Archive for September, 2012

USA 1, Jamaica 0: The Deuceface, Herc Jerk Retro Diary

No pain?! No pain! No pain?! No pain!

Will Parchman with a massively fantastic missive.

Guys. I want to apologize for assaulting your fine literary senses here, but there will be caps lock tonight. The mood is heightened. Cockles are raised. Fine hairs are on edge. Jermaine Jones is still a person who plays soccer. So yeah. I’m sorry in advance, but tonight is not a night for feather dusters and foot-overs and happy winks. Tonight is a night for sledgehammers and biceps exploding from extra tight Affliction T-shirts and glass shards and metal studs aerating unsuspecting cheeks. Tonight is the night when the big bad giant steps on David’s head and eats his slingshot.

Style points are extinct as far as I’m concerned. It’s time for old fashioned American footy. Out-run ‘em, beat ‘em up and score ugly, high-percentage goals. Let’s get it.

 6:59 p.m. – Steve Fenn of Big D Soccer tweets this from Columbus: “In the American Outlaws section tonight. Everyone’s spirited, but it feels like some of the energy is coming from desperation.”

THANKS FOR THE CONFIDENCE BOOST STEVIE. Desperation you say? Guatemala is leading A&B 1-0 at halftime you say? This game is edging ever closer to must win, you say? I don’t even know if I’d want to be there. I feel like I’d do something stupid, like yell at a child or drop-kick a bench. Frankie Hejduk (HEYDUDE) is leading cheers on the sideline? WELL NOW I FEEL MUCH BETTER.

American lineup is out.

Howard; Cherundolo, Cameron, Bocanegra, Johnson; Williams; Zusi, Jones, Torres; Dempsey, Gomez

4-1-3-2, at least nominally. Five changes in the lineup tonight from the 2-1 loss in Kingston. Dolo and Boca are back, which is nice. Danny Williams holds in midfield, which is fine, his natural role anyway (nice to see him off the wing, yes?). Torres is on the left wing, which burns me everlasting. I have (famously!) given up on Torres but have hope that he’s remembered to bring his legs with him tonight. Graham Zusi is on the right and somewhere an angel loses its wings. The two issues from last week were a lack of width and no link-up in the middle. I don’t see any fix for those issues here, but I find it hard to blame Klinsmann because this injury-depleted roster hasn’t been all that kind to him.

PACKED house in Columbus. That’s nice to see, and touching that it coincides with such an emotional day. But even Ian Darke’s buttery English-y voice and all those U-S-A chants caroming around the concrete barriers of Crew Stadium can’t allay the feeling of oddness about this fixture. Columbus has the good juju though. Darke calls it a “happy hunting ground.”

Twellman: “Tonight is easily (Klinsmann’s) biggest game in charge of the United States.” Er. Yeah. I’d say. Kickoff time. Leggo.

‘1 – The US is already looking to play slicker, more poised footy. I can’t describe how glad I am that Boca is back to facilitate that. He’s beyond calm.

Twellman: “This may be Torres’ last straw.” How is he not out of straws at this point? How is he not completely strawless? Utterly devoid of sipping devices?

‘4 – Dolo is so good on the right side. You beautiful Hannoverian (don’t judge me) right back. Feeding in crosses like a parent feeding an incontinent baby strained peas. Did I just call Herc Gomez an incontinent baby? Whatever. Maybe.

‘5 – Happy with how solidly the formation is sitting. Danny Williams and Jones showing good poise as Jones sort of stacks high on top of Williams. How did anyone think Williams was a winger? Hurts the soul. He’s been good so far though.

‘6 – ZUSI BAR. CROSSBAR. Did Twellman just call that a hockey deik? I don’t care. Zusi, my fellow American. I’ll take back everything I’ve ever said about you if score tonight. Maybe not everything. Actually nothing at all. But I’ll be happy.

‘8 – Just mixed myself a Jack & Coke. Going to take a healthy rip every time Darke says something about a DANGEROUS JAMAICA COUNTERATTACK. Seen nothing of the sort, really. Just a couple of free kicks.

‘9 – Dempsey is the bellwether. He generally settles wherever service is best, and he’s drifting waaaay right toward Zusi and Dolo and away from… you guessed it, my man Torres. He’s being phased out already. I’M SURPRISED. Wait, no I’m not at all.

