Around TSG we love to use Paraguay as a comparatively equal team to the States.
From their deployment–normally two defensive midfielders coupled with two striker-forwards up top and usually in a 4-4-2–to their game planning–defensive pressure–all the way to how they score–for the past two World Cups they have more goals scored from the striker role than the US. That number is “1.”
Paraguay, 24th in the FIFA rankings to the US’s 19th. Fair to say however that the States have more offensive firepower in this one.
After fortressing themselves in against Argentina in the early going Saturday, the Yanks will look to do a little TCB, Elvis-style, in his home state of Tennessee against a team that embarrassed themselves against Mexico to the tune of 3-1 in Oakland, CA over the weekend.
Despite the loss and lagging form, Paraguay, a World Cup quarterfinalist, should provide an equitable opponent and one who USMNT coach Bob Bradley can measure some new players against after Argentina saw Bradley’s short term “A” team fully deployed.
Expect some new faces in the starting line-up, a multitude of subs and…hopefully some warmer weather.
To our customary preview, we go. Per usual:
TSG What We’re Looking At
11 At The Whistle
About The Opponent
TSG What We’re Looking At
It’s almost cliche to bring up the 18-year-old as a “key observation” at this point, but we do nonetheless.
Saturday saw the third relief appearance for Agudelo who has shone brightly during his slighly more than 90 minutes for the States. His two goals already for the senior team? Even up with such notable roster counterparts as Benny Feilhaber, Edson Buddle and Jonathan Bornstein.
With Chicharito scorching the Paraguayan left flank on Saturday, Tuesday’s affair gives us a window into how quickly Bradley will allow the New York Red Bull striker to become a major part of the attack. If Bradley was watching tape, he had to be salivating at the opportunity to deploy Agudelo similarly to the Little Pea.
Bradley, never one to bend, will still find it awful hard not to succumb to the pressure of playing arguably the Yanks’ top striker right now, because until Charlie Davies shows consistency during the run of play, there are really no other speed options.
Should he start the youngster or should he continue to handle him with oven mitts and meter out his time over more caps.
• Just how aggressive will Bob Bradley be.
Paraguay’s coach Gerardo Martino called out his side for resting on their laurels Saturday…and the loss showed some of Paraguay’s real weaknesses. An aging and decidedly average set of centerbacks, lack of a true game breaker, and a glaring weakness at striker.
Don’t expect Bradley to employ the same clog the midfield and sit-deep defensive strategy that he did against Argentina.
I expect to see a much higher line from the US defense. I expect to see the US looking to boss and control the game a little bit more.
• And Stu Holden’s replacement–sniffle–is?
Perhaps a minor point here, but, in Stu Holden, Coach Bradley had a versatile midfielder who he could count on for solid defense every time out. Further, it was clear that Bradley favored Holden’s know-how to determine when to help out internally with that defense and when to advance on the flank.
Beyond this, Holden could be counted on to be precise with his crosses and maintain possession.
Who is Holden’s replacement for the Gold Cup? Could it possible be Sacha Kljestan in consideration? Maybe even Mix Diskerud who played the right wing down in South Africa? Is it still Benny Feilhaber?
• Can the US string together two strong performances in a row?
Evident during 2011 qualifying, the US has challenges in keeping consistency for the back-end of two-game sets. A decent effort against El Salvador in September 2009 back-ended by a stinker–though a win–against Trinidad & Tobago. The Honduras clincher followed by eeking out a draw at RFK against Costa Rica (that one was understandable.)
Even in the World Cup, a strong England effort followed by going down two against Slovenia. A well-played Algeria match preceded the Ghana ouster.
No doubt that the players were highly focused on insuring a good effort in prime-time against Argentina.
Over 75,000 in attendance for that one; just 20,000 or so expected in Nashville. Argentina versus a slumping Paraguay team.
Back-to-back solid games speaks to focus and team depth…and a good performance where Team USA is victorious and dictates the tempo would draw the plaudits across the board as the March friendly series ends.
• Will Tim Ream end the trend of US centerbacks yelling “Fore….”
….before getting their knickers in a bunch and hucking the ball up the pitch.
I expect Ream to start and be heavily involved in the distribution out of the back.
11 At The Whistle
*Remember, this is what I project Coach Bradley will do Tuesday night; not what I would perhaps do.
Too similarly attacking sides, here. Paraguay loves to flood the flanks and play on the counter.
The part that makes projecting what Bob will do here tough, is if he wants to get into an up-down track meet after Saturday’s game. If that’s the case then Juan Agudelo likely trots out to help shape a 4-4-2. If it’s not the case, then I see a 4-4-1-1 with Jozy and another forward (Dempsey or Diskerud) helping out up top.
G: Tim Howard
With some new faces likely in front of him, Tim Howard will be called on–for at least half–to keep it clean in the back.
He’ll give way to either David Yelldell or Marcus Hahneman in the second frame.
