Tuesday’s Lament: USA Draws Colombia

TSG welcomes back writer “Tuesday” with his game review from PPL Park.

 

Driving the ball, way up the pitch. Jermaine Jones you'd better find that pass. Defenders ahead, defenders behind. And you know that EJ will miss everytime.

 

Last night was definitely a bad night. And then after watching the paint dry, crack, flake off and dining on some bitter, lead-laced paint chips, I had to watch this game. Despite generally acquitting themselves well along the back line and in the middle of the park, the USA struggled to create chances against a Colombia defense that was happy to drop deep and let the U.S. play from midfield. However, despite having the look of a bore-draw snooze-fest, there were some important things to be learned from this game.

Tactical Experiments

By now it’s become clear that Bradley simply doesn’t believe in the tactical experiments he attempts. They have the look of an attempt to silence the critics – “we tried something different but it just didn’t work” – before going cap-in-hand back to the 4-4-2 he knows and loves (even though sometimes it beats him). Bradley’s attempt at a 4-3-3 lasted a half and was half-hearted. 45 minutes of 4-3-3, 4-1-4-1 or 4-2-3-1 here or there is not enough to get players comfortable and functioning in a new system. Bradley just isn’t giving it a chance.

That’s not to say that 4-3-3 was a good idea last night. As Matt observed earlier,  it morphed into something more resembling a 4-1-4-1 in practice. In the U.S. ostensible 4-3-3 system chances are created by getting the ball to the wingers early and stretching the back line. Shea and Holden simply played too deep, while Altidore was his usual mobile self, roving from wing to wing instead of providing a consistent focal point for the attack. The U.S. players could be found making a 4-3-3 shape on the pitch, but they weren’t playing the right style for this to be effective.

Part of the problem was that the front 6 players were too often trying to arrange themselves into the shape they saw on the tactical line-up. This works fine in 4-4-2, but 4-3-3 is more fluid defensively, choosing where to concede space as play develops so it’s least likely to hurt you. The three U.S. central midfielders tried to cover the same ground as four players would cover in a 4-4-2, leaving too much space in front of the back four. If one CM is pulled out wide, the remaining two CMs should play like the CMs in a 4-4-2 instead of worrying about space on the opposite flank.

Put another way: when the ball is on the flank, the three CMs are playing in three of the four positions in a standard 4-4-2. In the event of a switch, dynamic players like Bradley, Jones and Edu will have plenty of time to get across to occupy the other three positions. When that’s impossible, the fullback needs to be aware enough of that danger and step up to cut out a cross-field ball, or the winger needs to track dangerous runs by the opposing fullback. When the ball is central, the three CMs should be quite narrow, protecting the back four and making play through the center difficult – forcing Colombia to send crosses in from the flanks for our two 6’4” center backs to clear.

As the first half progressed, the attacking movement in the 4-3-3 was very fluid. This seems like it should be a good thing. However, in a system which relies on its spacing in attack rather than movement to stretch the defense and create scoring opportunities, this good movement had the opposite effect: increasing the difficulty of finding penetrative possession. The U.S. never seemed to be able to find the key ball out to the wingers in wide areas because they weren’t playing with real wingers.

 

A Junior game from Baby Bradley?

 

Because both Jones and Bradley were getting forward in tandem, the U.S. found it difficult to quickly switch flanks through midfield – the final key to a successful 4-3-3 – and instead played across the back four. Given their tendencies as players, this was more encouragement than both Holden and Shea needed to come inside to find the ball. In fact, Altidore was most frequently found providing width with his runs in wide areas. Colombia were allowed to stay narrow and clog the central areas in their own final third where the U.S. was trying to play through.

A small adjustment – like asking a second CM to play deeper and join the attack later  – could’ve been the change needed for this system to click. Instead of making adjustments after 45 minutes, Bradley simply reverted to 4-4-2. His choice of system was designed to fail.

Still Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be

After the match Bradley said that in the “second half we played more in the way that we are accustomed, and I think the movement and flow was much better.” While Bradley is right that the U.S. attacking threat increased after he reverted to 4-4-2 at halftime, it seems he could only bear to watch the first 15 minutes when the U.S. showed most attacking intent.

