USA 4 – Bosnia 3: Quick & Dirty Tactical Review

Golden Domes: Exemplary on the day.

Golden Domes: Exemplary on the day.

The US makes two costly errors in the first half, but pushed the tempo and the game in the second to overrun the home side and tilt the scoreline. 4-3 for the visitors and a record 12th win in a row by the Red, White & Blue.

The States rolled out in what has become Jurgen Klinsmann’s preferred formation, a 4-2-3-1 pushing Eddie Johnson high at times on the left–call it a “screen door”or “swing midfielder/forward” role–and shading Mix Diskerud to that side in the CAM-ish role.

You can’t help but think back to the US-Slovenia World Cup game when bearing witness to the States’ efforts in Sarajevo on Wednesday. Like their neighbors, Bosnia punished two early individual mistakes–an Eddie Johnson brain cramp central clearance attempt and Fabian Johnson’s failure to close down wide service–to take a 2-0 lead into halftime. (Yes, Ibišević may have been offsides but that cross was wide open.)

Like their neighbors, Bosnia succumbed to a seemingly indefatigable US team who pushed the tempo and the game vertically in the second half.

The first 45′ can best be described as “careful” with both teams prodding for the best spot to launch an attack.

The US would push up the left flank, but attacks would often die at the feet of  Eddie Johnson through poor decision making or Mix Diskerud, was just not quick enough to work centrally against the quality home side.

Bosnia, for their part, were well schooled. They took careful chances to Pjanic on the right flank early, but when they realized the US had numbers there, attempted to work on Brad Evans on the right or go over the top to their talented forward pairing of Dzeko and Ibišević.

With the States down two after the break, they countered by sacrificing Diskerud for Edgar Castillo and reconfiguring the weak left flank by pushing Fabian Johnson up to a midfield role.

This was the most material change in the match.

The key here was the change in formation; Klinsmann’s side came out almost in a 4-2-4 to start the second half and started rocketing balls up the flanks for the onrushing feet of Fabian Johnson and Ale Bedoya. This appeared more to just up the tempo early as the forays weren’t ultimately successful. (After about 15 minutes or so, the positioning regressed to a traditional 4-4-2.)

The strategy worked though as Bosnia started getting stretched and the pace of the game picked up, leaving the midfield of the home side to play catch-up. They Bosnians didn’t handle the speed well and suddenly acres of space was available in the middle. Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley, more so, then surgically opened up the Dragons.

Bradley found Jozy Altidore–perhaps the forward’s best game yet under Klinsmann?–over the top on a simply gorgeous Aaron Brooks-like deep ball and then Fab Johnson found Altidore on the floor and the US equalized. 2-2 with a quality strike from Jozy.

The pace continued throughout the rest of the half,; the game becoming looser, more frantic and “friendly-like” as the time waned.

This would play right into the Yanks’ historical soccer roots.

The US vaulted attacks forward and Bosnia capitulated. A terrific Altidore free kick gave the States the lead and another counter produced an inch-perfect pass to Altidore who was making a clinical post run. Bosnia found one more through the head of Dzeko who was very good on the day and that’s how the scoreline closed in Sarajevo.

Let’s break it down. What are the key takeaways.

♦  Hunting in Packs

US "swarm defense" mentality saw as many as six players--usually five--around the Bosnian fullbacks in possession--especially on the US left flank.

US “swarm defense” mentality saw as many as six players–usually five–around the Bosnian fullbacks in possession–especially on the US left flank.

Bičakčić was a no so tidy 22-of-35 in possession for the home side.

Bičakčić was a no so tidy 22-of-35 passing for the home side.

Save sub-par performances by Johnson and Johnson on the left in defense, the US was extremely solid defensively as a team, executing a game plan of keeping the ball off their right flank where Lulic and Salihamovic roamed in efforts to find Dzeko. This was the side–with Brad Evans in rearguard–that was to be an attacking point for the Dragons.

Diskerud pushed high above Bradley and Jones. He (Diskerud) was primarily tasked–as was Jozy Altidore–in directing traffic down the US’s left flank where Michael Bradley could run interference. It was an excellent positional game from the Roma midfielder who was nearly flawless in his positioning on the day.

Diskerud as well displayed a more stellar and responsible defensive effort than previously seen from the Norwegian man in the Gold Cup.

With the US rallying as many as six around the ball when Bosnia’s fullbacks were in possession, the pack mentality led to two positives and one negative for the States.

The two positives? One, Miralem Pjanic was forced to drop deep in the midfield to pick up the ball, thus negating his influence in-between the midfield and defensive lines and two, Bosnia was forced to play over the top balls to Lulic and Salihamovic on the left flank where the US was able to recover and keep its defensive integrity.

Excellent team defense from the States.

The negative was Bosnia countered by trying to gap the US centerback defenders and Tim Howard with Dzeko and Ibišević making runs along the backline. The Dragons added central runs from the off-flank through Lulic and Misimovic as well which at first flummoxed the US, but under the organization of Bradley was dealt with. It’s nice to have a Michael Bradley on your team, isn’t it?

It was individual errors not team defense that was to blame for Klinsmann’s side conceding in the first half.

Yeah he scored three, but it's not often that Jozy Altidore goes 28 of 30 passing on the evening....most in the attacking half.

Yeah he scored three, but it’s not often that Jozy Altidore goes 28 of 30 passing on the evening….most in the attacking half.

♦ An Altidorean Impact

There is no mistaking Altidore’s impact on this game.

From the beginning whistle, Altidore set up shop right on the Bosnian backline, wearing them down like a boxer punching to the solar plexus. Altidore was given space around him and drew two critical fouls in the first half, one when he got loose on a turn and Diskerud headed to him on the break. Spahic was forced to tug the shoulder. As the half progressed, Altidore drifted wider as the endurance of players ebbed and found space on the sidelines, dragging either a centerback or fullback with him.

The US found Jozy and immediately Bosnia paid respects by sending an extra defender to help.

The second half was more remarkable for the now-Sunderland man. The US thrust their midfielders high in a 4-2-4 of sorts and it in turn opened the midfield.

With Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones threading passes forward, Altidore’s presence presented some tough in-game decision making from the Spahic and the Bosnian backline. Collapse on Altidore and have Eddie Johnson and the US wide midfielder make runs for layoffs and through balls or play Altidore man-up and risk being worked.

*NOT PICTURED: Fabian Johnson out of picture on the left // The US pushed it's wide midfielders high to create tempo in the second half. Here you see Eddie Johnson, Jozy Altidore and Ale Bedoya--wide right--all challenging the Bosnian backline.

*NOT PICTURED: Fabian Johnson out of picture on the left // The US pushed it’s wide midfielders high to create tempo in the second half. Here you see Eddie Johnson, Jozy Altidore and Ale Bedoya–wide right–all challenging the Bosnian backline.

The Dragons choose the latter and Altidore displayed a wide array of skills in disrupting the Dragon backline. Checking runs, off-shoulder runs. Altidore was a menace, his speed and size the difference as the Bosnian backline could not physically move him off the ball. He was active and looking for space and he buried his chances. He played Dzeko even up or better on the day.

♦ The Pacemakers.

US fans and media groaned in February of this year. Less so because of defensive miscues, more because the US couldn’t seem to find the back of the net. The US had improved their defense drastically under Klinsmann, but they just couldn’t score.

For years, the States had been a countering team, able to rip up turf vertically and threaten even the best (US 2 – Spain 0). If the first two years of Klinsmann had proved anything, it’s that the US had difficulty in the half court set if you will, without the space of the counter, the attack was neutered.

The tweak for the US came against Belgium and has been realized throughout the rest of the summer.

The US would push the pace in spurts, hoping to keep the back door closed at the same time to create offensive chances.

That happened in the second half for the States in Sarajevo who were forced to take the game to the Dragons. As the Altidore  section alluded to above, the midfield had space and Bosnia succumbed–like Slovenia–to the tempo-setting of two midfielders–Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones–who could outrun and outdefend their counterparts.

Bosnia’s central midfield could not get on the ball.

Faced with pressure, the home side when in possession in the back had two choices: struggle to work the ball through a more-pressing defense with their midfield not yet in position or punt the ball forward.

