Been meaning to do an addendum post like this for awhile during games.
We often get the request here at TSG that asks, “What would we do for team set-up and strategy for a US game.” That is, don’t project what Bob Bradley would do–we did that in our official preview–but what we do if we were in Bob’s….sweats.
That didn’t come out right.
Today we introduce “Playing Mourinho.” If you guys like the segment, let me know and we’ll try to get it going more frequently.
Let’s give it a whirl:
Our objective: Put on a qualitative performance against Argentina at the Meadowlands, but not at the risk of developing for the future.
It terms of the Gold Cup, we’ve already got enough talent to beat everyone and be 50-50 with Mexico in that final game at the Rose Bowl. I’m less concerned with Gold Cup preparation than I should be perhaps.
If we saw anything with “last” cycle with Bob Bradley it’s that his positive penchant for bringing in a lot of players (I believe three times more during the cycle than his predecessor Bruce Arena) also had the negative impact of not allowing the team to gel.
No fault of his own mind you–when you’re working with the likes of Robbie Findley and Eddie Johnson, it’s understandable.
Our strategy: Argentina plays a nasty 4-2-4. There front four players in Lavezzi, Pastore, the unparalleled Lionel Messi and Di Maria are all dangerous with the ball and sharp moving off of it.
Whereas Batista’s predecessor, Maradona, made some glaring miscalculations in the midfield and the backline, Batista’s Argentina team is exceedingly more complete.
Whereas Maradona left Javier Mascherano to fend as the lone holder (who himself would watch Maxi Rodriguez and Angel DiMaria be more focused on the attack), Batista has rightfully employed both Mascherano and midfield big stick man Esteban Cambiasso in the middle (and occassionally sacrificed Pastore for Ever Banega to another box-to-boxer).
In the back Batista has balanced a defensive side that saw centerbackers like Otamendi on the outside with the still savvy Zanetti and the emerging Roja–Zanetti is a pleasure to watch defensively whereas Roja plays defense by merely being more athletic and younger than anyone else.
Argentina will try to have Messi as their attack iniator with a trailing Pastore to switch the point of attack and/or play in Lavezzi and DiMaria.
Given the forward and off-ball movements of the four it will be very difficult for the US–I mean our–backline to get wide or get out on the attack. Especially on the left flank where Javier Zanetti loves to play Steve Cherundolo and race endline to endline.
So I’m just going to forget about that left flank, completely. I’m going to plop Bocanegra there and tell him I don’t care if there is a free ball up the field and you can make a cross or take a shot. Stay at home because I know you’re 32 in a few months.
I put Tim Ream inside of him. He’s a natural lefty and sadly (or happily enough), he’s got the best distribution skills of the lot of centerbacks.
Jay DeMerit and Eric Lichaj complete the back four. I just haven’t seen Chandler enough and I watched Lichaj at least tie up Bale once.
DeMerit trumps Oguchi Onyewu because of his agility and man-tracking. Crosses out wide (the few there may be) may be played more on the floor than in the air. I’m comfy with DeMerit, Ream and goalie Tim Howard in taking care of them. Lichaj has a cautious license to go forward I might add.
Ahead of the back four, I complete my 4-4-2.
Here’s the thing. I don’t think Jermaine Jones should be the primary creator. From what I’ve seen of him in that role, I think he forces it a bit much. I want to alleviate that responsibility from him.
That said, I need calmness and distribution on the ball. And that’s why I drop Edu. Edu is still challenged in possession from time-to-time and one ill-timed turnover and the US may get caught out. Like it or not about Junior Bradley who likes to spray hospital balls up the pitch from time to time, he rarely makes a mistake in possession in the defensive third. This of course would have been my ideal role for discoing Stu Holden.
I’m going to use the savvy Jermaine Jones as the primary tackler on Messi on the left and I’m going to push Bradley up. As much as TSG is a fan of Pastore, the youngster can get rattled when it’s a physical game. There you go Junior. Have at him.
I do go 4-4-2 but it looks more like an unbalanced 4-2-2-2. I’ve got Donovan countering behind DiMaria with Juan Agudelo ahead stretching the defense. Once that space clears Dempsey can go to work if we can beat Mascherano to an open line to the goal.
I’m going to use Jozy Altidore in multiple ways. We can either sweep almost horizontally across the formation and provide a target option. I choose Jozy instead of Buddle here because I can also have Jozy go out wide with a little Carragher-esque move around Ottamendi or whoever follows him around out there.
Remember Jozy’s playing wing now and frankly he looks his best when steamtraining around the corner somewhere. Additionally, I’ve seen him look best on that left side.
As you guessed I’m playing on the counter, but a key note here is I play quick and not defensive. Let’s let Lichaj especially fend for himself so Donovan isn’t drawn back to help him. I can’t respect *both Messi and DiMaria that sets the wrong tone for the team.
Similarly with Jones keeping tabs on Messi I try to keep Dempsey as high as possible as well.
Should my 4-4-2 fail…meaning I can ping it quickly through Junior and Jones to Donovan and Dempsey, then I’m going to insert Benny Feilhaber and sacrifice Jozy at the 46th minute, not the 60th minute.
I am willing to take a gamble from what I saw of him in the Chile game that Agudelo can play hold up ball if called upon through the air.
And that’s what I got.
Everybody hold on!