Holden had been providing a semblance of natural width on the right, but when Feilhaber came on for him at 59 minutes things began to fall apart again. The U.S. went from dominating possession and looking likely to threaten the Colombian backline to losing possession cheaply when Bradley and Jones were unable to find players in space. Dempsey played very centrally while Feilhaber roamed free in midfield. Lichaj’s (more on him later) dynamism from right back made it seem less than the problem it was. On the left, Pearce’s attacking forays were just not able to provide the width needed. He struggled for understanding with Dempsey and his crosses were moon-shots, easily handled by Colombian keeper Faryd Mondragon.

The build-up to Altidore’s 86th minute header perfectly encapsulated a night where the midfield never consistently found fluency. It also showed what was wrong with Bradley’s tactics for the last 30 minutes of the second half. Bradley, Jones, Dempsey and Feilhaber were all in tight space within ten yards of one another on the pitch. It was only through happy coincidence that Lichaj was found in space on the right to put in a dangerous cross.

Playing to Stereotypes

Everyone knows the U.S. is an “athletic” side. It’s also getting bigger. Last night, the average height of the U.S. starting line-up was over 6’1”. At the 2002 World Cup, the German players made the USA side look small by comparison as they came out of the tunnel and lined up for the anthems. I’m tempted to say that the addition of Jermaine Jones (6’1”) has made the entire side feel more German. He and Bradley (6’2”) form a substantial central midfield partnership.

We all know Onyewu is a physical presence on the pitch and Goodson is just as tall, even though he’s listed as 40 pounds lighter. Altidore (6’1”) is more man than man-child and Brek Shea, at 6’3” + hair, seems to have a bit more bulk to him than in his U-20 days. Of the starters, only Heath Pearce and “big”-playing Stu Holden are under 6 feet. The U.S. went small in the second half bringing on Parkhurst and Lichaj, both at a notch under 6’, and the diminutive 5’ 9” Feilhaber.

Size isn’t all that matters, but the U.S. side is on it’s way to having an intimidating presence that won’t be suggesting a physical mismatch the next time they line up in the tunnel to play Germany.

New Faces, or, We Told You So

Does anyone continue to doubt whether a fit Jermaine Jones could have made this team more competitive in South Africa? Anyone? He positions himself well and covers ground in a hurry to break up attacks. He has an ability to find the long pass behind the defense which isn’t one of young Bradley’s strengths. In this match he had few chances to deploy that ball and he tried to do too much as the game wore on to its conclusion. Still, his USA debut must be deemed a success. One wonders what might’ve been against Ghana had he been fit to play over Clark. He just makes this team better. Just wait until he has a chance to find an early ball when Donovan ghosts into space.

TSG has long touted Eric Lichaj as a player to watch for the 2014 cycle. Coming through the ranks to get first team action at Aston Villa – a club that is well respected for its player development – is no small accomplishment. Lichaj definitely has the physical presence to play CB, but his energy in getting up and down the right flank was key to the U.S. attacking resurgence to start the second frame. His presence would have helped during the first half attempt at 4-3-3 when Spector showed us he’s still wallowing in his listless 2010 self.

Friendlies Clam Strips

Friendlies are a chance to experiment with new players, new tactics and formations. At TSG, we were cheered to see Brek Shea and Eric Lichaj get their first caps with positive contributions. The long weekend also saw our first chance to get a taste of the long-awaited German-American microbrew, Jermaine Jones. These things are positives, and these players look ready to contribute to the cycle.

With a few over 8,800 in the PPL Park crowd and a Tuesday night TV audience, this was no grand marketing occasion for U.S. Soccer. They’re preaching to the converted. Results don’t matter in these friendlies. We want to see the hard work put in as we look forward to opening night in Brazil four years from now. We’ll suffer through a drab 0-0 draw and come back for more. Not conceding is important, but some attacking intent wouldn’t go amiss when there’s nothing on the line. And what’s the risk in sticking with the experiment just a little longer to make adjustments?

Too often Bradley seems content to watch his experiments fail and revert to the mean. We know we can play 4-4-2 (that’s Plan A through BB). What else works? Bradley started with four players accustomed to playing central midfield roles for their clubs. Do we not have openings for wide players if we’re experimenting with playing 4-3-3? Is that Bedoya there on the bench? Isn’t he comfortable playing (and staying) wide?

Last night, Bradley gave us a taste of what we’ve been clamoring for, but he used the wrong ingredients. We didn’t get the full-bellied clam, just tasteless, rubbery clam strips. I’d rather go back to eating paint chips.

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48 responses to this post.