Most teams–as the Dragons did–will choose to punt for safety. The US gathered and threw counters the other way. Their historic DNA returned and Bosnia was not the equal today.

Space issues solved, US attack ignited in the very manner the US scored through the bulk of the 2000’s.

♦ Square Passes:

» Subpar performances for Fabian Johnson–whose clearly not ready to usurp DaMarcus Beasley defensively just yet–and Eddie Johnson on the left flank. More so, maybe from Johnson who was negligent in the defensive third with the marble leading to the first goal and who was consistently and taking poor and superfluous touches on the ball. It is clear EJ’s game speed is stuck on CONCACAF.

» Brad Evans has put himself in contention for Brazil. What he brings that Parkhurst doesn’t is the ability–however slight–to move the ball in possession. Parkhurst is an excellent receive and distribute guy, but if the best option is to take on his man, that’s a losing battle for him nearly every time. Evans showed some lackluster crosses on the evening, but possessed some decent handles in creating space for himself on the right.

Screen Shot 2013-08-14 at 12.55.41 PM

Dzeko & friends challenged the US backline all night. It was more difficult in the second half as the US pushed the tempo and players up the field.

» It is clear–to this writer–that Geoff Cameron and John Brooks should be the CB pairing. Cameron if only because Besler and Brooks play the same position. The pair had some communication errors and Cameron–who was challenged more–occasionally lost his mark, but Bosnia in Sarajevo for the inaugural runout of this centerback pairing is a big ask. Besler will compete for time, but Gonzalez and Goodson slink a little down the depth chart here.

» Excellent positional awareness and tracking from Ale Bedoya. He serves the same job as Graham Zusi does or James Milner for England.

Run. And run. And run interference to protect the right flank. Bedoya showed some astute central runs and had some nice service in the box, including a hellacious pass in the opening stanza that a one-touch from Eddie Johnson should’ve put in the back of the net.

» Set (Fall To) Pieces: The US’s set piece defense game has been abysmal and Wednesday was no different. It is a weapon, currently, for opponents to use against the States.

♦ States Keys To The Match: Review

» KEY: The midfield pairing of Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley must boss and dictate the game.

GRADE: A-

Yes, the States midfield bossed the game. Even in the first half both Jones and Bradley were able to get a fair amount of incising interior passes going. In the second half, well that goes without saying.

» Find Pjanić as soon as the ball turns, but manage the deep service of Misimovic.

GRADE: A-

Yes, take a look around the 25th to 35th minute or so, Pjanić is seen frequently dropping deep into almost a sweeper-type role to get some touches on the ball.

» Push left per usual and hit at the newbie Bičakčić.

GRADE: B-

The US had fairly little trouble on the left flank save some poor fundamental defending from Fabian Johnson and a poor decision by Eddie Johnson. Up top though, Eddie Johnson was awful. He held the ball, was late on runs which killed attacks and took too many touches. The US still survived though as they limited the play through Bičakčić

» Contain Eden Džeko, but also manage the  forward runners off him.

GRADE: C+

The US managed good team defense and both Cameron and Brooks had moments where they won 1v1 duels, but there was much to worry about. Cameron was soundly beaten in the air for two goals. Both defenders were lax tracking the “second play” on the first goal and the pair really had to play very close together to avoid getting gapped. Much to like, much to improve though.

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114 responses to this post.

  1. As a fan, that wants to understand the nuiances of the game, I thank you guys. I learn so much from your insights and the comments of the TSG commentators.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/08/14 at 4:47 PM

      Thanks // glad to be off help.

      Remember though, this is just opinion and shouldn’t be taken as straight fact … though with research of teams, it removes some of that.

      Reply

  2. Aaron Brooks the QB or the PG? :)

    Great review Matt. Impressive you put this together so fast.

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    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/08/14 at 4:47 PM

      The QB? :> // thanks…. it’s easy to write these when the teams come out and do what you expect them too.

      For example, Honduras gives me trouble to write about because they consistently mix up their strategy–to their credit– against the States.

      Panama, Mexico are easier. Mexico is surprisingly or not so surprisingly static under Chepo.

      Reply

  3. I completely agree with you that I want to see Cameron/Brooks as our CB pair. Those are the best two CB’s in the pool, by a fair margin as well.

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    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/08/14 at 4:45 PM

      Agree. Besler is excellent, but with he and Brooks both lefties difficult to see them on the field at the same time.

      But I think it will be situational. All depends who the competition is.

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      • Posted by WilkersonMcLaser on 2013/08/14 at 5:37 PM

        I somewhat expose my Philly Union partisanship by even suggesting this, but has anyone thought about giving either Besler or JAB a run-out at LB? I mean, we do it with the Geoff Camerons of the world on the right all the time. Why not at LB?

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        • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/08/14 at 5:39 PM

          That strategy would work on the right (Parkhurst) where Klinsmann tends to keep the RB at home a bit more.

          But on the left it’s Fab, DMB or Castillo all “natural overlappers.” So either of those guys there doesn’t make a ton of sense …. unless you flip what Klinsmann is doing and go up the right side.

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          • Posted by WilkersonMcLaser on 2013/08/14 at 5:42 PM

            Very fair point, although I can still see that being an option. JAB does have some offensive chops in embryo. And out right, I recall ‘Dolo being quite the wingback when needed. Even Evans has shown some offensive flash even if its really not his natural position.

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    • Posted by john mosby on 2013/08/14 at 5:54 PM

      I think matt besler is going to have something to say about who is the best center back on this team. its hard to deny that he is the smartest. besler is the best!!! he is the smartest and that makes him almost a lock. Cameron is probably going to slide into jones spot before all is said and done anyway.

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    • Posted by euroman on 2013/08/14 at 6:36 PM

      I missed something. Are Brooks & Cameron the two CB’s that just gave up 3 goals? They showed their level today and it is pretty low. Brooks gets a pass because he’s young and inexperienced but Cameron is just not up to this level. His lack of playing time at Stoke screams the same thing. Besler and Goodson are still our two best by a mile.

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      • First pairing today. Would give Brooks & Cameron a pass for miscommunication due to just getting acquainted. Also have to give credit to Dzeko and the other Bosnian strikers. Those runs aren’t easy to mark.

        Besler and Goodson have faced different competition. In the Mexico match and some others match last few months, Besler and Gonzalez were very close to getting scored on in bunches. Some missed opportunities by Chicharito and others and different story (yes Gonszo is mostly responsible but Besler has had some missed markings and defending crosses/header issues). Goodson has his limitations (poor offside trap/keeping the line, slow response, etc.) Besler is cerebral but does he fit in the ideal pairing or is Brooks better? Not sure yet. Brooks & Cameron both have good positioning and possession *likely better than Besler and Goodson. Besler is right there competing but would not say though that Besler and Goodson are a mile ahead. Excited to see some more observations.

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      • Posted by Jared on 2013/08/15 at 5:18 AM

        That’s a bit of an overreaction to their level especially to Brooks considering he’s 20 years old and met Cameron 2 days ago. Brooks will be a much better defender than anyone on the USMNT pretty quickly. We’ll have to see how much Cameron plays under Hughes and the new Stoke style.

        Goodson is not good enough at this level and has shown that repeatedly. If Cameron’s lack of playing time in the Premier League is an indication of his level then I think Goodson never playing outside of Scandinavia while in Europe is an even bigger red flag. Players that are good enough in Scandinavia usually move up.

        Also, Bosnia is a much better team with much better strikers than anything the Besler/Goodson pairing has faced. The only close comparisons would be the Germany (B/C team) or Belgium but Gonzalez was involved in those and the US defense was not good.

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      • I am not very confident in our CB options overall with exception to Besler. After him, we have Goodson, Gonzalez, Cameron, Orozco-Fiscal and now John Brooks as options (in no order). Each provides something different from speed (Fiscal, Cameron, Besler, Brooks) to size (Goodson, Gonzalez, Cameron) to passing ability (Cameron, Besler, Brooks) to defensive ability (Besler). I don’t see anyone yet that is better than Besler.

        Right now, I see Cameron as a defensive CM at the international level backing up Jones rather than a true CB. He’s so athletic and I know JK wants to use that athleticism but in every game I can think of, he’s given up a goal at CB (some were just unlucky like the one that went off of him to score a goal- was not his fault). He’s been paired with Gonzalez and made the mistackle that led to the goal, he’s played with Bocanegra and again made a mistake to get scored on and even at RB he made a mistake and a goal was scored. I’m just not sold on Cameron at CB.

