Archive for June, 2011

Livestrong Or Die: TSG’s USA vs. Guadeloupe Preview Lite

Not the way Bob Bradley and company planned it arriving at the third group stage game in Gold Cup 2011.

The setting for what is a more important game than what was hoped...

With now three games in eight days, this was to be a chance for the key US  regulars to get a respite before the knockout rounds of the tournament.

Instead the Yanks need to show up to Livestrong Park for Tuesday’s final group stage Gold Cup match against Guadeloupe with a win on their mind. The customary starters, with the expectation, that they’ll take the pitch at the whistle.

The dissection of the States by Panama has created quite a bit of uncertainty.

As we acknowledged Saturday, probably every future opponent this June took notice to the game plan used by Panama manager Julio Dely Valdés to punish the Yanks lack of width, central midfield challenges and inexperience in central defense.

Guadeloupe here in the final game presents a challenge not unlike Algeria did in the final group stage game for the World Cup. They’ve got nothing to lose now having dropped their two first matches and they’ve got just enough panache–coming back both a man down and three goals for the worse against Panama to nearly even things and then playing Canada tight thoughout–to make things more than interesting.

A brief reprieve for the States in at least Guadeloupe does not outright subscribe to a pack-it-in strategy and with the Yanks challenged to score in anything but the counter and set pieces that’s a good thing…we think.

Let’s get to our customary preview. It goes

About The Opponent: Guadeloupe

TSG What Are We Looking For/At

11 At The Whistle

Disclaimers

———-

About The Opponent: Guadeloupe

Charlton favorite Therry Racon--here fighting off Canadian Ali Gerba--is the one to watch for Guadeloupe. He'll be flying down Dolo's flank...

Guadeloupe plays a very free flowing brand of soccer that can sometimes leave their backline exposed. Twice in two games this season, they’ve dropped to ten men–in just the 3rd minute against Canada on Saturday–as someone on their backline has committed a foul in defense and been sent off.

Guadeloupe doesn’t have a typical formation, over the past year they’ve used a 4-1-4-1 and 4-2-3-1 and a 4-4-2. Most recently against Canada they matched up in a 4-4-2 while against Panama they went 4-2-3-1 looking for width–the latter perhaps particularly disturbing in that Bob Bradley surely watched how Guadeloupe attacked the 4-4-2 of Panama with a 4-2-3-1 and didn’t follow suit. Both times as well as in their lead-up games to the tourney, Guadeloupe has not matched its opponents formation.

More here shortly….

TSG: What Are We Looking For?

• Will Bob Bradley change the formation?

Can Donovan be as spritely as he was ten years ago?

The crux of Bob Bradley changing his formation will be predicated more on his defensive posture rather than on “freeing Landon Donovan” or “springing Jozy Altidore.”

I think US fans will get a formation change from Bradley in this one for a singular reason: his central midfield on the counter was completely stretched in the first half Saturday evening.

Whether it was Donovan making a run then having to rush to catch-up or Jozy Altidore dropping for Clint Dempsey after the latter cut inside, Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones seemed confused as to how far up to come and hold their midfield line.

Bradley and Jones continually faced the riddle of: “Should I drop deep and support the backline or should I come up and close on the opponent?”

The John Harkesian point of “a team needs to move as one” was never more resounding than with the States on Saturday.

Expect Bradley to morph both the actors and the pieces on the field on Tuesday with Clint Dempsey as the fulcrom.

I imagine you’ll see Dempsey used as a withdrawn striker. The US will defend in a 4-4-2, but on offense look for Donovan and one of Sacha Kljestan, Alejandro Bedoya or Robbie Rogers out wide with Dempsey choosing his spot to float behind Jozy Altidore ahead of him.

The US should be careful though as Guadeloupe has proven they can react well to different game plans and still compete a man down. Too much unfamiliarity or confusion from the Yanks and Les Gwada Boys could capitalize.

• Might Clint Dempsey be hanging on by just a thread right now?

This guy needs to keep *this* up...

Oh about the 30th minute against Panama, an exasperated Clint Dempsey threw his hands up in the air, beckoning to his teammates to move, as he was staving off a tackle attempt and looking to find a man. Only Michael Bradley consistently came to Dempsey’s rescue Saturday.

Right now, the States is certainly looking like a one-trick Deuce pony when it’s not playing on the counter.

Bradley can’t continue to rely on Dempsey and conversely Dempsey needs–as he has to date–to continue to attack.

Dempsey might be deployed differently, but too much ball watching occurs when he has it. That has to stop.

• Looking for culpability around slow starts? How about continuing to make mistakes put continuing to start–no threat of a benching equals no sense of urgency equals complacency and mistkaes.

Is Jermaine Jones a candidate be dropped for his poor performance while Jozy Altidore  is not?

Looks very likely on the Jones-Altidore front.

It’s easy to see Bradley’s continued usage of Altidore up top; whether one agrees with it or not.

Where does he go? Altidore has a US hat trick, a World Cup, a tour in Europe under his belt. Does he have poor body language, poor decision-making, inconsistent play and a penchant to give up on defense from time to time? Yes and you get the picture. However Agudelo has not shown he has the mettle yet and it’s clear that Wondolowski is still adjusting to the speed of play.

There are little, nay zero, non-risky options.

Continue reading

PTI: USMNT Gold Cup Group Stage Edition

TSG’s Jay Bell and I started riffing on email and Jay suggested that we take our talents to TSG for a PTI-esque discussion on US-Panama fallout and more. So here you have it.

