Quick Rant: US Misconceptions In The Air This Week

Let’s do a mid-week rant here to get some stuff off the proverbial TSG chest. Go:

Adu: N'Oh Canada!

• Freddy Adu should start against Canada.

Are you mad?! (Now watch it happen).

Freddy Adu has been out of the US picture since the 2009 Gold Cup. He’s just found some playing in the Turkish second division and seems to perhaps be priming for a good season ahead.

That said, despite Freddy’s obviously on-ball theatrics when he has some space,  his composure under fire is still in question and his willingness to defend at all costs should give any coach reprieve of putting him in against the the most competitive team in the US group stage.

Bob Bradley brought him in to the squad to judge whether he should develop him for 2014, not to start the first game of the group stage.

• Michael Bradley is the unequivocal selection in midfield because of the US central performance against Spain.

Nope.

The commentary from the authors on this site have always maintained the following about Bradley. On defense, “Effort guy” who tackles relentlessly–sometimes too relentlessly–but sometimes can be caught out of position. On offensive, great shooter of the ball when there is space in front of him, won’t break down a defender, probably best served by playing off the ball instead of on.

The US played Spain on Saturday with Maurice Edu and Jermaine Jones having virtually no outlet on a turn. Their collective defense can certainly be faulted for its focus. However, no Landon Donovan or Clint Dempsey ahead of them on the day meant they were absorbing pressure throughout the first half, not looking to turn on the attack.

Michael Bradley arrived on the scene in the 2nd. He calmed the midfield and played solid defense, but Spain was already thinking about Caprinhis at the time. The first half and second half observations are radically different.

Bradley is the leader in the depth chart in the midfield right now but he’s able to be challenged for that role and probably should develop at the States off-ball option.

TSG axiom again: “You can’t look at observations in isolation, you have to look at the whole body of work.”

The true body of work starts today.

• The US’s performance against Spain is acceptable with the Gold Cup around the corner.

Nope, again.

It’s not. Either label the game an “exhibition” or come to play more. It’s poor form to play the best the world has to offer–you get that chance once, twice a year with a full squad–and not come to play. It’s disrespectful to Spain.

And as GolTV commenter Phil Schoen aptly said on Twitter, “It’s a wasted opportunity.”

Pretty much.

And yes the US shouldn’t have played, but if Spain is going play quite a bit of their starters, the Yanks should not?

• The US should thrash or win comfortably against Canada.

The neighbors to the north may have looked a little discombobulated in a friendly they drew with Equador last week, but the front six of Canada is very talented.

Canada's "Davies"

Josh Simpson–Turkey Super Lig. Hey, isn’t that where the top US striker plays?

Atiba Hutchinson, PSV Eindhoven. Hey, didn’t US centerback Oguchi Onyewu just have his option not picked up in that league?

DeWayne DeRosario, neck and neck last year with David Ferreira and ahead of Landon Donovan in MLS voting last year.

Simeon Jackson–9 goals, 7 games. The US fans love Charlie Davies. Well here’s Canada’s Charlie Davies and he’s getting promoted next year to the Barclay’s Premiership.

• Sacha Kljestan and Robbie Rogers were horrible roster selections because of their performance against Spain.

Not by a long shot.

The theatre for Kljestan and Rogers is the Gold Cup. Period. And probably as part-time starters for either at best.

Kljestan deserved another look. As we’ve long maintained on TSG, he’s one of the few Yanks with vertical creativity in the center of the pitch. The others are Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and maybe Stu Holden and Jermaine Jones. Kljestan has just always suffered from poor decision making and lack of effort on defense. While the Spain game may have asked the question about the speed of play threshold of Kljestan’s game, it didn’t condemn his selection.

Kljestan’s performance against Spain wasn’t terrible. Wasn’t great, but wasn’t terrible.

Robbie Rogers Gold Cup roster selection while puzzling, is understandable from Bob Bradley if flawed. As we talked about previously, Rogers was a “Coach’s Goggles” pick or Bob Bradley was guilty of the “Tommy Maddox Syndrome.”