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        • Posted by Jared on 2013/08/15 at 12:31 PM

          Brooks has size. Dude is 6’4 and only 20. Get him in the weight room and he might be Onyewu size.

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  4. I’m happy to find someone else who was impressed with Brooks. Most sites were more negative. I particularly like the way he snuffed a number of 1v1 threats where he was the last line of defense.

    How about Aron Bacon? His first touch seems pretty good. Though he was obviously not 100% in sync with everyone else and didn’t finish his best chance, he showed significant potential to challenge EJ. Which implies dropping Donovan back into midfield with Dempsey and Bradley.

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  5. ’m happy to find someone else who was impressed with Brooks. Most sites were more negative. I particularly like the way he snuffed a number of 1v1 threats where he was the last line of defense.

    How about Aron Bacon? His first touch seems pretty good. Though he was obviously not 100% in sync with everyone else and didn’t finish his best chance, he showed significant potential to challenge EJ. Which implies dropping Donovan back into midfield with Dempsey and Bradley.

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    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/08/14 at 4:44 PM

      Aron Johannson should be named Space Monkey. Because he settles in on the pad and then BOOM … space monkey launched into space.

      Josh Gatt just saw his stock decrease a bit. Johannson was not only good his movement and positioning were quite good.

      It’s a little difficult to tell because when Johannson entered it was already a frantic affair. It will be good to see him in the 1st half against Costa Rica or Mexico. Would Klinsmann play him out wide in the EJ role? Good question.

      He’s likely a sub off the bench just like today because I think Landon gets EJ’s position and Dempsey’s Mixx’s position in a base formation.

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      • “(AJ) in EJ role? He’s (AJ) likely a sub off the bench just like today because I think Landon gets EJ’s position and Dempsey’s Mixx’s position in a base formation.”
        Spot on. Starting writing a comment on this exact issue but beaten too the punch. Matt you are on fire.

        One of the most interesting and subtle longterm questions is will AJ surpass Zusi (LD to RM) or Altidore to get on the pitch. 1 observation is not worth jack but man the potential AJ showed has me thinking he will quickly surpass EJ.

        Guessing your front 6 are?:

        ———Altidore————-

        Donovan———Dempsey———–Zusi

        ————-Bradley———-Jones

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        • I agree with your starting 6, but if (when) we shift to 4-4-2 later in the game, then what would you do?

          Watching AJ’s highlights suggests he would be great up front receiving service from the wing. Donovan obviously has the vision to deliver it and the speed to make his own runs through the backline from midfield, a position from which he might be an even more disruptive.

          Would that merit losing Zusi or Jones? I would say yes, but I’m not sure which one.

          Speculative, yes, but fun to think about.

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          • Posted by scweeb on 2013/08/14 at 7:05 PM

            I was thinking more of a 4-4-2 diamond center like RSL plays.

            your two up top would be Jozy demps. Pick you two Wings slap LD up top and a big old MB90 to anchor the back. Gives you allot of room with your subs.

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            • Against weaker opposition, yes, but against WC quality teams not sure. LD centrally is not the best option on disruptive/transitional defense. Also that diamond center (albeit fluid) may create too many gaps centrally that teams can exploit. Bradley can cover a lot of ground but unsure whether that formation is too much too ask. Also from my perspective LD is a better asset distributing from the wing and running at the opposition than in tight spaces.

              But just my opinion. Each situation/match is different. Maybe that diamond makes sense depending the matchup.

          • Dempsey would move up into the forward spot in 4-4-2 just like EJ did. I agree EJ will most likely be a super-sub like Shea has been.

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      • Posted by cpjuengel on 2013/08/15 at 12:09 PM

        i like LD in EJs BIH position, given license to run all day because he knows hell be subbed for either EJ or AJ later on, “no need to save it Landon, we got you covered, go out and cause hell”

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        • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/08/15 at 2:09 PM

          The US has used Brek Shea as the lone true lefty late game at LM. Beasley will be the overlapper and Donovan will slot in there.

          Fabian will have to fight for reps at LFB and LMF — right now he’s behind Donovan and Beasley imo.

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  6. Posted by Paula on 2013/08/14 at 4:58 PM

    I do love how this great Bosnia team has now morphed into “their B team, at best, really a C” among the commenters out there …

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  7. Posted by dbex99 on 2013/08/14 at 5:01 PM

    Great analysis as always….but let’s not let Jermaine Jones off the hook for a miserable first half. He played like he was sedated and gave the ball away more times than I could count. To his credit, he picked it up somewhat in the second half.

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    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/08/14 at 5:04 PM

      100% categorically disagree. My commentary on Jones is that often he had defenders draped all over him and took the punishment and moved the ball forward in possession or with a pass.

      He’s not Michael Bradley, who would actually just say, “I’m getting defended. Processing. Pass.”

      I thought Jones was very solid in the first 45′ when the US played a down tempo game. Best game? No. But he made about 3 or 4 very nice outlet passes.

      So, not saying your wrong, but to me he was an important cog.

      Could Stu Holden (pre GC final) walk that ball out of his own half under duress? No, don’t think so. Look at how often Diskerud got blown off the ball.

      Anyway, agree to disagree.

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      • I thought Mix was the best of the middies during the first half (and denied a stone-cold PK). But it’s REALLY hard to disagree with the formation shift. I think a MB90-Mix pairing in a 4-4-2 could cause havoc to opposing defenses.

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      • Posted by CJ on 2013/08/15 at 3:08 PM

        I kind of disagree with you as well, Matt. I think what you’re giving props to Jermaine Jones for you’re also taking points away from EJ for. Jones repeatedly got the ball in the defensive half off a short pass from the D or off a turn over and instead of doing a quick turn and “up-tempoing” the game, lazily did this “I’m not really interested in being the launching point for the attack” turn and then when he was closed down on, used his skill set/strength/speed to boogie away. It was reactionary, if he used his explosiveness that you are crediting him with sooner, he never would’ve been closed on in the first place and he easily would have been able to make a creative play, under far less duress.

        In summary, his head was too slow and when he finally figured out he was being closed on he kicked the ball in a straight line very fast as an escape tactic. It really wasn’t that impressive. I need to re-watch but, I felt that opinion was reaffirmed 3-4 times.

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        • I agree and disagree with everyone it seems. I also thought JJ was poor in the 1st half but much improved in the 2nd. Maybe Matt’s right in that Jones faced more ball pressure but I also remember thinking “where’s Bosnia’s midfield” because the US seemed to pass and dribble with lots of space in that 1st half. I thought Bradley did a much better job without losing the ball.

          Mix had a nice turn on the ball and should have earned a penalty but otherwise I thought he got knocked off the ball too easily. He might fare better against smaller opposition but he seems a tad slight for the int’l game.

          EJ did what Dempsey got reamed for during the last WC cycle (against Costa Rica?), just deeper in our half and with more immediate bad results. I think he can still be very useful on our WC roster. He just needs to execute before allowing defenders to react or recover. EJ seems better suited up top (as a sub) because of his defensive deficiencies.

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  8. Posted by matthewsf on 2013/08/14 at 5:01 PM

    Really — I’ve missed that! They had all but two starters and where the US did damage was not in their trouble spots. So, yeah, that’s wrong.

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  9. Posted by Berniebernier on 2013/08/14 at 5:11 PM

    Looking for some help here…

    I know Brooks and and Besler are lefties but how much of an issue is that and why?

    Bradley and Jones are both righties and no one worries about that. I get that it matters for wings that are sending in crosses but guys in the middle of the field seems far less important.

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    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/08/14 at 5:14 PM

      The reason you nearly always play a defender on their stronger-foot-side is that the keeps the ball outside in possession.

      Witness today, EJ was not comfortable with his left. So looked to make a play on his right foot and the best option from that angle was to the middle. Turnover, score.

      It’s a pretty big issue, because if a forward’s on you, you want to carry the ball/pass it with your body inbetween the opponent’s forward and you if there is a mistake.

      *Plus it also is a weapon up the field to find a pass on the floor between defenders.

