TSG’s Official USA vs. Costa Rica Preview: Defeato The Tico Incognito

Will likely captain Michael Bradley guide a bunch of youngsters to 3 points in Colorado?

“There is work to be done”
Will Michael Bradley guide a bunch of youngsters to 3 points in Colorado?

It’s about as close to must-have that a non-must-have is.

The US coach, Jurgen Klinsmann believes it is, in fact, a must-have.

And the US goes forward with, at best, a second choice squad this week.

The United States opens the home leg of its CONCACAF final round World Cup qualifying round this Friday at Dick Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado still licking its wounds from February when it stumbled badly in a single game qualifier against Honduras.

The US looked lethargic and unassertive against the Catrachos, sparking more questions about Klinsmann’s ability to steward the States through a qualifying campaign that sees the strongest front-to-back CONCACAF field perhaps ever.

And now the US skipper will have to attempt to answer those questions without even close to his best arsenal.

Tim Howard, Tim Chandler, Fabian Johnson, Edgar Castillo, Danny Williams, Jose Torres all out for this pair of matches.

Boca: Not playing and now not traveling with the States...

Boca: Not playing and now not traveling with the States…

Veteran Carlos Bocanegra not recalled from Racing Santander (though deemed Monday not out of the national team picture by Klinsmann) where he cannot get on the pitch for the second division Spanish side.

Clint Dempsey has just returned to game action for Tottenham Hotspur and looked rusty against Fulham on Sunday.

Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Graham Zusi and Maurice Edu all carry yellow cards which will rule them out of the Mexico clash if they pick up one during the Costa Rica game.

That’s more than a stacked deck against Klinsmann; it’s the whole casino.

Yet, the States need this result badly against the Ticos more so than even a draw against El Tri at the Azteca next Tuesday.

In CONCACAF, defending home turf is imperative in order to escape with a World Cup berth. With the US coming of a defeat on the road and staring at a probable loss in their next match, a result–a win that is–moves the US forward with serious but doable work to do coming out of this home-and-away camp. A loss puts the US in a precarious position and squarely an underdog in finding its way to Brazil 2014.

The States will need to manage a talented Costa Rican front three while relying on their midfield to provide defensive cover and generate service up the pitch in parallel, something that midfield group has struggled mightify with over the the past two years.

That said, the complexion of the Costa Rica team and where the US has experience on the field bodes well for a good result for the States in the Rockies.

Without further Freddy Adu, let’s get to our customary preview:

As usual, it goes:

About The Opponent: Costa Rica

TSG, What We’re Looking For

11 At The Whistle

NEW: Fan Feedback

The Tico Attackers: Ferocious!

The Tico Attackers: Ferocious!

About The Opponent: Costa Rica

Once the continual “bronze medalist” from CONCACAF, the Costa Rican team has stumbled to the middle of the pack ever since Jonathan Bornstein drilled home a US corner kick at the death in the final CONCACAF qualifying game in 2009.

That Borstein header forced the Ticos into an ill-fated home-and-away series with CONMEBOL’s Uruguay for the right to go World Cup 2010. The Ticos met their demise as Uruguay started to steam its way to the label of 2010 World Cup darling.

Though not as sensational as the phrase may sound, you could say the Ticos have never been the same since.

Centeno, long a warrior, but now a captain and player no longer...

Centeno, long a warrior, but now a captain and player no longer…

Gone after the 2010 cup run is midfield general Walter Centeno, long the heart and soul of the Costa Rican team and, at 137 games played, the team’s all-time cap leader. Likewise for Rolando Fonsecu, the Ticos all-time leading scorer with 47 deposits in 113 caps; the forward called it quits from international play in 2011.

Like the US, the Ticos have struggled since change occurred at the top after the 2011 Gold Cup. Colombian Jorge Luis Pinto is back for his second try at leading the team. Players have been juggled in and out of the line-up and many have been moved into roles where they don’t see time on their club teams. The line-up deployed deployed Friday will likely contain at least two changes from Costa Rica’s February qualifier.

The lack of homogeneity has–like it has the USMNT–resulted in its attackers often being starved for service and the team forced to have a moment or two of brilliance to pull out a result.

That’s exactly what happened in February when the Ticos needed a header from Alvaro Saborio and moment of wizardy from the soon-to-be-much-discussed Bryan Ruiz to escape Panama with a 2-2 draw.

While it’s simple to see just how Costa Rica can punish the opposition when the ball and team get forward with frequency, a clear cut definition of roles in the Ticos’s 4-3-3 is not wholly possible.

One can almost consider Costa Rica’s attack similar to that of the Premiership’s Manchester City where the width is provided by galavanting fullbacks and the front five are given license to roam and make runs, many focused on checking to or overloading the ball-side.

A possible Costa Rican deployment

A possible Costa Rican deployment

Given the point of attack, Costa Rica push their fullbacks extremely high up the pitch. They do this especially well on the left where Christopher Meneses gets and stays forward often, almost functioning as a wingback at times. (Update: According to feedback, Everton man Brian Oviedo is the first choice option at the wingback position).

Ahead of the back four is a double pivot midfield set up in top-heavy triangle who serve as ball carriers, forward pivots and “switch-field” artists to generate the Tico attack.

That pairing could be Ariel Rodríguez and Celso Borges. Rodriguez sits as the link to the front while Borges–who was horrible and thus substituted early for Michael Barrantes against Panama–serves as a deeper fulcrum and will have more defensive duties. Disclaimer again as that the play is very fluid and the midfield pawns frequently interchange.

(Note: Borges is another one of the Costa Rican players moved out of position. He’s excelled for Swedish club AIK more as an attacking mid, so much so that Celtic among others are rumored to be interested in his services. Given Costa Rica is playing away this match and Borges struggled in that role, the Pinto may select more of a ball winner and true deep-lying midfielder in Michael Barrantes for Borges position.)

The real talent for the Ticos, of course, lies in its quadrumvirate up top.

Saborio, Joel Campbell, Christian Bolanos and Bryan Ruiz might very well be the most talented front three in partnership in the region. According to this site, they are.

Bryan Ruiz, the captain who will be discussed in length below, typically starts out right center, allowing him to incut on his deadly left boot. Now, he may start on that right hash, but he is given the green light to freelance wherever he sees opportunity. He’s the #10 and he’s got three weapons ahead of him.

Joel Campbell for Real Betis by way of Arsenal...

Joel Campbell for Real Betis by way of Arsenal…

Joel Campbell, on loan from Arsenal with Real Betis is a #9 who has been forced to move wide and become a facilitator this year at both club and country.

His game has grown appreciably as a result. Campbell enters for Randall Brenes who was first on the wide forward depth chart, but was tabbed an alternate for this series. (At the time of publishing why that was remained a mystery). Here’s a good column on Campbell courtesy of @swannyArsenalFC on Twitter.

On the right flank is Cristian Bolaños, a speedy attacker.

Up top is Alvaro Saborio–who may be the most in-form player currently for both club and country in the region.

Saborio’s tallied seven goals in seven qualifying appearances and three goals in three appearances for Real Salt Lake. Thus he sits close to the top of goal table in both CONCACAF and MLS.

Name your preference and Saborio can threaten and a score that way. For RSL, he torched San Jose’s high backline on the break two weeks ago. Against the Colorado Rapids this past weekend he equalized on an acute angle corner pocket smash in the box. Against Panama in Februrary, he scored on a powerful header off a left flank cross from Christopher Meneses.

Columbus Crew tip’o’the’spear Jairo Arrieta, as MLS clubs can attest, is a more than worthy sub off the bench.

Costa Rica is swashbuckling in attack as oppose to metronomic, looking to quickly get the ball up the flank or go over the top to a dominant Saborio or Campbell for a knockdown opportunity at the feet of Ruiz.

When the Ticos find themselves in possession in the attacking third they typically try to work the 18-yard box extended (vertically or horizontally) for some small movement inside by Saborio, Bolaños or Campbell. If they’ve driven deep towards the endline on the flank, they’ll quickly kick the ball out to the supporting wide player for a crossing opportunity.

If the Panama game plan is an indication, the Ticos will look to push the ball wide, primarily to on the left flank, and then take advantage when the US team collapses on that flank defensively with a quick switchfield. That will opens much morespace for whichever attacker is wide on that side (Campbell or Ruiz) to go 1v1 or combine for 2v2.

Umana, virtually on the touchline, steams the ball into the attacking third while the Ticos's mids and strikers look to find creases and space.

Costa Rica plays with their wide fullback on the left as almost a wingback at times. Here Meneses, deputizing for Oviedo, is in possession and , virtually on the touchline on the left flank, steaming forward past his mark in the attack with the Ticos midfielders and forwards working off of him. The sequence led to the second goal against Costa Rica as a Meneses cross was banged down by Saborio to Ruiz who bicycled it into the back of the net. A thrilling goal.

Costa Rica, again, is fairly fluid–think basketball’s motion offense–and any point a midfielder can find himself making a run in the box or receiving a ball on an overlap.

While this type of offense presents marking challenges for the opposition, it also creates defensive problems for the Ticos themselves.

Often, the Ticos will be out of shape and they can be hurt with smart and quick counter movement from that opposition, especially against a rather average backline.

The CR backline will likely consist of the aforementioned Meneses Brian Oviedo, Giancarlo González and Míchael Umaña as the centerback pairing and likely newbie Cristian Gamboa at rightback. The jury is still out on that rightback slot as veteran 22-year-old José Salvatierra–who manned the spot most frequently in 2012–was not recalled for this series.

Both centerbacks Umaña and González are prone to losing marks. Gonzalez as well has a penchant to foul in or near the box and carries three yellow cards in his pocket heading into the match.

The back four as a whole is absolutely awful on staying with their mark on crosses into the box having conceded all three goals in last September’s Mexico home-and-away via corners or crosses into the box and having conceded a goal to Panama on a scramble after a long throw-in, naturally from deep on the touchline.

(Eddie Johnson and Steve Zakuani would probably enjoy this goal here that Mexico sent home at the Azteca last September against CR.)

In goal, however, is the solid Keylar Navas who this year has usurped more than 40% of the playing time from Uruguayan Gustavo Munua as La Liga premier side Levante. (Note: Navas was either not available or other as his back-up Pemberton started versus Panama.)

If the Costa Rican midfield can find their way up the pitch and shoot passes upfield to their attackers, the US will be in for a major fight on Friday.

TSG What Are We Looking For

(We could have wrote a book on this section this time.)

» Pressure on the ball; assertive face-up defending. (the midfield triumvirate must protect their inexperienced squeaky backline.)

It’s really that simple.

Usually TSG picks a part a match-up (we still will) or discusses something perhaps more intricate that needs to be accomplished to get the result. This time it’s basic fundamentals.

The US’s defense looked about as organized as a 5-year-old’s bedroom in Honduras in February.

But–zoom out to the mile-above-the-Earth view–wasn’t that to be expected?

Who could really think that Geoff Cameron and Omar Gonzalez–who had all of two practices together ever–before trotting onto the San Pedro Sula sod would be airtight in that back?

