Archive for June, 2011

Night-and-Day: Snap Judgements, USA vs. Guadeloupe

Difference maker...read on.

The United States eeked out a 1-0 win over Guadeloupe Tuesday at Livestrong Park to move on to the Gold Cup knockout rounds and face Jamaica in Washington, D.C. on Sunday.

Tuesday’s game was a tale of a fatigued squad–two fatigued squads–with the States having more talent than their opponent, enough to subsist for the win.

Some quick snap judgements:

• Cause-and-effect: When the Yanks move off the ball they’re universes better than when they don’t. (Thank you John Harkes.)

Not sure how to highlight this point further. But it’s starkly black-and-white.

When the United States made runs off the ball in the match, they created chances. Good chances.

When they didn’t, those chances were hard to come by and passes were forced.

It’s really that simple.

Countless times a Yank had the ball in the possession and a circumference of players around him were stagnant, the lot maybe drained from the wear-and-tear of the match and looking for the simple “rest” pass.

(You know the position where you make yourself available for the safe, possession-keeping outlet pass, but it does nothing to improve the attack.)

There is a certain measure of fatigue that played into the game, but a good team would acknowledge that by players making runs in spurts–as Alejandro Bedoya did when he entered.

For example: “Okay, Dempsey’s tired, I’ll makes some runs.”

It was really quite a terrible display at many times and if the States do that in the second round…that is stagnate…they’ll be given their walking papers early.

• Jozy Altidore should cancel his membership to the Lebron James School of Development

Jozy Altidore’s first half strike was a “Whoa, where did that come from moment.”

US fans have seen Altidore uncork some shots either on the run or facing up outside the box before, rounding Jamie Carragher at World Cup 2010 and a near miss from the left hash extended in a friendly against the Netherlands come to mind.

Tonight, Jozy Altidore showcase the wide range of his talents, but just not enough.

The offense was at its best when Altidore was moving off the ball. Only he did this on just three out of 10 possessions.

Altidore bodied up a few players–a moment in the 47th minute when he earned a foul on a drag run was satisfying, but too often he didn’t initiate contact.

And there was the aforementioned Altidore strike. Fans will be pleading for Altidore to wind up more often.

Consistency game in and game out has proven too difficult for Altidore to achieve over his 37 caps, but Altidore needs to improve his fitness and desire in more frequents spurts during the duration of the game.

He’s that integral right now to the US attack and should be.

• The old guard and new guard owned the corners

Steve Cherundolo quietly goes about his business, shutting down would-be attackers on his flank and being useful and dangerous on the attack.

Tonight, Cherundolo–on his third game in eight days–owned his domain.

Acquitted well...

Likewise, Eric Lichaj, wrong-footed on the left flank, was just as effective if not more so because the Yanks have not seen their leftback get forward in this tournament. In fact, the 43rd minute of Game 3 was the first time the Yanks switched field to an advanced leftback in the tournament to date!

Lichaj was dangerous in the attack, having the discipline to challenge wide on his worse foot rather than continually cutback on this strong one. That takes mental discipline and desire to adhere to the game plan.

In defense, Lichaj held his line well and used his low center of body to ride his attacker off the ball.

And, a huge credit to Lichaj–and something Cherundolo does well–for continuing to pursue a play before an offsides call was about to be made. That’s fundamentals and those efforts do not go unnoticed by a coaching staff.

• A troubling lack of getting stuck-in from the States.

As good as Lichaj was at using his frame and being physical–at one point absorbing a foul and playing on while everyone else on the pitch stood still–the rest of the US team sorely lacked in this operational category.

Jones...better...

Beyond Lichaj, Cherundolo and Jermaine Jones, the US showed an amazing lack of challenging for possession and making hard tackles.

Again, perhaps they were tired. Perhaps they were worried about fouls.

Or perhaps Bob Bradley drilled maintaining shape and containment into their persons so much that going for the tackle wasn’t worth it.

Whatever the reason, the US lost most of the physical battles this evening and that’s troubling considering Jamaica–a team made of nails–and perhaps a Panama rematch may be on the docket next.

Quick hits:

• Michael Bradley exhibited thorough soccer best practices on the evenings, at one point continuing a run into the box that most would have broken off. He earned a bonus possession when the ball fell to him. However, Bradley, still should not be the main distributor for the Yanks.

• I’ve never seen Landon Donovan walk so much during a match. He didn’t take on players after a few early spurts and his service was again erratic. I’ve got to believe something’s up.

