Let’s start off Monday with TSG’s favorite, beaten-to-death reminder before we launch into our commentary here.
“You can’t look at solitary observations in isolation. You need to review the entire body of work.”
Nothing this weekend in MLS really means anything. For nearly all teams it will be their first game under their belt and whether it be playing on the road (or home), getting their true sea legs under them or merely going up against real competition and hits for the 1st time, it’s unfair to suggest that anything this weekend is 100% indicative of the coming season.
With the USMNT though that’s not the case. We’ll get to our MLS observations in a minute:
• #23 plays like a #9, but hits #10.
If there ever was an unorthodox player like Clint Dempsey who just “makes things happen.” He’s not a winger, not a true forward, and not a true striker.
Is there a comp for him? You bet there is. How about Dennis Bergkamp. Everytime I see Deuce play it reminds me of how the Ajax-Arsenal great would just pop up in places where he could get the ball in the dangerous situation. And then he’d either finish or play someone in.
Deuce is doing that now. Neil Blackmon over at The Yanks Are Coming, pointed out this morning that the Deuce of two years ago doesn’t score the goal he did this weekend, down two, on the road and right after the half (where Dempsey’s focus always seemed to wane in the past–actually it’s statistically proven.)
Oh, and that goal? The most for American, 10, in a Premiership campaign.
Astounding more so in that it’s coming in a season for Fulham where their 2nd best weapon to Deuce is Damien Duff. Not Damien Duff circa 2004, 32-year-old Damien Duff.
• No Disco for Stu Holden
Poorly timed injuries seem to be wreaking havoc on Stu Holden’s career. And the injuries always seem to come at key inflection points. There was Stu’s trial at Sunderland which was unceremoniously cut short by a fractured eye socket courtesy of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Just this past year, there was a “Hi-how-are-you” from Nigel DeJong on Stu’s shin. World Cup squad still made; impact, minimized.
Not just as Stu looked like we would complete one of the best campaigns every by an American midfielder in the Premiership, Jonny Evans got negligent with the studs and Stu will have knee surgery today for an as-yet unclassified knee injury.
For Stu’s sake, let’s hope it’s cartilage, a decidedly more forgiving injury for knee agility than a ligament.
Note: On the tackle, it was reckless, but not malicious.
• How’s That Midfield Go Now? And against Argentina?
Will be very interesting now for Coach Sweats how his midfield morphs?
We’ll do this again later this week, but let’s get it started now anyway.
Here’s your problem with Game 1 against Argentina. In Batista’s men, you have a squad that employs a 4-3-3, but it really plays more like a 4-2-4.
Messi pulls the strings (if Messi is absent the role will likely fall to Pastore) with two “strikers” in front of him. As part of the second band of three, Angel Di Maria is often found wandering foward on the wing–so he joins with Messi and said strikers.
The second band is make up of Javier Mascherano and Esteban Cambiasso stay home as holders. Elder, but still fleet, right fullback Javier Zanetti ocassionally will venture forward on the flank providing a fifth player in the attacking third for Argentina.
So the formation looks like this.
To counter it the US will easily keep a band of two holders. Using the striker selection as my lone datapoint, I assume the Yanks will go 4-2-3-1 (I can’t see Buddle and Altidore playing together or Agudelo starting yet, but stranger things have happened.)
Assuming that’s the case, here’s how the US defense could be set up. I go with the defensive formation as this has proven to be Bradley’s mindset of “protect-and-defend-before-offend.”
While I think the actors on the diagram will likely be in different roles; the basic set-up ppt’ed should remaind the same.
You’ll have Landon on the right looking to get behind DiMaria (with unfortunately no Cherundolo galloping forward). You’ll have one of two different midfielders on the left in Benny or Jermaine Jones. They will be designed to stop the service to Messi, help out centrally and come centrally on a turnover to provide linking through the midfield.
We’ll stop there for the day and get the thoughts going on Saturday.
On to MLS….
• Erik Friberg. That’s a lot responsibility straight away?
Sounders coach Sigi Schmidt has been talking ad nauseum about this year being a critical year for the Sounders who by many estimations underwhelmed the past two seasons.
First, let’s make this claim. The Sounders attack is broken. It’s not an institutional offense. As Fredy Montero–and to a much lesser extent Steve Zakuani–go, so go the Sounders. Speed guys like Mike Fucito, post-up guys like Obrian White and the now-Seattle-departed Blaise Nkufo (who was killing that team’s offense mind you) can’t seem to integrate.
Zakuani can’t do much when he’s not 1-vs-1 in space and Montero shows an amazingly lack of drive if he’s asked to do hold-up work. Drive isn’t the word; ambivalence is.
That’ll make distribution from the midfield, vital to Seattle’s forwards getting chances. And that role has falled to Friberg.
Friberg didn’t look overmatched in Seattle’s First Kick loss to the Galaxy but he also didn’t look sharp.
“He’s a simple but effective player,” Schmid said over his Swedish midfielder. “There’s not a lot of complications to his game, which is good because we have guys that take a little more time on the ball like (Steve) Zakuani and (Fredy) Montero. He can keep the ball moving. He has good vision for the forward pass. “
The Sounders are now 0-2. Like we said, just two observations here, but something to keep observing.
Juninho, two goals, two games. Again, two observations.
Let’s remind Los Angeles Galaxy fans that they saw this same thing last year with Michael Stephens. I did a little search of the TSG commentary and the name “Stephens” and “USMNT call-in” wafted through multiple times.
Why this year may be different is that the weapons of David Beckham and Landon Donovan force the other team to pay attention externally, opening up the middle of the field a little more here in 2011. And now Juninho is taking advantage.
Can he–unlike a very green Michael Stephens–keep it going for the bulk of the games and until teams adjust? (At which point, Bruce Arena will be tasked to have a better answer than last year.)
• CD United
A gallant return for Charlie Davies with two goals in his game back in action. Heard a little “Cap him” undercurrent dribbling through the Twitter wires and other places this year.
That’s not going to happen and shouldn’t…yet.
If you’re Charlie Davies, you have two things you need to prove to Bob Bradley in your on-field resume. One, you have game-breaking speed. That is team’s either play off you or they are consistently burned by you.
And second–going hand-in-hand with the first–does your game make an impact? Whether it’s running with the ball or off the ball, does Charlie force other teams to adjust and account for him.
If you’re a DC United fan watch the defense against Davies next time he takes the field. To they respect him or are they willing to challenge what he’ll do.
Until such time that those criteria are met, and met in repetition (which could come before the Gold Cup squad is decided, after it, or never) then it’s unlikely you’ll see Davies–yet–in the Nike Grey, White & Blue.
And…says TSG friend Chris Riedy on DC United: “I’m just about ready to anoint Ben Olsen the next USMNT coach. He’s got the Mourinho-style trenchcoat down to go with the pacing up and down the sideline and first game, a good performance plus the result.”