German engineering has not been precise for the Yanks so far in the Gold Cup.

Jay, TSG: What is the biggest concern coming out of the Panama match? I’ll take “what is wrong with Jermaine Jones?” for $200.

The US CM position is often bandied about as the deepest position ever in the history of the USMNT. So why is it getting overrun at times? Neither Bradley nor Jones was good against Panama, but it is becoming alarming that Jones cannot impose himself on CONCACAF opponents.

By his pedigree, he should be dominating the center of park throughout the Gold Cup. Instead, against Panama, he looked uncomposed, indecisive and tactically ignorant. Just wrap your head around the fact that Sacha Kljestan came into the match and put Jones’ performance to shame. Not an insult to Kljestan, but a player with Jones’ club career should be embarrassed about that and throwing a tantrum after his substitution will not help matters.

Matthew, TSG:  C’mon Jay, are you serious!

Take a look at the game, around the 30th minute or so, Clint Dempsey drop back and receives a pass….and he’s waiting…he’s waiting…he’s waiting. You see anybody move? I didn’t. Agudelo in the 35th minutes and 45 minutes was working his socks off looking for an opening and I counted at least four Yanks around him both times, flat-footed. Waiting, presumably reacting.

If it’s not in transition, the Yanks have a real hard time in the offense end. Lack of idea and stagnation. Jermaine Jones?! Jermaine Jones has been battling niggling injuries and went from Schalke 04 destroyer to Blackburn complement. Are we seeing less than we expected with him right now? I’m not so sure. Kljestan came in to a whole different game!

The future, but what about the present?

Here’s one for you. US fans clamor for a new centerback pairing and they got it. What does Bob Bradley do now with every CONCACAF team seeing–again–a big hole of inexperience at left centerback in the Yanks line-up ? 

Here’s what I say–you can’t go back to Gooch and there’s no evidence that a player like Omar Gonzalez would have done any better–If you’re Bradley, I think you have to ride it out and make sure the players ahead of them buy into shutting down passing lanes and service.

That’s where the Yanks struggled Saturday night. In protecting a vulnerability that it knew it had. No?

Jay, TSG:  At least in hindsight, you can question going with Ream in a match where the opposing attackers are so physical and athletic. Onyewu or Bocanegra may have been a better complement to Goodson in that match, who himself was not as responsible for the first goal as comments during the game would have led you to believe. He still did not have a good night, but he was not mainly responsible for a goal as his younger partner was.

Bob does have to stick with the players he has and give them experience so they learn and get better. I do not understand being so anxious and willing to blood more and more young, inexperienced players. If players who are experienced internationally and in Europe are having trouble, there is no reason to believe that younger less experienced options will fare much better. If anything, Ream showed exactly why enthusiasm about younger players has to be tempered.

If Bob stays on, he will definitely give ample opportunities to players like Omar Gonzalez, George John and probably even Chad Marshall to show that they can be better options.

Any CB pairing the US trotted out last night was going to be stretched since the US midfield was not slowing the Panamanian attack. Bradley still has a tendency to run at the man instead of covering passing lanes and was passed around for much of the night. Jones was worse. The inability to get the ball from the defense to the forwards effectively and pressure the ball in the midfield stranded the US centerbacks.

Will Edu stick his leg in there against Guadeloupe?

Will Bob go with the same pair again or turn to Edu or Kljestan?

Matthew, TSG:  Jay, interesting question on Edu or Kljestan.

At this point, I’m going to say no and a lot of that has to do with the job that Michael Bradley is doing.

Jermaine Jones has proven capable of tacking fiercely–if sometimes in violation–in this Gold Cup. The Yanks need his bite in the center of the pitch.

Scratch that paragraph. Watched the replay last evening. First, it’s possible that Tim Howard might have a coronary if Jones plays again–I can’t risk an injury to Howard. Jones missed many times at shutting down service–that and apathetic approach on offense necessitates a change.

I think you’ll see Bradley use Edu as a starter here–remember he was a World Cup starter against Algeria–a team that plays somewhat similarly to Guadeloupe.

Here’s a final one: What to do about the strikers? Juan Agudelo and Jozy Altidore have looked positively redundant together–with Agudelo not providing the speed to stretch the defense that Altidore benefits from.

It seems to me that Bob Bradley can either migrate to a 4-2-3-1 or push Clint Dempsey up top (a poor decision in you don’t want him taking a beating all game long.) What’s the call?

Jay Bell, TSG: Ah, the problematic position.  What to do, what to do.  Tough decision for Bob because, unlike other positions, there does not seem to be a right answer.

Not quite there...

Agudelo has looked dangerous at times, but his three best USMNT performances to date have come as a substitute.  After three forgettable performances as a starter against Paraguay, Canada and Panama, maybe he should be looked at as a spark off the bench again.  If he comes on as a substitute, should Wondo even be an option on the bench?  It will be sad if his miss against Panama is his lasting international moment.

I say start Altidore and I bet Bradley is thinking the same thing.  Altidore always has the potential for a big moment (should have had an assist to Wondolowski) and earns plenty of fouls in dangerous positions.

The key is what to do with Dempsey.  Sure, his creativity is needed in the midfield, but would the US be so desperate for that creativity if he was up top as a potent finisher?  Will Bob leave him out wide or use him top?  Will Kljestan or Bedoya start, and, if they do, will it be out wide or centrally?