The US coaching staff and you, the US fans, know better.

Quite simply the States midfield needs to get face-up pressure on the ball so as to not leave their inexperienced defense exposed against those Costa Rican forwards who are adept at punishing those mistakes.

It’s an essential.

It’s a must-have job in win this must-have affair.

Below are two stills that illuminate how the US’s defense was woefully caught out against a Honduras team that probably should have banged home at least four on the day. Both times the ball handler slotted through a pass–the first time on a caught-out Omar Gonzalez, the second time on late-to-react Fabian Johnson.

That said, if pressure is on the ball handler in both cases, the threading and leading passes are made, at very least, more difficult.

Now, of course, simple pressure on the ball isn’t just a one-line command or directive.

The US–Geoff Cameron specifically as the now veteran of the backline–must communicate effectively and further–and this is a larger discussion for another time–the US must be okay tracking runners better rather than being rigidly attentive to its zone marking scheme. (Like we said, much longer discussion here is necessary.)

Screen Shot 2013-03-17 at 9.53.20 PM

Who else cringed at this minute mark in February? Omar Gonzalez bites on a potential outlet pass to Jerry Bengston on the flank getting pulled way out of position, the Honduras midfielder (believe it may be Mario Martinez) lets’ the play develop. Once Gonzalez commits, Garcia times his pass on the change of direction and Bengston is off to the races on a two-on-one that Honduras really should have scored on. (Costly radars it in directly at Tim Howard.)
While Gonzalez bit on a common fake, the lack of pressure on the ball makes the entire pass and play possible.

Screen Shot 2013-03-17 at 9.57.47 PM

The second Honduras goal best illustrates this bullet. Mistakes were make by Fabian Johnson (late to react), Geoff Cameron (poor angle), Omar Gonzalez (failure to stay goal side), yet if Maurice Edu steps up on the ball as Michael Bradley is trailing the play, the incising pass becomes much more difficult to make.

Note, the above poor closing-out begs the question of sacrificing offensive fire power in the midfield for defense, doesn’t it?

The midfield should and must be better on the ball on Friday and continually next Tuesday.

—-

» BRYAN RUIZ: Teasing centerbacks and forcing a decision at swing forward

Mario Martinez slips US leftback, February 6th in Honduras....

Mario Martinez slips the US leftback, February 6th in Honduras….

This might give you indigestion….and those RUIZ caps above are necessary.

Take a look at the photo above from February’s US loss.

The US has been pressured by Honduras and coughed up the marble. Roger Espinoza has found Seattle Sounder Mario Martinez on a horizontal run with a step on the trailing Fabian Johnson.

Geoff Cameron is in “MOMMY!” land, caught between pressuring the ball and possibly leaving an easy near post angle for Bengston to make a run and score OR staying at home with Bengston and having Martinez continue unabated into a more central shooting or distributing location.

Luckily–a few milliseconds after this screenshot–Martinez elects to shoot and his effort is not precise enough that Tim Howard makes a difficult, but not spectacular parry up-and-over the crossbar.

Mario Martinez is an excellent player and certainly no slouch when it comes to uncorking one, but BRYAN RUIZ, the Costa Rican national team captain and USMNT CONCACAF grim reaper in 2009, is by any review a step above him.

Click on the video below and move the slider to the 2:09 mark.

This is the soccer version of rubbernecking on the highway. This is Bryan Ruiz against the States in October 2009.

—–

Notice any similarities on the Martinez and Ruiz plays? Ruiz, of course, buries his take so far in the mesh that the nylon probably yelped and cursed Tim Howard (as Howard did at his defense.)

Costa Rica–as we’ve discusssed–has four capable strikers on hand for this match, but it is Fulham attacker Ruiz who should have the thickest dossier in Klinsmann’s iPad.

BRYAN RUIZ!

BRYAN RUIZ!

Ruiz is experienced.

He is strong and quick…

…and, perhaps worse for the Yanks, he punishes teams between the lines–precisely where the US’s defense has trouble tracking players.

Editor’s note: (If you want another example, more the slider left on that video up top to the 1:29 mark where a fit Oguchi Onyewu plays matador to Ruiz on the way to the first goal of the night. Also for the younger audience: “Between the lines” means, in this case, in between the US backline and the US midfield defensive positions on defense. When a player (Ruiz) plays between the lines, it forces a decision–or very good communication–by the defense on accounting for the player. Often in cases of a withdrawn striker or attacking midfielder (Ruiz, Juan Mata, David Silva) the centerback doesn’t want to leave a gaping hole in defense by coming out and marking the player while the midfield defender doesn’t want to step to the attacker and concede space centrally to an oncoming midfielder for a shot or open pass.)

Against an inexperienced back four, Ruiz will pose a nightmare and he’s also given the same free role that Dempsey has in the US system. He has license to go anywhere where he might smell a mismatch and he’s got a very good nose for finding opportunities on goal.

Beyond the US’s defense being focused on Ruiz’s movement, the very presence of Ruiz–who usually starts his evening on the right hashmark–may, indeed, force Klinsmann’s tactical hand.

In Klinsmann’s unbalanced formation, the US manager plays a “swing forward” on the left more than a true left midfielder.

That player–Eddie Johnson’s had the role in Honduras and against Guatemala back in October–is tasked with pushing high on that flank, even with the striker. That player is also tasked with covering over the leftback.

It’s a lot of ground to cover and, in an up-down gam,  it can lead to open chances on that flank by the opponent.

Eddie Johnson doesn’t have the best work rate and other players–most notably DaMarcus Beasley–have struggled with the discipline and effort this specific assignment demands.

Will Klinsmann’s stay true to the formation that he’s used almost exclusively in his term or will he recognize the danger of pushing high on the left with a dangerous Ruiz waiting to pounce? Will he protect what will be a novice US leftback?

» The width is really more about possession in this one.

The US has struggled mightily with getting width on the field. The scheme to push the fullbacks high failed the States miserably in January and thus the US midfielders–Jermaine Jones in particular–found themselves caught in possession.

Turnovers originating from this can, and usually are, very costly.

Part of the importance to get width is really less about creating attack and more about pushing the ball wide and out of harm’s way when playing the ball on the floor out of the back.

Mulitple times the US were exposed for chances as Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley had no forward options wide and attempted to play the ball vertically on the floor into the attack.

The good news for US fans is that the US tends to take and aggressive disposition at home (Guatemala in Kansas City, Jamaica in Pittsburgh most recently) and, if this transpires, it can keep its fullbacks high and pin their opponent back, creating options for the midfielders. An agressive disposition also reduces the defensive exposure newbie fullbacks will face.

The US need to focus on being aggressive and keeping its fullbacks in a more attacking position.

» Game, Set Piece, Match?

Costa Rica is strong in the air in attack, hellacious on defense.

The US hasn’t put home a header against a quality opponent since…. since… that’s really a good question. Anyone?

The US must be accountable in the box when Costa Rica has the ball wide on the flanks without pressure and conversely the US really needs to see if they can find Gonzalez–who has a clear height advantage on the CR 11–on attacking third restarts.

» And About That Attack…

The US has been downright shambolic offensively under Jurgen Klinsmann. Much of it can be blamed on Klinsmann’s desire to maintain defensive integrity even if it costs a high rate of goal opportunities.

Given that, it’s difficult to pinpoint a minor adjustment here to create attack.

Macro-wise, the US needs to effectively link from the midfield, inserting a player like Graham Zusi or Mix Diskerud centrally and more firepower on the flank. That, of course, won’t be solved directly in this one.

The US appears fully resolved to let Jermaine Jones be their playmaker….somewhere Felix Magath chuckles.

Additionally, the US appears to lack any plan when it’s in the attacking third as players like Dempsey, Bradley and Johnson who are so used to playing more on the counter sometimes push the tempo too quickly when the defense is sequestered deep and centrally–this was a major problem against Honduras and it led to odd-man rushes the other way.

"I really like when we play you up top buddy."

“I really like when we play you up top buddy.”

Probably the best thing the US can do here in short order is push Dempsey higher up the pitch and get Jozy Altidore or Herculez Gomezmoving wider near the hashmarks to draw out the Ticos centerbacks. It’s that space where Dempsey has been most effective this year for his club. (See this article here for more dialogue on Dempsey withdrawn positioning success for Spurs.). It’s also the space most likely to be left open by tardy CR midfielders.

» Miscellaneous

› Herculez Gomez should start in this one. The US will desperately need his work rate to slow the Costa Rican play out of the back on a change of possession. More on Gomez below.

› The US has not started a single game under Klinsmann in a double pivot deployment. In fact, Klinsmann so wanted to push the holder situation that he brought Kyle Beckerman’s national team career out of deep mothballs to start that very first August 2011 friendly against Mexico.

That said, Costa Rica’s attention to the flanks and the aformentioned work of Ruiz combined with a little tidbit of Jurgen Klinsmann in a podcast address in February (suggesting that he may use Jones and Bradley in the same deployment that Bob Bradley used to–without a holder that is) might signal that this is the game for it. Below is Klinsmann’s quote:

“It’s very crucial, the partnership between Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones. It’s really important that they over time develop a real fine-tuned understanding that when one goes forward and is attacking, the other has to secure him and stay back. Here and there they both end up in the opponent’s penalty area and you leave kind of a hole behind. Those are things we would love to work on in the near future, when we play both next to each other and maybe we play without a number six that secures them. It only works if one stays and the other goes, and this is very important. Hopefully now we have the time and more training sessions before a game to work on that, and I think in time if we develop that fine-tuned understanding between these two guys then we have a big plus.

(Shouldn’t Klinsmann have experimented with this just a little bit previously? You would think. And aren’t Bradley and Jones familiar with one another from playing there for a year under Bob Bradley? You would…think.)

A possible US deployment against Costa Rica.

A possible US deployment against Costa Rica.

11 At The Whistle

REMEMBER, THIS IS NOT WHO TSG WOULD INSERT, THIS IS WHO KLINSMANN MIGHT GO WITH AT THE OUTSET.

"Look into my eyes. I'm ready."

“Look into my eyes. I’m ready.”

G: Brad Guzan

The skinny: Guzan’s earned the right and he’s been terrific between the sticks for Aston Villa this year. Villa has went with a very inexperienced backline and changed formations–they started out the year with a 3-man backline and have since migrated to a 4-man–yet Guzan has stood tall.

Guzan has excelled with uncertainty and low offense production around him. He’s the right pick.

DEF: Tony Beltran, Omar Gonzalez, Geoff Cameron, Justin Morrow

The skinny: Must ado about moving Geoff Cameron out to the flank where he plays more frequently for his club and that may be the case.

However a good byproduct of Klinsmann’s defensive system is that it gives a lot of leeway for the fullbacks to get up the pitch–meaning defensively they are protected. Keeping the US’s central defense stable is more integral to defensive success then mixing and matching players in different positions. Enough of that will already happen through injury replacements.

