USA vs. Nigeria Preview: Fun With Lagos?

* A momentary pause for the school girls who were recently abducted in Nigeria. May they make a swift and safe return.*

Air Klinsmann One ... nearly on the tarmac.

Air Klinsmann One …  on the tarmac.

And Air Klinsmann One non-stop to Brazil is nearly on the tarmac.

The US followed up a 2-0 sleepwalk over Azerbaijan ten days ago with a sloppy 2-1 victory–but victory nonetheless–against the Crescent Moons of Turkey on Sunday. The States train now in a sweltering and humid Jacksonville and take on fellow World Cup-bound Nigeria Saturday in the last home tune-up before heading off to the Big Show.

There are no more observations left.

Save a closed Belgium scrimmage in Brazil, the next time the USMNT will be on display for the masses will be its most important match in a little less than a decade. For a fanbase that crumbled like Claudio under the weight of a Haminu Dramani tackle eight years ago and subsequently got run over, Bocanegra-style, by Asamoah Gyan four years ago, these are trying and nervous times.

That moment is right around the corner and Saturday is the last chance the States has to weigh themselves against the closest available comp to their Lex Luther in the Super Eagles of Nigeria.

It will–or should–be a test.

There was much to like about the Turkey evaluation for the Yanks, but many more lowlights to be concerned with.

World Cup efforts are often more about minimizing mistakes rather than audacious moments. All of it comes back to one thing:

Chance differential or the more standardized TSR (Total Shots Ratio).

It’s the ultimate team metric.

Most teams have to pull themselves out of shape–with an overload or by nature of fast vertical play–in order to create that chance. The good teams are the ones that can do it without losing shape or within a system that covers for the defensive deficiencies broached by going forward.

1st half shots differential as a loose proxy for chance creation.

USA in top graphic; Turkey in the bottom graphic. 1st half shots differential as a loose proxy for chance creation.

The US created multiple chances for themselves against Turkey, but when you break down the effort–specifically the first half effort as the more material one–that lone metric pings a warning signal.

The US controlled the possession for the first half, however that was expected against a team coming off two games in a little more than a week and one that prefers to and excels on the counter.

But–using TSR as a proxy for chance creation–the image to the right says it all.

Multiple opportunities within Zone 14 for Turkey; the States with a decidedly lower volume of those opportunities. (The USMNT is displayed as the top image.)

The States just had Tim Howard, some good old-fashioned “USA! USA!” emergency defending and on the other side of the field a Drew Brees-to-Jimmy Graham over the middle pitch-and-catch goal with Fabian Johnson taking it to the house that combatted their shot ratio probability.

Ghana, Portugal and Germany won’t miss the chances they get in Zone 14 as frequently and–although John Mensah (GHA) was auditioning for a role in The Americans in 2010–and all group opponents will be hard-pressed to give up that single chance that Turkey did to Michael Bradley’s right peg.

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

As usual, it goes:

» About The Opponent: Nigeria

» TSG: What Are We Looking For

» 11 At The Whistle

John Obi Mikel & Nigeria lift the African Cup of ... Something We Got of eBay in February 2013.

John Obi Mikel & Nigeria lift the African Cup of … Something We Got of eBay in February 2013.

About The Opponent: Nigeria

First of all, how in the world did the US select the name “Yanks” when Nigeria gets the “Super Eagles.” … If you’re picking winners to come out of brackets–like my mom does with March Madness or Sepp Blatter does with the World Cup–aren’t you picking the “Super Eagles” on name alone?

Maybe the US should’ve went with the “Bald Eagles” at least for this World Cup–Bradley, Howard, et all.

How did USSF miss the domain grab for supereagles.us ... c;mon Fed, sleep at the wheel! Sleep at the wheel!

How did USSF miss the domain grab for supereagles.us … c’mon Fed, asleep at the wheel! Asleep at the wheel!

Outside of Egypt, perhaps no African team has experienced as volatile a World Cup run-in as Nigeria–its past two years of competition and national current events oscillating to extreme highs and lows.

Nigeria, of course, was the Africa Cup of Nations champ in early 2013, taking down Burkino Faso in the final. Just days later, Super Eagles manager and country icon Stephen Keshi would attempt to tender his resignation. Didn’t stick.

That CAF title led the Super Eagles to the Confederation’s Cup in Brazil where the …. well they almost didn’t get there. A dispute over wages had the players threatening a boycott from a Namibian hotel until the eleventh hour.