DEF: Eric Lichaj, Oguchi Onyewu, Tim Ream, Carlos Bocanegra
The skinny: Unsure the selections here. With Bradley getting a look at Chandler in competition against a quality side and Spector as well, he’ll give the young Aston Villa back a shot here to claim a back-up role to the almighty Steve Cherundolo in the Gold Cup.
Centrally, Onyewu gets deployed again, should his knee be okay, to control the skies (Paraguay’s weakest department) while Tim Ream is introduced into the side for his first true test to show his mettle against a quality outfit.
On the left, unless the captain is deactivated, he gets the start. I could see Jonathan Bornstein starting here, but I think you’d want to see two veterans book-ending Ream if he is out there.
MID: Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Sacha Kljestan (Benny Feilhaber if hammy better?)
The skinny: Nearly impossible to keep Michael Bradley off the team sheet. Elsewhere, Jermaine Jones gets another look as Paraguay loves to push their fullbacks into attack and Jones gets a chance to show that his poor passing Saturday night was an aberration. (I’m not sure it was.) Jones only went 45′ so he’s still fresh. He’ll be needed to ignite the counter.
Landon Donovan always starts. Well because he is Landon Donovan and he’s the face of US Soccer.
And on the left, Sacha Kljestan gets the nod attempting to the play the role of Stu Holden fill-in for the Gold Cup.
FW: Mix Diskerud, STR: Jozy Altidore
The skinny: Remember that Chris Wondolowski-Mix pairing you saw during the Chile game? Well Bradley tries it out again here to see if Diskerud can play up the pitch.
As has been customary for Bradley–on occasion–Clint Dempsey (Colombia, Slovakia friendlies) takes a breather in the 1st half. Clint could easily start, but I think Bob might rest him.
I’m not sure that Agudelo starts–and I’m sure to hear crickets in the comment section–if only because with Edson Buddle Fahrvergnügen-ing his way back to Germany, there’s no offensive reliever off the bench. Should the Yanks slip up early and concede, who’s the attacking fastball that Bradley calls on?
I’ll just take the unpopular tact here in the preview piece for fun.
Your USMNT projected deployment:
» Everything: Does Bradley thing his depth can handle a stumbling Paraguay side? What’s his motivation for this one? How much rest does he give club players that have played a lot of minutes lately like Maurice Edu and Clint Dempsey?
» Juan Agudelo for Mix Diskerud moving to a 4-4-2: Probably will happen. I’ve got this niggling that Bradley doesn’t want to start Agudelo yet though.
» Timmy Chandler for Eric Lichaj at RB: Going to be awfully compelling for Bradley to keep Chandler on the field after his Argentina performance.
» Clint Dempsey for Sacha Kljestan or Mix Diskerud: It’s been done before, that is resting the Deuce, but how do you keep Clint Dempsey on the bench?
» Jonathan Bornstein for Carlos Bocanegra: Bob Bradley’s true prodigal son returns to the starting line-up.
About The Opponent: (Paraguay)
(Note a few less observations of Paraguay for TSG, plus Parguay manager Gerardo Martino changes his line-up frequently….read with caution)
Paraguay easily is the least flashiest, most defensive team in CONMEBOL.
After a World Cup that saw a wonder run to the Final Eight (that didn’t work), Paraguay looks decidedly boring and ambivalent here in 2011.
Their centerbacks ( and ) have looked old (they are). In fact their backline is comprised of three centerbacks, one who splits out to the right.
Their midfield is aging as well and has the Herculean task of covering rearguard and being integral in the attack.
And their strikers.
Where once Roque Santa Cruz cared, roamed high and pulled down everything in site, now Paraguay is deploying merely speed. Santa Cruz is of course not traveling with the team (after a decidedly awful World Cup in our eyes) and somewhat incredulously Ligue One’s Toulouse striker Federico Santander (6’2”) didn’t make the cut here.
So bye-bye long ball over the top to a target men and manager Martino is asking forwards Lucio Barrios (Borussia Dortmund) and Edgar Benitez to check back and hold up the ball–Benitez by the way plays with Paco Torres and Herc Gomez at Pachuca. The two should interplay well, but back to the basket is not what you want them doing all match long.
Paraguay will who don’t defend the flanks all that well will have two offensive strategies, flipping a counterattack up a flank with both strikers joining in and flooding a side. The marble is the often laid off for a trailing midfielder in Vera or Cristian Riveros to take a shot on goal (this the Yanks need to protect against). Both Riveros and Vera can smack it.
The other option sounds positively Yanks-esque. Set pieces. Despite lacking the aerial threat in the box, Alcaraz and Paula Da Silva often join the party in the box on service off a ball stoppage. (Therefore I expect to see Gooch pairing Ream here.)
A major disclaimer here as Martino’s side had a terrible showing on Saturday and manager might switch around the side. On my diagram, I have substituted in Cristian Riveros brother Marcos for Enrique Vera, 32, who friends told me looked slow and disappointed against Mexico.