As for the newcomers: Justin Morrow looked up to the task in January’s Canada friendly. He did make two mental mistakes that both led to Canada’s best chances. Morrow will need to be mistake free (duh), but he does possess the ability.

It’s not clear that Tony Beltran has the defensive wherewithal if he comes under duress frequently on Friday. However, Klinsmann likely chooses Beltran to mimic Cherundolo’s presence on the ball. In possession is where Beltran excels and where he’ll need to be sharp Friday.

CDM: Maurice Edu

CMF: Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley 

The skinny: If you’re surprised by these selections, then you’ve likely been reading Bleacher Report. The question in this one is, does Klinsmann & Co. stop outthinking himself and restore Michael Bradley to his right central role and push him forward as he plays at Roma.

It would only make sense.

Another question with the line-up above is: Just who is manning the right midfield defensive slot if/when the US is pushed back. Against Honduras, Jermaine Jones made sweeping runs out there from a more central location. It’s not ideal and watch for a breakdown on the right if the US finds themselves losing the run-of-play battle.

CAM: Clint Dempsey

The skinny: Dempsey’s role discussed above.

SFWD: Eddie Johnson

The skinny: Betting that Klinsmann plays Eddie Johnson here because of his sheer speed. There is a chance that either Brek Shea or DaMarcus Beasley get a runout, but as both were tried versus Mexico in the friendly last year, it’s a good bet that both were called in with that game–not this one–in mind.

STR: Herculez Gomez

The skinny: Count TSG squarely in the camp that Altidore is not a must on the team sheet. The burly forward is excellent when motivated and working off of a teammate drawing attention. For the States, Altidore is the player whose supposed to draw attention. The AZ Alkmaar forward lacks ideas when posting up and is somewhat uncreative when the is not already moving at a quick clip.

If the US is not going to push Dempsey high than US fans will continue to see Altidore spin his wheels in place up top.

Gomez becomes the call for Klinsmann as his work rate to open space, *but also because he can flip-flop with Eddie Johnson and present a different look. The US doesn’t want Altidore defending in the midfield. (Trust me.).

Fan Feedback:

(We asked for questions to be answered in this preview on Twitter. Here are some selected ones.)

Screen shot 2013-03-18 at 10.56.03 PM

TSG feedback: Without question it has to be Alvaro Saborio who is on form and neck-and-neck with Blas Perez for the CONCACAF qualifying Golden Boot. Beckerman likely does not play in this one, but Beltran may in fact start. If the US remains true to its defense, mistakes by Beltran won’t be castastrophic.

Screen shot 2013-03-18 at 10.59.12 PM

TSG Feedback: Taking the Ruiz/Campbell question here. Charles has the right question here. For the US, that role will fall squarely on Maurice Edu’s shoulders. Against Honduras, Danny Williams was beat up by Roger Espinoza’s checking to the ball. Here Edu’s head will need to be on a swivel. It’s a role that Edu played very well at Rangers.

The US also have to stay true to the axiom that, “one passe to beat you are better than none.” Meaning, always check to the dangerous ball handler in a dangerous situation, if you play the pass it’s only a single action that can beat you. The US has often erred and failed to come off it’s mark after the defense breaks down. Can’t do that in this one.

Screen shot 2013-03-18 at 11.03.43 PM

TSG Feedback: Apologies, but anyway you cut it a three-back set is a terrible option. One, the US hasn’t practiced. Two, none of the players inhabit the system with their club teams. Three, Costa Ricas forwards will punish the A gaps to use an American football term–if Omar Gonzalez is the center in that 3-back, he’ll be turned ad nauseum. Four, the US hasn’t shown an ability to possess the ball for more than 15 to 20-minute spurts at a time. I could go on….

Screen shot 2013-03-18 at 11.06.33 PM

TSG Feedback: Because of the confusion that often exists in the box for Costa Rica, I can see Omar Gonzalez’s netting his first for the senior side. Because of Costa Rica’s disorganization in midfielder on a change of possession, an advancing run of Michael Bradley (Russia, Scotland), something he excels at, could see the Roma midfielder burying an effort from beyond the box. I expect Bryan Ruiz to score at least one.

Screen shot 2013-03-18 at 11.41.41 PM

TSG Feedback: As commented above, I think Morrow has the chops. That said, against Canada two instances of dropping his man lead to opportunities.

I think your other options at leftback for the States are probably Brek Shea and DaMarcus Beasley. For Shea, he used to play midfielder so he understands at least defending near the touchline. If you’re looking for a way-out-there, wildcard I might suggest Matt Besler. He’s got the same cerebral game as Parkhurst and he’s got a decent over-the-top ball if he finds himself under duress. But that’s wacky, right?

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123 responses to this post.

  1. Damnit Bornstein

    Reply

  2. Posted by shuttlehead on 2013/03/19 at 5:25 AM

    Your overthinking it. Altidore is the best American playing right now (except for maybe Guzan), you get him on the field

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/03/19 at 7:37 AM

      Am I overthinking it? Or has the US lost the two games in qualifying when Altidore starts and won handily in the two most recent games when he didn’t.

      Are you sure?

      Reply

      • Posted by Shawn on 2013/03/19 at 11:07 AM

        I totally agree with Jozy not starting for Costa Rica. Maybe for Mexico as he will be motivated in that atmosphere and might remember Charlie D scoring that goal.

        Reply

      • Posted by dth on 2013/03/19 at 9:35 PM

        I think we’re underthinking it, if anything:

        Altidore should be put in a position to succeed with a better coach.

        But Klinsmann and Altidore are clearly non-performing together. Then again, everyone is. It’s an academic debate.

        Reply

        • Posted by Jared on 2013/03/20 at 6:44 AM

          You nailed it dth. Jozy is put in a bad position relative to his talent by the lack of wing play/support he receives. He then in turn performs poorly because it’s not his skill set and is criticized/dropped by Klinsi. He then goes back to Holland and bangs in goals for fun.

          Reply

          • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/03/20 at 10:03 AM

            Agreed.

            Reply

          • Posted by mbw on 2013/03/21 at 12:55 PM

            Not to harp on the obvious, but the two best American wingers are, respectively, playing left back and not on the team at all.

            Jozy is a shadow of himself without Donovan in the lineup. Which is a tragedy, because he’s a much better player now than he was when Donovan stepped out after Gold Cup 2011.

            Reply

  3. Posted by Milad on 2013/03/19 at 6:16 AM

    Felix Magath*

    I dont really see where the creativity is gonna come from if weve got Bradley playing deep and responsible for covering wide, as he would be in that diamond-shaped midfield. An out-of-form Dempsey may not do so well as the fulcrum of the attack…Id like to see Bradley given the CAM role after his great performances there with Roma but we may not have the CM depth to do so

    Reply

  4. Posted by Chazcar2 on 2013/03/19 at 7:06 AM

    As a person who posts the three man backline formations, I agree that they are not an option for this game. For exactly the reasons posted. It takes time and understanding to run a three man backline properly. It also takes the exact right personnel.

    Part of why I keep thinking of it for the US team is because of the personnel. Cameron and Parkhurst are both ideal outside backs for me. Neither really able to be a true fullback, both have good ball skills and can play centerback. Also Besler looks to have a similar capability. When Ream was still in the picture I felt he would make a good outside back. Bocanegra as well.

    We do still lack a Dominant center of a back three, But Gonzalez could be that. Or to play it differently maybe Edu as a sweeper type role.

    Fabian Johnson and Edgar Castillo I see as good Wingback options. Chandler as well. These are players would sometimes play in the midfield, sometimes at fullback for their club. Maybe Shea too.

    The other part of the three-man backline success is a real commitment to pressing and possession. Part of my desire to see it used in a friendly is the idea I that it could be used to break the US from a 4-4-2 defend and counter strategy, which is a claimed goal of Coaches and fans. Sure we may get burned using it, but if it makes our baseline 4-4-2 better then try it. Its kind of like forcing a formation on the players to ensure they space correctly. After some experience with it they will naturally start to look for that spacing even if you are lined up differently.

    Think:

    —Dempsey—-Altidore—-Zusi—
    Johnson-Jones-Bradley-Chandler
    —-Cameron–Edu–Gonzalez—

    Evolving to

    ——————Altidore———————–
    –Dempsey—————————–Zusi—
    ———–Jones————-Bradley———-
    ———————-Edu————————
    Johnson–Cameron-Gonzalez–Chandler

    All that said for Costa Rica on friday
    ——————Altidore——————–
    –Jones——–Dempsey———-Zusi–
    ————Bradley—-Edu—————–
    Cameron–Besler–Gonzalez—–Beltran

    Notes: Switch from unbalanced left to unbalanced right. Cameron tracks Ruiz at all times. Besler and Gonzalez just had all of January together, and both are playing in the center for club, let go with that. Beltran is an RSL player so is used to Elevation he Tracks the opposing fullback with Zusi looking to get in behind. Gomez is so good off the bench I keep there as an option for tired Jozy. Beasley as an option for Jones.

    Sorry for the long comment.

    Reply

    • Do you think Cameron can stay w/ Ruiz?

      Good post.

      Reply

      • Posted by Chazcar2 on 2013/03/19 at 8:54 AM

        Cameron is pretty quick and I don’t think Ruiz is a speed guy. He is a tricky guy to follow across the zones because of his intellegent movement. Cameron to man mark him may be the best plan. Alternatively you could use Edu or whatever CDM, but I think its a harder role for someone coming back from the midfield. It real problem would be to ensure someone doesn’t exploit the space behind Cameron when he follows Ruiz across the formation. But from the preview the Right Side fullback from Costa Rica isn’t likely to do that. Keep Edu and Bradley matched on the Two attacking Mids and Jones wandering the Left “wing” as back up.

        I can see Cameron acting as a specialist in this game. Similar to how Phil Jones Marked out Ronaldo in the first league of the Real-ManU Champions league tie. While on offense he won’t be flying down the wing like a fullback I think he can effectively manage possession with Jones in front of him.

        Reply

        • Posted by KickinNames... on 2013/03/19 at 9:26 AM

          Great point. Cutting off the supply is probably your best defensive option as Ruiz is definitely the focal point of their attack. It’s a novel defensive tactic that may best point up the managerial quality and resume gap between Klinsi and say…Fergie.

          In short, I think we’re F-ed here. I really do. Not because I don’t support our MNT or US soccer of any of that….I think that the manager does not have the chops or humility to recognize what he has and organize the squad accordingly. I gave him almost 2 yrs and there is nothing in his history or the makeup of this squad that gives me reason to think otherwise.
          I’ll watch, root and try to drum up hope but….

          Reply

  5. Posted by Swanny on 2013/03/19 at 8:10 AM

    First let me start off by saying, F__ing Conor Casey. Also, the defense may be in “shambles”, but the offense actually worries me more than anything. If the midfield plays with energy, there shouldn’t be a ton of pressure on the defense at home, but we’ve been so poor offensively. I love Gomez, but he hardly contributes to the attack, and although I think Jozy is a better player than him, he doesn’t really contribute either.