Crisis averted, the Nigerians opened up in the Brazil warm-up tourney against a Tahitian punching bag, but then summarily got knocked out with a 1-2 combination from Uruguay and full-on 3-0 haymaker from Spain.

2014 is no less eventful.

The team hurdles into Brazil without long time stalwart Victor Obinna–a TSG  fave who was dropped this past Monday–and the cacophony of political unrest over 2015 elections along amid the tragic saga of women–nay children–abducted within their country.

Perhaps Brazil can be the tonic for a number of things.

okugo

Philly Union centerback Amobi Okugo

Let’s bring in MLS defender-of-the-year candidate and–don’t let an address at aol.com fool you–a soccer tactical expert, Amobi Okugo:

“Most American fans don’t know that this might be Nigeria’s best team since the 1996 golden Eagles which the current head coach, Stephen Keshi, was part of. He has a hungry group and although they aren’t as experienced as most teams they will be a team to look out for and show better than Confederations Cup.”

For the States, Nigeria–arguably more in defense–serves as the comp for kryptonic Ghana.

(Amobi) “Personally, I feel like the USMNT should have scheduled more friendlies against West African teams similar to Ghana just because of what has happened the last two World Cups (knock on wood).”

“Although Nigeria plays a little different in terms of formation and philosophy, these two nations are similar when it comes to the type of players and the 1v1 ability.”

Nigeria’s squad rollout shows a team–like Ghana–strong through the front six, but questionable on its backline.

The biggest disconnect between the two styles is Nigeria’s swashbuckling “wide” attack.

Whereas Ghana deploys two inter-working forwards that play off each other and two wingers who tuck in expanding to the most classic of 4-4-2’s, Nigeria plays with a single central striker and two active, off-the-corner wingers backed by three in the midfield completing their 4-3-3.

Forming the spear of the Nigeria attack is Fenerbahçe’s Emmanuel Emnike who’s best comp is probably in the Romelu Lukaku (BEL) -to-Hulk (BRA) range. Emnike is just as happy to body up his defender as he is to blow by him. He poses a primordial challenge for the US defense–collapse on him and he’ll dish to a winger, leave him alone and his odds on going through to goal appreciate.

He’ll be flanked by CSKA Moscos burner Ahmed Musa*on the left and Liverpool winger Victor Moses on the right.

(Amobi) “Victor Moses is better than Jordan Ayew (his comp)  for Ghana in my opinion. I feel like he has a bigger impact for the team and when Victor Moses is on, Nigeria is usually doing well.”

While Moses has appeared to be the primary conduit of the attack recently for Nigeria, Musa is can be nearly as dangerous.

Though he likely starts left, he can play either side and is adept at reading whether the play calls for him to gain the endline and cross or gain the corner. He will be a formidable challenge for Fabian Johnson or DaMarcus Beasley. Christian Atsu–Ghana’s Chelsea prospect–is the Black Stars mirror here who will no doubt take notice of Musa’s performance against the States.

(*As of Friday morning, Musa has been ruled out and in his stead is likely Curbside Peter Odemwingie.)

Nigeria’s three-man midfield is composed of Gabriel Reuben, John Obi Mikel and Ogenyi Onazi. Everything flows through Mikel, but many are tabbing Onazi as a budding star. The young Lazio midfielder can be described bluntly as everything Yann M’Villa was supposed to be for France.

Amobi on how the midfield pairing of Mikel and Onazi compare with coupling of Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari (perhaps) for Ghana:

“I think the midfield pairing of Essien and (perhaps) Muntari is better than Mikel and Onazi based on current form. I feel that Ghana’s midfield has more experience and functions better within the team system right now. Ghana relies more on their midfield to help link play because Nigeria is fine with an open game, they thrive on isolating defenders and creating spaces for their individuals players.”

Thankfully, Nigeria has the backing of Enyeama

Thankfully, Nigeria has the backing of Enyeama

The Super Eagle back four–like the US back four and like the Ghana back four–is not its strength. Efe Ambrose–a Celtic centerback–mans the rightback spot while Elderson Echiejile* of Monaco steps in at leftback–and is identified by Amobi as an area for the States to attack. (As of Friday morning, Echiejile is out of for the US match and a doubt going forward into the World Cup! Juwon Oshaniwa–who has just been passed fit after a bout with malaria–steps in)

138-year-old centerback Joseph Yobo wears the armband, but it looks like Keshi will stand by a pairing with some reps, Godfrey Oboabona and 20-year-old Chelsea prospect Kenneth Omeruo. Like their Black Star counterparts, both can get pulled way out of the center because of their aggressive and youthful play.