  1. Can I just say how glad I am that you’ve returned and I no longer have to follow friday guilt you into writing more brilliant things for the people ? Now I can fully focus my campaign on Miss July 11….. well done sir.

    Reply

    • Thank you sir. But does this mean I no longer get FFs, having served their purpose?

      What can I say about Miss July 11… I too hope to read more of her writing very soon and I am fully supportive of your campaign. Let me know if there’s anything I can do.

      Reply

  2. Posted by Erik the Orange on 2010/10/13 at 11:55 AM

    Great read. Only thing I have issue with is “At TSG, we were cheered to see Brek Shea and Eric Lichaj get their first caps with positive contributions”. Shea did not impress me. That said, he was playing in a system that was familiar to no one, and he was in a role that he wasn’t familiar with. I’d love to see him get a chance to play in a more familiar role. Lichaj and Jones, just off the charts…nothing but positive momentum there.

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    • Some contributions were more positive than others but no outright disasters. Butter did little for me either but not atypical performance for a first cap.

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  3. Posted by Matt on 2010/10/13 at 11:56 AM

    Excellent analysis, once again, from Tuesday but for the love of lead-free paint please get a copy editor (or at least give some volunteers a login). Was this thing typed on an iPad? It should have come with one of those “this was written by thumb on my mobile,” disclaimers at the bottom.

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    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/10/13 at 11:57 AM

      That’s my (Matt’s) fault. We’re balancing money earning work today with getting content out. I’ll see if I (or our copy editor Allison can go through it.)

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    • The typos are a metaphor.

      We’re going to go back and make the small adjustments necessary to make it read properly.

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      • Posted by Matt on 2010/10/13 at 1:09 PM

        That’s why I love this site. You guys have the best insight, actually participate in the comments, and are upfront about everything it takes to keep TSG going.

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  4. Posted by FutbolAmerica on 2010/10/13 at 11:56 AM

    A too was disappointed Bedoya didn’t see any action as he could have contributed well. The only times we really saw space were passes up the line that resulted in decent crosses. It’s frustrating that they tout our depth at midfield and then don’t use it to our advantage by bringing in the guys that can really contribute alongside the guys that were playing.

    I want to see Ryan Guy thrown out on the right wing with Donovan on the left and Altidore central in the 4-3-3 and see what two speedy wingers (who actually will play wide and chase a ball) and a striker playing centrally (novel idea) would do. It would give Dempsey a chance to play slightly pulled back and be creative with (take your pick out of) Jones, Edu, and Bradley to tidey things up in front of the back 4.

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  5. Posted by matthewsf on 2010/10/13 at 11:56 AM

    Appropriate post to note that Tuesday was the first to alert TSG about Eric Lichaj. Just spoke with his IMG Academy roommate Preston Zimmerman last week.

    Tuesday: Good point on the physical nature (height) of Team USA last night.
    Bradley seems to prefer physical specimens/attributes more than “players” some times. Seems to harken back to how he was in a mold as a player, never possessing world class skill, but a physical player who worked ridiculously hard.

    That will only take you so far, when you get a physical player who has world class skill and a ridiculous work rate — like a Kevin Prince Boateng or a Schweinsteiger.

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    • Yeah, it’s not just height though – we’re not talking 11 peter crouches, they looked substantial out there. Goodson especially looked a lot less willowy to me.

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      • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/10/13 at 12:32 PM

        I believe that was the frosted tips and the boar meat he ate while fastening himself to the pine in South Africa.

        If you’re Clarence Goodson, much like Hahnemann, you have to maybe be thinking to yourself or asking Coach Sweats, “Hey look Sweats, am I only your middle guy for worthless friendlies and B Team Gold Cup squads.”

        I mean you got the hype of Omar, Ream and others behind him and Edu was trotted out there on Saturday.

        At some point you have to be like, “Hmm, I could go spend the weekend in Iceland watching Coldplay and telling British Isles ladies I’m a soccer player or…OR I could go run sprints all day long and then maybe get a game.”

        Anywho…but Goodson and Gooch going into the box with service from Lando or Stu. Maybe we don’t need EJ playing with his back to the basket.

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  6. I would add (and have written, less importantly) that the 4-3-3 might have functioned better were it not for Heath Pearce’s lack of interest in moving forward. Several writers were fawning over his defensive performance last night, and maybe I’m cynical or simply don’t care that FC Dallas is dominating in MLS right now– but Holden’s forays towards the center would be okay, even in this formation, with overlapping fullback runs. Given his familiarity with Shea from the club level, I was SHOCKED that they weren’t better at this, and I think they are partly to blame for the lack of a coherent shape/logjam in the middle that pervaded the first half.

