Part I: Camp Primer: You Go Stand There

Part II of II: USA vs. Poland Preview here.

Part of the reason we started this publication a little over a year ago is to have a record of our thoughts and be able to “go back to the stacks” for reference, self-applause or failed assumptions.

Will Bob Bradley cut down attempts at the 4-3-2-1 "Christmas Tree?"

TSG reader Tim wrote in to us this week: “What do you guys think of the U.S. moving to a 4-3-2-1 (the popular “Christmas Tree” formation) for these friendlies?”

Others followed up with emails or tweets asking us about various personnel and formations. It’s the type of column we used to do a lot of, but somehow strayed from, but we’ll start it off with a little novella here.

Thanks for re-focusing us TSG readers. Appreciate it.

….

…and Tim, that’s a loaded question.

First, I recommend looking at this piece from June 2010 (World Cup 2014: Scribbled On The Gym Wall) and this piece from nearly a year ago, October 2009 (“Who Strikes? What’s the Formation?).

Second, let’s take a look at some TSG “foundations” and some USMNT situations and misconceptions.

• Foundation:

Formations are merely guidelines used for players to identify field location on offense and defense. Each opponent, and the tactics employed against them, dictates the type of formation and wrinkle in that formation.

I actually loathe–sometimes–talking about formations. The reality is the game and recognition of the players to where they should be is much more fluid in my mind and much more specific to the game plan and opponent at hand.

For example, do you recognize the formations below? If so, where did Bob Bradley play them and, per this column, what would you “call” them?

Is this a 4-3-2-1 or a 3-4-2-1?

Or this one?

Is this a 3-2-1-3-1 (kidding) or a 4-2-3-1?

The former was the States 1st half offensive formation against Turkey in the Send-Off Series match in Philadelphia.

With a plan that would foreshadow the Yanks offense against Slovenia, the U.S. basically kept stuffing the ball up and into the opponents left or weak side kitchen.

Bob Bradley used Landon Donovan as a center-aligned off-wing forward and Clint Dempsey as a trailing forward against Turkey. Backing them, Jonathan Spector pushed up from defense and Benny Feilhaber tucked in from the left making the U.S. offensive set look something like this.

The latter? United States concluding formation at World Cup 2010 against Ghana in the 2nd round. A quick note: here Benny Feilhaber could often be found cutting in from the left and possessing the ball.

More on these in a bit.

Soccer formations, at their naked heart, are really about “bands of players” horizontally on the pitch and, as a player, having a place that is responsibility versus the other ten players on the pitch with you.

The more horizontal bands of players, typically the more “depth” to a formation and, continually and obviously, usually the more narrow the formation plays.

When thinking about formations, to reiterate, the personnel matters, the opponents matters and then finally acknowledging and adjusting to what’s transpiring on the field matters.

• Situation:

U.S. striker challenges and a man named Jozy

Some basic truths that are known to even casual fans.

Is it possible that this man was the last "true" sniping striker the Yanks had? Um, yes...sadly...(McBride is/was a hold-up artist more than a sniper)

» The U.S. has long had a dearth of players capable of finishing. The true striker position has never really had a dynamic player in place since perhaps–damn I have to use this name–Eric Wynalda?

» Jozy Altidore represents a boatload of potential, but the young striker’s inconsistency consistently dogs him and impacts the entire offense behind him.

If you watched the 2nd half of the U.S. vs. Slovenia World Cup match, you saw the mighty potential of Jozy Altidore on display.

In that 2nd half, Altidore combined ferocious power with speed to dominate the Slovenian defense and create multiple chances for himself and his teammates.

The interesting thing about that game is it is the first one where Altidore was comfortable and dominant in the single striker set-up. (It’s a role he has stated before that he doesn’t quite relish.)

The challenge for Altidore is that his game is much “hole-y-er than thou” right now. He lacks consistent effort, tires in back-to-back games, has a first touch that often betrays him, gets rushed around the net, and for a man his size, is surprisingly powerless in the air.