    I won’t go into too long of a spiel, but essentially are lack of offense comes down to system. Yes, we don’t have Donovan, and yes, we may not have the most creative players in the world, but we still have attacking talent. First off, we need 2 strikers. Not one in the hole and one up top, or two “wingers” and one up top, but two out-and-out strikers. 4-4-2 would be fine, but with the talent we have (or lack), Klinsmann has to realize the only way to involve Altidore and get the best out of him in this team is to give him a partner. Personally, I’d like it to be EJ and Altidore up top, but I’d take Gomez as well just for the work-rate (and his Twitter activity, of course). I’ll stop there, but like Lalas was saying, we need to realize what this team is and isn’t before we are going to succeed.

    Reply

    • Posted by KickinNames... on 2013/03/19 at 9:16 AM

      spot on. but…..and a big old but….is that based on what we’ve seen so far we have almost no reason to expect or hope that Klinsi has the tactical capability to recognize what this team is and game plan for it. We are still wondering and experimenting with back 4 combos here in the final qualifying stages after nearly 2 yrs on the job and untold opportunities to have Gonzales Cameron etc serve time in the necessary roles.
      His tactics are too often speculative and off note. And a squad that is as talent challenged as this cannot afford to go into game with decided tactical disadvantage.

      And really how bad are things when The Ginger Cringer is making the most sense on any subject?)))

      And for the record, Donovan is a Capital P—- and D—! I’ve been holding that in for a while.

      Reply

    • Posted by JW on 2013/03/19 at 9:27 AM

      I just wonder, sometimes, if a flat-ish 4 of Shea-Jones-Bradley-Deuce behind Gomez-Altidore wouldn’t be more effective and more organized. In this match you risk turnovers in the middle (3v2), but in return should run rampant over the CR wing with two strong aerial forwards waiting for service – a shootout I like our chances in. And I trust Bradley-Jones to keep things tidy. Maybe you put Dempsey in the middle with Shea/EJ/Beas and Zusi out wide with Gomez/Altidore up top. For the love of all things sugary, if we don’t put out a formation that can punish the often-questionable positioning of the CR wingbacks, then I’m all for sacking Klinsmann.

      Reply

      • Posted by KickinNames... on 2013/03/19 at 9:35 AM

        That is exactly what needs to happen here. Don’t spend your tactical options covering your own weaknesses, use them to exploit your opponent’s.
        This is why we keep coming back here BTW. I’d love to see a bit more expansive coverage of BPL and other global weekend action but this site is so damn enjoyable just because of this level of thoughtful and engaged commentary when the Yanks are in action.

        Great review Matt and thanks again for the work in putting this site together. And thanks to the TSG community for the rational and solid feedback loop.

        Reply

    • Posted by jb on 2013/03/19 at 11:09 AM

      Wow. As if I wasn’t already nervous about Friday. Thanks for posting the link. And great review above!

      Reply

      • Posted by CJ on 2013/03/19 at 11:23 AM

        That article begins to explain in a lot of ways what we already see on the field. Thanks for the link.

        It seemed like our squad, under BB, had more of a long term understanding and cohesiveness. With this squad under JK, I don’t see it. Maybe it’s as simple as not having Landon Donovan. I mean our team with him is soooooooo much better. Any time our B squad played while he was active, he was our most missed player on the pitch.

        Maybe it’s more than that, maybe it is his tactical abilities as a coach are limited. That should be a simple fix thought shouldn’t it? Just bring in an assistant who is strong in that area, no?

        Reply

        • Posted by Chazcar2 on 2013/03/19 at 11:42 AM

          This article brings up a conversation I had when Klinsman was hired. He should be technical director of US Soccer, not head coach. Challenging players and conventions and stereotypes are all technical director issues. Head coach should be about scouting players, running camps, and creating line-ups. Klinsmann is missing to key part to his plan.

          National team camps should be all about tactics for the next game and evaluating (not improving) fitness of players. These players are together so little everything needs to be built around improving the team chemistry and tactical understanding. Especially a team like the US where few players even play in the same club side. Technique and fitness drills are a waste of time. Yes, some classes and notes about how to eat, recover, and improve on your own should be included but not at the expense of knowing exactly how you are going to play and where.

          It sounds to me like Klinsmann is the classic striker coach. Let me have anarchy. Harry Redknapp style.

          Reply

          • Posted by Union on 2013/03/19 at 2:56 PM

            I have tons of thoughts on this. Kind of surprised it hasn’t generated more of a reaction on this site.

            First off – I agree that JK’s philosophy as head coach is very out of sync with how most national teams operate. When you only have 6-8 weeks at most with a group of guys (more or less weeks depending on the year), concentrating on philosophy/fitness instead of tactics is crazy.

            HOWEVER, that is who JK is. That is who he has always been. And when Sunil hired him, you can bet your house on the fact that JK directly said to Sunil that this is who he was. He was hired (and knows he was hired) to change the culture of US Soccer. I have no idea if he is doing that. I have no idea if he is influencing the entire US Soccer program, or if his influence extends very little beyond the US senior team. But his hire was in a way, designed to shake things up. And thus, this type of reaction from certain players in unsurprising.

            NOW – that all being said, what worries me about that article has nothing to do with the player reactions. It has nothing to do with players being upset over Boca on the bench or German Americans being seen as superior. It has to do with the fact that tactically speaking…Jurgen doesn’t seem to know what the hell he is doing with the players he has. And no matter how important his ideals are to the development of US soccer, not qualifying for the WC would be a set back of epic proportions. And while Lahm’s book is designed to sell copies, you do have to take into account that the Martin Vasquez/Jurgen combo has been a failure everywhere its gone. Jurgen needs a tactician on his staff and its a shame he doesn’t realize it.

            All that being said – a few things worth remembering. 1) A European coach taking over the US program was always going to get a testy reaction from US players, especially a coach with as much self-regard and notoriety as Jurgen. US players innately have a huge chip on their shoulders, they are a very cliquey group with a “us against the world” type mentality. And I get it. But my point is – having a famous, incredibly successful, world renowned player become coach and tell them they all have to change the way they operate. I mean. That was never going to be a smooth transition.

            All in all – what worries me most is Jurgen’s ability to pick the right team to get us through qualifying.

            Reply

            • “First off – I agree that JK’s philosophy as head coach is very out of sync with how most national teams operate. When you only have 6-8 weeks at most with a group of guys (more or less weeks depending on the year), concentrating on philosophy/fitness instead of tactics is crazy.”

              Union,

              With all due respect, national teams have so little time together. In the case of the US come the players come from many different teams and systems, being so spread out. You have the MLS guys, the Euros and the Mexico guys.

              If you look at a lot of the better countries they tend to have players who play in the same country, sometimes on the same team and many in similar systems, the extreme example of oourse, being Spain.

              The USMNT suffers by comparison. Tactics and formations in that case then need to be fairly rudimentary.

    • Posted by Crow on 2013/03/19 at 11:36 AM

      Its a good read but I question the timing of the publishing. I can see this having a demoralizing effect to the team and fanbase just days before two hugely critical games- facing all types of adversity. I’d rather this had been published later next week no matter the result of the next two games. Very disappointed.

      Reply

      • Posted by Chazcar2 on 2013/03/19 at 11:45 AM

        I see your point, but its best to get it out before the game, so that people don’t think its all sour grapes from the results and hindsight.

        Reply

        • If/when usmnt takes 4 pts between the two games, there is no story. He had to publish now, while honest fair questions are flying. He did what a reporter does as far as I’m concerned.

          Reply

          • Posted by Crow on 2013/03/19 at 12:49 PM

            Don’t get me wrong- I think this article is fantastic. It seems to be very well researched and very fair. It is much better written and insightful than anything I’ve read on ESPN or elsewhere in a long while. I’m not trying to hide my head in the sand- some of these issues seem evident to even a causal fan. I had mixed feelings on Bob Bradley and wanted Klinsmann hired for the longest time, but I realized that he would actually be better off in a “director” role and was worried when Vazquez was hired as the assistant or “X and O’s guy”.

            I’m glad greater scrutiny is being brought to US soccer- it will help it grow and progress in the long term. However, I still question the timing of this article and ask what it accomplishes? How does this help the team or the fanbase in the short term? It seems like it only serves as a distraction or sows more disunity just before the two most important games of the cycle. If the USA comes away with 0 pts or 1, its going to be very stressful making the World Cup, and failing to qualify could cause serious damage to the growth of the sport in the country.

            TSG on Twitter called out anyone with my sentiment towards the timing of this article… the comments above indicate that the story is more “relevant” now because public opinion could change based off the results of the next two games. I don’t believe the author is cynically trying to capitalize by publishing the article now, but still… why not publish this next week? If the issues are indeed valid, which I believe they are- they won’t be magically fixed by even a maximum of 6 points over the next two games. If the USA wins at Azteca with this weakened crew, does it suddenly make Klinsmann a master tactician? No. Does it suddenly win confidence and respect in the locker room and public opion? Maybe a little. Does it fix training/preparation problems? No. So the article is still valid after the weekend.

            Maybe I’m over blowing this- I probably would have attended both games even if this article was published a month ago- although I might have given second thought to traveling to Azteca due to the expense and trouble to watch a “dysfunctional” team. The team would probably feel the same if this was published or not.

            As for some of the topics in the article itself:

            -Bocanegra needs to realize that his end was coming and choosing to play for Rangers and Racing Santander sure didn’t help things. As well as his mediocre performances during his last few CAPS. Fans were begging for a new defense, but then go off the deep end after the new guard got shredded in Honduras. You can’t have it both ways. Bocanegra as a true leader, should have done his part in the locker room to support the decisions and qualm everyone’s uneasiness. I don’t know what happened, but the article makes it sound like he wasn’t proactive in this regard, and I wonder if that’s why he’s left off the roster entirely now.

            -Guys like Chandler and even Donovan need an ultimatum and need to make up their mind. They seem to be the root cause of the “cancer” affecting the team.

            - Klinsmann seriously needs to consider a change with his tactical acumen and needs to get some sort of help whether through a new assistant or some other means. I’m so frustrated by coaches I’ve respected (Bradley, Andy Reid in football) being too stubborn to correct their biggest weaknesses. Its obvious that JK has issues with tactical planning- fix them.

            - The team needs to get over itself as a whole and needs to realize that (I believe) Klinsmann is right about them not wanting to get out of their “comfort zones” in general.

            Reply

            • Posted by KickinNames... on 2013/03/19 at 3:26 PM

              so by your reasoning it’s the journalist job to first consider how his article will affect the feelings of the fan base prior to the big game? All due respect but that’s a pretty naive premise. He doesn’t write for USSF.

              It’s a pretty compelling picture of what many fans have been seeing and commenting on for quite a while now. Something isn’t right with this team and something is definitely not right with Klinsi’s approach to getting them to play their best.
              Getting over itself is the last thing this squad should be tasked with, You make the point that his tactics are so suspect that he should be moved out of that role but that his “vision” for the squad should be accepted and not questioned by them while their being tactically mismanaged. This makes no sense.

