We got El Tri playing a 3man back w/Crash Marquez, Bayern kids getting USSF press releases, & an 11th hour tactical leadership change. Let’s do this WC!
A few weeks ago when the US announced this match to line the administrative coffers in a tilt against their southern neighbors, it looked like this would be a casual affair. European players would be staying home–and by home, that means the east side of the Atlantic–and there would be one or maybe two MLS-based players looking to quickly shimmy their way onto the preliminary 30-man US World Cup roster.
Now? A cornucopia of narratives awaits the US as they land in Phoenix for their El Tri showdown. And even the location–the trip to Phoenix–is a storyline. All major sports league came out aggressively just a few months hence when a questionable bill on personal freedoms looked to be making its way to Arizona’s state capital for approval. USSF? They elected to play a friendly in the state. Go figure. High six figures?
Moving on… to better and more timely fare, it’s less than three months until witness is borne to the Brazilian version of “TSHABALALA!” (oops, who was that opponent?) and US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann just rummaged through his coach’s satchel–with both hands–and dug out two grenades, yanked the pins and lobbed the boomsticks into the USMNT locker room.
“ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE YET?!”
Into camp: Bayern II sensation Julian Green whose commitment to the Red, White & Blue suggests that a World Cup ticket is in the offing.
Out of camp: Martin Vasquez–the long-maligned tactical Smithers for Klinsmann who has been continually and widely questioned. Word is he will be reassigned to the U-21 side.
In other news, there are less than 70 days until the World Cup.
In: Berti Vogts…and Tab Ramos. Vogts is currently the coach of Azerbaijan but comes stateside with a player’s resume only short of a whatever soccer’s purple heart is. More importantly, perhaps, is Vogts has coached this past cycle against both Portugal and Germany.
By all accounts, the securing of Green’s services is a coup and one the US could benefit from for a while.
TSG contributor and now alum Steve Fenn dropped a succinct piece on measuring Green by year and class for his short career and how he projects.
Continually, statistics show that most teams bring too many defenders to the World Cup. The chances of the 21st man (two keepers behind) getting on the field for the States aren’t high. The 2010 cycle saw two defenders (Jonathan Spector and Clarence Goodson) only on the pitch for goal celebrations. So the thought goes that Green is likely to be additive and may get some run …. if he makes it.
Gutsy and shocking if not disruptive is what you could say banishing a top technical assistant–an assistant sidekick of 10years no less–with just more than two months to the World Cup. Not to say it may not acquit itself as a masterstroke.
If you stood watching a month ago as the US played a pre-occupied Ukraine team that not so much dissected the States as took advantage of its collective ineptitude. It was a stunning continuum of efforts that have shown the US exposed recently against teams that are adequately prepped to face them. (This is not to say CONCACAF foes aren’t well-prepared, but the US’s three group stage opponents have the clear ability to dictate the game and attack weaknesses–in CONCACAF the US has superior talent.)
The opinion on Vogts is decidedly uneven.
Scottish commentary leads itself to grave concern from his time there. Opinion is mixed on his tenure with Azerbaijan as he “competed” with a team well below the talent level of its opposition.
Here’s what former US national player and ESPN analyst Janusz Michallik told TSG Monday:
“It had to be an incredibly tough decision for Jurgen knowing his relationship with Martin. He is and was his champion for so long.
There had to be something right now that made him make this difficult decision.
In terms of Berti it’s a bit out of leftfield, but I am sure that he is more than capable of the scouting the opposition. The questions on Berti have always been about communication and personality.”
To be clear, few, if any, teams change their tactical command less than three months before the World Cup. This is an astounding move. It’s a clear demotion for Vasquez and it’s an introduction of a variable that does not have a clear history or managerial success. Maybe Klinsmann lost faith or Vasquez balked at having support in Vogts? Maybe there was some restlessness at recent performances and players or management questioned the coaching staff? All curious with Klinsmann’s extension (amazingly already) in place.
In any World Cup country, this leads Sportscenter. It’s that big.
Beyond all these sidebars, there’s a game going on Wednesday in Phoenix and there will still be a handful of Yanks on display hoping to win camp time come May.
Maurice Edu will be gunning to jump the pack in midfield while Michael Parkhurst will seek to show that he can back-up anywhere along the back four. Book that latter one.
And then there’s El Tri.
Key kickoff note here? Just one player, Jesus Zavala will likely start from the motley downtrodden Mexicrew that got Dos-A-Cero’d in Columbus a half year ago. Amazing the tumult when you consider Chicharito and friends were a trendy World Cup favorite pick coming of their Olympic win.
Without further Freddy Adu, we get to our customary preview.
As usual, it goes:
About The Opponent
TSG What We’re Looking For
11 At The Whistle.
About The Opponent: Mexico
Just the local yocals this time for social media maven and El Tri honcho Miguel Herrera.
Herrera of course announced his last roster selections personally on Twitter. After submarining New Zealand in the World Cup playoff, Herrera can probably walk into any bar in Mexico …. and not buy himself a drink … and walk out with the title.
El Tri will trot out a highly domesticated but altogether refactored side when they line-up against the States in Arizona.
Though the squad has turned, Mexico still suffers from the same main ills that plagued their World Cup qualifying campaign–metronomic build-up out of the back that fizzles upon entering the attacking third.
They’ll add two more problems to surmount here–a general lack of team speed and new holes in a defense that’s toying dangerously, at times, with a three-man backline.
The team is certainly more cohesive and playing as unit.
Mexico presents like the States in that the rearguard must be shielded and they do their best defending swarming weaker opponent ball-handlers up the pitch. It’s not consistent or voracious enough, gegenpressing it is not. El Tri seems to defend aggressively only in spurts and they can often be content to sit back and wait out some minutes if they lose the run of play. That said, when they do sit, they can be given over to long spells of merely defending and hoping, more than anything, to hit on the counter.
Under Herrera, the attack has blossomed.
By this eye, it’s down to a single change: the removal of Gio Dos Santos.
For all his unquestionable talent, Dos Santos is the El Tri equivalent of Allen Iverson–singularly good enough to force his team to victory on occasion but relied on so frequently that the exclusivity bred staleness.
Dos Santos is a terrific player. His 2011 demolishing of Carlos Bocanegra and the US backline at the Rose Bowl will live on in series infamy but there can be no question that El Tri has a freer range of movement and linking with Dos Santos off the pitch.
Herrera’s assessment dovetails with the one above. Here’s what he told the media in December:
“Gio is a player that can make a difference, but he plays in a position that I don’t use, in the hole,” Herrera told. “I need two strikers, I don’t need an enganche.”
The simple assessment is that Dos Santos ate up space and time with the ball on his feet at the top of the attacking third, in-cutting from the right. Now with two strikers, the space between the lines can be checked to instead of inhabited–either by one of the strikers or a tucked-in midfielder coming horizontal.
Up top in Brazil may be Oribe Peralta and Chicharito, but their understudies Wednesday will be Raul Jimenez and Alan Pulido–a partnering not unlike, in spirit, what the US faced in Bosnia’s Eden Dzecko and Vedad Ibisevic.