TSG’s Official Match Review: USA 1, Argentina 1

You don’t have me fooled Bob Bradley. Got you pegged now.

Indivisible, but only in the 2nd half....

It was the tale of two halves for the States Saturday night–again–as the Yanks weathered a blitzkrieg of an attack from Argentina for the first forty-five minutes before revving up their own offensive engine to sneak in a goal on some free kick spillage.

The final tally? A 1-1 draw and insights galore. Oh where to start.

With the coach.

From the line-up selection through his tell-tale 2nd half “energy-insertion”, the playbook on Bob Bradley should not need a revision on your Kindle.

Against arguably more talented teams, Bradley prefers to deploy trusted veterans, bunker down, ride out a wave of attacks, and then make a halftime adjustment that accounts for the US’s liabilities, addresses the other team’s strengths and leaves the other team to morph on the fly in the 2nd half.

It’s a good old-fashioned rope-a-dope. It’s a heckuva a way to play. It gets results–rather, may get results–but I’m not sure it motivates the troops or hastens US program development.

Those last two (motivation and development) are obviously not in Bob Bradley’s job description and a debate for another time.

Should Bradley be commended for getting results that seem at best by poor design and at worst lucky? Start philosophizing.

Does it fatigue players to continually be instructed to be robotic and flawless on defense to the detriment of their offense? It’s not like this is Inter Milan 2010 with Mourinho at the helm, and the strategy only applies against one opponent for one or two games.

Let’s move on to the match.

The first half saw Bob Bradley trot out his tested veterans. The strategy was a sound one, nay a strong one, from the 2nd-term coach. Bradley compressed his front six and tried to make the transition space between his defensive third and the halfline, the battlefield.

It was a true 4-5-1. With Jozy pushing one way or the other, Bradley packed in three central midfielders–again–and kept Donovan and Dempsey even with this band of defenders.

The Clog Zone...

The goal: Clog.

Clog and force Argentina’s less-creative players (that’s all relative of course) in Javier Mascherano, Esteban Cambiasso, and Ever Banega to navigate their way to a scoring opportunity.

A smart strategy, however Argentina seemed to adjust well. The visitors went to work on the the Yanks’ right side of the body with Messi shading out to that flank and playing in DiMaria or vice versa.

The persistent rib cage battering finally found joy  for the visitors as an unmarked Esteban Cambiasso latched on to a rebound from yet another Messi-DiMaria combination, and hit paydirt. 1-0 Batista’s men.

The Yanks barely saw the ball in the 1st half, and the expression and play from their offensive players began to the show the effects before halftime.

Clint Dempsey, in particular, fatigued from the Yanks inability to create any attack and in a move that hearkened back to a certain Chicago Honduran qualifier; tried to backheel and split two Argentinian defenders in a risky spot in midfield.

Perhaps by design or by acknowledging the folly of his initial player selections, Bob Bradley returned Maurice Edu to his customary center midfield role while Jermaine Jones, who looked positively mundane during his minutes, was sacrificed for Juan Agudelo. Jonathan Spector, detrimental to the cohesion of the back four, gave way to Bundesliga product Timmy Chandler.

With the migration to a  4-2-2-2, Agudelo making smart and efficient runs, and Chandler calming the right flank siege, the States turned the tables on Argentina and began to show an offensive heartbeat in the second stanza.

Donovan and Dempsey were able to leak out on attack and Agudelo’s speed provided a lead-pass outlet. The midfield was balanced, and Edu and Bradley were able to exert some tackling on the Argentinian mids.

The Yanks controlled much of the run of play though the early part of the second stanza and the equalizer came on a set play. Landon service, to Bocanegra playing on, with Agudelo picking up the table scraps and toepoking home.

That would be the end of the scoring as the run-of-play see-sawed for the final twenty minutes. After two minutes of stoppage, Landon Donovan’s beckoning to the ref to blow the whistle was all the imagery needed to know the Yanks were happy to depart the Garden State with a draw.

Observations:

• A reprieve for the defense.

First, hard to fault the defense for the most part in the 1st half, though Tim Howard was forced in multiple saves.

Remember, while it may look like the backline is porous, there are not many international backlines that sit there and take as much pressure or abuse as they do. Yes distribution should have been better, but it’s not like the midfielders and forwards were holding up signs saying “Kick it here” either.

• This veteran trust/defensive discipline thing is killing you Bob.

And this is the biggest takeaway and point of this review. So go grab a beer (or coffee) and contemplate the next few sentences.

Was forcing Oguchi Onyewu back on to the pitch before we was ready, as a World Cup nonetheless, not enough of a lesson?

Bradley is so maniacal about playing a flawless defensive game and being risk-averse that he becomes the team’s own worst enemy sometimes.

Exhibit A from Saturday: Jonathan Spector

The years at West Ham, and on the national team, proved that Jonathan Spector is a liability against speedy wingers. That’s an indisputable fact.

Yet there he was Saturday out against dynamo Angel DiMaria. C’mon!

A few early observations showed the player selection was a disaster waiting to happen. Sure Bradley lacked Steve Cherundolo there, but just about any other “quick” option–Lichaj, Chandler–would have been better.

Bradley was so fixated on employing someone he could trust to make the right defensive plays, that he ignored the player’s fatal physical flaw in being able to actually successfully carry out the plan.

Spector never really made a mistake; it’s just his abilities never really gave him a shot. Ding the coach.

Exhibit B from Saturday: The multiplicity of Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley & Maurice Edu

Again, Coach Bradley, slavish to defensive discipline employs three defensive mids with a similar game in the middle. All three still got beat by Messi at different junctures and none of the three provide the oh-so-vitally-needed hold-and-link to Donovan and Dempsey.

Yes Coach Sweats might have went with Holden is he wasn’t torn up, but still…..

A debatable move by Bradley, however a 1-0 halftime deficit and early subs suggest it wasn’t the right move. (Benefit of doubt coming below.)

• Agudelo: It’s not luck Harkes, it’s know-how.

Mug it up youngster, you deserve it...

Juan Agudelo answered the questions about where he stands on being able to contribute to the States A team.

I’ll save two of his heady plays for our “Unheralded Play” award, but Agudelo was revelatory again in a US kit.

Hysterical to hear Harkes and Darke banter about “the ball just seems to be finding Agudelo tonight.” Uh guys, that’s skilled runs to and from the ball, something Jozy Altidore did not provide for the Yanks in the first stanza.

Agudelo was creative, protective of the marble in possession, seemed to make the right play in terms of tempo nearly every time, circling on a play where the counter wasn’t prudent, and distributing when pressure was coming.

Agudelo, appropriately wearing the #9 shirt, he should be first on the striker depth chart now.

——–

Awards:

Best Play Of The Game: A toughie here. Sure the Yanks only had one score, but I’m giving this one to Tim Howard.

Big T's play of the game...

About the 12th minute, Howard sniffed out a Messi off-ball run that left both DeMerit and Spector flat-footed. He came charging out of his net to clean up by maybe a second, a sure goal by the Barca man which would have been the Argentine’s first against the US.

Most Unheralded Play of the Game: (2) Let’s just say Agudelo’s “complete” game impressed me tonight.

Two plays, on in the 69th minute one in the 85th, had me wide-eyed at the youngster’s maturity and they both earned him the “Unheralded Award”.

In the 69th minute, Agudelo had forced a throw-in for the Yanks with Jozy taking it I believe. Agudelo realized that the Argentina players, as well as many US players, were deep in the box. Agudelo stayed near the endline and demanded the throw-in, preventing Argentina from making about four Yanks offsides.

Heady play.

Next in the 85th minute a similar situation. I believe it was a cross slung in from the right flank. With the ball overshot and Lavezzi, I believe about to clear, Agudelo took the foul, a trip, and immediately acknowledged to the ref it was intentional.

Had Argentina cleared it, many Yanks were still stranded in the box and Argentina might’ve been countering.

Impressive.

The Golden Shinguard: Outstanding games for Carlos Bocanegra, Juan Agudelo and Timmy Chandler in relief. A boring, but correct selection here in Tim Howard.

And not really because of his saves, but more his marshaling of the defense. Well done for the native New Jersey man.

———

Ratings:

C: Bob Bradley: 6

You would concur that the Yanks have less depth than Argentina? Correct?

Bradley was without his best defender and starting rightback in Steve Cherundolo. He was without his nearly full-timer in Stu Holden. No Benny Feilhaber and no Clarence Goodson.

Sure Argentina were missing Higuain and Aguero, but they’ve got the depth.

Bradley’s defensive game plan to defend with his middies was spot on. However, Bradley continues to sacrifice dictating tempo and offensive game to insure defense first. That create’s player frustrations and, just like in American football, never gives the defense a chance to rest.

Hard to bet on that strategy as an ethos.

Additionally, Bradley got his rightback all wrong in the beginning. Whether you feel Lichaj and-or Chandler are inexperienced, Jonathan Spector is overmatched. The West Ham man could have played the smartest game in the world and he still would have been beaten.

It’s that trust thing again and Bradley needs to overcome it.

G: Tim Howard: 8

Great job by Howard. Made the saves he needed to. Came out when he had to and marshaled the defense well. Another small observation here, and I’m not a Messi expert, but I noticed that Howard continually drifted from the near post when Messi was shooting from outside the hashmarks.

And you know what? He was always in position. Looks like some serious scouting and execution there.

Not an image to remember...

RB: Jonathan Spector: 3

Sorry Specs, but you were fed to the lions today.

Overmatched and behind the play all day long. Argentina targeted Spector and it was rough.

About the only positive from Spector today was his barber made him lose the shaggy Kirk Cameron look.

CB: Jay DeMerit: 6

Defense the DeMerit way...

Welcome back Jay. A typical DeMerit game. Solid for the most part in on-ball defending, a couple of Johnny-on-the-spot help tackles and one or two bonehead plays that nearly cost the home side.

CB: Oguchi Onyewu: 4.5

An uneven game for Onyewu. Extremely challenged in distribution. On defense, got caught out of position numerous times, however had to trail out to either flank and defend Messi on an island and executed well.

LB: Carlos Bocanegra: 7

Yes, many will take umbrage with the high rating for Boca. His distribution–as it always is–was questionable.

That said the captain’s positioning on Messi was flawless with the exception of a highlight reel nutmeg.

In fact, in an odd-man break in the 2nd half, Boca played such a precise angle when left in a pseudo 2-on-1 that it forced a poor cross grounded to no one from the #10 when a goal seemed certain. Well played in TSG’s eyes.

MID: Landon Donovan/Clint Dempsey: 6

Combining their ratings here. Asked to do oh-so-much on the day, from defend deep and then get out on the counter and drive the offense.

Both played more than adequate help defense and their offensive game suffered–but perhaps more poor service.

MID: Jermaine Jones: 4.5

My concerns about Jones as initiator of the offense remain founded. Was late on a few tackles. Looking forward to what Jones does on Tuesday.

MID: Michael Bradley: 5

Hard to rate Bradley who was clearly rusty. Props for always providing help defense and truly sticking his tackles on the evening, but a moment in the 83rd minute illuminates Bradley’s psyche.