            • Posted by Crow on 2013/03/19 at 4:08 PM

              No, its not the journalists job to consider the feelings of the fan base or the team. Its their job to get page views, and I think the timing of the publishing of this article achieves that, but doesn’t help “American soccer” in the short term. I’d like to hope that the author would like to see soccer grow in the country, and I think while the content is very helpful the timing is potentially damaging to the cause. As a fan who wants to see the team succeed, that is why I’m upset.

              How does it make no sense that Klinsmann’s “vision” as a whole is correct and he has good ideas to implement and is a good motivator, while his tactical acumen is his weakness? I believe he should be the coach through the cycle, no matter what happens. But I do believe he should get some tactical advice. If the team was to lose the next few games and is on life support to qualify- maybe in an emergency if it seemed the locker room was completely lost, you bring in an interim coach to handle the X’s and O’s and move Klinsmann to a director role. It’s getting a bit late for that, though.

              As for the team “getting over itself”- some of the quotes were laughable from the team- very entitled and immature. These are men, professionals, who are playing for the National Team. Grow up and do your job even if the conditions aren’t ideal. Klinsmann is all to blame now? What were the problems during the last cycle when the team was grossly underachieving and Bradley nearly got fired? It wasn’t completely Bradley’s fault. Every coach has their faults and players still need to do their job and have a good attitude- especially for the National Team. I loved the illustration somebody used the other day about the National Team reminding them of a rebellious, immature teenager that they still love. That’s how I feel.

              As for the quotes saying ‘there is no direction’, ‘nobody knows what to do’- if that is true that is very concerning. I find it implausible to believe that is really the case, though. If Klinsmann is truly that bad planning tactically, there is no way he should have ever been hired for any of the jobs he has held.

            • Posted by Union on 2013/03/19 at 5:51 PM

              Its crazy to think that in this situation, Strauss is obligated into helping out the team. This type of article is incredibly common in soccer countries, where national teams are under much more scrutiny than ours.

              Do I think its groundbreaking? No. Strauss is also the guy who claimed no German Americans were going to be called into camp.

              Also – to all those who say that this backs up what we’ve been thinking. You simply cannot put on this all on JK. You have to also put this on the US players who have underperformed. Deflecting on the coach is fair up to a point, but it doesn’t explain why Gonzalez/Cameron didn’t clear the ball off the line in the Honduras game. It doesn’t explain why the US can’t score goals. It doesn’t explain why the US had one of its best seasons in terms of record, yet can’t step up and win a meaningful game against weak CONCACAF opponents.

              The players need to be held accountable.

            • Posted by Jared on 2013/03/20 at 7:18 AM

              Strauss isn’t writing for Pravda. I think it’s a good sign that our soccer media is finally starting to be critical. For too long they have just been cheerleaders.

              I am not surprised at all to see that some of our players are bothered by the German Americans. Those guys strolled in and took starting positions with ease, most of them deserved as it’s pretty clear that Chandler, Johnson and Jones are better than the American bred alternatives based on their club performance. At this point, not sure that’s the case for the national team though. I’m sure it also didn’t help that Chandler was allowed to do what he did. It will be interesting to see what happens when Klinsi names Jones as captain (which I think he will) instead of MB90 (which I think most people think is the right choice).

              Union, the players do bear responsibility but I think the lack of scoring and the poor defense in Honduras are on the coach. In order to score goals there needs to be a way of creating an attack. A bizarre formation that has 3 central/defensive mids (MB90, Jones, Edu/Williams) does not lend itself to goal scoring. On the defensive side in Honduras, it’s tough to imagine most competent coaches deciding that a hostile environment is a good time to trot out a back 4 that has never played together including at least one player who doesn’t have the best mastery of English.

              The players that do need to step it up are pretty obvious, guys like Jones are certainly not performing even close to the level that they do on a regular basis for their clubs. He is a glaring example to me of a player that should be so much better for the US.

            • Posted by t on 2013/03/20 at 7:49 AM

              Excellent,well thought out post. BRAVO. We hired the wrong German.

              Thought for the day: if in CONCACAF U20 Championship game if you had both teams playing in matching kits other then our GK, Packmen and the tall black defender (if I missed someone let it slide because it is beside the point) the teams would have been virtually indistinguishable. That-to me- is where the real future of U.S. soccer lies in terms of consistent success. Not saying all our players must be of Latin American Descent but we truly need to look like the UN out there and not a UN who plays on pampered traveling teams with rich, mostly white parents wearing docksider’s and chinos and driving SUV’s all over because we can afford it.There are a significant minority of well heeled Latin and black kids in the suburban world of traveling club football as well.

              PS- Although I do not wear chinos or drive an SUV I most definitely fit into the category and my son gets killed in the pick up games at .with the Latin kids in Homestead because the coaches have stripped every bit of individualism,spirit and fun out of his game and made him a drone but at least he is happy.

              Did you see that pass by Totti last week? If my son had tried that he would never get a sniff of playing time for a month if he failed. And he is way too nervous to ever to try knowing what will happen if he indeed fails.

    • Posted by mbw on 2013/03/19 at 1:04 PM

      A lot of this sounds symptomatic of the fact that the team still hasn’t found its identity. Injuries notwithstanding, the US was a very stable side ca. 2008-2010: some combination of veterans was going to man the defense; the midfielders were going to spray the ball out to Donovan, who was going to run at the defense and pick out the right pass; Michael Bradley was going to crash the box with a late run. For a variety of reasons, the side had to be rebuilt after the 2011 Gold Cup, and for a variety of reasons, it still hasn’t quite happened. As a consequence, the sum is now much less than the whole of the parts. The players are frustrated. Why wouldn’t they be?

      As the person in charge of rebuilding the team, Klinsmann bears some of the blame. His biggest mistake, in my reading of Straus’s piece, was in hiring Vasquez rather than a tactician who could help mold the team for the post-Donovan era – someone who understands the player pool, speaks the US soccer idiom, and has a sense of how the pieces might be assembled. It’s not as if suitable tactical ideas aren’t being generated domestically: Peter Vermes’s high-pressure 4-3-3 and Dom Kinnear’s Houston side come to mind as possible templates for the national team.

      Last thing: Timing makes a difference. Straus (probably) conducted these interviews after the Honduras game, which helps to explain the generally pessimistic tone of the comments and the skeptical attitude toward the German Americans in particular. A win on Friday won’t solve the underlying issues, but it will alleviate the symptoms somewhat.

      Reply

      • Posted by s44 on 2013/03/19 at 5:22 PM

        Excellent comment all around. I wonder if this isn’t also part of Donovan’s dissatisfaction: Klinsmann hasn’t presented him with a coherent role yet.

        I just hope that JK has already decided whether Cameron is playing inside or outside, and is actually practicing the starting CB pair together for a change.

        Reply

  6. Posted by matthewsf on 2013/03/19 at 10:16 AM

    How good (read: “bad”) is Harkes’ commentary on that video above.

    Reply

    • Posted by Crow on 2013/03/19 at 11:39 AM

      Where is Harkes’ commentary?? Would love to see.

      Reply

    • Posted by bob on 2013/03/19 at 9:43 PM

      hey dork, maybe you did not notice, but captain bocanegra set the record straight. you idiots here at TSG have been off the mark ever since the days you labelled him coach sweatpants. which is pretty much from the start, now you suck up to michael bradley like a little piss ant.

      in case you did not know this, john harkes is one of our great all time players, but we have to listen to you and your lame infatuation with kyle martino. its weak and this whole shinninanigans that is this site is weak. wake up you fing idiots. YOU ARE THE PROBLEM!!!!

      Reply

      • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/03/19 at 9:50 PM

        Not sure how this comment got approved, but … awesome.

        Great rant.
        I thank you for reading this terrible site and taking the time to comment.

        Thanks on John Harkes as well. For the record, I don’t like John Terry either and they did just about the same thing to their teammates.

        But hey, I’m the problem obviously. Because I play on the field and manage the team in some capacity.

        Carry on and please come back and read the site.

        However, if you can’t be objective with your commentary in a non-personal way, I’m going to have to chuck it in the spam section.

        I can only imagine how frustrated you feel that TSG is ruining your soccer experience.

        Reply

        • Posted by bob on 2013/03/19 at 10:11 PM

          john terry is british, and though harkes likes to talk with a jersey/ cockney accent, he is still american, and one of our best, and how do you know harkes didnt sleep with wynalda also. what, because a third party decided to go tattle on his captain. and im sure roy weigerle bleeds red white and blue.

          no, you are an idiot trying to play smart and you syracuse broadcasting crew, are nit wits. the both of you.

          Reply

          • Posted by bob on 2013/03/19 at 10:14 PM

            and it will not have been the first time you have spammed me, but i promise, it is the last.

            Reply

          • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/03/19 at 10:17 PM

            Syracuse broadcasting crew! Don’t you dare mock the hallowed halls of Koppel, Stockton, Costas, Tirico & Marv Albert!

            Actually, you can mock Marv Albert.

            I think it’s rather odd that Steve Sampson and Eric Wynalda can both come out and say Harkes slept with Wynalda’s wife and you think it’s a conspiracy, but hey…

            It’s “Roy Wegerle” by the way.

            John Terry is British? Thank you.

            Reply

            • Posted by CJ on 2013/03/21 at 9:36 AM

              I’m pretty sure he was just trolling for the attention LOL that was one of my favorite comment threads read here.

  7. Reblogged this on Earth Sports News and commented:
    Hm.

    Reply

  8. Posted by Tom Patton on 2013/03/19 at 12:17 PM

    I watched Zusi for the 1st time in a full MLS game last week. He has a great deal of hustle, energy and does deliver a nice free kick. However, his energy is often wasted on useless efforts. That being said he must RAISE HIS GAME to be effective at the international level. The question is can he?
    As for Boca- I still would prefer an “out of form” Boca working with Guzan to marshal the back line in terms of positioning and calming the youngsters. JK’s love of youth is admirable but we need points and seasoned mix.
    By the way- Edu is not getting many minutes in Turkey either. There are a lot of players on this squad not getting full minutes in Europe. So the thing about Boca is a power play of some sort by the “master shrink” in my opinion. This is where JK fails the test as a manager: too many head games combined with tactically inferior planning.

    Face it- we are not Germany and we we are light years from having their depth and youth. Every academy at every club in top flight German futbol is better then our whole collective organizations combined. We hired the wrong German. (of course the other already has a far superior job)

    Reply

    • Posted by mbw on 2013/03/19 at 12:33 PM

      Where are you getting this about Edu? I thought he’d played the vast majority of his team’s minutes since arriving — eight league starts, one sub appearance, two 90-minute runs in the domestic cup. . . .

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      • Posted by Tom Patton on 2013/03/19 at 12:58 PM

        I looked it up ESPN SOCCERNET last weekend.

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        • Posted by Ufficio on 2013/03/19 at 1:13 PM

          ESPN led you astray, then. He’s played basically every minute for Bursaspor, save a game he missed for a (totally bogus) red card suspension.

