TSG’s Official USA vs. Jamaica Preview: Don’t Fear The Reefer

Will Jozy Altidore being rockin' the Usain Bolt celebration Friday? Read on....

Will Jozy Altidore being rockin’ the Usain Bolt celebration Friday? Read on….

It’s down to The Office–formally known as Independence Park in Kingston, Jamaica–for a chance to be three more points to the good and ever so closer to removing the refundable clause on a trip to Rio for the USMNT.

The US settled into their opponent Jamaica’s haunts on Tuesday of this week, looking to acclimatize to the surroundings and hoping to secure their first victory against a major CONCACAF opponent on the road during the Klinsmann era.

Jamaica’s team on the otherhand has probably been well haloed in medicinal marijuana since its capitulation on Tuesday at that very same Office. The Reggae Boyz dropped an “as-close-to-a-must-have” decision to Mexico, 1-0 in rather droll fashion.

It’s punch, kick, scratch, claw and grab the jewels time for the Jamaican team–their backs up against a chute that leads directly to “The Road to 2018″ planning. Jamaicans know that it’s their last opportunity here to merely loosen the vice grip the US has on that Rio ticket much less challenge for it.

Without further Freddy Adu, we get to our customary preview.

It goes:

About the opponent: Jamaica

TSG What We’re Looking For

11 At the Whistle

Mexico rattles it saber at Jamaica’s butter knife, Tuesday night. 1-0 visitors.

About the Opponent: Jamaica

By now the US–like two basketball teams slugging it over two weeks–is all too familiar with the Reggae Boyz.

After Friday, three of the Yanks’ last eight qualifiers will have been contested against the Jamaicans. Tack on a Gold Cup victory in 2011 and the US will have played Jamaica more than any other team over the past two years–a right usually honorably and financially reserved for El Tri, the Reggae Boyz’s victorious foil this week.

Tuesday’s match itself providing the US coaching staff with critical intelligence on who and where to ask the questions on Friday evening.

In that skirmish,the first 45′ saw Mexico and Jamaica looking to nick a goal only if it didn’t compromise their rearguard–Mexico was clearly wary of the Jamaicans speed while Jamaica wary of perhaps getting caught out and falling prey to one of El Tri’s symphonic attack.

In the second half, Mexico cocked a fist and jabbed aggressively at Jamaica’s right rib cage–where 18-year-old protege Alvas Powell was making his first WCQ start–and collapsed their weaker flank with great interplay from the wily vet pairing of Carlos Salcido (now at LB for El Tri) and Andres Guardado. One goal turned out to be all that was needed.

There’s four things the US can count on as they head down Kingston way: 1) a bumpy pitch, in fact the Jamaican fans revel in it.

The Reggae Boyz don’t often try to play triangles in possession, they play slingshots.

Hold it up, drop a back pass to support, shoot it up the field to an overlapping winger or streaking forward–picture an inchworm after two lines of cocaine.

Slingshots.

2) Speed. Bad things happen when Jamaica puts some coal in the engine and steams out on the break. Defenders find themselves trailing and a stretched defense can be had with less passing accuracy than the desired compact one,

3) Box crashing. No counter and it’s to the skies in the 18′ yard box for the yellow & green. That’s pretty much a guarantee. And…

4) Jamaican coach Tappa Whitmore will crinkle and wrinkle up the game plan.

Jamaica coach Tappa Whitmore had his first player cap for the Reggae Boyz back in November 1993 ... against the States ... a

Jamaica coach Tappa Whitmore had his first player cap for the Reggae Boyz back in November 1993 … against the States … and played his final Reggae Boyz game in November 2004 … agains the States.

In the 2011 Gold Cup group stage match mentioned earlier, Whitmore rolled out in a 4-3-3 (after having played frequently beforehand with a 3-man backline) and former skipper Bob Bradley overloaded the midfield with one extra center man–Sacha Kljestan. Jamaica had three forward outfield players who might as well grabbed themselves some hot dogs and beer because they had the best seats in the house.

In the US loss last September, Whitmore this time had the upper hand.