Clint Dempsey lays off a pass. It’s not perfect and Bradley has about a 70-30 advantage to Javier Mascherano to winning the pass and keeping possession.

Bradley gets there first, but instead of just keeping the possession, he tries to make a play figuring his physical dominance will allow him to beat the diminutive Mascherano.

Doesn’t happen, Argentina ball.

Bradley all to often relies on his physical dominance instead of just making the smart play. He needs to improve that.

Something & MID: Maurice Edu: 5.5

I’m not sure Edu even knew his role. Did a good job of tackling on defense, on offense had some nice runs that led to opportunities, but he was needed for distribution and provided none.

Jozy Altidore: 4.5

Just because you get zero service doesn’t mean you can sulk or try to take on three guys with the ball. Continuing to make the same mistakes, it’s time to stop being apologetic for the former Red Bull star until he brings it and focuses every game.

Ironic that he only played well once Agudelo, the heir apparent as Red Bull striker buzz, entered. Shouldn’t that be the other way around?

Subs:

Juan Agudelo: 8

Not too high. Shows a maturity and understanding of the game well beyond his years. The youngster has “Europe” written all over him, yet his goal was lunchpail. Impressive.

Tim Chandler: 7.5

You think it’s easy to come in against a top international side, with Lionel Messi on it, with your team down one and integrating into a veteran defense when you barely speak the same language as your teammates?

Good, neither do I.

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126 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Prestonpetri on 2011/03/27 at 12:47 AM

    Good write up. Agree with pretty much everything. The second half was miles better which makes me curious what Bob will do on Tuesday.

    Agree 100% Specs is trash right now and Chandler/Lichaj deserve a chance to start on Tuesday.

    Also, Obviously Jozy played much better after Agudelo came on. Perhaps starting the game with 2 up front can help bring the best out of Jozy that seems to have been missing for so long now.

    USA!

    Reply

  2. Posted by Alex Song on 2011/03/27 at 12:49 AM

    I thought the second half provided great cause for optimism. You can really see the progress of this team from 2-3 player generations ago. There just aren’t a lot of truly weak spots in our lineup anymore. There were even some moments when we took the game to Argentina and had them on the ropes.

    I’m no expert, but I liked what I saw from these guys:

    Juan Agudelo – It’s all been said. Confidence and intelligence combined with a quality set of athletic tools. Good things always seem to happen when he touches the ball. That’s the sign of a real player. I just wonder how big his hype will be if he keeps this up.

    Michael Bradley – I actually thought he played pretty well. He was very disruptive in defense. I think he’s the closest we have to an…*ahem*…Alex Song type of destroyer.

    Timothy Chandler – Dolo is one of our best, but he won’t play forever. In Chandler it looks like we’ve found a fullback with international caliber physical tools. He’s a strong dude who looks like he can run. He even managed some halfway decent crosses.

    Tim Howard – Couldn’t have played any better.

    Spector did his best. Unfortunately, he’s a complete liability on defense at this level. I don’t think we should use him as anything other than a backup midfielder. We have better options now.

    Dempsey and Donovan had fairly quiet games. Neither was poor, but neither did much to stand out (although Donovan’s free kick did lead to our goal). Landon has looked slightly out of sorts for LA. I just don’t think he’s found his form quite yet.

    Altidore did his usual pouting routine. He had some good moments and also some silly ones. An average game from him. I noticed that he had some pretty good passes, including that nice little backheel thingy.

    I thought the defense played okay considering the massive amounts of pressure they were facing. Argentina totally dominated possession in the first half. You just can’t let a team hold the ball like that and expect to blank them. We were lucky not to concede 2-3 in that half. Second half was better. I guess sliding Edu back and swapping Agudelo for Jones made all the difference.

    In general, I thought our team had a smart strategy of playing with a lot of aggression and physicality. I don’t think Argentina’s silky style appreciates the rough treatment. They almost seemed a bit intimidated by the end of match (you’ve gotta love Dempsey’s spirit).

    Onward ho. Next match should be interesting. I hope Buddle gets some run, as Jozy’s inconsistency is getting frustrating. I’d also like to see Mix and Ream purely for the sake of curiosity.

    Reply

  3. Posted by kaya on 2011/03/27 at 1:18 AM

    I seem to recall feeling a little defensive of Boca re: your grading of him during the WC… oddly I now feel like you’re giving him (way) more credit than he deserved.
    I think Jozy deserved a slightly better rating/less harsh criticism and that Dempsey was the only field player worth mentioning in the first half and deserved Boca’s 7.
    I hope the AO contingent here took note that Harkes appropriately addressed them!

    Reply

  4. Posted by Paula on 2011/03/27 at 2:13 AM

    So, if Chandler and Jones are looking to be fixtures on the USMNT, is anything being done to help them along with the language issue? (From what I understand, Jones understands but doesn’t speak it well.)

    Reply

    • Posted by Jacob ATL on 2011/03/27 at 6:00 AM

      Jones speaks it more than passibly, and is now playing in England, so that can only help.

      I’m sure Chandler will feel motivated to maybe take a couple of refresher classes, what with it all of a sudden looking like he’s got a future here.

      Also, on Chandler, TSG said on twitter he’s already got a 5head. It’s mostly true, but it helps his look. He has the build, face and teeth of an African-American-German Frankenstein, and that really works for a defender.

      Reply

    • Posted by dth on 2011/03/27 at 6:45 AM

      Apparently Chandler’s English is around the same level as Jones’s. He just prefers to speak through an interpreter with the media because he’s not 100% comfortable in the language.

      Reply

  5. Posted by michael on 2011/03/27 at 2:24 AM

    I don’t really disagree with your rankings except for Bradley and Edu. I’m not sure how anyone can rate Edu higher than Bradley in this game. I also think Bradley played a bit better than you’re giving him credit for. I thought he was one of our best players in the second half.

    Reply

  6. Posted by mark on 2011/03/27 at 6:21 AM

    Love reading your stuff, but way too many grammatical errors.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/27 at 10:18 AM

      [Nods heads, thinks about charging for publication]

      Reply

    • Posted by Jennifer on 2011/03/28 at 3:27 AM

      As long as you can understand the point Matt is getting across, it should not be big deal.

      @ Steve: There’s a reason people have editors. They tend to miss their own mistakes.

      Reply

  7. Posted by chris on 2011/03/27 at 6:32 AM

    chandler looked great. he was fast too
    lichaj needs a shot too.
    but do they both play exclusively that position?

    gonna be a the game on tuesday all the way from nc.
    anybody else goin?

    Reply

  8. Posted by dth on 2011/03/27 at 6:50 AM

    Basically agree on all of these ratings. But, re: Jozy. I think the average rating is broadly correct, but it’s probably better to do a split average rating. A 3 for the first half and a 6 for the second half. He was really quite good using the space Agudelo created, and that little backheel into the box was really a lot of fun, right?

    I think Bradley is also somewhat overrated here–your rating and your comments diverge somewhat, don’t you agree? I give him a 3 for the first half and a 5 for the second. I don’t understand why Bradley can’t use the same lineup he tried against Ghana, with Dempsey in the #10 position. We played really well in that game.

    Reply

  9. Posted by icculus on 2011/03/27 at 6:55 AM

    Neymar just scored for Brazil, so…..

    Neymar: 3 caps, 2 goals.
    Agudelo: 3 caps, 2 goals.

    Same.

    (I’m not sure if I have to point this out, but humorous hyperbole is to be assumed here.)

    Reply

  10. Posted by ref4u on 2011/03/27 at 7:29 AM

    “In the 69th, Agudelo had forced a throw-in for the Yanks with Jozy taking it I believe. Agudelo realized that the Argentina players–as well as many US players–were deep in the box. Agudelo stayed near the endline and demanded the throw-in, preventing Argentina from making about four Yanks offsides.”
    Wrong. On a throw in those 4 yanks cannot be offside.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/27 at 10:17 AM

      True, but if we doesn’t receive it deep Argentina pulls out of the back.

      Reply

      • Posted by Dave on 2011/03/27 at 3:14 PM

        Maybe Dempsey could learn to force a throw in instead of showing why this is too high a level for dribbling demonstrations. (He keeps the ball on his feet far too long even when he has options).
        I thought Agudelo and Chandler helped the US a lot by knowing how to make themselves available for and mostly make good decisions with the ball(forcing a throw in, a corner kick, a foul, or even passing backwards to an open player and making another run can be good decisions with the ball). It helped that Argentina was tired and the formation changed, but still it should embarrass some of the veteran players a bit.

        Reply

      • Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/03/27 at 6:29 PM

        wow. anybody have any troll spray? Let me be the first to commend Matt on his impeccable grammar and punctuation on his last post.

        Reply

  11. Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/03/27 at 7:43 AM

    Saw it in person and haven’t seen the video yet …
    I like the rope-a-dope analogy for Bob but that’s undermined by the Spector choice and the “what did he see from Gooch in practice that makes him first choice” gaffes.
    I don’t think that you can blame Specs as he gave 100% effort with the same skill set that has him banned from RB for his club. I don’t think that you can rate Gooch low enough from my vantage point 40 yds away. Allergic to the ball at his feet and looked like he played scared the rest of the time. Demerit saved his bacon at least 4 times. He did make himself big in front of Messi a bit but overall was a serious detriment to the amazing Tim Howard’s health.
    Cannot say enough about big Timmy as usual. The one handed save on Messi from about 8 yds away was a testament to his positioning and strength. He parried it 20 yds with one extended arm. Good stuff.
    Agudelo is officially a GAM (grown-ass man) and should be considered the ascending first choice in the role. Excellent analysis on the subtleties that were evident even in person. Really tired of Jozy’s pouting, lack of hold up ability (interest?) and unwillingness to run off the ball. Granted he was alone up top but Agudelo’s in that role would have been much more effective.
    Baby Brads live accounted for at least 7 swing and miss defending attempts in front of the box. Hate to do this but it points up even more why Stu belongs in that role. MB is a terrible one on one defender. He seemed more comfortable once Jones was subbed but looked out of form and needs to be more forward.
    I loved the tenacity of the side in the 2nd half and T Chandler will be heard from going forward. Gave up the corner a bit too easily defensively on 3 or 4 occasions but his speed and intelligence will compensation for that with time IMO.

    Reply

  12. Posted by MrTuktoyaktuk on 2011/03/27 at 7:47 AM

    I hope we get the chance during the Gold Cup to compare performances of Agudelo and Bunbury before we start rearranging the depth chart.

    Reply

  13. I just want to throw out this though in regards to Altidore that I think a lot of people are missing. Jozy is not a lone striker at all and will always struggle in a role where he is forced to play with his back to goal and hold the ball up. He is not and will never will be a a Brian McBride or Brian Ching type player. Look at when Charlie Davies was still healthy, Jozy had some fantastic games because he was able to work with another forward, and if Agudelo continues his development it will only benefit Jozy as well.

    The reason Bob Bradley keeps deploying him as the lone striker is because Jozy is the closest person to being able to fulfill the role unless Bradley wants to bring back Ching. Hopefully though Bradley will be more willing to partner Altidore up top to maximize his talent.

