Can’t shake it.
Just can’t shake it.
The US Men’s team came under fire after Friday’s loss to France for its inability to create attacking chances and it’s failure to scintillate under new manager Jurgen Klinsmann. For a brief moment now, with a 3-2 victory on the road in Slovenia, the nervous fidgeting that was beginning to surround the team and it’s new manager has quelled.
I just can’t shake the scene above. “Dumb and Dumber” references to the USMNT are staid, but this one just seemed to scream for inclusion.
I can’t find the full clip, but if you’re a fan of the 1990’s comedy, you’ll know it. Lloyd Christmas–what a fantastic name–is getting dolled up for a fundraiser to meet a women he’s smitten with that hardly knows him. Refined, he and road trip buddy “Harry” are not, and Lloyd–Jim Carrey of course–tries on what seems like 20 different sophisticated tuxedos before he settles on the hideous one that draws the rave reviews of his moronic partner in travel.
A closet full of presentable and refined suits thrown out in favor of a gaudy one that will temporarily shock onlookers into attention, but eventually over the duration of the event, make them cringe.
Just can’t shake that orange tuxedo was the United States today and Jurgen Klinsmann the tailor that reluctantly gave in to its fitting and display.
US fans and pundits clamored for goals and attacking soccer–not un-rightfully so since it was Klinsmann who promised them that nirvana through the feet of Latino players (not one of whom was on the pitch on Tuesday oddly enough).
US fans demanded results–noted USMNT striker-turn-broadcaster Eric Wynalda–going so far as to feature in a piece in the New York Times demanding it and explaining the ethos of the USMNT.
And Klinsmann, it would appear, gave in. A 4-3-3 featuring a single striker set was cast into the back of the closet as the tried-and-true 4-4-2 of US days of yore was ironed and trotted out.
And the US scored. And scored again. And…again.
A trifecta, in the first half, against a Slovenia team that concedes less graciously than either side in the NBA lockout.
It was an explosive, if sloppy display, that saw the US score with some Charlie Hustle, pouncing on a turnover created deep in Slovenia’s end for score number one, with some good ol’lunchpail, a set piece ricocheting off Clint Dempsey’s cranium, and with panache, German-American Fabian Johnson twinkling through the Slovenia defense and being clipped in the box. Jozy Altidore would step up them and punctually bury the penalty kick.
The Slovenia defensive integrity crumbled–but in the process so did the United States cohesiveness–a beacon of hope in the otherwise dreary France match–and their stoutness as well.
Chance upon chance was manufactured or gifted to Slovenia who was no less sloppy on the day in a performance that mirrored the colloidal mist that hovered over their home turf.
The US withstood an onslaught to end the first half and a bevy of them in the second half. The display by Slovenia is one that is normally reserved for highly offensive teams–like Brazil–who have taken an opponent lightly early on and now need to dominate….rather than a team that typically goes about their business in a defensive manner hoping to catch a snoozing opponent on the counter.
When the final whistle finally and gleefully pierced the fog, there was a full set of happy faces on the US sidelines, but certainly a sense of a relief.
The United States had traipsed out on the pitch in their orange tuxedo for the night. It was gaudy, but it worked.
It got them noticed–in the movie the Harry and Lloyd are labeled as having a sense of humor with the outfit–but it will surely be out style or a sad attempt at attracting attention next time. The tailor needs to get back to work.
Our review bullets:
• Positive: Tempo, tempo, tempo
Don’t look now but the US concludes this friendly series with one massive positive. They were able to dictate tempo for large stretches of two matches.
Against France it was, of course, the US pushing up the pitch and forcing France to drop players back into pockets to link up field.
Against Slovenia Tuesday–and perhaps it merely a direct result of Edson Buddle ringing the post on the first goal–it was opening up the game to quick vertical attacks against a normally reclusive opponent.
Remember, this was a Slovenia team–yes new coach and some new personnel–that the US struggled to breakdown until they were forced to at World Cup 2010.