With few options currently at striker and the U.S.’s currently most capped true striker being highly inconsistent, it’s hard to fault Bob Bradley for juggling the point of his attack or the parts behind it to kickstart the engine.

Bradley’s history dictates that he will likely go back and forth between a single and dual striker system up top depending on how the components are playing and the defense of the opponent.

It’s by and large been the lack of striker options and the inconsistency of Altidore supporting the attack himself that has forced Bob Bradley to rely more on the 4-2-2-2.

• Foundation/Misconception:

The United States played the last two years primarily in a 4-2-2-2 formation, not a 4-4-2.

The States deployed in a typical 2-2-2-4 (from left to right) at the World Cup.

Courtesy to our friends at Zonal Marking for the usage of this pic above from the England – USA World Cup group stage match.

Before we get started on investigating other formations, it is necessary to understand that both offensively and defensively the United States predominantly set-up in a 4-2-2-2 formation.

The two central defensive midfielders form defensive stoppers above the central defenders. Ahead of the central midfielders, two left and right midfielders pinch in from the wings (these were typically Donovan and Dempsey) and then ahead of them two strikers moving off them.

Why is this important to note? Two reasons.

One, it’s worth noting that the Yanks predominantly create their attacking width with an advancing fullback.

Typically, due to shortcomings at leftback, that directive has only been given to the rightback in the form of  Steve Cherundolo. Until Jonathan Bornstein reached confidence in the Ghana game, the U.S. left fullback (from qualifying through the group stages) often stayed at home, vastly limiting the offense we might add.

Second, because Dempsey and Donovan often were advanced, the 4-2-2 puts immense pressure and responsibility on the central more defensive midfielders. Michael Bradley proved up to that challenge at World Cup 2010; Ricardo Clark did not.

• Misconception:

The 4-2-3-1 or the 4-3-2-1 is hardly used by the States.

Not so, the Yanks deployed their “A” squad with the principles of a one-striker system nearly 30% of the time thus far in 2010!

To paraphase Vince Vaugn in Wedding Crashers: “Erroneous! Erroneous on all counts!”

Frequently deployed as a linker in a 3-man midfield...

Going back to the Ghana game most recently, the 2nd half saw the Yanks go with a 3-man midfield of Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and, with Robbie Findley sacrificed, Benny Feilhaber.

Michael Bradley played an advanced “pressure role” behind the triumvirate, frequently joining the attack, while Edu was nearly vertical behind him doing the work of a true central defensive midfielder.

In the Turkey lead-up game above, the U.S. tucked in Feilhaber to start the game with Bradley and Clark covering the middle. Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan were more advanced in an assymetrical set-up that looked very much like a 4-3-2-1.

In fact, taking a look starting with the March friendly, the United States played in “what was defined as a 4-4-2 or 4-2-2-2 if you prefer” about 70% of the time: 60 minutes against Netherlands, 90 minutes against the Czech Republic, 45 minutes (2nd half) against Turkey, 86 mins against Australia, 90 minutes against England, 45 minutes against Slovenia, 45 minutes against Slovenia, 45 minutes against Ghana.

(Note, I have left out the Brazil game as TSG was hospital bound for that one and recollection is fuzzy…yes, looking for the pity :>)

Now, about those formations

Without getting too deep here as there are better resources for this, we’ll tackle some of the formations U.S. fans would like Bob Bradley to begin experimenting with.

For the sake of brevity–which we’ve already lost–we won’t discuss the 4-4-2 which is usually deployed as a 4-2-2-2.

The 4-3-2-1

The 4-3-2-1 is a formation that is primarily used for a team that controls the ball. It great reduces attacking width–which should be obvious–and allows (and demands) that the “3” in the equation are familiar and comfortable playing with one another as their roles are very fluid.

Contrast to 4-2-2:

» More midfielders to possess the ball, heavier reliance on a single striker.

Strengths for the Yanks:

» Positioning of the Yanks’ offensive experts.

