TSG writers Brian, Matthew, Tuesday and Shaun take positions on who starts for the Yanks up top on Saturday and why. Note, the position taken by the writer does not necessarily reflect their personal position.
Proposed Starters: Altidore and Dempsey
Let’s face it, no one really knows what Bob Bradley has planned for Saturday and that’s the way he likes it. Expect a conservative start with a strong defensive shift to keep things tight for the opening 45 minutes. That was Bradley’s plan against Turkey, so there’s every reason to think he may have tipped his hand in the Philly friendly. To add defensive solidity to resist England’s strength in midfield, I think either the US starts with Stu Holden on the right or DaMarcus Beasley on the left. That leaves Bradley with a choice: Push Dempsey up top or save him for a second half substitute?
There’s really only one decision. Bob has faith in him as a potential game-breaker who can create something special out of nothing with a moment of individual brilliance: Deuce needs a full 90 minutes to try and find that moment. His sometimes frustrating tendency to try to do too much seems to have been pared down as Fulham’s run to the Europa League Final progressed and as his US team-mates were distilled to the 23. Dempsey’s presence on the field means the defensive focus can’t be solely on his US co-star, allowing Donovan to be a bigger influence in the attack than on his own.
This approach may get your best 11 players on the pitch but Dempsey is not at his most influential up front at the highest level. Dempsey is far more dangerous to opponent defenses when cutting inside from a deeper left-midfield starting position with a speedy striker making diagonal runs ahead of him. If he does start up top, it’s important that he find deeper starting positions than he did against Turkey, trusting Altidore to lead the line. A deeper role behind the striker but ahead of midfield makes better use of his qualities but expect Dempsey to revert to his midfield position early in the second half.
With Altidore facing a race for fitness after picking up a training knock, Bob could keep Capello and US fans guessing with a reprise of 2002 by pushing Donovan up top behind his LA Galaxy team-mate Edson Buddle in Dempsey’s stead. There’s chemistry there, which is exactly the sort of thing Bob likes to leverage.
Proposed Starters: Altidore or Findley. 4-5-1 or 4-2-3-1
A lot of people assume that a 4-5-1 or any formation with a lone striker is a more defensive strategy but in fact it can have a lot more offensive possibilities especially in the case of the USMNT. You can really commit too 4 offensive minded players but they are coming from out wide as well as down the middle. If you’re lone striker is good at the holding the ball, the ball can come to him and he holds it up for fast pacy wingers to go at the defense from out wide. You’re also going to win most midfield battles and the extra midfielder can ensure that the wing backs can move up as well.
Proposed Starters: Jozy Altidore-Robbie Findley
Bob Bradley is a man of pride. He knows that if he gets a tie against England by parking the bus, it proves nothing. He wants a win against England, not only to prove the US a strong side, but also to earn the respect as a world class manager that he has never gotten.
England has two center halves that are not as fleet as they might need to be: Ledley King possesses injury-prone knees and John Terry has trouble moving laterally and can’t accelerate, forcing him to foul. A pacey striker could be devastating to the English defense, but unfortunately Charlie Davies isn’t fit. What we do have though is Robbie Findley, a man with all the tools to be a star, but has never proven himself consistently on any level.
With Jozy Altidore holding up play, Findley can receive balls near the backline then make a dash for opportunities, as fans bore witness against Australia. The finishing is always a doubt with Findley, but at very least he can tire out the aged England defense to a point where the likes of Herculez Gomez can come on and poach a goal. Findley might not be the best player at the forward position, but he’s the only difference-maker.
Proposed Starters: Buddle and Altidore
Edson and Jozy are the pairing that should take the field in the opening frame for the Yanks. However, this selection has as much to do with Robbie Findley as it has to do with the two names above. First, and this I believe is the point I’ve put the most faith in, I believe Edson Buddle is just fast enough to keep the England backline honest. If Buddle can be a threat on the line, then the England defense will not be able to press up the field and help out their weakened holding midfield spot.
Buddle or Altidore can then both be used as a target forward and wear down the venerable pair of John Terry and Ledley King and distribute effectively to Dempsey and Donovan. This will make way for a Robbie Findley sighting around the 65th min as the England team has tired and now has to contend with a fresh Robbie Findley who can either be a target or make that cut to the flag or around the corner.
As I’ve mentioned before, it is much more difficult for a team with few collective games together to adjust within a half than at half time. I think Bob Bradley is keen on this.
Finally, and this should not be overlooked, Buddle can get off his shot and is willing to let fly. He’s either going to hit pay dirt or ask the question of England’s keeper….and we all know that the Yanks love to pounce on balls idling in the 18-yard box scrum.