Two games, one win, one loss from October Camp.
And now the US will embark for Europe in early-mid November for friendlies against France and Slovenia. Though Slovenia was presumably only chosen because other European nations had commitments, the US finds itself challenged by two vastly different systems and talent levels.
France run a similar 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 if you prefer set to the new States deployment while Slovenia features the tried-but-true 4-4-2, using their top two forwards to both check back and create space for their central midfielders.
An easy turn at this month’s depth chart before those November friendlies. We go, per usual:
• The Depth Chart
• A Tale of Two Disciplines
It’s funny to actually look at a Klinsman line-up and strategy and say the following, “I remember when Bob Bradley used to do that.”
If you take at look at last year’s Send Off Series before the World Cup–matches versus Turkey and the Czech Republic–you saw the Yanks go with Clint Dempsey as a withdrawn forward with Jozy Altidore fore of him. In that set-up, Dempsey would usually be found wide of Altidore on the strong side (the US right flank).
The US looked to pound the ball into the living room of the opponent’s leftback. (Against the Czech Republic, it was Edson Buddle up top with none other than Eddie Johnson behind him playing a central forward-striker role).
The US pushed up the field in both games hoping that they could box in the other team and use the possession chops of Altidore and Dempsey to create opportunities and push the opponent back.
If the ball got reversed quickly, Landon Donovan (Turkey) or DaMarcus Beasley (Czech Republic) would be there for an open field-green field quick attack from the weak side. The US played a high line with Clarence Goodson pushing near midfield against the Czechs. It was Jay DeMerit in Philly against Turkey. (No need to rehash the first goal in that game.)
Fast forward to October 2011 and–courtesy the screenshot from the Atlantic Magazine on the right–what should appear? Jurgen Klinsmann’s formation mirrors Bradley’s; inverted to the left side however.
Whereas in this camp, Brek Shea and Jozy Altidore would be up top and the ball would be pushed into the opponent’s rightback position.
Danny Williams is playing the Beasley-Donovan role in this one. (In fact, if you went back to our reviews we scolded Klinsmann for Edu not helping out in the Ecuador match. Turns out that may not have been Edu’s role. You have to tell us about these things in advance, Jurgy! Though we still think you left too much space there for linking passes.)
Both Bradley and Klinsmann used the formation as a defensive strategy in different ways.
For the former, this was an attempt to protect the Yanks weak left flank–the side where concrete-cleated Carlos Bocanegra would man the leftback slot (oh my did he still play well into the box against Aaron Lennon) and the recovering Oguchi Onyewu would be on the left.
For the later, it appeared Klinsmann did used this strategy to beat back Antonio Valencia and Cuchu Benitez in the Ecuador game (the diagram on the right if the set-up versus Honduras), however the Yanks attempted to move the ball through interactions between Danny Williams and Steve Cherundolo on the right…which may signal…
• Speaking of the right side, is that where Donovan fits in.
…Landon Donovan in that spot.
Anyone else think that Williams looked awkward away from the center of the pitch where he is more used to linking and destroying?
Good, glad we got that cleared up.
That interplay seems like the role that Donovan will slot into when he returns. Acres of space and the familiar Cherundolo to work off of.
The next data point in this question? November call-ins.
• Six of one & half dozen of the other, + Bradley, + Beckerman, + Orozo-Fiscal
Loaded and confusing bullet title here, but we’ll press on.
And first beat a decaying horse horse.
Biggest difference of the Klinsmann Era deployment wise has been stacking the midfield with three players instead of two like his predecessor did. Though Klinsmann has also pushed two of those AM’s up the pitch. For Ecuador it was Edu and Dempsey.
As with his predecessor, Jurgen Klinsmann’s midfield (and the defense behind it) still has work to do in order to more effectively protect counterattacks and keep the opponent penned in. Take that last statement away as the important one from this segment.