Both Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey (and behind them as forwards Sacha Kljestan, Alejandro Bedoya, Brek Shea) are much better players when they can find their own space up the pitch and are not tied to the touchlines.

Dempsey likes to cut in after a play develops and Donovan likes to set-up much more centrally and play off the movement ahead of him.

SuperDolo was licensed to attack this summer...

» Forward license for the outside fullbacks.

Secondly, the U.S. really liked to bomb rightback Steve Cherundolo forward in attack this past summer. The tucking in of the wide midfielder in the 4-3-2-1 begs for this to happen at will.

I’ll cite this as a positive for the Yanks in that Cherundolo, Lichaj, and Franklin are also aggressive going forward and adept enough in attack.

However, the States would still need to find the right overlapping leftback. As we mentioned in our 2014 kickoff article that we linked to above, changes in the global game and now formations like this make Jonathan Spector’s lack of speed more for the Yanks.

Challenges for the Yanks:

There are two as we see them.

» Defending over the centerbacks.

The big difference defensively in the 4-3-2-1 is that you only have one central midfielder defending over a pair of central defenders instead of two.

As we mentioned in a column earlier this week, all of the States’ goals at World Cup 2010 were up the middle.

That’s just a big risk until the middle two in the back are sorted.

Deployed against Turkey (as we mentioned), the States’ 4-3-2-1 continually got picked apart by a Turkish team employing a false dropping back to create man advantages when Ricardo Clark was pulled out of position.

» Deploying the personnel in the “3” part of the equation.

The central midfield for the Yanks–as we pointed out early last week–is a critical area for Bob Bradley to “get right.”

That the Yanks now have perhaps there most options in midfield plays to this formation.

Here are the primary players he needs to juggle there: Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, Benny Feilhaber, Stu Holden, Jermaine Jones, Jose Torres.

In a 4-3-3, your central midfielder, who drops deep (think Rafa Marquez’s role recently against the Galaxy) should be a disciplined ball hawker, who’s never caught out of position and links from the defense.

The right and left midfielders are more fluid, but both must possess a high degree of technical on-the-ball skill, from possession through linking.

The big challenges here for the States in this formation:

How to deploy USMNT minutes leader Michael Bradley and…

How defensive versus offensive to be with the personnel?

Bradley is a lynchpin of the team, however he often is undisciplined in his defensive assignments and is also prone to forcing the ball or spraying it all over the pitch.

If Bradley is the central player, then he needs to be more disciplined.

If he’s an edge player in the “3,” then he needs to better possess and pass the ball.

Big if’s especially when you have Stu Holden, Benny Feilhaber and Jermaine Jones all vying for time.

For a little more color, Argentina, just a smidge over Mexico, probably employed the best 4-3-2-1 at World Cup 2010. With Higuain, Messi and Tevez providing the triangle up top they were backed by:

Central defender Javier Mascherano: a slight man with an abundance of energy to cover over the defense, also excellent at linking the ball.

Maxi Rodriguez is simply an ideal linking midfielder in a 4-3-2-1...

Maxi Rodriguez as the RCM: Maxi played more of defensive support and linking role rather than getting ahead in the attack. It was a role he was ideally suited for as Maxi is excellent in maintaining and moving in possession while able to pick the right pass up the pitch.

Angel Di Maria as the LCF: Another extremely technical player. Di Maria was given more license to jump into attack and often would fill the left flank and create a good deal of width offensively for Argentina.

As you can see, technical chops on offense are a key to making the formation more than a gimmick. It would be wise to note here that as Argentina–and their highly able midfield–faced intense pressure from Germany and struggled to maintain shape it got anihillated by the Germans.

Our bet, in some foreboding of Part II of this series tomorrow: look for Jermaine Jones to battle Marcus Edu for the holding role behind Michael Bradley. Look for Stu Holden to battle Benny Feilhaber for the tucked-in flank and linking midfielder aka the Maxi Rodriguez role.