Thankfully, Lille pipescleaner Vincent Enyeama will be behind them. To say Enyeama is “in form” is an understatement as he had one of the best campaigns of any keeper in the Ligue1. He’s good for at least one gem Saturday.

Attack-wise as commented above, Nigeria will be “spread” more than Ghana.

(Amobi) “Against Nigeria it’s a little bit different because they like the flanks a lot. I would make sure you always have balance because one mistake or  if they smell a weak point they will drive that side.”

“I would want the game played in the middle and defend in numbers so they would exploit one vs one situations. You can frustrate them by keeping a solid block of 6 so I would play a 4-2-3-1. Once they get frustrated they will start shooting from anywhere and trying unnecessary stuff that can lead to mistakes.”

You can describe both Ghana’s defense and Nigeria’s defense as “Bait-and-smack.” Amobi:

“I would drop the line of confrontation to top of the circle and make sure if they were going to beat us, it wouldn’t be from our own mishaps.

Nigeria really likes to open the game up and take advantage of mistakes and transition from defense to offense, I would make sure I would always have a block of give to clean up any misfortunes.”

[Yes Amobi, I believe Crash Marquez and El Tri agree with you.]

“Nigeria attacking group can be very lethal but also very careless when it comes to trying stuff in the wrong areas, I would be patient and know that sooner or later if we kept the ball that space would open up due to Nigeria wanting to press the game.”

A possible Super Eagle XI on Saturday.

A possible Super Eagle XI on Saturday.

Keys To the Match for the US:

⇒ Avoid the “bait-and-smack” that leads to “oh sh*t” transition opportunities for Nigeria

⇒ Play the game in the middle of the field. Don’t let your fullbacks get isolated.

(Amobi) “I would make sure you always have balance because one mistake or  if they smell a weak point they will drive that side. I would want the game played in the middle and defend in numbers so they would exploit one vs one situations. You can frustrate them by keeping a solid block of 6 so I would play a 4-2-3-1. Once they get frustrated they will start shooting from anywhere and trying unnecessary stuff that can lead to mistakes.”

⇒ Make playmaking difficult for John Obi Mikel

⇒ Use Aron Johannsson in the second half; the Super Eagle defense plays to his strengths.

TSG What We’re Looking For

> Like a 1984 hip hop movie dance-off….

Before there were Zoolander walkoffs. There was dance fighting in NY subways. Progression or regression?

John Obi..Mikel..Obi and Onazi for Nigeria simply make the Nigerian team run. Their physical, cerebral and they take responsibility across the board. They know the ball belongs in their possession and they don’t shy away from it and they’re both adroit at shielding the ball and giving the team a respite if under duress or sealing the play back in the attacking half.

Their foils are of course Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley–equally adept managing the middle. Big then the above subway dance-brawl here.

What’s beautiful about this match-up and soccer in general is pulling the right tool out of the box. Push the tempo or pull it back? Carry it out of the back of pass it? This is very much a 2-v-2 match-up here.

Get after it MB90. And leave the little kid alone...

Get after it MB90. And leave the little kid alone…

And an especially salient point here is that Jones and Bradley often haven’t collectively imposed their individual might–the classic example of this being the 2011 Gold Cup final where both should’ve bossed their weaker and older Mexican counterparts but instead got blitzed.

Positive efforts like the one against Bosnia & Herzegovina or the Costa Rican Snow Bowl have been harder to manufacture.

These guys–and I’m looking at Jones–have to find a way to make it work.

> Stepping on the Accelerator

At what tempo does the US play this game? How do they manage game segments?

The US–and few teams–can hang with the speed of the Super Eagles for 90′ flat… and many coaches feel the best thing to do with teams like Nigeria and Ghana is to beat them back with quick, aggressive play. Do that though and you risk that early turnover and concession.

> Develop something to scare the other team

A little late in the game, but posit this question: What part of the US attack scares its opponent? ….

Me neither.

(Amobi) “When Michael Bradley is getting a lot of touches good things are happening.”

“I really feel that Zusi and Johnson can develop a great partnership with overlaps and crosses that Jozy and Clint will be able to feed off of. I think us will tend to attack more through the right because of those two players and Cameron’s confidence to play passes out if the back.”

Make it happen Bald Eagles. Make it happen.

A possible US deployment Saturday

A possible US deployment Saturday

11 At The Whistle

(As a reminder … this is how we think Klinsmann will use his squad. Not TSG’s recommendation.)

