Archive for January, 2011

Game Review: USA 1, Chile 1, Bunbury 1

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

Review

Bunbury....bang!

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.

Disk mixing it up with the ball....

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.

Gonzo, an okay first half...

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

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Game Commentary: USA vs. Chile

Halftime thoughts:

McCarty's got the armband this eve...

Mix Diskerud clearly the best Yank on the evening. Great ball control save one play. Consistently opening up run for others.

The States need more off the ball movement for certain. Too many times a player had a single option.

Zach Lloyd played nearly too aggressive for the first 20 minutes, but he stood up every attacker and his confidence grew. Was fun to watch him on the flank from the press box.

Dax had a little bit of a tough time adjusting to the pace, once he settled down you could see why he was this camp’s Benny Feilhaber.

Sean Franklin thankfully had the speed of recovery twice on getting juked, a ho-hum half for TSG’s man.

Wondolowski, very tough ask from Bob Bradley this evening, and he just doesn’t have the speed to do it.

——-

Game time:

Checking in now as Nick Rimando and Sean Johnson start warming up.

Sean Franklin: Starting in his club stadium....so proud...

You’re starting line-up…sorry we’re late:

GK: Nick Rimando

DEF: Zach Lloyd, Omar Gonzalez, Tim Ream, Sean Franklin

D MID: GINGER NATION (Dax, Larentowicz)

MID: Brek Shea, Mix Diskerud, Ale Bedoya

STR: Chris Wondolowski

Bench: GK Sean Johnson; Ds A.J. DeLaGarza, Anthony Wallace, Marvell Wynne; MF Eric Alexander; F Juan Agudelo, Teal Bunbury

Bobby B goes with speed on the flanks in Franklin and Lloyd anticipation of Chile’s chaotic come-at-you offense.

Chris Wondolowski up top as Teal Bunbury and Juan Agudelo deputize. This is big for Wondo and Coach Sweats likely sat Bunbury (age: 20) and Agudelo (18) out of sheer youth. Don’t want to damage the youngsters and put to much pressure on them the first time out in front of a home crowd.

Orange Slices: USA vs. Chile

Orange Slices! USA vs. Chile

Orange Slices is our game day, catch-all post that we update throughout the day and also serves as the place for you to drop comments like, “I can’t believe Bob Bradley started five centerbacks….what was he thinking?”.
We go a little earlier this week due to travel down to HDC tomorrow.
———

Bob Bradley’s January campers round our their Southern California training camp this Saturday as the United States faces World Cup group stage advancer Chile.

Chile will be commandeered by Marcelo Bielsa–who is now back, at least temporarily to take the reins of a team that hardly resembles the one that dazzled in spurts in South Africa.

The Home Depot Center hosts the contest and kickoff is scheduled for 7pm local time.

Broadcast:

TV: Telefutura; Internet: ESPN3.com

For TSG’s full preview see: Preview: USMNT in HDC, Just Chile-Axing?

Other good previews:

Carlisle: Opportunity Knocks For Young Players

Otherwise known as "The Ambassador to Brazil" around TSG, temporary nickname? "Old Man Winter"

• Particulars: 23 bug-juice drinking campers left.

The U.S. will dress 18 players with a maximum of six substitutions and the Yanks will wear their white-on-white-on-Nike grey unis.

(So we get to see those phenomenal red Chilean unis I suppose)

• Weather: Carson conditions call for 72 and sunny for the day, with it being in the mid 60’s around game time. Pristine conditions for the US to score with a Teal Bunbury header in the 31st minute. Just saying.

• Surf: If you’re hitting the beach because you’re in from, say, Omaha or Lincoln, wander down the north end of Manhattan Beach. There you’ll find a rock jetty with peelers on either side. Pay no mind that the rock jetty was created to a cover a “sh*tpipe”–it’s still good surf and other stuff will kill you first.

• From the Archives: September 2010: 5 To Confront for Sweats II: The five issues that Bob Bradley must confront as he steams the boat to World Cup 2014.

• It’s Not Just Happening in Carson:  A plethora of Yanks working abroad this weekend. Some at new companies. Jermaine Jones likely to make his debut with Blackburn at Elwood Road against…..Robbie Findley tries to “steal” a goal with Nottingham Forest as they face of against Conor Doyle’s Derby. Finally, Eric Lichaj likely won’t have a chance to make up for his gaffes as Manchester City clashes with Villa.

And on Monday, Stu Holden, Chelsea…should be a good one there.

And Edson Buddle has just scored in his debut for FC Ingolstadt Humperdink in Bavarian country.

• Straight from the press release:

» Average caps per player: 1.1 (that’s great)

» A total of six players will be age eligible for the 2012 Olympic Games in London: Juan Agudelo, Teal Bunbury, Mikkel Diskerud, Sean Johnson, Brek Shea and Anthony Wallace.

Preview squad revision:

I still see the Yanks starting in a 4-2-3-1 as I wrote in the preview, but from everyone that’s actually been at camp the general consensus is Jeff Larentowicz to start as oppose to Sam Cronin.