———

The 4-2-3-1

The 4-2-3-1 is a formation that is squarely focused on protecting the center of the pitch, shuttling the ball to the flanks to reduce threats defensively and concurrently carrying the ball wide offensively in the attack.

Whereas offensive ball movement in the 4-3-2-1 relies on interplay and linking through the center of the pitch, the 4-2-3-1 seeks to use the “2” defense holders to ping the ball wide to wingers who carry or link the ball themselves.

Contrast to 4-2-2:

» More wing play obviously, a heavy reliance on the middle of the “3” as the playmaker.

Strengths for the Yanks:

» Defending over those centerbacks.

A weakness of the 4-3-2-1, the 4-2-3-1 keeps two central midfielders covering over the centerbacks.

» Increased width in the midfield, allows for corner-rounding runs and, more importantly, only needs the striker to a be a holding player.

To the best of my recollection, the U.S. only deployed in this formation once. And that was against the Netherlands for a short stint in the 2nd half. In that game, Landon moved centrally behind Jozy Altidore when Robbie Findley was sacrificed for Alejandro Bedoya.

Donovan was center, while DaMarcus Beasley manned the left flank and Bedoya the right. Michael Bradley quickly pushed into midfield as a very strong trailing midfielder with some ball carriage responsibilities.

Bob Bradley is obviously thinking of this formation and least a little as both Sacha Kljestan was tried on the wing and Brek Shea was called into camp.

Further, DaMarcus Beasley, Alejandro Bedoya, Brek Shea, and Landon Donovan…these are all players who can round the corner and create a threat.

Finally, in this role the Yanks merely need Altidore (or Buddle or Braun) to be the back-to-the-basket, target striker and primarily lay the ball off to the trio of attackers coming to support.

Challenges for the Yanks:

» Who is the Kaka in the “3” of the 4-2-3-1?

In the 4-2-3-1, the attacking midfielder in the center of the “3” is a critical player to igniting offense. That player must possess vertical movement.

The challenge for the Yanks is who pushes the ball as the “Kaka” of the formation.

Where I once would have suggested Benny Feilhaber in this role or even Stu Holden, both are much more adept at linking from the rear rather than pushing the tempo in attack.

As for the stars, Clint Dempsey did yoeman’s work in the role in the 2nd half of the Ghana game, but can he continue to go full speed and…

Would Bob Bradley ever annoint Dempsey in the 4-2-3-1

perhaps a bigger question, is Bob Bradley ready to accept Clint Dempsey as the focal point of the attack instead of Landon?

I also imagine this is why Bradley has held on so long to Kljestan who would be ideal in the role if he could put his game together. A surprising choice, Michael Bradley perhaps has the tools to play this way, but he is much better coming from the rear.

As it stands now that “centerpiece” of three is certainly a weak spot should the Yanks deploy that way. I’d have to suggest a current depth chart there as of this moment would be: (1) Clint Dempsey, (2) Michael Bradley, (3) Sacha Kljestan, (4) (and a stretch here) Mix Diskerud.

» With quick fullbacks now at the Yanks disposal, can Bob Bradley afford to push the fullbacks in the attack?

As we mentioned above, there are a plethora of options coming Coach Sweats way in the “speedy outside fullback who overlaps in the attack” category (Lichaj, Dolo, Franklin, Alson, Bornstein, etc.).

In the 4-2-3-1, if Bradley wants to push the fullbacks forward, will his centerbacks and center mids be able to withstand the pressure from a counterattack? Currently, a big question.

So, TSG, what does and should Coach Bradley deploy on Saturday?

Our in-depth thoughts on this…Wednesday.

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25 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by wixson on 2010/10/05 at 10:36 PM

    Top notch as always, good stuff.

