When the United States takes to Sun Life Stadium Saturday for the first bookend of a two-part October camp series against Honduras, it will mark just another inch forward in Jurgen Klinsmann’s war on the old USSF system.
After three games at the helm, the US manager is winless and nearly goalless in his time on the touchline. Results however should not be measured in wins and losses in the now-fourth quarter of 2011 or in goals for or conceded.
Where the measuring big stick can be unsheathed is on how the Yanks begin to perform on the field, Saturday against a juvenile La H from Honduras.
Klinsmann had some interesting annotations to his roster selections, not least of which was his allusion to the formation of “core.” His commentary:
We also don’t want to shake up the core structure of the team too much. We aim to build a consistency in our work approach with the established group of the team.”
With that statement and without unique or even just youthful call-ins (think Omar Gonzalez, Mix Diskerud, Josh Gatt), the expectation should be that the US, specifically in its qualified “non-counter attack” offense, will be an improved lot on the field….that is, now that the core is gelling.
It is fair to begin asking the question of Klinsmann’s troops that was asked of Bob Bradley’s squad in the Gold Cup.
That is, “Can the US dictate the rate of play and tempo to the opponent?” There have been signs under the new boss; Saturday needs to be a step forward.
Let’s get to our customary preview.
TSG What Are We Looking At
11 At the Whistle
About the Opponent
TSG What Are We Looking At
• How and who deals with Honduras in central defense?
In the past three matches against Honduras (excluding “B” team affairs in the 2009 Gold Cup) , the US collection of centerbacks has been mercilessly victimized by a technically-sound, proficient and efficient Honduran strikers and midfielders.
Go up against Honduras, like clockwork the middle of the Yanks’ backline hiccups. One trip to the concession stand after another.
In the 2010 Camp Cupcake finale, Chad Marshall got beat through the box by a streaking Jerry Palacios even after Troy Perkins told him to stick his man.
That same game of course saw Clarence Goodson get beat in the box for the third Honduras goal. Oh, the first in that affair? The armbanded Jimmy Conrad–yes JC–generously handing over a penalty kick after a shirt tug on Carlos Pavon earned him a red card and an early trip to the….do you even go the showers if you’ve only been on the pitch for about ten minutes?
The previous game–the “Game to Go” in World Cup qualifying–it was Oguchi Onyewu who authored a messy turnover and then on the turn cut down the Honduran attacker. The following free kick was deposited in the netting past Tim Howard’s outstretched mitts.
And finally, in the home previous home leg of qualifying, Clint Dempsey went to the bakery and a perfectly baked turnover on an ill-advised deke in central midfield had Carlos Costly pouncing on the mistake, playing the fastest game of hot potato you’ve ever seen with Wilson Palacios and then dusting up Carlos Bocanegra in central defense to put the US down 1-nil.
In this one? This is the spot–like it or not US fans–for Michael Orozco Fiscal.
This is why Jurgen Klinsmann has made the questionable call of having Orozco in camp to deal with the pistoning reception-run-dish play of youngsters Jerry Bengston and Roger Rojas working of savvy vet Carlos Costly.
One still has to wonder why Geoff Cameron didn’t get an and it sure would be nice–even if the floodgates were to open–to see Tim Ream get some time against some technical and quick strikers at the international level without the cloud of Rafa Marquez hanging ominously close by.
• Flummoxed! Oh, leftback spot why do you torture all of us so.
At a loss here to deconstruct the thought process out on the left rear flank under Bob Bradley or now Jurgen Klinsmann.
Under Bradley it was a rotating committee of Bocanegra, Jonathan Bornstein and Heath Pearce. (BTW: Do you know who the US caps leader for the year 2008 was? That’s right. Heath Pearce.) Bradley would play the (very relative) hot hand of Bornstein and Pearce and then fall back to Bocanegra when he had had enough. Only in Gold Cup 2011, did Bob Bradley finally relent from his devotion to having a natural-footed player man the position and allow Eric Lichaj a runout.