    Reply

  14. Posted by Soccernst on 2011/03/27 at 8:16 AM

    Biggest surprise of the night: John Harkes. Best game from him in a very long time. Ian helps.

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    • Posted by BunkelUSA on 2011/03/27 at 8:42 AM

      Still not sure if he should be first on the depth chart…I’d like to see Kyle Martino get a call-up.

      Reply

      • Posted by Crow on 2011/03/27 at 9:04 AM

        Martino/Taylor Twellman and have TSG in the reserves. Followed by that homeless guy from Cleveland with the awesome radio voice.

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      • Posted by Soccernst on 2011/03/27 at 9:25 AM

        Agreed. Just sayin. Harkes actually sounded like someone you might pay to be in the booth instead if someone you’d pay to shut up.

        Reply

  15. Your rope-a-dope theory is highly speculative and wild—and as Coach Sweats fan (/occasional apologist), I love it.

    I do believe program development is part of his job. I want him developing the program all game long, experimenting dutifully with formations and player combinations…against a Uruguay on a weeknight in smaller stadium and setting. I’m fine though with rope-a-dope in a largely symbolic match against a far superior team who will almost certainly crush us in shots, possession, Messi’s and every other offensive stat. Pretty it ain’t, but if we’d somehow grabbed a second goal and won, it would’ve looked downright genius.

    Reply

  16. Posted by Mike Roberts on 2011/03/27 at 8:30 AM

    Didn’t see the game but if Juan Agudelo keeps this up, he’ll be being watched by some very big clubs in Europe.

    Reply

  17. Posted by Crow on 2011/03/27 at 9:02 AM

    Was in the front row and just watched the game taped this morning.

    Tim Howard- Not much needs to be said. It was nice for him to have an otherwordly performance, though, because his form for the US the past year had been a bit below the high standards we expect for him.

    Carlos Bocanegra- He wasn’t bad and didn’t get as torched on defense as I thought he could, but I think his rating is a bit high. His distribution was poor. I think its time to switch captains and stop making Bocanegra an automatic starter.

    Jay DeMerit- It helped watching the game on TV, because at the game I thought he was playing poorly, and seeing the Argentinian goal right in front of me, I thought he could have blocked it. I was wrong on both counts, although he wasn’t spectacular on defense, he was decent.

    Oguchi Onyewu- Yanksarecoming.com published an article “Gooch is dead”. I’m afraid I witnessed his death in person as he went down at RFK that night. I had high hopes that Gooch would be back to his old self after the regular playing time at Twente…. but no. One or two solid defensive plays did not mask a generally mediocre/poor performance. Especially horrific was his distribution. There were at least four times he aimlessly kicked the ball up the field or out of bounds when there was no reason to do so.

    Jonathan Spector- Thanks for the nice run of games you gave us at RB in 2009 (remember when he was the successor to ‘Dolo), but that is the last time I need to see Spector at RB, especially with ‘Dolo, Chandler, and Lichaj in the fold. It was just plain stupid on Bob’s part to start him there considering Spector hasn’t played the position in several months.

    Jermaine Jones- I think the hype machine was a bit too high on him. He has not really impressed me so far, and especially not in this match. As has been said- having 3 defensive mids on the field does not work.

    Michael Bradley- Too high of a rating. The rust was extremely evident. Offered nothing going forward or in distribution and was mediocre on D. Such a disappointment after his World Cup performance. I hope he can find some playing time.

    Maurice Edu- Mediocre. Not much of an influence on either side of the ball.

    Clint Dempsey- My sign failed to inspire Deuce enough. He had the nice play in the first half where he forced a turnover and got a shot on goal. And he nearly scored on the left footed shot later on, but I think he let the lack of service and Argentinian players get into his head.

    Landon Donovan- Invisible in the first half, more active in the 2nd when he didn’t have to help on D so much. Some poor delivery on set pieces EXCEPT for the nice one that led to the goal.

    Jozy Altidore- He should never be the lone striker. He seems to get instantly discouraged, stops working and sulks. As soon as he gets a partner you see the potential of Jozy. Was a completely different player in the 2nd half- hard working and linking on and off the ball.

    Juan Agudelo- How is anyone saying he was lucky???!!! I was DIRECTLY behind the post of the goal in which he scored. It was a tough angle, the goalkeeper’s hand was raised, and the goal came AFTER he had followed the play. More than the goal, though, what impressed me was how much he changed the game by his runs and effort after he came on.

    Timothy Chandler- I started the hype machine and lets crank it up!!! I’m an Eric Licaj fan, and was worried that ‘Dolo was out, but this kid has a future somewhere on this team. Wow, is it nice to have a wingback (other than ‘Dolo) who can link up with Donovan and send in nice (or as John Harkes would say- telling or teasing) crosses! And his defense was better than Spector’s! My man of the match.

    Bob Bradley- Yet another good halftime adjustment but why is Bob always a step behind when it comes to starting lineups.

    Reply

    • Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/03/27 at 9:16 AM

      Good stuff.

      On Harkes but slightly off topic, was watching Premier League archive the other night and Nottingman forest was on from 1999. Would love to rewatch that with Harkesy in the room watching himself perform laughably at right back. Nutmegged twice on the same play while he stumbled to the ground. He should be forced to watch before every game he announces.

      Reply

    • Posted by Martin on 2011/03/27 at 11:15 AM

      “Bob Bradley- Yet another good halftime adjustment but why is Bob always a step behind when it comes to starting lineups.”

      This is funny. Leading up to the World Cup, Bob was always blasted for being too stupid to make halftime adjustments. Now that he has guys like Agudelo to sub with (instead of Sacha or Torres) it’s another “good halftime adjustment”. Funny how good players can suddenly make a stupid coach smart.

      I’m curious why you think that the second half starters would have done as well if they had started the first half. Games change by the time the half rolls around.

      Argentina seemed prety serious about this game, Messi played the whole 90 and it would have been hard to imagine any team keeping up the pace of the attack they had in the first half.

      It’s just as easy to imagine the Chandler- Agudelo lineup giving up a few goals and then what do you have to counter with in the second half?

      I don’t think everyone is crediting how fantastic the team played to hold Argentina to one goal. This is Argentina not Panama. They just beat Brazil and Portugal recently, and we would beat a lot of teams last night. So could Spector and Gooch really have been as bad as you said if they only gave up one goal to that team?

      I don’t think so.

      Reply

      • Posted by Crow on 2011/03/27 at 12:08 PM

        exactly- “LEADING UP TO THE WORLD CUP” Starting at the World Cup, Bob has started a trend of making good substitutions after it is evident that the starting lineup was a poor decision.

        How could you possibly defend Spector starting out of position at RB when he has only once in the last 6 months (South Africa)? I didn’t harshly criticize the 4-5-1 acknowledging that it was more of the players faults not stepping up than a coaching decision. I heard several people, including TSG, mention that Edu in an advanced role (which ended up being the case) was not a good decision. It is a real shame Stu wasn’t there. Alot of things could have been different.

        I’m sorry but even though Chandler and Agudelo may have had an enhanced effect as subs, they played so well that it is hard to argue that things would not have been better in the first half if they would have started.

        In my post below, I mention how I think that the US performance as a whole was better than people are giving them credit for.

        Reply

        • Posted by Martin on 2011/03/27 at 5:48 PM

          You make subs not necessarily because you screwed up with the starting lineup but because circumstances change during a game.

          Argentina immediately jumped on the US and didn’t stop until half time.

          Did they stop because:

          The US now had some passing outlets?
          The US had worn them down a bit?
          They were tired?

          Probably some combination of all three. I do know it’s pretty hard even for Argentina to keep up that sort of attacking pace. And the US is renownwed for being very fit. This is a 90 minute game you know.

          I don’t think Spector was as bad as you all do. He was busy defending. Would Chandler and Agudelo have been able to do at the start of the game what they did at the start of the second half? I don’t know.

          I don’t think so because I believe Argentina were really up for this game from the get go and not so much at the start of the second half. Fresh, young legs and all that. Agudelo has done well but that was as a sub coming in to do a very defined thing for 45 minutes. Things change when you have to go 90 and the other team has more time to figure you out.

          I’m sure Agudelo and Chandler will both be eventually be great starters but at this time, I think they were brought on at the perfect time. If they start maybe the US wins 2-1 or maybe they lose 5-2. Argentina had very probably never heard of these two before. I think it’s best to put your young guys in a position to succeed rather than trying to ask for too much too soon.

          And if Bradley is so incompetent how did he outcoach the Argentina manager? One sub at the 73rd minute when his guys were clearly flagging? Sorry but I don’t agree with you that Bradley is incompetent.

          Reply

  18. Posted by Jake C on 2011/03/27 at 9:21 AM

    I just hope BB has all the kinks out of his system by the time the USMNT comes to Nashville…I don’t wanna see the three center defensive mids formation in person…EVER.

    Would love to see Agudelo and Ream start, and please God can we get some creativity in the midfield? My guess: no

    Reply

    • Posted by Crow on 2011/03/27 at 9:35 AM

      Yeah, after the HORRIFIC distribution out of the back last night, I want to see Tim Ream starting, NOW!

      And it is evident that if Holden is out that we either need to play a 4-4-2 (4-2-2-2) or play a 4-5-1 with a creative guy like Diskeruud or …gulp… Klejstan on the field. Hopefully, that is given a go in Nashville.

      Reply

      • Posted by Martin on 2011/03/27 at 5:59 PM

        Ream has one and part of a second season as an MLS pro. He has 2 (?)caps.

        He is promising but you want to basically make him nearly the last line of the defense against the best player in the world who will be taking him on directly for most of the entire game?

        I don’t care how bad you think Demerit and Gooch were, that’s a bad idea.

        Reply

  19. Posted by Crow on 2011/03/27 at 9:25 AM

    Main observations from the game:

    1. What happened to our deep midfield? Obviously, Stuart Holden’s injury is devastating, but MB90, Jones, and Edu were all unimpressive last night. Was that a result of the formation or the fact that they aren’t as good as we make them out to be?

    2. Why does Bob always overthink or underthink starting lineups? The 4-5-1 with 3 defensive mids didn’t work, especially with Edu in the advanced role. TSG called that out among other commenters on this board. And Spector at RB? WTH? He hadn’t started there in months.

    3. As “critical” as I was of the team, the overall performance was underrated. This game was much better than the Brazil game in August. The US was thoroughly dominated in that game. Argentina completely controlled the first half, but the D was better than the Brazil game. Brazil should have scored 5 goals in that game. This game Argentina scored 1, partly because of Tim Howard’s performance, but partly because the D contested Argentina’s chances (after they had allowed them). I truly believe the US played “better” than Argentina in the 2nd half as well.