    Reply

  2. ——————————-Howard

    Cherundolo—–Goodson—–Onyewu—–Bocanegra

    —————Bradley——-Jones——Edu

    Holden———————————————Dempsey

    ——————————-Altidore

    This formation puts the five most consistent midfielders the US has in Europe, all on the pitch at the same time. If Bob Bradley would just mingle with the midfield some and get away from his biblical persistence on using the 4-4-2, the US can and will have a world-beater midfield. The only hiccup here is the fact that Stuart Holden plays centrally for Bolton, and currently leads the Premiership in successful tackles, no small feat. Does Holden get a look in the middle, where he is settling in nicely with his club? Or on the flank, where his dangerous right foot can send in crosses for Dempsey and Altidore to rush on to? Seeing him in the middle would be a different twist, and one that Bob Bradley could well use switch things up during a match, but for the time being, he is needed on the flank.

    Bradley, Jones and Edu all boarding up the central midfield creates one helluva barrier to break through. All three are are out and out box-to-box midfielders with high defensive IQs and solid instincts. All three can also get involved on offense, as referenced this past week by Bradley’s goal against Schalke, Jones’ assist against Benfica, and Edu’s nearly three goals against Bursaspor. Those latter two came in the Champions League mind you.

    In Cherundolo and Bocanegra, we have outside defenders who are currently leading their teams, early on at least, to stunning seasons. Cherundolo is captaining 3rd place Hannover in the Bundesliga, and Bocanegra has shored up the left flank of Saint Etienne, who currently sit top of Ligue One. Cherundolo is dangerous going forward and can deliver some deadly service on the overlap. Bocanegra isn’t exactly as good as he used to be at aiding the attack, but his best attribute is on dead ball situations.

    In the center of defense, the always steady Clarence Goodson stands guard against any and everything coming over the top. Deadly on dead ball situations, as his height surely has its benefits, as two goals against Honduras and an assist against the Czech Republic would show you. Which leads me to the much maligned Oguchi Onyewu, currently languishing on the bench at AC Milan. Many people are questioning whether Onyewu, who hasn’t played a match since the US took on Slovenia in the World Cup, should start, or even play. Let me assure you, just because a player isn’t playing on a high profile team like AC Milan, doesn’t mean he’s regressed talent wise. There isn’t a center back, except Onyewu, who could even sniff that roster, and when the guy is on, he’s the best defender the US has. He just needs games, my guess is, he starts both.

    This brings us to Jozy Altidore, another much maligned US player who currently finds himself in the 18 at Villarreal, but appears to be only getting good time in the Cup competitions. He also hasn’t scored (outside of Villarreal friendlies) since the Turkey match in May. That’s a dry spell of over 4 months. His work ethic and practice attitudes are being called into question again, as they were when he first got to Villarreal, and later while on loan at Hull City. The fact of the matter is, he’s still just 20 years old. He needs time and patience to make it to where the US needs him to be. Nothing could get that ball rolling quicker than a goal or two over the next two matches. The match against Poland he is likely to play up top alone, supported by Dempsey and Holden. Against Colombia, I think Bradley starts him with Grown-Ass-Man Eddie Johnson.

    Reply

    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/10/06 at 8:01 AM

      Pity you don’t have an inside-out winger on the right to maximise Cherundolo’s runs forward from right-back. The 3 players in front of the back 4 seems popular at the moment.

      Does anybody know how Poland generally play? Or anything about their players? Surely this will govern formation and strategy.

      Reply

      • Inside-out winger: Can you provide an example what you mean there? Sorry tactics and positions can mean different things to different people, want to be clear before I make an ass out of myself (easy enough when I AM informed)

        Reply

        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/10/06 at 1:53 PM

          An inside-out winger is the same as an inverted winger. Basically a left-footed player on the right wing (and vice versa) so they cut inside on their favoured foot (the fact that more players aren’t two footed irks me, but that’s a different kettle of fish).

          Realistically, an inside-out winger isn’t really a ”winger at all”. They are a throwback to an inside forward.

          Reply

          • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/10/06 at 2:20 PM

            George:

            Thanks for clarifying that. I meant to write earlier that the Yanks’ could really use a strong leftback (who couldn’t) actually.

