Stadium history//Video (worth a watch)
Jurgen Klinsmann’s men saunter onto the Stadio Luigi Ferraris pitch Wednesday in Genoa looking to ignite some offensive fireworks (pun intended) that were on display last time they were in Europe–a 3-2 win over Slovenia last November.
The States will also looking to tighten the defense; something they did against France that trip quite well.
With Klinsmann only having a two-day camp and one game evaluation and with a roster that seems to be continually morphing–Landon Donovan and Timmy Chandler were ruled out late Sunday night while Sacha Kljestan and Brek Shea were shuttled in–the Americans will likely have yet another new starting eleven. Oguchi Onyewu and Jose Torres join the scratches along with the aforementioned Donovan and Chandler.
The Klinsmann mantra of preaching consistency among player development–that is getting reps together–seems to be facing some challenges in the wake of mounting player injuries and solid play of some of the youngsters.
On the latter note, the roster addition of the Borussia Dortmund reservist Terrence Boyd was described Monday to reporter Brian Sciaretti in Genoa. Said Klinsmman on Boyd:
“[Terrence Boyd] brings an energy to the group. He’s a high-pressure player. He goes at defenders, he goes at people. That’s what he loves to do. From there he wants to go in the box and finishes things off. I wanted to personally see him. I wanted to get a sense for him.”
On the former, the injury to Chandler in particular may create a positive shuffling of the depth chart as well.
And in particular, both the midfield and the defense will see turnover and re-jiggered player positioning among those already in camp.
The Italians enter to the game with much more team cohesion than the States and could boast as many as five players in the starting eleven who regularly start together at Serie A club Juventus. The US–who has struggled to develop any sort of an offensive attack against above-average opponents–save Slovenia–will be hard-pressed to score against the Italian unit as well.
(Note: The over-under line on tired Catenaccio references during the broaddcast and on Twitter Wednesday already has moved from 279 to 361.)
Let’s get to our customary preview. Per usual it goes:
TSG: What We’re Looking For
About The Opponent: Italy
11 At The Whistle
TSG What We’re Looking For
Leftback Chain Reaction:
The Timothy Chandler injury–while a pain in the butt–might be a blessing in disguise here for the US.
Pairing Chandler’s absence with: a) the original roster’s top-heavy forward focus, b) the lack of leftback prospect in camp currently beyond perhaps Jonathan Spector and c) the late addition of Shea, it seems highly likely that TSG (no relation) 1899 Hoffenheim man Fabian Johnson will man the leftback spot for the Yanks.
Johnson represents perhaps the Yanks best option at leftback if only because he’s: a)
left-footed has a left-foot and b) he’s seen some time there. Remember Chandler does not play at leftback for Nurnberg and has been prone to positioning hiccups when deployed there for the States.
With Johnson at leftback and with Carlos Bocanegra likely to start in his customary captain’s spot, the US will have a pairing at leftback not seen since Klinsmann tested out Edgar Castillo at the spot a few months ago. Two left-foot dominant player comfortable playing the ball to the outside instead of in-cutting or relying exclusively on the holder to bail them out.
Despite Bocanegra’s obvious distribution flaws–and you should look for them on Wednesday and see how they impact the attack–the US should actually be able to move the ball up the left flank more effectively than any other time in Klinsmann’s tenure–if in fact Johnson is Wednesday’s solution.
Continually, should Johnson’s impress against the Italians, it may pave the way for Chandler to compete for more time on the right flank where–in this writer’s opinion–he naturally belongs and isn’t robbed from the offensive swashbuckling that his left peg handicaps him from on the opposite side.
Also, call it a hunch, but don’t t put it past Klinsmann to try Geoff Cameron out at leftback here and keep Johnson in the advance midfielder role. Johnson’s work rate would provide cover and Cameron has proved adept at turning outside on his “weaker” foot as shown during the most recent US camp when playing left centerback.
Yet Another Observation on “The Drifter”:
If you’re a regular reader of TSG, you can count well beyond your fingers and toes–and many of your friends fingers and toes–the number of times we’ve pointed out he need for Jozy Altidore, aka “The Drifter”, to be mentally and physically consistent on the field with the Yanks.