    Beyond that, I was impressed with the back four and their defending, particularly Onyewu who did a fine job keeping an eye on Falcao in his half of play. The Colombians were unusually anemic in attack, but there weren’t breakdowns for anemic teams that need them to score to exploit, save Edu’s gaffe early in the game.

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    • Neil – I read your piece. I think you made good points, meant to drop a comment. Will do that now.

      As for Pearce, he got forward a bit, he just was very tentative in the final third hitting a point where he dare not advance forward and panic when finding no options. He never tried to get around the fullback when the threat of this is really what we mean by having width in the attacking third. played bad balls to his CMs or floated in crosses. He was fine defensively in what was a fairly solid defensive display.

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      • Posted by Dave on 2010/10/13 at 7:46 PM

        Pearce may be familiar with Shea but they play opposite sides at Dallas–Pearce plays -right- back there, and maybe some right mid, while Shea plays on the left. So maybe a bit much to expect them to work well together on the left side.
        Although I do think Holden and Dolo play quite well together on the right with no club time together.
        Especially impressed by Holden tracking back on defense as a winger. And getting crosses in.
        Stu’s may not be a winger but at least he can play one on TV…but I digress.

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        • Posted by Dave on 2010/10/13 at 7:48 PM

          Stu not Stu’s. Can you fix my typos, too?

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        • Posted by KMac on 2010/10/14 at 5:40 AM

          I think also the difference in the speed of the game in international play vs MLS created trouble for the Pearce / Shea combo. Mind you they didn’t play badly, but their relative comfort on the ball and knowing where and when to move/play showed.
          Perhaps both have room to improve.

          I liked Pearce’s defensive play more than I usually do that evening.
          KMac

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        • Rewatched the first 45 last night. His defensive work is admirable but I the biggest problem was that Stu tracked back too much and ended up playing way too deep.

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  7. Posted by Paul on 2010/10/13 at 12:43 PM

    Here’s a fun thought experiment to run, inspired by Tuesday’s mention about the improvement of the US WC squad with Jones:

    Say magic heals all the players of Ghana and the US before the round of 16 game. Ghana gets back Essien (they were missing another player or two, to be sure); the US regains Davies and Jones: Holden’s leg is de-DeJonged; our defense gets off the physio’s table unharmed (i.e.Gooch gets his knee back, Demerit gets 20-20 vision, Boca loses the hernia). Which team wins the match if all of its players are healed? I tend to think the US wins, even with the Bison patrolling midfield. Think of all the great balls Jones plays to Davies–the US stretches Ghana’s defense, allowing Dempsey and Donovan space to work.

    Of course, this is just a thought experiment, but it does show the relative depth of the US player pool (we were able to do well despite these injuries) and how far the US has come in relative amount of time in the international game.

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  8. Posted by kaya on 2010/10/13 at 12:45 PM

    Nice caption on the first pic. Hah.
    Of course the article is great, too… too good for such a poor match.
    I never doubted Germaine Jones’ abilities to impact the US game… just that his personality might not be a good fit and that there was a risk he’d think himself too special to “play well with others”. I was pleasantly surprised that he never gave up (almost to a fault) and was unselfish.
    Glad to hear I wasn’t the only one underwhelmed by Pearce. Sure, he turned the ball back well enough against a half hearted attack a couple of times, but coming up the field was an exercise in futility.
    As far as size goes, I thought that Hirshey article mentioned a couple of days ago was in fact an unfortunate attempt to re-purpose the article that’s probably been written a million times before: the ole physicality vs technicality balance. I’m not going to pretend to have a well informed opinion about Klinsmann, but I think a lot of people pinned their hopes on him moving the USMNT in the direction of the latter whereas it’s clear Sweatpants relies on the former. OK, at least that was my hope even though I too couldn’t help but wonder what exactly Klinsi has been doing to merit the continued hype for the past 4 years.

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  9. Posted by moosecat on 2010/10/13 at 12:59 PM

    blame the players or blame the coach for not being tactically flexible? is the USSF academy worth anything when it comes to this? last night was depressing.

    thank god for Jermaine Jones. he was a pleasure to watch. but i don’t think we would have beaten Ghana with him in the 23 because sweatpants probably still would have started Rico.