      I know Besler is very left footed. Even when he receives the ball, he’s just not as natural on his right. Didn’t get a good enough look at Brooks in that, no pun, right today.

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      • Posted by Berniebernier on 2013/08/14 at 6:27 PM

        Thanks, appreciate it.

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      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2013/08/15 at 6:02 AM

        Not sure I agree with you 100% Matt. How many times do you see a centre back “dribble” out of the box when he has a player on him? In a perfect world, you would have the left foot – right foot balance in your centre back pairing. But I think you’re referring toa defend/defend partnership, where both players tend to have equal or similar strengths and weaknesses.

        I think personally like the stopper/sweeper (cover) partnership. Where the sweeper is also a very comfortable ball-playing defender.

        In real terms: How often do you see Bradley dropping deep to collect the ball off the CBs? Would be unnecessary if you had a ball-playing CB with better distribution.

        But obviously, this decision will ultimately be made depending in the players you have available.

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      • Posted by wook # 6 on 2013/08/15 at 7:18 AM

        Great job as always. I don’t agree that Besler and Brooks both being left-footed rules them out on being a partnership, or that it is ideal for a CB to play on his stronger foot. I think it comes down to personal preference. There are plenty examples of top CBs playing on the opposite sides (inverted CBs?). One could also make the argument that it makes more sense to do so for a number of technical reasons.

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  10. Posted by matthewsf on 2013/08/14 at 5:26 PM

    It would be great — and apologies on how this may come out – if there could be a dialogue created on the *situational* nature of formations, personnel, and tactics.

    For example, today’s first half for the US was clearly all about *not giving up a goal* and threatening on the US’s strong left flank side and if the US scored great.

    The second half down 2-0 and the US chasing the game necessitated the switch. It may have come anyway. But will the 4-2-2 work for the US at a reduced pace of play like the 1st half? I don’t think so.

    What can Johannson do when the opposing defense isn’t gased or *not packing it in.

    Bob Bradley used to open with a 4-2-2-2 (or 4-4-2 if you must) and then change at the 65′ min mark to a 4-2-3-1 and push hard and high on the right.

    Klinmann typically opens in an asymmetrical 4-2-3-1 pushing high on the left and he’s been more situational on his subs. Against Panama in the Gold Cup it was a wide 4-4-2 with Shea coming on. Today it was a 4-2-4 almost with Fab J pushed up.

    The 4-4-2 is used a bit more to push tempo but can the US play it the whole game and be successful? That’s unclear.

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    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/08/14 at 5:27 PM

      One of the criticisms of Bob Bradley, right or wrong, was that he employed a high tempo gameplan nearly all the time.

      Now that’s fine for one or two game WCQ camps, but when you’re faced with a five day tourney and your team is pushing the tempo all 5 games, but the other team just needs to do it once–that’s where some suggest it breaks down.

      Reply

    • On that note, to what extent do you think Klinsmann’s use of the 4-2-3-1 early is strategic rather than tactical, i.e., designed to produce benefits later in the game, either through tiring the other side or through providing a safer formation from which to launch probing feints that reveal the opposing side’s tactics and weak points?

      Reply

    • Posted by Berniebernier on 2013/08/14 at 6:26 PM

      As requested, from a tactic/strategy prospective:

      1) Was it really about “not giving up a goal in the first half” or was it more of the fact that Mix couldn’t play in the middle of the 4-2-3-1 role like Landon or Clint can. Mix was much more MF than needed and much less forward than required. Not sure if that was an intentional strategy or a mistake that he rectified. My hunch is he didn’t have anyone else but Aron to play that role and didn’t want to start him.

      2) Personally the swing MF doesn’t seem to work whereas the CAM/second striker seems to fit Jozy’s game. Whether you want to call it a wide 4-2-3-1 or a 4-4-2 or a 4-4-1-1 we look much better than the traditional 4-2-3-1 unless we are breaking the bunker.

      3) My love/hate feelings about Jones continue. I really want to see him play more destroyer and let Bradley get forward. I had read that Klinsman talked to Jones and Bradley about just that yet I feel like I saw Bradley in between and slightly ahead of Brooks/Cameron with the ball.

      4) Aron is good but he is sort of unnecessary at the current time. His role seems to be the same as Clint and Landon. He plays a little higher but basically what we saw of Clint in the qualifiers and Landon in the GC. He will look real good in 2015 though.

      5) Mix isn’t ready and won’t be for a while. I just don’t think he is strong enough.

      Reply

      • Posted by CJ on 2013/08/15 at 3:21 PM

        Aron is perfect then for so many reasons Bernie… he may not start but you bring a squad of 23, not 11 for a reason. In practice he can replicate their styles, he also is in the speed vs mental aspect of his game at 22 whereas Landon has slowed. Put Landon in for 80 mins and then sub the speedster on for the final 15 when pressing late (the last minute Landon heroics aren’t going to be there as much this tourney as he’s older now), he can also sub for EJ or Altidore.

        Imagine having Altidore, Donovan, Dempsey, and Johannson on the pitch at the same time, backed by Bradley and Jones/Diskerud in a situation where we need to produce goals to get out of the Group stage.

        Also, if any injuries occur you have a like-for-like sub instead of suddenly having to make a tactical and player change.

        He’s an asset, saying he’s unnecessary would imply we have oodles of creative depth… I may be a little over excited but, his talents got me pumped for the WC.

        If we lock in the CB mystery, I think our squad will be top 8.

        Reply

      • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/08/15 at 4:27 PM

        The 1st half to me was very much like the game against Mexico. Get forward only on the wings and never both wings at the same time. Brad Evans had a real reluctance to go forward, just as the US has a real reluctance–and I should’ve wrote this–to play the switchfield in case it got picked off.

        If the US scored through a withdrawn Diskerud or on rushing EJ or Bedoya on occasion great. If not, they’d take some shots in the 2nd half throwing some numbers forward.

        That what’s they did against Panama in Seattle and the Gold Cup and did very sparingly against Mexico at the Azteca.

        Reply

      • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/08/15 at 4:29 PM

        I think the guy that has to be disappointed about Johannson is Jack MacInerney though I’m not sure who ready he is or ever was.

        Johannson is a guy that hands off the backline and threatens a highline. He’ll be a very good option late in the game because of his speed–again based upon a single observation.

        Unlike Brooks, I had never seen Johannson play until Wednesday–so this is based upon one viewing.

        But seriously, Space Monkey — ridiculous speed.

        Reply

        • Posted by Crow on 2013/08/15 at 10:06 PM

          Johannsson just seems like a really chill guy if you watch his introductory US Soccer video. I think he will become a fan favorite- heck I think he already is.

          Reply

        • Posted by gino744 on 2013/08/16 at 12:25 AM

          Like a lot of US fans it seems, I got a chubby when I saw Johannsson (Space Monkey, if you will) for the first time on Wednesday. Yeah, I know, he was fresher than most coming on late and the game was really opening up BUT, yikes!! It’s pretty evident this kid’s got tools and already plays at a higher level than most of our other attacking options. I can see now why the Icelandic Federation had their panties in such a bunch when he cashed in on his US passport. Coupled with Jozy now seeming to realize his potential, I’m not so nervous about this being Landon and Clint’s last World Cup.

          Reply

  11. Posted by Tom P on 2013/08/14 at 7:17 PM

    I completely agree with the analysis of Johnson- if he had missed his sitter it would have been a “0” as a match rating.
    He is not world cup quality to say the least. The MLS is level he belongs at.

    Reply

  12. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2013/08/14 at 7:26 PM

    Agree 100% regarding the tactical change at HT – moving Eddie Johnson centrally, and German Johnson to the left.

    Obviously this was a friendly, but if it wasn’t, at what point do you make this tactical change?

    Cannot wait for the next free kick around the box – I want to see Altidore telling Dempsey and Donovan to bugger off!

    Reply

    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2013/08/14 at 7:53 PM

      Read : 4-3-3 to 4-4-2.
      Funny how the performance turned around by going back to the dark ages, eh?

      Reply

      • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/08/15 at 4:31 PM

        More increasing the tempo. Unlike Spain or Argentina or even Germany, the US just cannot play balls on the floor with quick staccato passes. Their speed of attack slows drastically; many players are also too reactionary (how many times did Eddie Johnson retrieve a forward pass rather than running on to it by moving before it happened.)