A moment or two of brilliance from Altidore–a strike against Guadeloupe last summer or his first half against Slovenia–show just what the player is capable of. Those moments are few and far between and it may be in no time that Altidore effect sees Klinsmann’s hairline resemble his predecessors. Altidore is doing that right now with his AZ Alkmaar manager Pat Verbeek who has repeatedly scolded the American publicly as, it would seem, a means of pushing him.
Plug in Altidore’s run-ins with both hull managers during his time there (Phil Brown and Iain Dowie), his inability to get off the bench at Villarreal and Verbeek’s comments lately, and four observations doth a trend make.
(Note: The hype after Altidore performance this past Saturday is sure to be high for this one on Wednesday)
For Klinsmann though, the Altidore effect could be much worse. Whereas Bob Bradley relied on the countering of Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan as the mainstay of his attack, the system that Klinsmann so desperately wants to play, some amalgamated version of a 4-3-3 playing of a target striker, relies heavily on the target man being engaged throughout the game.
Is that folly by Klinsmann? Probably not in that US youth system is seeing a wave of target man up-and-coming and a rash of speedy wingers on the outside.
At present though, you can see Klinsmann’s challenge.
In camp this week is Edson Buddle, a player who was trotted around England and didn’t land a transfer this January and the fresh-faced Boyd who is devoid of any real senior club experience.
It’s also abundantly clear that Altidore’s best games come when he’s actually using his big frame off a target striker, not playing one himself.
It’s a conundrum and it seems destined to continue as in the previous reign, that Altidore will be shoehorned into that target man role. Square peg meet round hole.
Michael Bradley the Transformer….and the rest of the midfield.
Michael Bradley–the lone US Serie A representative–will be a spotlit focal point here on Wednesday.
Bradley–limited to bench work early on in Klinsmann’s tenure as seeming way to say, “um, buddy, you’re not the captain anymore, you’re one of the squad for now”–must have been harsh for a player who wears his heart and his fight on his sleeve.
Is Bradley now conditioned to play within Klinsmann’s system and if so, will it be a shuttling or a holding role?
With the withdrawal of both Jose Torres* and Jermaine Jones, the US has holes in the three-man midfield. It stands to reason that Bradley will either be in the linking or holding role while Danny Williams and Maurice Edu will factor into the others.
(*Is it not time to start wondering if Jose Torres is in fact someone the team can count on going forward? The Primera is not the most physically rigorous of leagues and Torres now has penchant for chaining together one injury after another in the league.)
The US is really devoid of anyone that can play the three-touch game that Torres does and it doesn’t look like there is anyone (Kljestan and Bradley seem like the two healthy bodies that could try and pull it off if any) to play that role.
With RSL captain Kyle Beckerman not called in for this one, expect Danny Williams to play the holding role and Michael Bradley to play the shuttler.
With Bradley in that role what it means is that the US will need Steve Cherundolo to get forward for any sort of attacking width on the right as Bradley tends to either drop or drift inward and that may alternately put more pressure on Clarence Goodson–the likely starter at RCB and has been resting during the Danish Liga’s break–who will tasked with covering when Cherundolo gets forward.
• Watch Clint Dempsey for the States. With the States newfound desire to press defensively up the pitch and the US attack still fairly anemic when it comes to offball movement, Dempsey has been downright stifled by opposing defenses. The forward-striker works well when given a little bit of room and he’s just not getting that when’s he sporting the US crest.
To make matters worse Dempsey will probably be hawked part-time by Danielle De Rossi, who despite his age likes to lay the wood on would-be attackers some times. Watch those ankles, Deuce.
• The still-and-ever-dangerous Andrea Pirlo is a lock for Italy’s deep-lying playmaker role. Both Goodson and Bocanegra struggle with long balls over the top. The US will need to be vigilant on marking Pirlo when he receives the ball in the attacking half.
• Steve Cherundolo has had a few knocks lately and has looked rather pedestrian lately. Will he pick it up?
• Look for Michael Parkhurst to possibly be introduced before Geoff Cameron in this one. Parkhurst’s proximity to Europe will want Klinsmann looking at him versus European competition for sure.
11 At The Whistle
• Johnson starts for Cameron.
• Edu starts for Buddle.
