Update: Bob Bradley breaking out some new faces for a quick turnaround friendly? Ives from Fox Soccer is reporting Juan Agudelo is being called up and a Norwegian report is suggesting Mix Diskerud is in the mix. Lord have mercy, what’s gotten into Bob….excellent.
What did the States get? That’s the question.
With our expose on white elephant stadiums and now the States playing an unusually far away from home friendly at Green Point, what did the States get during World Cup 2010 and have to trade the friendly for?
Was it the splendid training ranch or is it the World Cup 2022 vote from the South Africans? Both?
You can, I think, make a few safe assumptions about this friendly.
Well, first, it’s an exhibition. With MLS playoffs ongoing and Euro leagues in full swing, a one game jaunt (that is a thirteen hour flight form NYC and a eleven hour flight from London) will be less an evaluation point for Coach Sweats and more a task.
Two, expect a smaller squad. This will be a short trip, a short camp, and only 90-plus minutes of playing time to go around. I’d be highly surprised if Bob Bradley’s crew numbered more than 18.
Expect not to see a lot of the veterans of those Euro leagues. Two players I don’t see making the trip are Steve Cherundolo whose Hannover ’96 team got flat-out worked by Borussia Dortmund this past weekend, and Carlos Bocanegra, out of the St. Etienne line-up with a ding. Jermaine Jones, just back from an injury, probably doesn’t make this one either.
Finally, I think you’ll see a big contingent of MLS players not involved in the playoffs. Good chance to watch a few players who’ve had a few weeks off, but haven’t completely lost their fitness, like a Justin Braun or a Kevin Alston.
HOWEVER, if this were a legitimate camp, below here would be some legitimate thoughts.
• Shall we call him Roberto Bradley?
For those castigating Bob Bradley over trotting out a three man midfield of Jermaine Jones, Maurice Edu and Michael Bradley, take a hop across to the Premiership lilypad and check out Roberto Mancini’s preferred midfield for Manchester City.
That one would consist of Nigel “Hits From The” DeJong, Gareth Barry, and galloping Yaya Toure. A very analogous midfield there.
City plays a 4-3-3 with a front three of Carlos Tevez, David Silva and James Milner (in the Craig Bellamy role)…
…and that’s the difference.
With City it’s often Carlos Tevez dropping deep for central carriage while Silva and Milner keep it extremely wide up top and open up linking and passing lanes.
While Bradley’s crew doesn’t have that firepower up top, it’s worthwhile for Bradley to employ the strategy another time if the three up front (likely Donovan, Dempsey and Altidore) can work space and build chemistry. Look for that front three at some point in the next year.
• On Jermaine Jones…and more of that crowded midfield
Damn, the US central midfield looks like a Japanese subway:
Unquestionable about Jermaine Jones’ presence on the field and on the ball for the States. Two things concern me though:
(1) Developing a playmaker with a history of injuries.
Jones was just shelved again for the next two matches for Schalke with ligament damage. Jones has played more than 20 games just twice in his seven year professional career and…
(2) Is the DNA a spot-on match?
I don’t think so. If you watch Jones play with Schalke he is highly effective as a complementary player and it’s where he is more dangerous latching onto a pass that gives him the opportunity to make a play (pass, shot, etc.).
We’ve only seen Jones in a few games so we’ll reserve judgment for now. Look, all we’re saying is he’s clearly class in the middle and the best the Yanks have at that playmaker role right now, but there are some questions still to answer before anteing up the throne.
That said, Stu Holden needs to get that chance in the midfield and perhaps it’s he sidled up next Maurice Edu. Holden has the playmaking capability, the speed and if you watch him at Bolton, is fast becoming a leader on the field in the middle for the Wanderers.
And…give Jones, who possesses an ability to create off his left foot, a shot at left back. Just saying… (No I don’t really mean this, but man the Yanks would go from having a hole at leftback to an “I’m not challenging that guy.”)
• About that forthcoming 4-3-3, outside backers?
One thing that I’m not a fan of is Bradley continuing to force Jonathan Spector at rightback.
While Spector has played strong there in the past, he’s suffering from a lack of confidence for seeing the 18 of all once for West Ham on the year.
Prediction: Spector is playing Championship ball come February of next year.
But the bigger issue is with a continued reliance on Carlos Bocanegra for the left back role–who won’t be playing there in 2014, and a pairing with Spector, the Yanks–friendly or no friendly–have two fullbacks that don’t get ahead in the offense. You just can’t have that.
Let’s get Lichaj in there and Franklin if the Galaxy get bounced (they didn’t, but had to mention my man), and heck let’s get Ponce as well. But–at the primal level–let’s just get some speed back there.
Oh–and look for soup-du-jour AJ De La Garza at leftback at a later date.
• Any player surprises?
Don’t think so. As we’ve commented a number of times, Bradley likes new players to get a good, stateside camp first, so a South African friendly that’s a quick hop-in, hop-out? Not usually the best time to bring someone in.
Exception perhaps? Maybe Mike Grella. The Leeds-to-Carlisle United striker will not have a January break. He appears to be in form as well.
Without brackets, a strong possibility…(with brackets, perhaps)
G: Brad Guzan, (Nick Rimando)
Skinnysizing: Tim Howard, Bob Bradley’s security blanket? He should be given a break; will he get it?
Brad Guzan goes.
DEF: Eric Lichaj, Chad Marshall, Jonathan Spector, Michael Parkhurst, (Clarence Goodson), Kevin Alson, DaMarcus Beasley, Tim Ream (thanks Joe)
Skinnysizing: Who’s playing leftback? Spector? Lichaj? or Alston?…or even DaMarcus?!
I had Clarence Goodson in here until his transfer. Oh wait, I still have him in there. Will he go? Probably.
MID: Benny Feilhaber, Ale Bedoya, Robbie Rogers, Geoff Cameron, Ricardo Clark, Kyle Beckerman, (Sacha Kljestan)
Skinnysizing: Benny anchors the midfield…hey wait–this vaguely looks like last January’s “Camp Cupcake” line-up. Does Kljestan take a break from his club-team roller coaster?
STR: Jozy Altidore, Justin Braun, Eddie Johnson
Skinnysizing: Braun gets his cap?