For Bob Bradley, it was a deployment of Michael Bradley in essentially the push or “contain” role with Jermaine Jones providing the big stick behind it. Let’s call this the “Funnel & Smack” type play in the central midfield. It’s not unlike a linebacker cleaning up a blocker and routing a RB for the strong safety to come up and make the tackle in American football, if that analogy makes it more more clear.
(And oh by the way, this terminology shouldn’t really be truly called “a bucket” central midfield as is commonly a misnomer about Bradley’s reign. Bradley was typically fore of Jermaine Jones, not parallel with him in defense.)
The challenge with Bradley’s midfield were dualfold. First, too often Jermaine Jones would go walkabout or be caught up on the attack, removing the “stick” part of that equation. And secondly, for all Michael Bradley’s positive CM attributes; his biggest weakness was perhaps thinking he could accomplish too much. Often Bradley would either be too sharp with his angle or attempt to make the stick himself and the weakside would be left open after a less than ideal angle was taken.
The group-stage Panama match showcased Jones challenged his role, while the Gold Cup Final showcased Michael Bradley getting stretched as he both tired and came up to make plays when the US went behind. (Note: A Herculean effort is needed if you are both the main midfielder in possession and tasked with funneling the opponent’s attack.)
For Klinsmann’s it’s midfield trouble of another beast–and it’s why Michael Orozco-Fiscal keeps getting runouts. (And if you’re paying attention, it’s why Heath Pearce got invites to the past few camps.)
In Klinsmann’s system, Beckerman has been tasked with the loan holding role. He’s not necessarily looking to make the smackdown that Jones did. His job is to divert the attack until help comes.
So far this strategy has worked better for the US as they’ve moved more in unison and eliminated chances. The challenge here comes when the US is not playing a high enough line. To play a higher line, the US centerback pairing needs someone with speed to track wayward, space-making runs by an opposing striker.
In Game 1, Klinsmann played a higher line against Honduras with Orozco-Fiscal in the RCB role. One problem, Orozco-Fiscal is not a very good technical defender so the US gave up more changes than they should have.
In Game 2, Klinsmann was forced to drop the line slightly with “speedsters” Oguchi Onyewu and Carlos Bocanegra paired. As Beckerman tired at the end of the first half and for a bulk of the second, more chances were found in the highlighted area.
Finally Klinsmann installed Michael Bradley, who despite some more “I’m going to win this ball”-type angles, helped out Beckerman on the defensive side of the ball acting as a complementary holder.
One problem, now with two holders the US now lacked drive up the pitch.
As was written in the Ecuador review, the central midfield–other than Beckerman–will be an area of the field to watch in the November series.
Well that, an of course, what happens with that centerback pairing. The desire for Klinsmann to play with holder and with Carlos Bocanegra entrenched at LCB ahead of the stumlbing Tim Ream is likely why–at this time–you’re not seeing other “like-Onyewu” RCBs brought in. Klinsmann already has enough in Goodson and Onyewu. What Gonzalez and John possess is more of the same. This is also why TSG has argued for a Geoff Cameron call-in at RCB.
The Depth Chart
GK: (1) Tim Howard, (2) Bill Hamid
The skinny: Klinsmann has stated that Hamid is his #2. That seems a bit hasty when a player like Sean Johnson is lurking. An interesting justaposition for Johnson and Hamid this past weekend as Johnson’s Fire beat Hamid’s DC United in a critical game. It was Hamid’s backline that broke down at the end of that one.
It is a crime if Sean Johnson doesn’t get a chance to compete for that back-up role.
LFB: (1) Timothy Chandler, (2) Eric Lichaj (inj.)
The skinny: Let me go on record right now and say. I hate Tim Chandler at leftback. I know, I know, I’m speaking to card-carrying members of the “Anybody But Bornstein” club and Chandler’s got skillz.
That said, in every other burgeoning soccer nation, there is always a battle per position. In due time Chandler will more appropriately be moved to the right side.
It’s great he shored up the left side, but it just seems like the US is prolonging a problem with a band-aid.
Why not just keep trotting out different options there–at least for a half? No?
