when they played Italy up in Boston).

          Furthermore, I have indeed said on the record that the US is on the cusp of breaking into the top 10, and when they do, I feel that they will be there to stay – when that time comes depends on the USSF.


        • Posted by Tom M on 2010/06/08 at 10:33 AM

          First off I never meant to imply you were a U.S. hater. Rooting for your home country is understandable and I never took that to mean you rooting against us. As for snobbery well that may be harsh, but there does seem to be this ingrained thought that “well we invented the game how could we lose to the Americans”. Its not much different with how some Americans feel in regards to basketball or baseball. I am amused by your view that maybe we can keep it close for awhile. I guess we’re kind of like the winner of the play in game versus Duke in the NCAA tournament. You also said you thought the U.S. wouldn’t just stand there and not try.Geez thanks for the compliment. There is no animosity or hard feelings in any of these posts on my part. Its more amusement at a country who perceives itself to be a world power and never wins anything. Having said this you guys could spank us saturday and say told you so. We’ll see this weekend.


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/06/08 at 11:00 AM

          Tom, there is absolutely no animosity here. I do not take anything on TSG personally. Everybody is entitled to their own views and opinions, and I apologise if I come across all Orwellian.

          Yes, England are like pre-2004 Red-Sox fans, and yes, we haven’t won for a long time and haven’t even come close since WC90 or Euro96. But here is food for thought: look at the odds for the WC from non-English bookies – it would suggest that it isn’t just England who perceives this.

          Re. banter, well, I give a little and take a little – probably running a banter deficit to be honest…


    • Posted by Kevin on 2010/06/08 at 4:09 PM

      Everyone says Edu is an upgrade to Rico, but most of the time, I think it’s just a coin toss between the two. I don’t think once is clearly better than the other, but they both bring similar yet completely different skillsets.

      Rico can chase someone down a long distance
      Edu is better in passing
      Rico is more reliable (reliable doesn’t mean not prone to cards. It means he does what he is supposed and plays the part well. Team player if you will)

      Somehow they manage to be similar and different at the same time.

      Torres is a tactical upgrade depending on POV. Bradley likes the center well defended, so it’s a downgrade, but most (I think) would rather keep possession so there is less defending needed. In that case Torres is an upgrade.


  4. Posted by dude on 2010/06/08 at 6:23 AM

    Don’t think Gerrard+Lampard will have any problem with Clark+Bradley. Why? Because they don’t have to dribble down the throat (and if Gerrard’s playing a more defensive role, they rarely will). All they have to do is pass out to the wing players and forwards and receive the ball back for a shot from distance. By the time they take care of business, Clark will have to change direction and lope after someone Way faster than himself.

    The only way to compete is to compete in possession, fight for it. Clark and Bradley think because they disrupted Spain’s pass-one-more-time-for-luck strategy that England will follow suit.

    But, Clark would need to be on an indefinite red card for the lineup to make sense.


    • Posted by DanPA on 2010/06/08 at 7:48 AM

      I agree the English won’t have much issue with our central midfield…

      I also see incredible worry with Clark and Bradley because Lampard and Gerrard are both very smart players. Lampard/Gerrard will wait for the moment when Clark (most likely) and/or Bradley drift a step or three out of shape. Then, they (Lampard/Gerrard) will be able to pass the ball through the middle or the channels without needing to utilize the wings… plus as as dude puts very nicely, the wing option will still be there.

      I think this will be the biggest problem when England has possession in the middle third of the pitch, which is why, I think the US’s shape will really be back to the empty bucket, where the central midfielders are very close to the center-halfs.


    • Posted by Kevin on 2010/06/08 at 4:13 PM

      I don’t think it’s so much thinking that England will follow suit as much as trying to stick with what was successful. I don’t think Bradley applied the English line up to form any game specific tactics, but we will see…


  5. Posted by moosecat on 2010/06/08 at 6:28 AM

    was there any news on Clark’s hamstring after the Australia game?

    i will be biting my nails on every tackle attempt coming from the central midfield – especially if Clark joins Bradley in the starting lineup


    • Posted by BklynPete on 2010/06/08 at 6:50 AM

      The report on Clark was that it was just cramping… He’ll be fit for Saturday (for better or worse).


    • Posted by Dan on 2010/06/08 at 6:51 AM

      I read somewhere (Ives? Soccer Insider?) that it was just cramps. Clark should be fine.


  6. Nice job on the post–good overview. Disagree slightly on the wing backs. Bocanegra and Spector both pushed quite high in the first half against Turkey, particularly Bocanegra. That changed in the last 45 minutes.

    I see your rationale for Findley, but I just don’t think he gets the call. Then again, I’m usually wrong.