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  10. Posted by Dougs on 2010/10/13 at 1:09 PM

    Am I the only person who thought EJ showed better positional sense, dribbling, passing, and hold-up abilities than Jozy? People have been criticizing him but I saw him rarely turn the ball over and I do not remember a single play all game in which Jozy was not dispossessed or turned the ball over immediatley upon receipt. I’m not arguing for EJ over Jozy (yet) but I was pleasantly surprised by EJs composure on the ball.

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    • EJ was fine on the ball. he’s got the physical skills, he’s just a tad slow working out what to do with it, taking far too many touches when a simpler pass, played earlier could open things up.

      Altidore has his issues too, I posted this comment on Neil’s blog on YanksAreComing:

      Altidore hides in the box – never makes an aggressive run across a defender, ever. Perfectly happy to tuck in behind the defender and hope by some miracle the ball gets to him. On the chance you mentioned [when EJ tried to play him in] he easily could’ve slashed between the CBs to receive the ball but instead stepped behind his defender. Look at the goals he scores – it’s only when he’s left unmarked.

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      • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/10/13 at 3:45 PM

        Tuesday, that may have been the best compliment ever paid to EJ: “He’s just a tad too slow working out what to do with it…..” in short, I could eat an egg salad sandwich before EJ decides should I pass, reset or drive to the whole.

        On Altidore, he just doesn’t know how to play the position. He’s just never been in position to learn either.

        At NYRB, he could dominate enough with his size and the lack of defensive quality of the opponent.

        His first year in Spain? A wash.

        At Hull, Jozy picked up a ton of bad habits including diving, complaining and the worse one, not acting and reacting in a decent offense to understand how space is created.

        Unfortunately, he won’t learn this on the Villarreal bench either…

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        • Posted by FutbolAmerica on 2010/10/13 at 4:39 PM

          I really hope they can get Buddle to step in for the South Africa match and let Jozy battle for the target man up front. Then maybe he’ll put in some effort.

          And do you guys see Buddle being potentially like Drogba as a late bloomer? They both share an injury prone first few years in the leagues.

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        • Posted by Gino on 2010/10/13 at 5:38 PM

          Agree about getting some more reps for Buddle with the Nats. He is undoubtedly our most in-form forward and I still wish we’d have seen more of him this past WC. I’m not rooting against the Galaxy but should they not make it to the MLS Final, opportunity beckons.

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      • Posted by Flacotex on 2010/10/13 at 6:39 PM

        I thought that EJ was much more aware of what was going on when the ball was in the air and when it was passed to him but didn’t have any idea of how to get the ball to anyone else when he had it. Jozy? He has no idea of how to play the ball in the air unless it lands directly at his feet such as the goal he had the other night.

        I was baffled by all of the central mids we have playing wide. It does however, speak to depth of that position. As we develop more and more players we will have that happen to more positions on the field. And one day even the forward position will have multiple options.

        You had a great point about the potential of Bedoya playing in one of the wide spots last night. This is a great blog for analysis about the men’s team. Thanks!

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        • Posted by KickinNames... on 2010/10/14 at 6:31 AM

          I am happy to see and hear that more and more critical noise is being generated around Altidore’s auto inclusion as the striker/forward for this squad. Last weeks game was the perfect example of how he flatters to disappoint. He was given 3 or 4 flat out walk in chances and finished 1 of them which was the classic ball that fell in his path even when he missed controlling it early. We really don’t have time to continue trotting him out as first team when his goals/game ration is still in the low 0.0’s range.

          Also, it’s interesting that Charlie’s name has dropped off the list of potential front players. I would love to see Buddle’s work rate, soccer mentality and passing ability (vs JA or EJ (UGH!) ) combined with Davis’ speed and attacking mentality. THAT 4-4-2 could work.

          J Jones will make this team better if allowed to and the MF logjam will continue to be a problem because the coach cannot see beyond his blind spots.
          Starting Edu at CB last week was just plain dumb. He is not comfortable nor do his skiils/instincts lend themselves to the role. Poland continually played early balls from out wide to his mark knowing that his back would be turned, like a MF’s normally would, and he isn’t strong enough in the air. How could you not notice those things in his prior start there and in freaking practice?

          Brek Shea BTW was not impressive at all and played like the MLS-ready talent I’ve seen so far. Not sure what you noticed about him that looked good but…

          Lichaj has game. You can see it immediately and am looking forward to him running out there on a regular basis.

