Look everyone has a rough day at The Office now and then. (Ouch…)
With Jamaica riding two free kicks to victory Friday night in the Caribbean, it’s up to the USA to author their own Redemption Song Tuesday in Columbus. The arrangement tonight was sour for the States to the tune of a 2-1 loss to the Reggae Boyz who celebrated their country’s national independence by liberating Jamaica from its winless streak against the visitors.
Okay, poor word play out of the way, let’s get to the real punchline.
The US lost on the road in CONCACAF Friday not because they were the inferior team talent-wise, not because they were missing two of their best players (though that certainly contributed) and not even because they made a few poor fouls….
The US lost in Jamaica because Tappa Whitmore outcoached Jurgen Klinsmann. The US coach pretty much turned everything he touched to a dull, scratchy pewter instead of gold.
Let’s me just get the stream of consciousness out in the open:
» Lies, Statistics…and just plain freaking counting!
The US beat Jamaica at the 2011 Gold Cup because they outmanned them in the midfield 5-2 ruthlessly cut up the Jamaican defense.
This time the battle was again in the midfield with Jamaica holding a 4-3 advantage there–for the US Dempsey played more of an advanced role and the Jamaicans had support from three forwards ahead of them instead of one or two.
The unheralded Reggae Boy Rodolph Austin ran the show.
You’ve never heard of him because most times the Jamaicans wish they had someone better. Merely a matter of numbers here led to Austin being the night’s symphonic conductor.
Well that and the US’s failure to adjust. Moving on….
» Not-so-deep thoughts on a deep line.
Jamaica adjusted its formation to a 3-4-3.
Meanwhile, the US (vs. France, vs. Mexico, vs. Scotland) authored healthy doses of high pressure injections on opponents over the past year.
This game begged for more high pressure from the States on Jamaica’s weakest ball handlers. Where was the that?
The US decided to play a deep line fearing the speed of Jamaica over the top more than their ability to suffocate Jamaica’s defenders.
How many times did Jamaica win the battle over the top with the States? Just once, an effort that Tim Howard cleaned up (and also paid for).
Now, given that the US didn’t play a tight, high pressure game, it made little sense that the best US organizer at the back, Carlos Bocanegra was left on the bench. Was Klinsmann that fearful of Jamaica’s speed as to drop the line and bench his now-former captain? It makes no sense.
This strategy–to drop the line with a more inexperienced pairing–had three damning effects.
» » First, it exposed Kyle Beckerman as a lone holder. Beckerman does just fine (see Mexico at the Azteca) when the line is high and he’s funneling into an awaiting Jamison Olave at RSL or Bocanegra for that matter. With time in space, Jamaica exposed the not-the-fleetest-of-feet Beckerman. The centerbacks behind him were slow to step up. Cameron through inexperience; Goodson through, well it’s not quite clear.
Jamaica had more than three open shots from the top of the key, thankfully for the States they were skeet-shooting on the night.
» » Second, it asked Beckerman to do an offensive role that he is neither accustomed to nor is his strong suit. Ball carriage.
Beckerman is best when he circulates the ball simply or makes forward passes under duress. This match gave him acres of space with the States’ deep line. So, hello?
» » Third, it trapped Maurice Edu and Jermaine Jones–who were either overburdened or without their roles clearly defined–into keeping an eye on the space around Beckerman,. This dropped both from them from their own marks and, voila, space in the middle of the pitch. Lovely.
Moving on and slowly up the pitch as the States did…
» Clint Dempsey is not a #10. Clint Dempsey is not a #10. And again. Clint Dempsey is not a #10.
For over a year now Klinsmann has been trying to smash, squeeze Dempsey into this role as an attacking savant, decrypting opponent’s defense and surgically launching strikes.
He’s from Texas!
Deuce is about as subtle and nuanced as Jerry Jones was when he announced the plans for the new Cowboys Stadium. Dempsey is a volume shooter and touch guy. He’s not related to David Ferreira, Chris Brunt, Luka Modric or take-your-pick.
My colleague on MLS’s March To The Match podcast Matt Doyle called it aptly in advance of the game:
“Key tonight will be where Dempsey picks up the ball. If he has to drop deep, it’s going to be ugly. If he can stay high… that’s a bingo.”
No new shoes for grandma.
There was Dempsey in the 35th minute–about 10 minutes after the States lost the momentum–with a “Hi! How the hell are you? How’s the weather in Stoke?” to Geoff Cameron.
Sadly enough for the running-gag-that-has-become-Jose Francisco Torres–though he may not have taken the dribbling initiative–this is the one game where Torres could have gotten the ball in space with some time and Klinsmann decided to use him as goalie? Poor joke, any who.
» What movie did Herculez Gomez and Jozy Altidore watch while they waited to play ball?
Our normal disclaimer here on Gomez in that he’s become a friend of TSG (and a writer here for that matter.) That said, Gomez had a good game. He tried to stay within the bounds of what the tactics called for but made himself available linking north up the field and actually created four chances on the night, the first of which of course led to the US’s lone goal.