He pushed his team up the field in a 4-3-3 (after having went 4-5-1 and 4-4-2 previously in qualifiers) and the USMNT played into that upper hand with a narrow 4-4-2 diamond formation that attempted to connect passes in small spaces out of the back. That in turn, led to turnovers near goal and the wrong result. More on that later..

It says here–we’ll have a crazy go at it–that Whitmore will likely go with the 4-4-1-1 that he employed on the road against Mexico in a 1-1 draw in February.

Whitmore knows the US will be prepping to improve their midfield play; he also knows that his victory last time saw a threesome of Kyle Beckerman, Jermaine Jones and Maurice Edu attempt to will the ball up the field on the floor. The US will have Michael Bradley in this one combining with Jones and Dempsey–much more formidable on the interior.

Whitmore pushed his young fullbacks high up the pitch and split his centerbacks wide for cover with a sweeper to attempt to slow El Tri’s corner play–he won’t need the protection deep and wide as the US only get forward on the left through DaMarcus Beasley build-up these days and when pushing high on the right it’s typically results in a Graham Zusi service or cutback centrally not barreling-down-on-goal attack.

In short, if the US wants to get keep in the corners on the run that will only help stretch the States defense and play in to the Jamaican counterattack strategy.

Finally, as he did against Mexico, Whitmore will likely sit a speedy ball carrier right behind a target forward. He’ll use that player slightly to the right of center where they can come back and help defensively or link-up or make a diagonal run in behind DaMarcus Beasley when the US has gone forward.

(Note: This is just a bit of surmising here by TSG).

TSG (wild) guess on Jamaica's rollout Friday.

TSG (wild) guess on Jamaica’s rollout Friday.

That said, while all of this strategy is nice the reality is Jamaica just can’t seem to put the ball in the goal. A shocking miss by Jermaine Beckford last night was just another addition to a litany of other misses (Luton Shelton, Jobi McAnuff) that could have this Jamaican team staring at a different fate. Put the easy balls in the hole–that’s the first tactic.

To the rollout, the US will probably only see 2 or 3 starters consistent from its last trip to The Office.

Jamaica will start with MLS veteran Donovan Ricketts between the sticks. Ricketts can make the wow saves, but too often he draws “wows” for saves because of his slow reaction time.

He makes the ordinary, extraordinary. The US can beat Ricketts to his top right corner and lower right corner as the gangly keeper has now been fighting a chronic right shoulder problem over the past two years. (Note: Amazed that more teams in MLS don’t test Ricketts to this side.)

Hoping to keep Rickett’s clean will be a back four Adrian Mariappa and Daniel Gordon (a German!) in the middle, flanked by Powell on the right and O’Brian Woodbine on the left. Only Mariappa started against the States last time at home and first choice back of Demar Phillips and Jermaine Taylor didn’t respond to the magic spray. Powell got lit up by Mexico early in the second half Tuesday and will be looking to bounceback while, aside from poor marking on the Mexico goal, Woodbine had a good one.

The Reggae Boyz will show five in the middle like they did against El Tri. Anchoring the crew may be Rodolpho Austin, a card-carrying member of the Michael Essien Bison CDM club, who was THE man against the Yanks on the last visit. Austin made it through 90 minutes against El Tri but carried a groin strain into the game and hadn’t played competitively since April. Many gave him poor marks, but TSG thought he held up well.

The front five is a toss-up.

Ahead of him will be Hoops man Je-Vaughn Watson, the guess being he will tuck inside after attempting to be the wide midfield protection for Powell against Mexico; Marvin Elliott is the guess to be sacrificed.

At winger are two Reading men, Gareth McClary will flip back to the right after accommodating Watson against El Tri and TSG fave Jobi McAnuff–out for personal reasons and returning to the squad–will likely get the call on the left. McAnuff is getting long in the tooth, had an awful season at Reading (in fact rated one of the worst midfielders) and missed a critical sitter in the first Mexico match but he’s a veteran presence who’s comfortable with the ball and makes sharp offball runs. (Update: McAnuff has been ruled out through the birth of his child–it’s a good question who starts on the left–or right–money is on Whitmore)

The top combination is just as puzzling. Falling back on Jamaica’s February El Tri configuration, we’ll go with brooding -and-bruising Portland Timbers forward Ryan Johnson whose has looked more than solid in Caleb Porter’s system up on Burnside this year and put in an effective if ultimately fruitless shift on Tuesday. There’s the possibility that Jermaine Beckford gets the start instead of Johnson, but it’s a low probability.