    4. I lost alot of respect for Argentina. I don’t know if the TV’s caught it but Mascherano is a diver and a whiner, and gets away with many rough challenges. Actually, the entire Argentinian team are divers. It was ludicrous that there were 4 US yellow cards and 0 for Argentina. Argentina made rougher challenges and should have at least received 1 for diving. Also, I was not impressed with Messi’s snide remark after the game about the US “never touching the ball”. It seemed like sour grapes much like one from a higher profile team getting beat in the NCAA Tournament (say Pitt losing to Butler).

    5. It was a packed house but the Argentinian fans were silent after the game started, and I don’t know if there were more than 1,000 US fans at the game other than those in the supporters sections. The Brazilian fans were much more active, but it might have been the weather. The USSF really needs to cater to the supporters groups because they are the only ones giving the National Team any support at these games! It is embarrassing. Some positive notes- a family of 6 drove from Tennessee to the game and was in the AO section!!! Also, I saw some nice signs supporting Stuart Holden up higher in some of the sections, but I don’t think they got on TV.

    Reply

  20. Posted by Crow on 2011/03/27 at 9:33 AM

    Another comment- I hope that is the last game at the Meadowlands for awhile. The parking is $25 and it takes 1 1/2 hrs to get out of the parking lot. Plus, the security is very nasty- to fellow fans and even on one case to a US soccer representative who was escorting myself and another guy into the fan forum with Sunil!

    Reply

    • Posted by Cameron on 2011/03/27 at 9:37 AM

      Train wasn’t much better either. It took us 2 hours from getting out of the stadium to arriving in Penn Station to make a half hour train ride.

      I love the Meadowlands because it means that I can actually go to the games and I think that any stadium full of 78,000 people is going to have traffic issues, but I hear you. Maybe I would have been more patient had I not been a solid block of ice by the time the game was over.

      Reply

  21. Posted by Cameron on 2011/03/27 at 9:34 AM

    I agree 100% with your analysis. I remember watching Specs run onto the field and going “Oh God, not him.” That has nothing to do with my dislike of him–I actually really like Spector and have been thrilled that he’s done so well at West Ham this season–but, experience or no, I would have put Lichaj or Chandler in there. They would have been wildcards against the speed and skill of Di Maria, but at least they weren’t guaranteed to be burned, like Spector was. I guess what I’m saying is that I would have preferred Lichaj in the first half, Chandler in the second (or some sort of non-Specs combination of that). I think that Specs needs to be considered in other positions, because the other RB candidates are just getting to be too good. West Ham has realized it, now the US needs to.

    I hope that we see Lichaj dress for the Paraguay game and get some playing time. I was impressed by Bocanegra (didn’t expect him to hold his own that well–nice job, Captain America), but he isn’t going to be playing for the NT much longer. A small part of me is wondering if Lichaj could take on the LB role. It’s nice to see that we have the potential for some good depth in the RB position, regardless.

    The only bit of this that I might disagree with is the analysis of Michael Bradley. I thought that he actually had a decent game and should have been rated higher than Edu.

    Also, might be the first time I’ve ever seen the word “multiplicity” on a sports blog. I like it.

    Reply

  22. Posted by jb on 2011/03/27 at 9:39 AM

    Haven’t seen much discussion yet on the formations. It was night and day again once we switched back to the ol’ trusty 4-4-2. Do our players not understand the roles involved in the 4-2-3-1? Just uncomfortable? Or do we just not have players on the roster capable of pulling this formation off? Player selection by Bradley? I mean, Jozy has proved ineffective over and again at the hold-up role.

    What did Bradley hope to accomplish with the starting lineup/formation? If you use 3 defensive centermids, and your outside players in the “3″ line are used as backup fullbacks, then how are you supposed to move the ball out of your own half? If this was really intentional, then it has to be incredibly frustrating for the players. I mean its like giving up before even starting the game.

    We shouldn’t let the score deceive us to what happened in the first half. Without Tim Howard’s heroics and some uncharacteric poor finishing from Messi, we would have been down 4-0 or so at half.

    Reply

    • Posted by Martin on 2011/03/27 at 11:21 AM

      You do realize this was an exhibition game where you try things out right?

      That the new “non-4-4-2″ formations are being tried out the last couple of games and that maybe teams need to try things out for a bit before they use them for real in the Gold Cup or WC qualifying?

      Oh and I didn’t see any poor finishing from Messi. Other than the free kicks I didn’t see him get one clear shot on goal the whole night.

      Reply

      • Posted by Crow on 2011/03/27 at 12:16 PM

        This was a game to get a result and experiment a little bit. Trust me you could tell Sunil wanted a result at the pre-game fan forum. Paraguay is the game you can experiment with a little bit more.

        The one thing I agree with- and I think you hit the nail on the head- The US D gave up alot of possession and opportunities but they limited the quality of the Argentinian chances. Every goal opportunity was pressured alike the Brazil game. With that being said, if it wasn’t for Tim Howard they still would have scored 3 goals.

        Reply

    • I don’t think it’s on the formations, I think it’s the personnel within the formations. Edu isn’t a #10. Jozy can play a hold-up role–I thought he was actually pretty good at the World Cup playing it–but it may not be his best.

      If we are to play a 4-2-2-2, we should look at Villarreal as a guide. The problem with most 4-4-2s is when the forwards offer the same option or are on the same plane. Villarreal solves that problem by pairing two very mobile forwards who have the freedom of the final third in Rossi and Nilmar. Agudelo and Altidore showed some similar flashes against Argentina. The problem that this kind of 4-2-2-2 faces is that it will either have problems with width or problems in the center of the pitch. If your fullbacks are good and aggressive, that helps mitigate those problems; in ‘dolo, Chandler or Lichaj we’re in fine shape on the right side. On the left? Clearly–from some of Bocanegra’s misadventures with the ball at his feet in the second half–this kind of formation would accentuate our weaknesses rather than mask them.

      Still, given the absence of a true #10–and given Bradley’s curious refusal to play the closest thing we’ve got in that position, as he did occasionally during the World Cup–it may be the best we’ve got. (Dempsey is whom I’m referring to, of course.)

      Reply

      • Posted by Martin on 2011/03/27 at 6:02 PM

        I don’t think Duece is a classic #10.

        I think he has the skills but he doesn’t want to play like a #10. He wants to score, score, score.

        Reply

        • Posted by dth on 2011/03/27 at 6:38 PM

          Well, I actually believe the exact opposite about Dempsey: he wants to play like a #10 but isn’t skill-wise 100% there. He’s got the tricks and flicks, of course, but in tight quarters in the center of the field he doesn’t have the close control and turns to consistently work himself free.

          That’s why Dempsey plays so often on the wing. The problem there is that Dempsey doesn’t have the speed to burn good fullbacks.

          Put Dempsey at forward and you’re wasting his ability to go at people.

          Dempsey is a soccer “tweener.” I’ve long felt that if you put Robbie Rogers’s speed with the rest of Dempsey’s skill set, you’d have a starter at a top club. If you put Marvell Wynne’s speed with the rest of Dempsey’s skill set…it’d be crazy. (but that’d be an unfair combination, like “WHAT IF you took Superman and combined him with Spider Man?”)

          Reply

  23. Posted by Mingjai on 2011/03/27 at 9:41 AM

    So with a healthy Cherundolo, is this the US’s best lineup (assuming an not-fully fit Holden)? I think Dempsey needs to play up top to limit his defensive responsibilities and allow him to focus on generating offense.

    ————-Dempsey—-Agudelo—————-

    –Donovan——————————Chandler–

    ————-Bradley—–Jones——————–

    Bocanegra——-Edu——DeMerit——Cherundolo

    ———————Howard——————–

    Reply

    • Posted by JasonPrice on 2011/03/27 at 10:06 AM

      I like Edu. But he does not have the stomach to play center back, sorry.

      Reply

    • Posted by Nicholas on 2011/03/27 at 10:06 AM

      I would still be in the experimenting mood as well with Edu at CB. Onyewu was just turrible with the distribution….turrible. I like you’re lineup as I think it gets our best 11 on the field….but….

      Anyone else thinking that it might not be bad to try Chandler @ LB (at least get a look in camp)? You lose his crossing ability, but when do we ever send a cross in from the left anyway? What you gain is ability to make runs down the sideline which keeps the opposing wingers honest and relieves pressure. When Cherundolo comes back, you’re now a very dynamic two-way team.

      Not sure it would work, but I would give it a shot. He’s obviously comfortable playing multiple positions as he hasn’t even been at RB all that long. Ridiculous idea?

      Reply

    • Posted by Martin on 2011/03/27 at 11:23 AM

      Dempsey cannot generate offense unless he or the US has the ball.

      How many times do you think he would have gotten the ball last night if he were up top the entire game?

      Reply

  24. Posted by Russ on 2011/03/27 at 9:59 AM

    Flooding the midfield and playing to our midfield depth strength is a great strategy……when we actually can control the ball at length.

    Different team and different circumstances to be sure, but I don’t know why Bob didn’t use the victory against Spain as a reference point for last night. Two up top, two holding mids with no doubts about their assignments and forcing the opposition to beat you through the air by packing the middle and conceding the flanks.

    If victory means countering against a superior technical/tactical team you have to devote some resources to it. Jozy up top by himself complemented by backtracking Donovan/Dempsey won’t do it.

    Reply

  25. Posted by KT - Couch Coach on 2011/03/27 at 10:06 AM

    US soccer is no longer a joke. The reason they can have a high FIFA ranking is no longer because they are playing easy games in the Gold Cup and CONCACAF qualifying games, but because they have class. And what’s frightening is there is still a lot of room for improvement.

    Agudelo is a great prospect and a poacher like him will like playing with another striker. Be it a targetman in Altidore, a hard-worker like Dempsey, or a deep-lying forward like Donovan is up to Coach Bradley, but the world better watch out for Agudelo.

    The fact that they can hold Argentina to only one goal shows they have that class in defense as well.

    Reply

  26. Posted by JasonPrice on 2011/03/27 at 10:30 AM

    Great review Matt. My only quibbles…
    -Very very harsh on Spector. Here’s a guy who’s been playing mostly in the central midfield, if playing at all, and comes in and does a serviceable job against one of the best teams on the planet. He Jon Bornstein embarrassing. He was more than serviceable. and deserves at least a 4.5.
    -Bocanegra’s best asset is he knows his limits and respects them. A very mature player. Dunno if that equates to a “7″, but I really appreciate him.
    -Agreed that Bradley was more impressive than Edu.
    -Very much agree on Onyewu, who I like, is not first-XI caliber at the highest level. He just doesn’t have the grace. Should he be in the picture? Yes. Is he serviceable? Yes. The space is open for Tim Ream if he wants it…

    Reply

    • Posted by JasonPrice on 2011/03/27 at 10:35 AM

      meant to say “he wasn’t jon bornstein embarrassing”

      Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/27 at 10:36 AM

      I need your grammar help here Jason. :>

      Spector hardly did a serviceable job in my opinion, but he was set-up to fail by Bob Bradley. Two things here: (1) DiMaria wasn’t testing him the first 15 mins. (Warning, twitter insertion coming)

      and (2) Argentina started busting up that side because they knew they had an advantage.

      Don’t think he did a serviceable job and don’t think he could’ve. Remember, Argentina had multiple chances on that side in the 1st half, just didn’t convert.