• Williams and Bradley flip-flop
About The Opponent: The Azzurri
This section contributed by TSG Serie A expert Eric Giardini
Cesare Prandelli’s 23-man Italy squad named to face the United States is pretty standard with no real surprises. A little ho-hum save one-position.
Starting in goal, is captain Gianluigi Buffon. Buffon is more than a mainstay. Wednesday’s match will give the bandana’d keeper his 113th appearance for the club and, with it, will surpass goalkeeping legend Dino Zoff as the most capped goalkeeper in Azzurri history.
When you think Italy, the first thing you think of is defense and Prandelli has a strong pool of defenders to choose from. The entire backline from Juventus (Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, and Giorgio Chiellini) have been called and this trio has been instrumental in allowing a Serie A-low 15 goals against in 24 matches. They are cohesive and their repetitions at the club will mean that the US will not find cohesion mistakes easy to come by as they did against Slovenia last last year.
The Italian midfield may not be what it once was, but it will provide yet another layer of defensive integrity ahead of the back four. The
ageless Daniele De Rossi and Andrea Pirlo join Riccardo Montolivo, and Claudio Marchisio to provide both steel and playmaking ability. Antonio Nocerino is the “5th man” so to speak off the bench. Nocerino will an offensive spark from the bench if needed while from Brazilian international hopeful Thiago Motta can be brought in to help set up shop and kill the game.
The only major headline coming out of the squad announcement is in the attack due to the mecurial Mario Balotelli being left off the squad.
Balotelli must face Prandelli’s “Code of Ethics” punishment for a recent incident with Tottenham’s Scott Parker.
With Guiseppi Rossi’s long-term knee injury and Balotelli’s fireworks not on display, it leaves the two top frontline up-and-comers out of the 18 Wednesday and creates at least glimmer of an opportunity for some younger….youngsters.
Twenty-year-old Fabio Borini gets his first call-up after initially being named to the U-23 squad last week and the rest of the attackers for Italy lack any real experience with the national squad, as Inter’s Giampaolo Pazzini is the eldest with 23 caps. Parma’s Sebastian Giovinco (6 caps) and Juventus’ Alessandro Matri (4) round out the forwards. (You’re probably wondering about “Q:” Regarding Fabio Quagliarella, he tore his ACL in January of 2011 and only just played his first full 90 minutes on the 18th against Catania, so he’s probably not wanting to be risked by Prandelli.)
Giovinco is a player to keep an eye out for. He has tremendous speed and on-the-ball skills that may prove troublesome to the United States’ backline.
Predicted Starting XI
In games past, Prandelli has settled on a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield and it’s likely to be trotted out in Genoa again.
A key battle will be Cherundolo getting up the flank with the two Italian midfield attackers link to ping the ball into his vacated spot and find a surging Giovinco or Matri on a counter or speedy attack.
What other managers often overlook though is the offensive contributions of De Rossi in the his own distribution role.this is often overlooked outside of Italy, and is able to be a distributor if needed.
Giovinco will line up a bit behind Pazzini in a withdrawn striker to connect with Montolivo and serve as a conduit between the midfield and Pazzini in the target forward role. Not precisely Antonion Cassano, but one can make the analogy.
Overall, Italy possesses a strong defensive side capable of giving the United States attack issues on that end of the field. One bright side for the US is the relative inexperience at the international level of the Italian forwards. This is a good matchup for the two nations as the US should provide a stern test for the Italians heading into their difficult Euro 2012 group. Conversely, the United States should gain from the experience of having a close to full strength squad as they take on one of the world’s best.
From the editor: One has to wonder if the Italian handcuffs put on Mario Balotelli is really the right move for a striker who clearly has the talent to succeed on the international level.
Every team has it’s Dennis Rodman or Terrell Owens–a player who may divide the dressing room from time-to-time but is crucial to on-field success.
The Italians seem hard-headed in these cases. Their early World Cup 2010 departure saw them leave the aforementioned Quagliarella on the bench until the final 45 minutes and leave former Sampdoria man Antonio Cassano–now battling health issues–behind altogether.
With Rossi injured, the Italians really should be more open to bringing in talent ahead of all else–or maybe they should just bring in Robert Mancini once he’s replaced next year by Jose Mourinho at Manchester City. (Wouldn’t that be great to see Mourinho herding Balotelli again?)