Archive for November, 2011

Nostalgia: World Cup 2010: USA 2 (3) – Slovenia 2

For TSG’s USA – Slovenia Preview, click here.

World Cup 2010 gave US fans four full games of drama. Group stage game two was of course against the relatively-unknown Slovenia. Charlie Brown put a hurt on the Yanks in the 1st half, but the States would storm back and make more than a game of it.

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Perhaps TSG’s favorite goal celebration of all-time in this one. Jozy Altidore bring it’s down. Michael Bradley pokes it home. Bradley immediately wildly waves the US bench over to join him at the corner flag. So many players celebrate themselves or have a premeditated routine. Bradley’s celebration screamed “Team”–a dramatic moment.

Exalted

More legacy USA vs. Slovenia coverage:

“Donovan for P.M.?” — Fan Diary: The Slovenian Roller Coaster

Another Take: TSG’s Tuesday Comes Full Circle On USA-France

Tuesday with his take on what just happened in Paris

No surprise that this one should become a battle between revolutions.

Blanc's squad: Thumbs up effort...

Laurent Blanc came in to clean the French house after the 2010 World Cup, with the federation sending players like Nicolas Anelka to their international doom. The French team now consists of mostly of players untainted by the decadence of the French team in South Africa.

This was Jurgen Klinsmann’s sixth game in charge of a USA side, as he tries to put his mark on the program from the top level all the way down to the youth ranks. His hope is to emphasize possession and attack.

There’s no compelling narrative here. The USA defended well, but had too little possession and threat to keep France honest and had to concede a goal midway through the second half before showing a little more attacking verve. So, here are some things we’ve learned from USA v FRA:

Defending Like It’s World Cup 1990
We often describe Bradley’s tactics as “defend first, then counter.” In the later stages of his tenure it became “defend (poorly) first, concede early goal(s), then counter.” The Americans only seemed ready to perform when their backs were firmly pressed against the wall. For a team with the game plan that depended on keeping it tight and not conceding goals, Bradley’s defense was often badly organized.

While we dreamed of free flowing, attacking football, Jurgen has given us digital scorelines – 1-1, 0-1, 0-1, 1-0, 0-1, 0-1.

Klinsmann is showing himself to be a very good defensive tactician. His team is well-organized and composed in defense and only occasionally shows the tendency towards emergency defending that was a characteristic of Bradley’s team, and only then when they find themselves under sustained pressure, as during a bad 5-minute stretch during the second half against the French where the US relied heavily on Tim Howard to keep things even.

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Extremely Mini USA vs. Slovenia Preview

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:

The Lead-Up

It took nearly horizontal--or drag--runs from Altidore to open up the Slovenia defense a year ago....

• 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.

For Onyewu, a difficult final match in South Africa

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

How hungry will Maurice Edu be for his goal?

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).

Your thoughts?

Thoughts: France Teaches Klinsamerica A Lesson

Tough one.

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.

Gloves? Off.

The Good

• 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.

Here at the 9:10 mark, the US is establishing its defense--HIGH UP THE PITCH. Instead of following runners, the US has effectively said, "We're claiming this area. If you can get it through us, bully for you. If not, over the top you go." Yann M'Vila elects to try and sneak a long pass to a France linking player up the pitch that Beckerman intercepts. As the US continued to press up the pitch, France would adjust and drop players into the midfield for linking and working on the Yanks' right rib cage. -- Ian Darke right afterward on-point, "There's a problem *with the offense*, but nothing wrong defensively"

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.)

In this sequence, Kyle Beckerman has already forced a back pass to the wing, where Dempsey pursues. Though late, Edu will react (need to be quicker buddy) and come cover the central player, Altidore is putting pressure high up the on Koscielny. This would qualify as *not bunkering*

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?

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Discussion: USA 0, France 1

For TSG’s USA vs. France preview, go here.

The USA goes up against France today for the first time in international football in more than 30 years. That’s amazing. The work of Jurgen Klinsmann…or?

Media coverage begins at 11:55 with the kickoff five minutes later. Starting line-ups in about an hour or so.

Enjoy the game.

These two are quite familiar with each other and will like go one-v-one often today.

 

Video Primer: USA vs. France

For TSG’s USA vs. France preview, go here.

Starting line-ups just a few hours away.

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