I think Bob’s tendency will be to go with Dempsey up top and dropping further back than Altidore forming a variation of a 4-4-1-1.  I don’t like Kljestan out wide, but that is where he was against Canada.  Kljestan or Bedoya will likely start on the wing opposite of Donovan.

One last thing, why take Adu to the Gold Cup if he is not an option for a match like Panama?  That game was screaming out for a playmaker and would have been perfect for the 2008 Freddy Adu.  With Agudelo starting on the bench, I think Adu or Rogers takes Wondolowski’s place on the bench.  If Jones does not make the bench because of his tantrum after being substituted, both could make the bench and be called on late in the match.

Matt, TSG: Couldn’t agree more on Adu and Panama. On Dempsey, I think you have to at least start him in the midfield. Two reasons: 1, You don’t want him taking a beating all game long from centerbacks and 2, just like at Fulham I think he finds the game better when he’s got more of a free role and the best position that lends to Dempsey floating is somewhere in the midfield, maybe even a CAM, though not in the traditional sense.

We’re out for now.

US Falls To Panama, 2-1: Same Script, No 2nd Half Oscar

This is a guest review by one of TSG’s favorite footie writers……

  ……Neil W. Blackmon of The Yanks Are Coming.

Digging a hole against Panama...

Every now again, you get punched in the mouth.

Forget the referee.

Forget the two missed sitters at the end that would have equalized.

Forget all of it.

Tonight, the US Men’s National Team was punched in the mouth. Dr. Martin Luther King said you don’t know much about a man until he faces adversity—for Bob Bradley and his twenty-three patriots—this is their “Dr. King” moment. The United States will play Guadeloupe in three days and it will need a win and a Panama loss to Canada to claim victory in its group. Yes, we’re referring to Ii’s Gold Cup group. That’s as big a punch in the mouth as you take in soccer, one would think. Certainly there are a great number of talking points from tonight’s game which in the end can only be characterized as an abject failure—the worst loss of the Bob Bradley era (and it isn’t even close, folks.) To this writer, however, two critical points must be made.

just about says it all...

First, the United States was called offside zero times on the evening. That’s telling: it speaks to a lack of quality runs, not just by forwards but by old mainstays and reliable figures such as Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey. Zero offside calls. Do the research—you’ll rarely find a side that wins a game against a quality opponent (more on that in a moment) without one offside call. The US lost tonight, and it was not once called offside.

Second, as upsetting as the United States’ performance was tonight, Panama deserves a great deal of credit. In any sport, not just soccer, an upset tends to involve the following formula. First, a favored side enters a game fully expecting to win. Second, the favored side is substantially better, or the disparity is enough to lull the favored side into a false sense of overconfidence. Third, the favored side has to play below the level in which it is capable.

Finally, the opponent has to play above the level in which it is capable. All of those things happened tonight at the Pirate Ship in Tampa. The Americans lacked urgency—perhaps sensing they were clearly superior to their opponent, and opening the game with that in mind. The Panamanians came to play—and ahead two goals, they tactically did exactly what they should have done—bunkering back and weathering the storm that was the match’s final thirty minutes. In the end, the recipe for an upset was met, and the result was more than fair. That’s worth reiterating and keeping in mind as you read the remainder of this piece, because as harsh as one could be towards the Americans tonight (who were doubtlessly poor), it is unfair to not credit the victors. With that in mind, it is time to recap with three final thoughts and player ratings.

Disclaimer: If you are a regular Yanks Are Coming reader, the format of the piece won’t shock you. If you are a regular TSG reader (many more of you), it might. Here’s the deal: three thoughts and player ratings is normally how I do things. Tonight/tomorrow morning—I provide the normal TYAC review, plus a Golden Shinguard, in honor of TSG.

A brief showing of strength from the US....Goodson congratulated on his goal.

Three Final Thoughts

He wasn't on the field...

First, this loss is NOT on Bob Bradley. Yes, you can criticize his player selections- but that’s pretty much normal for any skipper, especially when you lose. The two things you can’t question are his tactical decisions and his substitutions. They were fine. And at the end of the day, occasionally you lose, and it isn’t your manager or coach’s fault. Some losses are on players. This was one such loss.

To support this claim, one could easily reference the zero offside calls on the United States. It would be nice to suggest Panama was responsible for that statistic, but as well as Panama played the reality is the United States simply had a high striker tonight who didn’t want to involve himself in the match or make runs, and they paired him with a young support striker who made runs but those runs were late and they were not clever. But you can’t place defeat wholly on the shoulders of lackadaisical forwards. Not when you are thoroughly beaten. The bottom line? Panama were better. And that’s on the players.

How were Panama better, and why is it on players and not the manager, you ask? Thanks for asking. Where to begin… first—center backs Clarence Goodson and Tim Ream read their press, or played like they did. They looked every bit the pair who felt they would have an easy run-out against Panama, and they were exploited. Goodson was nowhere near the confident player he was against Canada: shaky in distribution, caught out of position on the first goal, late to mark on the sequence leading to the second. Ream showed us his youth, but worse, he showed us the player who seemed a bit off form in his final games with the Red Bulls before heading to camp. He was slow to react, late to challenge (although the press contingent felt the penalty was harsh) on the penalty, and bad in the air (a weakness Panama challenged early and often, to their credit). Ream was still effective in link-up play, particularly with MB 90 and Sacha Kljestan in the second half, but he’s a CB, not a DM, and that’s concerning.