      Note second half Argentina adjusted, by moving DiMaria ot the right to take on Boca and attacking in different locations–that is they didn’t have one place (Specs) that they could just keep going to the well.

      - Agree on Onyewu. Not the same player AND if you are going to push your flankers up in possession in your defensive third you need someone else there.

      Odd that US didn’t play the ball over the top to Altidore, no?

      Reply

      • Posted by JasonPrice on 2011/03/28 at 12:44 AM

        It is odd, but who’s going to win the second ball? Edu? perhaps.
        As for Spector, agree to disagree.

        Reply

      • Posted by Kevin O' on 2011/03/28 at 8:02 AM

        I think Spector should get a shot in our midfield. With Benny and Stuart out, why not? I think he could be a useful sub (not starter.) I think he is done as a defender on all levels, so middy or forward are the only tools he has left in the bucket. (Somewhere Rico Clark in banging his injured head.)

        Reply

    • Posted by Martin on 2011/03/27 at 11:25 AM

      Tell me what tim Ream has actually done to deserve a start ahead of Gooch, Demerit, Boca or Goodson?

      Reply

      • Deserving has nothing to do with it. If deserving had something to do with it, Agudelo would be in Guatemala watching the match on TV.

        The question is: what’s the best lineup to ensure a quality team for the Gold Cup, and, long-term, for the World Cup. Looked at it this way, getting Ream minutes is not just obvious but mandatory. There’s only one other centerback of a similar age getting consistent minutes, and that’s Omar Gonzalez. Ream might even be among the best two options for the Gold Cup: the question is whether his inexperience is too big a burden to carry. Ream’s other weakness–his aerial inability–is not really a problem for the Gold Cup, unless England decides they want to finally win a trophy of some sort and applies to become part of CONCACAF.

        Reply

        • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/27 at 12:36 PM

          Agreed DTH…and on the aerial, that was what was most mind-boggling last night. Did Argentina play any crosses in the air. Could not understand the decision to play Onyewu.

          Just that “trust” thing.

          Reply

        • Posted by mbw on 2011/03/27 at 5:02 PM

          I agree also. Whenever I thought about the Ream vs. Gooch question before the Argentina game my mind flashed to Ream getting smoked by Bobby Convey in his last game of the last MLS season or by Fredy Montero in the first game of this season. But after watching Gooch last night I’m convinced that, in a straight Ream-for-Gooch swap, Ream would add more to the USMNT on the offensive side of the ball than he would cost it on defense. To put it another way: by choosing Gooch over Ream, Bradley was choosing to play a low-possession game. The question is, is the back line that would allow the US to play a higher-possession game equally viable defensively, and I suspect that it is. No better time to find out than against Paraguay.

          Reply

      • Posted by Standard_Deviance on 2011/03/27 at 5:00 PM

        Ream’s possession and distribution are miles ahead of Gooch and Demerit. Those qualities alone will ensure he gets chances–chances he very much deserves–to make the starting XI over the next four years.

        The question with Ream is his defensive instincts and lapses (and possibly also his speed). His speed is what it is–serviceable, at best, for the international game–but if he can mature as a defender, he’ll be a more than capable international quality central defender.

        Reply

        • Posted by Martin on 2011/03/29 at 12:52 PM

          “Ream’s possession and distribution are miles ahead of Gooch and Demerit. Those qualities alone will ensure he gets chances–chances he very much deserves–to make the starting XI over the next four years.”

          Maybe if you were talking about a midfielder but not a central defender.

          “The question with Ream is his defensive instincts and lapses (and possibly also his speed). His speed is what it is–serviceable, at best, for the international game–but if he can mature as a defender, he’ll be a more than capable international quality central defender.”

          So you want our first string center back to be slow, and with questionable defensive instincts?

          That is like saying your starting wide receiver is slow and drops most of the balls thrown at him but he starts because if he can hang on to the ball he does a great job with making yards after the catch. If Ream isn’t going to be one of our best defenders then who will be? Juan Agudelo?

          Reply

          • Posted by dth on 2011/03/29 at 1:23 PM

            Ream isn’t slow. I have no idea how this meme started.

            Look, it’s a question how well he’ll defend–anything from “poor” to “pretty good” is plausible for me–but what isn’t a question is the quality of his distribution. That’s a unique quality among the centerbacks in our pool, and it’s a problem in our pool. Therefore, we’ll probably try Tim Ream out to see what happens, just as we’ve given all sorts of insufficient strikers a shot just to see what happens (though Ream is a much better prospect than many of those strikers).

            Building out of the back is very value. The problem with all of those aimless hoofs up the pitch is they negate all the value of good defense and put you under pressure again practically immediately. You might just as well ask: what’s the point of having a good defender to win the ball if you won’t keep it afterwards?

            Reply

  27. Posted by JW on 2011/03/27 at 10:46 AM

    Observations from the stands:

    Specs is not a RB; switching Edu and Specs in the first half might have been better, because Edu is not an ACM.

    Chandler might have been a great RM in the 4-5-1 when trying to play a compact, defensive structure. This would have allowed Dempsey or Donovan to have the keys to the offense, not Edu.

    Edu, Bradley, and Jones all looked uncomfortable in the first half; we seem to be a 442 team.

    Agudelo might have the highest “soccer IQ” of any forward post-McBride. Keeping it simple simply works. Jozy is not a lone forward, but continues to do well when given a partner in crime. I don’t think Agudelo would have done much better than Jozy in the first half, but I could be proven wrong.

    The defense did a good job of forcing Argentina wide. I was happy with that part. Argentina, for all their fluidity, looked a bit predictable. I was impressed with their skill, but not impressed with their plan. They got isolation wide, and produced some fine outside runs, but then were overwhelmed in the box by sheer numbers on the pass-back. Someone needs, now that the game is over, to go an tell Argentina that our weak spot is shots taken just outside the 18.

    Messi must be taken some kind of PED that causes his feet to sweat adhesive.

    Reply

  28. Posted by Patrick O. on 2011/03/27 at 10:48 AM

    I couldn’t agree more with TSG’s review of the game.

    Most insightful were the comments on Bradley’s overall strategy for the first half of games. TSG’s analysis, that Bradley prefers to sit defensively and soak up pressure with proven veterans, is entirely true. The goal seems to be to hold a draw for the first 45 minutes, make adjustments, then attempt to out-play the opposition in the second half after adjustment and substitutions are made, or to get something from a set piece. In short, we only have to be the better team for the second 45 minutes.

    Here’s the problem: That strategy doesn’t ever allow us to take the initiative! IF we get get to the half with a nil-nil draw (as desired) we still have no advantage. However, if we make a mistake and allow the other team to score, we’re playing catch up for the second half, allowing the opposition to set up more defensively, knowing that we have to score.

    It’s the same story repeated again: Bradley got the first half wrong (as TSG said, against better opposition the tactics are always the same) but clearly out-managed Batista in the second. Bradley can’t seem to plan for a game, but he seems really adept at reading a game as it’s played.

    Reply

    • Posted by Martin on 2011/03/27 at 11:32 AM

      Leading up to the World Cup everyone was saying Bradley was unable to make halftime adjustments. Remember all the comments about not understanding how to sub?

      Now, while he still is too stupid to figure out the first half, he can can get the second half right. I suppose that is progress of a sort. In another year, maybe he’ll have the whole game.

      Now is that because he started listening to John Harkes and Alexi Lalas or because he finally has some real players to use as subs instead of Rico and Sacha? It’s funny how a player like Agudelo can suddenly make an idiot like Bradley smart.

      Reply

      • Bradley has two specific flaws:

        1) Bradley usually gets it…eventually. It can be slow. But like his speaking style, he is sometimes painfully deliberate.

        2) Bradley’s dilemma is a classic human one: there’s a gap between what he wants and what he can do. He wants to play defensively stolid and solid; he knows in actuality that the U.S. as currently constituted favors an offensive over defensive game. Worse is that the type of offensive game the U.S. wants to play–quick, direct, not unlike a good Bundesliga team–isn’t necessarily closely related to solidity, with its quick end-to-end changes. So Bradley vacillates from trying to get the U.S. to play the way he wants it to play and allowing the team to play the way it’s best playing.

        Reply

        • Posted by Patrick O. on 2011/03/27 at 11:51 AM

          This is very true. You can see the difference in team spirit with the change in tactics at the half. The team is far more comfortable pushing forward in attack and putting the opposition on the defense. In the rigid formation of our first halves they simply aren’t comfortable. Our formation is so compact and narrow that there’s no space to play into when we have possession. With no space, the players feel uncomfortable and either retain possession too long, or give it up too quick. When we attack, instead of sitting statically in formation, players make more runs, which provides us more space to play into, relieving pressure.

          I agree that there is a tension between how Bradley wants to play and what is most comfortable for the players. I disagree a bit with TSG’s analogy to Mourinho’s Inter. While it’s not a perfect analogy, I think the USMNT is closer to Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool–too defensive and too predictable. Bradley is more similar to Mourinho in his ability to influence a game with substitutions, something Benitez was lacking in.

          I like Bradley as a manager and I think he’s the best we have (including Klinsmann). I’d just like to see him try and influence a match before the 45th minute.

          Reply

        • Posted by Joe on 2011/03/27 at 12:46 PM

          I think this has to do more with our “American” philosophy. We are taught from a young age attack attack attack, just make sure you have a good defense in case. Where as it looks like Bradley would rather play an Italian style of play. Hunker down on defense and wait for a quick counterattack. I think we have the talent to play either style but we just don’t have the mentality to play Bradley’s way.

          Reply

  29. Posted by Clay R on 2011/03/27 at 10:49 AM

    Is Jozy seeing time at his club? I have been able to find very little on him and if that is the case I’d like to see Clint up top instead.

    Reply

  30. Posted by Crow on 2011/03/27 at 12:20 PM

    I don’t know how to say this without sounding/being condescending, but sometimes when I read these comments I wonder how many of those who post attended the game and how many watched the game and listened to John Harkes. You miss ALOT when you are not at the game. It is true that you also miss things when you are at the game. For instance, I was down on Jay DeMerit during the game, and then I watched the game this morning and I realized he actually had a pretty good game. I’m not going to call certain people out who have posted- and actually I think there are alot of interesting observations of the game- but some of the comments I just cannot see what they are based on after watching the game in person.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/27 at 12:33 PM

      Can’t comment on this, but I’ll add that often times an individual’s game is critique without taking into account the strategy and tactics.

      Reply

  31. Posted by M.white on 2011/03/27 at 12:23 PM

    US PLAYED LIKE SHIT THEY DID NOT PLAY SOCCOR THEY PLAYED WRESTLING

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/27 at 12:31 PM

      I don’t even know what to do with this?

      There’s a White Men Can’t Jump line lying around here somewhere…

      Reply

  32. Posted by Crow on 2011/03/27 at 1:07 PM

    Some notes from the “fan forum”: I do have a greater respect for Sunil Gulati after this forum. First of all, it is impressive that he held something like the forum. I was able to ask two questions- sadly I don’t think I worded the question about cooperating/supporting AO well enough (vs. CONCACAF/venues), because his answer sort of went a different direction than I had hoped. Anyway, he seems very supportive of AO and definitely sees the value of them and seems committed to making sure AO gets the allocated seats, general admission at each venue.

