John Nyen is a frequent contributor at TSG.
He’s a USMNT fan as well as a Liverpool fan…and still proud.
Ah, I can see the corrugated etching on the Ballon d’Or award.
The White Whale, the Golden Idol, the Impossible Dream….. this is something that all fans of the US Mens National Team think about, a forward with the talent of Messi or Ronaldo who is American and plays for the USA. He would take passes from Holden, Bradley or “Germany” Jones and skip around defenders leaving their mouths agape and flashing the ball into the side netting.
The world would explode at his talent, and we would win the World Cup.
Eventually he would be picked up by a major team such as a Real Madrid or Barcelona. This harbinger of the explosion of skill in the US would galvanize youths with his breathtaking ability and financial windfall. When Juan Agudelo scored in his first friendly for the US at the age of 17, you could hear the pen clicks of a thousand sports writers as they salivated at the upcoming wunderkind.
Except we are all wrong.
In the eulogy for the US team in South Africa the common sports writer often bemoaned (and beat the drum) that no US forward scored. They wailed that if we wanted to be a proper team we needed to have a proper Center Forward, someone who could take the ball from the mids and put it in the back of the net. Some of the more bucolic suggested that we have an American Idol competition to attempt to find our new “talented” forward. Nevermind the fact that American Idol can’t even find good and decent music, much less someone who can take on Maicon and win.
The facts and statistics for this World Cup do not back these theories up.
When we look at the information it becomes clear…. fans of the Yanks should be praying for Full Backs and Center Backs.
We should be looking for the next Pique and Maicon, not Messi. While it would be great to have impetus at the front end the fact is that the US struggles because our defense is not as good. The team is often mislabeled as “hard working” which is really just a euphemism for “lack of talent but cohesion as a team”. However, when it comes down to it, the defense is the thing to trigger wins. It doesn’t help if we score 5 goals but let 5 in.
The top 5 scoring teams in the World Cup were:
None of whom won the world cup.
Now the argument can be made that the Netherlands came close, after all they were in the Final. However the Dutch attack resorted to playing dirty and ugly music in order to attempt to break up Spain’s possession game. Just like Argentina and Germany they couldn’t score when it mattered.
Now where do the World Champions fit in this group?
Out of all the teams that played 7 games in the World Cup, Spain had the lowest Goals Allowed with 2. TWO, the entire tournament they let in TWO goals.
Not to mention that of the two Goals that Spain let in, none of them were conceded from inside the penalty area. They were both shots from outside.
ALSO, not to mention that out of the 4 teams that played 7 games Spain had the lowest Goals For record scoring 8.
8 in 7 games.
The USA in three games less (4 played) let in 5. We conceded 3 from inside the Penalty Area and 2 from outside the area. Now the person who calls for the forward who can score would say “if we scored more then we could let in those goals and still win”. However this strategy did not work for Germany or Argentina. Basically Spain had the same Goals For ratio that the US did, except that they only let in Two. If the USA had a healthy and competent back line we wouldn’t have let in the goals that doomed us against Ghana.
The fact is that the USA did just fine at scoring goals in the World Cup, and do just fine in general at it. They aren’t spectacular akin to Germany or Argentina; however the US was 11th in the World cup in Goals For. Now this doesn’t sound great unless you consider that we only played 4 games. The teams that were above us who played four and scored more were Portugal (who drubbed North Korea and are an outlier) and the Korea Republic (who had some defensive problems of their own).
Ghana (who painfully AGAIN took the US out of the tournament) actually managed to give up less goals than the US despite playing (and giving up 1 goal) 1 more game.
It is also worth noting that England only gave up one goal in the entire group stages, the Green/Dempsey howler. The flip side of this is that with Wayne Rooney and company they only managed to score 2 goals. If we scored 5 in 4 and only gave up 1, the USA would have continued on past Ghana at the very least.
Here is another doozy. The USA was never shut out. They scored one goal in every single one of their games. Sometimes they even scored goals that seemingly didn’t go in. Even Argentina, Spain and Germany were shut out in one game.
So this folks is why you should be giddy and excited for Tim Ream in camp. We should all be checking on Gooch’s status and where he will be playing in the future.
Clarence Goodsen, Marvel Wynne, and Heath Pierce may not be the answer but they should be developed simply because we need more bodies. Lichaj is a more exciting prospect at this point than Agudelo. This is why we need to find a left back or develop Mr. Honduras’ skill. The future is a strong back 4, who can protect the keeper and not let in the early goal, a group who are switched on, aggressive, monstrous and skillful. While it is true that I would like to see a forward that can score and put the ball in the net, it doesn’t help if we lose those games because we let two in at the other end.
It should be noted that I am not calling for a defensive game plan, actually quite the opposite. Our team would thrive and flourish if the mids didn’t have to protect the back four as much. It would allow our team to attack more and be confident in taking chances if they knew that at the other end we had the protection that we need. If you are constantly back tracking in the midfield to protect a weak spot then it becomes very difficult to get forward and trigger the offense.
So, onward Lichaj, Goodsen, Ream, Onyewu, Bornstein, Cherundolo, and all.. because the way and light will be won through defense and then exploited through Holden, Donovan, Bradley, Dempsey, and Altidore.