Bradley’s Clipboard: April 2011

The Best XI? Close...

Our 3rd entry in what is sure be a long-running journal all the way to Brazil 2014. By the way, did you know that after China and India, Brazil has the fastest growing consumer base online. Okay, back to soccer.

January 2011 was our last scribbling.

Here was our first entry in October.

After most camps and friendlies, TSG puts together a piece with the following components for discussion amongst the community.

To refresh….

I. The Best “A” Team starting eleven.

This is the team would play regardless of opponent, situation or formation if the Yanks had to choose a line-up blindly for a potential World Cup game….tomorrow.

II. The Depth Charts.

For each position we’ll list the top two, three or four players that Bob Bradley has in his quiver.

III. The “X” Things

The two or three issues that are top of mind coming out of the last match or camp.

Go:

I. The Best Eleven

Whereas last time we went with some combination of a 4-5-1. This time we’re back to a 4-4-2 with the rising stock of Juan Agudelo and the recovery period of Stu Holden.

G: Tim Howard

DEF: Steve Cherundolo, Jay DeMerit, Tim Ream, Carlos Bocanegra

Still the captain of the left flank...

(Changed from January: Jay DeMerit for Clarence Goodson, Bocanegra for Bornstein)

MID: Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, Landon Donovan

(Dropped Stu Holden and Jermaine Jones, added Maurice Edu)

STR: Juan, Agudelo, Jozy Altidore

(added Juan Agudelo)

The skinny: A few pretty major changes from January. Carlos Bocanegra at leftback. The captain showed he still had it to defend against the best.

Jonathan Bornstein is still worthy of a spot, but since he’s manning the midfield at Tigres, he’s not getting the necessary reps out wide in the back.

The midfield moves from five to four and with that drops two players. The first, Stu Holden is a given due to injury. The second, Jermaine Jones.

Precocious Juan Agudelo rightfully takes up a place, for now.

As a re-occuring theme with Bradley, you’re seeing speed favored on the depths charts.

The Depth Charts:

Goalie: (1) Tim Howard (2) Marcus Hahnemann (3) Brad Guzan (4) Sean Johnson

The skinny: Tim Howard is still Tim Howard as was witnessed against Argentina. Marcus Hahnemann stood in as #2 this past friendly series and, with Brad Guzan not called in and not a definite due to nuptials for the Gold Cup, we move up Marcus Hahnemann.

Sean Johnson stays on the list at numeral four. If you were picking one keeper to cultivate, you’d have to select P Diddy for now.

Did Loyd deal himself in to the uncrowded leftback position?

Left: (1) Carlos Bocanegra (2) Jonathan Bornstein, (3) Zach Loyd,

The skinny:

Captain Carlos has the tentative hold on #1….for now.

Jonathan Bornstein’s detractors are really just happy to have a whipping boy. Bornstein is uneven at worst–yet the defender has held his own against some strong attackers like Arjen Robben. (Sure he pulled down Robben on a give-and-go once, but he also did not get consistently beat. Trying say that to Michel Bastos.)

Odd that Bornstein gets so much hate at a position that is weak on depth, yet a player like Jozy Altidore–uneven as well–does not. Altidore gets criticism, but not vitriol.

Is that because of his age or because he was hyped before he was ready to delivery?

Zach Loyd stands up wingers. +10, nay +100, from TSG. We respect that. That alone gets him the #3 spot.

Right: (1) Steve Cherundolo (2) Timothy Chandler* (3) Eric Lichaj (4) Jonathan Spector

The skinny: Our much beloved Sean Franklin falls from the depth chart this go around.

Hold on. Let me collect myself.

[Three weeks later]

Timothy Chandler looked fantastic in two friends here in March. For now, he stays at #2. A Spain start and impressive showing will make Bob Bradley find him a spot–somewhere.

Eric Lichaj comes in right behind Chandler. Don’t be surprised if you see Lichaj–strong in the air, fair to above average on the ball, get some runouts at centerback. Bradley is always one to try to get his strongest side on the pitch and he’ll find a spot for Lichaj if warranted.

The poor man’s John O’Shea, Jonathan Spector, rounds it out.

Oh, and murmurs that Steve Cherundolo should get a run-out at leftback. Whether I disagree–I do–or not, when was the last time Bradley used an off-footed leftback in an important match-up.

[Three weeks later....]

Central Defense:  (1) Jay DeMerit  (2) Tim Ream, (3) Oguchi Onyewu, (4) Omar Gonzalez, (5) Ike Opara

Top of the charts, for now, for JDM...

*Injured: Clarence Goodson

The skinny: My-oh-my, in January, we had Clarence Goodson first in the pecking order. That’s how disjointed and unsettled the middle was or rather still is.

Now Goodson falls from the chart with his foot injury.

Jay DeMerit is first on the depth chart and here’s why. With Oguchi Onyewu clearly not himself since…since…San Pedro Sula? DeMerit is called on to quarterback the backline.

Comfy: With Ream, it's all about one thing...

Tim Ream showed that he deserves–for now, at least–to settle in as a starter and see what improvement he makes with multiple reps.

Oguchi Onyewu goes third–and that’s strictly on trust factors for Bob Bradley and aerial defense for Bob Bradley. Note, if Bocanegra is at leftback just how will Bradley continue to recognize Onyewu and put him in there?