’12 – Steve Cherundolo. Can you be my dad? Incredible leading cross gets Herc in at 15 yards and it’s only Herc’s slightly clunky chest touch that lets Nosworthy break it up. Herc is always in the right place, just a matter of finishing touches. Seventh start in a row for the man who deserves it more than Jozy. Just my way of thinking.

’14 – Jones draws a weak free kick, a bail-out call really, but it gets the US the chance at a kick. Herc’s pretty in-swinger hits Jones RIGHT IN THE FACE and he does nothing with it. Jones failed on that possession, got bailed out by the ref on the free kick and then flubbed the hell out of a header freer than Chuck Norris waving American flags on a red, white & blue unicorn farting the National Anthem. I am rapidly souring on Jermaine Jones.

’18 – Herc challenges Miller on another free kick. Twellman actually makes a good point (!) on Herc and Dempsey, neither of whom are doing much to stretch the back line. Both look more like midfielders playing striker than strikers in the mood. This dominant spell of possession is cool and all, but like I said at the top, GOALS, BRA.

’20 – BLARGGGGGGGGG MILLER WHAT A SAVE. Williams with a beautiful pass splayed out for Dolo, who rocketed in a ball that Miller pushed onto the post somehow.

Dempsey was upending Jamaica all night…

Seconds later the goal almost comes again from Dempsey’s feed to Fabian Johnson. Goals. WHERE ARE YOU. Darke: “Have to say, USA unlucky not to be ahead.” HahahI KNOW IAN.

’23 – Zusi follows up a bouncing ball with a sliced volley that rips over the crossbar by a foot. This is kind of like a cat pawing at a piece of yarn that’s tumbled under the couch. It’s kind of sad to watch, but you have to think that given persistence the cat will get that damn bundle of fabric. Notice I’ve given the yarn no chance of catching the cat. Not possible.

Saw Miller’s save again on Dolo’s ball in that was deflected. What a damn save. Finger-tipped it against the post. Jamaica looks absolutely flooded.

’27 – Danny Williams is what Kyle Beckerman would be if Kyle Beckerman was better (and I like Beckerman). Very, very impressed with the Williams tonight. Jamaica just earned a corner. Lolwut?

Twellman just said to Jermaine Jones, by proxy of television, “Don’t get caught up in any of the baby games.” Needed that little laugh. THANKS TAYS.

’30 – WHAT IS HAPPENING. Danny Williams just rattled the post again. Apoplectic. A 30-yard WONDERstrike from Williams just pinged the post, and that screamer just blasted the inside shade of the woodwork. YOU DIDN’T SACRIFICE THAT GOAT LIKE I TOLD YOU, DID YOU. Thank you for confirming my suspicions that you are awesome, Danny. Goal next time though.

’33 – Herc was onside you meat clowns. He didn’t finish anyway, but whatevs.

88th minute and Guatemala is still up 1-0. A&B won’t score. That’s three points for the Quetzalcoatlians.

’35 – US has a 79-21 possession edge. Three of the Americans’ six shots have hit the woodwork. In other news, the capricious soccer gods are ripping the heads off their USA voodoo dolls with venom.

’39 – Okay, so I can give credit where it’s due, and Zusi’s been good tonight. Shown some spots going forward that’ve surprised me. I have no confidence that this is a consistent thing, but he’s made the right side a nightmare for the Boyz tonight. Dolo. My man. Been a beast on the overlap, too.

Guatemala wins. Blechshpalshshhshs.

HALFTIME.

Have you ever done something really well and not gotten due credit? On the other end, have you ever done something really terribly but gotten praise heaped on you for it? That last bit is Jamaica right now. Let me tell you a little real life parable. In the fourth grade, I took a typing class. Back in those days (mid-90s) the internet was just coming on and computer programs were pretty, well… bad. Our typing teacher was a program called Mario Teaches Typing.

The system worked like this: you did your typing (it moved Mario through his virtual world), wrote down your words per minute and took it to the teacher after each class period. Me being a little dirtbag, I cheated. My real words per minute was around 15. By the end of the year I’d lied my way up to around 45. I hadn’t done any real work, but hey, I got a certificate as the most improved in the class. That’s Jamaica right now. Lying little cretins. They’re not 0-0 good. Goals. GIVE ME GOALS YOU DIRTY AMERICANS.

’46 – Klinsmann says we need goals. Thanks Jurgis. You’re the best.