    Well done–looking forward to the subsequent posts.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/06/08 at 7:34 AM

      Boca and Specs pushed high I agree, but they rarely lost shape. Specs made one or two overlapping runs max and that was either because he didn’t have an option or the ball was caught on the touchline.

      Boca overlapped precisely once and a pass was made in his direction….BEHIND him…I think it was MB (not the pass in the opening two minutes a different one) who put the ball where he thought Boca would be.

      I think Findley comes in 2nd frame…did I misspeak above? (Going to check out your piece today by the way.)


  7. Reading this confirms that whatever higher power exists is torturing me by not making Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday fly right on by…


  8. Posted by DanPA on 2010/06/08 at 8:31 AM

    on the attack…

    I think that coach sweatpants starts Findley for his workrate and defensive chasing. One thing that Findley has proven in the warm-up friendly’s is his commitment to defend and run, run, run. Even though his finishing has been atrocious, I have been impressed by his willingness to chase and make things difficult for the other team when they have possession, and then immediately hustle to get into good positions to receive a ball if we win possession in the midfield.

    Bradley has valued those attributes in forwards throughout this cycle… and for England, I think Findley is a smart choice. He is fast enough to make the English backs think hard about playing a high line, he will tirelessly pester them when they have possession, and track back to defend if necessary.

    If Bob is in a position to go for it in the 2nd half, he has the option to bring on Holden (or Benny) and move Dempsey up for Findley (or Altidore) or bring in Gomez as straight striker swap.


  9. Posted by KickinNames... on 2010/06/08 at 9:01 AM

    In spite of all the “evolving soccer genius” talk with BB he has a tremendous history of going with his guys over the best players. Think how many times the US soccer community said, no way Conor Casey, Jonathan Bornstein, etc belongs on this field at this level and yet…
    In spite of Clark’s obvious limitations as a CM I think we’re all adjusting to the reality that his 90 against Aussies means he’s slotted alongside his ” twin brother from another mother” on Sat. Would love to be surprised but it’s not looking like it.
    As far as England, Gerrard/Lampard in the middle would be a joy to see. We have almost ten years of proven inability to work alongside each other to go on there. Between a shaky Carrick, a creaky King, Glenn Johnson’s high motor in drive but shaky in reverse, a barely fit Joe Cole and an off his meds Rooney tantrum, I just don’t see them as this vastly superior side. And when the argument is David James for keeper….nuff said.


    • Why should it be such a surprise that a coach would tend to go with ‘his’ guys? i.e. the guys maybe who most buy into his system? They’re more responsive to his direction, and it’s thus easier to change direction on the field.

      I think back to when Bruce Arena was the first DC United head coach. I think at one early point 7 of the starters were his guys from Virginia. He did that only so that the team could get a head start in organization. Once the system’s ingrained, you bring in better replacements.

      I’ll be surprised if Clark starts on Saturday. If he does, I can only think that Edu has some kind of minor knock.


      • Posted by KickinNames... on 2010/06/08 at 9:46 AM

        Not surprised. The point of the posting is that the tone of many USMNT followers this week has shifted from hopeful to resigned to reality. Your comment re being surprised if Clark starts doesn’t explain why he went the full 90 on Sat. If it’s injury prevention, then why LD, Clint D, MB (all for sure starters) going the full 90 also?
        I agree with the article that Bob is not much of a mystery. He plays who he knows.


        • Yeah, I was just as surprised at the starters being left in that long.

          I don’t claim to know why BB does things the way he does, but not everything is some conspiracy just to piss us off. It’s possible, isn’t it, that he might have more information than we do?


    • Posted by Fireball on 2010/06/08 at 9:44 AM

      I have never bought this argument. It requires an assumption about BB that we can’t verify (do you know him?) and can be explained with lots of data that you can. I don’t know how this argument persists, especially in response to an article analyzing BB’s tactical choices, and recapping his personnel experimentation. Casey, Clark, & Bornstein had/have qualities that fit the system. No, pulling down wingers who beat you in the box is not part of the system, but it was a good choice to take JB instead of Heath Pearce, for instance.

      That said, I’m still waiting for someone to explain why Clark is more “defensively disruptive” than Edu.


      • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/06/08 at 9:48 AM

        @Fireball — addressing your last point on Clark. I don’t think that Clark is more “defensively disruptive” than Edu.

        I do know that he is faster and can track back at just a phenomenal rate. If you lined up a sprint from box-to-box I would take Rico Clark Kent ahead of Edu or Rooney to win that one.

        I think his speed and have reps with Bradley earn him the start against England unless Bradley is being cagey.