Beyond central defender failures, the US were victimized by the second “I’m either tired or not interested” performance from Jermaine Jones. Jones was poor in distribution (supposedly a strength), he was late to track back on the first goal, and mercifully, he was pulled after an hour by Bob Bradley for the far more effective Sacha Kljestan. Sure—you could complain about the starting 11—but that’s hindsight, not fair, and to be honest Jones deserved to start after the Canada match. The jury is out on whether he should start against Guadeloupe, after all, the point of destroyers in the midfield is to disrupt rhythm, and Jones did none of that.

Howard beaten, but not more so than the Yanks' centerbacks.

For most of the fatal first half, Panamanian mids Gabriel Gomez and Amilcar Henriquez, as well as roaming front man Luis Tejada, were given too much space just past the center stripe and were more or less allowed to spray the ball around at will. Jones’ role is to prevent just that from happening—and it is disheartening that he was unable to do so against an opponent like Panama. In the end, Panama wanted it more, played harder (than nearly all Yanks), and victimized an American backline that at every position is either aging rapidly or too young. The American backline wasn’t up to the challenge; Panama was; and that’s the end of the story.

Second, once you establish that Panama deserves a great deal of credit, it is critical to understand that this game is the best evidence in the Bradley tenure (Slovenia included) that the American margin for error is razor thin.

As Jeff Carlisle wrote here, the Americans certainly need to start matches better. Falling behind might be the stuff of Hollywood film or ESPN drama—but it is NOT the stuff of winning international tournament soccer. The Yanks have little excuse for falling behind Panama, particularly in a match where they were dominating possession—and they quite simply needed to respect the Panamanian counter more. Again, you could blame Bradley the Senior—but that seems unfair—after all—the players need to respect opponents. Bob can talk until he’s blue in the face, but that’s not enough.

As for margin of error—the cold reality is that the Americans simply can’t count on beating anyone before the match begins, no matter what their fans think. Tonight’s loss was bizarre—but even more so because the Americans seemed so apathetic on the pitch and apathetic in the interview room. Landon Donovan called it a “learning process”—one can only wonder when the “learning” ends for the MLS poster-child. What we do know: the US isn’t quite good enough to come two goals behind to win at anything—but that’s not a personal view and if you’re a betting man, bet US heavy against Guadeloupe. Just can’t see a Bob Bradley led side giving up—if anything redeeming happened tonight—it was that the boys didn’t quit. But “not quitting isn’t enough”. Being committed is better, and striving for personal excellence is the best option.  The reality? Well, the US can’t fall behind 2-0 to anyone but Slovenia. And in this region—they’ll have to act more interested in wearing the USMNT shirt before we decide to move forward. But we’ll see.

Landon: Didn't make it out to the rodeo...

Finally, as good (and suddenly passionate?) as Clint Dempsey is—this is still Landon Donovan’s rodeo, and tonight just won’t do.

A pair of press folks said this was the worst game they’ve ever seen Landon Donovan play in a US Shirt. I don’t know if I can go that far, but what I will say is it wasn’t good. Service was poor (even on the goal, he received help from Clint Dempsey), tracking back was a bit lazy (uncharacteristic), and patience was lacking. Why does this matter? Should be pretty simple. Without Landon Donovan—this team (and it’s tournament chances) is very, very ordinary. With an effective LD—well—that’s a different situation, but the bottom line is if the USMNT is serious about reclaiming the trophy from Mexico—they’ll need Landon to be the creator and defense unlocking influence he’s capable of being, or at the very least, they’ll need him to make more effective runs, to remember to keep width, and to provide better service. Not a banner night for LD.

Muted, but effort was there...

Golden Shin Guard:  Hard to decide on a night when the Yanks simply weren’t up to snuff, but if pressed, I’d say MB 90, simply because he was steady in distribution and particularly effective when the US were chasing the game in the second half. Bradley missed a sitter to tie it (like two of his other teammates) late, so it’s tough to say he merits the award, but if we’re in the business of handing out default golden shinguards, Michael is about the best available choice.

PLAYER RATINGS

Tim Howard, 6—Couldn’t do anything about either goal and nearly saved penalty. Distribution was sound, and actually made a brilliant prerequisite save minutes before the second goal , which was really a brilliant penalty, not a Howard error.

Carlos Bocanegra, 5—One of those nights where Boca lacked the pace and wherewithal to influence the game like he did “back in the day.” Did well in second half with distribution and maintaining position when Panama decided to counter.

Clarence Goodson, 5—Scored goal- so there’s that, and not much else. Goodson’s passing was poor, his distribution was off, and he was out of position on the opening Panamanian goal. None of those things are positive—and this was a step backwards from the Gold Cup opener.

Tim Ream, 3.5– in a word—Not Good. Silly challenge resulted in penalty, though press contingent wasn’t sure it was the right call, and though passing was fine he was caught out of position on first Panamanian goal and responsible as well for the second.

Steve Cherundolo, 5—Not his best night. Service and final balls were off even though he was the only American providing width. Yes, his range seemed to improve in the fourth half of this tournament—but he was tested on the flank (and beaten) at times and on a night where Landon Donovan is disinterested in providing width—Stevie C must provide more.

MB 90, 6—Another fine night for the American central mid, though I’d like to see him not drop so far back on defense (and no, I don’t think it is on Bradley). He flicked Jones on for his goal, and just missed an equalizer of his own from seven yards. It was a sitter—so yeah—he should be feeling bad.