For Jurgen Klinsmann, his Jonathan Bornstein has been Edgar Castillo who had not made his way to this camp. What is interesting–at least per the player-position associations on the roster announcement–is that there is no natural-footed player even being given a few practice reps here in October camp.
That’s all the more incredulous when you consider that: a) Steve Cherundolo is aging and has been off-form thus far for Hannover–meaning Timmy Chandler might head over there on the right faster than thought, b) with three Yanks in the middle of the pitch instead of two, an inverted fullback on the left (surmised of course to be Chandler) contributes virtually nothing to the attack. He can’t cut in; there’s a traffic jam alread there and c) It would be great to get the young Brek Shea or the dynamic Clint Dempsey an overlapping option to stretch the defense on the left.
Is there any chance Klinsmann could trot out DaMarcus Beasley in that role? It makes sense given Beasley’s previous reps at the position and that Klinsmann is looking at the ability to attack as a major factor in evaluating a player’s ability to contribute at fullback.
Very interesting come Saturday.
• The US posture & the Torres hub role
Will the United States continue to manage possession in the game? A team like Honduras–cannaballized by injury here–provides an excellent opportunity to improve against–they’re technically-skilled but prone to be undisciplined.
Is the Torres hub role still in play? No Jose Torres until 2012. Stu Holden, perish the thought for now.
Is the “Torres role” Kyle Beckerman’s to lose–or will the US go double-pivot and use Michael Bradley and Beckerman to manage possession with a holder in Maurice Edu behind them. How does it play out?
• Lead passes:
» Interesting call-in of Edson Buddle to replace Landon Donovan in camp. That gives the States potentially four target strikers for what would seem like a single spot per match.
» Always good to see how a young player who’s called in despite struggling for their club fares. For Brek Shea, it would appear The Rooster is exhausted from being an irreplaceable cog in the FC Dallas attack. Can he summon the resolve to play consistently and dazzle on occasion?
For Tim Ream, his latest observations show a player working hard to play through a slump. Does he get a shot to play a match in this camp–I think he does–and is he plagued by the same positional and defensive technique challenges that have torpedoed he end of his campaign at Red Bulls?
» Still looking for the right wing on the roster. No Bedoya, no Gatt, no….nothing.
11 At The Whistle
G: Tim Howard
The skinny: I don’t understand this three keeper thing though it sure looks like Rimando is Klinsmann’s Guzan, no?
DEF: Steve Cherundolo, Michael Orozco, Carlos Bocanegra, Tim Chandler
The skinny: Once again Chandler is flip-flopped to the detriment of the attack on the left. Another two-hour examination for Orozco.
CDM: Maurice Edu
The skinny: “Run here.” “Now run over there.” “Now here.” “Over there.” That’s either Klinsmann barking directives at Edu in national team practice or the outtake reel of a bad Old Spice commercial.
CM-hub: Kyle Beckerman
The skinny: Dr. Magic Spray could work no charms on Torres or Holden. Make a go of it Senor Headbutt.
CM-box-to-box: Michael Bradley
The skinny: Another chance for Michael Bradley to push forward in the attack. Freed from the double-headed responsibility of managing the States’ attack and funneling the opponent on defense, will Bradley get that role and will he play with confidence after a fast start at Chievo?
LM/RM: Brek Shea, Clint Dempsey
The skinny: The quintessential on the right, the protege on the left. A perfect complementary duo actually.
Dempsey the junkballing, herky-jerkey Vegas dealer who loves to play now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t; Shea the loping, angle-taker who can get vertical (both aerially and pitch-wise) in a hurry.
STR: Jozy Altidore
The skinny: The continued maturation of Altidore at the national level needs one thing: consistency for 90 minutes.
“The Drifter” needs to lose the nickname.
» Dempsey moves centrally to CAM, *someone to right mid, Bradley is dropped.