Aft of Johnson–is another Johnson–Jermaine. The Sheffield Wednesday player was an unused sub on Tuesday, but Johnson is the bet (ahead of Mattocks or Theo Whitmore) on experience alone.

Jamaica needs to score and they need to win. Their attack and pressure will come in waves and thus game management–by both coaches–in terms of which areas of the field to win is going to key. This bring us to our next section…

TSG What We’re Looking For:

» Don’t Host the House Party

Another set of pretty graphics from TSG….

Fouls by team, Jamaica 2 - USA 1, September 2012 at The Office

Fouls by team, Jamaica 2 – USA 1, September 2012 at The Office

The side-by-side graphics above? The foul locations for the US and Jamaica respectively in the US loss upon their last visit. To be clear these are where each team fouled their opponent.

Simple equation.

Foul your opponent near the box, risk set-piece wrath. Seven (7) of 16 fouls committed by the States in dangerous areas. Two of those leading to deposits.

Ball game.

Further, Jamaica pumped 14 crosses into the box (set pieces included) against a States’ central defense of Clarence Goodson and Geoff Cameron.

Conversely, only two of Jamaica’s fouls occurred in their own defensive third. The US’s house got messed up. Jamaica? They slept soundly and had no clean-up the next morning.

In short, the US must find a way to defend at the top of their attacking third–they’re likely not going to dominate possession for long stints or on that pitch, don’t want to aimlessly hoof the ball and probably don’t want to play an extremely high line even if they do command possession in stretches.

So how can the US move the battle line away from its goal? Two ways.

First, playing a narrower, flatter central four and forcing Jamaica to somehow find space around the outsides and secondly probably dropping Dempsey into a more defensive role of picking up Jamaica’s deep man in the attacking equation. And of course, you compress your backline further to the front four ahead of it. It would be a similar plan that Canada has used recently against the US’s U-23’s 4-3-3 and that Bob Bradley used against Argentina in the 2011 1-1 friendly draw.

» Doc Martin?

Anyway you slice it, it’s fair to question the US tactical nous under the stewardship of Jurgen Klinsmann and Martin (pronounced Mar-TEEN) Vasquez.

The US has struggled to dictate play to stronger and weaker opponents alike, although there were glimmers of hope against Guatemala and Jamaica at home last WCQ round. The States also have failed to adjust tactically in their matches. The set piece defense is the box is abysmal and goal scoring opportunities against committed opponents in the run of play have gone the way of dinosaurs lately.

Speaking of times long ago, Sunday’s match against Germany brought about something very familiar to the US, 4-2-3-1/4-2-2-2 rollout–with Dempsey being the oscillating player in those schemes.

With Dempsey and Jozy Altidore often staying ahead of the play, the first half saw Graham Zusi & Fabian Johnson positioned in near parallel with each other in a deployment that mimicked the action of Clint Dempsey (FJ) and Landon Donovan (GZ) under Klinsmann’s predecessor.

As when Bob Bradley’s teams were attacking with guile, Jozy Altidore would make a run to his strong side/right foot with Landon Donovan (Zusi on Sunday) in possession choosing to hit Altidore down the line or attempting to move the ball laterally to the incutting Dempsey (Johnson on Sunday).

Reviewing the heat maps below, the spacing is clear.

Fab J's and Zusi's positioning mimick the positioning and deployment of Dempsey and Donovan in the 4-2-2-2 of Bob Bradley in yesteryear.

Fab J’s & Zusi’s positioning mimic the positioning/deployment of Dempsey and Donovan in the 4-2-2-2 of Bob Bradley in yesteryear. (see comment section for more.)

Comment section support: USA 2 – Canada 0, Gold Cup 2011

The formation worked well against the Germans for many reasons: (1) It got Jozy Altidore moving and moving forward where he was much better receiving the ball than being back-to-the-basket (2) ..and this is probably how the Klinsmann-Vasquez was thinking it at the outset, it provided additional central cover with the US now migrating back to a double pivot in midfield. When Zusi was wide, Johnson was narrow and vice versa. In this way, the US can find the width they were desperately looking for without sacrificing the defense.