• Seal the back, create no chances. Add to the attack, and rear guard must go to work.
Probably the biggest takeaway here.
While much of the focus will be put on the States deploying with two strikers against Slovenia, the reality is that today’s win and style of play was based on the State’s desire to create chances at the expense of the defense.
To put it in perspective, if the US comes out with today’s line-up against the French, they’re likely found, face down, on the wrong end of a 3-1 or 4-1 scoreline.
Tuesday’s strategy and deployment worked because the speed of the opponent was at best on par with the United States. Clint Dempsey was able to dribble out of trouble against two Slovenian defenders multiple times–against Yann M’Vila on Friday he was shackled.
Fabian Johnson, a revelation finally in the right place on the field, waltzed through Slovenia right rear guard. Adil Rami and friends would have likely shut him down on Friday.
This is, of course, not to suggest that the 4-3-1-2 with two strikers didn’t help–it most certainly was the catalyst for taking initiative–putting players up the pitch, enabling interplay deep in the attacking zone.
However as the US thrust up the field, it couldn’t remain cohesive as many four attackers (Buddle, Altidore, Dempsey and Johnson) looked to speed into the 18-yard box “impact zone.”
This left Michael Bradley coming in from the “weak” right side to help out and Kyle Beckerman to defend in front of a backline that had wide chasms in their “B-gaps” to borrow a term from American football and communication challenges in keeping a high line tidy.
With Chandler, especially, and Cherundolo extremely wide, Beckerman as the lone cover and Carlos Bocanegra not doing enough back four management in his 100th cap, the United States felt the wrath of the Slovenia counterattack.
Which brings up to…
• Chop down those player ratings
TSG is not a big fan of player ratings and more so on a day like Tuesday where: (a) fog impairs a view of the whole field (b) new players are in very new roles (c) the opposition is in test mode as well and (d) it’s international friendly.
Of course, Jozy Altidore was more effective with Edson Buddle to play off of. That actually creates more of a question than a positive. Can Jozy manage against even weaker sides if he is the lone striker.
Of course, Clarence Goodson and Carlos Bocanegra looked shaky in pairing. First there was the impaired visibility on the over-the-top balls, but also there was very little pressure up the pitch on the service.
Kyle Beckerman didn’t have his best game in a US uniform, but he was far from bad. After discussion with many soccer analysts yesterday after the match, the general consensus was, “That’s a lot of sh*t for Beckerman to clean-up back there. No wonder Bob Bradley used two central defensive midfielders when the States went 4-4-2.” And, of course, Beckerman had just sprinted around after roosters in Paris and was facing a sneaky physically strong side for the first time east of the Italian boot.
And of course, on Michael Bradley.
Bradley, as we mentioned on Twitter yesterday, completed 77% of his passes. In the Gold Cup, he committed 90% of his passes to lead the USMNT. Today was his better day. Bradley followed the game plan from Klinsmann which is make positive passes, not neutral or negative. And get this, review that first goal by Slovenia. It was a Bradley
turnover pass up the field that led to the quick counter and score and you know what? It was the right play; the play Klinsmann is looking for–it just didn’t get executed but Bradley tried it. Fascinating.
He was absolutely prescient on set pieces–probably the most under-hyped headline coming out of yesterday.
Yes he was still challenged to maintain position on defense–and his offball movement continually looked more “safe” than “adventurous.”
However for a player that for so long bore the burden of US success and was conditioned to make the safe, protective play, it was a solid game back in the starting line-up.
With Klinsmann’s tactical tradeoff and the contrast of the first and second half Tuesday, there is a lot of work to be done. Dictating tempo was a huge positive against both France and Slovenia, but the conundrum of how to solve the offense without sacrificing the defense and vice versa should be the lead challenge headed into 2011. On Tuesday, the orange tuxedo did the job–and it’ll probably get a few run-outs in 2012. But by 2014, the USMNT better look a lot more dapper.
A number of smartly-dressed playboys await.