        England has the same problem. They’re best in the 4-4-2 because they don’t have the ability to play through the middle on the floor fast. I think that’s why there is a real hope that Jack Wilshere can remain healthy because he’s got some of that.

        Reply

        • Posted by Len on 2013/08/16 at 12:39 AM

          Do you feel that the 4-4-2 enables Jozy by pushing him farther left to the wing? As you’ve written before, he has great success there (against good teams too) – troubling England in WC2010, Netherlands friendly that same year and certainly tonight.

          On top of tempo, is that a reason to start a 4-4-2? Or perhaps value it more tactically?

          You may argue that Jozy can get left and pull defenders fine as a lone striker. And maybe we need a 4-2-3-1 for team defense to start. Mixx was pretty good at that tonight, even if his offense wasn’t.

          Reply

        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2013/08/16 at 4:18 AM

          I think people hear 4-4-2 and think negatively. But Bayern Munich played much of their SF against Barcelona in the defensive phase with two banks of four – and they executed their games plan expertly (I guess if you want to be pedantic it was 4-4-1-1 with Mueller dropping on the DLP).

          The issue for me regarding England, is the transition phase – from 4-4-2 into 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 against the better teams because our ball retention is so bad, too many players become a non-passing option because they cannot receive the ball when they’re not totally open / or in a tight space – makes pressing and winning the ball back easy for the opponent. So we go back to to two banks of four – and it happens over and over all because we cannot keep the ball.

          Reply

  13. Posted by J Lemire on 2013/08/14 at 8:44 PM

    So I went back and took a look at US line-ups from 2009 and 2010. Now, for whatever reason I have gone through life without learning whether or not Jay Demerit is right-footed or left-footed, but I know Boca is left-footed, and I know Gooch is right-footed. I also know that on multiple occasions in both the Confed Cup and the World Cup, Demerit was paired with both Boca and Gooch, meaning on several meaningful occasions, we either had two right-footed CBs or two left-footed CBs.

    I agree that in a perfect world our two best CBs would compliment each other’s preferred foot… but…

    I agree with those who are down on Omar Gonzalez at this point in his international career. I also agree with those who think that John Anthony Brooks looked like a raw version of a very real solution.

    All of that said, I would love to see Belser and JAB paired up, allowing G Cam’ron to replace Jermaine Jones next to Bradley.

    I too am in the camp of those not swayed by Jones’s game. I just think the whole team functions better when he is either not on the field or is sitting back and letting Bradley pull the strings (something he simply does not do nearly enough).

    Reply

    • Posted by Jake on 2013/08/14 at 9:09 PM

      I have liked this for a while (with Brooks now the partner to Besler rather than Goodson/Gooch/Gonzo). Cameron allows Bradley to be Bradley. Add Jozy up front with Landon and Clint alternating between 2nd fwd and LM and someone else out wide right FJ/Zusi.

      Down a goal? Sacrifice Cameron or other CB for another forward and move MB90 to CDMish and Demps/Donovan playing in hole/wide.

      Reply

  14. Posted by jdpaulk on 2013/08/14 at 9:39 PM

    “It is clear–to this writer–that Geoff Cameron and John Brooks should be the CB pairing”

    I had trouble continuing after reading this. How can Brooks usurp Goodson, Besler, and Gonzalez after just his first game, a game that showed both tremendous potential and room for improvement? And how can Cameron sit so clearly atop the pile when he’s still working to establish himself as a starter for Stoke?

    Didn’t your mother teach you Europhilia is a dangerous thing?

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/08/15 at 11:39 AM

      Hey man! :> — I’ve got Brad Evans as the RB and DaMarcus ahead of Fabian right now. So what say you to that North Americaniphilia? :>

      Reply

      • Posted by CJ on 2013/08/15 at 3:23 PM

        lol he also kind of called you out for overvaluing a player on one performance… oh snap! That’s a TSG no no.

        Reply

        • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/08/15 at 4:33 PM

          Yup — but I had seen Brooks play a few times before and actually for awhile. Brian Sciaretta would not shut up (in a good way) about him since 2011 to any folks in the media.

          He’d say, “Yeah Chandler, but let me tell you Hertha has this Brooks kid that if he declares, he’s going to blow everyone away.”

          Let’s put this in perspective on Brooks. He has a *5 YEAR* contract. 5 years. They gave a 19-year-old (1 year in) a 5-YEAR contract. They don’t just hand those suckers out in the Bundesliga.

          Reply

          • Posted by gino744 on 2013/08/16 at 12:33 AM

            Yeah, this kid looks to be the real deal. Some people might criticize Klinsmann for the Germanification of our National Team, but even the biggest Yankee Doodle Dandy’s will swallow their tongues on Brooks. BTW, I read somewhere that he goes by Anthony Brooks, not John Brooks. Whatever, I’ll call him Gunther Brooks if he wants so long as he wears our uniform.

            Reply

          • Posted by Len on 2013/08/16 at 12:55 AM

            5 YEARS?! Wow. You compelled me to watch the game, and Brooks, again. I’m ashamed I knew nothing of him prior to kickoff.

            I wasn’t totally sold on him being a clear starter – but mainly because this was his debut, and I haven’t seen anything else. Taking TSG’s sound judgment into account, I am ready to watch more.

            Reply

  15. Posted by PedroVB13 on 2013/08/14 at 11:19 PM

    I know I posted this on other thread, Just thought it would be more appropriate here.

    I’m of the thought that we should try a 3-5-2.
    Work with me here…

    ————-Jozy—————
    —————-Deuce———
    LD——–MB90———-Zusi
    ——-Jones——-GC——–
    —-FJ—–Besler—Brooks–

    Cameron plays a hybrid CDM/RCB. So maybe it’s more of a 3.5-4.5-2
    In Fab-J, Besler, Brooks & Cameron, you have plenty of distribution out of the back. FJ can push up left flank, GC drops back to cover. LD/Zusi attacking on wings.
    And this gets, Deuce, LD, Zusi, Jozy on the fielsd at the same time with MB90 orchestrating the offense.

    Thoughts?

    Reply

    • I just don’t think we have a strong backline to play with 3 defenders even with Cameron/Jones their to help. I think you see Cameron the way I do as well. I see him as a defensive CM and right now behind J.Jones at the position for us by WC2014. I just can’t imagine now having FJ move up the flanks on the left leaving Jones to defend LB position. I feel we’ll stay with 4 in the back and either play the 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2 type formations. Its where we have the players to manage it.

      Reply

    • Posted by CJ on 2013/08/15 at 3:26 PM

      It’s been covered here before, the 3-5-2. It’s the opinion of TSG if I remember correctly that it won’t happen due to the players no using a 3-man backfield at their clubs. To learn the new lines/angles and different positioning would be too chaotic/difficult in the short amount of time a National Team gets to play together. It would be different if at least one of those players in the back had experience on a club playing a 3-man line.

      Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/08/15 at 4:36 PM

      Unless you ultimately possess the ball way up the field and have extremely dynamic fullbacks (Alba, Lahm) etc, it’s really difficult to play a 3-man backline. Also, because most teams go with a single striker now. You want an advantage of +1 at the back.

      If opponent’s attack is 4-3-3, you need four at the back. If the opponent plays 2 up top, then you could run a 3-5-something. If the opponent has one up top, you want 2 or 4 at the back. The two fullbacks push up.

      The challenge also arises specifically when a team possesses against a 3-man backline. Then there is a wide space in the middle (or it becomes a 5-man backline and you get pinned back), but you get the picture.

      Reply

      • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/08/15 at 4:38 PM

        What many teams are doing right now is almost running a stopper-sweeper if they want to run a 3-man backline. They’ll have a defensive drop deep and play deep.

        Or as Roberto Martinez will use this year at Everton, he’s going with a 3-5-2 and John Stone (hell of a young kid) is going to oscillate between the backline when pushed back and a CDM when moving forward.

        Take a look at Everton. They’re going to be dynamic this year.

        Reply

        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2013/08/15 at 5:11 PM

          Agree with a defensive midfielder dropping back making the third man as the two CBs spilt. Guardiola did this at Barcelona with Mascherano and then Busquets. Not sure you’ll see 3 out and out CBs.