(As a note: Opposite the Bradley era, Klinsmann and staff are appearing here to use Altidore in the Davies-Findley role with Dempsey in the Bradley-era Altidore role of cutting underneath–see below in “11 at the Whistle.”)

The question is whether the States will continue to employ this formation? Says here “yes” or something very close to it. Will Fabian Johnson be in the left midfield role with questions about his hamstring? He’s supposed to be, but if not Houston’s Brad Davis will deputize and DaMarcus Beasley will get ahead more for width on that flank.

One note here.

While it’s unclear if the US braintrust employed this formation against Germany with Jamaica in mind, the Jamaican pitch is notoriously … well it’s like playing on a super-sized lego field … meaning it’s consistently bumpy … everywhere. The US–as they were wont to do in their loss last September–will likely have to play a fair amount of controlled over-the-top balls. The situation seems to call for a similar strategy to Sunday with similar actors in place.

» Space, in the final (third) frontier

“The US will have a difficult in qualifying if they are forced to or called to do anything other than defend deep in numbers.”

TSG writer who often makes grammar mistakes, June 2nd, post USA-Germany match.

If the friendly series exposed anything for the States’s opponents, it was the fragile management by the backline.

The situation is the Gordian knot of the US.

With the States now in a double pivot set, the amount of work on Jones and Bradley’s shoulders is again immense. Push up the field and commit to the attack and leave the backline exposed. Goals against in Honduras and early against Belgium are the example here. Sit deep, stay compact and incur the loss of possession and initiative as the second half showed against Germany.

Further, get caught at being stretched at wingers–as Draxler did against Beasley on Sunday or Mirallas did last Wednesday–and the US fullbacks–conservative as they still–are left exposed and it’s a toss-up on where the ball ends up five seconds later.

The backline problems could be exposed by the Reggae Boyz to ways on Friday: 1) On an errant distribution mistake by Matt Besler or Omar Gonzalez out of the back or 2) On a counter to a US counterattack.

Got to clean it up away from home.

Doing their thing....

Doing their thing….

» Zusi, god of possession?

Since he showed up at January camp in 2011, Graham Zusi has been a Leatherman Tool for the US.

Like his role at Sporting KC, Klinsmann slotted him in as a ball-handler and attack-generator for the “B” team. Zusi’s graduation to the “A” team showed him assuming a role in WCQs against Honduras and Mexico of James Milner-Lite, shuttling up and down the field, running vertically as a means of improving the defense and keeping the ball wide … but hardly playmaking.

Against Germany, Zusi got on the ball quite frequently and it was his cross that found Altidore’s instep and the first US deposit Sunday.

Zusi is in-all-ways a critical player for the States on Friday.

He’ll be required to marshal the flank ahead of either Geoff Cameron or Brad Evans–two players who have yet to prove adept at getting forward into the attack when sporting the US badge.

More importantly, there is one part of Zusi’s game that will be and where he is arguably superior to Landon Donovan, keeping and move the ball in possession within very little space.

When Donovan received the ball for the US, his transition game is and was nearly always “go at goal.” If Donovan was holding the ball up though, he’d either actually quickly author a backpass or dribble backwards. Donovan in traffic in possession *and not moving forward was not always the best options. (The friendly against Paraguay in 2011, the friendly against Brazil in 2012 are good examples of Donovan being knocked off his game and rendered pedestrian.)

Zusi, while not always clean on the ball, has the ability to keep moving in possession (a skill that his US predecessor and now understudy at SKC Benny Feilhaber had) keep his head up and keep his pass options open.

It goes without saying that the US doesn’t want to get in a track meet with the national team of Usain Bolt. Outletting the ball to Zusi, who will likely be called on as he was against Germany to make the decision of whether to hold it up or go at goal will be critical to allowing the US defense to come up the field and remain compact.

Can Zusi be a difference maker on the road here in CONCACAF? That’s the question.

A possible US deployment in attack for the States on Friday.

A possible US deployment in attack for the States on Friday.