That is believing that your (the coach) influence can have such an impact on a player to have him realize his physical potential.

Remains to be seen here, but the Spain match has no bearing on this.

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16 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by John Henry on 2011/06/07 at 10:55 AM

    I think the “Spain took the foot off the pedal” meme is starting to unjustly overwhelm the actual fact of Bradley’s performance, which was better in every respect than Jones’s and Edu’s. From positioning (both in disrupting passing lanes and dribbling forays, and in being a passing outlet in possession), to ball handling (clean traps, quick turns, avoided tackles), to distribution (more often than not made a positive pass on target), he was a class above.

    It’s a bit disingenuous to imply that a lot of this had to do with Spain easing up on the gas. I was at the game (not always the best perspective, I admit) and I wouldn’t say that the Spaniards stopped trying. They eased up a little, but they were still pressing in the offensive and middle thirds throughout most of the 2nd half.

    Reply

    • Posted by Jared on 2011/06/07 at 11:00 AM

      Maybe but I think the change in personnel was an even more important part of Bradley’s performance. He wasn’t stuck out there with Rogers, Altidore, Gooch and Spector at right back. I think that combined with Spain taking it easier are definitely factors in Bradley looking head and shoulders better. From my spot on the couch it looked like Spain took it quite a bit easier in the second half but they still put in a professional shift.

      Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/06/07 at 11:29 AM

      John – I concur with your points.

      I did think Bradley played very well, but we also had outlets and a lot more time on the ball and that is huge.

      There was a solid pass I remember to Lichaj out on the left flat that was pure class. He received it–no one on him–and immediately floated a ball to Lichaj. I remember thinking, “If he’s offball and can do that and sit behind, it would be ideal.”

      Reply

  2. Posted by John on 2011/06/07 at 11:03 AM

    If Rogers was a “Coaches Goggles” pick than Freddy Adu was a “Coaches Google” pick…

    thanks…

    I’ll be here all week.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Jared on 2011/06/07 at 11:11 AM

    I’d rather see Freddy behind a striker (as long as it’s not Jozy) in either a 4-4-1-1 or the middle of the 3 in a 4-2-3-1 than Jozy out there wasting space up front. I don’t see why everyone is so determined to make Freddy defend. If he plays in the hole or in the Sneijder role in a 4-2-3-1 there isn’t much defensive responsibility. We already know what Jozy will provide and it basically results in the US playing 10 v. 11. The fact that Bob brought Freddy in to the Gold Cup for evaluation while basically saying he won’t play is just dumb. It’s another waste of a roster spot just like Robbie Rogers and Gooch.

    I do agree about Klejstan deserving a shot. His performance in the Spain game was a game of two halves, on the wing he was awful but in the middle with MB90 he was much better. Not a surprise since he’s not a wide midfielder.

    The US should not “thrash” Canada but they should win comfortably. By comfortably, I mean a solid 2 goals and have the majority of possession. If we stick to Bob’s bunker ball strategy then this will not happen and it will allow Canada to make this game much closer than it should be.

    Reply

    • Posted by dth on 2011/06/07 at 11:23 AM

      The problem with playing Freddy in the center of the pitch is he has very specific athletic deficits. One of the amazing things about watching David Silva yesterday (and Lionel Messi against us, or whenever) is, despite their small size, they have a great ability to ride a challenge on their hip–one of those hip checks just doesn’t do much to their ball control. Adu doesn’t have that ability: a hip check will bump him well off of the ball and lose the ball for the team. If you want to play in the center, as a #10, you have to be able to ride those challenges. It’s a nonnegotiable feature of a #10, like being 6’11 or taller for a center in basketball. So Freddy as #10 is out–Freddy has to play on the wing. Except that’s out because while Adu’s burst speed is adequate, his speed over distance is below adequate. So Adu will often beat a guy and have his mark catch up to him.