The skinny: It’s possible–though the pesky issue of not having a right flanker–could Tim Chandler conceivably play that role?–makes it difficult.
» DaMarcus Beasley to LB
The skinny: A better shot here. Jurgen Klinsmann likes defensively-lite, attacking lefty fullbacks from the Primera who should be playing midfield.
Typecast! And a few more caps from Beasley and the man is amazingly over 100.
» A 3-man backline; a 5-man midfield
Odds: C’mon man, gimme a break
The skinny: Yeah, it won’t happen, but the personnel sort-of-might-kind-of make sense here. You’d have the backline of Orozco-Onyewu-Bocanegra preceded by–in some staggered vertical ordering–Beasley-Beckerman-Edu-Bradley-Chandler
Won’t happen, but I had a blast writing that last paragraph.
About the Opponent: Honduras
Many US fans are quite familiar with Honduras with the US having played the central American club five times in the past slightly more than two years. That and the progressions of formations from LA H are somewhat similar to the ones that Bob Bradley used to go through.
Honduran matches during the Bradley era were typically wars of attrition with each team striving to make as few errors from midfield back and with the opponent looking to pounce on those opportunities.
Honduras typically plays a 4-4-2 and works the offense around the hashmarks, but if the situation dictates La H will migrate to a 4-1-4-1 (against better teams) or a 4-2-3-1 (though rarely).
As for the Honduran personnel, that’s actually less predictable this go-around, inverse to past rosters and, upon review, rather, well, weak. The roster is young with many players having single digit caps and only two players older than 27 who are candidates to start.
No idea on who the keeper is–let’s move on.
Honduras typically has a soft underbelly in central defense. However, youth captain Jhonny Leveron and Osman Chavez, who has come into his own with top Polish club Wisła Kraków, will start here before qualifying and try to change that perception heading into 2012.
EPL star Maynor Figueroa has been deployed centrally for the Wigan Latics this campaign but he’ll slide out to his more comfortable leftback position while grey-haired Mauricio Sabillon, whose lost a step and will have his hands full with Shea and perhaps Beasley, mans the right.
The Honduran defensive central midfield used to showcase a duo you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley showdown in Wilson Palacios and Hendry Thomas–two cut from the “speak softly and carry a big stick” ilk.
The pair would snuff out even the faintest hint of an attack in the central midfield and allow their forwards and wingers to freelance more up the pitch creating offense.
Both, however, are injured and out for this one which will surely hurt on both sides of the ball.
Take a guess as will we to the central midfield double is because it’s been a rotating cast since the Gold Cup.
Our best? Sporting KC’s Roger Espinoza plays the left central holder role while Olimpia’s Boniek Garcia shuffles in from his club right wing position. Big thumpers they are not–though Espinoza has been known to mix it up on the pitch from time-to-time, often after the whistle.
There’s a chance that former sensation Mario Martinez (who is oddly out of contract) is thrown into one of these roles as well. Martinez spent some time on loan in the same locker room as Sacha Kljestan at Anderlecht.
Elder statesmen, 32-year-old Julio César de León is back and will make himself available on the left hash mark. If you catch yourself figuratively attempting to put a finger on why his name is familiar to US national team fans, it’s because he knocked in that first goal at San Pedro Sula nearly two years ago to the day.
The right flank sees some MLS pride. Marvin Chavez is firing for FC Dallas right now, pairing with Shea to drive the Hoops’ bus in David Ferreira’s absence.
You can’t say the US dodged a bullet by missing a possible introduction of DC United’s Andy Najar because both Chavez and de León are very talented.
Up top, Carlos Costly was called in to provide a calm outlet up the pitch while whoever is in central midfield for the Yanks has to always keep an eye on Vida’s Jerry Bengston who looked fabulous in this year’s Gold Cup.
The Honduran team is young, inexperienced and lacking some of the physical traits that US teams have come to be bruised by in games against their CONCACAF foe.
If the US can’t control possession in this one, Jurgen Klinsmann should be challenged on it.