11 At The Whistle

G: Tim Howard

The skinny: If Tim Howard was a waiter, he may have lost some shifts over the last few games. Whether it’s the weather or spending too much time marshaling the backline, Howard has spilled a few more balls than normal. Must. Be. Cleaned. Up.

DEF: Brad Evans, Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler, DaMarcus Beasley

The skinny: In no particular order: a) Besler must not let Beasley get caught outside on an island; he needs to step-up and provide support, b) Beasley needs to avoid fouling in the early part of the game. The vet got away with some grabbing in the past few games; never sure how that type of physical, hands-on play leads to cards, set pieces or more in a qualifier on the road (ask Steve Cherundolo about that.), c) Brad Evans needs to remain composed. Few remember–and few should–it was Evans’s poor square ball inside that let a sleepy El Salvador notch their lone goal in a rather droll friendly in February 2010. Evans had a single miscue in possession on Sunday, but it’s always that one. (Evans was at RB in that friendly by the way.) d) Wondering if the manband occasionally gets too tight on Omar Gonzalez’s mop. Either way, a wounded Jamaica means 90 minutes of commitment from the tall man is req.

Also, unsure here if this is where you mix-and-match Geoff Cameron back to CB, but it certainly needs to be a consideration if he’s not out wide at some point.

CM: Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley

The skinny: As if there was a question. The Isaiah Thomas-Joe Dumars of the USMNT. First, with the US going double-pivot, the need for more than two back-ups (Kljestan and Williams now this round) has evaporated.

Further Jones is seeing his best days right now in a US shirt. The Schalke man brought an unmatched tenacity to the friendlies and though occasionally he became untethered from a defensive centerpoint, his defensive work was unparalleled.

Credit as well to Michael Bradley. Bradley’s game right now is not unlike how Dumars helped manage and support Thomas during the Pistons glory days. Bradley has all the chops to play first fiddle, but he instead reads Jones’s game and plays off him–no easy feet–and is able to take control and dish or have a run when Jones meandering have left him in a defensive position.

It takes a bigger player, a team player and special player to manage a partnership and game like that, and that–more so than Bradley’s long trumpeted calmness is on the ball–is why Bradley is such a vital player for the US squad.

LM/RM: Graham Zusi, Fabian Johnson.

The skinny: Fabian Johnson needs to step up. He was a nice-to-have in attack before. Though some disagrees some of Johnson’s strongest moments for Hoffenheim have not been out side, but meandering Dembele-style down the middle. Scour YouTube and you can probably find some clips of Johnson raising hell down the middle. Would be a good time Friday to show it for the US.

WtF: Clint Dempsey

The skinny: We interrupt this preview to temporarily classify Dempsey’s position as “withdrawn forward.” If he’s found dropping deep, too deep, to receive the ball on Friday we reserve the right rename his position AM or perhaps more appropriately, “NAR” …. the Nicolas Anelka Role.

STR: Jozy Altidore

The skinny: [No need to write anything. Everybody knows what's at stake. The scene of the 2012 "crime."]

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38 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by KickinNames.... on 2013/06/06 at 6:36 AM

    Matt-
    Pure dynamite! Thanks for getting the wheels turning on this one.

    Reply

  2. Posted by JGD on 2013/06/06 at 6:43 AM

    Excellent analysis. As you’ve alluded to, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Cameron enter for Gonzalez at CB. I think the former matches-up better against this speedy Jamaican side and Gonzalez didn’t have great games against Germany or Belgium.

    Reply

    • Posted by JH on 2013/06/06 at 7:03 AM

      I like all three of Gonzalez, Besler, and Cameron in the middle, and think really any two of the three would pair well together. I wouldn’t be surprised at whichever two solidified the starting roles leading up to WC14.

      My only problem is, it’s hard to say how good any of them can be as a partnership when they are constantly getting mixed up and substituted in and out. I think Klinsmann really has to settle on a first choice tandem, and then let them groove with each other. It’s unfair to judge Gonzalez when he’s with a different partner every game, different side backer, and different midfield formation in front of him every single game. Pure madness.

      I.e., barring injury, Klinsmann simply has to start Gonzalez and Besler in this game tomorrow. To mix it up again… I’ll just stop here.

