Archive for January, 2012

TSG’s Official USA vs. Panama Preview: Will The Third Time Be Charming?

Will Jones sport the armband again? Will he have a better first touch? (Photo credit: Joshua Pearson)

When we last met our protagonist–the USMNT–it was doing battle north of the border, putting out a tiny skirmish, so to speak, that was attempting to be kindled by Venezuela.

The States controlled “the battle” and at the death put the South American foe to the proverbial sword, 1-0 after a dominating display–especially in midfield–against an overmatched opponent. Good shifts were also put in in central defense where Michael Parkhurst and Geoff Cameron cleaned up all comers, like two parents guarding the home pennant in Capture The Flag against bumbling kids.

Wednesday, the States draws it’s revolver against a familiar foe in Panama, a team that gave the US their tightest two matches at the Gold Cup with the series being split 1-1. The first game being the so-called, but inaccurately-labeled “Tim Ream” match, and the second being the more aptly named “Freddy Adu Revival” game.

Panama is a rejuvenated side in no small part to TSG fave Julio Dely Valdes and the US’s success or failure against this foe will provide the best litmus test to date about the level of US possession-oriented attacking soccer and the teaching of one Jurgen Klinsmann.

Why is that?

Under Dely Valdes Panama has become a highly disciplined side, adept at the counter attack. Panama’s tactics will probably be similar to Venezuela’s on Saturday–only they’ll be better in all facets.

The US’s foe knows what’s coming and is good at preparing. Barometer time for Klinsmann’s campers.

Will more late-match theatrics be needed from Ricardo & Co.?

TSG What We’re Looking For

• Does The Attacking Swashbuckling Continue?

As mentioned Panama presents a stronger squad to navigate than Venezuela. The US got both a ton of space on the ball and a lot of room to manuveur against their Saturday opponent.

The contrarian TSG was less than impressed that night though with the efforts of Benny Feilhaber and Jermaine Jones on Saturday. Panama will show just a little bit more if they are both fit for senior side trials or both pretenders more comfortable at the junior level going forward.

No Felipe Baloy–the Panamanian captain–for the home side, but the defensive integrity should still be tougher to break down.

• Cameron (+ Beckerman) vs. Ream vs. Perez?

While the comparisons would be unfair–two different systems, different competition level, different showcasing needs (Panamanian forward Blas Perez has since landed a contract with FC Dallas)–they’ll happen.

New FC Dallas man Blas Perez is a handful to bring down...

Geoff Cameron will play LCB, the position that Tim Ream did in Gold Cup when he was scapegoated for the game-winning foul on Perez and subsequent penalty for a 2-1 Panama win in the group stage. It was the USMNT’s first loss in the group stage in Gold Cup history.

Perez was crafty that day–always is–but Ream also was not shielded–because of an overtasked central midfield–from the most challenging situation for a CB: where to hold the line and how far to come up.

Ream’s mistake was one of probability, less of ability. Put a novice CB in one-on-one situations–as Ream was frequently tasked–and they’ll make a rookie mistake.

On Wednesday, expect El Germanisimo (Klinsmann?) to play a higher line with Cameron and Parkhurst and for Beckerman to shield that backline preventing fewer back-to-the-basket-and-turn chances. Perez, less than Luis Renteriea, provides less speed at getting behind a backline.

Cameron–and Parkhurst–should profit. Fans should review those few times that Cameron is tasked one-on-one for defending ability to get a good sense of where Cameron is on the senior side depth chart.

• Miscellaneous

» Does Nick Rimando get a start in goal on the road?

» Does Zack Loyd get a runout at either left or rightback–his play on Saturday would seem to merit it.

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The Chicago Fire Turn It Up in 2012

Thanks for the media kit guys. A classy re-introduction of the franchise.

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Pep. Mourinho. Bradley? Klinsmann? The US El Clasico

John Nyen sees parallels

The two managers sit across from each other, both hooked up to the machine. The humming and whirring increases as they are instructed by the lab technician in the white coat.

“Think of your ideal, of what you want your team to become. Imagine the best possible scenario, with the best possible players, on the largest scale. What we will see is a real world simulation of that, from start to finish.”

On the overhead monitor the scene comes into focus and the teams walk out onto the field with one group all in white and the other in the blaugrana. The managers step back from the machine and begin to watch.

It strikes as odd that the similarities–loosely at minimum– What I speak of here is Real Madrid and Barcelona as the logical elite ideal example of what the US men’s soccer team could become. In these two teams are the very ideals of the last two (and some could say three) coaches of the United States men’s soccer team. Certainly there are differences, and it is important to recognize and discard these in order to get to the meat of the matter.

The USMNT's new possession navigator...

With the Jurgen Klinsmann-Barcelona comparison the difference is that Barcelona play more through their midfield, slinging passes together in creative rhythm, while the USA (under Klinsmann) is being built to attack more down the flanks using wingers and play from the LB/RB position.