    Other points:

    I used a question someone had posted about whether recent “dual-nationals” such as Teal Bunbury, Timmy Chandler, etc. committing to The National Team was a coincidence or part of a “better effort” to target dual nationals or part of a different strategy. Sunil basically said that I had it in my question- just comes down to a personal decision. He did open up a bit, though, telling a few interesting specific stories. For instance, he told a story about how while he was at the Confed Cup in 2009, he told a FIFA official the story of Giuseppi Rossi (shortly before he entered the game) and shortly after he scored that brace. More interesting- he talked about about private discussions he and other members of USSF/coaching staff had with Subotic and others . Apparently, in some cases the players didn’t want to play for the US because it was easier to play in Europe travel-wise. He commented that he did not agree with the FIFA rule to allow players to change nationalities after playing at any level for a certain country (Subotic leaving and Jermaine Jones coming to the USA). I mentioned how Timothy Chandler had said in an interview this week about the fact that he liked the American program over the German program because it was “different” in a good way. I asked if this could be highlighted to potential dual-nationals or if in the long run it just comes down to a personal decision and he went with personal decision.

    Other notes:

    An older man and his son from Las Cruces, New Mexico came to the game and commented how there was barely any advertising/marketing for the game nationwide or in New York City. Sunil vehemently disagreed saying their was a “buzz” about the game along with a big billboard he had seen after leaving JFK airport. I don’t know- my sister and brother-in-law in Brooklyn didn’t know anything about the game until I had told them about it. Sunil acknowledge that more can be done to promote the team. The man made an interesting point how when these games come it is almost that the message is: ARGENTINA is coming, BRAZIL is coming, SPAIN is coming and not that the USA is playing. I thought this was a good point but Sunil didn’t really address it.

    Someone asked about a Technical Director and Sunil was actually very open saying it was discussed and different candidates have been interviewed and Bob knows about it. He made the point how the women’s program has a Technical Director and Coach and it works well. He acknowledged that the coach and technical director would obviously have to work together and cooperate for it to work.

    A few questions were asked about the World Cup bid/FIFA corruption. I’m not sure why people kept asking the same questions as he was tiring from them and didn’t really want to say anything. I wasn’t able to ask if USSF would support an outsider candidate like Grant Wahl or if he even thought that would be helpful.

    A question was asked about the pay-to-play setup in the USA, but he just talked glowingly about the US Developmental Academies. I’m not sure how they are set up exactly but who can actually attend? A man in the crowd originally from Southern California and now living in Balitmore, MD mentioned about how many inner-city youth aren’t exposed to soccer but apparently these academies are the solution according to Sunil.

    A few light hearted questions were asked as well.

    Reply

    • Posted by dth on 2011/03/27 at 1:14 PM

      re: developmental academies. It’s just a way of structuring a youth league: it mandates a higher ratio of practices to games and attempts to concentrate the U.S.’s talent into a selected group of top teams, which means better competition within and between teams. There’s nothing directly there to stop pay-to-play; that’s all on MLS teams to remedy.

      Reply

  33. Posted by Crow on 2011/03/27 at 1:19 PM

    The 2nd part of the fan forum was even more interesting, although I had to leave early to hang signs. Mike Sorber- former player and assistant coach- came out and answered questions. He does a great job answering questions. He is very composed with his answers and makes you feel comfortable when you ask them. I asked what the strategy would be vs. Argentina now that they seem to be better prepared vs. the counter with Zanetti and Cambiasso back in under Batista. He mentioned how they were excellent players and wasn’t sure why they weren’t included with Maradona- he figured it might’ve been more about the coach than the team, LOL. Anyway, he mentioned how although Argentina would certainly have possession, he believed it was important to try to dictate some of the game and build on the wings. I think that is what happened in the 2nd half especially on the right side. Anyway, it was a cool experience and I’m glad I got to go. I sure didn’t miss anything outside! AO was late to set up the tailgate and I didn’t want to be outside anyway. It was 30 degrees with a horrible 20-30 MPH wind.

    Reply

  34. Posted by marcel kohen on 2011/03/27 at 1:35 PM

    US soccer is a JOKE you didn’t touch the ball you just were running into no where good that you werern’t playing for a championship cup that would be surely 11-1 not only 1-1 draw

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/27 at 1:37 PM

      You know what the best part of this comment is.

      (And just so you know this is an objective site here, not a fan site).

      How come Argentina scored one goal. Weird. Pretty sure if the States had the ball that long they would have scored like 11 or something.

      Reply

    • Posted by Crow on 2011/03/27 at 1:50 PM

      LOL. All of the Argentina fans at the Meadowlands when they weren’t sitting on their hands, were crying like the little girl Mascherano any time any of their players were bumped and fell on the ground like the worthless little divers they are. Too bad Argentina doesn’t know how to finish and doesn’t have any mental fortitude. They were lucky to even qualify for the World Cup. Argentina will never be as good as Brazil and better hope they never have to play any decent European team in any major competition.

      You know what is even funnier than Argentinian fans or US Soccer haters upset over US drawing Argentina. The fact that Mexico got owned by a weaker version of this Argentina team in the World Cup last year!!!

      Reply

      • Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/03/27 at 6:21 PM

        I’m hoping that this was sarcastic re Argentina qualifying etc etc. That was a fantastic team playing in awful weather conditions with a team that bunkered for long stretches. We don’t belong to a supporters group but we sat in the Arg end of the field and found the fans to be pretty fair and excited to see their home squad. Many were embarrassed at Mascherano’s histrionics.
        The fan baiting comments just invite the nonsensical BS that’s starting to show up here. Can we keep it to analysis and what happens on the field?
        Matt you’re doing a great job trying to keep this together and hats off to you for great analysis on the game.

        Reply

  35. Posted by Sam on 2011/03/27 at 1:38 PM

    Agree with most of the review. Nice work, guys.

    One thing that really stuck out to me in the match was the lack of good off the ball movement from the US, especially in the first half. I thought we did a nice job of staying compact and making it relatively tough on Argentina when they had the ball, but when we got it from them — as has been noted several times above — we failed to play to feet. There were obviously a few reasons for that, but I thought the main one was the fact that basically no one made them self available for a simple ball. Definitely feel like that’s something to work on in the future

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/27 at 2:55 PM

      Thanks Sam.

      Hard point I think is that Dempsey and Donovan were so far back and frankly Edu was back with Jones and Bradley defending against Messi.

      I do believe Altidore could have made himself more valuable. It’s funny because the Yanks rarely went over the top in the 1st half. Might have been better even inserting Dempsey as the lone striker. I never favor this for Dempsey but he would have been behaving more like a forward in this one that.

      That said, I think Bradley wanted to keep Argentina honest with Altidore.

      Reply

  36. Good analysis, and good commentary, as always. Except for those two trolls, of course.

    I’m going to take an unpopular position here: Bob Bradley played this one right, at least tactically. There’s no question that the USA defense is outmatched by Argentina’s attack – indeed, we’re outmatched almost everywhere else on the field as well. Given that fact, I think Bradley’s decision to clog up the center of the field was appropriate to the situation. His singular goal was to minimize Argentina’s scoring chances, and he did so by the law of sheer numbers (they can’t score if 10+ of our players are behind the ball at all times). The ensuing first half wasn’t very exciting from a USA standpoint, but it worked.

    After the half, I think Bradley realized that the USA defense couldn’t withstand a continuous onslaught for another 45 minutes. Enter Chandler, with his willingness/ability to take the ball up the wing a la ‘Dolo, and Agudelo, boy wonder. Bradley knew that these two players, and the related formation adjustment, would give the USA more possession of the ball, and keep the Argentina defense on their back heels, if only a bit. You know the saying, “the best offense is a good defense”? The reverse was true here – for the USA, the best defense was relief for the backline/midfield in the form of increased offense. Throw in the set-piece cleanup for Agudelo, and Bradley likely exceeded his objective, which was probably losing by no more than a goal.

    The Bob Bradley method is frustrating to watch. It is boring, puts the USA in do-or-die situations all too frequently, and may stymie the growth of the sport in this country. But I think it’s a tough argument to claim it doesn’t work. 1-1 is a good result for the USA here.

    Reply

    • Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/03/27 at 6:25 PM

      I think this cycle points up that the quality and depth of the squad is not adequate at the back which has been what dictates much of Bob’s tactics.

      Quite a few have noted correctly, if he had a backline of the talent level of Zanetti and company I guarantee you Johnny Spector and Gooch aren’t starting last night. Props to Bob for taking the right tactical approach and for the in game adjustments at half time. Second half was very enjoyable soccer in even that godawful cold.

      Reply

    • Posted by Arisrules on 2011/03/28 at 7:17 AM

      I agree with this sentiment, but I will note one thing. Bradley concedes the wings, because he feels the combination of T-Ho and his CBs will win that air battle more often than not. We did the same against Spain, and here, and both times I think it was the right strategy.

      This game would have been interesting with Holden in the first half, and where Bob put him. Also, no way Gooch is above Ream in the CB chart. He’s just out of it.

      Reply

      • Posted by Tux on 2011/03/28 at 8:22 AM

        It helps that neither Argentina nor Spain is exactly what one would call dominant in the air. But yes, generally we’re winning the air battle in our own box.

        Reply

  37. Posted by John on 2011/03/27 at 4:24 PM

    Many of you know that I am not a Bradley apologist, but…. if mourinho plays defensive it is strategic and brilliant… if Bradley does this he is considered a luddite. Funny how that works.

    Reply

    • Posted by cosmosredux on 2011/03/27 at 4:44 PM

      I think there is a slight difference John. Inter’s teams didn’t get hammered with shots.

      But fair point.

      Reply

      • Posted by John on 2011/03/27 at 5:41 PM

        Well of course… our defense isn’t as good as theirs. Yet the philosophy worked.

        Reply

    • Posted by Patrick O. on 2011/03/27 at 5:06 PM

      I made the comment in my earlier post, but I think it’s worth repeating: Bradley’s approach is far more similar to the ultra-defensive Rafa Benitez. However, Bradley IS like Mourinho in the way he can read a game and influence play through tactics and substitutions. Don’t get me wrong, however; Bradley is no Mourinho. I do think he’s the best manager the US can get, so let’s continue to get behind him and the player. Let’s also hope he tries to be a tad more attacking in the first 45 minutes.

      Reply

  38. [...] TSG’s Official Match Review: USA 1, Argentina 1 You don’t have me fooled Bob Bradley. Got you pegged now. [...]

    Reply

  39. Posted by dth on 2011/03/27 at 5:25 PM

    Clint Dempsey is…Superfly:

    Reply

  40. Posted by GJD on 2011/03/27 at 6:19 PM

    Man, mountains of kudos — this is so spot-on and agree with every single thing you said. Just started reading a few weeks ago — keep up the fantastic work.