G: Tim Howard

The skinny: Watch Howard’s aggressiveness coming out in this one. Surely Nigeria will get one or two chances on break, getting loose behind the US backline. Howard was an overtly-aggressive keeper in the early part of his career and probably saved more than if he would’ve stayed home. What’s his disposition Saturday?

DEF: Fabian Johnson, Geoff Cameron, John Brooks, DaMarcus Beasley

The skinny: Two subpar efforts by Matt Besler might give away to at least a look-see for JAB with the first team. It’s a mistake, but Klinsmann can’t resist tinkering.

Beasley against Moses will go along way to either allay US fan fears about the DaMarcus McDiamond’s 1-v-1 defending or have them turning lumps of coal into…

“When Cameron was near Disneyland, let my Cameron score.”

CDM: Jermaine Jones

The skinny: Really? Yes, really.

RM/LM: Ale Bedoya, Graham Zusi

The skinny: Can I tell you, I have real difficult time coming up with more than three options to start at the outside mid spots for the US. Is it really just Bedoya, Zusi, Davis. That’s a lot of running.

CAM: Michael Bradley

The skinny: You cannot convince me that Michael Bradley is best used up the diamond…if the US doesn’t press. You’re basically halving his skillset or he has to drift back to the play the defense he’s so good at playing. Back to the CDM. Please!

WFW/STR: Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore

The skinny: 90′ more minutes of Turkey from you Jozy. Do it for yourself! Do it for the US! Do it for Sunderland. Okay, not Sunderland, but still…..

-

Thanks Amobi.

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37 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by @dsfunk on 2014/06/05 at 8:54 PM

    What do you think of giving Iceman a start out on the left wing in the 4-5-1? I don’t know if it will be Chandler or Beasley at left back, but I think for the sake of chemistry, whoever logs the minutes is going to be the left back vs Ghana.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Usually Ranting on 2014/06/05 at 10:36 PM

    -Just don’t buy Beasley over Chandler. No idea what he brings other Timmy other than slight peace of mind. Play the upside.

    – For me, Davis is above Bedoya in the pecking order if the US plays diamond. If not, its probably Bedoya. But Davis has had a good showing so far (and I’ve been the biggest critic of Davis). Though I agree with you, not a bunch of options for the outside so why not rotate.

    -Why is it a mistake to play Brooks over Besler? Bc its too much tinkering or bc Besler is better? I buy the too much tinkering argument. Don’t buy the argument that Besler is better. Brooks outperformed him against Turkey. And its not like experience is a factor. Both of them have the same amount when it comes to the world cup (0). I’d rather have Jurgen find his best pairing against Nigeria than against Portugal.

    – I really do think that JK needs to find a way to give Aron serious minutes. He’s legitimately one of the top 5 most skilled players on the team. And probably the most lethal in the box outside of Clint. I get that he isn’t a traditional target man like Jozy. And let me be the first to say (as a professional critic of Jozy), Jozy worked his ass off against Turkey and deserves the minutes. And the work he put in means even more bc Dempsey did pretty much the opposite and was just walking around by the 80th minute. Altidore caused havoc and on form, he would have had a couple goals. I just worry about giving an off form striker 90 minutes against Ghana in a must win game. Really hope we see AJ against Nigeria.

    Reply

    • Posted by Jon on 2014/06/06 at 10:51 AM

      Deuce’s indifference after 80′ or so makes me very curious as to why everyone is freaking out about the Chandler giveaway leading to the penalty. Look at the body language of the players around him: no one cared at that point except the Turkey player stealing the ball. I think Beasley will start against Ghana but Chandler will start the next two.

      Reply

    • Posted by twewlife on 2014/06/06 at 2:10 PM

      -Davis looked great going forward, but he looked lost on the defensive end. Chandler was left out to dry a few times because of Davis’ failure to track back.

      -Although I have limited time watching Brooks in action, it looks like his distribution is worse than Besler’s. This could be important, as better distribution from the back lets MB90 float higher up the pitch. Brooks also seems to have more trouble on 1v1 situations than Besler.

      -Agree with your thoughts on Ice Man. I think the bigger issue is that he’s not a target man. I would prefer to have him slide into a midfield slot an have the formation revert to a 4-4-2 with Dempsey playing up a bit higher than usual but still below Aron.

      Reply

  3. Posted by Berniebernier on 2014/06/06 at 4:36 AM

    I don’t understand why we can experiment with Brooks over Besler but not Beckerman over Jones. I have thought Besler is not playing well. I have never thought we would be better with Brooks in there the way that I wonder about Beckerman.

