(Part I of our October friendlies primer can be found here.)
Like how we tied the preview in. This is me stretching my arm to pat myself on the back. Doesn’t work. Surprise!
Welcome back to our “near” traditional preview.
Per usual, we go:
TSG What We’re Looking For
11 At The Whistle
However, we’ll invert this a little and start with the proposed starters.
11 At The Whistle:
I think it’s pretty simple actually given the roster selections.
Of course, I’m the same guy who thought that Stu Holden would get much more than four minutes in South Africa and I’m the same guy that thought Liverpool would have a top-5 finish this year. So more than a few grains of salt scattered through this column.
Bradley will–likely–select some combination of 4 fullbacks, 5 midfielders/forwards and 1 striker.
Our guess at the personnel and deployment is that it will be similar to the U.S. deployment against Turkey that we had in yesterday’s primer piece, both because it is a formation that the Yanks seem to be gyrating towards and because Poland play a 4-3-3 (or 4-3-2-1 if they keep their wingers narrow).
Countering the Polish formation, it works best to have forwards in the central gaps where the central midfielder of the “3”–as we spoke about yesterday–is forced to make a choice of whom to defend.
Okay, let’s deploy:
• Jozy Altidore is the target man up top.
• Clint Dempsey provides a supporting forward role.
• Alejandro Bedoya provides the weakside forward/winger role/monsterback role (see below).
You’ve seen Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley (Czech Republic send-off match) in this role previously.
• Maurice Edu and Michael Bradley provide your starting center midfield pairing. It’s not that I don’t think you can’t start Jermaine Jones; it’s just that it would be, well, weak if Maurice Edu who rarely started in South Africa loses his now-position without a fight.
• Benny Feilhaber or Stu Holden provide your tucked in midfielder forming an essentially three-man midfield. This one will be a battle and I’d say it’s a pick’em here. While TSG believes Stu Holden–who has upped his defensive game measurably at Bolton–should play more centrally, Bob Bradley will still defer to Junior in the middle and Stu gets the start outside.
• Steve Cherundolo and Carlos Bocanegra provide your outside fullbacks at least here in Friendly One against Poland. The former grew up nearby; the latter once with played with the Fire and has a history of good games in Chicago.
Two things here, Heath Pearce is still in Dallas for this one and note this if it changes, Bob Bradley has shown a complete reluctance to put an off-footed outside fullback on the pitch. Over the past two years–excluding the 2009 Gold Cup “B” crew–Bradley has always put a left-footed back at leftback (Bocanegra, Pearce, Bornstein) and a right-footed one at rightback.
• Clarence Goodson and Oguchi Onyewu form your center defense pairing. You didn’t think Parkhurst was getting the nod in his first game since his sub-par effort in…well the near disaster against Haiti in Foxboro…that Stu Holden rescued. Cue video.
• Steady Tim Howard guards the pipes for the Yanks, but gives way to Brad Guzan in the 2nd half.
Rather than throw our probabilities here as this is a friendly and any line-up can materialize, we’ll go with some more visuals for you. You could say we’re graphics-happy today.
TSG What We’re Looking For
• Stu Holden, what’s your zip code?
We know Holden’s area code is midfield. The Dynamo-to-Wanderer has been approved for a mortgage centrally in Owen Coyle’s 4-2-3-1 formation.
On offense, Holden drops deep and becomes a distributor from the back. On defense–in what I’ve written before in excellent tactics from Coyle–Holden presses up the pitch and looks to create turnovers with the very capable Fabrice Muamba (a candidate eventually for the England national team) providing cover in the same manner a Maurice Edu would.
Holden, in our opinion, is not a great choice for an attacking mid or forward because he prefers to complement players around him and make the pass rather than excel at running at a defender like a Dempsey or Bedoya.
Stu will probably be used as a tucked in midfielder this game, but getting some centrally in what has historically been Michael Bradley’s role certainly makes sense.
As a note, it would be nice to see Bradley–independent of his defensive responsibility–pushed up more in attack responsible for trailing and attacking as oppose to linking, but more on this at another time…
• How do women feel when you call them old?
Concerns bordering on criticisms that I’ve heard recently lament the fact that players like Jermaine Jones (32 at World Cup 2014) or Steve Cherundolo (34 at World Cup 2014) may be too long in the tooth come the next World Cup.
Supporters of that notion would be wise to consider two World Cup 2010 contributors in Juan Sebastián Verón for Argentina who was both a sub and starter for Argentina and Giovanni Christiaan van Bronckhorst, he of the firecracker (perhaps) goal of the Cup.
The former, Veron, played World Cup was 35-years-old at World Cup 2010 and is every much as injury-prone and ferocious a player as the analogous Jermaine Jones.
The latter, van Bronckhorst played for World Cup champ runner-up Holland at 35-years-old and unleashed this boombasa on Uruguay.
Nearly every player that Bob Bradley called in to camp has some shot if not a solid shot to make the 2014 roster and if the player can’t do it anymore they’ll be phased out.
(P.S. Don’t like the comparisons to players that are arguably more established than Jones or Cherundolo? Frankie Hedjuk, if not injured, would have started at left or rightback for the Yanks in 2006 if he wasn’t injured. He was 32.)
Oh, and one more thing: those that castigate the selection of Eddie Johnson should be, well, ashamed of themselves for their blathering.
First, name another American striker who is playing right now in one of Europe’s top three leagues. The only player is obviously Jozy Altidore. I’m willing to bet those throwing EJ under the bus are the same that pushed so hard for him when he wasn’t ready in 2006.
Anywho, here’s another player analogy, Peter Odemwingie. The 29-year-old was just, correctly, named EPL player of the month for September and has West Brom humming.
More on Odemwingie? It’s long been though he could be a difference maker on the Nigerian national team, despite his failure to put it together.
That and the fact that he didn’t establish himself consistently at such notables clubs as La Louviere and Lokomotiv Moscow.
Is Eddie Johnson the answer at striker for the U.S.? Wrong question. Does he deserve a shot until better options are available? You bet. Maybe he’s a late-bloomer. Maybe he’s an Odemwingie. Probably not, but your next option is…?
• The Monsterback Position
The off-side forward position that we described above and is inhabited in our starting eleven by Ale Bedoya, I like to consider the “Monsterback Position.”
In football, the monsterback is a player who has license to attack the offense with less defensive responsibilities.
I’m extremely excited–if the formation and personnel comes to fruition–to see what offense we can generate out of that position from players like Bedoya and Brek Shea (a natural fit for him).
In the system, the player has the option of trailing the attack and being a shooter, gaining possession and running at the defense or making a down-the-line-run and sending a cross back to the center.
Other fits here for this role not in camp are: Landon (obviously), Mix Diskerud and Sacha Kljestan.
We’ll be back on Saturday for some live commentary I believe.