Can’t call them “snap judgments” because they took way too long. TSG’s Tuesday will be along shortly with the official review.
Here are some thoughts that I want to spill out on the screen. We’ll give it the “Good, Bad, Ugly” treatment because it works well here.
• Bunker?! Take horse, go to barn….
I’ve read a few places that the United States came out and bunkered yesterday. If that phrase graced your notebook yesterday for the game review, you should be led out to pasture and put out of your misery or at least give me some of what you’re having because the street value must be absolutely tremendous.
For a positive from the United States yesterday, look at the first 45 minutes of the match.
The United States pressed up the pitch on the defense. They deployed a a 4-4-2 from dead ball situations in France’s end.
Brek Shea and Jozy Altidore chased down defenders looking to manage possession and multiple times both Kyle Beckerman and Maurice Edu made “sprinting jabs” to meet either M’Vila or Diarra who were providing the link to up the pitch.
(Were you watching? Well if you weren’t or called it “bunkering”–just take a look at the heat maps of US backline here OR the defensive tackling of Shea and Altidore here or the origination passing of Bocanegra and Goodson here. You get the picture.)
With the US advanced, they did a fantastic job of keeping cohesion.
Tim Howard was not forced into making a save until the 22-minute mark against attackers from Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and PSG. He made two “plays” in the first half–though speedy PSG winger Jeremy Menez–who had a terrible haircut and whose game reminded me of Theo Walcott–skied a ball badly on a pivot in the box that a striker would have more than likely deposited in the mesh behind Howard.
That’s three legitimate opportunities. Two of those came after the 37-minute mark and were due to fatigue by Tim Chandler and Steve Cherundolo respectively.
Yes, US didn’t generate chances. We’ll get to that.
For the first 45 minutes however, they forced France to work hard to move the ball out of their own end. France struggled from dead ball positions; they needed quick transitions up Franck Ribery’s flank that put pressure on Clarence Goodson and Steve Cherundolo.
(*Note, you don’t go to Loic Remy in the 2nd half to stretch the defense if you’re not facing pressure in your defensive kitchen and need the opportunity that the over-the-top or the long ball presents….and as the US succumbed to.)
• Without getting hyperbolic, quality from the Dutch man
Jozy Altidore looked like a man focused for a full game for the first time in his international career on Friday or rather perhaps since Rustenburg and with Three Lions running around.
That’s a huge positive for the player TSG refers to as “The Drifter”….in and out of games that is.
Even better? Altidore, in-control, but somewhat manic on defense chasing down defenders in possession. When was the last time you saw Altidore actively look to win possession–consistently? Maybe the Charlie Davies RFK match from October 2009?
Finally, Altidore looked much better at bringing down the ball in traffic. Of course, he looked better when he went up against the less-imposing Laurence Koscielny yesterday, but at one part around the 56th minute he made a phenomenal “catch” in traffic, realized he didn’t have support and turned inward to the only spatial opening.
High marks for Altidore, BUT as TSG’s Jay Bell says, “Caution is advised.” Can he do it for two efforts in a row?
• Piston pressure
Both Maurice Edu and Kyle Beckerman made excellent decisions on when to pursue midielders who were attempting to link into the backfield during the match.
And on Beckerman, consider this? The US is now deploying a single holder instead of dual holders and Beckerman was dreddy-on-the-spot on multiple occasions Friday. (And as for the RSL’s man’s overall play, not as tidy in possession with four passes eschew in his own end (24 for 31 overall),
• Steve Cherundolo needed perennial cover
Steve Cherundolo–as we mentioned in the preview–seems to be on an ebb of form right now. Of course, as he ages, those ebbs will become more pronounced. In fact, for Hannover he’s been sitting out a fair amount of games this year.
There are number of challenges that Cherundolo’s average to below-average form presents.
One, it forces the RM (Danny Williams) to do a massive amount of shuttle covering and moves him back on the pitch. Next it draws the holder over–just like when a boxer starts dropping his guard after getting hit in the ribs too much.