      Reply

  3. Posted by matthewsf on 2013/06/06 at 7:18 AM

    Screen shot 2013-06-06 at 7.24.20 AM

    I couldn’t help but think the US attack against Germany looked just like the US attack against Canada in the 2011 Gold Cup group stage game.

    The positioning of Donovan and Dempsey as you see above near identical with Altidore dragging into the left rear flank of Canada as well and creating two scoring opportunities.

    Reply

  4. Posted by matthewsf on 2013/06/06 at 8:29 AM

    Charlie Boehm is doing terrific writing right now. Highly encourage reading him. This is Boehm on Evans, Cameron, RB situation:

    http://www.mlssoccer.com/news/article/2013/06/06/jurgen-klinsmann-has-brad-evans-usmnt-starting-right-back-ahead-jamaica-qual

    Reply

  5. Another great preview. Thanks again for what you do! I’m sure I’m not alone in being very excited for these June qualifiers.

    Even better, my new centennial jersey came today, just in time. Got it numbered Bradley 90, in case I ever run into another TSG reader in the wild…

    Reply

  6. Posted by Chazcar2 on 2013/06/06 at 10:29 AM

    I really think that Fabian Johnson at Left midfield opens up a lot of what this team is capable of. While at fullback he a little unreliable in his distribution.

    I am going to talk about what I saw in how we played our 4-2-3-1 for the germany game’s first half.

    Normally a 4-2-3-1 is either with a withdrawn striker and pressing wide mids or withdrawn wide forwards with an attacking mid. With Clint not really suited to the Attacking Center mid, I always though of him as the withdrawn striker. But he drops a bit too far away from the Striker for that. The 4-2-3-1 against germany made me think of a 4-3-3.

    Start here:
    Dempsey–Altidore–Zusi
    Johnson–Bradley–Jones

    Dempsey cuts in and under and Zusi Drops wide:
    ————-Altidore——-
    ——Dempsey——-Zusi
    Johnson–Bradley–Jones

    Jones Plays Centrally and Bradley Deeper:
    ————-Altidore——-
    ——Dempsey——-Zusi
    Johnson—-Jones——–
    ————Bradley———

    So the team has set up a revolving triangle midfield between Johnson, Dempsey and Jones. With Fabian there, Clint is able to drop deep into left midfield and Johnson can then burst up and under Altidore. I thought that once Davis came on this fell apart. Leaving just Jones and Dempsey interchanging.

    Alternatively when Jones burst through the center Dempsey can drift high and left, or depending on the movement of altidore high and right
    —Dempsey–Altidore—-
    Johnson—-Jones—Zusi
    ————-Bradley——-

    Anyway…. All said and done I think 4-5-1 is where we are. Just let the mids play as the naturally do. Jones central running madman, Dempsey Anarchic attacker, Johnson Central cutting winger, Zusi possession playing wide man, and Bradley the Cement filling all the gaps.

    I always imagined that when Donovan came back he would take Zusi’s place. But I think in this he takes Johnson’s and maybe Johnson can slide back to fullback and run the line, but that doesn’t really seem like his game.

    Reply

  7. Posted by Scweeb on 2013/06/06 at 10:36 AM

    Who are the subs that we look to make an impact? Do we bring EJ on if we go down?

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/06/06 at 10:42 AM

      Shoot. I meant to mention this. ABSOLUTELY EJ — unless the US has a 1-0 lead as in playing strong enough to merely add a defender at the 65 min mark.

      If we go down yes. I think what EJ gives you (and you saw this in the Belgium game) is something that can add speed on the wing or come central as a lone forward if necessary.

      It all comes from Altidore. If Altidore is playing well, there is a good chance the US is not down.

      If Altidore is off then, JK can bring on EJ and see if he can attack better from the wing (pushing Dempsey higher) or from the center and pushing the US into a 4-4-2 with FJ going out wide.

      It still pains me that Shea has not developed because he’s got the chops to take people down the left flank and in theory the height to crash the far post if the attack goes down the right.

      I think that’s why you keep seing Shea get called into the US pool no matter performance or injury. There is just no one–in theory0–quite like him.

      Your thoughts?