’48 – Bad giveaway from Dempsey leads in a Jamaican for a clear goal opportunity before he skies it. Going to be dealing with some of this as the US commits so many forward. Darke is going to lose his mind mentioning all these counters. “JAMAICA, THEY’RE SO COUNTEREY.”

’50 – Jose Torres update. He still sucks.

’52 – Can somebody please make a “DOLO YOLO” T-shirt? Please?

Done Will! Reader Marissa Villegas with the fantastic contribution. Thanks Melissa.

US passing accuracy is 91 percent right now. They’ve hit the post three times. Possession is hovering around 80 percent. There are no goals. THIS IS MY NIGHTMARE.

’55 – HERC JERK!!!!!!!!! IN THE FAAAAAAACE!!!!!!!!!

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USA 1, Jamaica 0: TSG’s Top Ten List

Dolo & The States, best foot forward…

Some quick takes courtesy the TSG DVR and laptop. Oh and for all those that slammed: Missed only one on the starters, JFT instead of Terrence Boyd.

Go:

10• Winning the numbers game. Thankfully.

Our USA-Jamaica Game One review called out the Klinsmann coaching staff for failing to put the right numbers and configuration in the US midfield in Kingston. It was a more-than-fair assessment.

Klinsmann’s side rectified that on Tuesday with at least five players assigned to battle three in the Jamaican midfield.

However it was even more numbers on many occasions and how they materialized was the key.

Klinsmann–as we asked the question of “how far he would go” in the Game 1 Jamaican preview–sent Fabian Johnson and Steve Cherundolo forward on their square or diagonal passes into Torres, Dempsey and Zusi respectfully. That was the license and it was the fullback motion that pinned backed Jamaica’s fullbacks from helping further open the space ahead of them.

Michael Bradley must’ve been smiling some from Roma where the strategy was very similar to the one his club team employs.

9• Foot-No Gas Syndrome

TSG contributor Alex Olshansky adds:

Before the goal: USA was 410/467 passing (88%), JAM was 77/137 (56%)

After the goal: USA was 144/186 (77%) and JAM was 129/170 (76%). US also went from 7.5 passes complete a minute to 4.1.

Regression.

Jamaica might have had cause to now push the game after the States score, but the US needed to keep the urgency.

8• Geoff Cameron’s Laundry List

I can just imagine a scene in the locker room afterward where US equipment director Jesse Bignami is inventorying the kits and Ryan Johnson falls out of Geoff Cameron’s shorts’s change pocket. (Yes, I know there are no change pockets in anyone’s shorts, save RVP’s or maybe Tevez’s, but whatever.)

Geoff Cameron flat-out dominated Johnson in this one.

Johnson went for headers and Cameron out-leapt him. Johnson looked to receive a ball over-the-top and Cameron swallowed. Johnson got frustrated, fouled and lost focus–and the two players set to run off his hold up play (Luton Shelton and Omar Cummings) suffered from it, failing to sniff the box almost all night.

If your Stoke City–and with the acquisitions of Maurice Edu, Steven N’Zonzi and Charlie Adam–don’t you have to just sneak a look at Cameron at centerback? Johnson may not be as skilled but he is a hulking 6’1”, 175lbs or so.

Good to see some swagger from D-Will.

7• Who in the name of Yann M’Vila was playing in the central holding smack down role?

It’s amazing what a little familiarity and comfort does.

Danny Williams probably doesn’t speak a lot of English. And up until the last scraps of Jamaica Williams had been asked to be deployed in more of a shuttler and cover protector role. In fact this was our commentary on Williams in advance of the USA-Mexico friendly:

Welcome back into the fold Danny Williams. Once again, you’ve got the soccer role version of “clean the latrine!” See Castillo behind you? He needs cover, so you get to play out of position and have US fans scorn your abilities despite never being played in your natural role.

Enjoy the Azteca, try not to get a urine shower. At least, you don’t speak Spanish so you can’t understand what they’re saying about your mom.

Not today TSG!

Williams looked downright cozy in the holding role with the major team advantage of allowing Steve Cherundolo and especially Fabian Johnson to gallop forward. With the US pressing it was Williams with only Cameron or Bocanegra behind him on many occasions.

Johnson’s stat line: 8 recoveries, 3 interceptions, 66 of 69 passes completed (yowzas!) and perhaps most importantly….some swagger.