          Reply

    • Posted by JGD on 2013/03/19 at 1:05 PM

      I’m not sure if you can properly assess Zusi having just admitted that you’ve only seen him play once. SKC has looked rusty so far this season, with Zusi being the lone bright spot.

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      • Posted by Tom Patton on 2013/03/19 at 1:11 PM

        That is an excellent point. I hope you are right and I am wrong.
        Sincerely, Tom Patton

        Reply

  9. Posted by JGD on 2013/03/19 at 12:50 PM

    Well, heck if I know what we should do. As I mentioned in the other post, any formation we choose is bound to leave a hole somewhere (i.e. strengthen one position at the expense of another).

    What I’d like to see:

    ———————-Boyd——————–
    ——————-Gomez——————–
    Johnson——————————–Zusi
    ————Bradley——–Edu————–
    Morrow——————————Beltran
    ————Gonzalez—Cameron———-
    ———————Guzan——————–

    I’d like to see Boyd given the start, as he’s the most physical forward on the roster and best at hold-up play. And I have a feeling we’re gonna be playing a lot of hoofball in this game. Despite scoring goals by the boatload for AZ, Altidore will do squat unless he receives service at his feet all game. Which simply isn’t going to happen against Costa Rica. Dempsey has been rusty for Spurs and I don’t think he should start this game. And, as much as it pains me to say it, he really limits the type of formation we can play. Edu has looked pretty good for Bursaspor and I’m not confident that Jones could make it through this match without killing someone. Though I’m not a fan of Beltran, TSG seems to be confident in his ability going forward, so I’ll defer on that one.

    What I think we’ll see:

    ——————-Altidore——————–
    Johnson———————————Zusi
    ——————Dempsey——————-
    ————Bradley——-Jones————-
    Morrow——————————-Beltran
    ————Gonzalez—Cameron———–
    ———————Guzan——————–

    Your guess is as good as mine. Don’t tear me apart too hard.

    Reply

    • Posted by Tom Patton on 2013/03/19 at 12:56 PM

      Dear JGD

      How can anyone tear anyone apart. We are in uncharted waters and everything anyone says, including me, hell-especially me, is just a shot in the dark. About the only guy I feel there is no room for debate about is Guzan!!!!!

      Reply

      • Posted by JGD on 2013/03/19 at 1:01 PM

        The “on-the-fence” player I feel most strongly about is Gomez. He simply must start this game. No one else offers the same work rate, which will be crucial for this game. Most complete forward on the roster, imo.

        And I just really don’t want to see Jones. He’s a walking suspension waiting to happen. Edu and Bradley have, in the past, formed a competent duo in central midfield. I’d even prefer Beckerman and his composure on the ball to Jones, especially if we’re primarily looking to keep possession.

        Reply

        • Posted by Tom Patton on 2013/03/19 at 1:08 PM

          Agree about Jones and the suspension waiting to happen comment. There is only one thing that differentiates him from the rest of midfielders: he is capable of moments of shear brilliance. Without him the score would have been 2 nil in Honduras. He plays champions League football. And when not suspended for outlandish behavior or late tackles he plays every game for a very good team in a top league- maybe the top league top to bottom-in Europe. That is what makes his crazy head worth the risk.

          Reply

  10. Posted by matthewsf on 2013/03/19 at 1:12 PM

    I’ll have some fun with you guys.

    Here’s what I would do, all things being equal, current roster selection and time to train.

    I look at this game very much like Bob Bradley looked at Jamaica last Gold Cup.

    You’ve got three really vicious attackers Costa Rica and they can clearly turn my defensive line into swiss cheese.

    You also have little steel in the midfield and need to get those guys service. And, oh yes, I have Omar Gonzalez in the back who is at least Saborio’s equal on the longball.

    If I’m States, I play what works as a 4-4-1-1.

    I clog the midfield right below the halfline and if you’re going to lob a cross in I have Cameron, Gonzalez and a very tough in the air Guzan.

    I play the following defensive shape:

    Guzan
    Beltran – Gonzalez – Cameron – Morrow
    Zusi – Michael Bradley – Edu – Shea if healthy
    -Dempsey -
    Jozy Altidore

    I play the following attacking shape.

    Gonzo – Cameron
    Beltran – Edu – Morrow
    Bradley
    Zusi — Dempsey
    Shea
    Jozy -

    (not sure that will come through)

    I really don’t like that right flank look, but Klinsmann you’ve given me 0 options here.

    What I won’t do and WHAT YOU BETTER NOT TO DO LIKE YOU DID KLINSMANN, is assign Jermaine Jones over the right flank to play catch-up defending. (should have been in the preview this) in a 4-3-3. That’s asinine.

    I’ve got cover guys over the flanks and I’ve got Zusi playing a familiar role to his club and lofting in crosses for the back post for Shea, Demps, etc.

    If I send Morrow on an overlap, I have Shea to track back and Edu to cover on that side.

    I’ve got Jozy dragging at least one defender with him, preferably to the right, because Dempsey likes incutting from the left hash.

    My negative beyond inexperience is that I need Dempsey to do defensive work at the top central of the MF. If that’s not working, I sacrifice Shea for Kljestan and move Kljestan into a more pressing central role where Dempsey is above.

    Dempsey becomes a LM incutting to take players with him.

    I could also start with that formation.

    Guzan
    Beltran – Gonzalez – Cameron – Morrow
    Zusi – Michael Bradley – Edu/Kljestan – Dempsey
    -Kljestan/Edu/(Jones) -
    Jozy Altidore

    I could also start Jones up top as well where he can run on to a ball and pressure forward. I value MB too much in possession and just above the backline that the “1″ advanced destroying midfield role–while exactly what he plays at Roma–is not where I need him here.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/03/19 at 1:13 PM

      You guys know I’m a homer for Herc Gomez, but I need to Jozy to occupy defenders deep and pull them and he’s a little better than Jozy here.

      But it hurts not to start him. :>

      Reply

      • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/03/19 at 1:20 PM

        I’m referring to this Jamaican game plan — although I keep my midfield “5″ more narrow.

        http://www.zonalmarking.net/2011/06/19/united-states-2-0-jamaica-gold-cup/

        Reply

      • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/03/19 at 1:21 PM

        BTW — also thought that Agudelo would be absolutely perfect for these games. Not sure why he wasn’t called in.

        Reply

        • Posted by Crow on 2013/03/19 at 1:52 PM

          I completely agree. I was actually pretty “happy” with the roster considering all of the injuries, etc but I thought Agudelo should have definitely been called in. I still think even currently he is the most “complete” forward and I like the way he has looked early in the season.

          Reply

      • Posted by Chazcar2 on 2013/03/19 at 1:28 PM

        To me you can’t bring Jozy off the bench. Its just not his game. He isn’t going to spark the team with his play. Gomez, however, can and does bring that spark off the bench. Best reason to not start Gomez for me.

        Reply

    • Posted by JGD on 2013/03/19 at 1:23 PM

      My frustration with Dempsey is that he really is limited. He’s not an outside player by any stretch of the imagination. He’s also not a striker. And it sucks that he is our biggest weapon, because we often have to build our formation around him, shoe-horning players in to positions they might not normally play. And I don’t think he has the motor as somebody like Gomez, who I opted to start in my mock roster above.

      But he really must be accounted for by the opposition, which makes him so dangerous. And here is only one other player I’d rather have on the field in a do-or-die situation than Dempsey (and I’m not confident we’ll be able to count on that guy in the future).

      Reply

      • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/03/19 at 1:34 PM

        Well he scored more for Fulham in his career at outside mid, but it was because he drifted in.

        But I agree, I think he plays his best as a withdrawn striker. He can play the target now and he’s very very good at running the channels.

        Johan Cruyffism here: Cruyff states that when a player has the ball he wants his teammates running away from him, not checking to him. That way the player–if good–can beat a 1v1 situation instead of 1v2.

        One of Dempseys best attributes is actually–imo–”knowing when and how to run away from the play”

        I don’t think as Jonathan Wilson says it was keeping a highline at Spurs that allowed Gareth Bale to flourish as a central player. I think it was the injury to Emanuel Adebayor and Jermaine Defoe (more Adebayor).

        With Dempsey in the #9 role, the team has gone on a run, because Dempsey knows when to get the f out of the way when Bale is coming.

        Reply

        • Posted by JGD on 2013/03/19 at 1:48 PM

          I think the best way to describe Dempsey is “WINO”: winger-in-name-only (he’s never really been accused of being a winger, but WINO works better than the alternatives).

          Great post. I especially agree with the point about Spurs and the emergence of Bale. Dempsey has gone from an unquestionably key player at Fulham to an unsung hero at Tottenham. Doesn’t get the credit he deserves, I don’t believe.

          Reply

          • Posted by dth on 2013/03/20 at 1:03 PM

            Dempsey and Donovan are in their own ways prototypical U.S. players — odd, idiosyncratic attackers with no specific “best” position. See Pontius and Villarreal for other examples.

            Reply

  11. Posted by Crow on 2013/03/19 at 1:54 PM

    Somewhat random- but did the Zakuani to Johnson goal in the Timbers/Sounders game remind anyone of the Beasley to Dempsey 2006 WC Ghana Goal? Maybe Beasley and Dempsey or Beasley and Johnson can hook up for a similar goal at Azteca.

    Another random thought- time goes so fast- it seems the other day that we were just complaining about the USA/Mexico Azteca game being on mun2.

    Reply

  12. Remember when Edu played centerback against Mexico? With Beckerman in front of the backline? Actually, this roster, along with the questions about a makeshift backline, seem eerily similar.

    Reply

  13. Posted by c-toast on 2013/03/19 at 2:18 PM

    Any Fulham fans left out there since the great American exodus? How has Ruiz been this season? I watched one game earlier this year, and he was laughably bad. It seemed as if Jol had turned to Ruiz to fill the void Dempsey left behind, and it was not pretty. Maybe he looked bad because he was mis-cast in that role and is more dangerous in the CR set up, but is his current form really so good as to merit the type of adulation poured on him in this article? Don’t get me wrong, there is no doubt he can be a dangerous player, but I wonder if we are praising him on past reputation without considering the current form of the player.

    Reply

  14. Posted by Chazcar2 on 2013/03/19 at 2:21 PM

    I am going to think out loud here:

    Regular Starters in Big Four Leagues: Jones, Cameron, Guzan
    Regulars in Big Four Leagues: Dempsey, Bradley (could be upgraded)
    Automatic/Regular Starters in other leagues: Altidore, Beasley, Beckerman, Beltran, Besler, Boyd, Edu, Gomez, Gonzalez, E. Johnson, S. Johnson, Kljestan, Morrow, Rimando, Zusi
    Semi-Regular Players in other leagues: Corona, Goodson, Shea

    So put together a starting line up using Jones, Cameron, Dempsey, Bradley that maximizes their abilities and is most familar to them. I will try to use Players that are regular starters and are playing in their club position (heat map wise, not “Formation” wise). I’ll try to stick with guys that are “in-form” too.