        • Posted by Fireball on 2010/06/08 at 10:03 AM

          Ah, I see. I will now ignore his gaffe v Turkey, and pray he pulls out his cape against England.


          • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/06/08 at 10:06 AM

            I’m not saying that Rico’s the right choice. But, going by Bradley’s historical selection, it would be hard not to see Rico starting.

            Another thing to think about is that Maurice Edu has played one competitive game in the past 1 month and that was more than two weeks ago. I think he would have gotten run if he was fit and in the starting plans.

            But, lesson as always, I’ve been wrong plenty times before.


      • Posted by KickinNames... on 2010/06/08 at 10:49 AM

        Not sure I agree on the JB over Pearce point either. Although Pearce looked awful during his last few showings, your tongue in cheek re Bornstein in the box is exactly why he can’t compete at this level. His soccer sense is very weak. Clark has the same issue. See ball attack ball is pretty much how he functions in the game. Tactical capability is what separates the men and boys at this level.


  10. Posted by Chris on 2010/06/08 at 10:05 AM

    Good read. A few questions here. You have your mind set on Findley and Clark starting (or at least it seems that way). I really think Edu gets the call here as he is more physical and England are a bigger team. Edu is used to playing that style as he does with Rangers. Also I think Buddle is starting, or he ought to. The man is simply on fire at the moment and when you have an in-form striker, everything seems to go their way, even small bounces. I love the prospect of Holden, Torres and Findley/Gomez coming in the 2nd half if we need some more creativity on offense. The speed of Holden and the strikers would wear down King’s bad knees and hopefully catch Johnson/Cole up the pitch and out of position. Torres can provide a calming influence and great passing/creativty out of the middle if needed as well. I’m guessing you will have your starting XI posted closer to the game but have you made up your mind on who you think should/will start? Thanks


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/06/08 at 10:10 AM

      I need to re-read my piece. I don’t have Findley starting–I have him coming in after halftime.

      I have Buddle starting.

      I’m not sure that Edu is more physical–polished yes–Clark has held his own and is resigned in the Bundesliga…that may be the only league that is more physical than the SPL.


  11. Posted by Chris on 2010/06/08 at 10:17 AM

    okay excellent. You never mentioned Buddle in the article so I didn’t know your take on him. True of the Bundesliga and I know that Bob like Rico (or he wouldnt have started him vs. Australia) but it seems like the wrong move to me. I know its only one position but I feel that Rico is not the right choice to start vs. England (in another game, maybe) but I’ve got a feeling that Edu should be in there. I hope it all works out, but its hard to see Bob calling on Edu when he hasnt even picked him for the last two games.


  12. Posted by kaya on 2010/06/08 at 12:17 PM

    Conor Casey and Brian Ching worked well against CONCACAF (ie Ole) defense, but the fact Bob saw they were right for the WC gives me hope he’s not as lost as I thought several months ago…
    Buddle is indeed very good at not getting knocked off the ball. The thing I sense about his movements is that he doesn’t move the ball quickly at all, but quickly drops shoulder, switches stride, etc, and fakes out defenders without the path of the ball essentially moving at all… I get the feeling once the defenders remember the adage “keep your eye on the ball, not the player” that his magic will be greatly diminished. While Altidore gets knocked off the ball more easily than we’d like to see for a guy his size, I can’t see Buddle taking on 2 defenders and nutmegging guys like Jozy can. They use their size in completely different ways (and Jozy should learn the tractor-trailer method of Buddle), but I can’t see Buddle picking up Jozy’s often fancy footwork. Hopefully Bob can convince Findley to adhere to a 10 second rule (by which time he seems to get confused about what to do with the ball).
    I wish Dempsey worked well as a 2nd striker, but he just doesn’t. I disagree with the idea that Holden is best suited to come off the bench after a hypothetical “wearing down” period for England. It’s a shame we don’t have a starting spot for him.
    Not worth going over the CM sitch again… Defense… I’m just holding out hope that Gooch has been faking us all out. I hope that sweatpants has been training our guys to channel their inner Materazzi’s to help deal with Roo?


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/06/08 at 12:20 PM

      I think you’ll see Holden start at some point — he’s just too good to keep tethered, but Bradley goes experience against England.


      • Posted by Antonio H. on 2010/06/08 at 12:42 PM

        My guess is he’ll start against Algeria with Clint thrown up top again, Not sure if he’ll be on the left or the right though.


      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/06/08 at 1:26 PM

        Even though he lacks international experience, he has ability and is one of the few players in your sqaud who is actually very comfortable on the ball. I have him starting on Saturday at RM in a 4-4-2.


        • Posted by kaya on 2010/06/08 at 1:42 PM

          And Deuce up top? I doubt it.