Ream seems most likely to supplant Onyewu’s role. The New York Red Bull backliner is green and challenged in the air HOWEVER he can complete a pass. Big difference maker there.

Ike Opara just sneaks on to the depth chart. Aerial prowess, speed, strength. We’ll be seeing from young Ike shortly.

Midfield (holding): (1) Michael Bradley, (2) Maurice Edu, (3) Jermaine Jones, (4) Dax McCarty, (5) Ricardo Clark

The skinny:

Oh the depth.

Where has it gone?

The States have typically two (sometimes) three starting central midfielders. One is clearly the third choice for his bottom of the table EPL side.

One is at a club that is in some serious financial peril.

The third has been marginal in his appearances for Blackburn, but is demanded back from to the Bundesliga.

Oh where have you gone Stu Holden?

Michael Bradley looks to be your Gold Cup quarterback. He’s like the Donovan McNabb of the USMNT. Always around, always plays hard, always gets a hard time, can win a game in many ways, you can get to the Super Bowl with him, but can be scattershot in the passing game.

Ricardo Clark will play off Michael Bradley…oops that’s really Maurice Edu in the Edu jersey. Seems Bob Bradley’s been fooled too because he’s deploying Edu precisely how he did Clark although their style is different. (Clark is a better tracker, Edu better at shutting down when he is face up.)

Jones has the biggest ability to swing the strength here. Watching the German-American it appears he’s lost a step. Bradley favors–again–pace and Jones’ Beamer may havee lost a gear.

He’s still good enough, but can he reclaim the form that made him a destroyer terror for Shalke ’04 a few years back.

Jose Torres is now named Dax McCarty and Ricardo Clark is always available to fall asleep twice on defense in 90 minutes.

Midfield (flanks & attacking): (1) Clint Dempsey, (2) Landon Donovan, (3) Benny Feilhaber, (4) Timothy Chandler* (5) Sacha Kljestan, (6) Mix Diskerud,  (7) Alejandro Bedoya, (8) Brek Shea

The skinny: No surprises in the first two of course. I might have written that about 39 or so times in the past few years.

Kljestan, off the bench and impressive. Best we've seen of him in a US shirt...

Benny Feilhaber, #3 by default. He needs to heal up and show that he can be the 2007 Gold Cup Benny.

Tim Chandler, the USMNT’s Scottie Pippen. Okay, too aggressive, perhaps Gerald Wallace? You have to find him a spot, you’re just not sure where.

Then you’ve got the tweeners: Kljestan who played remarkably well in his short stint last Tuesday and really deserves a shot in the middle though his defense is still just a notch short–it’s overcompensated by his offense.

(I choose the word overcompensated, so what?)

Mix Diskerud should still be in the running as should Ale Bedoya, but both need to show that they can consistently be dangerous in-possession and off-ball with the “A” team. Neither has done that yet.

Brek Shea is a lefty. That’s really all you need to know right now.

Striker: (1) Juan Agudelo, (2) Jozy Altidore, (3) Teal Bunbury, (4) Edson Buddle,  (5) Chris Wondolowski.

The skinny: Blazing up to the top of the depth chart is Juan Agudelo.

You can argue all you want that he’s an “immature” specimen, still needs maturing, and doesn’t have many reps.

Ask yourself this question though: If you needed a goal in a crucial game would you rather the ball be at Agudelo’s or Jozy Altidore’s feet?

And…wasn’t Altidore allowed to develop when he wasn’t all there yet?

Next to make that push to the top of the depth chart is Teal Bunbury, who currently has the size, refinement, and experience base that Agudelo’s game craves. Bunbury, despite a quick nick to start off the campaign, played well in Spain and England during the offseason. What other striker can say that?

Rounding out the quintet is Edson Buddle (seemingly Bob Bradley’s back-up target striker in an emergency) and Chris Wondolowski (who seems to have an angle on Herculez Gomez’s old lunchpail job.)

Flip-flopped...

The “3″ Things:

• Am I still testing this three- man central mid out now that I’ve lost a critical fourth wheel?

Bradley playing three central midfielders has transpired before, however it appears the US gets it best result when it can counter through an additional striker dragging the defense back.

The US attack changed with Charlie Davies. Now it has changed with Juan Agudelo. It’s about the personnel.

With Stu Holden ailing–and Benny Feilhaber not his right self this go around–will Bradley continue to refine the three-man midfield of Jones, Edu and Junior when his back-ups centrally are Sacha Kljestan and Dax McCarty?

Or is Bradley really about being stout in the first half, dynamic in the 2nd….not about the personnel?

Can Jermaine Jones reclaim some of the passing pizazz to account for what looks like a lost first step?

• Progressions of Juan Agudelo and Teal Bunbury.

If those in camp, it is hard to ignore that Juan Agudelo had the best, not the greatest, but the best of the groups impact on the field.

Teal Bunbury is looking more “striking” by the day.

With the Gold Cup a critical tourney to win for the States’ Brazil strategy, will Bradley give time for some of the youngsters to show that they deserve playing time or will he rely on battle-tested Jozy Altidore and bring the kids along slowly?

• Similarly, can I trust Tim Ream.

Hard not to see that Ream’s stock is rising while Onyewu is struggling to reclaim his lofty perch. Will Bradley allow Ream to play himself into the starting role or will he go with “who he trusts” and sacrifice development for expectations this summer?