      Reply

      • Posted by Scweeb on 2013/06/06 at 11:17 AM

        Completely agree. I just hope if we are down JK doesn’t wait to long to bring EJ on.

        I really do not like that are attacking game relies so much on Altidore to have a good game. Also would you consider bringing in Herc for Jozy and then EJ for Beasley and dropping FJ back? I really wish we had LD back cause he we would be the perfect super sub to bring in some good attack.

        Reply

      • If Shea develops the way everyone hopes he will in the next year, he is one of the only ones out there who can add a new dimension to the team.

        It would mean no World Cup for one of EJ, Zusi or Gomez.

        As for the Zusi , LD comparison, the role you describe Graham performing for the US is the same role Landon performed for Everton. And he did so quite well as I recall.

        Assuming he comes back to anything like his old self, LD can play any role the US asks him to and do it better than Zusi if for no other reason than LD is just about equally good with his left as he is with his right.

        Reply

        • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/06/06 at 5:47 PM

          Zusi has just about made the roster. He can play 5 positions and is indefatigueable. I’d be shocked if Zusi doesn’t make it at this point.

          I agree that Landon wins a role back, but Landon’s ability at maintaining and holding the ball in traffic is his one average skill. Landon actually got the ball with opportunities typically on the counter at Everton. When he arrived Fellaini or Cahill provided the linking and if they selected a winger to drop a provide ball carriage it was always Pienaar who would come underneath.

          Everyone wants a healthy, motivated Donovan back on this team.

          Reply

          • Posted by Scweeb on 2013/06/07 at 8:31 AM

            So say both LD and Zusi are healthy and motivated at WC. Who would you pick to start cause right now i would see Zusi as the start cause i think he could last longer in the long competition and have LD as are super sub who could come in and make a BIG impact when we needed it.

            Reply

          • As far as I’m concerned Zusi is a lock for the roster if the US gets to Brazil.

            In fact, I’m not sure Donovan gets to go in that case. We will see. Better players than him have been left off of World Cup teams.

            However if he does go and he is close to his “old self “, Zusi is not more skilled or more versatile than LD. In fact, it was LD’s defense and tracking back that most impressed the Everton players.

            At this stage, Zusi may be more fit but i’m guessing the US fitness guys will figure that out.

            Reply

  8. Posted by KK on 2013/06/06 at 11:02 AM

    This is the only spot for USMNT previews – great combo of analysis (with data!) and antecedents. Everything else pales in comparison. Thanks again. Hope Twellman, Lalas, Darke, (or their production crew) start putting these in their pre-game prep.

    Reply

  9. Posted by matthewsf on 2013/06/06 at 12:14 PM

    Says here in Doug McIntyre’s piece that Geoff Cameron may slot in for Omar Gonzalez: http://espnfc.com/blog/_/name/usnationalteam/id/4?cc=5901

    I would love that. I am massively behind Cameron starting at CB.
    Update: The piece says THE INVERSE. Got it wrong my bad.

    Reply

    • Posted by Shawn on 2013/06/06 at 12:56 PM

      I’m totally behind this as well. Also, Cameron would know that he already lost his starting RB position and if he doesn’t show well at CB, he could very well be on the Bench through WCQ unless there’s an injury. I think he would do well with this pressure. The mistakes made by Goodson and Gonzalez are just too consistent right now.

      Reply

    • Posted by Jared on 2013/06/07 at 10:49 AM

      Way to get my hopes up. I also would prefer to see Cameron back in the middle especially with how poorly Gonzalez has been playing recently. At the same time that would mean another different back 4 and that puts all of the defenders in an unfair position with learning new communication/responsibilities.

      Reply

  10. Posted by twewlife on 2013/06/06 at 2:27 PM

    I’m really excited to see how F.J. fares on the left flank against Jamaica. Will be interesting to see how much freedom Beasley will be given to go forward, given Jamaica’s speed and reliance on the counter. If Beasley is given some leash, we’ll get a great glimpse of how F.J. and Beasley can move and work together down that left side.

    Reply

  11. This is excellent [as always!]. Thanks for making my commute on NYC’s subways more bearable!

    Reply

  12. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2013/06/06 at 6:45 PM

    I was going to ask: what happened to Josh Gatt?