    Reply

  4. Posted by jkg on 2014/06/06 at 5:56 AM

    How come klinsmann doesn’t seem to be considering…

    Cameron-brooks-besler-johnson on the back line

    also, i like Usually Ranting’s idea of starting the iceman on the left, but you have to be concerned about his ability to track back and win the ball, which you definitely get out of bedoya.

    Reply

    • Posted by Chazcar2 on 2014/06/06 at 6:39 AM

      Brooks is left footed. He has only played on the left. Besler is also left footed. Its not as important for central defenders, but I still think its a point. Klinnsman seems to favor stacking his depth chart that way. Goodson isn’t included not because he couldn’t beat brooks, but that he lost to Cameron and Gonzalez.

      Johnson is the Right back and Cameron is Centerback. I think that actually just outright saying that starting at the beginning of camp is an attempt to get them settled into where they will be “best”. Even comments from Johnson elude to the fact he is feeling more confident being deployed consistently. Switching right to left isn’t easy. I would rather push Johnson into right midfield then move him to left back.

      Reply

      • Posted by jkg on 2014/06/06 at 7:18 AM

        yea…some good points here especially about their both being left footed, and giving people confidence that comes with knowing your position. i still think that that backline
        -eliminates having either beasly or chandler start (both of which cause me to lose sleep)
        -gives you two athletic distributors in the middle
        -puts cameron and johnson where they have played well for their clubs.
        -dealing with the strong attackers we will face on our right will also limit johnson’s ability to get upfield during the cup, something or attack will need

        probably won’t happen, i would rather see chandler than beasly, but he has to play to his potential (and it is going to be hot in manaus, which apparently chandler can’t handle).

        Reply

        • Posted by Chazcar2 on 2014/06/06 at 8:31 AM

          Not that I ever see it happening but 3-5-2?

          ——–Altidore——-Dempsey——–
          Bedoya———Zusi———-Johnson
          ——–Jones———–Bradley———
          —Besler—–Brooks—-Cameron—-

          Reply

          • Posted by Chazcar2 on 2014/06/06 at 9:14 AM

            or is that a 4-2-3-1?
            ————Altidore——————–
            -Bedoya—Dempsey————Zusi–
            ———-Jones—-Bradley————-
            Besler–Brooks–Cameron–Johnson

            Formations can get silly if we don’t really think about what they represent, a tactic. So when i see 4-4-2, 4-3-3, or whatever I look at the players and then try to think about if they are being asked to play a role or not.

            From quotes from the team I think klinnsman isn’t asking everyone to play a specific role. He is picking his team based on what a player naturally does and then plans on that. (exception is obviously Jones).

            Reply

        • Posted by slacker on 2014/06/06 at 2:52 PM

          There has been a lot of commentary about Chandler andthe heat due to his one poor game at Honduras – where many other US players also were poor. This is a sample size of one game. Yes he plays in Europe and is not used to extreme heat, but the guy is a professional – don’t you think he will hatve learned from Honduras and will prepare much better and be ready for the challenge? I’d be even more worried about how already slow players like Zusi and Davis will fare in tough cnditions vrs. a superior athlete in Chandler!

          Reply

  5. Posted by James H on 2014/06/06 at 6:23 AM

    Me thinks the time for experimenting is past. We *should* see the Ghana line up here, and something tells me it will favor starting Chandler/Besler over Beasley/Brooks.

    Also think that using the “diamond” here will be a bad idea. MB needs to be dropped deeper because the back line is in for a workout on Saturday. Something tells that only having Jones screen the defenders will lead to bad things.

    Great preview!

    Reply

  6. Posted by Chazcar2 on 2014/06/06 at 6:29 AM

    I finally got a chance to watch the inside US soccer from espn. What I found interesting was when they were talking about the switch to the diamond. One of the points they made was the the CDM should fill in the fullbacks spot if necessary.

    I can see that they are trying to do that with Jones. Cover for both fullbacks. I think that is the biggest mistake with how we are playing with the diamond. We don’t want Jones to have to cover the width of the field. The point of the diamond is to concede the space on the wing, knowing that its very hard to score from there. But if the CDM moves to the wing and the CAM doesn’t fully drop the middle is wide open. And with the outside mids staying wider, even when the CAM has dropped its a 2 or 3 vs 1 situation.

    I feel that we are locked into a two striker system at this point. Clint is a striker, not a midfielder. However I can’t see Clint leading the line alone. Jozy has done enough to keep his spot. I would advocate for a “4-3-3″ going forward.