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75 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by dth on 2011/04/04 at 9:43 AM

    For all the criticism Bradley receives–some just and some unjust–I’ve never figured out why Bob hasn’t been indicted and convicted on the charge of “ruining Onyewu’s career.” What the heck was Bradley doing playing Onyewu back in that qualifier? The WC spot was clinched and it’s not as if we were competing for seeding…I don’t get it.

    Re: your depth chart. Pretty much in perfect agreement, though I’d pick Wondolowski for a Gold Cup roster over Buddle, though I think Buddle’s the better player.

    Reply

    • Posted by dth on 2011/04/04 at 9:46 AM

      Also: not to criticize the concept, but with the U.S.’s rapidly expanding middle class and relative lack of gamebreaking star players, the notion of a first starting eleven is not really applicable. For example I’d play Bornstein over Bocanegra against bunkering opponents and Bunbury for lone-striker situations etc.

      Reply

    • Posted by SamT on 2011/04/04 at 11:47 AM

      Off topic reply to the prior comment… so does Bradley also get indicted on “attempt to ruin” charges for the careers of: Cherundolo, Bocanegra, Donovan, M Bradley, and the rest of the starting XI? Seems like pretty incendiary language and attribution of blame for something which at the time was an everyday coaching decision that no one even thought to second guess.

      Reply

      • Posted by dth on 2011/04/04 at 12:50 PM

        I second-guessed it at the time. It was crazy to play so many important players in a meaningless game. And yes, Bradley should be indicted for that. Moral luck is no reason for forgiveness.

        Reply

        • Posted by Ufficio on 2011/04/04 at 4:31 PM

          Taking this logic to its conclusion, first-teamers should never play in friendlies. National teams have such little time together – and even less in games that mean anything to either opponent – that I can’t fault Bradley for using the first string.

          Reply

          • Posted by dth on 2011/04/04 at 6:58 PM

            Except the value of playing such players together was much less than usual in this instance: no novel tactical formation was being experimented with; no new players were getting a run-out; the players were ultra-familiar with each other, having played with each other over the course of a cycle; and it was a long while until the next relevant event. So few of the benefits of most friendlies were present and all of the downsides were.

            Reply

            • Posted by Ufficio on 2011/04/04 at 9:24 PM

              I would argue that when the first-stringers have only fifteen or so games together in a year, and many of those are against subpar and/or uninterested competition, there’s value to be had in getting a game against a decent side fighting for its World Cup life. It’s tough to evaluate the risk and reward in that situation, but there’s a reasonable case to be made for either course of action.

              On the other hand arguing that Bob should be “indicted and convicted of ‘ruining Onyewu’s career'” is waaaay over the top. Especially since we were facing a not-so-physical Costa Rican team, and it was a non-contact injury. Onyewu could have just as easily ruptured that tendon jumping awkwardly in training.

              As an aside, it may be technically true that no new players got a run-out, I seem to remember some guys appearing that hadn’t had much experience with the first team: Casey, Rogers and Torres among them.

  2. Posted by chris on 2011/04/04 at 10:02 AM

    Q: “If you needed a goal up top in a crucial game would you rather the ball be at Agudelo’s or Jozy Altidore’s feet?”

    A: Buddle’s

    4th in the depth chart? Behind Bunbury? Ouch.

    Reply

    • Posted by david on 2011/04/04 at 11:01 AM

      I agree; And Jozy’s last couple of outings only confirms what I’ve thought for a while now.

      Reply

    • Posted by Kevin on 2011/04/04 at 6:07 PM

      I still think Buddle has always been overrated. He’s the target forward that isn’t necessarily there to score. If you want to answer the question with someone who isn’t even an answer choice then let me give you my answer.

      Q: “If you needed a goal up top in a crucial game would you rather the ball be at Agudelo’s or Jozy Altidore’s feet?”

      A: Dempsey’s

      On another note, I would much rather Agudelo have the ball because he has the instinct that Buddle does not.

      Reply

      • Posted by dth on 2011/04/04 at 7:03 PM

        I agree generally, though perhaps not to the degree you do or for the same reasons (you, me, Bob Bradley and Leander Schaerlackens all agree. How do you feel about this? Nothing against you, but I feel a little nervous about the company.)

        Buddle is the kind of forward who, if he isn’t scoring, doesn’t really contribute anything for the team. Not an aggressive presser, doesn’t scare defenses with his speed, holds up the ball OK but not really a passer. And I’m just not sure his scoring translates very well past MLS. While there was some early hype on Buddle based on his early 2.Bundesliga games, his form has subsided greatly and seems to be getting poor ratings from German media and fans.

        Reply

  3. Posted by alexalex on 2011/04/04 at 10:13 AM

    Unfair to criticize Bastos! He plays left wing for Lyon, never left back, and… Dunga was an idiot.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/04/04 at 10:14 AM

      I was waiting for the comment. That said, how many Americans would pine for a Bastos leftback?

      C’mon I see ALL your hands. :>

      Reply

      • Posted by Alex on 2011/04/04 at 5:06 PM

        I mean, makes sense Dunga put him there, though. He was still playing the “old-school” Brazilian way, essentially, with a couple of holding MFers to pick up the slack of an and out-and-out wingback in Bastos. I like where Menezes is going though, with the 4-2-3-1. Notice no Bastos in there, because the FBs actually have to do SOME defending.