          But as mentioned above, very high line, and also aggresive press – and FBs who play most of the game in the “2nd or 3rd band”.

          Not sure there are many national teams who have the players to pull that off effectively – no surprise that the couple that can, have most of their 1st XI playing for the same club team…

          Reply

  16. Posted by Crow on 2013/08/15 at 1:37 AM

    Late to the party and sneakily watched the game on a cell phone during a busy work day. I saw the replay of the Altidore game.

    Eric posted on the last article asking if this game or more this summer was a turning point in the USMNT history.

    I say yes. I’m getting ready to travel to Costa Rica and Columbus and I was looking back on Columbus 4 years ago. I drove out by myself 7 hours to the game. Was still learning alot about soccer, didn’t know anybody who liked it. Brian Ching was starting. Fast forward 4 years and the depth of the team is astounding- the growth in the last year has been amazing. So many options at FW, midfield, and CB when it seemed there were so few. The network of fans is growing. A supporter section (capped) of 9,000 in Columbus! That was unthinkable 3 years ago. 50 went on the AO trip to South Africa and 3 747s were sold out last year within a week for Brazil when the team was playing poorly and uninspired. MLS has made exponential growth in quality and atmosphere the last few years. We have exciting players on top teams. Its just incredible to witness the growth in just one World Cup cycle.

    I’m not really that old- I just turned 28 but it amuses me to see the way kids/tweens/teens are so savvy with phones, tablets etc. I feel like I didn’t grow up with that stuff. It was really coming out as I was a later teenager so I’m good with it but there are things that aren’t natural to me still. That is how I am with soccer- I basically learned it or was assimilated into the culture. Its almost like learning a foreign language. I may be ‘fluent’ now or close to it but its still a foreign language. This next generation is growing up with soccer, its almost like its their first language. You have the kid in MLS now who was born after the league was founded; coverage is slowly getting better on television and with the internet everyone is exposed to the sport. I think in about 10 years you are going to see an enormous growth in the level of fandom and also quality players as more choose the sport. The future is bright!

    Side note- I predict now that Jozy will score 14 goals (18 in all competitions) score multiple goals in the World Cup, and sign with Chelsea next summer transfer window. I think we are finally seeing it- he is the one who will help break soccer into the mainstream and I think it will happen in Brazil.

    Reply

    • Posted by Berniebernier on 2013/08/15 at 4:09 AM

      That was always one of the aspects of the Sunderland move that I really liked. He should get playing time so very little risk of wasting on the bench, it gives him a chance to prove he can play in the EPL, and if he does well and/or has a good WC then a big team will still bid for him. I am hoping Sunderland is a one year rest stop.

      Reply

    • Posted by mbw on 2013/08/15 at 6:44 AM

      What’s really changed to my mind is the depth. We’re no longer one injury away from fielding a Bornstein.

      Reply

      • Posted by Crow on 2013/08/15 at 10:33 AM

        Exactly.

        To give Bob Bradley some credit- I think he never really had a/any impact subs to use off the bench because there wasn’t any depth. Also, he ran his teams into the ground (2011 Gold Cup, 2010 World Cup) because there was a starting 11 but no depth to rotate the squad without sacrificing quality.

        We have Brek Shea, Stuart Holden, Josh Gatt, and Cherundolo all injured and it almost doesn’t matter due to the newfound depth. I mean the team yesterday didn’t have Dempsey or Donovan. They consistently outposessed Bosnia on the road even in the first half.

        People were down on JK early but I think it is like any coach of a college or Pro team. It takes awhile to change the existing system and also recruit/sign players that fit your system.

        I do buy into the benefits of competition for spots. Also people were criticizing JK’s emphasis on fitness with his ‘strange techniques’ but the US consistently wears teams down in the 2nd half so something has to be there.

        Reply

        • Posted by fellainisfro on 2013/08/15 at 11:51 AM

          Crow your spot on regarding the introduction of a new coach in a sports team. Just like the change of managers or CEO’s of companies, there is a period of time when adjustment should be expected. You can’t always catch lightening in a bottle. Sometimes there is a period of upheaval before things are righted, and hopefully in the right direction. There was a great article several months back I think on ESPNFC right after the Sporting News article that was threatening to tear apart the USMNT about why Klinsi was hired. It was not his job to go out and win a World Cup and be a world beater every time the team stepped on the field. It was to come in and using an overtired sports term “revolutionize” our Men’s National Team from top to bottom. Every detail of our team from the youth to the senior side has his fingerprint on it and now two year’s into the process we are seeing dividends that started two summer’s ago. After a decade and a half living in America, Klinsi gets that we are a melting pot of a nation with many influences of different cultures. I love that our USMNT is more representative of our population than it used to be. We have the Hispanic influence, European influence as well as the old school USMNT member by coming up the ranks via club soccer to ODP to college route. Just like our population, our “Style of play” is fast becoming a hybrid that fits our national identity.

          Reply

        • Posted by Jared on 2013/08/15 at 12:56 PM

          Bob never had impact subs on the bench because he put guys like Robbie Findley and Bornstein on the roster regularly.

          Reply

          • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/08/15 at 2:08 PM

            Bob tried to work a system. He didn’t have nearly the amount of talent that Klinsmann has for whosever fault that is.

            Bradley had to play guys like Conor Casey, Jonathan Spector many many minutes.

            At the World Cup, he knew Goodson wasn’t good enough but that was his second best option to Gooch.

            Anyway, don’t mean to get defensive for some odd reason, but man Bradley’s teams were always one injury away from being in trouble.

            Reply

            • Posted by Jared on 2013/08/16 at 5:41 AM

              That actually adds to my criticism then if he was so locked into his system that he had to bring in guys like Findley. Definitely had less to work with but didn’t help himself either.

          • So Jared, who are the Americans that BB should have capped instead of FIndley and Bornstein? You make it sound like Bradley left out some great players.

            FIndley was involved because of Davies’ injury and Bornstein was involved because it seems there was no one better. Name me a better US left back at the time because I could not .

            It is an interesting fact that Jonny Boy was a regular player from about 2008 until the end of 2010. In games he appeared in during that period the USMNT’s record was:

            15 wins, 10 losses and 1 draw.

            If you count only the competitive matches such as WC qualifiying, World Cup, Gold Cup, Confed Cup and so on the record is:

            8 wins, 6 losses and 1 draw.

            Who would have thunk it?

            Reply

  17. Posted by Chazcar2 on 2013/08/15 at 7:10 AM

    My comment on Jones is that he forces the team to play around him. Yes he is the guy carrying the rock forward, powering through players, but is that really what we want? I just think that his game is so fixed that Bradley’s play is minimized when he is on the field. As Bradley is a better player I think we should be maximizing his potential. Bradley is far enough ahead of our other midfielders that finding the partner that best fits him should be priority #1.

    Thoughts:
    -I know Dempsey has been playing in the hole behind the striker in a 4-2-3-1 but I think Donavon showed so well there and his speed is so valuable that I think we should keep him there. I would like to see Dempsey in the role that EJ tried to play today.
    -To me Gonzalez just isn’t good enough with his feet to play in this system. Maybe Situationally against a strong aerial team bring him in for Goodson. Brooks is an interesting option. I agree that it sucks that he and Besler are both left footed. I could see that combination being really good. Besler is definitely too left-footed to play on the right. Brooks might be able to though, I haven’t seen enough to be sure.
    -Cameron for me is best suited to the midfield in this team. He has the ability and is a player that adapts his game to the team. I choose him over Jones for that reason alone.

    So My 4-2-3-1:
    ——————Altidore—————-
    –Dempsey—Donavon———-Zusi
    ———-Cameron—Bradley———-
    Beasley–Besler–Goodson–Evans

    Bonus Fun: A three-man backline (which could also be called an asymmetrical 4-2-3-1)

    ——————Altidore————–
    ——-Dempsey——-Donavon—–
    Johnson–Jones–Bradley——–Zusi
    —–Besler—Gonzalez—Cameron—

    The key thing here is that this is not Three Center Backs or Two center backs with a sweeper. Gonzalez or whoever is in the center is the man who steps up to win the headers or challenge the ball. The others cover him.