    ———Altidore——–Gomez———-
    —————-Dempsey——————
    Beasley——-Jones——Bradley——
    Cameron–Besler–Gonzalez–Beltran
    ——————-Guzan——————-
    Bench: Rimando, Morrow, Shea, Zusi, E Johnson, Boyd, Edu

    Alts to this: Cameron right back, Morrow in. Gomez out, Zusi in at Right Mid.

    Reply

    • Yeah I think you’re on the right track for sure. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Klinsi goes with The Beaz at LB, Cameron at RB, and GOODSON with Gonzalez.

      Reply

      • Posted by Chazcar2 on 2013/03/20 at 10:47 AM

        Not a fan of Goodson and Gonzalez together. Both are very similar and play at RCB. I think the CB pair need to complement each other. I really think Besler playing alongside Gonzalez makes sense. Both have faced Sabario before. They are familar with that stadium, had home games last weekend and are only 2-3 hour flights away. Are only 1 hour off their regular time zone. Plus they had all of January camp together.

        In a completely equal situation could individually Goodson be better than Besler or Gonzalez? Yes. That said what two together makes the highest level? (Besler+Gonzalez)>(Cameron+Goodson) or any other type of combination. Cameron hasn’t been playing center back and Goodson has always been borderline.

        Reply

    • Posted by PedroVB14 on 2013/03/19 at 6:25 PM

      That’s a team that can win against CRC… But Beasley’s defense against MEX will be killer for the US in that lineup.

      Reply

  15. Any Fulham fans left out there since the great American exodus? How has Ruiz been this season? I watched one game earlier this year, and he was laughably bad. It seemed as if Jol had turned to Ruiz to fill the void Dempsey left behind, and it was not pretty. Maybe he looked bad because he was mis-cast in that role and is more dangerous in the CR set up, but is his current form really so good as to merit the type of adulation poured on him in this article? Don’t get me wrong, there is no doubt he can be a dangerous player, but I wonder if we are praising him on past reputation without considering the current form of the player.

    Reply

  16. Posted by JGD on 2013/03/19 at 3:34 PM

    Brad Davis added to the roster.

    Reply

  17. Do I think Klinnsmann could eventually succeed with the USMNT? Sure. Am I willing to see the USMNT fail in qualifying as the first step? No, but I feel like that is where this is heading. I’ve been losing confidence in JK as the coach for a while now, but I do see his long term vision. This is on the fast track for disaster. At what point does Gulati decide that the present is unacceptable? Hopefully not soon

    Reply

  18. Posted by soccer666 on 2013/03/19 at 4:38 PM

    You got some things wrong when it comes to Costa Rica.

    -The trident up top is actually Bolaños – Saborio – Campbell with Bryan Ruiz playin behind them in a #10 role. Campbell and Bolaños routinely switch wings through the game. Bolaños is not a DM but rather a winger.

    ‘Behind them the defensive mids are either Barrantes and Cubero(injured), or Borges and newcomer Ariel Rodriguez or any combination there of.

    -While Borges has succeeded as a CAM or even CF in Europe, he started as a CDM and always did excel at the role, hence his number being 5 always.

    -The left wingback is actually Everton’s Bryan Oviedo, and not Meneses who literally debuted for the team in February and has only played a handful of matches.

    -Jose Salvatierra is not a veteran RWB, he’s only 22 and has only played through last year up until Cristian Gamboa, a Rosenborg starter and much superior played, was recalled up.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/03/19 at 9:11 PM

      Where were you when I needed you last night?! :>

      Replies:

      - Borges commentary is straight from a Celtic reporter and corroborated in online reports. So I’ll disagree with you there. A number of Central American folks/journos I spoke with corroborated that.

      - Reports on Monday said Menseses would start. He started in that role both Mexico games and most recently against Panama.

      - Salvatierra — did not know that and looked for that answer. Thanks

      I’ll address the Oviedo comment above. Since he hasn’t left he pine for Everton I’m unsure he starts in this one.

      Thanks for the feedback appreciated.

      Reply

      • Posted by soccer666 on 2013/03/20 at 9:41 AM

        -You’re not wrong when it comes to Borges, I’m just saying he started his career as a CDM and later on evolved into a CAM/CF but he’s still capable of playing the CDM role, although he obviously doesn’t excel at defending since he’s a more offensive player.

        -Meneses didn’t debut till the UNCAF cup 2 months ago, his first official class A match with the team was against Panama, it was Oviedo against Mexico(they look similar physically). Meneses is widely considered to be much inferior than Oviedo. Although Oviedo’s lack of minutes in Everton is hurting him. Mainz 05 starter Junior Diaz was poised to take the spot before an injury left him out of this call-up.

        -Also just wanna make a little comment on what you said about CR not being the same since 2009, in my opinion this squad is much, more superior to what was had in 09. A few key players remained(Navas, Ruiz, Sabo, Bolaños, Barrantes), the rest are young players who reached the semifinals in the 09 U-20 WC. Most of ‘em now playing overseas.

        -The 09 team was composed of a bunch of veterans who never made it out of the local CR league, and also terrible, aging players who tried their luck in MLS and couldn’t succeed such as Andy Herron or William Sunsing, even guys who had been in the 02 qualifiers, the 09 squad had about 2-3 players in Europe altogether and no foreseeable stars, it was a terrible generation of old guys who never accomplished anything. The current team is streamlined as hell, extremely young and full of promising players who’ve already made the trip overseas before age 24 coupled with veterans(who are really just in their late 20s) such as Ruiz, now in the Premier League.

        -Since 2010 the team has played friendlies/official matches against France, Switzerland, Argentina, Brazil, Spain, Colombia, Peru, Paraguay, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela, Wales, etc.. I can tell you the 09 team had no worthly friendlies prior to the WCQs…

        Basically the 2013 CR team is quite possibly the most complete, most promising squad CR has had since 1990. The FIFA ranking is no indication of anything(Haiti). CR is a very dangerous underdog because most ppl have this idea that CR sucks now and they’re the 7th team in CONCACAF.

        Reply

        • Posted by Alonzo on 2013/03/20 at 9:56 AM

          Oh this team is promising, but you can’t compare them to the 2001-02 squad. That team had all the player at its peak; fear no one and was able to win in the most complicated environments.

          90′s Costa Rica’s team based on results is better, but played ugly football in an era where you could waste all the time in the world by passing the ball to the goalkeeper.

          2001-02 team deserves a little more credit than this.

          Reply

  19. Posted by Crow on 2013/03/19 at 4:59 PM

    Darn- just saw the forecast for Saturday in Denver- it looks like the snow showers and cold weather are being bumped back a bit. Friday- 45/26 SE 11mph wind; Saturday- 27/14 NNE 19mph wind, snow showers. Speed up cold front! That would be just nasty weather for Costa Rica- snow showers and a wind chill below 0 degrees!

    Reply

  20. Posted by Crow on 2013/03/19 at 5:52 PM

    I think Jeff Carlisle on ESPN had a great response to the Brian Strauss article.

    I liked some of the comments as well for once- Top liked comment- Here’s my three point plan: US Players, check you ego at the door, put your heads down and work your butts off. You have collectively accomplished nothing.

    Also, love the suggestion for Tab Ramos to step up into an assistant/tactical role if necessary. I know some on this site didn’t approve of his job with the U-20′s; I was very impressed however with his management of an undermanned team.

    Reply

    • Posted by JGD on 2013/03/19 at 6:35 PM

      I have no problem if Klinsmann wants to be the spiritual, “celebrity” leader of this team. However, we do need our Joachim Low in that case. It’s quite obvious that Vasquez is way out of his league tactically.

      I agree that Ramos was impressive in handling the U-20s.

      Reply

      • Posted by s44 on 2013/03/19 at 8:31 PM

        The problem with Vasquez isn’t that he sucks or whatever. (He probably does as a head coach, but that’s not his job.) It’s that he overlaps and doubles Klinsmann, instead of providing a balance.

        Reply

      • Posted by dth on 2013/03/20 at 1:01 PM

        Ramos was fairly good as a coach on the u-20s overall, but he certainly messed up in the early going, especially in squad selection. I would guess if he had another crack at it you’d see a much different squad selected, which reflects that. His tactics, early on, were equally poor.

        Now he evolved away from that and figured things out, which is to his credit. But I attribute the errors to inexperience; certainly, then, it’s too early to go promoting Ramos far beyond his demonstrated competencies. I’ll never understand the temptation of some people to unsolve solved problems. (Fabian Johnson for left midfield!!!!)

        I also don’t really understand the “egos” complaint. It’s one of the weirder aspects of sports fandom that people will immediately defer to management/ownerships’ view of the situation when they would never accept such an explanation in their own situation, or even in “real life.” To wit: egos may or may not be an issue, but I’ve never known anyone suggest that people with egos are systematically wrong, which is what we care about. (In fact, people with egos are often powerfully right — see Jobs, Steve.)

        In this case, there’s a very powerful critique that Klinsmann totally neglects tactics, gives vague instructions, and doesn’t adjust to the opposition. That’s something that: a) makes sense with what we see on the field (I’m still not sure what the plan was for Honduras) and b) is corroborated by descriptions of other players, i.e. Phillip Lahm. But I suppose Lahm’s an ego-driven jerk too.

        (To say nothing of Klinsmann making ideological hobbyhorses of certain players — e.g. Jose Torres for any position on the field campaign.)

        Reply

        • Posted by KickinNames... on 2013/03/21 at 6:07 AM

          As usual DTH you present a simple solid analysis of what is too often an emotional argument. In my 20 years of managing people the one constant I’ve found is that “blaming the workers” is usually just an excuse for poor management. Well done.

          Reply

          • Posted by schmutzdeck on 2013/03/21 at 11:22 AM

            K- Names,

            I see what you mean but I’m not yet convinced this team has been poorly managed.

            Here are the only numbers or stats regarding JK that I find relevant:

            WC qualifying – Semifinals- 6 games, 4 wins 1 loss, 1 draw, 13 points first in the
            semifinal round

            Hex – 1 games, 1 loss, zero points, 9 games, 27 points left

            Everything else is practice. Practice is not meaningless but it must be placed in context.

            A positive result in WC qualifying games, however, is what JK is supposed to produce and so far he on the positive side of the ledger.

            Yes, the team looks awful but the USSF decided to fire a very competent, well organized manager who could make a mediocre bunch of players look good because they supposedly wanted to get to “another level”, a level fans have been screaming for.

            Doing that takes time and transitional pains. So if the USSF fire JK right now it means they have panicked with 90% of the HEX left to complete. Either that, or they are certain he will fail to qualify. But hey, whatever floats your boat.

            I’m not overly concerned with the players looking lost. They did that in the semifinal round as well. Inconsistency is typical during a transition phase. If you can look lost, awful and unwatchable and STILL get a positive result then I’ll be a little more patient. The interesting thing about soccer is it is possible to look awful and still get results.