        Reply

  4. Posted by Freegle on 2011/04/04 at 10:17 AM

    I am an on record Bornstein detractor but I can sympathize with the player and I am more likely to blame the coach. Regardless, I think some of the Bornstein vs. Altidore/ criticism vs. vitriol comes down to the positions that each plays.

    I believe that sometimes mistakes by a striker are more difficult to quantify because they are often then end of a play so there is no way to determine what “could” have happened. I’m not talking about the “he should never have missed that” sitters, but more about mistakes within the run of play. For instance, Jozy making the wrong run or taking a shot vs laying off a pass means that we didn’t really see the outcome of what would have happened if he made the “right” play. So, we have no way to judge how egregious the mistake was.

    Meanwhile, a defender’s mistake is often the beginning of a play that then has an outcome. Every defender mistake can be scrutinized more because we have those outcomes. For example, JB gets beat down the wing, gives up cross, Demerit clears, no big deal. JB “clears” the ball into his own box. Opponent scores. Very Bad. Having the clarity of knowing the ultimate outcome magnifies a defender’s mistakes and makes them more quantifiable.

    What’s more, If JB makes a mistake that leads to a goal, it has a much bigger impact than if Jozy makes a mistake that costs a scoring opportunity. Jozy can make multiple mistakes and we still draw 0-0. JB can make one mistake and we lose 1-nil. In that regard, Bornstein’s mistakes are further magnified, especially when they are repeated.

    Reply

    • Posted by Crow on 2011/04/04 at 11:12 AM

      I criticize Bornstein for his bad performances but I comment when he does okay- see World Cup. My thing with him is that it seems that he makes more spectacularly bad plays than any other international player I’ve seen- poor “defensive” plays that lead to goals or just clueless mistakes on offense that kill an attack. I know he gets forward better than Bocanegra, but I almost wish he didn’t because most times when he gets forward he hinders the attack (see Paraguay game) by kicking the ball out of bounds, letting it get past him, making a poor touch, cross, or pass. Sure he’s wide open, but I’m sure the D is conceding him the space, wanting to make sure that he has to beat them. It’s like in any sport- you take away the main weapons, and make what you think is the weakest weapon beat you. Bornstein in space on the wing reminds me of Dennis Rodman being wide open at the 3-point line.

      Anyway, my opinion is that Bornstein actually hurts the attack and Boca is the better defender so go with Boca. What I would really like to see is Loyd getting some more time or a young gun like Garza. The position is so shallow so why not. Last resort- Jones, Edu, or Shea (or anyone with a left foot), or Spector (or someone with a right foot with wingback experience).

      Reply

      • Posted by Kevin on 2011/04/04 at 6:13 PM

        Don’t forget about Robbie Rogers. It seems I’m the only one who thinks he would make a good LB. I’m not surprised though because I’m really not sure why I think he would be a good LB.

        Reply

        • Posted by Ryan on 2011/04/04 at 10:12 PM

          His lack of effort on the defensive side of the ball doesn’t bode well for his prospects at LB.

          Reply

          • Posted by Kevin on 2011/04/05 at 2:55 PM

            Like I said, I’m not sure why I feel he would work well, but you never really know. Holden’s history as a midfielder didn’t bode well for him playing more defensive rather than offensive. When attacking, Shea doesn’t seem like he would make a good CB.

            Reply

            • Posted by Ryan on 2011/04/07 at 7:24 PM

              I’ll cross-post what I said below:

              Rogers hasn’t shown me anything that would lead me to believe he would be an improvement over Bornstein, and I believe Convey has been playing mostly LM as of late.
              Remember the last few times we had a LM at LB? Beasley v Brazil, Lewis v Czech Republic. Not so great.

    • Posted by Martin on 2011/04/05 at 5:23 PM

      Freegle,

      I think what you are trying to say is this, attacking players can make mistakes all game long but if they score once, then all is forgiven.

      Defenders in the same game, could make far fewer mistakes than that same attacker but if their one mistake leads to a goal, then they are a failure.

      It’s the nature of the beast.

      Reply

  5. Posted by John on 2011/04/04 at 10:38 AM

    At the point where Jozy is right now, I don’t know that it would take much more from Augdelo and Bunbury to supplant him over the next year or so.

    We shall see…

    Reply

    • Posted by Jared on 2011/04/04 at 11:14 AM

      If Bunbury continues to play well in MLS leading up to the Gold Cup he should replace Jozy. Jozy just doesn’t have it right now and doesn’t seem to know how to find it again (if he ever really had it in the first place). I also think it’s time to see what we can do without Jozy. We know what he brings or doesn’t bring to the table at this point.

      Reply

  6. Posted by Crow on 2011/04/04 at 11:05 AM

    I have to say that all of the veterans (with a few exceptions of course) need to watch their backs- maybe not for the Gold Cup, but certainly for the World Cup- because besides the young talent that has already received a CAP, there is ALOT of talent on the U-20 squad. Gyau, Wood, Doyle, Lletget, Kitchen, Valentin, Agbossoumonde (already got a CAP) to name a few. I know Gatt and Zahavi were not released by their clubs for the recent U-20 games.