            One of the things the Yanks do really well through Donovan, Altidore and even Findley is link and counter down the right side. Dempsey has gotten worlds of opporutnity to trail and cut in from the left behind this (an inside-our winger coming from the left side).

            The only problem, when he looks to distribute to his left (and typically he attempts to go left there instead), he sees an open space with no one filling because Boca is not offensive or Bornstein is afraid to come up (or has been told not to).

            Put a Juan Vargas (Peru/Fiorentina) out there and it would be devastating.

            Reply

  3. Posted by Chad on 2010/10/06 at 7:07 AM

    Great article. Most interesting question you raised was whether Bradley will turn the keys to the offense over to Dempsey. Donovan was The Man this sumer for the Nats in several ways:. marketing wise, scoring momentum goals when the US was down, taking PKs that mattered etc. But when you watched him play at Everton, you saw someone who makes a huge difference to a team even when he isn’t the focal point of the attack. Hope you will explore this aspect of the team in more depth.

    Question: where there are too many talented midfielders to get on the field at one time, doesn’t one of the CMs have to learn to play LB?

    Reply

    • Posted by KickinNames... on 2010/10/06 at 11:26 AM

      Someone made the soon- to- be-regarded -as -brilliant point that Ricardo Clark would be the most obvious choice to move out there. Ashley Cole type speed with a bigger body. good on the ball tackling and toughness. His weakness is in possession under pressure, defensive positioning and positive distribution all of which are minimized when you move him to an outside back and cut down his decision processes. His mark becomes obvious, his speed and energy become hugely valuable going forward and tracking back. In a word……

      Brilliant!!

      Reply

      • Posted by Dave on 2010/10/06 at 7:18 PM

        So how well does Rico cross with his left foot?

        Reply

      • Posted by Kevin on 2010/10/06 at 7:34 PM

        I can see the argument on the physical side of Rico’s game, but on the mental side, he doesn’t like being stuck to one side of the pitch. I suggest that is one of the reason’s he does bad next to bradley. As the lone DM he roams and cover lots of ground, but when assigned a side he overthinks its mentally… if that makes any sense.

        Reply

  4. Posted by T-Muck on 2010/10/06 at 8:23 AM

    Something I’ve been wondering a lot over the last year or two. We have so many good midfielders. Micheal Bradley has some pretty big faults on both offense and defense, as stated above:

    “Bradley is a lynchpin of the team, however he often is undisciplined in his defensive assignments and is also prone to forcing the ball or spraying it all over the pitch”

    Should he really be an automatic starter every time the USMNT plays when he is a difficult fit in some formations and strategies? Wouldn’t a combination of Edu, Holden, Feilhabar, Torres, who may not be as an individual as talented of a player but as a midfield unit a better combination?

    Reply

    • Nice avoidance of the word ‘synergy.’ As a side note, I would use the same argument to revamp the entire england squad.

      “Wouldn’t a combination of Edu, Holden, Feilhabar, Torres, who may not be as an individual as talented of a player but as a midfield unit a better combination?”

      My question is, better at what?

      For possession? Perhaps. A bit of offensive pizazz? Certainly. A better offense? Highly questionable. Defensive solidarity in front of a shaking central defense? Houston we have a problem…

      I think the only player you listed who has proven he is better than/at the same level as Michael is Stu. I’ll be happy to give the others their chances over the next four years, but why are we so willing to bench young proven talent in favor of talent that has only shown results inconsistently?

      Reply

    • Posted by jb on 2010/10/06 at 9:36 AM

      I’ve wondered the same thing. I even asked an almost identical question on another well-known blog and was accused by the host of bias against M. Bradley because Bob is the coach. I am actually a big fan of M. Bradley and would argue that he is the American playing overseas in a major league that is most important to his club. But, as described briefly above, he does have some glaring weaknesses. I’m unsure why your question hasn’t been further explored by media in the US.

      I think the success of USMNT in the next cycle will depend on whether Bob Bradley is willing to tinker with our formation/strategy in order to get our best/most talented players on the field together, and whether the players can adapt to new positions. We simply are not deep enough to afford to leave Holden, Edu, etc. on the bench like was done for the most part in the world cup.