With the Bob Bradley-Real Madrid comparison the difference is that Madrid tend to control play against most of their opponents (with the exception of Barcelona). As a caveat though to this difference, one could argue that Bradley’s team during their nadir fell under the same spell. They would control the game more so playing inexperienced and physical sides while having difficulty with quick/skill based sides.

Having stated that though, the similarities in this one particular game are striking.

Looking at this through Bradley’s ideal you have Real Madrid playing counter attack soccer, packing their side of the ball with defenders who break down the offense with their shape and then funneling the ball out via long passes (usually by the stalwart linking midfielder Xabi Alonso) to attack the opposing team when they are at their most vulnerable, AKA when the opposing team has committed players on offense. Defensively oriented, Real Madrid relies on work rate, formation, and shape to thwart more offensive teams.

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USA vs. Venezuela: Lucy, I’m Home!

Ricardo FTW!

The US’s January Cupcake Campers took on Venezuela’s B-minus side Saturday night in Glendale, Arizona.

And while the run of play favored the States, it was unlikely former scapegoat in Rico Clark who provided the only nail in the coffin as the US opened their pair of camp-closing games with a 1-0 victory.

Let’s just break in down good, bad and indifferent-style:

The Good

• Synergy at Centerback

The Venezuelans offered too much room for the States and Bill Hamid might as well’ve been already in his Phoenix club gear, but the partnership between Geoff “The Corporal” Cameron and Michael Parkhurst was solid–but rarely tasked–in tandem last night.

Both we’re active in managing both the line and their outside fullbacks–the latter in different ways. Cameron offered covered for an unfocused Heath Pearce by merely cleaning up anything that came through or over the top while Parkhurst played the angles when AJ DeLaGarza would forage forward.

US center midfielder Jermaine Jones might’ve had some audacious plays on the evening, but five (5) turnover left the backline under the potential for duress and all were snuffed out by Jurgen Klinsmann’s pairing.

A good opening bid for more time from botH.

The Bad

• A Little More Please

JJ: What did you expect?

Hard to judge “bad” in this game, but here’s the riddle: Don’t you expect a former Champion’s League club team starter and a World Cup vet to do just a little bit more in the middle of the field.

While Jermaine Jones and Benny Feilhaber were two of the best players on field Saturday night, both still should have done more with their opportunities.

For Jones, his first touch often betrayed him and his see-saw game saw one threaded pass here and one “did he really try that play” over there. Jones didn’t take his chances well either.

For Feilhaber, his onfield hissy fits after getting dragged down in the box are not the moxie you expect of a World Cup vet. Sure Feilhaber had his customary seeing-eye passes of brilliances put too often he didn’t do enough, was reactive or was caught pouting after a no-call. It’s the same thing from rec league on up. Certain referees call it certain ways. Adapt or die. A player with his pedigree should not only know that, but also be one of the voices of reasons for younger players.

Reaction Action

More on the reactive front. It was a common theme for a set of players not comfortable playing with one another yet.

It also started from the top where Teal Bunbury really didn’t show enough of any one skill to be considered a legitimate contender for US senior side action….if this was a single observation. Bunbury was challenged in hold-up play, late from time to time and seemed slow to comprehend what was going on. Teal will get better, but then again so will those around him.

The Indifferent Disclaimer

The level of play makes this a very difficult game to rate players. Some miscellaneous notes:

Pearce was usually late justifying himself with the backline...

• Heath Pearce didn’t acquit himself all the well on the left keeping Venezuelan attackers onside three times. Pearce with out the ball flowing through him seemed to float in and out of the game.

• Jeff Larentowicz was a non-factor, but that’s not a bad thing. In a game like this where, the other side was posing no threat, Larentowicz did his primarily defensive job and allowed Feilhaber and Jones to get forward.

• Chris Wondolowski, the extremely poor man’s Klaas Van huntelaar. It’s clear Wondo has a tremendous soccer brain and that–and a lethal right foot when he gets a rip–should give him squad looks (top 18) time to time.

Differing opinions on Graham Zusi, but the Sporting KC man was adept at one thing. Two-touching and moving the ball quickly. Zusi’s rate of play was good. he’ll get a look with the senior team and some point this year.

AJ DeLaGarza showed the speed that has allowed him to become a central defending force in MLS. The challenge at the international level will be the position. DeLaGarza can’t cross the ball and is better playing an attacker vertically rather than confronting a winger coming off the corner. A good utility man at some level.

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On to Panama.

Sunday Live Commentary: United vs. Arsenal; City vs. Spurs

Scotty Parker having a tough go of it so far this morning.

Later Fox has the big one.

I'm not coming down until you give me another midfielder...

Venezuela vs. US Friendly: Live Commentary

And away we go.

The armband...

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