Captain America, well done.

• Carlos Bocanegra should be commended on his backline management and positioning this evening. It was excellent.

• Alejandro Bedoya played his second impassioned, aggressive game of the tournament….while Robbie Rogers watched from somewhere in the stands. Stain on Bradley here. Bedoya is and was not redundant to a Benny Feilhaber and should have been on the roster from the beginning. He’s precisely the spark off the corner the team needs.

• And yes, finishing, was atrocious, but I do chalk that one up to fatigue unless we see that pathetic of an effort again.

USA vs. Guadeloupe: Live Commentary

Update:

Wow US line-up: Howard, Bocanegra, Goodson, Lichaj, Cherundolo, Dempsey, Jones, Bradley, Donovan, Wondolowski, Altidore

Starting line-ups are less than 3 hours away. Need to publish this post a bit earlier today, plus lots to chat about.

Dolo, ball control, game control, key.

Steve Cherundolo Saturday night in the Mixed Zone after the US fell 2-1 to Panama on what the US needs to do against Guadeloupe.

“To go out and play the soccer that we want to play, that we can play, and obviously to win. Nothing less than a win works for us, so we have to win the last game and go from there. It’s going to be the hard route to the final now but we’re ready for it, and we have to get this loss behind us and focus on the next game.” 

TSG’s much belabored point is secondary tonight. First, of course for the Yanks is a win, by any means necessary. However, if you want to see that Bob Bradley’s squad took it’s lesson to heart, they must dictate the game and tempo to Guadeloupe.

The United States Men’s National once again finds themselves in control of their destiny and needing a good showing in the final group stage game of tournament.

Today it’s Livestrong Park, the opponent is Guadeloupe and the States have something to prove.

Kickoff is slated for 8 p.m. CT.

English TV Broadcast: Fox Soccer (Kyle Martino with analysis) —  Spanish TV Broadcast: Telefutura, Web: Concacaf.com or Univsion.com

Live Commentary starts…..now!

US likely deployment vs. Guadeloupe

From US Soccer: Bob Bradley & Landon Donovan On Facing Guadeloupe

US Coach Bob Bradley and #10 Landon Donovan sit down and preview US vs. Guadeloupe at Livestrong Park, in Kansas City, KS.

The game is tonight. Starting line-ups in three hours.

Orange Slices: US vs. Guadeloupe

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. Guadeloupe

Hello and welcome to game day!

The United States Men’s National once again finds themselves in control of their destiny and needing a good showing in the final group stage game of tournament.

Today it’s Livestrong Park, the opponent is Guadeloupe and the States have something to prove.

Broadcast:

Kickoff is slated for 8 p.m. CT.

English TV Broadcast: Fox Soccer (Kyle Martino with analysis) —  Spanish TV Broadcast: Telefutura, Web: Concacaf.com or Univsion.com

Live Commentary: Right here at TSG!

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

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Supporting Material:

• Flashback: A little more than a year ago, the US kicked off it’s World Cup 2010 campaign. A tactical breakdown by our friends at Zonal Marking.

• Jon Arnold, USA10Kit on moving past Panama.

• The Sporting News’ Brian Straus authors 3 Things The US Must Fix.

•  John Levy, The Yanks Are Coming is paging Landon Donovan in his preview.

Viewing?:

American Outlaws members gather here.

Weather forecast:

Hot? Yes. Wet? Not likely.

Parking update:

We have a parking update? Yes, yes we do. That and more at one of the best local soccer blogs, The Full 90.

AO KC (cough) Does Not Stop (AOkcdoesnotstop) adds: Good news! Lot opens at 2:30! Come get some food and beer!

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BEER!
Did someone say beer?

Sporting KC digital strategist Kyle Rogers participated–along with the Free Beer Movement, Alexi Lalas and others–in TSG’s now infamous: What’s Your Yankee Brew series.

Sporting KC's Kyle Rogers will be drinking...this.

His suggestion for drinking in KC this evening.

Kyle, Sporting KC: Not Tonight Honey Porter – Describes the attitude of both USA and Kansas City fans going into the game. USA fans will feel it’s not the night Guadeloupe gets a big Gold Cup upset, while KC fans will be telling Stephane Auvray that they can’t root for him, tonight.

Read more here.