    —–Altidore—–Dempsey———–Zusi
    —————–Bedoya——————–
    ———-Jones——–Bradley————
    Beasley–Besler–Cameron–Johnson

    These are the same players we played against Azerbaijan. Just lining them up a bit different. Jones still “holds” and Bradley is freer, But now Bedoya is central and Zusi pushed more. I have noticed Altidore doing a lot more defensive work than Dempsey. So this pushes him outside left, but not really to drop and cover. Jones/Bedoya/Beasley defend the left flank, Bradley/Zusi/johnson on the right. Bedoya is tasked to run around Between the lines. He is a very unappreciated winner of headers.

    My other thought is a true Diamond is:
    ——-Altidore———–Dempsey——-
    —————–Bradley——————–
    ——-Jones——————–Zusi——-
    —————Beckerman—————–
    Beasley–Besler–Cameron–Johnson

    Reply

    • Posted by Chazcar2 on 2014/06/06 at 6:45 AM

      You could argue that my 4-3-3 is similar in principal to Real Madrid’s (obviously missing DiMaria, bale and Ronaldo). Even more so if you switch Altidore and Dempsey on the diagram. I know Benzema gets viewed by some people as not that good, but its his work for the team that makes it possible to put Ronaldo and Bale on the field together.

      Reply

    • Posted by James H on 2014/06/06 at 7:30 AM

      Some good thoughts but this might be changing things up a bit much this late in the game. I would only expect to see the diamond or USA’s version of the 4-2-3-1 at this point.

      Reply

      • Posted by Chazcar2 on 2014/06/06 at 8:25 AM

        The other thought I have on the Diamond is similar to Slovenia Nov 2011.

        —–Altidore———–Johannson—–
        —————Dempsey——————
        —–Bradley—————-Zusi———-
        ——————Jones——————–
        Beasley–besler–Cameron–johnson

        But I don’t trust Dempsey in that role. I could see this as a late game switch. Bring Johannson on for Left Mid.

        Reply

  7. Posted by Crow on 2014/06/06 at 10:12 AM

    Remember when Tim Chandler actually looked good at LB like against Belgium (Hazard) a few years ago? I still would rather have him at RB and Fabian Johnson at LB but its not to go with the main lineup.

    Reply

  8. Posted by patrick on 2014/06/06 at 10:21 AM

    first of all, I KNOW we would never line up this way, but I would love to see both Aron and Clint combining off of Jozy. It’s difficult to fit Aron in the XI because his role in the team is similar to clint, and clint is untouchable. Sure Aron can play on the wing, but it’s not the position he’s most suited for… in this formation, I imagine Aron and Clint playing more LF/RF while Jozy sits just above at ST. giving both guys the ability to make runs off Jozy into the box.

    Bradley can pull strings from a little deeper, while Jones and Beckerman protect the back four… Width comes from the fullbacks bombing forward.

    —————– Altidore ——————–
    –——- Aron ———– Dempsey——-
    —————– Bradley ——————–
    ——-Jones—————Beckerman—
    Beasley–Besler–Cameron–Johnson-

    Reply

    • Posted by Chazcar2 on 2014/06/06 at 11:04 AM

      Part of the problem in a formation this narrow is defensive width. Neither Dempsey or Johannsson are suited to tracking runners. The fullbacks of all the teams we face can get forward and create an overload on the wing. I do like it has a late game formation, Maybe with Zusi instead of jones and being run like a true 4-3-3.

      Reply

  9. Posted by Crow on 2014/06/06 at 10:28 AM

    If Amobi would happen to read the comments just wanted to say thanks for being such a great player and leader for the Union- please don’t let us fans get you or the team down if we’re disgruntled with the season so far. I remember seeing him in 2011 for the first time and thinking he reminded me a lot of Maurice Edu (with a higher ceiling). Hopefully we see Okugo on the USMNT this January camp.

    Reply

  10. Posted by jb on 2014/06/06 at 10:54 AM

    Tactically, what seems to have worked best in the Klinsmann era is starting in a more defensively minded 4-2-3-1 for the first 60-70 min or so, then introducing a couple of fresh attacking players and changing to a 4-4-2 or some formation with 2 strikers.

    Playing the 4-diamond-2 from the beginning seems like a recipe for disaster to me against any of our WC group opponents. We definitely took Mexico by surprise in the beginning, but after they adjusted at the half they exposed the weakness in the space between our back 4 and the midfield. Turkey was astute and skilled enough to figure it out from the start, but didn’t have the quality to finish their chances. I guess the tradeoff is we did have some dynamic attacking play, but you have to think we get punished for those mistakes in the WC.