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/06/06 at 6:48 PM

      I have no idea. Was just about to ask Sciaretta about that. I know Molde is awful and he’s been in and out of the line-up.

      To me, still worth a look though.

      Reply

    • Posted by Eric on 2013/06/07 at 4:31 AM

      I obviously don’t know where he stands with the USMNT but I can give you some insight on his club play.

      After winning the league 2 years in a row Molde sits in 15th place right now. It really is quite a shock, as they were picked by a lot to repeat. Gatt has started the majority of matches at RW. He has missed a couple due to sickness and started on the bench a few due to poor form. According to the local press he has a tendency to go out drinking quite often, but not quite sure how much this is effecting his ability to get in the team. He still has his speed of course, and his dribbling ability including skills has been a pleasant surprise but his crosses probably go behind the goal more often then not. And that is when he actually does cross the ball. In my opinion he has a bright future but is definitely struggling a bit this year. 0 goals and 1 assist in 10 appearances as well.

      Reply

      • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/06/07 at 6:02 AM

        Thanks for this — appreciated.

        Reply

        • Posted by Scweeb on 2013/06/07 at 9:04 AM

          I am hoping that after this series of qualifiers we can start taking a look at maybe 3-5 players like Gat that could be good sub players and hopefully get at least one more impact sub player. I would like to see maybe a small list from Sciaretta of who he would like to see in the next set of friendlies.

          Reply

          • Posted by mbw on 2013/06/07 at 11:14 AM

            They’re hiding in plain sight — mostly in Boston and Los Angeles.

            Reply

            • Posted by Scweeb on 2013/06/07 at 12:29 PM

              and those would be?

            • Posted by mbw on 2013/06/07 at 2:10 PM

              I think the best impact sub in the US pool is Landon Donovan. I love, love Kelyn Rowe’s game and think he can develop into a modern, Iniesta-style attacking midfielder — a possible starter for 2018, though he may be too late for this cycle. Juan Agudelo has shown he can come off the bench for the USMNT and make an impact. Jose Villarreal is still a kid, but is worth keeping an eye on. Jack McInerney is a legit All-Star Game starter at age 20, though he strikes me as a player who would be more effective as a starter rather than an impact sub.

  13. […] You want some previews?  How about one from The Shin Guardian?  Not good enough?  Then how about one from The Yanks Are […]

    Reply

  14. Posted by Chazcar2 on 2013/06/07 at 5:12 AM

    Question for the general audience: If Besler and Gonzalez impress during the rest of qualifying do we try to get Cameron a look at defensive midfielder? While not necessarily his best position he has the potential to play it better than anyone else on the roster (except Bradley). It might be worth it to have in our pocket in case something happens to Jones or Bradley, as a pivot is hard to work without the familiarity. Or do we give up that Idea and stick with a pivot?

    Dempsey——Altidore—–Donovan
    ——-Bradley———–Zusi———-
    —————-Cameron—————
    Johnson–Besler–Gonzalez–Dolo?

    Reply

    • I assume JK will carry 2 backup CB’s.

      If Cameron is a backup CB to starters Gonzo and Besler, his competition will most likely be Goodson, Boca, and maybe Gooch. And Edu and Evans could play there in a pinch.

      If for some reason he is considered for midfield, his competition will probably be Edu. I’m guessing Edu wins that.Or he could go up against Danny Williams, who I feel is a superior midfielder and just as versatile.

      Most likely Cameron is either the first or second backup CB. If he does not have that role most likely he does not go to Brazil.

      The emergence of Evans, another utility guy and a better right back and Cameron’s own recent overall decline have dimmed Cameron’s prospects a little. However, there is plenty of time for people to get hurt and lose form. Or JK could decide to go with only 3 recognized CB’s.

      It’s really too soon to speculate on Cameron. But if you insist, I say his chances of making the team are 50-50.

      Reply

    • Posted by schmutzdeck on 2013/06/07 at 9:20 PM

      Chazcar2,

      Well it looks you and JK are on the same page about Cameron the destroyer!

      Reply

  15. […] of tonight’s qualifier from PSP, SI, Penn Live.com, Soccer America, Shin Guardian, and […]

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