    Reply

    • Posted by Chazcar2 on 2013/08/15 at 12:49 PM

      Other Jones comment: Given that Klinsmann preaches simplicity and speed of thought I don’t understand using Jones so much. He frequently tries to be too complicated. Not taking the simple option. That is a bit of his role, but to a limit.

      Reply

    • Posted by Jawaad on 2013/08/15 at 4:12 PM

      Your 4-2-3-1 lineup honestly is a great lineup, but I think there is a couple things I would alter slightly. For one, Beasley, I truly believe is not the answer at LB. He’s not particularly great at providing service to the offense (a characteristic I’m noticing JK likes out of his fullbacks), nor is he a particularly great defender. I will say he’s got really good recovery speed and closes off the gaps pretty well once he’s been beaten, and I think his deficiencies are definitely more hidden against the inferior CONCACAF competition, but in Brazil next year, the attack is going to be fierce in many cases. I honestly don’t know who to put at LB next year, and I’m not even sure that person has gotten consistent starts at the position to this point. That being said, an option is still Fabian Johnson, but let’s be honest, he is clearly a more productive cog in the offense when he is playing LM. In fact, I think at the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves if Zusi will play better against the World Cup competition or will Donovan? My answer is Donovan, but I think Zusi has been tremendous in a time where we were dire for service from that right side and his efforts should not be understated.

      In regards to your point about Dempsey, for the betterment of the team, I don’t think Dempsey can play out wide at this point in his career. He is at his best when he plays that withdrawn striker role and I’m not sure he still has the pace to play from the left side. Meanwhile, Donovan actually has that versatility still, IMO, and can still be productive out on the wing. I think he has actually also grown as a player and is smart enough to come progress inside and return to his defensive responsibilities without a hitch.

      Love the Bradley point and have been preaching it for months now. As great of a player Jermaine Jones is, the USMNT is completely dependent on the performance of Bradley, especially when he moves forward and injects his ability into the attack. He’s a world class player, and slowly becoming the heart and soul of this team.

      In essence, the only things I would change are this for a 4-2-3-1:
      ——————Altidore———————-
      Fabian——Dempsey——Donovan—-
      ———-Cameron—Bradley—————
      ?????–Besler–JAB/Gonzo–Evans/???

      The backline is just a straight open competition besides Besler IMO. That’ll be the most interesting thing to see over the course of the next year.

      I do think the team might be better served though with a 4-4-2, with the midfielders staggered:

      ——Altidore—Aron Johannason—-
      Dempsey——————–Donovan
      —————Bradley——————
      ———————Cameron————-
      ?????–Besler–JAB/Gonzo–Evans

      I’ll be honest, I don’t know if that’s a feasible formation, but basically you have Cameron in the CDM role with implicit instructions that he will provide cover for the backline. This frees up Bradley to be involved in the attack and I know it was only about 30 minutes, but the moment Aron Johannason stepped on the field, I knew he has a legitimate shot to make a Thomas Muller type impact on the World Cup next year. He looked absolutely electric on the ball, had great pace and showed a great eye when to pass and a great ability to get past defenders 1 on 1. Him and Jozy could absolutely thrive together and I really hope we use him in such a way that all 5 of the front 5 players in this lineup could play together.

      Reply

      • Posted by Chazcar2 on 2013/08/16 at 6:48 AM

        I was a fan of Donavon on the wing as I think that he can provide valuable service from there and be a nice player. But I think his speed is lost out there. His top end speed and acceleration are game changing, but he can’t run a whole game anymore. Keeping him under the striker lets him manage that better.

        Meanwhile what I see developing out of klinsmann’s system is that the Left Mid is a back post crasher and someone with licence to dribble into the box and create their own shot. While dempsey doesn’t have top end speed he doesn’t need it. Its just not his game, and I don’t think the Left mid here needs it.

        I see that crosses into the box are coming from the right mid and left fullback. The right fullback is managing possession and occasionally overlapping. Right mid is a waste of Donavon in this system.

        Now to build something around both dempsey and donavon is difficult at this point but that is why I see the 4-2-3-1 I do. You could drawing it a few ways, but what i really see out of the system to date is this:

        ——–ST————-
        –WF—-WF———-
        ———-CM——RM
        LFB—-CDM———
        —–CB—CB—-RFB

        St-Striker, WF- Withdrawn Forward

        Reply

  18. […] against the 13th-ranked team in the land. For a complete tactical nerd-out on the game, hop over to The Shin Guardian […]

    Reply

  19. Posted by fellainisfro on 2013/08/15 at 8:48 AM

    Wow what an exhaustive review and comments section on just one international friendly! How far we have come since South Africa when I first started reading this amazing site.

    My take away on just a few points that everyone else seemed to touch upon. I agree that Bradley needs to be behind the tip of the spear of the attack. He is a much better distributor than Jones (see outstanding weighted ball to Jozy for his goal) but he had to run 30 yards to get to that position.

    I thought “JA” Brooks did a good job being run out for the first time against formidable competition. Yes he made mistakes, but I saw several 1v1 battles he won and also more than a few times he snuffed out counters with great positioning by himself.

    Aron Bacon. While he did come on late in the game, his skills, passing, positioning and decision making showed promise that others in the pool making their way on to the A team do not possess. Maybe a combo LD / Deuce when he comes into his prime?

    As always the number one site for me for great soccer analysis for the MNT.

    Reply

    • Posted by Crow on 2013/08/15 at 11:21 AM

      Yes! That is the point I wanted to make in my ‘thesis’ and forgot. Four years ago TSG was just starting, and now you have quality discussion and posts consistently here and on a lot of other ‘startup’ websites (American Soccer Now, etc) that have taken the cue from original sites like Yanks Abroad. I think the MLS.com website has improved a lot. There are so many more quality sites to discuss soccer than there were just a few years before.

      Also, even if soccer ‘arrives’ or takes the next step into the mainstream in say 10+ years I’m not saying that means the USA can or will win a World Cup automatically anytime in the foreseeable future. Even some of the best soccer nations have never won the World Cup of course or maybe once. It is just such a crapshoot in a single elimination tournament. But at least a thriving soccer culture will exist in the country, and there is no denying or stopping that.

      Reply

      • Posted by Gregorio on 2013/08/15 at 6:56 PM

        OMG does this mean that I’ll be the guy saying I used to like TSG when they were a garage band before they it?

        Reply

        • Posted by Fellainisfro on 2013/08/15 at 8:43 PM

          +1 Music Hipster Snob.

          Dude I was totally into REM in college before they made it big and sold out to the man. Lol

          Reply

        • Posted by Crow on 2013/08/15 at 10:05 PM

          Ha Yes we all will be! And we’ll wish soccer wasn’t so cool and mainstream LOL

          Reply

  20. Posted by Alex on 2013/08/15 at 10:32 AM

    Full disclaimer, I’m copying this from a poster on Big Soccer, but these stats are pretty spectacular:
    – Bradley 92/100 successful passes
    – Brooks 48/51 successful passes
    – Cameron 42/50
    – Bedoya 20/22
    – Jozy 30/32
    – Johannsson 12/12
    – Fabian Johnson 42/47

    Reply

    • Posted by Crow on 2013/08/15 at 10:43 AM

      And I know TSG hates completed pass stats- he wants a statistic that factors in difficulty of the passes- but I read that Bradley was up with Zanetti for completed passes last year in Serie A.

      I watched the game again and those two long balls- the first one that gave Jozy his best chance of the game (which he didn’t score on) in the first half and in the 2nd half that led to the EJ goal were absolutely ridiculous. It was like a Tiger Woods wedge shot (or insert better golfer of your choice)- the first one actually spun back a tad. And how about the inch perfect pass on Jozy’s third? I think that was the greatest “small pass/play” I’ve ever seen. Literally, if it there was inches more weight or less it would have been cleared or taken by the keeper.

      As reactive as I can be I’ve always been very level headed with Michael Bradley over the years for some reason which is strange- because usually you had fanboys or detractors in the past. I said back in the World Cup he was the best American player- even better than Donovan. I also ripped him during the Gold Cup in 2011 and said he shouldn’t be on the field due to a lack of playing time. But my word he is just simply on another level right now. Bossing the midfield sending these Pirloesque passes consistently upfield. He has grown so much in Italy and I think he will have a fantastic season. I heard De Rossi may be on the way out but I think Bradley will force his way into the lineup somewhere in the midfield consistently. You have to think (I know Roma is a big club) that Milan(s) or Juventus have to be looking at him as well.