            I happen to believe that JK has the right vision. I think this current controversy is not a big deal, but then I tend to think the emphasis on tactics is way overrated. As Tom Dooley says, tactics is trusting the guy next to you. I happen to think JK’s focus imbalance on the players and their psyche is a good idea but one that was always going to be controversial, like it is today, sooner or later.

            Mind you I’m not opposed to firing JK today either because I happen to think the US will qualify regardless of who the manager is.

            However, I don’t think you should sacrifice your long term goals before you are certain they are imperiling your short term goals.

            Firing JK today would bring a lot of much need scrutiny to the USSF and their operations that you haven’t had in the past and this may be good for the game here. Either way this team should be okay, if the players don’t panic.

            Reply

  21. Posted by Ken on 2013/03/19 at 7:47 PM

    At home, the US plays much more aggressively. The snow will only help. I expect a big USA win.

    Reply

  22. Posted by Alonzo on 2013/03/19 at 10:22 PM

    Your Costa Rica formation is a little off. This is what CR looked like against Panama http://alzdeportes.com/futbol/mundial-brasil-2014/5853-analisis-las-verdades-del-panama-2-2-costa-rica-6-febrero-2013

    And to be fair, Meneses and Salvatierra only played because Pinto was afraid of Panama height. The real starters are Oviedo and Gamboa.

    Rodriguez doesn’t move; he doesn’t do offensive tasks, he only cover spaces and give the ball to the playmakers.

    Costa Rica didn’t play well against Panama, and they haven’t showed a good side since the victory over Gales in a friendly. The game could go either way, but don’t be afraid of Costa Rica, they are far from getting to their max potential on Friday.

    Cheers.

    Reply

  23. Personally, valid comments on Altidore aside, I want to see Herc get the start in this one.

    I had the chance to watch him firsthand last week in Houston and man, the guy just puts on a clinic when it comes to making runs and positioning. I feel like he’s better than Jozy when lack of service is a problem, which I think will unfortunately be the case this week.

    Agreed on the Vasquez comments, many have wondered aloud how much of Klinsmann’s success with Germany was due to Loew and he just doesn’t have that tactician at his side for the States. Is Ramos that guy? Not sure, but it seems like he has some of the tactical acumen that seems to be currently lacking.

    Reply

  24. Posted by matthewsf on 2013/03/20 at 10:37 AM

    Reply

    • Posted by Crow on 2013/03/20 at 11:34 AM

      Not to be cynical, but this certainly is some good news. I was more worried about Saborio than Ruiz- and I was at the 2009 game in DC where he carved us up. Haven’t been impressed with Ruiz in awhile, although I have only seen him play a few times. Of course, maybe he always brings his best when with the National Team vs the USA.

      Also, Perlata is out for Mexico I believe?

      Reply

  25. Posted by matthewsf on 2013/03/20 at 10:37 AM

    Arrieta is the likely replacement — that’s a MASSIVE loss for Costa Rica because Arrieta is not nearly the target forward that Saborio is.

    Reply

  26. Posted by Crow on 2013/03/20 at 11:05 AM

    http://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/denver-heavy-snow-could-reach/8522445

    Weather geek time!

    I noticed last night that the Low pressure system coming into the West coast was a few hours ahead of schedule- now it looks like it is to develop into a stronger storm than normal. Up to a foot of snow possible for the Denver metro area, and now starting on Friday! The last predicted Denver snowstorm a few weeks ago never really developed- so that is something to keep in mind.

    The only thing that concerns me is that if the game was to be called and my flight to Mexico City. Let’s hope this actually comes to be because I don’t think Costa Rica will like playing in a snowstorm, and it will be an epic experience!!!

    Reply

  27. Posted by Crow on 2013/03/20 at 11:48 AM

    A question- I was disappointed to find out that Dick’s Sporting Goods Park doesnt allow camcorders into the stadium even though their FAQ say they do. I was looking forward on making a video like I have in the past of the supporter section.

    Anyway- has anyone ever been to Azteca before? Are you allowed to take any type of personal camera, etc in? I know it will be very chaotic and dont want to risk anything being taken away- I would like to record the experience if possible though.

    Reply

  28. Posted by Union on 2013/03/20 at 2:55 PM

    FYI – Dempsey named as captain. Which is pretty hilarious if you ask me. Just thinking about his pump up pre-game speech. And his great attitude towards referees and opponents. Amazing. http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/1356589/trollface.gif

    Reply

    • Posted by Tom Patton on 2013/03/20 at 3:47 PM

      Who would have you picked instead? I see your point I just can not think of whom else could fill the role who is not German American.
      Bradley? another stunning personality.
      I never thought I would write these words: I really miss Donovan.

      Reply

      • Posted by JGD on 2013/03/20 at 4:03 PM

        Dempsey is a logical choice, but I would’ve gone with Bradley. Already one of the more vocal players on the field and the presumptive captain of the future.

        Reply

        • Posted by cfig on 2013/03/21 at 12:22 AM

          I’m good with Dempsey for now. He’s most likely on his last cycle and I see MB90 as our captain for 2018.

          Reply

      • Posted by s44 on 2013/03/20 at 9:12 PM

        Bradley.

        Reply

    • Posted by KickinNames... on 2013/03/21 at 6:19 AM

      Another strange and tone deaf Klinsi choice IMO. Demps is a lot of things but not the guy who tends to inspire his teammates with the scowl and body language when things aren’t going his way. Besides the fact that he’s dinged and probably won’t go the whole 90.
      Bradley has the onfield coach and inspirational leader thing in his blood and makeup and frankly this team needs someone to rally around thru qualifying and beyond. His comments posted above are classic captain speak and if he’s the cap of the future then now is the perfect time to hand the leadership reins to him in two critical matches with an undermanned squad.
      Just strange….

      Reply

  29. Posted by Union on 2013/03/20 at 5:35 PM

    Um Bradley. Bradley on the Strauss article this afternoon:

    “Shameful, embarrassing”: “You cross a line when u take your disappointment outside inner circle”

    Which is how I feel. That article made the players look worse than the coach.

    As for Clint, I don’t have a problem with him as captain. He’s a winner and he’s the most accomplished player on the roster. Captain is an honorary thing anyways. I just don’t think Clint is a vocal leader. Maybe I’m wrong.

    Reply

    • Posted by Tom Patton on 2013/03/20 at 5:43 PM

      I do not believe we have either a “raw raw” type who commands respect nor a player so accomplished that he gets respect that way either.
      SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO it’s Clint. At least he is a tenacious competitor and his legs are fresh even if his touch is a bit rusty.
      MB can wait a little while longer.

      Reply

    • Posted by schmutzdeck on 2013/03/20 at 6:24 PM

      Union,

      The captain is honorary in some cases. In others, he’s the coach on the field.
      Or in some cases he is the guy the players go to for advice when they can’t or won’t talk to the coaches.I don’t know how it works with the USMNT.

      Too bad those players did not talk to Boca first. Or maybe they did and decided to go outside anyway.

      Reply

    • Posted by Jared on 2013/03/21 at 10:53 AM

      I agree with Bradley but this is the same player who supposedly came very close to physically assaulting Wynalda after Wynalda made some comments about Bob. I guess in that instance you’re allowed to take your issues outside the inner circle.

      Reply

      • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/03/21 at 10:56 AM

        What a fascinating point — but that said, a little different situation. But still, excellent point.

        Reply

      • Posted by schmutzdeck on 2013/03/21 at 11:31 AM

        Yes but ultimately he did not hit him did he ?

        Supposedly, Mikey is more mature now. And Wynalda strikes me as a guy who makes passionate people want to assault him.

        And don’t you want a fiery captain?

        Are you implying this controversy rises to the level of the1998 Sampson/Harkes/Wynalda dysfunction?

        I think not.

        Reply

        • Posted by KickinNames... on 2013/03/22 at 5:21 AM

          I’d take a pop at Wynalda if I saw him on the subway. or in line at Starbucks….just sayin…

          Reply

          • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/03/22 at 5:53 AM

            I think Wynalda is a misunderstood guy. I think everyone “plays the game” to some degree and he just can’t — not that he won’t — his mindset just won’t let him.

            I’ve been fortunate to have some long dialogues with Eric by the by and I can say that he’s so passionate about being involved in coaching/managing American soccer that it’s borderline unhealthy, but he’s just got this thing with his outward disposition.

            Just thought I would add that here. I used to not be able to stand him/understand where he was coming from.

            But I’ll say this. He went Portland and beat an MLS team with a 6th division side. He turned about an Atlanta team. If he can improve his public relations he’s absolutely an astute soccer mind.

            Reply

  30. Posted by Tom Patton on 2013/03/20 at 5:47 PM

    that should of been “rah rah” apologies to all

    Reply

  31. Posted by soccer666 on 2013/03/20 at 6:52 PM

    To the author of the article, you’re gonna love this, it’s a simulation of the match in FIFA 13 using the last call-up, you can see some of the possible movements, although I personally think CR won’t be as forgiving.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/03/21 at 10:02 AM

      Awesome — thanks for posting this. Made fun of Herulez avatar on Twitter last night.

      Reply

  32. [...] TSG’s Official USA vs. Costa Rica Preview: Defeato The Tico Incognito [...]

    Reply

  33. Posted by Alex Song on 2013/03/22 at 12:26 AM

    Got a sinking feeling about this one. Putrid roster. Some of our best players injured or AWOL. Costa Rica is no titan, but they’ve got dangerous players. Ruiz in particular is a magician.

    Our back line is a mess. We have nobody who can drive forward and distribute. Jozy, MB, and Dempsey. This one’s on you. Time to do your country proud. Josmer especially. He’s about due to do something massive for the Nats. If we can get to Brazil 2014, he’ll be our best attacking player. Hope he can show his quality in this match.

    Can’t think of a lineup for this one. I’d like Edu out there for his defensive work. Eddie Johnson for his speed and attacking. Not sure how you fit him in there on the left unless you play Deuce behind the striker. Yikes. And no Landon on the right. Should be berrrrrry interrressting.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/03/22 at 12:45 AM

      I think–as others have mentioned–Altidore is not put into a position to succeed.

      Bob Bradley new the best way to get anything out of Altidore was get him in motion either working of a guy who was creating space (Charlie Davies) or being a point forward, but *dragging across the field* — if you remember USA v. Slovenia WC 2010 you know what I’m talking about.

      Altidore is asked to play back to the basket with the US — it’s not his strength.

      Reply

  34. [...] from The Washington Post, Sporting News, SI, ASN, ProSoccerTalk, Soccer America, Shin Guardian, American Outlaws, Union [...]

    Reply

  35. [...] The Shin Guardian Official Preview: TSG does a great job breaking down the matchup with Costa Rica, including  the tactics used by Los Ticos. [...]

    Reply

  36. […] However, much like the U.S., the back line is where Costa Rica can fall apart.  A well timed run will show that this team has mental lapses.  For more information check out the thorough breakdown by Shin Guardian. […]

    Reply

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