Landon Donovan, 3—Really? Was he even on the field? We saw him miss late just wide of the post, but other than that- he had very little influence. The US needs more from Donovan if they are going to win this tournament, and he’ll have to be better both on set-piece service and in open play if the Yanks are to win the group with a big victory (and a Panama loss) this week.

Jermaine Jones, 4—Not his best moment. Really felt his passing was off early—and if there were ever a time to question Jermaine Jones—that would be it. Jones can probably at least blame Bradley’s tactics somewhat—but it is hard to suggest that he was told to play that deep. Taking the shirt off when substituted—that was icing on a bad night cake.

Dempsey persevered, but needed help...

Clint Dempsey, 6.5—A fine performance by Duece mostly, but he’ll rue the sitter from 7 yards (unmarked) where the ball was passed to Wondo (who missed from four yards) instead. Dempsey made creative runs and his effort was outstanding, but at the same time—the USMNT was playing Panama and he should play this well.

Jozy Altidore, 3—Not a good night for a guy who seemed like he’d turned the corner last week. Oh well. Perhaps US will win manana…..Good ball towards end should have been rewarded with goal- but there weren’t enough good moments. Also lost his marker on opening goal—that’s not okay under Bob Bradley.

Juan Agudelo—Pretty good write-up here. Main thing about this guy is (unlike so many US strikers), he seemed interested in making positive or at least interesting runs. Problem was he didn’t get much in the way of distribution from either Donovan or Cherundolo—two key figures in making his diagonal runs productive.

Chris Wondolowski, 4—Didn’t seem ready for ball (Dempsey was unmarked) late in game. That’s not excusable, especially for an MLS player who finds garbage goals effectively. Pace was fine but this is Panama, where he shouldn’t be overwhelmed. As mentioned—missed a sitter to tie—and that’s not acceptable, at any level. Wondo needs to finish—and here he failed.

Sacha Kljestan, 6—Another good performance from the guy everyone loves to scapegoat. Lacked a moment of magic- but didn’t turn the ball over—thought about playing offense, got forward and was good tackling and interacting with MB 90. Think he might be ready to start.

Alejandro Bedoya, 5.5– Initially felt he was quiet and didn’t impact the game too well. Watched final 30 again, however, and have to credit Bedoya with a nice performance.  The US lacks width terribly– Bedoya helped stretch the field a bit and had some nice moments passing the ball and interacting with his fellow substitute Sacha Kljestan. Flop was right call, though yellow card was harsh, but if you’re looking for a bright spot on a dark night– think about the run that Bedoya made to get in that position to begin with. One day, a defender will trip him, and the Americans will have a penalty.

Neil W Blackmon is co-founder of The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at nwblackmon@gmail.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @nwb_usmnt.

Snap Judgements: USA vs. Panama

The US chased the game from the opening whistle....

The US falls to Panama in Game 2 of the Group Stage. It’s the first loss ever for the States in the Group Stage of the Gold Cup. The game was a fascinating tactical battle.

• Panama was excellent. The US failed to execute and seemed ill-prepared.

So many places to begin in this one.

Valdés in his playing days.

First, credit to Panama. Head coach Julio César Dely Valdés is no mug. The one-time player at La Liga’s Malaga and Ligue One’s Paris Saint-Germaine (and one time assistant at Malaga) countered what the Americans would do absolutely exquisitely with his game plan.

Realizing the Yanks would go 4-2-2-2 and that Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey would both compress in and get up the pitch,Valdés knew he would have space in midfield on the counter. With savvy strikers Luis Tejada and Blas Perez facing the inexperienced pairing of Goodson and Ream, Panama went inside-outside-inside and often found the feet of their top duo in stride.

The Americans, on the other hand, seemed confused. Positionally, Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones weren’t sure how far to come up or how deep to sit. The struggle left both of them frequently in the dreaded “No Man’s Land.”

Consequently, that led to the second major problem for the States, denying service.

Coach Bob Bradley had to have known his young centerbacks would be tested on the day and the primary “three-point arc” defenders of Steve Cherundolo, Carlos Bocanegra (though less so than the others), Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley conceded easy entry passes–through balls, corner balls, crosses–way too often.

Coupled with the opponent’s strategy to primarily go at Tim Ream this put the Yanks’ defense under intense bursts of pressure. The Yanks wilted and–snap–trailed 2-0.

US fans may complain about Bob Bradley’s team selection and his ability to coerce solid and consistent efforts out of his team, but his offensive game plan when in possession seemed sound today, if poorly executed.

The US attacked Panama's vulnerable side down their left flank in the first primarily through Clint Dempsey. Landon Donovan (highlighted) almost by default had little room to operate and couldn't find the attack except in transition.

The first half saw Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey attack the vulnerable right side of the Panamanian defense. There were solid efforts if not solid opportunities in the early going.

Once this was recognized by the Panamanians they drifted a midfielder over to help and the Yanks tried to switch field to find Landon Donovan and Juan Agudelo on the right.

The main challenges for the Yanks in attack were their forwards–chiefly Jozy Altidore–seemed at a loss for where to move offball and many times seemed to take up the same positions with Clint Dempsey who floated centrally quite a bit. That and the Yanks rate of play was entirely too slow to capitalize when any advantage was created.

The Yanks were thoroughly beaten through better execution and an acknowledgement of the opponent at how to break them down.

• Both Landon Donovan and Jozy Altidore needed more “something .”