      Reply

      • Pray tell me these ‘glaring’ weaknesses?

        The problem I get out of the whole “bench bradley” crowd is they fail to fill out step two in this diagram with anything resembling a convincing arguement:
        Step One: Bench Michael Bradley.
        Step Two: ?????
        Step Three: Success

        Since Mike has stopped getting those ridiculous fouls, I cannot point to a SINGLE GAME where I believe he wasn’t doing an excellent job. Could he do better? Hell yeah, Messi can do better any given game, but we have a lot worse time with one of the other “Usual Suspects” usmnt team fans demand be given a shot.

        Reply

        • Posted by T-Muck on 2010/10/06 at 10:55 AM

          I’ll admit this is a complete pie in the sky talk.

          Michael is the most talented midfielder that we have, but sometimes the best talent on the field at the same time doesn’t necessarily guarantee success. That talent has to have good chemistry. Further more, for the best talent to really shine the surrounding pieces have to complement that talent in a way that covers that talent’s flaws, cause everyone has them.

          Currently, Michael’s flaws are his distribution and the random times he completely disappears on defense. A perfect midfielder to play with him I think would be a veteran that is incredibly disciplined positionally that distributes the ball well. Someone Michael could learn to fix the his current flaws off of. Unfortunately, no one exists like that for the US. There’s no package deal that compliments him. So Bob has gone with just trying to cover one flaw or the other and then hope Michael can step the other part of his game up enough to where it isn’t a major flaw. Perfect example is the many times of playing Clark with him, because he’s supposed to be a very good defender that is positionally very disciplined. In this example, if Michael can’t spark the offense with distribution from the center of the field we’re forced to go up the wings or play long ball. Which I believe was part of our down fall against Ghana.

          Currently we’re struggling with our central midfield paring. What we’re doing right now is trying many different players with Michael and see if they don’t result in a better all round product. Basically, a giant trial and error approach. What Bob has been doing and every coach’s job is to do is find the best system that hides the most number of flaws of his players on the field and provides the greatest chance of success. All of these system that have been tried though have Michael smack dab in the middle of the field. Why not try someone else other than him and see if the combination of two different players leads to a better chance of success?

          Reply

        • Posted by jb on 2010/10/06 at 11:01 AM

          This is the kind of emotional response I don’t get. I never said that I thought MB should be “benched.” Perhaps ‘glaring’ was not the best choice of words, but as for weaknesses, I will refer you to the above (excellent) article:

          “Bradley is a lynchpin of the team, however he often is undisciplined in his defensive assignments and is also prone to forcing the ball or spraying it all over the pitch.

          If Bradley is the central player, then he needs to be more disciplined.

          If he’s an edge player in the “3,” then he needs to better possess and pass the ball.”

          He is obviously one of the top American talents and is already successful in one of the big euro leagues. I think most would agree that he is one of the best 11 players we have and should be a major part of the next world cup cycle. But has he proven to be so much better and more valuable than all the other players in our pool that he has earned the right to an automatic starting position at the very beginning of a new world cup cycle?

          Edu, Jones, and Holden are also enjoying early season success in big euro leagues and have earned the right to compete for the starting 11 for the USMNT. Like I said before, I think the trick is going to be figuring a way to get them all (including Bradley) on the field together.

          Reply

        • Posted by Jared on 2010/10/06 at 11:38 AM

          I actually think that Bradley’s issue is that his father doesn’t play him in the best possible position for him. He’s not a holding mid or a deep lying playmaker yet he is forced into those positions with the US due to the 4-2-2-2 formation. I would prefer to see him pushed up a little further in a 4-2-3-1. I think with a base of Edu and Jones (or Holden if you went with a true dmid and then a distributor) behind him he wouldn’t have as much defensive responsibility and be able to make the great supporting runs into the box.

