The US U-23 squad is not truly in trouble today….yet.
A win against El Salvador and the States (likely) faces Mexico a game earlier than they wanted to for the right to call London home this summer and to play for a shiny plate to put through the medal detectors on the way back.
The US finds themselves in this predicament because of either a bullheaded or stubborn approach against Canada.
Faced with a rested Canadian team on Saturday, the US elected to test their own offensive prowess and impose their will upon Canada. With the scoreline reading 2-0, bad guys, the approach is thus labeled, “Stubborn.”
While Canada played well, the US was certainly not up to the task.
The match may not be a bad thing if the U-23s make it to the Olympics.
In fact, it’s a good thing–an awareness and game tape of where the team needs to “do work” in order to be competitive in London is at least one outcome of the loss. The book is out on how to beat the Americans and Caleb Porter and now Porter must adjust.
Now, if the US loses, the reflection on the Canadian match will be one of myopia–how could Coach Porter and the plan be so staid, so static, so….arrogant?
Monday will prove is that dastardly single observation and result against Canada is a hiccup or symptomatic or a bigger ill.
Some things we recognized against Canada.
• Outside Back Recognition & Positioning
The skinny: Canada did a fantastically well-disciplined job Saturday of positionally defending the United States–in fact it was near brilliant against how the US likes to attacks under the new regime.
Canadian coach Tony Fonseca sent the
Maple Leafs Canucks Tophats out in a formation as mythical as Santa Claus on the international stage, the 4-3-2-1 or as it’s deemed, “The Christmas Tree.”
Fonseca dared the US outside backs (Zarek Valentin and Jorge Villafana) to advance up the pitch and be a focal point of the offense. They didn’t get very far.
With Valentin and Villafana spread wide (see diagram), Canada capitalize defensively and offensively.
Regarding the former, the US fullbacks were caught in no-man’s land with and without the ball.
With the ball Valentin and Villafana struggled to link with (typically late-arriving) Mix Diskerud, Jared Jeffrey or the forward players on their side (Adu, Corona or Shea).
This completely negated the US attack and left the US typically up to one or two devices: (1) swing in a cross from a less than ideal location (Valentin choose this route more than Villafana) or (2) force Shea, Corona and Adu to attack in tighter quarters (Villafana tried to pinpoint passes and occasionally–both usually without bearing fruit.)
On a turn, Canada’s defensive deployment left Ike Opara and Perry Kitchen exposed with Jared Jeffrey struggling to cope with the central space created. Both Opara and Kitchen were exposed for positioning flaws by media reads afterward, but really the attacks they conceded were only half their fault. The two weren’t put in a position to succeed.
Porter and the US needed to do a much better job of in-match recognition and adjustment. The sub of Amobi Okugo–not because he’s better than Jeffrey, but because of game tactics and tempo–should’ve happened much earlier as well.
Which conjoins us to our next point….
• Linking and off-ball movement centrally.
The skinny: Said Caleb Porter about Canada’s formation….
“They set up in a Christmas tree – a 4-3-2-1. That’s not a shape they’ve used. That’s a shape you use to really stop a team, and they did that to shut us down. Essentially we were 3 versus 5 in the middle. Also, it allowed us to have a 2 versus 1 advantage on the flanks. We talked about exploiting that, and I didn’t think we exploited that well enough.
When you talk about the potential of a player like Juan Agudelo, you recognize it after the US’s display on Saturday.
Where Agudelo excels is at cutting effectively away from goal and to the ball to create passing lanes and channels. The US sorely lacked this with both Teal Bunbury and Terrence Boyd Saturday night.
That was a one issue–the movement of the striker–and one has to think that Porter will go with Terrence Boyd this evening if merely because Boyd is a much better hold-up player than Bunbury.
That lack of striker movement made “being Mix Diskerud” that much more difficult. Diskerud resorted to making “possessionally-effective” switch passes. What needed to happen though was for Diskerud to work the ball internally to collapse the defense more and have more options forward to move the ball.
Better striker movement should enable those passes this evening and that’s something to look for.
• Defensive responsibility
The skinny: Youth prevailed Saturday night as Bill Hamid’s reticence and skittishness got the best of him and the centerbacks toppled under the weight of Canada’s counter attack.
The game was a great defensive lesson in both keeping shape and taking responsibility on the field.
And while Hamid and his defensive line were left out to dry by Porter’s lack of tactical adjustment, the players still need to organize better and deal with situations on the field.
With Opara and Kitchen made doe-like by Canada’s attackers, that’s where Hamid needs to step up–with line calls, direction, prioritization (“1st priority is Edwini-Bonsu guys!”…or whatever the call should be….)
There is really no quick fix to commanding a game and this is something that Hamid has been challenged with both at the club and international level. What is likely happening in practice leading up to tonight is a dialogue amongst the centerbacks and Hamid to better understand and communicate during the match.
Some things to look for this evening:
• Will Terrence Boyd start?
He should, but because he’s the next best forward with Agudelo out and because he’s got just about one game here to get another and improve the US’s attack cohesion against Mexico.
• Will Bill Hamid start?
He will and he should for now. As much as TSG is a big fan of Sean Johnson, the communication issues at the back necessitate improving a language that is already developed, not introducing a new traffic cop and shot stopper.
Only if Porter needs to give Shea a rest. Mexico is up next and the US should have enough attacking prowess to rest Shea.
Porter will likely try to give a rest to starters, but only once a lead has been built.
• Should Okugo start?
Tough call here. Jeffery was more a casualty of formation rather than the lone dolt in the system. That said, what will Porter want to do against Mexico? Provide cover or dictate the game. (Note: Whether Jeffrey’s or Okugo plays the US should beat El Salvador; in our opinion the personnel at defensive holding mid will not be determinent.)