We wrote the following about Donovan in our USA vs Panama preview:

Donovan on the interior sometimes gets lost in games like this and forces the US to rely on Clint Dempsey.

The same again happened this evening as the play ran through Dempsey. Donovan always seems to struggle without space, but tonight the States need him to make himself available and threaten, with or without the ball and that just didn’t happen.

Posed this question on Jozy Altidore in our preview:

He needs to move more and he needs to initiate contact much more. Will he up his game again in the second Gold Cup go around.

Again, a negative answer to this one. Altidore often seemed lost on where to move on the evening, rarely initiated space or won balls when he did. He did have one sublime touch and cross that Chris Wondolowski should have finished, but that movement occurred only after play opened up.

Beyond this, it was Altidore who failed to mark his man on the first Panama goal and the burly forward consistently squawked to the refs and opponents, slowing down an attack that needed pace desperately.

• The Yanks suffered greatly from lack of true wingers, especially on the left.

In the 2nd half Donovan hugged the left touchline to create width, but the Yanks still had some challenges with no natural footer save Boca on that side.

Bob Bradley teams typically forgo true wingers, relying on Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan to provide width from their pseudo-mifield positions.

That strategy today left the Yanks vulnerable on the counter and a few Tim Howard saves or defensive sticks from really opening the floodgates.

Additionally–while the States became most successful with the threat of Donovan on the left in the 2nd half–the attack was already comprised because–with the absence of lefties able to really drive the ball wide or round the corner, Panama’s defense was able to recover a little bit more easily.

The width created chances for the Yanks, but if opposing coaches must have noted the huge struggles the Yanks had getting to the corner flag on the left and of the advancing elder statesman Carlos Bocanegra in possession.

We may want to rename this bullet, the Brad Davis or Bobby Convey bullet.

• The changing of the guard at centerback is going to take some time.

First, neither Clarence Goodson or Tim Ream had a good game this evening. For US fans who wanted a more youthful centerback pairing, tonight bore witness to the growing pains.

Tim Ream was consistently targeted by the Panamanians and if not for an errant shot Clarence Goodson would have been beat 1-vs-1 by Luis Tejada in the first half for a 3-0 lead.

The pair of course is not helped when service lanes are not shut down ahead of them.

Bob Bradley will have quite a conundrum for Game 3 against Guadeloupe. And given that the US coach will probably stick with both, you’ll hear the word “moxie” being bantered around surrounding their names in the coming days.

• Why does it take a back-to-wall situation for the US to seize the initiative?

An age old question here under Bob Bradley. And I don’t have an answer for you.

Short passes

» A solid effort from Sacha Kljestan who might just find himself in the starting central midfield discussion now with Jermaine Jones uneven play.

» Chris Wondolowski tonight did not reward Bob Bradley’s selection over the more experienced Herculez Gomez. He had some nice touches, but he was brought into to hit pay dirt and tonight he only shoveled it around.

» Juan Agudelo showed his youth today, getting flummoxed in tight quarters, but he still worked hard and tried to take on defenders.

» Will Jermaine Jones’ shirt throwing incident provoke a response from Bob Bradley?

» Ale Bedoya impressive in action–needs to show that final ball though to take the next step.

» From the “my arms hurts from patting me on my back” files, finally nailed a preview, including this nugget:

Oh and expect the Yanks first set piece goal in this one. Panama is not a big team and with the front end of Landon Donovan or Michael Bradley in close proximity and the backend of a Clarence Goodson or Carlos Bocanegra coming up, the United States has a distinct advantage.

USA vs. Panama: Live Commentary

It was Timmy Terrific...uh-gain...against Canada

Update:

US Starting line-up:

G: Howard

DEF: Cherunolo, Ream, Goodson, Bocanegra

MID: Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Clint Dempsey

FW: Juan Agudelo, Jozy Altidore

United States vs. Panama, getting under way shortly here.

It’s Round II of the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament. The winner here advances outright; the loser heads into Game 3 needing some points.

Panama is all about forward play, so eyes on Tim Ream and Clarence Goodson–both likely starters–as they will be tested by Blas Perez and Luis Tejada at least a few times in this one.

Starting line-ups shortly.

Orange Slices: US vs. Panama

Orange Slices is our game day, catch-all post that we update during the day before the match. Don’t accept substitutes, imitators or copycats! Ask for fresh, wholesome Orange Slices by name.

Orange Slices: USA vs. Panama

Hello and welcome to game day!

The United States Men’s National team heads in Round II of the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament. While Sepp Blatter and company take on Jack Warner, the US takes on Panama.

Panama is all about forward play, so eyes on Tim Ream and Clarence Goodson–both likely starters–in the early going.

Enjoy the game.

Broadcast:

Kickoff is slated for 8 p.m. ET.

English TV Broadcast: Fox Soccer (JP Dellacamera & Kyle Martino with the call) —  Spanish TV Broadcast: Telefutura, Web: Concacaf.com or Univsion.com

Live Commentary: Right here at TSG

TSG’s Official US vs. Panama Preview

———-

Supporting Material:

• ESPN’s Leander Schaerlaeckens takes a cue from TSG’s belabored main Gold Cup point, “Dictate Play,” and asks the team about it.

• Travis Clark, The USA 10 Kit: 3 Things To Watch today for the Americans.

• SI man Grant Wahl takes a fantastic look at US Soccer’s hunt for dual passport players.

•  The Yanks Are Coming Jon Levy says the Yanks are taking their talents…to Tampa.