    And why not give Greg Garza a shot after the Gold Cup at LB? Or maybe call him into the camp and give him a go during the Guadaloupe game?

    And somebody mentioned Greg

    Reply

    • Posted by Crow on 2011/04/04 at 11:14 AM

      Sorry, disregard the last line.

      I am really excited for the 2012 Olympics. With these guys, I think the team can go far like the 2000 team did.

      Reply

    • Posted by dth on 2011/04/04 at 12:54 PM

      Greg Garza’s played all of zero professional games, and can’t get games for a second-division Portuguese league team. He’s looked good in a couple of caps against the u-20 Panama and Surinam teams, but on the other hand informed observers thought Garza looked awful at the end of 2010 and were advocating taking looks at other LB options.

      In other words, Garza’s worse at the moment than Bornstein and Bocanegra.

      Reply

    • Posted by Ufficio on 2011/04/04 at 4:42 PM

      I don’t Zahavi’s issue was his club’s refusal of release. He appeared in an official tournament for Portugal’s U-17s, so he would have had to official switch his affiliation to play for us in qualifying, which he has not done. In fact, it’s not clear if he will do so, as he was last seen playing for Israel’s U-21s.

      In short, he’s toying with three different federations, and it’s not clear if the US will come out winners for his services.

      Reply

  7. Posted by Jake C. on 2011/04/04 at 11:13 AM

    After seeing Teal’s goals this weekend, would love to see more of him for the US. I think you’re right about Buddle as BB’s emergency contingent, and as much as I like Buddle it seems to me that BB missed out on that train when he made him ride the pine during the WC.

    My ideal backline mirrors yours, but one thing I noticed was that they hardly won anything in the air. Ream’s not the best aerially, and Demerit’s not the tallest, so there’s issues there. Would like to see any of the last three CB’s you have step it up to the next level.

    I’m thinking that I would slot Chandler in at RM and replace Altidore with Dempsey up top. Demps has been scoring goals for sure, but to me Chandler was just that good in his appearances recently. It would make for a great, dynamic style in my opinion.

    Finally, I’m still debating whether to have Edu over Jones. Jones was ineffective against Argentina, but Edu was similarly so against Paraguay. When Jones came in during the second half he seemed to slot in comfortably at the CDM spot and allow Bradley more room to roam. Not perfect, to be sure, but seemed a better option than Edu in that game.

    Reply

    • Posted by Crow on 2011/04/04 at 11:17 AM

      I agree with all of this. I like Chandler at RW as well because of his speed and crossing ability, and that frees up Deuce and Donovan.

      Bunbury and Agudelo seem to have some mojo together like Davies and Jozy. I would like to see them paired together.

      Reply

      • Posted by Jake C. on 2011/04/04 at 11:24 AM

        I think it solves your LB issue to an extent, as well–if you’ve got a speed demon bombing up the right flank along with Cherondulo, then Boca or Borny’s actions on the left aren’t quite as prominent. They can focus more on solidifying possession, defense, etc.

        Reply

        • Posted by Jake C. on 2011/04/04 at 11:24 AM

          *our LB problem. Not just yours.

          Reply

          • Posted by Cameron on 2011/04/04 at 2:38 PM

            Also, should Cherundolo be injured (like him a lot, but he’s getting more fragile as he ages), this opens a spot for Lichaj at RB. I liked what we saw of the link-up between him and Chandler last week.

            Agree with the comments above too that I’d like to see Bunbury and Agudelo paired up top at some point, and not just because of their impressive goal celebration dance abilities.

            Reply

            • Posted by Kevin on 2011/04/04 at 6:23 PM

              I agree. You will probably find a similar link up between Dolo and Chandler though. I love how they can both get down field and cover for each other. However Chandler in midfield means Dempsey or Donovan lose their spot at outside mid. RIght now, I would have to say give Chandler Dempsey’s spot and have Dempsey play in the CAM or CF role in the 4-2-3-1. Stick Agudelo up top and not only do you have a team that could possess the ball, but you have a very quick counter on either side. CM pairing of Bradley – Edu until Holden gets better who would complete the possession aspect of the 4-2-3-1.

    • Posted by Ryan on 2011/04/04 at 10:15 PM

      Goodson’s injury really hurts because I think, when CG was healthy and in-season, Goodson and Ream was the best paring we had going for us. Footspeed might have been as issue, but it is with all of our CB options.

      Reply

  8. Posted by Crow on 2011/04/04 at 11:23 AM

    I wasn’t sure where to put this….

    I had never seen a game played at Signal Iduna Park (Borussia Dortmund) until this weekend. WOW! What an atmosphere- I think it was the best atmosphere I’ve ever observed at any sporting event. Absolutely epic in sight and sound. It made me wish I was a Dortmund fan living in Germany. That kind of atmosphere is my dream for MLS teams and/or the USMNT team.

    A side note- I’ve really enjoyed watching the Bundesliga from time to time this year. I used to be an EPL snob, but I’ve actually enjoyed the Bundesliga games alot more than the EPL and La Liga games I’ve seen this year. I like the parity.

    Reply

    • Posted by Crow on 2011/04/04 at 11:24 AM

      BTW- does anybody know what song Dortmund plays everytime they score? It is a cool song.