    Reply

  41. Posted by GJD on 2011/03/27 at 6:23 PM

    Man, mountains of kudos — this is so spot-on and agree with every single thing you said. Just started reading a few weeks ago — keep up the fantastic work.

    Only thing I would add is that I continue to find it puzzling how Bradley continues to trot out the defense-first strategy without the inclusion of PRESSURE. We gave five feet of space at times in our own box over and over last night. I guess if there’s no desire for possession, there’s no point in actually trying to take the ball.

    Reply

    • Posted by sfshwebb on 2011/03/27 at 7:42 PM

      This could be the most accurate comment of this thread. I agree completely. Nothing wrong with being that defensive but you got to pressure the ball. That’s why I think, if the Argentine forward players could actually finish properly, it would be a very different situation.

      Reply

      • Posted by GJD on 2011/03/27 at 8:33 PM

        Well, that and Howard’s rightly-praised-above monster of a performance.

        Watched the Barca-Real replay from November on GOL tonight (hear me out before you think I’m REMOTELY intimating that we have any resemblance to either of those two teams) and among the many, many instructive things about watching Barcelona is the absolute commitment to full-speed pressure throughout any game.

        With our vaunted fitness, it seems like an easy addition, no? I guess we have enough problems with guys ending up out of position already, but the constant retreating and standing contribute to a very frustrating-to-watch brand of the game from our boys.

        Reply

        • Posted by dth on 2011/03/27 at 9:07 PM

          No matter how fit you are, you can’t press hard for ninety minutes. This is why Barca works so well: they press hard for the limited time they don’t have the ball, which means it’s easy for them to get the ball, which means they have even more of the ball…virtuous circle.

          Reply

    • Posted by dth on 2011/03/27 at 9:05 PM

      We have definitely tried out intensive pressure before. Our second-half performance against Ghana, for example, was a clinic in frantic yet organized defense. The first fifteen minutes against Brazil were actually in the U.S.’s favor because of its awesome pressing. But Bradley has dialed back the pressure since then.

      Reply

  42. Posted by Freegle on 2011/03/27 at 7:24 PM

    I was able to see the game in NJ and then also watched it today and I agree with a lot of the commentary here. I don’t think there is too much to be critical about as far as the result is concerned. We drew a superior team. Can’t ask for too much more than that.

    As far as individual performances there was a lot to like. Howard was terrific. Chandler has the potential to be a big contributor. Agudelo scored a nice goal and changed the match (pardon the anti-hyperbole. I know the hype maching/bandwagon is revved up and leaving the station but I’m going to wait a little longer to jump on.) I also like the feistiness of the squad. I thought the team defending was good as well. Argentina scored a good goal created by great players.

    As far as the bad stuff, I think there was a lot that we already knew. We are currently bad at distributing out of the back (with Gooch being especially atrocious tonight). Jozy is not a target forward. Edu cannot play the top of a triangle in the MF. MB can put in a tireless shift but remains undisciplined at times.

    Now… queue the Bob Bradley rant. He gets a lot of credit (and deservedly so) for making sound adjustments. That is commendable no doubt. However, I simply wish that he would just make the right decisions in the first place. We have a littany of examples of Bob setting players up to fail. Some we have been able to overcome due to sheer perseverence: The Confed Cup performance, repetitive use of Bornstein. Others have cost us dearly: Wynne and Beasley in Saprissa, Rico in the WC. I hated it before and was hoping that in his second term, these things would change. But here we are with Jozy playing alone, Gooch at CB vs. a team with quickness and no aerial ability, Spector at RB, and Edu asked to play a position he is abviously ill suited for.

    Again, I will give him credit. He adjusted in the second half. But it seems like Bob had prepared for 4-5-1 for the last 5 months and then when two key players for that formation in Holden and Dolo arent available, he said “screw it! we’re gonna plug in a couple guys and do it anyway!” instead of saying “ok lets reevaluate and figure out the best way to use our players.” Rigidity has blown up in his face time and again. Is it too much to ask to just do it right the first time?

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  43. Posted by BernieBernier on 2011/03/27 at 7:53 PM

    Not sure if any of this is new but after seeing the game in person here are my takeaways:

    1) The 4-2-3-1 experiment should be scrapped. A lot of posts and articles are saying that the issue is Holden’s absence. I disagree and think it really is Jozy’s game. Just because Jozy is big doesn’t make him a hold-up target man in the mold of McBride and Ching. To analogize to another sport it would be like insisting that Durant play in the post because he is 6′ 10″. We need to go with a 4-4-2 (or 4-2-2-2) until we develop a striker that can play as a lone striker.

    2) Agudelo is bigger than I expected and is not in the mold of the Charlie Davies or Findley (meaning someone just there to provide speed). Really impressed with how he played.

    3) RB is the new CDM for the US National Team. Chandler was a revelation. Dolo is one of our best players. Lichaj is a very good prospect.

    4) Spector should never play RB against a top team.

    5) Gooch is no longer an automatic start. I expected much more from him. He doesn’t have the excuse of not playing for AC Milan. He is playing regularly at FC Twente. If I was Bradley I would be looking at my CB depth chart as the US has 5 or 6 guys that could play but no one to ink into the line-up.

    6) Even if the US is up a goal I never want to see Edu, Bradley, and Jones on the field at the same time. Even in a defensive bunkering situation there is no ability to relieve the pressure and possess the ball.

    7) I have been unnecessarily harsh on Boca as LB. He played well. The US can afford to focus solely on the right side of the field with Donovan, the RB on that side and Dempsey drifting into the middle.

    8) I can’t wait for the day that Bradley plays the right line-up from minute 1. I don’t believe that his strategy of playing a half in defense and then figuring out what changes to make was what he was trying to do. If Matt can basically get Argentina’s formation and strategy correct then why can’t Bradley. There was nothing we saw in the first half from Argentina that wasn’t in Matt’s preview.

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  44. Posted by Charlie G. on 2011/03/27 at 7:54 PM

    Great Blog ! Good analysis of the game. In all, given the ‘pieces’ Bob have to play with not a bad effort. Given the absence of any MF with ball handling/control skills, there was not a whole lot of choice. Was just a bit strange to see Edu so far up the field that he looked like he wanted Jozy’s job. The Rope-a-Dope reference is a good one – all we need is the next part – “float like a butterfly, sting likle a bee”. Not much floating being done by the boys in Red (nice Unis though). Pluses – no Bornstein, although maybe against Paraguay; good adjustment at the half. It’s hard to judge Jozy’s first half, as it is clear that at this point in his career he is not meant to be a lone striker – he clearly feeds off an energy type striker like Agudelo or CD9. Am really wondering whether Gooch has a future with the Nats, other than a bench player. In my view, the days of the lanky too tall CB may be over, in favor of players with first step acceleration. Obviously strength and some jumping ability are really important, but not having initial quickness seems a real liability in covering most international forwards these days.

    In the end, its hard to judge much by this game. I love the attitude of the US players though, and combined with emerging skill, it may prove an impressive combination. Infusing the program with this attitude is one of Bob’s strengths and we can all be greatful for this – fans in the UK could only be so lucky in this regard.

    Reply

  45. Posted by Soccernst on 2011/03/27 at 7:54 PM

    I’m not sure. After the first half I think bob has grounds to sign off on players who contributed last cycle like Spector. He has license to swap in Ream for our shaky distributors in the back. License to sit edu, or jones or Bradley. He did not really have that option last week. (obviously he COULD have, but it would be hard on the team.

    Reply

  46. Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/27 at 8:47 PM

    Note here. (Not directed at any one comment)

    Thought I would add this in here.

    Don’t assume that the game for Bradley didn’t go precisely as planned.
    I tried to make this point above (but I made so many good ones it probably got lost :>)

    I think Bradley knew his team wasn’t go to see the ball in the 1st half.
    I think he let Argentina find some holes that he knew we was going to plug.

    With Edu in the role he was I think he *hoped* for an opportunity. I think he misjudged Spector but likely didn’t trust Chandler or Lichaj and didn’t want to find out in the 1st half. (A shame)

    I think he relied on Argentina exploiting weaknesses (save Spector) that weren’t going to be there in the 2nd half.

    And then he attacked in the 2nd half. It’s a very Sir Alex Ferguson time plan mind you.

    Now, I don’t think he outcoached Batista, but I think his players did a hell of a job adhering to the game plan though it frustrated some of them (Deuce).

    So kudos to Bradley there.

    But this point again isn’t about lauding Bradley, it’s merely saying that I don’t think Bradley ever cared about even putting up an offensive fight in the 1st half. The media suggests that “he got it wrong”

    I think he did exactly what he wanted to do in the game and result happened, but it’s a very tough and volatile (Brazil–Confed Cup, Spain–Confed Cup, Turkey, etc.) approach to coaching.

    (Hope I said this without meandering too much.)

    Reply

    • Posted by dth on 2011/03/27 at 9:02 PM

      I don’t know that this is what Bradley was trying for. If you listen to Dempey and Bradley’s comments post-game, they repeatedly mentioned they thought they’d have more possession. It sounds like Bradley believes the reason we didn’t have enough possession was that the Edu-Bradley-Jones troika hasn’t figured each other out yet.

      http://www.ussoccer.com/News/Mens-National-Team/2011/03/Quote-Sheet-US-MNT-vs-Argentina.aspx

      Or perhaps you’d have another interpretation for their comments.

      Reply

      • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/27 at 10:12 PM

        On Bradley, I don’t think you get the full story in the press conference. He’s not a big fan of the press, though he does take it seriously. He always speaks in generalities except when complimenting a player.

        (On that note, very out of character for Bradley to open up about Brek Shea after the Chile game and say Brek came to him at halftime and said he’d never played at the speed of that game and it took him by surprise.)

        Reply

      • Posted by BernieBernier on 2011/03/28 at 3:10 AM

        I agree that the first half issue is the fact that the 3 CDM haven’t figured each other out. The question needs to be whether or not they need more time or whether this strategy needs to be scrapped. I am squarely in the camp that it needs to be scrapped. Agree it might be different with Holden in camp but… that is not happening anytime soon.

        Reply

  47. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/03/28 at 6:21 AM

    I was at the Meadowlands too. And I pretty much agree with the general summary of this article. I don’t think many people would be that surprised with the starting tactics employed by Bradley’s USA. However, whether they were executed is a little debatable, even though you limited Argentina to one goal and came out with a draw.

    It is no surprise that Argentina had a lot of the possession. We all knew that this would happen. But perhaps I was a little surprised at how the first half panned out.

    Pre-match, we talked about the Defensive Line, and knew that Bradley would employ playing a deep defence against a strong attacking team like Argentina. We knew the back four would sit in front of the goal with little space behind for Messi & Co to move into. And if they did get past the defensive line and behind the back four, then the little space to make up is much easier for other defenders to cover.

