Tag team game review here by TSG’s “Tuesday” and Editor-in-moniker only Matthew.
We start with Tuesday and I’ll follow up with bullets and ratings
The kids were allowed to stay up late on Saturday night.
It was a chance for USMNT fans to see what lies beneath their current first 11, what talents might lurk in a group that has just a handful more caps than it has contenders for starting spots. It was our first glimpse of what the future might look like, who might be reaching their peak in Brazil and even Russia. At times last night I found myself thinking I was watching high school soccer, with neither team intent on keeping the ball for very long, instead looking to win it, get it quickly forward and pressure when possession was lost. But upon second viewing, I realized it wasn’t as bad as all that. Both sides had a youthful look, lacking top players from the World Cup, and that was evident in the flow and tempo of the match.
Chile presented an interesting challenge for Bob Bradley’s young group, lining up in a somewhat unusual 3-3-1-3 formation. Bradley sent his players out in the 4-2-3-1 with which he’s started to find some success and, by extension, increased faith. One of the weaknesses of this formation tends to be that it can become narrow in the final third without the threat of fullbacks overlapping. While Loyd got up and down the flank on the left (where the USA enjoyed most of it’s attacking success) on the right Franklin tended to stay home. This meant Bedoya was often found drifting centrally to try to find the game, leaving Chile to defend narrowly with their 2 fluid banks of three. At any time Bielsa’s side can form a back four or five with the wing backs, Meneces and Mena dropping back or the holding player, Silva dropping in when one of the 3 center backs was pulled out wide.
Chile and the USA both took similar approaches into the match, despite differing tactical line-ups. Both sides like to pressure the ball high up the pitch after loosing possession, with the USA tending to rely on the athleticism of its back four while their opponent rely on covering runs among it’s back 6 players. The result was some helter-skelter football as neither side were allowed time to settle in possession. This also mean that the USA was rarely pressed back into a defensive shape – which only rarely resembled a 4-5-1 some fans fear in the defensive third and usually was something more akin to the two banks of four which we’re accustomed to.
In attack, Diskerud frequently found higher up the pitch than Wondoloski. This was something of a problem for the US attack at times, with their central striker drifting deep and wide allowing Chile were able to maintain a high defensive line without the threat of the USA getting in behind. The US started the game intending to play the ball quickly with one and two touches but often seemed instead to lack composure when on the ball. They were defensively shaky in the opening minutes, with Franklin nearly conceded a penalty in the opening moments as he was caught out on the wrong side of Puch as he cut into the box.
Soon the US attack began to find some success – with the second 10 minutes being the brightest spell of the first half. Their problems were evident, however, in that most of their chances came from outside the box – McCarty’s fine strike from 35 yards in the 12th minute that was tipped over the bar by Garces and a minute later with Wondo’s clever turn across his defender when Shea found him after good work up the flank by McCarty. Chile soon adjusted and were able to condense the space on that flank without the US taking advantage of the real estate then available on the right.
After 30 minutes of play, the pace slackened and neither team were able to create many chances. While Chile were still getting the ball quickly forward, they lacked the final ball and the US defense seemed equal to the task. The USA did a good job managing possession of the ball in their own half of the field but struggled to find penetrative passes out of the back to create chances in the final 15 minutes of the first half. The US was admirably fluid in attack throughout the match but too often all four attacking players were found lining up across the Chilean back line in the center of the park, too far from the deeper midfield pair to have the needed support. Perhaps the US were trying to leverage their height advantage in aerial challenges, but they made it easy for Chile to sweep up any second balls instead. Chile’s fluid defensive system dealt well with a 4-2-4 look that might have troubled another side.
All and all, it was a good team showing from Bob Bradley’s young team, with no player performing truly poorly. Though no one player really stood out either. For me Dax McCarty was the best player of the first half, though he was occasionally sloppy with the ball.