LCB: (1) Carlos Bocanegra, (2) Tim Ream, (3) John Anthony Brooks.
The skinny: Carlos is the captain so he gets this role for right now.
Ream made a single mistake but seems to be being groomed for the role.
Brooks can qualify for the 2016 Olympics. Keep waiting here. Nothing’s changed from last depth chart.
RCB: (1) Michael Orozco-Fiscal, (2) Oguchi Onyewu, (3) Clarence Goodson, (4) Heath Pearce
The skinny: In Klinsmann’s eyes it’s Orozco-Fiscal, Goodson, Onyewu and probably Pearce though he’s been injured.
RFB: (1) Steve Cherundolo, (2) Timmy Chandler
The skinny: Stevie C hasn’t started the campaign all that strong yet for Hannover. Bold prediction time? Yes.
Here it goes: Tim Chandler will start more games in World Cup qualifying at rightback than Cherundolo.
That’s what I wrote last time and I still feel it has merit.
That said, Cherundolo didn’t has as nearly bad an Ecuador match as has been made out. With Danny Williams learning tactically where he needed to be Cherundolo did his best to cut down an infinite number of angles and only got beat where he should get beat, where a RB is taught to push wingers–as wide right as possible.
Funny that the lone US concession in that match game after Jonathan Spector was playing now-you-see-now-you-don’t-defense at RB….
….which by the way makes Tim Ream’s ultimate mistake all the more glaring. He knew that Spector was getting beaten up and should have expected either a cross or an oncoming attacker–both which would have put him between his man and the ball.
CDM: (1) Kyle Beckerman, (2) Maurice Edu, (3) Jeff Larentowicz
The skinny: Despite being perhaps an unpopular choice (not here), Beckerman owns this spot currently. Edu will battle with Michael Bradley and others for the other CM spot.
CAM-Hub: (1) Fabian Johnson, (2) Danny Williams, (3) Maurice Edu (4) Michael Bradley
The skinny: Probably the most difficult depth chart to predict. Reading between the lines in the Ecuador game where the US struggled in the central midfield, you had Klinsmann praising the work of Beckerman and lamenting the absence of Johnson.
Where does Johnson fit? I don’t have many observations of him save a single game and multiple You Tube clips. What I see if a very attacking player who stil has some stick.
Edu is second and for now Michael Bradley–who still needs to accept the new complementary role–is third. Bradley has to think to be more attacking if he wants to climb up the chart.
(Injured candidates for this role include Jose Torres & Stu Holden)
LW: (1) Brek Shea, (2) DaMarcus Beasley
The skinny: The growth of Shea and his hair continues. Beasley is an acceptable if scatter-brained assistant. His defense in the Ecuador match reminded me of a frustrated Ronaldo chasing around Barca players last year in just about every match.
RM: (1) Landon Donovan (2) Williams or Johnson (3) Josh Gatt
The skinny: This is likely Landon’s role here and if watched Dempsey’s action in the past two matches, he really didn’t go deep into the right– that was more Altidore’s role. Williams or Johnson deputizes. I’ve included Josh Gatt if only that multiple folks who I respect say he’s the best US player they’ve seen. He’s broken the, uh, Molde–that was terrible. Either way, Klinsmann loves speed so there you have it.
FW: (1) Clint Dempsey (2)
The skinny: Poor Chris Pontius. This is an ideal role for him. Now he’s gone away with yet another unfortunate injury and DC United’s season is hanging on by some convenience store fishing line. (Funny how that DeRo MVP talk has ebbed.)
No idea after Clint? Landon? Who?
STR: (1) Jozy Altidore, (2) Juan Agudelo, (3) Edson Buddle
The skinny: Jozy “The Drifter,” “Mr. 2nd Touch” Altidore in at one.
Juan “I shouldn’t be tweeting pictures of private jets when my season is going down the tubes” Agudelo on line two.
Edson Buddle, third? For those curious, Buddle is just a stop-gap as Teal Bunbury would be playing if Klinsmann thought he were ready.