      Reply

    • Posted by dth on 2011/04/04 at 12:56 PM

      That must have been an incredible game to watch in person. Dortmund’s late flurry was amazing and Goetze is superb. Dortmund are my favorite team to watch right now, and I’m hoping they stick together because I think they can do damage in next year’s Champions League.

      Reply

  9. Posted by Mike on 2011/04/04 at 11:42 AM

    Altidore is faltering as a striker. He seems to have lost his confidence and hasn’t figured out how to make the most of his attributes. He seems to try to to play like a much smaller player instead of making use of his height and size. Despite this combines well with the rest of the team and understands the game at a higher level than most US based players.

    We don’t have a good left back but that doesn’t make Bornstein a good player. I think the frustration has more to do with Bob Bradley sticking with Bornstein and not trying other players at left back. He’s like the defensive Robbie Findley or Ricardo Clark. All choices make you want to scream at Bob Bradley for being a poor judge of players and stubbornly sticking with his choices despite clear evidence they were bad.

    Reply

    • Posted by dth on 2011/04/04 at 12:59 PM

      The anti-Bornstein case that Bradley hasn’t tried out other people at left back is an odd one. Since Bradley has taken over, the following players have gotten at least one cap at left back: Heath Pearce, Zach Loyd, DeMarcus Beasley, Carlos Bocanegra, Anthony Wallace, Josh Gros…among others. To me these are not the actions of a man obsessed with sticking Jonathan Bornstein in the lineup whenever possible.

      Reply

      • Posted by Paul on 2011/04/04 at 2:06 PM

        Agreed: Bob may have “favorites,” but he isn’t shy about trotting out new players. At times, he sticks with a player too long. Unfortunately, there is little evidence to think he has done this here–who else do we have who can play left back? Take your pick of Boca or Bornstein; unless someone else merges before the Gold Cup, or if Bob wants innovate with a wrong footed left back (what sort of tactics would that encourage?), that’s about it.

        Reply

        • Posted by Steve Trittschuh on 2011/04/04 at 3:15 PM

          I think Bradley needs to start trying out new players soon, because Bornstein is not going to play left back anytime in the near future with his club. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts not even seeing the 18 for his club, they seem to be doing fine without him. The long and the short of it is that Bornstein is definitely not the future for that position.

          My criticism is that there are players who are on the field for their clubs more and play better than Bornstein, yet Bradley still chooses to consistently use him. I think he has good speed, but I’m at a loss to determine what else he’s good at.

          Reply

          • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/04/04 at 3:34 PM

            Steve, not personally directed to you and I agree with what you’re saying.

            It is interesting that Bradley hasn’t choosen to put a left midfielder back there (Robbie Rogers, Bobby Convey) or a rightie–somewhat bizarre.

            But despite Bradley’s protests that he plays people that play for their club, recently Juinor started both friendlies and in the past, Gooch, played World Cup games.

            That’s one of a few criticisms of Bradley. It’s one thing if he says, he’ll play who we wants to. It’s another–and I know why Convey is not in that LB discussion–if he says he plays people in form AND is selective AND they don’t perform. That boggles the mind.

            Reply

            • Posted by Ryan on 2011/04/04 at 10:19 PM

              Rogers hasn’t shown me anything that would lead me to believe he would be an improvement over Bornstein, and I believe Convey has been playing mostly LM as of late.

              Remember the last few times we had a LM at LB? Beasley v Brazil, Lewis v Czech Republic. Not so great.

            • Posted by Martin on 2011/04/05 at 5:39 PM

              matthewsf,

              This notion that club playing time is what decides who plays is an urban legend.

              Bradley has made it clear that while club playing time is important, it is not the only factor in deciding who plays. There are quite a few multiple examples going all the way back to Benny Feilhaber.

              I think people forget that all national team managers have their “favorites”. Why? because these players have so litle time together, its a way to provide stability.

              And it’s clear he’s not afraid to play people who are in form AND who he feels will also play well with the team. See Timmy Chandler, who had about 10 seconds of orientation time before Bradley suddenly made it clear how important he was.

              I think US fans forget that, while it is better, our player pool is still pretty thin in comparison to the other big boys. Those who think Bradley doesn’t try to put the best US players out there should name the “misses” for us.

              In other words, name the big time players who are now out their tearing up their respective leagues that Bradley did not give a fair shake to?

              This is still a team who will only win big games by playing unselfishly and who have to be greater than the sum of their parts.

              So if the guys BB chooses are a little less talented than the guy on the bench but more in tune with the team concept, I’m all for that.

    • Posted by Kevin on 2011/04/04 at 6:28 PM

      I agree on your assessment of Altidore slightly. He does understand the game very well, but he doesn’t really know what his role with the US team is right now. How to play the striker position which clearly has many different interpretations.

      Reply

  10. Posted by euroman on 2011/04/04 at 1:04 PM

    Goodson is still our best CB by a big margin and when the GC arrives and his toe is healed he will be in the starting line-up and also for the Fall qualifiers. Gooch is playing hurt and poor Ream has done nothing to even be in this conversation. He’s a nice little passer of the ball but his defending and heading are below even in the MLS mid-level catagory. Chad Marshall is still better than everyone except Goodson, DeMerit & Gooch. BB has looked at his options but you will see the real core group against Spain in early June.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/04/04 at 1:55 PM

      Can’t say I agree with you on Goodson.