Williams looked the part, often demanding the ball with a hand raised from his teammates and, after getting smacked in the head by an errant Je-Vaughn Watson elbow late in the game (and without the command of the English language) still sent some body language Watson’s way.

A drop of nasty. Might there be more in store down the line? That’s the first time US fans have seen Danny Williams personality shine through.

6• Look, just a few wet blankets, okay?

An astounding effort by the States and the vital home win. The end justifies the means.

That said a shaper team. A team with more discipline in executing would seemed like instructions to press more in the second half perhaps closes the night with a draw on some of the Yanks’ lack of focus.

There were also a few areas of housekeeping that need attending. The first being the most pressing.

» The States are vulnerable on quick restarts or turnovers.

Jamaica was well-schooled Rodolph Austin gathered a loose ball and took a quick shot on Tim Howard that had to be parried and as the minutes waned Jamaica’s final two corner kicks were knocked-on before the States had a chance to gather itself. Luckily the States had resolve, but a sharper team would have punished them.

» Jermaine Jones needs to end the simulation and face-grabbing.

There was a moment at the end of the second half where Jones was legitimately fouled–and he was a number of times on the evening–however Jones incessant complaining to the refs as well as his penchant to stay down on the play goes a step beyond–it would seem–Klinsmann’s mantra after the Brazil game to dirty-up the game within the game. Jones should have gotten that call, but he likely didn’t because the ref was just tired of dealing with him.

5• Herculez Gomez is here ________________________ the rest of the depth chart is here.

Gomez leading the line ahead of Dempsey.

With the US playing a near Roma style attack, it was the right configuration up top and it worked because Herculez Gomez understands the match.

Beyond his tremendous set piece delivery tonight and of course, the game winner, it was Gomez’s engine that again manufactured chances.

(Note: It should be annotated that Herc’s best goal scoring season ever–17 with the Los Angeles Galaxy in–saw a majority of his goals scored from outside the box. (Herc loves to remind us of that one and I reminded him of it tonight.)

Gomez was consistently showing up in the right places through effort on Tuesday. In fact, late in the second half after he and Jermaine Jones were arguing a call, Jones trotted back to his position, Gomez damn near sprinted. And this was a Gomez who battling illness all week.

Gomez–right now–is, consider this, may be, pound-for-pound the best poacher in CONCACAF? (Yes Chicharito scored one tonight to get off the snide, yes the Little Pea plays at Manchester United., but Gomez–like he did in tying Chicharito for the Clausura scoring title in 2010 before the World Cup–may be on as good form right now.)

[Insert typical TSG-Gomez disclaimer here.]

4• No soup for you

If there any player more frustrating, infuriating than Freddy Adu Jozy Altidore? When the line-up was announced–and before the DVR delayed review–my very first thought in terms of “those missing” was, “Oh thank goodness, all eleven players are going to play defense.”

I don’t care that Jozy Altidore missed a back heal; I don’t care all that much that he gave away the ball in the corner when the States’ were trying to ice the game.

But I very much do care that Altidore lacked a lot of hustle on both his own turnovers and on closedowns as a fresh sub.

If you look at Altidore’s club goals they’re often with a player clearing space around him. On this US team, Altidore will not be the focal point some time and must play defense. The perennial question, will he ever step up the defensive part of his game?

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USA vs. Jamaica: Live Commentary

Jones vindicated this evening?

The very-near-must-win in Columbus is about to down.

Crew Stadium should be a shaking. Will Frankie Hedjuk be pounding beers?

Line-ups shortly. Enjoy.

Orange Slices: USA vs. Jamaica

Orange Slices! USA vs. Jamaica

The triumphant return! Orange Slices is our game day, catch-all post that we update during the day before and day of the match.
———

It’s the “must-win” it always was, but with higher stakes. Does that make sense? No, but then again neither did the US lost in Jamaica or some of the tactics.

The US takes to Crew Stadium in the land where the Abercrombie & Fitch man roams free tonight to battle the Reggae Boyz of Jamaica less than a week after Jamaica hung a 2-1 victory on the Yanks.

The USA (1-1-1, 4 points) dropped into a tie for second place with Guatemala in Group A following Friday’s loss to Jamaica (2-0-1, 7 points).

Broadcast:

Once again, ESPN has the English coverage. The game is available on ESPN 2, ESPN 3 with the coverage beginning at 8pm ET.

Galavision has the Spanish coverage.

