And go…because I’m sure we’ll have five more in about a week:
5. Will a wrong-footed leftback be considered and can they be a difference maker?
The US leftback position hasn’t been a star level since, well, since forever.
Carlos Bocanegra has been more than serviceable in the role, playing smart positionally, but never really offering a lot going forward.
For more than two years now, Jonathan Bornstein has been his understudy, unfairly criticized by fans because a major mistake in his neck of the woods is magnified by the damage it can cause to the scoreline. Bornstein, alas, has more warts as well.
Bob Bradley had the following to say this past Monday about the position:
“Carlos Bocanegra and Jonathan Bornstein obviously give us two left-backs to begin with but we have seen Eric Lichaj play as of late at left back. Jonathan Spector has played some at left-back too, so we do think we have some different possibilities there and we’ll certainly look at all of them when we get into camp.”
The challenge for Eric Lichaj or Jonathan Spector excelling in that role is dualfold.
First, the worst thing a Yanks defender can do–besides being out of position–is author a turnover when the team is countering up the field that leaves the defense unset, out-of-position and caught out–and with no help from the midfielders.
The last World Cup cycle bore witness to game-alering turnovers (not just by defenders) when the team on the counter or possession had just flipped: Ricardo Clark against Ghana, Clint Dempsey against Honduras in Chicago, Oguchi Onyewu against Honduras, Benny Feilhaber against Italy all come to mind.
Lichaj and Spector have tendencies to do this on their strong foot; their right–which would be right into a counter attack for the other team. Step one to challenging for a leftback role will be this.
Step two, is how do you involve either in the offense. Probably the best you’re asking for is an in-bending cross that finds the head of Clint Dempsey or Chris Wondolowski this summer.
Bob Bradley has shown a penchant to–correctly–and ultimately favor left-footed players at left back. Unless Lichaj or Spector are turnover prone–relatively–in camp and provide the ability to author a looping cross from that flank, bet on the role staying with Bocanegra and Bornstein.
Um, not that Robbie Rogers shouldn’t git it a shot, because he should.
4. Is it centerback by committee or is it a Clarence Goodson vs. Oguchi Onyewu vs. Tim Ream et all?
First, let’s dispel one notion here.
Oguchi Onyewu is not washed up or doesn’t deserve less of a shot to play. Let’s put Onyewu’s status in perspective a little.
It typically takes 18-24 months to come back fully from a major knee injury. We are just in that “sweet spot” right now with Onewyu. He’s not the player he once was; and he may never be.
Ironically enough it’s not the physical discount that has hurt Onyewu upon his return in my opinion. It’s the challenges with things he already struggled with, that being distribution and focus to be positioned correctly.
If you watched Onyewu trail out and protect against Messi when the Yanks played Argentina he did an above average job in that aspect of his game.
Onyewu, rightfully, will play when the States take the field in the Gold Cup. He’s a seasoned veteran who knows the competition well.
But a larger question looms for Bob Bradley, that is who does he start grooming through World Cup qualifying and how soon?
Is Clarence Goodson really the answer in 2014 or should he merely be seen as a stopgap until a player–perhaps–like Ike Opara or Gale Agbossumunde comes along. Will either of those players–or ones of their ilk–be seasoned by then as well. Centerbacks typically have more experience.
History shows that traction at World Cups is predicated on the understanding and pairing of solid centerbacks. Pique and Puyol doing a phenomenal job in 2010. The cliched pairing of Cannavaro and Nesta. Bucholz and Kohler.
Tim Ream, at least presently, seems to be being groomed for one of the roles at present. Bob Bradley long has a history of falling in love with a player and giving them ample opportunity.
Is it Onyewu and Ream? It is Ream and Goodson? Is it centerback by committee at Gold Cup 2011.
3. Does Jozy feel the push?
The decision not bring Teal Bunbury to the Gold Cup was a curious one, if only because of the current form of Jozy Altidore less the abilities or form of Bunbury himself.
Bob Bradley has insisted on employing Jozy Altidore now for over three years in the role of target striker. It’s been a decidedly mixed bag with Altidore’s performances, but one fact is hard to debate:
Over multiple observations, Altidore does his best work facing the goal.
That said, Altidore has certainly impressed at times in the hold-up role, typically when he is dragging across the field in motion as oppose to being asked to corral a direct over-the-top ball.
Bob Bradley tried out Chris Wondolowski in the hold-up role against Chile and, in that single observation, Wondolowski struggled with little support.
Altidore appears to do his best work when he’s pushed. Some of his best games in a US jersey have come on the bigger stages (against England in the World Cup, against Costa Rica in the Charlie Davies salute game) when he’s challenged.
By having Bunbury in camp it at least would have pushed Jozy more.
Bradley had the following devout praise for Altidore on Monday:
Let’s not forget that Jozy is still quite young in this whole thing and I will emphatically say we believe that Jozy has done a lot of important things for us and we’re going to continue to put him forward because he’s a big part of things for U.S. Soccer.
Well Coach Bradley, it’s been three years with Altidore employed in many different roles–with little playing time–in club ball. When does a consistent effort from Jozy become important? Does it ever?
2. Does Coach Rope-A-Dope continue his “play not to concede in the 1st half, push the play in the 2nd half” mentality?
The final two questions here are probably the two key questions and neither specifically involve personnel.
In many of Bradley’s matches, we’ve witnessed and here on TSG called attention to the “rope-a-dope” strategy.
That is Bradley battens down the hatches in the first half and then with a few tactical substitutions at the half or in the 60th minute attempts to “steal” (terrible word, but we’ll use it here) the game, betting that the team that easily advanced in the first half will have difficulty adjusting on the fly to his changes after halftime.
Now, that type of strategy makes sense when you have a team coming together for a short one-game or two-game camp, however this is not that type of camp.
First, the Gold Cup is, obviously, a tournament. Second, the US should be able to–and should strive to–dictate the play to all comers at the Gold Cup with the exception of Mexico (and maybe Costa Rica who run their 3-5-2 well against the States).
Here’s the rub.
There are no deep lying true holding pivots on the Yanks this go around (no Jose Torres, no Dax McCarty) and there are no true wingers save Robbie Rogers. The US, in short, has a group of players–save now Clint Dempsey–who are used to going north-south almost exclusively with the marble.
Merely judging by the personnel, Bradley expects to play less of a possession game (unless that game comes to him). How will Bradley dictate the game to the opponent in the lead-up to 2014, something the team had quite a bit of trouble with in the lead-up to 2010.
1. How does Bob use the beginning of his 2nd term here to halt the concession of goals in the early minutes of matches?
I’ve got nothing for you here.
I would you could look at the captain here, Carlos Bocanegra, but any player is an example of playing smart on defense it’s Bocanegra even with his up-and-down distribution.
All yours here Bob. But maybe the solution is benching “core players” when they make this critical mistake as most US concessions in the early going have often been attributable to a US blunder, less a strong play from the opposition.