Just around the corner?
The topic. Who’s getting in line for a spot on the USMNT at World Cup 2014?
TSG gives you some breakdown of whose names may be on the gym wall come 2014, but first it is vital we lay the groundwork with some broad strokes and guidelines that lend credibility to our selections–lest we be just picking some random names from a player pool.
• Don’t assume a 4-4-2
Why Marvell may still be in play (hint: keep reading)
Even if Bob Bradley is the coach, you can’t even pencil that formation in. (Just a reminder, that Bradley moved from a 4-3-3 to a 4-5-1 to a 4-4-2 throughout his tenure.)
Over the past two years, two scheme changes have seemed to dominate many of the world’s top club and international sides:
» First, the deployment of 4-3-3 formations to try to gain width when striking and create an imbalance with the traditional, and staid-and-stale, 4-man backline.
With a 3-man attacking front, the offenders can either thrust outside flankers up the pitch to create a five-versus-four offensive advantage or “fill” narrowly with their midfielders to achieve a 3-2 advantage against the opponents two central defenders.
» Second, the advent of flipping a winger so that their natural foot is the lead foot when moving in from their wing position. Using the aforementioned central seams, voila, shots on goal. See David Villa Spain against Portugal.
To combat the 4-3-3, some teams in World Cup 2010 employed a 3-man backline (Chile, New Zealand, CONCACAF-rival Mexico). This positioning offset a 4-3-3 by–depending upon the strategy–matching up 1-on-1 with the three attackers or re-positioning the backline more narrowly and tasking wingbacks with shifting back defensively for 5-man defensive lines.
Okay, great TSG, but do you have a point here?
How does that impact your depth chart for 2014?
Good questions. We’ll start on the defensive, so to speak.
Acutely important in 2014– and a reason that TSG has long championed the “promise” of Jonathan Bornstein–will be the need for faster and more mobile outside backs, to track the next Robinhos and Robbens and support the offense. This seems to be an indisputable trend occurring.
Thus, players with the complexion of a Sean Franklin and even a Marvell Wynne become more valuable as the game gets more dynamic on the flanks.
Will Spector still be tasked with shutting down wings?
Similarly, Jonathan Spector–who was continually exposed against speedy wingers at West Ham and more recently in the United States game against Turkey–may be more of a candidate for central back come 2014.
Moving up front, if you look at the some of the forthcoming personnel in concert with trends of the game above, it is now time to make the argument that a front six in a 2-3-1 or 3-3-3 or even a 3-2-1 makes a lot of sense.
The single striker scenario is likely because zonal marking has gotten so good in terms of one defender passing an attacker to the defender next to him. That’s much harder though when you have a striker traipsing across the entire defense, from left flank to right flank let’s say, in front of the entire back four.
It’s no coincidence that some of the best movement for the Yanks’ came when Jozy Altidore, in the 2nd halves of the Slovenia and Algeria matches, was employed alone up top and initiated a run on one side that dragged across to the other side. It created a target in front of Donovan and space behind him for Clint Dempsey to work.
Which gets us to the skillset of the forthcoming personnel….
• Style–and available personnel of course–help shape the team
How will the United States play in 2014? Good question and the answer is, “Don’t know yet.”
It depends upon the coach, player development and an assortment of other questions.
Donovan another Figo in the making…
Will the Yanks again be built again completely around the strengths of Landon Donovan and his spacious open field runs? Doubt it. It’s possible though. Portugal went “semi-final” in 2006 often relying on 33-year-old Luis Figo to engine the offense. (By the way, I’m starting to find the comparisons of Donovan to Figo more on-point).
That said, if you look at the pedigree of players that may be ready to lead the attack from the midfield, names likes Stu Holden, Benny Feilhaber, Sacha Kljestan, Jose Torres centrally and Alejandro Bedoya, Robbie Rogers and even Brek Shea potentially outside, beyond Landon Donovan you see a very different look-and-feel to how the US might play and attack come 2014.
Skipping the box-to-box destroyers or holding players like Michael Bradley and Maurice Edu, there are two groups: a) extremely methodical possession-oriented players centrally and b) bigger, more gallant, dynamic attacking players out wide.
The best preface to this set-up from the States in 2010?
Think of the Yanks’ second half offense in their friendly against the Netherlands, where DaMarcus Beasley and Alejandro Bedoya marauded wide and Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley carried possession internally with Maurice Edu watching the back door.
• Youth–specifically youth with experience–will be served.
Polak (right): A rising star….for 2018…
Think Eric Lichaj and Omar Gonzalez, not Tyler Polack. Let’s explain why Polack likely doesn’t make sense.
Polack–whose game I really liked under Wilmer Cabrera in the U-17s last year–will be all of precocious 22 when the States head south in four years. However, it’s not specifically Polack’s age, but it’s his need to improve his resume of experience, and fast, to be considered.
In World Cup 2010, only 25 defenders, or less than one per team, were 22-years-old or younger.
Nearly 80% of these players, didn’t start or have yet to come off the bench. Sure, there are some exceptions, but they are, in one word, exceptional.
Names like 21-year-old Simon Kjaer for Denmark and 22-year-old Gregory Van Der Weil for the Netherlands. The former Kjaer already has two years at Serie A Palermo as a starter while the latter Van Der Weil is tenured for over 14 years as part of the Ajax system and has started for four years for the senior side.
No United States defender was younger than 24-years-old in South Africa–though Kevin Alston, 22, was the youngest during the lead-up though he only got some “B” side run.
So basically, if you’re pulling for Polack, you’d have to have to see a somewhat unprecedented stratosphoric…..a meteoric rise to a “decent club” accompanied with some serious playing time reps for Polak combined, of course, with his physical development.
Sounds like a stretch.