Surf forecast:

NEXT! This ain’t Kansas. Well actually it is. (Actually just learned last evening that Livestrong Park is in Kansas City, Kansas, not Missouri. First US game in Kansas ever.)

If you really need to get your water sliding on, here’s your location.

BBQ forecast:

KC

Doesn't Tim Howard deserve a good meal?

It’s Kansas City, no surf…you need a BBQ forecast. Here’s our realtime on-demand suggestions:

Tim Hadachek on Twitter: Oklahoma Joe’s. There is also an Arthur Bryant’s location directly across the street from the stadium, if that is relevant.

Adam Brown on Twitter: Arthur Bryants, Gates, Oklahoma Joe’s

Thew on TwitterOklahoma Joe’s for the win, but there’s an Arthur Bryant’s very close to LIVESTRONG

Charles Gooch, fantastic soccer blogger at the The Full 90Oklahoma Joe’s. Thinking of making a stop out there this afternoon.

Chad Reynolds, Twitter: Really can’t go wrong with any of the big places. Gates and Bryants are legendary. Jack Stack’s
is fantastic. Oklahoma Joe’s also

Lea Bales, Twitter: My top 3 in order: Oklahoma Joe’s, Jack Stack’s, Arthur Bryant’s.

Jack Connor, Twitter: Oldschool: Gates/Bryants, New: Okie Joes, Best Food: @jackstackbbq

 

Justin Klemsz, Twitter: Oklahoma Joe’s in a gas station in KC, KS.

More coming..

More on the opponent Guadeloupe:

Les Gwada Boys...

GUADELOUPE
Ligue Guadeloupéenne de Football
Founded: 1961 (Joined CONCACAF in 1964)
Head Coach: Roger Salnot
Best World Cup Finish: Not affiliated with FIFA
Best CONCACAF Gold Cup Finish: Fourth Place (2007)
Key Players: Stephane Auvray, David Fleurival, Brice Jovial, Therry Racon

The TSG Don’t Tread Video Challenge….TODAY IS THE LAST DAY:

Here’s one of your leaders. Please vote now.

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Miscellaneous:

  • The U.S. is facing Guadeloupe for the first time. Guadeloupe participated in its first CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2007 and made it to the semifinals that year. They advanced to the quarterfinals in 2009.
  • The U.S. will be making its first appearance in Kansas on Tuesday night.
  • The U.S. has played once in Kansas City, Mo.: a FIFA World Cup qualifying win against Costa Rica on April 25, 2001, when Josh Wolff scored the lone goal before a crowd of 37,319 fans.
  • The U.S. lost for the first time in group play when they fell to Panama and now has a 24-1-2 record in group play.
  • The U.S. has won its group in each of the 10 previous tournaments. The closest the U.S. has come to finishing second was in 2005 when the U.S. and Costa Rica were tied with seven points, with the U.S. collecting a better goal differential to clinch first place.
  • The U.S. is 3-0-2 in the third game of group play. From 1996-2003, the Gold Cup was played with groups of three teams, so the group stage only included two games per team.
  • The U.S. is seeking its fifth Gold Cup title, with prior championships coming in 1991, 2002, 2005 and 2007.
  • Winning the 2011 version of the confederation championship has a massive bonus attached to it – the right to play in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil just one year prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
  • With his start against Panama, Landon Donovan played in his CONCACAF record-setting 24th career match in the Gold Cup.
  • The U.S. has a 4-1-0 record under Bob Bradley when coming off a loss to a CONCACAF opponent.
  • Eight U.S. players have made their Gold Cup debut in 2011. Juan Agudelo, Jozy Altidore, Maurice Edu, Jermaine Jones, Sacha Kljestan, Tim Ream and Chris Wondolowski debuted against Canada. Alejandro Bedoya debuted against Panama.
  • Eric Lichaj is the one player with the U.S. team in Kansas City yet to make a career Gold Cup appearance.
  • Agudelo is the first U.S. player to appear in a CONCACAF Gold Cup match prior to his 19th birthday, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Agudelo (18 years, 196 days) broke the mark held by DaMarcus Beasley in 2002 (19 years, 240 days).
  • Saturday’s match in Tampa was the 51st for the U.S. in the Gold Cup, a CONCACAF record. The U.S. also has the CONCACAF record for wins, holding a 39-6-6 record.
  • Agudelo is the only player to appear in all six games in 2011.
  • Ream leads the team with 450 minutes played.
  • Ream and Altidore are the only players to have started five games in 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

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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.

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