• Another must-reader: Not US Soccer per se, but This Is American’s Soccer’s Adam Spangler has a fabulous transcription of the birth of Livestrong Park in Kansas City. Just so happens the US plays there next.

Viewing?:

American Outlaws members gather here.

Important Audio:

Weather forecast:

Yikes, Thunderstorms and muggy temperatures. Hey, couldn’t the US have played Panama a more US climate rather than a Panamanian one?

Surf forecast:

West coast of Florida gets some waves. However, the outlook for Saturday? Highly F-L-A-T, with a chance of an ankle slapper.

HEY KOOL-AID:

Be sure to check out a young Clint Dempsey and Brad Davis in this clip. The 2005 Gold Cup Final won on penalties by the United States over Panama.

More:

  • The U.S. is 3-0-1 against Panama in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the tie coming in the 2005 final with the U.S. prevailing 3-1 on penalty kicks.
  • Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Oguchi Onyewu were part of the U.S. squad that day. Donovan took and converted the third penalty in the shootout.
  • Donovan and Carlos Bocanegra scored in the 2007 quarterfinal against Panama at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
  • Clarence Goodson and Robbie Rogers are the only members of the 2011 team that appeared in the 2009 quarterfinal victory in Philadelphia.
  • The U.S. holds a 6-0-2 all-time record against Panama with 18 goals for and four goals against.
  • All eight meetings between the two teams have come in either the Gold Cup or World Cup qualifying.
  • In qualifying for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, the teams met four times, playing home and away in both the semifinal and final rounds of qualifying. The U.S. won three times with one tie.
  • Donovan scored twice against Panama in a 6-0 rout in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 13, 200
United States Gold Cup Schedule
Date        Opponent        Result/Time    TV / U.S. Goalscorers             Venue
June 7      Canada           2-0 W            Altidore, Dempsey                   Ford Field; Detroit, Mich.
June 11    Panama           8 p.m. ET       FOX Soccer / TeleFutura        Raymond James Stadium; Tampa, Fla.
June 14    Guadeloupe     8 p.m. CT      FOX Soccer / TeleFutura        LIVESTRONG Soccer Park; Kansas City, Kan.
 
GROUP C STANDINGS
Team     GP          W            L              T              GF          GA          GD          Pts.
USA       1              1              0              0              2              0              +2           3
PAN       1              1              0              0              3              2              +1           3
GPE        1              0              1              0              2              3              -1            0
CAN       1              0              1              0              0              2              -2            0

TSG’s Official US vs. Panama Preview

The United States with a big rebound Tuesday evening on the heals of the Spanish Boston Massacre.

In 2009, Clarence Goodson replaced an injured Jimmy Conrad to help the US on to a 2-1 victory in the Gold Cup quarterfinal. Goodson will again look to undercut Panama striker Blas Perez (pictured)

Sucking in Canada’s outside combo of Simeon Jackson and Josh Simpson deeply on the left, the US countered and controlled the flow of the game against the Canadians through the feet of Steve Cherundolo and Landon Donovan in the first. Jozy Altidore’s shot may not have been La Liga class–heck it may not have even been SPL class–but he used his body well and reinforced the elderly adage, “You can’t score if you don’t shoot.”

In the 2nd half with the United States morphing to a 4-5-1 of sorts, it was the Clint Dempsey Show as, unencumbered from right flank defensive responsibilities, Dempsey flew around the attacking third, notching the 2nd goal of the game. The US took it 2-0.

For their part, Panama, too, got their Gold Cup group stage off to a positive if slightly less emphatic start. The Panamanians went up early on the Guadeloupe and then held on and held off a harried down-a-man comeback to take their Game 1, 3-2.

The wins for both respective teams set up different mindsets heading into Game 2 Saturday in Tampa, Florida.

The United States will be looking to punish a Panama side that typically plays pack-it-in ball, looking to use Game 3 against Guadeloupe as a respite for their starters and to test out some of those that have been playing the scout team in training.

Meanwhile, the Panamanians–with Canada’s defeat to the US–have a little breathing room in this game as the winner of their Maple Leaf showdown in Game 3 will likely decide who the second team through is. They’ll probably look to steal one here and at worst keep any goal deficit better than their next opponent did.

The last time the US played Panama in Gold Cup 2009, it struggled at first with Route 1 football, hucking passes up to Brian Ching and Davy Arnaud and then not providing support. A tactical change by Bob Bradley to withdraw Robbie Rogers and push Heath Pearce up on the left flank started to open up some space for the runs of….wait for it…Kenny Cooper.

The US will face the same challenges in width here without giving exposing their backline.

Oh and expect the Yanks first set piece goal in this one. Panama is not a big team and with the front end of Landon Donovan or Michael Bradley in close proximity and the backend of a Clarence Goodson or Carlos Bocanegra coming up, the United States has a distinct advantage here.

Let’s get to our customary TSG preview. It goes:

About The Opponent: Panama

TSG What Are We Looking For/At

11 At The Whistle

Disclaimers

———-

About The Opponent: Panama

Panama runs a standard 4-4-2 and they look to stay compact in the back and defend at all costs. Given that a draw would be a good hope, don’t expect the PANAMA Canal minders to open up and let any comers through. (I know, that was terrible and thanks for the “oops” moment in the comments).

The standard 4-4-2 of Panama

Above is their standard deployment and the biggest question for the Yanks will be how Tim Ream and Clarence Goodson manage the veteran pair of Luis Tejada and Blas Perez up top. The two were responsible for simple offball movement in concert to beat the terribly disorganized Guadeloupe central backtandem of Vlator and Lambourde. Basically just a lot of crisscrossing and short diagonal runs while their wingers stayed wide.