    Still trying to make sense of Chandler’s play against Turkey. He looks athletically like the best option there, but his positioning was poor. Don’t know if JK intentionally instructed him to play so high, but he was repeatedly chipped and beaten down that flank. And if he isn’t physically ready to play 90′ then he shouldn’t be starting.

    Reply

    • Posted by Chazcar2 on 2014/06/06 at 11:09 AM

      Watching the Inside Soccer series, the diamond really got talked about because mexico were in a 5-3-2. It worked so well I think Klinsmann has wanted to get people comfortable with it. I feel we start the cup games in a 4-2-3-1 and then switch to the diamond. While true of any team, I think the US especially isn’t going to be dictated by formation as much as by tactics. How hard are the fullbacks pushing? Is Bradley significantly ahead of his partner? Are Zusi/Davis/Bedoya staying wide or coming inside? Is Dempsey next to Altidore or underneath?

      Reply

      • Posted by Tyler on 2014/06/06 at 11:15 AM

        This. Klinsmann most definitely seems to prefer a set of players and then fit them into a tactical set up. Jimmies and Joes coach, not Xs and Os.

        Reply

    • Posted by calen on 2014/06/06 at 12:44 PM

      Well said jb & Chazcar. The diamond took advantage of Mexico’s formation, Bradley’s peaking form and Beckerman’s tactical discipline. Because it’s important to be able to play multiple formations come WC, it makes sense why Jurgen continued to tinker with it. He’s always wanted an aggressive/dictate the tempo style of play so why not unleash Bradley a little to see how things turn out.

      I see Beckerman getting the nod over Jones and Beasley over Chandler this Saturday as a final look coaching wise to see how they handle high pressure situations & Nigera’s speed and strength. Hopefully Beasley’s start keeps Chandler hungry psych wise.

      It’s been interesting to see Bradley roam a bit more freely offensively and play higher up with the diamond formation given his current form, as that’s what fans have been clamoring from the get go. Deserved that goal vs Turkey. His long passing have taken a slight dip though because of it and those long balls are the key in my opinion to both unlocking Jozy as well as beating your Germanys and Portugals.

      Ironically, the diamond formation handcuffs Jones similar to how most fans feel the 4-2-3-1 handcuffs Bradley. As much flack as Jones gets because of his turnovers, he’s as much of a key cog to the offensive metronome as Bradley is. His understanding of the nuances to keeping an aggressive minded attack ticking are underrated as well as his overall distribution and defensive back tracking. Truly does all the dirty work. I’ll take his turnovers due to his over-aggressiveness over Beckerman’s play it safe distribution any day. Beckerman does have better ‘bond’ with Bradley but the 4-2-3-1 is more about tactical discipline then it is about chemistry.

      The CB position is still a bit unsettled. Cameron is too athletic to keep off the field but isn’t a pure CB in the sense. I can see him being moved to RB (pending Omar’s fitness) vs Portugal to battle it out with Ronaldo and Fabian being pushed up to RM to hopefully force Ronaldo to back track a little. Do you choose Brooks’ superior size & athleticism over Besler’s tactical discipline? The Cameron & Brooks pairing is actually quite imposing if they develop a little chemistry. We’ll see how things shape up Saturday.

      With that said, I don’t see Jurgen showing all his cards until the actual game with Ghana, using the closed door scrimmage vs Belgium as the final tune up for (what I believe will be) his final 4-2-3-1 lineup.

      Reply

  11. Posted by Chazcar2 on 2014/06/06 at 11:11 AM

    Something I noted in the Turkey game was that Besler was the centerback to step forward and Cameron covered. Usually Besler has been the “sweeper” out of the pair. I wonder if this was a switch because of Cameron or because of the opponent.

    Reply

  12. Posted by josh on 2014/06/06 at 11:21 AM

    lol, traitor, giving out all our secrets to the enemy. don’t come home Okugo.

    Reply

  13. Well said jb & Chazcar. The diamond took advantage of Mexico’s formation, Bradley’s peaking form and Beckerman’s tactical discipline. Because it’s important to be able to play multiple formations come WC, it makes sense why Jurgen continued to tinker with it. He’s always wanted an aggressive/dictate the tempo style of play so why not unleash Bradley a little to see how things turn out.

    I see Beckerman getting the nod over Jones and Beasley over Chandler this Saturday as a final look coaching wise to see how they handle high pressure situations & Nigera’s speed and strength. Hopefully Beasley’s start keeps Chandler hungry psych wise.