If it’s not clear that Gomez not only belongs starting, but also should be getting a lot more press, it should be after this one.
Jozy Altidore–perhaps tasked to stay higher up the pitch–did much less than Gomez, but then again he didn’t see the ball until verifying its existence when being subbed out late in the second half.
With the tactical mess that was the USMNT today, the worse part of all this…
» Klinsmann never adjusted his game plan.
Klinsmann is used to goading the team to press up the pitch at all costs against the likes of France and Brazil.
Against Jamaica the team sat, and when Klinsmann subbed, it was predominantly like for like despite deficiencies in the game plan.
Had Klinsmann been wearing a beeper like I bet he did back in the late eighties, I would have texted the phone number to Peter Vermes or Eric Wynalda and begged them to dial at will.
That’s probably the most flummoxing thing of all to fans here; no adjustments. How does that not happen?!!
The simple substitution that changes the complexion of the game? Jozy Altidore for Jose Torres or Graham Zusi. More on that in a bit.
And with the very juvenile double exclamation point we end the stream of consciousness.
More nuanced bulletpoints:
• The US players were not bad; they just weren’t put in a position to succeed.
For 25 minutes the US actually looked decent in a system that didn’t real play to its strengths. The first minute brought about a goal before the first joint was even finished and then for the next 24, Maurice Edu and Jermaine Jones were active linking with a central Clint Dempsey and Michael Parkurst even got a look at what the Jamaican 18-yard-box looked like up close. (Take a look at the tape, the US defended well up the pitch and combined well–primarily through Michael Parkhurst–down the right.)
Then Jamaica’s numbers in the midfield started to overrun Edu and Jones.
Then Jamaica was controlling the tempo and the possession.
Then the Reggae Boyz were doing work up the pitch and Parkurst and Fabian Johnson–who incredulously spent more time threatening Brazil this year then Jamaica–were pinned back deep as Jamaica, JAMAICA, circulated the ball around the US’s defensive perimeter.
There were few mistakes made today by the players themselves–though the ones that were made, were costly. Jermaine Jones played a poor linking pass to Maurice Edu (because you know he didn’t have another option in the midfield) and turned it over. Somewhere Ricardo Clark bristled as Kyle Beckerman took a poor foul and Rodolf Austin (“The Great”) stepped up and played 5-hole with Beckerman to pinball it past Tim Howard–who looked like he was either dressed for a Jay-Z white party or Wimbledon … take your pick.
The second mistake was Maurice Edu–who must’ve watched the tape of Tim Ream on Blas Perez in last year’s Gold Cup group stage game against Panama–flailing miserably at Luton Shelton on what looked like an innocuous possession.
Tonya Harding called, Maurice, she wants her cleat back.
A fantastic free kick–to the right of Howard’s leg that had just taken a chop I might add–put Jamaica ahead for the good. Ball game.
Good efforts were had by Geoff Cameron, Michael Parkhurst and the aforementioned Gomez in Yea’Mon.
• Landon Donovan was missed. Michael Bradley was missed and truly needed. Graham Zusi was, in fact, on the bench.
Please fast-forward to the 43:10 time stamp on dial. Kyle Beckerman, in possession, on the right hash mark at the gateway to the attacking third.
There’s a space in the center.
No wait that’s not right.
There’s a plot of land.
There’s a freaking Dallas Cowboys Stadium football field, gaping, beckoning, in the middle of the pitch where a herd of #10 could roam.
I felt his pain.
Like Shawn Kemp at a Planned Parenthood Convention, no one showed up. (Look, it’s late. I’m leaving that one in there. Sue me.)
The US was devoid of creative midfielder the entire game with Dempsey doing his best “well I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night” in the role and Jermaine Jones doing what Jermaine Jones does.
Landon was missed, but mostly, only in the few transition moments.
Michael Bradley was missed. Actually, let’s come back to that.
Graham Zusi–even Joe Corona–were sitting on the bench while Jozy Altidore was picking daisies somewhere near Mariappa (probably on direction of Jose Torres but that’s neither here nor there.). Why in the name of Jonathan Wilson were neither trotted out there?
Look Zusi may not be able to convert his penalty kicks, but he’s one of the best in the game at forcing the defender to either respect the three pointer or concede the drive to the hoop. Jerry Jones was even crying.
Back to Michael Bradley. Bradley was an oh-so-key absentee tonight for two massive reasons.
One, his driver and three-wood game are at their apex–with the midfield crowded out defensively, Altidore in a dangerous position still would have been possible on the fly.
Second, Bradley’s pace of play is probably the fastest–save Dempsey?–of any USMNT player. Merely moving the ball left to right–fast!–would have created a lot more opportunities for the Yanks.
• Flunk the flank
Not much more is really needed here. Jamaica owned the shoulders tonight. Of course, the US didn’t really have anyone out there in available positions, but given the numbering in the midfield. The US’s best attacking option lately has been Fabian Johnson, who really didn’t peak under the hood of the Jamaican defense.
That has to change in round two.
Ok, all this said, I got our preview here almost completely wrong with a ton of misspellings. So everyone has a rough day at the office now and then.