Ream and Goodson have more skill but only two starting reps together. This game will challenge their communication with one another with Tim Howard bellowing behind them.

Beyond the forwards, Panama will need to play a very good game to get the better of the States. Gabriel Gomez and Amílcar Henríquez anchor the interior of the midfield, both are regulars on their respective Colombian league clubs though neither standouts.

Carlos Bocanegra will has some work to do to contain Armando Cooper on his flank. The young Panamanian has progressed through the youth system ranks, has better than average pace and a usable outside shot. However, look for balls to be played through and over the top to Cooper and for the winger himself to make through balls and even crosses to the heads of Tejada and Perez his primary goal. The US will need to be careful–if they play a high line–about Cooper running behind it.

On the left is another youngster in 23-year-old Nelson Barahona with a lot of straight ahead speed, some dribbling ability and little else. The extremely poor man’s Luis Boa Morte.

The quarterback of the backline, their captain and probably their best player is Felipe Baloy. He’s a regular at Santos in the Primera, home of American Adrian Ruelas. Baloy and fellow veteran Luis Henriquez do a solid job on the left side of the line for Panama, it’s the right side where the US will likely look to attack down that side a little more in this match. The right centerback is 22-year-old wet-behind-the-ears Edgar Dascent; he of all of 3 caps to his name. Split out wide is Adolfo Macheda. Both are challenged in maintaining their marks.

Veteran Jaime Peneda will attempt to keep the net.

TSG: What Are We Looking For?

• Can the Yanks dictate the tempo and the game to Canada? Can they couple two solid performances in a row

We told you we would belabor this point…and it’s just starting. The US controlled the run of play for long stretches against Canada. It was a more impressive effort than expected.

Against a Panamanian team that plays a lot like Paraguay–though not nearly as talented–can the States continue to impose their will?

• How should and how will Landon Donovan be deployed?

Most recently against Paraguay’s 4-4-2, Donovan was effectively taken out of the game. Some of this may have been from knee tendonitis that forced Donovan’s club team to rest the US star for two weeks following his return from US duty.

Donovan on the interior sometimes gets lost in games like this and forces the US to rely on Clint Dempsey.

Is the US vastly superior to Panama and thus this will not be an issue or does Bob Bradley make a slight tweak to Donovan’s deployment to take advantage of the Yanks goal leader?

Jozy needs to continue to use his frame...

• Does Altidore rip off a good string of games here?

Our second game, our second talking point about Altidore. Altidore was good, not great against Panama.

He needs to move more and he needs to initiate contact much more.

Will he up his game again in the second Gold Cup go around. Fans can’t wait to find out.

• Will Freddy Adu make the bench?

If any group stage game offers the opportunity to see Adu in a sub role, this is the one with Panama fairly cookie-cutter defense.

———-

11 at the Whistle

The US will likely stay with their 4-4-2. Most recently against Paraguay the US moved the ball well when Dempsey was cutting in from the left and Donovan went wide right. Bob Bradley's selection of fullbacks will be interesting in this one....or not...

The skinny: Well fans, we blew it last time. Got Bob Bradley and the line-up off. Bradley going with players, like Juan Agudelo, who played more than 60 mins against Spain and using a youthful centerback pairing of Tim Ream and Clarence Goodson.
Hopefully less mistakes this time.

G: Tim Howard

DEF: Steve Cherundolo, Clarence Goodson, Tim Ream, Carlos Bocanegra

The skinny: Nothing extraordinary here. Goodson and Ream should be given another run together. Carlos Bocanegra mans the left, providing a veteran for Ream to help manage the game. Steve Cherundolo likely back out to the right.

It’s possible that both Jonathan Spector and Jonathan Bornstein start–both present advantages and the ability to rest the two oldest outfield players for the Yanks.

If you need to select one to give your line-up at home a little wrinkle, pick Bornstein. With the Yanks probably looking to attack the left side a little more in Game 2 and Armando Cooper somewhat able to get up the flank, Bornstein would give Bradley the opportunity to actually get a fullback up in the attack to support Clint Dempsey.

CDM: Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley

The skinny: The formula already looks set here with Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley having their best game yet when paired against Canada. Maurice Edu looks a step behind their quality and relieves if necessary.

MID: Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan

The skinny:  Dempsey will be relied on more in this game to help create, while Donovan–recovered from whatever illness–needs to show the stamina that has long been his hallmark. Donovan will likely be pushed a little wider than against Canada.

STR: Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo

The skinny:  Looking to start building chemistry, Bradley continues to start Juan Agudelo and Jozy Altidore together here. Agudelo will be 22 in 2014; Altidore 25.

Disclaimers:

• The US backline either includes Bornstein or Spector.

Odds: 15%

» The skinny: Not a totally wild thought, but given Game 3 opponent Gaudeloupe likes to get up and down the pitch more, maybe Dolo or Boca gets a rest. Wouldn’t bet on it though.

• Robbie Rogers on the left; Dempsey pushed up top

Odds: 5%

» The skinny: Stranger things have happened, but worth noting here as it was Rogers work creating width in 2009 that started creating space for an advancing Heath Pearce that opened up the game in the Gold Cup quarterfinal. I would bet on Rogers being on the game day roster and possibly being a 2nd half sub.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 253 other followers