    It’s been interesting to see Bradley roam a bit more freely offensively and play higher up with the diamond formation given his current form, as that’s what fans have been clamoring from the get go. Deserved that goal vs Turkey. His long passing have taken a slight dip though because of it and those long balls are the key in my opinion to both unlocking Jozy as well as beating your Germanys and Portugals.

    Ironically, the diamond formation handcuffs Jones similar to how most fans feel the 4-2-3-1 handcuffs Bradley. As much flack as Jones gets because of his turnovers, he’s as much of a key cog to the offensive metronome as Bradley is. His understanding of the nuances to keeping an aggressive minded attack ticking are underrated as well as his overall distribution and defensive back tracking. Truly does all the dirty work. I’ll take his turnovers due to his over-aggressiveness over Beckerman’s play it safe distribution any day. Beckerman does have better ‘bond’ with Bradley but the 4-2-3-1 is more about tactical discipline then it is about chemistry.

    The CB position is still a bit unsettled. Cameron is too athletic to keep off the field but isn’t a pure CB in the sense. I can see him being moved to RB (pending Omar’s fitness) vs Portugal to battle it out with Ronaldo and Fabian being pushed up to RM to hopefully force Ronaldo to back track a little. Do you choose Brooks’ superior size & athleticism over Besler’s tactical discipline? The Cameron & Brooks pairing is actually quite imposing if they develop a little chemistry. We’ll see how things shape up Saturday.

    With that said, I don’t see Jurgen showing all his cards until the actual game with Ghana, using the closed door scrimmage vs Belgium as the final tune up for (what I believe will be) his final 4-2-3-1 lineup.

    Reply

  14. Posted by Blkmamba on 2014/06/06 at 2:34 PM

    Nigeria will destroy USA 3-1

    Reply

  15. Good preview. At this point, I’m just ready to watch and then go to Brazil. If Jurgen needs this last game to tell him anything, I would think he’d wan to get a look at Gonzalez, B. Davis, and Johannson in order to see how they handle more athletic players than Azerbijan or even Turkey. However, I don’t expect that… I expect him to put his expected lineup of (Left to Right) Beasley, Besler, Cameron, Johnson, Bedoya, Jones, Bradley, Zusi, Altidore, Dempsey in a 4-2-3-1. I would expect to see the diamond at some point but within the 4-2-3-1 when pushing forward… watch Jones to see if he stays back too!

    I really think Jurgen has played Chandler so much is to make sure he can cover the LB role as I think we all feel he can cover the RB role. Personally, I feel we have 3 capable fullback starters if necessary in Johnson, Beasley, and Chandler with Yedlin set to go in specific situations (when we need to add another player to push forward without subbing a wide player because we are down a goal and must take chances why not a youngster with wheels vs. a tired back line?- just a guess).

    I really think Johnson was moved to RB because 1) he played so well there for club team, 2) when he goes forward… who would you prefer backing him if the other team counters with Johnson up field? Cameron or Besler? Let me put it this way, who has played out wide (RB) and can defend in space? Cameron, who right now seems to be RCB starter, and 3) Johnson is as good as any fullback for the game we play vs. Ronaldo… I mean Portugal. In this way, it makes sense. Go back to watch US vs. Costa Rica (the one we lost there) game for the 2nd goal against us where Gonzalez was trying to go wide to shut down a Tico and the opponent moved by him enough to get a cross in for 2 Ticos with Beasley outmatched and Besler not even close enough to help.

    Reply

    • Posted by ray on 2014/06/06 at 4:29 PM

      That’s a good point about FJ and Cameron that I hadn’t thought of before. I like the diamond as it gives us the most offensive punch but our wide players haven’t really figured out the scheme defensively. Pulling Bradley back is not a real solution. Others need to cover if he is to be committed offensively.

      Reply

  16. […] and with a sophisticated tactical eye- they do it well, and their comments community is terrific. Here is a link to their Nigeria-USA preview, featuring Amobi Okugo of the Philadelphia Union (and ne…. Worth a (long) […]

    Reply

  17. […] Want some game previews?  The Shin Guardian and The Yanks Are Coming have you covered as […]

    Reply

  18. Posted by twewlife on 2014/06/07 at 5:15 AM

    Any chance at all we’ll see Ice Man starting at left midfield with Beasley Chandler staying home?

    Reply

  19. Posted by dth on 2014/06/07 at 1:17 PM

    Poor Okugo, though. If he’d gotten competent MLS coaching, he’d’ve been a national teamer, I think. Got to feel bad for Philly.

    Reply

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