At halftime Bradley decided to experiment, bring on Marvell Wynne at center back in place of Gonzalez. It was not a success. Wynne was involved in nearly every chance Chile were to fashion in the second half. The converted fullback was significantly culpable for Chile’s goal. Despite excellent interplay on the right flank between Seymour and Meneces which beat three US players with a quick 1-2, Loyd’s recovering run was good and the cross should have been dealt with easily. Had Wynne been aware of where danger lurked, in the form of Parades, rather than watching the ball, he would not have been pulled so far out towards the flank as to leave space and time for the Chilean number 9 to take down the ball and finish acrobatically to atone for an imperfect first touch.
The US soon began to create chances to equalize, with Bedoya staying wider in the second half before making central runs later in the development of US attacks. Franklin also began to come into the game a little more. With Aguedelo and Bunbury coming on for Shea and Wondolowski after 60 minutes, I expected the USA to revert to their more standard 4-4-2, but that never really happened. Both the substitutes drifted around to receive the ball with both Diskerud and Bedoya running into the spaces beyond them. Bedoya nearly fashioned the equalizer with a slashing diagonal run into the box and a good touch past two Chilean defenders before being spoiled by the goalkeeper, but he was unable to pounce on a tantalizing rebound when Garces spilt the ball.
Bedoya was also involved in the play which led to the penalty and US equalizer from Bunbury. Ream found McCarthy with the sort of penetrative pass along the ground that the US too often lack. Dax laid the ball off to Aguedelo, who played a quick 1-2 off Bedoya and found himself running at players on the edge of the box. With a clever touch, the youngster played the ball by Silva, but the defender–his hands already aloft protesting his innocence–clipped Aguedelo’s foot on his way by and the referee blew for a penalty. Bunbury made no mistake with his finish, or with the dance-steps celebrating his first international goal, joined by the player that had earned the spot-kick.
While the US searched for a possible winner, Chile fashioned a couple more good chances through their best player of the half, Marvell Wynne. The MLS cup-winner’s defending was erratic. That his physique is not quite that of the typical footballer was only highlighted by his lack the mentality and awareness required of defenders well at the international level. He looked comically out of place at times. Hopefully, it’s another case of Bob Bradley giving a player that’s not quite cut out for the international level one last chance to prove himself. If it’s not, we can only ask, Wynne will Bob Bradley learn?
Observations and Ratings
• You’re likely to see, at most, 4 of the Yanks on the field last night make a true dent in their “this game matters” USMNT cap count. In that group, I’d put Tim Ream, Teal Bunbury, Juan Agudelo and maybe Mix Diskerud. The tier right after them–meaning a Gold Cup call-in is certainly possible: Ale Bedoya, Brek Shea, Omar Gonzalez, Sean Franklin and Dax McCarty.
• Decidedly split reviews on Dax McCarty last night. It an enormous task to control the offense and initiate the linking and attack against a game played at that speed. I think Dax acquitted himself well last night. His defense was challenged initially and I think he learned what he needed to do as the game wore on. Rating: 6
• Can Mix Diskerud take the next step? Certainly pleased to see the big attacker employed in the point forward role. His on-ball control was excellent, carefully (at most times) selecting the appropriate one-touch, two-touch or just playing keep away. The question will be (and I think you’ll see Mix in Egypt) is can he be a true “threat” in the attack? Can he himself scare the defense to draw defenders, to open the pass? Rating: 5.5
• I had a fun time watching Zach Lloyd’s maturation last night. One thing any keeper loves is a defender who stands up their attacker. Lloyd was certainly too aggressive in this regard early in the game and at one point paid with a yellow card, but the entire night he was the only US defender who, on an island, stood up their attacker. Both Gonzalez and Franklin failed to close down a number of times. Lloyd consistently did. Rating: 5
I’ll find the quote, but Bob Bradley confirmed he saw the same thing in the presser. I think Lloyd might have a lower ceiling than any USMNT fan pining for a leftback would like, but if you’re an FC Dallas fan, you have a fine MLS defender on your hands.
• Brek Shea, all the attributes of a solid national teamer to develop, except
speed explosiveness rather….and that will probably limit his time going forward. Had a better game than against Colombia. In fact Bob Bradley commented as well that Shea came off the field in that Colombia game and told him, “he had never played at that speed before.”