      Reply

      • Posted by Chazcar2 on 2013/08/15 at 11:21 AM

        I was actually thinking at Man United between Carrack and Rooney/Kagawa in a midfield 3.

        Reply

        • Posted by Crow on 2013/08/15 at 11:25 AM

          I was thinking of some of the bigger clubs in other leagues in Europe- EPL, Bundesliga looking at Bradley but I wonder if he will stay in Italy for the rest of his career. After watching videos of him in Italy, he seems really comfortable there- although he has settled into every country he has played in. I think he has always had the industry of the EPL but I don’t know if I want him to leave Serie A, because Serie A has given him the positional awareness, precision, and discipline he has lacked in the past. Its funny- I was very down on Serie A even last year, and just seeing Bradley mature playing there has helped me gain a greater appreciation of the league as a whole. Still, if he could make it at a club at Manchester United that would be pretty cool.

          Reply

          • Posted by fellainisfro on 2013/08/15 at 12:05 PM

            Crow you are on fire. Spot on 100% on Bradley on his time in Serie A. If you had not noticed his moniker MB90 has almost disappeared. Previously to Serie A his industriousness for a full 90 minutes was never questioned. He would go out and give 110% of effort in going from box to box, but his ability to provide any type of offensive support was at times atrocious or worse he would commit a bad foul. In the Gold Cup 2011 final I remember vividly him dribbling up the right side into the 18 yd box straight at the defender and not once looking up to pick out his options or even try a simple move to shake the defender. Instead he dribbled right at the defender and gave the ball up. After a few months into his first season at Roma, I saw a completely different player, maybe not exactly Xavi, but a player who moves and passes and then moves and passes into a better spot. Last night, I saw a player who evolved during the game. First he stayed back to cover for JJ as he roamed about the pitch, then in the second half as JJ was pulled off become the cover and distributor further up the pitch. I see Bradley as a great fulcrum player making those around him better.

            Reply

      • Posted by fellainisfro on 2013/08/15 at 11:30 AM

        Its funny how Pirlo is the standard when it comes to pinpoint accuracy in passing, especially passes that lead to great shots on goal or goals scored. Bradley’s passes were spot on both times to Jozy and even more remarkable to me is that he did it while moving or sprinting from his deep lying position. To be able to make passes like that, with damn tired legs is remarkable to me. It’s like a pitcher who’s accuracy wanes in the late innings because he has a dead arm, but Bradley gets stronger as the game goes on.

        Reply

        • Posted by Crow on 2013/08/15 at 5:13 PM

          Thank you. I really enjoy reading your posts as well. I loved your observation of the USMNT reflecting the population and culture of the country better than ever before.

          Reply

          • Posted by Fellainisfro on 2013/08/15 at 8:56 PM

            Thanks Crow. Besides the regular article contributors on this site, I enjoy learning from you, GeorgeCross, Gregorio, Berniebernier, DTH and the other intellectual fan’s of the USMNT. It has been a pleasure sharing in the resurgence and development of the current squad.

            Cheers.

            Reply

            • Posted by Crow on 2013/08/15 at 10:15 PM

              I don’t really think I am but I do appreciate the comment alot. As has been said I feel like this site has made me smarter and also has tempered my confrontational side which I was never proud of. So maybe we can call TSG the Serie A of soccer blogs LOL

              I do agree with you about the other members you mentioned.

              I think I can give some good insight on some things since I’ve attended/attending so many games the last few years. I’m breaking into some film work for hobby/career and will hopefully have a really nice camera soon. I was hoping to have it for the Costa Rica (maybe I can be TSG’s field correspondent)/Columbus trip but sadly will not. I think I will have it for Kansas City and also Brazil next year so I would like to make some nice videos up. I’ve always wanted to do it but just haven’t had the equipment.

    • Posted by mbw on 2013/08/15 at 2:39 PM

      The one that really stands out is Brooks’s. Besler and Gonzo were hitting like 72-80 percent in the most recent qualifiers.

      Reply

  21. Posted by Crow on 2013/08/15 at 11:49 AM

    One other thought- did the 3rd Altidore goal remind anyone else of the Adu-Dempsey-Donovan goal to take the 2-0 lead lead in the 2011 Gold Cup final?

    Reply

    • Posted by mbw on 2013/08/15 at 2:41 PM

      Oh man, any team in the world would be proud of that goal. Great work by AJ and especially Kljestan, in addition to the two guys who ended up on the score sheet.

      Reply

  22. Posted by Berniebernier on 2013/08/15 at 11:57 AM

    One thing that just sunk in…

    We just beat a top Eurpoean team in their home stadium without Clint and Landon. Two years ago I didn’t think we could beat Guadaloupe without our A squad. We had about 7 irreplacable players and 2 guys that I wanted to replace immediately but we had no one else. Now we are legitimately 30 deep with Bradley as the only irreplacable player.

    We also had 60% possession. On the road. This wasn’t a bunker and counter, smash and grab 1 – 0 win either.

    Reply

  23. Posted by Chazcar2 on 2013/08/15 at 1:10 PM

    At general tactical note:
    4-4-2 vs 4-2-3-1 isn’t what changed this game. On a rewatch I can see that we actually seemed to switch to a 4-4-2 in the first half with EJ moving up top and Diskerud dropping deeper on the left.

    The “tactical” switch for me was having someone willing to overlap outside on the left. Both EJ and FJ wanted to come inside too often. They were frequently occupying the same space. If the Midfielder comes inside the fullback needs to overlap outside. I thought Evans did well in that regard with Bedoya. Once Castillo comes on there was a better threat of wide overlap.

    There was an article on ESPN during the Confed cup about fullbacks and how they influence the modern national team game. I think its true that your “playmakers” are going to be the fullbacks. It is one of the few positions with space and time. The central midfielders will be the game managers and the forwards the goal scorers but fullbacks will be the creators. I think that is why Klinsmann keeps playing midfielders there.

    Reply

  24. Posted by Tom P on 2013/08/15 at 2:04 PM

    OK – we all it was not Jermaine Jones finest hour- literally and figuratively.
    But do you really think think G. Cameron is a better choice then him for defensive midfield?
    Because he certainly is not one of the two best starting center backs we have available. Watch Stoke City if you do not believe me. He is a ball watching disaster in that position-center back that is- and that is why they moved him out in the first place.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/08/15 at 2:06 PM

      Geoff Cameron has never been tried once at centerback at Stoke City. He’s played forward destroyer, CDM, RB and LB. Never as a centerback.

      But you’re right, he ball watches these days — which he didn’t do with Houston where he was excellent as a CB. He needs the reps badly.

      Reply

      • Posted by Tom Patton on 2013/08/15 at 7:43 PM

        Where is going to get them if not at Stoke?
        My point is he should not be getting them with National team.

        Reply

        • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/08/15 at 9:58 PM

          I agree. My point was that he’s never been tried at CB for Stoke City even though any scout/his agent you spoke with regards it as his best position.

          Agree, he needs the reps. But he didn’t fail at the role at Stoke City.

          Reply

        • Posted by Crow on 2013/08/15 at 10:04 PM

          Lets hope he gets them at Stoke but I doubt with Huth and Shawcross still there. I’m surprised those guys can’t get a transfer to a bigger team because they are solid.

          With that put me in the camp of wanting to see Cameron and Bradley paired at the expense of Jones. Cameron had probably the best game I’ve ever seen by any American that game in Seattle and Bradley thrived like he did in the 2nd half (not that he didn’t have a good 1st half) of the Seattle game the other day.

          If Cameron does get reps at CB I am all for him there because I think he is one of the top 2 options if he is getting playing time.

          Reply

      • Sorry for the cliche, but he’s become a victim of his own versatility…

        Reply

  25. […] with a fair amount of frequency- both Panama matches in qualifying come to mind immediately as does the brilliant tactical shift in Sarajevo that produced an American win over Bosnia and Herzegovina. Even in Glasgow, the Americans […]

    Reply

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