PSA: SEPTEMBER 11th TRIBUTE IF YOU ARE ATTENDING TONIGHT’s MATCH

Around the web:

Talismanic tonight?

Reading material: (lots of good stuff on this one.)

» The MLS Analyst, Matt Doyle, drops some great toilet-bowl reading material with, “What is American Soccer?,” an excellent feature on the tactics and formations of the US over the past 20 years. Must-read.

» Be sure to check out Steve Fenn’s article below looking simply at Tim Howard and shots-on comparing the Prem to Kingston.

» Our friends at the Free Beer Movement have some lighter, fluffier fare with some tongue-in-cheek analysis that you may or may not hear from Jurgen Klinsmann.

» We love this Reggae Boyz forum. They aggregate links from around the web, most are typically objective on their team and they are welcoming to new folks. If you post, be respectful.

» The Yanks Are Coming folks are back and they are wondering whether all that Klinsmann bravado in his opening remarks is just mumbo-jumbo.

» Noah Davis for Grantland says the “golden sheen on Jurgen Klinsmann is less shiny” going into tonight.

» Steve Davis describes the pressure the team is under tonight and the scenarios that play out.

Weather forecast:

It will still be a balmy 75 degree or so with clear skies when the States take the field at 8pm ET.

Surf forecast:

You can’t surf in Columbus, Ohio, but did you know that it’s not a mistake on the lake to surf in Cleveland!

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USA vs. Jamaica Primer: Kingston’s Chalkboard Confessional

Steve Fenn writes for TSG & BigDSoccer (a fantastic publication on FC Dallas).

Be sure to check out TSG’s Game Day Catch-all post, Orange Slices: USA v. Jamaica

Like most US soccer fans, I spent the last couple day grousing about Klinsmann’s Kingston catastrophe, letting my fear of qualification failure lead to anger, anger lead to hate, and hate lead to suffering (of those closest to me, who had to tiptoe around during the dark side of my ravings). Today I sought understanding and perspective in the cold, hard facts of the match in the Opta Chalkboard. This exercise reminded me of one of the team’s achievements on the day I had lost sight of during my weekend doldrums.

Over the course of the game the US defense did an excellent job of limiting the Jamaicans to very speculative opportunities. Here is the Opta Chalkboard’s map of every shot taken by the hosts:

Based on the scale of this graphic the closest attempt was slightly over 30 yards from goal. Also, on closer inspection Opta states that only 9 of the 13 came in the run of play.

For perspective, I consulted the 2011-2012 EPL Opta statistics, provided through the MCFC Analytics initiative from Manchester City’s head of performance analysis, Gavin Fleig. Side note: if you have any interest in studying soccer statistics, follow this link, check out their terms and conditions, and download the data and play with it yourself.

From this data I was able to break down shots faced and outcomes both inside and outside the box, as well as the subset of direct free kicks. I did so for both the full league and Everton, for whom Tim Howard played every available minute, also breaking the data into save percentage and goals per 13 shots, the number Jamaica took.

Not surprisingly, shots inside the box were much more effective, but it is informative to see just how much more. Direct free kicks were a little more likely to score than other shots outside the box, and when I dug deeper I found that only once last season did a Premier League side score twice on direct free kicks in a single match (Manchester United’s 8-2 slaughter of Arsenal on 8/28/11). Klinsmann’s greatest defensive adjustment for Tuesday may be regression to the mean. If they keep Jamaica out of the box again, the odds of a shutout are pretty good.

All of this analysis is done from a bird’s eye view, and since stagnation equals death there we can expect at least a couple of small-scale tweaks in the defensive approach.

For example, as noted in the comments of the last post, the US wall seemed to be ignorant to indicators within Jamaica free kick takers’ run-ups to the likelihood that jumping was the right or wrong approach. At least one personnel change is guaranteed, since Clarence Goodson will be suspended for yellow card accumulation, and Klinsmann stated today that Carlos Bocanegra will take his place and captain the team. Whoever lines up in the back tomorrow night, we should all hope they are as successful as Friday night’s crew in limiting the quality of Jamaican shots.

Inventive and important adjustments look to be much more necessary further up the field, though.

(Editor’s note: Well said on that last statement Steve. :>)

Jamaica 2, USA 1: The States Now Must Spliff The Difference

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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.

This may or may not be Rodolph Austin in this picture….

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.

“Does anyone have any idea what we’re supposed to be doing out here now that we’ve scored?”

» » 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.

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