      Goodson has been tremendous in the air. However there is a reason he wasn’t used as a reliever in South Africa.

      Goodson has shown the penchant to make mistakes converage. I haven’t seen him at Bronby this year, but CBs are always at a premium. It is telling that Goodson didn’t head to another top league.

      Disagree on Ream. He lags Goodson, DeMerit, Bocanegra, and Onyewu in defending. But though cliche, no one else can handle the ball well.

      I think you’ll see DeMerit and Gooch or DeMerit and Ream against Spain.

      And Chad Marshall–as I discussed earlier this year with Alexi Lalas (hate name dropping, sorry)–is ambivalent many times about defending. I thought he would be a world beater–he has solid distribution as well. But he’s a player who just hasn’t progressed in the past two years.

      Still in the mix, but he’s got some make-up to do with the likes of Ream, Goodson, Gonzalez and Opara out there.

      Reply

      • Posted by Ryan on 2011/04/04 at 10:21 PM

        Honestly, I don’t see some people’s infatuation with Marshall. He’s has not impressed me in 2 years, club or country.

        Reply

  11. Posted by Paul on 2011/04/04 at 1:11 PM

    “Or is Bradley really about being stout in the first half, dynamic in the 2nd….not about the personnel?”

    Intriguing idea–perhaps conspiracy theory?–of inconsistent US play being due to Bradley’s rope-a-dope/Rocky strategy. Hate to bring up the old debate about whether Bradley should have been rehired, but one of the complaints, now seemingly vindicated by your theory, is Bradley’s inability to change strategies with his players. I tend to think the evidence points towards Bradley being more tactically and strategically flexible, but being unable to motivate players to play well during the first 20-30 minutes of a match.

    All my Klinsi lovers want to know: Is Bob Bradley the man you want to take over talent on the U-20 squad if rope-a-dope is his primary strategy? Again, I think the last few games have re-affirmed my belief that Bob can be flexible enough to try new formations and tactics–I just doubt whether he is the right person to really bring the US along, especially if you think this really is Bob’s stradegy. If so, God help us all.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/04/04 at 2:21 PM

      “I tend to think the evidence points towards Bradley being more tactically and strategically flexible, but being unable to motivate players to play well during the first 20-30 minutes of a match.”

      I actually think quite a bit of this is due to a defense first, offensive if the opportunity presents itself approach. Hard to motivate attackers when defense is the first priority.

      People always point to the US not scoring first–well I also think a lot of that is because they’re not really focused on that as a priority when a match starts.

      Reply

    • Posted by Sean on 2011/04/04 at 2:32 PM

      Its not his job to bring them along. Its his job to organize and execute a game plan that gives us the best chance to win. He is adept at doing that, considering the players that have been at his disposal in the previous 4 years.

      Reply

      • Posted by Paul on 2011/04/04 at 4:14 PM

        I’m probably coming to a point of agreement with Herr Matt. It seems as if Bob believes the team is best served by playing on the counter; defense first, because that provides space for Landon and Deuce to work their magic. What the 4-2-2-2 allows for is enough penetration for an effective counterattack–enough opposition players are pushed forward to allow for US speed to quickly slip past the remaining opposition defense. This doesn’t work well in a patch like Argentina: during the 1st half, the US was able to force possession in the middle third; when a ball was stolen, our midfield faced too many defenders, in too little space, to use their speed to out maneuver in a counter.

        Sean, I’ll give credit for Bob giving us a real chance to beat Spain, Argentina, and other international giants. My problem is that the US is increasingly faced with games against Paraguays–see Slovenia and Algeria in the World Cup–where our superior attacking capacity becomes comically clumsy and nearly self destructive. I was one of many who wondered if Bob could really coach the next stage of US development, a generation of attacking, skillful players. The U-20s will play a role in the next World Cup. Can Bob handle these players, crafting tactics and strategies to favor their abilities?

        Here’s a thought: maybe Bob focuses too much on not giving up early goals? For a string of games in the last World Cup cycle, we were giving up early goals (within first 15 mins. of a half: Costa Rica, Brazil, Mexico, Costa Rica). Get the early game jitters out and see if you can see an attacking opportunity.

        Reply

        • Posted by dth on 2011/04/04 at 4:35 PM

          A 4-2-2-2 is not incompatible with scoring many goals. It’s Villarreal’s favored formation and (I’m told) the most popular formation in Brazil. It’s Bradley’s particular application and/or the players that are responsible for whatever offensive turgidity there’s been.*

          *(How serious are the offensive problems? I think it’s difficult to say. Under Bradley, in competitive games, we have an excellent record at scoring more than enough goals. On the other hand, our offensive record recently has not exactly been sublime. Complicating matters is that with the advancing age of our prime offensive threats, we really do need to be seeing progress from our earlier generations. Unfortunately, the U.S. system has produced almost no usable offensive prospects aged 23-27. It’s Justin Braun, Charlie Davies, Eddie Gaven, Alejandro Bedoya and Robbie Rogers, and that’s not a particularly inspiring group.)

          Reply

          • Posted by Jake C on 2011/04/04 at 5:22 PM

            An American 4-2-2 is much different than brazil’s 4-4-2. When Donovan and Dempsey are tracking back to the level of the fullbacks, I don’t think that’s a 4-2-2. That points more to bradleys mentality of “please god don’t let them score” approach more than anything to me. Also, the CDMs employed by brazil have no equal to my mind. Ramires

            Reply

            • Posted by Jake C on 2011/04/04 at 5:23 PM

              Whoops, was going to add more, but that will suffice. Ramires. Enough said.

