Abbreviated due to time constraints.
1) Stand up
2) Raise hand
3) Bend elbow
4) Pat back
The US was in action yesterday and couldn’t have hoped for better results. The women, men’s senior side, and junior side kept a collective clean sheet and outscored their opponents in aggregate 8-0, as three wins were posted in three matches. US Soccer has suffered some difficult days and results over the past year, but this was the exact opposite.
Let’s just go bullet-by-bullet with some review:
• Italy and Klinsmann have done you well Michael Bradley
No player was perhaps more impressive–in his improvement yesterday–than Michael Bradley. It’s not hard to look at Bradley and see that he took his dogmatic approach to practice and worked on the two parts of his game that have handicapped his collective work over the past two years: composure in advancing the ball and defensive discipline.
Yesterday was of course a single observation, but, offensively, skills were on display yesterday that have never been associated with the junior Bradley–most acutely looking up the field and looking to advance the ball in the face of high pressure.
Bradley was calm on the ball and more importantly seems–in respect to yesterday–that he has developed some range to his ball collection and distribution. The Chievo man used an arsenal of one-touch, two touch, box out and scuffle, crossovers, etc. to get the ball out of trouble on numerous occasions.
The key Bradley stat: 43 of 49 passing with only five back passes attempted and all missed passes were forward foraging. That’s stupendous.
A chain reaction of events seem to have drastically improved Bradley’s game.
First, was the dismissal of his father from the senior side.
That may be harsh words, but under Bob Bradley the younger was tasked with just way too much to do on the field. This was coupled with reward for making the safe pass, usually a back pass.
It was what was tasked of Bradley during the previous era and in turn he didn’t develop his game. A reporter once said that when Bradley went on trial to Aston Villa that he lacked the touch and vision on the ball necessary to succeed in the English game.
True or not true, Bradley’s forward touch was not a strength of his game.
Credit must be given to Jurgen Klinsmann for his man management of Bradley. Klinsmann sat Bradley in the early going of his tenure, and one could see how conflicted Bradley seemed to be. During his early substitute appearances under the new coach, Bradley regressed to maintaining to much possession, dropping too deep for reception and making the safe pass too often.
It was correct to sit Bradley. What was shown Saturday in Genoa was very different and as much as Bradley’s great passing percentage was great, what is more impressive was his refusal to go back with the ball. It was a massive turn of events.
• CBs Wobble, But They Don’t Fall Down
If you could see Bradleys inner conflict, then you can easily see the conflict that playing a highline puts on the US centerbacks. This was something that Klinsmann surely knew and took a calculated gamble on.
Protect the backline with a holder who is instructed not to come up in attack. Push the attack up and to the left flank when possible, so that your better defenders will be your last line of defense.
The challenge comes then the backline is tasked with holding a line and the team in front of them is stretched. Does the backline come up and risk getting beat over the top? Or do they play a little deeper and try to call the team back?
Yesterday, the backline–with the help of a midfield that had trouble shutting down Italian playmaker Andrea Pirlo–got off to an inauspicious start. Pirlo, in the second minute, challenged Clarence Goodson with an over the top pass to Mazzi, and if not for the covering of Tim Howard, the Azzurri could have been up 1-0 for the good.
Many other balls found the feet of Italian attacker throughout the first stanza.
The back four was under a steady siege and several times the line was challenged with the main culprit being Clarence Goodson who kept the Italians onside and in great striking range. (It’s somewhat understandable given Goodson has not played competitively for awhile)
In the second half the tune changed. Despite some coverage gaps, the backline remained stiff and attentive to its line, even as Giovinco in particular, challenged it time and time again. On the road, with possession in front of it faltering, that is not an easy task. Many of the offsides calls were very close; but they were offsides calls nonetheless.
Despite the positive play, yesterday showed that neither Goodson or Bocanegra really play to highline with any strength. They are both good defenders, but their defensive plays usually come when they are positioned inside their own 18”. It would be wise for Klinsmann–as he likely attempted to do with Orozco-Fiscal–to introduce Geoff Cameron more frequently as the year wears on. Cameron’s speed enable him to play high with relative ease; his flexibility allows him to play either side of the backline.
» Fabian Johnson has quickly vaulted to the top of the leftback pecking order. The German-American has class and poise on the ball, showed positional awareness, and a natural inclination to go forward. With Steve Cherundolo beginning to show his age on the pitch, the US would be wise to move Tim Chandler over to a position he can thrive in.
» The move of Johnson to leftback would create some short term problems for Brek Shea. Both by the attack’s design and by his nature, Shea likes to hug close to the touch line in attack–his best move being a little deek inward, whilst pushing the ball deep on the left, gaining a load of space and going to retrieve it in attack.
Johnson however, favors getting forward and takes up Shea’s natural space. The result yesterday was Shea was unsure where to move on the pitch, resistant to come inside and created a number of turnovers.
» Why didn’t Jenny Finch get a start? Okay, bad new jersey comment. Moving on.
» Tim Howard, taken for granted, but just like Everton in the EPL, on-form right now.
» Lot of buzz about Danny Williams playing on the right hash. Williams has zero offensive chops for that role and made a number of poor decisions–not least of which was an ill-advised turn inward, under duress late in the game that would have gotten Ricardo Clark creamed on Twitter–but, if you’re looking for someone to mimic Donovan’s trackback-ability, he’s probably your guy.
» Jozy Altidore’s book is closed–for now–in my…book. Altidore is quintessentially inconsistent. Oh you could tell Altidore was trying hard, and also trying to adhere to the coach’s words. In the 12th minute Shea took a shot instead of laying it off to a somewhat open Jozy Altidore in the right slot. Altidore pouted for a second and then clapped. As the game moved on though, more pouting ensued.
» Clint Dempsey goal was sublime. Italy’s Gigi Buffon was moving left with Johnson’s pass and Altidore’s layoff, but Dempsey slotted in on the ground on his wrong foot. Well-skilled.
» Terrence Boyd will be with the senior team for awhile–though he’ll take a detour through the Olympics with U-23′s.
» Speaking of U-23′s, that Joseph Gyau is one extremely speedy player. In playing ulimate frisbee, I had a friend, Coco, who someone once commented, “Coco happens”–that is just the move, the sprint is done before you even notice. That’s Gyau’s impact on a game. Before you’ve noticed he puts the defense under duress.
Gyau playing as an attacking midfielder and sometimes wide forward, but he’d be great to play off a target man like a Buddle (just a for example) and open up space. I can see why Gyau was deployed on the left flank for the U-23′s and he’s the type of player–good in possession as well–that could add a dynamic to the senior side in short order.
Bill Hamid commanded his box well for the U-23′s. Credit that to Everton and US goal coach Chris Woods who has done a masterful job in improving Hamid’s command on the pitch.
» Ike Opara. Welcome back.