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    • Yes, a couple of minutes into the second half after another Jozy turnover I tried to remember if he had not turned the ball over on one occasion up to that point and could not recall any. He either had a horrible first touch, the throw-in on the right side comes to mind, or after receiving the ball put his head down did a few step overs and dribbled directly into the defender. It was not until EJ came in, received a pass, shielded the ball and then distributed to a following player that Jozy seemed to remember that he should consider doing this as well. It was probably 10-20 minutes into the second before he was finally able to do this. After the offside postioning on the Gruzan punt and restart, I was hoping that he would get a second yellow simply so BB would be forced to play someone else in his slot in November.
      I was surprised, and also not, that Jozy has only 10 goals in a US jersey after Saturday. This guy has been our default striker for 3 years now and scored at least 5 of those 10 goals in 2 games. That means only 5 goals in the 95% of the other games he’s played for US, with many games against weak Concacaf teams. A poor strike rate, combined with poor possession, inconsistent effort and a flare for berating the ref should have seen him to the bench more often while we investigate/develop other attacking options.

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  11. Posted by matthewsf on 2010/10/13 at 3:48 PM

    One more thing I meant to mention in the prior piece that I thought was very interesting (and I’ll continue on the theme in a piece tomorrow)….is that Jermaine Jones often played on the right side of midfield despite–it would appear–being more apt to pass with his left.

    Whilst the spacing, and movement (as both Neil and Tuesday point out above) left a lot to be desired, I really didn’t see–with the exceptions of the few times (3) that Jones tried Brek Shea in an advanced position–a lot of ball movement to the wings from Jones.

    Maybe it’s chicken and egg, however, I think it would have been interesting to see what would have happened let’s say with Jones more on the left and having a Bedoya (who plays left wing for Orebro) or Beasley on the left with “a leftback to be named later (Miguel Ponce…calling it now)” overlapping.

    Anywho…

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    • Posted by Gino on 2010/10/13 at 5:40 PM

      I’m wondering why Bedoya flew all the way over here then didn’t get a minute. Did he pick up a knock in training. I never noticed him warming up during either of the friendlies. Alex was definitely needed against Colombia.

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      • Posted by dth on 2010/10/13 at 5:53 PM

        Bedoya played against Poland for about 30 minutes.

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        • Posted by Gino on 2010/10/13 at 10:06 PM

          Oh yeah. Stupid beer and it’s mind numbing attributes.

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        • Posted by Gino on 2010/10/13 at 10:11 PM

          I guess I was thinking about how Lichaj didn’t get any minutes against Poland (Polish roots) and how Bedoya didn’t get any against his Colombian hertiage then mixed them up. Ummm, beer good.

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          • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/10/14 at 5:20 AM

            Too funny Gino — didn’t see this comment and just tweeted something similar.

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  12. Posted by dude on 2010/10/13 at 4:11 PM

    Using Feilhaber as a winger has been a disaster every time. The only times he’s performed well in international matches is from the center.

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    • Posted by Gino on 2010/10/13 at 5:34 PM

      I also agree that Benny! plays best centrally in midfield. Unfortunately, CM is arguably the deepest position on the USMNT. I’ve often thought that he could be successful in the middle of a 4-2-3-1.

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  13. Posted by Nelson on 2010/10/13 at 4:22 PM

    Couldn’t find the game live on tv in Ecuador. Even so close to Colombia…But was EJ really off on that late offsides call? I enjoyed the replay video but couldn’t tell if he was off and thought no way is MB offsides.

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  14. Posted by Nelson on 2010/10/13 at 4:28 PM

    PS, can yall add a like or “agree” button on comments. cause dude is fairly right about feilhaber.

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  15. Posted by Dave on 2010/10/13 at 8:33 PM

