Setting expectations, time constraints prevent our customary official preview format.
The USA plays Slovenia Tuesday in a rematch of the US World Cup group stage second match. No doubt there will be review of that match in depth across the US soccer media outlets. Here’s one piece from us back then.
Let’s get right into it:
• I went to private Catholic school until I was in 6th grade. It was a common occurrence when the teacher left the room to put someone in charge who would write down people’s names who talked during that time–a really odd social experiment. I was one of those students that wouldn’t push the envelope on the absent teacher’s rules, but I would engage in a little banter here and there.
There was always that one student who remained near-mummy-like during the time that a teacher was out of the room. It was amazing. Through paper airplanes, tons of laughter, stuff being thrown out the window or at other people, that same student would be stoic, observing the teacher’s rule to the letter while the teacher was away.
Slovenia has eleven of those now-grown adults playing defense. The hallmark of that defense? Extreme discipline and extreme focus on positioning.
Slovenia is perennially one of the stingiest teams in UEFA and in all of international football. In fact, in the lead-up to World Cup 2010, no team that was going to South Africa conceded less than Slovenia. Amazing.
The US picked apart Slovenia in the 2nd half at the World Cup by–incredulously–a defensive miscue–Steve Cherundolo played an up-the-line ball to Landon Donovan that the defender misjudged when going for the interception. The second goal was shear will from Michael Bradley, who beat his man into the box and poked home a Jozy Altidore knock down.
You have to get Slovenia on the run or through the set-piece.–the US scored two on the run as did England against the feisty Eastern European squad during that World Cup. Those are two attack-types, by the way, that Jurgen Klinsmann’s teams haven’t focused on yet.
What will the States do?
• Good question.
I expect the States to make very few changes from their France line-up. I think they’ll move Fabian Johnson into Danny Williams role to provide some attacking nous. That’s one side.
On the other side, look for the US to make a concerted effort to bring Brek Shea more into the action. Shea was almost a bystander against France; his play reminding many of his game against Colombia last Fall before his soccer growth spurt. Shea, with his ability to play wide and loop in a cross should be–and will need to be–an integral part of the States attack.
• Now for the defense….
The United States will play a very different game against Slovenia, which likes to counterattack in the same vein as the States did prior to Klinsmann’s introduction, then they did at World Cup 2010.
The US was ripe–through their weakness at centerback and CM task list–for the two goals Slovenia scored. The first of course was a rusty Oguchi Onyewu getting caught in space and nobody helping out as Slovenia rocketed one past Tim Howard. (The US’s current deployment will here because a single holder is responsible for covering the center of the pitch, not a dual situation where both players hesitate on if their counterpart is going to take the shutdown.)
The second was Michael Bradley going for a tackle on a counter and not getting. Slovenia thundered down the field for a pretty counter-attack score.
The US will likely try and press up the pitch against Slovenia as Jurgen Klinsmann–it would appear–looks to educate and employ that style of defense.
Slovenia play a lot hold-up through their forwards while thrusting up their wings, Valter Birsa in particular who terrorized the US last summer. The US should avoid the situations that got them into peril against Slovenia last year, but expect Slovenia to really attack the US centerback combinations with their two forwards.
For a legacy review of Slovenia–who play the 4-4-2 like their petrified of odd number formations–see here from World Cup 2010.
11 At The Whistle
From back to front…
While Oguchi Onyewu was pronounced fit at CB for the United States, expect Clarence Goodson to get the nod again (unless Klinsmann gets sentimental so that Gooch can exonerate the demons of South Africa from the final game he played in there.) I’m inclined to start agreeing with TSG’s Tuesday (who wrote the Orozco-Fiscal piece), in that the US will use a CB by committee, playing Orozco-Fiscal against CONCACAF teams that pose slightly less of an aerial threat and employing Goodson or Onyewu against European teams. So you may see Onyewu, but odds are on Goodson.
The only other change I see being from the France affair s at RM where Fabian Johnson comes in for Danny Williams. The States will get more attacking prowess from Johnson over Williams obviously and there is less need to protect the rearguard now that Ribery is an afterthought.
If you told me the Yanks had two other changes, I might suggest Michael Bradley for Maurice Edu (
fatigue) and Jermaine Jones for Kyle Beckerman (fatigue).