That happened with Kyle Beckerman who had to shade centrally when it in the defensive set as a volley of attacks kept coming from the interplay of Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema drawing Clarence Goodson wider than he wanted to be.
Finally, when the turnover does happen–and if your main offensive cog (Clint Dempsey) is being marked out of the game–there are little passing options.
It is time–regardless of what happen on the left side of the pitch–to move Tim Chandler over.
Be ruthless like they are in other countries. If you’re not playing at the best level, you need to sit if there is a better option.
(And note to that same writer who suggested that a match-up to watch was Ribery vs. Beckerman–I don’t know how you don’t know that Ribery is a wide swinging left winger. Give up the game my friend.)
• The damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t midfield selections
You’re not going to convince me that Mixx Diskerud or Sacha Kljestan make this game better for the States. You may convince me Michael Bradley does, but I doubt it.
Here’s why: Klinsmann was committed to keeping as quick a rate of both defensive attacking and passing as possible.
Klinsmann has himself said that we wants the States to play at a fast tempo and both practice and play “with energy.”
Kljestan & Diskerud are not the fastest or quickest players. So if you’re planning on pressing up the pitch and manning up each pass, you’re not giving your team the best shot.
So in essence, you can’t execute your defensive scheme.
What’s clear is that Edu and Williams seem to be two of the faster off-ball and on-ball players. It almost seems like Klinsmann is saying, “This is the minimum viable speed that our midfielders need to play with even if there offensive game is limited.”
Is this acceptable at this juncture? Well, what are you success metrics for the team?
You have to believe that Klinsmann witnesses that Edu and Williams are woeful miscast in the current States scheme–so much so that they compromised the team despite their speed and quickness. Maybe Klinsmann just thought that Williams could reproduce Landon Donovan’s speed so the team could get a feel for Landon’s impact on his return. (Okay, that’s a stretch, but you get the point.)
While Williams was challenged in possession for a number of reasons, the final stats still land with a thud: 6 of 16 passes, 15 balls lost in possession. You can’t charge a defensive midfielder with initiating attacks on the wing.
The question then is, “What’s the end game here?”
• That pesky CB situation
Quite obvious to see why Klinsmann wants Michael Orozco-Fiscal in there–for when the advanced defense breaks down and teams are running at the States backline. Clarence Goodson helped up except for his goof. Carlos Bocanegra was woefully positioned all day and had France nailed one or two of their chances where he had gone walkabout, there might be more questioning heading his way.
(And a soft point, if Tim Ream or Orozco-Fiscal make that error the Klinsmann makes, message boards light up like a Chevy Chase Christmas Tree.)
• The US cannot break down a defense on Klinsmann watch
The US got overrun in the midfield yesterday.
The US could not manufacture chances.
The US has a few problems.
First, there is Clint Dempsey and then there is Clint Dempsey.
The Deuce is the lone player right now that can make something out of nothing. He’s the long player that can be dealt a terrible hand–bad field position, no support, two players closing down, whatever–and occasionally make lemonade out of it. Sure, Brek Shea is excellent, but he, right now and like Donovan, needs either service, positioning or a run-on position to be a difference-maker.
With Yann M’Vila marking Dempsey out of the game, with Brek Shea both off game pace and still green on off-ball movement, the States had Altidore (if he was available) or bust.
The second, and more troubling aspect here–independent of player selection and deployment–is….there didn’t seem to be a plan on offense for when the States gained the ball back.
Consider this, the States are playing with one less holding midfielder than last year, they won the ball higher up the field, they expected to win the ball higher up the field, where was the attack plan? Remember this is team–the United States–that only has scored proficiently through the counter over the past five years–they can’t rely on old fashioned know-how here.
Neither you, nor I know the success metrics that Jurgen Klinsmann has, both in terms of his job and on a game by game basis.
Maybe he’s taking a sequential approach to developing the team. It’s hard to teach multiple concepts at once (both offense and defense) at once.
If anything in that regard Klinsmann has been consistent as has his teams with a series of fair to above-average defensive performances and 1-0 scorelines.
What may bring some concern is the shock to the system of going from a winning culture to an educational one and how long the team will buy in, in the absence of success.