    You all tend to be a little technical for me, but I would like to put my 2 cents in. The first impressions that came to my mind were poor spacing and impatience. Poor spacing everyone has commented on for the obvious reasons. I see it as one contributor to all the turnovers. I also see impatience as a factor, players were trying to play the ball quickly, but in this game I think they often had time to hold the ball a bit and find the best option, but played fast to the obvious option and were intercepted. Perhaps some kind of a #10/point guard player could have helped there. Although without teammates who have good spacing and movement off the ball that might not help as much as many wish.
    One other observation there, it seemed Colombia were playing the passing lanes, meaning someone needed to break them down on the dribble. To me the guy who could do that would be Donovan, playing centrally, and coming back to get the ball. I don’t see any other player in the pool who can carry the ball at speed, with his head up, over distance, and able to find open teammates.
    On to playing Jozy on top by himself. First observation, if he had either Brian’s (Ching’s or McBride’s)work ethic and heart he would be well on his way to being a fine forward. But, I sympathize with his plight a bit. If the US is going to play with a single striker, somebody has to make runs from the midfield in support or he’s going to be 1 on 2 every time. That is, if somebody’s actually going to, for example, deliver a cross, one of those central mids or false wingers(Dempsey, Feilhaber), needs to show up in the box somewhere. Of course it may hurt a bit that everyone knows the cross will come in from the right. (Dolo, Holden, maybe Lichaj; so far the left side lacks quality and my impression is that Dempsey and Donovan don’t look to cross much).
    As a side note, where are the soccer players who grew up idolizing Beckham, Steve Ralston, Coby Jones, or even Ramoncito Morales and Cabrito Arellano? Where oh where have all the wingers gone?
    The usual disclaimer that my youth was spent on basketball, and while I’ve enjoyed soccer as a spectator for a long time my technical appreciation ain’t that fine. Feel free to educate me on where I’ve gone wrong.

    Reply

  16. Posted by Seybold on 2010/10/13 at 10:37 PM

    This wasn’t just a 4-3-3–it was a copy of Roberto Mancini’s 4-3-3 at Manchester City with 3 clearly defensive midfielders. I agree with the comments that it didn’t really work–I think it would be much better with Holden replacing one of the others.

    I suspect playing Edu, Bradley and Jones together might be an option to deal with a center of defense that is a bit weak by normal USA standards, a way to make the USA hard to score against even with problems at center back.

    Would’ve like to see Lichaj in the first half, he was willing to go forward, which this formation badly needs. With tree defensive mids, there is cover for the fullbacks!

    Reply

  17. Posted by Crow on 2010/10/14 at 6:01 AM

    It wasn’t coincidence that Lichaj was found after a nice run in the 86th minute, in which he then had the nice cross to Jozy. He had three or four nice runs down the flank before that, but EJ or whoever wouldn’t pass it to him, or didn’t see him open in space. I was at the game in the Supporter’s Section with them coming right towards us. It drove me nuts.

    Anyway, it is great to know that we have a RB for 2014 and beyond- Lichaj. He looked really good pushing forward, his service was good, and defensively he was solid. The one time he got beat on the wing, he immediately went to the center to cover for Parkhurst who was coming to mark his man, and then he headed a ball out of danger.

    Even though, the “4-3-3″ or “4-3-2-1″ might help defensively (with 3 def mids playing), the offensive attack was the worst I’ve ever seen from the Yanks. I thought the US looked the best playing the 4-2-3-1 the played against Poland. I would like to see more of that going forward. There is no reason to play a 4-4-2 again unless Charlie Davies eventually gets fit. You need to have your best players on the field.

    So glad someone else noticed Heath Pearce’s Giovanni dos Santos look. Is that his idol? What is up with that? Is there any hope for us getting a LB from the U-23 or U-20 ranks soon?

    Reply

  18. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/10/14 at 7:08 AM

    Too many cheap turn overs – and by cheap I mean sloppy, under no pressure. Too many long balls because CBs can’t play the ball out. No need for Bradley to come short and then knock long (low percentage) balls over the top. Always makes me scratch my head that, especially when he gifts possession to the opposition. Plus we all talk about “getting the best players on the pitch”, then you bypass them with this type of play…

    Reply

  19. Posted by Jared on 2010/10/14 at 7:29 AM

    It’s nice to see that someone else out there realizes that Bradley completely half asses the experimental formations. Holden isn’t a wing forward and Shea was getting his first cap. Let’s try this formation using Dempsey and Donovan out wide with Holden in front of Edu and Jones (of course that will never happen because Bradley will start his son).

    Lichaj impressed me and now he needs to learn to play left back. Cherundolo will hold down right back for at least the next couple of years.

    I really hope that Holden continues to be responsible for set pieces. His delivery is much better than Donovan’s.

    If we somehow manage to win the Gold Cup it will be down to Mexico’s inability rather than the talent of the US. There is just something missing with this team.

    Reply

  20. [...] TSG correspondent, that’s a pretty “big” …physically midfield. If you check this column, TSG’s Tuesday senses a theme, a German one (see Playing To Stereotypes [...]

    Reply

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