      As to Kljestan: I think the competition of Belgium and Anderlecht may have resolved some of his speed-of-play and scatterbrained issues. Definitely someone to think about in the center of the park in front of Bradley, at least for this roster at this time.

      Reply

  4. Posted by Antonio H. on 2011/06/07 at 11:18 AM

    You left out Michael Bradley referring to the vertical creativity on the pitch. And Dwayne DeRosario was in form (key word “last year”). A lot can happen in a year, see Frank Lampard/Wayne Rooneys form go bloop bloop bloop down the toilet

    Reply

  5. Posted by dth on 2011/06/07 at 11:28 AM

    I think it’s fair for USMNT fans to expect the US to beat Canada handily. Canada hasn’t qualified for a World Cup since 1986. They’ve frequently underachieved. Their current roster features all of one player who played last season in a top five league–the U.S. features nine. They’re not a Mickey Mouse team, to be sure, but this is probably the worst team the U.S. has faced since the World Cup.

    Reply

  6. I agree that Jones and Edu were hung out to dry in the Spain 1st half. However, That fault lies mostly with Kljestan and Rogers who gave them NOTHING to play. That being said, both Jones and Edu looked clueless as to what to do in those situations. They also (and as a coach myself, I don’t use these words lightly) GAVE UP at the end of the first half. Their primary function playing in Bradley’s central midfield is defense, and both of them quit doing their jobs against Spain.

    THAT is something you’ll NEVER see from MB90. Never.

    And so it’s sad that Bobbo has to decide which CM he needs to punish least.

    Which brings me to another point. These guys are professionals. If motivation and desire aren’t something you can muster after a 45 minute ass-kicking from the best team in the world, professional athletics may not be your bag. Get f-ing PISSED and earn a yellow or something. Need a spark? BECOME the f-ing spark.

    Ok, my rant is done. The Beasties got into my soul this day. But I haven’t been so upset about USMNT play since watching Spain. USA doesn’t give up, and our team did in the first half.

    Reply

    • Posted by dth on 2011/06/07 at 12:58 PM

      I was less disturbed by the Jones/Edu passing–which sucked, but for forgivable reasons–than their defensive play, particularly their lazy tracking on the first goal. So I think you’re right.

      Reply

  7. Posted by mathmatics on 2011/06/07 at 1:21 PM

    I don’t think Bradley was under any obligation to field a strong lineup against Spain. The timing of the game was a mistake. Why compound that by exhausting our first choice players mentally and physically days before the meaningful competition?

    We’re looking at 4 matches in 10 days with the Canada and Panama fixtures being the most important as two wins likely lock up first place in the group. The priority is to have our probable starters in peak condition for those two matches.

    If we trotted out our best XI against Spain, at least four outfield players would play the full 90. That would have been poor long term management. I’ll gladly trade a lopsided loss to a world power for our best chance at success in a key tournament.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/06/07 at 1:25 PM

      I would agree with your assessment Mathmatics except the match *was scheduled.

      There’s a huge issue though. He did play the Yanks starters. In the 2nd half!

      Why not just play them the 1st half then?

      Reply

  8. Posted by chavftw on 2011/06/07 at 1:31 PM

    Agree with most of this but thought your MB comments were odd. Of course you can’t look exclusively at his Spain2011 performance. But if that’s true, you can’t compare the 2nd half to the 1st half, which is what you did to make your point. (If that’s not ‘isolation’, i don’t know what is.) Yes, he’s the starter because of his body of work, but that doesn’t start now. It’s been there for everyone to see for 3-4 years. Add the Spain friendly to it and he’s still a starter.

    Agree with everything else (even the Rogers analysis!)…keep educating the people.

    Reply

  9. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/06/07 at 4:45 PM

    Villa are holding off on homeless man’s Roy Keane, Michael Bradley, whilst managerless. Bradley is in the shop window. Another great opportunity for him to show case himself. Expect him to try even harder…

    http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/transfers/aston-villas-move-for-michael-bradley-on-hold-2294044.html

    Reply

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