If Coach Sweats insists on using Shea on the flank, I think it’ll be difficult for him. Gareth Bale Lite as some suggest, he is not. Rating: 5
• Beyond an Alejandro Bedoya and Lloyd run, the US off-ball movement of the Yanks in the 1st stanza left much to be desired. I don’t necessarily blame the players here as I think they were executing a game plan.
• As for our good friend Sean Franklin, regrouped after some early gaffes–he admitted in the mixed zone that he clipped the Chilean attacker on the near-penalty in the early going. Franklin will be need to improve his on-ball defending for consideration going forward. Rating: 4.5
• Ale Bedoya saw little of the ball on the evening. It would be incorrect to try and give him a grade. Probably should have finished one or two of his attacks on defenders. No player fed or feeds of the crowd as much as Bedoya Rating: Inc.
• KC fans will like this comment. There is no question that Teal Bunbury’s training time with both Generation Adidas and in Stoke shows. He was patient in possession and he was confident in possession–on one play in the 2nd half virtually rainbowing the ball to himself down the flank. Bunbury rating: 6.5 … Which brings me too….
• Marvelous Wynne is running out of lives unfortunately. A shocker last January on the right wing, Wynne moved centrally and has the physique and pace for the game, but just seems that his learning curve will likely not come up as quickly as those physical skills start to train. Good in one-on-one play. Rating: 3
• When was the last time you saw *two US strikers displaying flair in possession in the same game? Maybe Charlie Davies and Jozy Altidore, but Altidore often plays muted.
• Caught up with Juan Agudelo in the mixed zone afterward, first thing you notice…he’s a pretty big dude. I think he has to go 6’0” and he’s fairly solid. On the pitch, he had phenomenal ball control and earning possession, especially when coming back to the play. Rating: 6.5
• And if you’re a New York Red Bull fan, you also got the performance of Tim Ream. A global point here…no player will be sharp without getting in a rhythm will continuous games. Time Ream was about as sharp as you could be. Chile often didn’t go at him and his distribution up the field on nearly all occasions was sublime. Rating: 7
Nick Rimando: Failed to command his box, but no mistakes Rating: 4.5
As for P Diddy (Sean Johnson) : The goal was not his fault other than that extremely calm in the cage. Looking forward to more observations there. Rating: 5
Omar Gonzalez: If not for his slow feet, last night’s pairing might have shown two potential starters. Rating: 5
Chris Wondolowski: Just doesn’t have the speed at the international level. Will be called in occasionally at best. Rating: 4.0
Jeff Larentowicz: Disappointed on the evening, less so on defense, more so in possession. Uncomfortable with the ball at his feet Rating: 3.5
Anthony Wallace & Eric Alexander: Inc.
Answering readers comments and questions…
• Is Marvell Wynne really that bad?
Answer: Depends if he is playing at the national level or club level. The reality is Wynne is very much like…like…Shawn Kemp. Kemp was phenomenal for the Seattle SuperSonics in his early years, but once injuries slowed his athletic ability and he couldn’t out-leap, out-quick players, he had nothing to fall back on.
Wynne can do well in Colorado for a few reasons: 1) He has a simple rule. He’s the “tracker” guy. See guy…follow.
and 2) He’s got such great defensive presence around him. In front he’s got Pablo and Larentowicz and next to him Drew Moor.
Put him on the national level and think about this way…he can hold his own…but don’t you want a centerback who excels and is not always thisclose from giving up an opportunity?
• And the follow-up: Who’s fault was the goal?
The short is obviously it’s a group-thing.
The long? Breakdowns happen all the time. A good defense has a central core that cleans up messes. The outside fullback role is on the hardest to play–it’s reasonable to assume even the good ones: Alex Cole, Maicon, Lahm, etc are going to get beat from time-to-time.
LLoyd got beat on the left on an excellent offensive attack.
Tim Ream perhaps could have made a move. Reality, that’s not his responsibility. Not his fault.
Wynne, probably the most culpable. The attacker was his responsibility and he drifted. Ream picks up if the ball is driven around the corner.
Crosses and “beats” happen all the time; Wynne erred.