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/06/08 at 2:21 PM

          Yes, playing in the whole with license to roam. Altidore hasn’t got the nous or ability to play up top as the lone striker in a more traditional 4-5-1.


          • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/06/08 at 2:23 PM

            Agree — he doesn’t prefer it and doesn’t have the first touch for it yet.


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/06/08 at 2:21 PM



        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/06/08 at 2:42 PM

          It’s probably too much risk to play both Holden and Torres in the same side, and too early for this WC, but I have been thinking about the what I have said earlier about possession and comfort on the ball – those two certainly are…

          But I will stick my neck out with Holden ay RM on Saturday.


        • Agreed. I’ll have my #11 USA shirt on Thursday.


    • Posted by kaya on 2010/06/08 at 1:21 PM

      Whoops. Obviously I meant to say I’m glad Bob saw they (Ching and CC) *weren’t* right for the WC.
      If Bob were so experience oriented, otoh, seems like he would’ve brought Ching over Buddle. If we take at least a point away from England, we could see Holden start against Slovenia, but I agree it’s not worth going with against England. I still think if we’d ever had the imagination to field CM’s that feature possession over size that we’d potentially have other options that could better include Holden… but if you’re going to fit 92 players into a cycle, I guess you have to make decisions to eliminate experimentation somewhere…


  13. Posted by Antonio H. on 2010/06/08 at 12:49 PM

    re: Kyle Martino tweet – where Matt?


  14. Posted by Hardman on 2010/06/08 at 1:31 PM

    Has this thing started already? I am dying!!!!!!

    We are currently in a very strange state. For once in a long while, I have far more confidence in our ability to generate offense whether its the counterattack of Donovan, the creativity of Dempsey, the pace of Findley, the hybrid of Altidore and to an extent Buddle, or the poaching (I mean this with the utmost of respect) of Gomez. However, our defensive abilities scares the hell out of me.

    I want to be excite. I want to be optimistic, but the opening game to the Czechs in 2006 has left me horribly scarred (excuse my non-rational superstition). Our lack of defensive consistency scares the hell out of me. Keep drinking. Keep drinking.


  15. Posted by MJ on 2010/06/08 at 5:07 PM

    ussoccer.com is reporting Altidore is back to full training today and feeling fine.


  16. Posted by ward on 2010/06/08 at 7:21 PM

    I believe england will win 4-1 or 4-2. The us just doesn’t get it. More importantly we will never get anywhere until a proper coach is in charge. Bradley doesn’t get football that’s played outside of the states. You could argue the spain win but look at the hondures loss. We need a good central midfielder and torres is as good as we have. Michael bradley is shit. Edu seems like he will never develope into the player we thought he could be.. Like sooo many others.

    We have to many name brand mediocre players who we think are amazing or a true number 10. Charlie davies is the best we’ve got up front and he’s still recovering. If you argue jozy then just look at what he did at epl, findley should have been taken of after his open net miss.. Even if it was 15 mins into the match.

    I also think lalas is right, that’s the way I see the states. Imo it will be a while before the states will be a quarter final team at that. Maybe eight to ten years. I will say that gomez has been good in mexico this year, but for some reason brainless bradley loves to bring him on late. Its that type of get bit first gameplay that make the us blow at football. But what are you gonna do? Our best athletes are tied up in other sports.. I always said we need a kobe bryant at striker. Haha

    Good luck to the us though and hopefully bob will show some profesionalism and buy a suit.. Jeez


  17. […] Links Development Blog Documentation Plugins Suggest Ideas Support Forum Themes WordPress Planet How To Beat England, Pt. 1 June 9, 2010, 9:37 am Filed under: Uncategorized While the romantics amongst us would love to see the United States take three points from England on Saturday, surely some measure of realism is in order.  One point will put the Americans on a very favorable track to advance out of the group.  There is grave danger in leaving Rustenburg empty handed, however, with the well-organized Slovenians and unpredictable Algerians on the horizon.  You can expect a prudent, pragmatic approach to Bob Bradley, which the fellas over at Shinguardian accurately described as a ploy to “steal” the game. […]


  18. […] we mentioned in a piece earlier this week, predictability was a trait closely associated with Coach Bradley through qualifying, a […]


  19. Posted by Richard on 2010/06/25 at 9:09 AM

    Spot on. All 5 USMNT goals in group play (counting the Edu goal called back by the phantom foul) have been 1 of these 4 types.

    Dempsey goal vs. England: type 3
    Donovan goal vs. Slovenia: type 4
    Bradley goal vs. Slovenia: type 1
    Edu goal vs. Slovenia: : type 2
    Donovan goal vs. Algeria: type 4

    It’a heartening to see that we’ve scored all 4 ways so far.


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