          Reply

        • Posted by KickinNames... on 2010/10/06 at 11:51 AM

          I think you’re confusing “trying different combos in MF” with “bench M Bradley”. In the friendlies cycle after a WC its fairly common to try to address formation and personnel combos to see what works going forward.
          I am in the camp that thinks that MB’s biggest “weakness” is his dad/coach’s inability to rein in his very large talent with the discipline and tactics that can allow him to shine. I think he can be a massive force with this team if he is utilized as an attacking midfielder with non-vital marking responsibilities.

          As you watch him for B Monch and USMNT regularly over the last year or so, he does not defend on the ball very well for a CMF. He doesn’t win many balls outright in the middle third and tends to lack positional discipline defensively. His energy going forward and his above avg ability to hit the box at speed with good vision and strength are a huge part of the USMNT’s success.
          Holden, for example, is an EXCELLENT ball winner in the middle third with above avg positioning and distribution from the CM. The 4-3-2-1 outlined above gives you the ability to have Mike play in that “hole” and use his energy to press higher on the pitch. Holden/Edu, from what I’ve seen of their play in the last yr, provide a much stronger positional, ball winning and possession oriented CMF/CDM pairing in the middle of the park freeing Mike B to apply his strengths to the offensive end. Could Mike be the 70 min answer to the Demps 20 mins issue?
          Good points all and great analysis above.

          Reply

      • Posted by Kevin on 2010/10/06 at 7:48 PM

        The style Bradley plays in the midfield is much needed. I see the argument for benching him in favor of JJ for the friendly just to shake things up, and see if JJ can do any better, but Bradleys role is essential for our success. JJ plays similar. Edu does not. Rico does not. Stu does not. Not to mention the single two best midfielders we have right now (without including the unproven on our side mystery that is JJ) are Bradley and Stu.IMO Bradley has a good vertical attacking game that I see develop more and more every game. Same goes for his possession, that could still use some work. The biggest asset is that he is solid as far as defensive coveringand is a great tackler. He IS the defensive glue for the team. It all starts there. If he does bad there is too much pressure on the CB’s if he does good, the results speak for themselves. As of right now, he is best suited for the job.

        Reply

  5. Posted by nelson on 2010/10/06 at 10:10 AM

    Michael Bradley at left back, lol. He loves getting forward and loves d. just what we want out of a full back.

    Reply

  6. Posted by chazcar2 on 2010/10/06 at 11:06 AM

    Given the US’s defensive weakness and strength in the midfield players I would suggest doing something wierd. Completely out there. Play three full time central defenders who don’t get forward. Something like a 3-4-3.

    —-Goodson—Onyewu—Bocanegra—-

    —————–Edu——Holden————–
    Bradley———————————-Jones

    ———-Bedoya———-Dempsey———
    ———————Altidore———————-

    Reply

  7. [...] The Grid « Part I: Camp Primer: You Go Stand There [...]

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  8. Posted by Chad on 2010/10/06 at 12:46 PM

    One more thought on re-reading TSG’s analysis. Any discussion of Altidore should mention his propensity to draw fouls, especially fouls that lead to goals. He flat out beat Chiellini at the Confed Cup and was pulled down. His foul vs Slovenia led to Edu’s (non) goal too. Unless Jozy deserves the credit for putting defenders in bad positions and drawing fouls, we may as well all start looking for the next best Ching. Biggest disappointment for me with respect to Jozy was that I thought he had a hard decision to make when he was bumped hard vs Ghana on that play that ended up with a lame push towards the goal. He could have stayed on his feet and been 1 v 1 with the keeper, but since he had no luck scoring in the WC he just went down when he didn’t have to.

    Reply

  9. Posted by KickinNames... on 2010/10/06 at 1:01 PM

    “Next best Ching”, TSG’s first ever Pun-ter of the Week Award. Beats hell out of the “your mom” stuff or even worse the dreaded “inside joke thread” that makes up most blogs anymore.

    Thanks again for the time and energy you spend in providing a platform for thoughtful, analytical discussion. Good on ya.

    Reply

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