    I understand that it is easier said than done, but I must admit, I was surprised at how often Argentina got behind [especially when they went through the middle]. I was behind Howard’s goal in the first half, and I have to say that he got his positional and angles spot on. A lot of the stuff he did was solid, textbook goalkeeping, and he made it look straightforward *because* his starting position was excellent. The mopping up he did was what I would expect from an international class goalkeeper. However, you have to concede that while Howard was excellent, Argentina were very poor with that final ball or attempt on goal. Howard can only do so much, and Argentina didn’t finish the chances they had. So can you honestly credit Bradley “for getting it right”?

    Somebody mentioned /compared to Mourihno at the Nou Camp with Inter. Difference is that Inter frustrated Barcelona and really limited their chances, where the USA rode their luck a little. But to be fair and balanced, Inter’s back 5 are better than the US’s, plus Mourinho had much longer to prepare for that game with his defensive coach not to mention that Inter’s unit train with each other every day.

    Argentina seemed to attack down the USA’s right a lot, and one thing that the article didn’t mention / graphic didn’t illustrate was the fact that Dempsey and Donovan switched flanks in the first half. I thought that was because Dempsey has a little more defensive bite and is more dogged and gritty, and Spector obviously needed the help.

    I thought Argentina were quite impressive with their pressing, and made it very difficult for the US to play the ball forward in the first half. I have mentioned before I think the problem with a lot of the US players is receiving the ball to feet when they are being marked / not “open”. I felt that this limited many options and led to the long ball and cheap turnovers. The US’s problem in getting the ball forward and ball retention were not helped by Altidore playing up top as a lone striker. And this was accelerated due to the fact that Donovan and Dempsey were so far away because they were pinned back with defensive duties.

    Regarding the Argentina goal, I must say that even though “they were good for their lead”, they did have a huge slice of luck. After Howard saved the initial shot, the ball could have rolled out anywhere, but it fell nicely to Cambiasso. Argentina fans seem to forget about this, eh?

    And to chip in over Bradley Jr. I didn’t think he was particularly impressive, but to be fair to him, his performance was pretty consistent with the rest of the midfield. He did get some good blocks and tackles in, but he gave the ball away too often. To single him out would be grossly unfair. And regarding the comment talking about his 1v1 defending, yes, a few of the Argentina forwards went past him as if he was a stationary cone on a training field, but they are also some of the best offensive players in the world. Not sure what player would cope with somebody like Messi running at them with the ball – again, extremely harsh critique.

    Reply

    • Posted by Berniebernier on 2011/03/28 at 6:46 AM

      I actually thought Bradley played well. Not like he was a standout but he worked hard, hustled after players, chased a lot on D (now if someone wants to say that is because he was getting beat that might be accurate but Messi seemed to be beating everyone in the middle of the field for the US so I can’t hold that against him). I would have put Jones as the worst of the three (although I am ignoring Edu’s first half which was horrible by saying that was due to positioning and tactics).

      Reply

    • Posted by dth on 2011/03/28 at 8:17 AM

      I agree with this stuff. Successful passing is on both the passer and the receiver, and in this game especially it’s tough to know which side to blame more. I think the receiver (which goes back to tactics).

      Reply

  48. Posted by Crow on 2011/03/28 at 7:30 AM

    I watched the game for a 3rd time- 2nd time on TV and here is what I came up with. I tried to focus on certain players the whole match.

    1. I was unduly harsh on MB90. I missed his “solid” defensive performace. He was rarely out of position, and made several solid defensive tackles (especially on Messi), and limited the big-swing-and-miss tackles he is famous for. He got beat on the one lob chance Messi had but he was actually decent. The reason he didn’t stick out was because he didn’t really offer anything going forward or in distribution, but he was playing a holding role in an ultra-defensive formation. He was not as dynamic as usual, but more composed. Wouldn’t Bradley be a better fit in the role that Edu was forced into, though? It would be nice for him to get a set role because he has offensive gifts as well, so he can develop.

    2. Don’t apologize for Spector. Spector wasn’t horrific but that was mainly because he was giving the attacker (Di Maria) so much space. He was playing like a cornerback in football who gives the WR a 10 yd cushion at the line of scrimmage bc he doesn’t want to get beat deep. And he offered nothing going forward. Chandler got forward, linked up well, had 3 excellent crosses AND played better defense than Spector. Donovan, and then Dempsey (after they switched wings in the 1st half) were both tied down because of Spector as well which hurt the team. I feel bad for the guy- he had a good run at RB in 2009, so he has talent, but he is always getting moved around the pitch and can’t settle in anywhere. Maybe they could try him out in the midfield for the Paraguay game in the “hole”. If he can’t make a contribution there, he can be called on in an emergency at RB, but with ‘Dolo/Chandler/Lichaj there is no need.

    3. The sky is the limit for Chandler and Agudelo. It is so refreshing to have young players who play with confidence. Chandler usually plays wing and he played solid defense vs. Argentina. He could be a huge asset for years.

    4. Jozy Altidore needs a friend. It is obvious that Jozy does better when paired up with someone else. It would be nice if when he was the lone striker, he would hold up the ball and work hard and not sulk- but it doesn’t happen. He was a completely different player when he had Agudelo to link up with. Bob needs to understand what he has in Jozy and how to use him properly.

    5. The US played “better” than most people are giving them credit for. I think Argentina played very well but obviously their finishing let something to be desired. With that being said, I’ll repeat that that is mainly because the US did a good job closing in AFTER they had allowed a scoring chance to develop. It took bend but not break to an extreme. Howard made some good saves, but I actually think his saves in the 2nd half were better. Almost every Argentinian shot was contested, which was refreshing. It would have been nice if the D would not have played so scared and would have instead closed down the attackers earlier.

    6. Mike Sorber said before the game that the US needed to take advantage on set pieces, and they did. It is a shame they didn’t get some more, and that other than the goal, Landon’s service was a bit lacking.

    7. John Harkes actually was less obnoxious than normal.

    Reply

    • Posted by dth on 2011/03/28 at 8:15 AM

      Regarding point 3: I don’t think Chandler’s final position has been sorted. He’s played 6 games at RB and 2 at RM, but that may have been because of an injury/suspension to the regular RB at Nürnberg.

      I also don’t think the sky is the limit. I’m sure you’re just being metaphorical, but for me the best u-23 players in the world (which encompasses both Chandler and Agudelo) are guys like Neymar, Wilshere, Goetze. I don’t think Agudelo/Chandler have shown as much as those three, and I don’t think they have the same potential. We’ll see how it all turns out, but I think we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves.

      (After all: you know what other players had great beginnings of USMNT careers? Chaps like Eddie Johnson, who had 6 goals in his first 7 caps, and Jozy Altidore. I still have hope for Jozy but you have to admit their careers will end up well short of world class.)

      Reply

      • Posted by crow on 2011/03/28 at 8:56 AM

        Juan Agudelo could turn into Eddie Johnson but I don’t think he will. There is something different about the way he plays. Or he could turn into Jozy Altidore in the sense that he starts off fast and then something happens and he loses his confidence and ceases to develop into a “world class” player or “international-caliber”.

        There is just something different about some of the “U-23″ guys: Diskeruud, Agudelo, Chandler, Lichaj, Ream. They seem to have potential to take the US team to the next level.

        Reply

    • Posted by Cameron on 2011/03/28 at 1:37 PM

      I very much agree with your point that the US played better than people gave them credit for. Argentina was phenomenal in the first half and still pretty incredible in the second–the fact that the US was able to not only tie, but to score on them should not be overlooked. Yes, we had some serious issues in the game, but after re-watching it as well, I have a much more positive outlook on the team’s performance.

      Reply

  49. Posted by LarryMontanez on 2011/03/28 at 10:11 AM

    I’m a bit late to this party, but i still have 2 cents to throw in. I also think MB90′s rating was a bit too high. from where i saw the game (up high from behind the goal), it was very frustrating to watch MB90 never show for the ball (he only did once or twice later in the 2nd half). the argentines are able to maintain possession because they always have at least 2 options, and usually a third safety valve, within 10 yards of the ball. many times the US tried to come out of the back, there wasn’t a midfielder within 30 yards of the ball, even in the 2nd half; you can’t blame boca or gooch for taking the ball to the sideline then having to kick it out of bounds when there is no one showing for the ball. MB90, or jones for that matter, need to sprint over to provide options. and being defensive isn’t an excuse; that’s part of a DCM’s role. mascherano didn’t provide much going forward, but he was always around the ball to provide an outlet when it was in their half.

    and regarding jozy, granted he’s not a lone striker type, but you don’t have to be to know that you can’t dribble straight toward goal when there are 3-4 defenders in front of you. when he got the ball, you can see all the other players barely jogging forward, because they know he’s going to lose it, and don’t want to get caught having to spring back. you don’t need to put your back to goal to hold the ball up and keep possession. also he’s also not scoring because he’s not making good runs. agudelo forced a corner at one point because as he was running to the near post for a cross, he took a couple subtle diagonal step at the last second to get in front of the defender, forcing the defender to defensively kick it over the endline. i saw jozy make too many off-the-ball runs where he put himself behind a defender. it doesn’t matter how big and fast you are if there is no lane to get the ball. Basically, from my angle, jozy plays like that big, fast kid who scores a lot in travel soccer, then has a hard time as the competition gets better. he’s got the talent, just not the cunning. and getting time and scoring goals in Turkey may not help him; he needs to learn how to score w/o being able to out run or out muscle his opponent.

    anyway, my 2 cents

    that said, it was nice to see how the U.

    Reply

    • Posted by cosmosredux on 2011/03/28 at 1:52 PM

      Larry, spot on on Altidore.

      I’ve got a piece half written that talks about a lot of what you wrote. In fact, I’m *still* waiting on a few comments from Bob Bradley for almost 6 weeks on the piece (will follow-up after this friendly series.)

      Main point, Jozy has never really “learned” a position and he needs to either decide that he’s going to be really good at being a target striker because of his frame OR work more as a 2nd striker/winger in a 4-3-3 and use his speed and power and learn how to make better runs.

      That’s Jozy’s club conundrum.

      Reply

  50. [...] it took a Jim Craig in Lake Placid form opening from Tim Howard in a initial forty-five, though Bob Bradley finished his standard rope-a-dope adjustments in a second half, where he shored adult a US liabilities, addressed a oppositions strengths, and switched his [...]

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  51. [...] it took a Jim Craig in Lake Placid form opening from Tim Howard in a initial forty-five, though Bob Bradley finished his standard rope-a-dope adjustments in a second half, where he shored adult a US liabilities, addressed a oppositions strengths, and switched his [...]

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  52. [...] it took a Jim Craig in Lake Placid type performance from Tim Howard in the first forty-five, but Bob Bradley made his typical rope-a-dope adjustments in the second half, where he shored up the US liabilities, addressed the oppositions strengths, and switched his [...]

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  53. […] First, playing a narrower, flatter central four and forcing Jamaica to somehow find space around the outsides and secondly probably dropping Dempsey into a more defensive role of picking up Jamaica’s deep man in the attacking equation. And of course, you compress your backline further to the front four ahead of it. It would be a similar plan that Canada has used recently against the US’s U-23′s 4-3-3 and that Bob Bradley used against Argentina in the 2011 1-1 friendly draw. […]

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