So to review, TSG guest-o-meter comes up with: G: Nick Rimando; DEF: Anthony Wallace, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, Marvell Wynne,  DM: Dax, Larentowicz MID: (The tall trees:) Brek Shea, Mix Diskerrud, Alejandro Bedoya, UP TOP: Teal Bunbury.

Bench guess: Dominic Cervi, Sean Franklin, Ryan Miller, Eric Alexander, Eugene Starikov, Juan Agudelo, Chris Wondolowski

In The Stands Guess: Sean Johnson, Matt Pickens, Zach Lloyd, AJ De La Garza, Sam Cronin, quad strain

Guessing non-MLSers might make the bench…will be tough(er) for BB to Miller and Starikov in action rather than a AJ De La Garza

And many more links, bits of info coming….

The Crew’s Justin Meram: Back-Up Plan

Via TSG writer Jason Price….Columbus hopes for a better version, I imagine, than Devin Barclay

Op-Ed: Pass The Damn Ball!

The USMNT need more players like Holden. Players who are comfortable and safe with the ball.

Guest contributor John Nyen, wrote an interesting piece that TSG published on why one should be more excited about Tim Ream and Eric Lichaj versus Juan Agudelo and Teal Bunbury.

He maintained that the USMNT needed to shore up their defense in order for them to win more games. Though the US scored 5 goals, they also let in 5 and ultimately went home, earlier then expected.

Where as I do agree that the best form of offense is defense, I think the number one problem for the USMNT is not offense or defense, age or youth or formations. It’s the ability to complete a pass on a consistent basis.

If one looks at passing stats from the past World Cup, the USMNT ranks second lowest in passes completed out of the teams that made it into the group stage (1175) and out of the 32 teams, ranked 26th in percentage of pass’s completed at 67%.

Basically a third of the passes made by the USMNT went astray or were intercepted. They did have a better percentage with their shorter and medium length passes at 72% and 73% respectively, but that didn’t put them in the top of half of the teams that went to South Africa.

Ball possession is one of those overblown stats. We’ve all seen many matches, when the team who had the majority of ball, leaves the pitch as losers (Spain against both the US and Switzerland come to mind). There is a difference though between not possessing the ball, but playing good bend not break defense and losing the ball when in possession a third of the time.

When you get caught in possession or gift the ball to an opponent with a bad pass, your team gets caught out of position. This enables the offense to take advantage of space and can attack more freely and create goals. Obvious huh! but it’s the reason the USMNT give up so many goals (first goal against Ghana for example). If it wasn’t for Howard, who saves the USMNT time and time again, there would be many more goals being let in.

Also, the majority of the USMNT’s goals, are scored on quick breakaways where only a few passes are required or long/longish balls in a route one style (Bradley’s goal against Slovenia). This method is effective as a counter punch, but the lack of consistent passing would explain why no US striker has scored in a World Cup in a long while.

The USMNT’s best passers of the ball are also their most dangerous players. Donovan and Dempsey and now Holden are comfortable on the ball and rarely give it away cheaply. Problem is their team mates do, so a goal in which the USMNT works the ball around for a minute or so, looking for a hole in their opponents defense is a rarity.

Still needs to work on his passing and distribution before he becomes an elite full back.

In my opinion, all US players, especially the ones going to the camp need to work on their ball control and passing. Even players playing in the EPL like Lichaj and Spector, give the ball away too easily and for a defender especially, that’s a cardinal sin.

If the USMNT can hold the ball up and pass it around with ease and accuracy (doesn’t have to be Tika Taka), their chances at the next World Cup dramatically improve, because one thing is certain. If their opponents don’t have the ball, they cannot score.

Pass completion….something I’ll be looking at this Saturday when the USMNT face off against Chile.

Associated from the archives:

• Paging Bob Bradley: Let’s Get Holden & Feilhaber More Run!

Red, White, and Sydney Leroux

Accomplished....already...

This is a guest interview by frequent contributor and USWNT expert Dan Wiersema.
The USWNT kicks off the Four Nations tournament Friday in Chongqing, China against Sweden
Check out Dan’s site and novel concept here: The Free Beer Movement

 

Think back to when you were just 20 years old.

What had you accomplished at such a young age?

Most of us we’re slogging through college, working, trying to make ends meet.

Were you also the Golden Boot winner at the U-20 Women’s World Cup? Were you also leading your college side deep into the NCAA playoffs? Were you off to such places as Chile and China to represent your country? Were you eagerly awaiting your first cap for the National Team? Did you have to balance a life of school, soccer, and dating a professional baseball player?

The answer is probably “no” for most of us, but for University of California at Los Angeles junior and U.S. Women’s National Team forward Sydney Leroux these are just daily deposits in a life already chock full of success.

Leroux was called into her second National Team camp this January and is now in China preparing for the USWNT’s participation (and possible her first cap) in the Four Nations Tournament. The speedy front-woman is regarded as one of the women’s program’s brightest prospects. She’s got the pace and finishes lethally as demonstrated by her five goals in the U-20 World Cup and her 30 goals in total in 36 matches for the youth team.

TSG got a chance to catch up with Leroux via the Gmailer as her hectic schedule created chaos around a phone time. Here’s our exchange below.

The Shin Guardian: You made a decision, at a very early age, that you wanted to play for the U.S. National Team. (Leroux was eligible to play for Canada).

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