            • Posted by dth on 2011/04/04 at 6:10 PM

              But that’s exactly my point. Formation isn’t the issue; it’s the players and the jobs they’re asked to do. Playing a 4-2-3-1 is of no use if Bradley’s going to stick Maurice Edu in the hole.

        • Posted by Sean on 2011/04/04 at 6:21 PM

          Paul, I tend to agree with you. But I also think our “superior attacking ability” as you put it, isn’t vastly superior to the park the bus approach that those teams take against us. We don’t have a player on the senior squad that is a true playmaker. Dempsey is close, but doesn’t provide the final product nearly frequent enough. If there is a U20 that comes through and can show that quality, I’m sure Bob would build a game plan around that player.

          Winning the World Cup comes down to not allowing goals, not from scoring more than everyone else in the tourney. Spain won the cup, and only conceded once in the tourney.

          Reply

  12. Posted by chad on 2011/04/04 at 2:12 PM

    With all of the trouble we have in finding a world class striker, it’s too bad we don’t have an in form striker who set an American record for goals scored in the EPL this season. I know that many do not favor Demps in a lone striker role, but how about in the 4-4-2? I think Bradley likes the way that Dempsey and Donovan get forward but also make teams respect them all over the field when they are slotted in the midfield, but doesn’t anyone else want to see Dempsey at forward?

    Reply

    • Posted by Jake C. on 2011/04/04 at 2:15 PM

      See my comment above. I wouldn’t put him alone up top, but I thought he and Agudelo worked really well together. Bunbury may have something to say about that partnership going forward, though.

      Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/04/04 at 2:17 PM

      I just don’t think it jives really well with Deuce’s skills. When Dempsey was tried their against Turkey, Bradley had him a lot of time in reception with his back to the basket.

      That’s a challenging for Dempsey. I think you’ll see Dempsey pushed forward when the US is going for it or when it’s a 4-5-1 (so to speak) since he’s much better facing up.

      Even Dempsey’s Fulham scores this year have rarely been him in a true striker position.

      Reply

      • Posted by Jake C. on 2011/04/04 at 2:28 PM

        Agree that he isn’t at his best with his back to goal. I still think the US was best in Nashville when he moved up top and Chandler moved to midfield; again, that’s pure Chandler.

        Ideally I’d see him in a CAM role, but no way BB’s sacrificing a defensive mid for that. The problem for me is that he isn’t a true winger, and I don’t think Donovan is either. For me, the US sacrifices too much width when they both take the flanks. I understand how it’s supposed to work tactically, but practically I think it’s ineffective.

        Reply

  13. Posted by Alex on 2011/04/04 at 5:11 PM

    One thing I don’t understand that I see on a lot of blogs I read: why does everyone love Bedoya? The only times I’ve seen this guy play in a USMNT kit, he’s looked absolutely pedestrian for a half, trots out in the second half, and is completely exhausted by the 70′ at the latest. I doesn’t so great ability to create out wide, really. What’s the deal? Don’t we have some young MLS kids just as able as him? Is he on these blogs because he spots you guys an interview or two or something?

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/04/04 at 5:25 PM

      Alex: I’ll take that because I throw praise his way.

      I think the thing about Bedoya (and I’d like to see more of it) is that he’s a big body who stays active and is one of the few middies/wingers who runs at people and he uses his body well.

      Thought the ball didn’t find him well in the Chile friendly, but he goes at players with size. Chief asset.

      I will admit to be a tad biased because he is probably the easiest, most personable player to speak with.

      That said, I can’t think of any other wingers on the senior team that do what he does.

      Reply

    • Posted by Kevin on 2011/04/04 at 6:47 PM

      I like Bedoya because IMO, besides Beasley, he is the only true winger the US has right now. That could be quite useful in certain situations. I also have tremendous respect for wingers like him who work tirelessly. I don’t think he factors into the US squad though. Like Beasley before him, I just don’t see where he factors into the squad.

      Reply

      • Posted by scweeb on 2011/04/05 at 9:31 AM

        K so i just saw this on foxsoccer but any info on and najar? its says he plays mid but of course mid is so many things. so if he does decide to go usa instead of hondurus what if anything can he bring to the table

        Reply

  14. Posted by Kevin on 2011/04/04 at 6:51 PM

    “Clark is a better tracker, Edu better at shutting down when he is face up.” By far the best description/comparison of the two. This is what I’ve long thought, but failed to be able to put into words. Hopefully this helps people who don’t see the difference in the two and tend to think that one is vastly superior to the other.

    Reply

    • Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/04/05 at 6:23 AM

      Also Edu doesn’t tend to fall asleep at least once or twice a game in key moments and tends to be better positionally than Clark. I know this sounds like Baby Bradley hating but I still think that Mikey’s lack of positional discipline AND stand up defensive skills has significant effect on his MF partners. It’s very difficult to play zonal marking with a guy who tends to wander wherever his instincts take him.

      Reply

  15. [...] Here is our first entry in October 2010. January 2011 was our next scribbling.  And our last, post-Argentina, post-Paraguay journal here. [...]

    Reply

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