Guest contributor John Nyen, wrote an interesting piece that TSG published on why one should be more excited about Tim Ream and Eric Lichaj versus Juan Agudelo and Teal Bunbury.
He maintained that the USMNT needed to shore up their defense in order for them to win more games. Though the US scored 5 goals, they also let in 5 and ultimately went home, earlier then expected.
Where as I do agree that the best form of offense is defense, I think the number one problem for the USMNT is not offense or defense, age or youth or formations. It’s the ability to complete a pass on a consistent basis.
If one looks at passing stats from the past World Cup, the USMNT ranks second lowest in passes completed out of the teams that made it into the group stage (1175) and out of the 32 teams, ranked 26th in percentage of pass’s completed at 67%.
Basically a third of the passes made by the USMNT went astray or were intercepted. They did have a better percentage with their shorter and medium length passes at 72% and 73% respectively, but that didn’t put them in the top of half of the teams that went to South Africa.
Ball possession is one of those overblown stats. We’ve all seen many matches, when the team who had the majority of ball, leaves the pitch as losers (Spain against both the US and Switzerland come to mind). There is a difference though between not possessing the ball, but playing good bend not break defense and losing the ball when in possession a third of the time.
When you get caught in possession or gift the ball to an opponent with a bad pass, your team gets caught out of position. This enables the offense to take advantage of space and can attack more freely and create goals. Obvious huh! but it’s the reason the USMNT give up so many goals (first goal against Ghana for example). If it wasn’t for Howard, who saves the USMNT time and time again, there would be many more goals being let in.
Also, the majority of the USMNT’s goals, are scored on quick breakaways where only a few passes are required or long/longish balls in a route one style (Bradley’s goal against Slovenia). This method is effective as a counter punch, but the lack of consistent passing would explain why no US striker has scored in a World Cup in a long while.
The USMNT’s best passers of the ball are also their most dangerous players. Donovan and Dempsey and now Holden are comfortable on the ball and rarely give it away cheaply. Problem is their team mates do, so a goal in which the USMNT works the ball around for a minute or so, looking for a hole in their opponents defense is a rarity.
In my opinion, all US players, especially the ones going to the camp need to work on their ball control and passing. Even players playing in the EPL like Lichaj and Spector, give the ball away too easily and for a defender especially, that’s a cardinal sin.
If the USMNT can hold the ball up and pass it around with ease and accuracy (doesn’t have to be Tika Taka), their chances at the next World Cup dramatically improve, because one thing is certain. If their opponents don’t have the ball, they cannot score.
Pass completion….something I’ll be looking at this Saturday when the USMNT face off against Chile.
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