Archive for the ‘World Cup 2014’ Category

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

A rocky relationship

It was announced yesterday afternoon that U.S. Soccer signed Bob Bradley to a four year extension, thus stating he will be coaching the USMNT through the World Cup in Brazil in 2014.

Over the next few days or weeks, I’m sure we will hear the various reasons or rumors as to why they signed Bradley, and why he decided to sign on. Was it because they couldn’t find someone else? Were his options of coaching for a club team abroad just rumors? A combination of both? Who knows. This is not the point of this article.

This is a lose-lose situation for both parties.

The USMNT
Sunil Gulati was on record post-World Cup saying that he felt the USMNT was capable of more, and whereas they did progress to the group stages, that everyone felt disappointed in the end result and hoped the USMNT would have gone further. Certainly not a ringing endorsement.

Very few national team coaches coach for two World Cup cycles. Those that do typically do not very well on their second go-round. Bruce Arena and Marcelo Lippi spring to mind as recent second cycle failures.

Bradley's finest moment as a coach?

Bob Bradley has done a good job so far. He won the Gold Cup in 07, got second at the Confederations Cup in 09 and led the USMNT out of the group stages this summer, winning the group in the process. He’s put together a good core of players who are very industrious hard workers, and installed a brilliant never-say-die attitude that ensures their opponents can never let up for a second.

The problem is that he’s now fresh out of ideas. Bradley’s loyalty to players (e.g., Clark, Bornstein) cost them many a goal and game. Their inconsistency game to game was due to him not always getting the tactics right, but also due to who was available to him. How is any of this going to change in the next four years?

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Brazil Roster: “2010″ Is Now Past Tense

Seems like just yesterday, TSG was kicking off USMNT coverage in preparation for the 2010 World Cup.

Donovan's magic will be counted on for at least 4 more years...4 more years...

Today, Bob Bradley and USSF begin bidding farewell to the veterans that contributed to the USA’s first ever World Cup group stage win, introduce some stand-ins (primarily from MLS) and welcome in a select few of the new breed who may be counted on during the upcoming qualification campaign.

The roster is out and taking to the field at the Meadowlands on August 10th are:

G: Tim Howard, Brad Guzan

DEF: Jonathan Bornstein, Jonathan Spector, Carlos Bocanegra,  Clarence Goodson, Chad Marshall, Steve Cherundolo

MID: Landon Donovan, Maurice Edu,  Alejandro Bedoya, Sacha Kljestan, Benny Feilhaber, Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley

STR: Edson Buddle, Herculez Gomez, Robbie Findley

Redress:

• No real surprises. Mild surprises in Jermaine Jones–who must have proved his fitness at Schalke already this preseason–and Benny Feilhaber. Feilhaber’s inclusion might suggest Aarhus can’t move him, but Benny’s got Brazilian blood as well which may have been an additional factor.

Oh, and Jones’s inclusion might be also to finally get him that long-awaited cap. Is Ricardo Clark ready to acknowledge he is no better than the third best American playing midfield in the Bundesliga…and he might be the fourth if Jared Jeffrey comes on?

• Bob Bradley goes with the Kljestan inclusion and this time Kljestan has certainly earned the nod.

• No introductions of fresh faces as the squad primarily comes from Bob Bradley’s 30-man preliminary World Cup 2010 roster.

• Bradley respecting the need for club players to establish themselves. Holden at Bolton needs to roar out of the gate. Clint Dempsey has to impress his 4th coach in his tenure at Craven Cottage. Altidore–seemingly settling his club situation today with Besiktas–has got some other things to worry about.

• TSG didn’t expect a Charlie Davies call-up–odd that this was rumored by ESPN–and Bradley didn’t call in the Sochaux striker.

• Will Bob Bradley have Edson Buddle wilt on the bench…again? (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

• Does Brad Guzan finally get a start with a little meaning? Probably not since Tim’s there.

• Match-ups we’re looking forward to: US outside backers vs. Pato, Edson Buddle vs. Thiago Silva, Ramires production vs. Michael Bradley production. With Ramires rumored to be headed to Chelsea (a $22M transfer is apparently in the near offing), can Bradley dominate and make a (albeit muted as it is a friendly) statement in the middle?

• Seeing a lot of questions on the line-up. I could be wrong, but I think this one is rather easy to figure out. You’ve got a team with one day of practice with many of the players who participated together in the World Cup.

You’ve got a coach who loves preparation and is not going to do something extraordinary as he looks to be competitive against Brazil.

You’ll likely see Bradley start with an outfield of:

DEF: Dolo, Goodson, Boca, Bornstein

MID: Lando, Bradley, Edu, Feilhaber

STR: Buddle, Findley.

…and then you’ll likely see Coach Sweats mix in subs as the 2nd half wears on…probably in a similar manner to how he did against the Netherlands back in March.

My guess is he’ll likely drop Findley for either Gomez or a midfielder in Kljestan, or perhaps Bedoya in getting the 2nd half started.

The only real disclaimer is if Bornstein is not fit, how the backline reshuffles. However, my guess is that Bradley would have added Heath Pearce just in case if Bornstein was in doubt.

Friday Selections: USA vs. Brazil, August 10th

Bob Bradley will be in command.

Coach Sweats himself will announce the U.S. roster for the August 10th friendly against Brazil at the Meadowlands on either Monday or Tuesday of next week.

Here’s our guess (after our “let’s look to the future guess“) of players representing the United States. All rumors and reports are suggesting a veteran squad to be selected by Double-B.

Will Tim be in NJ or dead focused for the Everton battle with Mucha?

G: Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Troy Perkins

Other guesses: Marcus Hahnemann, Chris Seitz, Nick Rimando

The skinny: Howard is gearing up for a battle with Jan Mucha for the starting spot at Everton; the veteran and challenger are currently getting ready to throwdown at Everton’s Finch Farm training pitch.

This may be a prelude to a move for Howard or might just be a Ben Foster-son-in-waiting move. Howard is also from New Jersey so there is that side of the coin.

Will Guzan be called in? Not sure about that. This is the season that the heir apparent needs to step it up in the Premiership to get considered contender. We say Hahnemann likely stays Brit side instead of Guzan.

Trusty Bob Bradley camper Troy Perkins rounds out the keepers–though you might see a nod for Chris Seitz hailing from the Union nearby.

Bradley will have another "word" (the last?) in person with DeMerit August 10th

DEF: Jay DeMerit, Carlos Bocanegra, Jonathan Bornstein, Jonathan Spector, Chad Marshall, Heath Pearce, Omar Gonzalez, Kevin Alston

Other guesses: Steve Cherundolo, Oguchi Onyewu, Sean Franklin, Eric Lichaj

The skinny: TSG has that sneaking suspicion that Jay DeMerit is coming back stateside, despite the Chicago Fire move today. He’ll be there either way.

How can Captain Carlos–new club or not–not get a curtain call against Brazil. The warrior soldiers for one more.

Of the two TSG sentimental favorites, Eric Lichaj might get a sniff. Does Sean Franklin? Boy, we hope so.

The Holden Era begins...hopefully (courtesy, Matt Mathai)

MID: Landon Donovan, Stu Holden, Jose Torres, Maurice Edu, Alejandro Bedoya, Robbie Rogers, Dax McCarthy

Other guesses: Clint Dempsey, DaMarcus Beasley, Jermaine Jones, Sacha Kljestan, Ricardo Clark

The skinny: We all know Clint Dempsey needs some rest so he stays across the pond.

Also conspicuous by his absence is Benny Feilhaber. With AGF Aarhus looking to sell the midfielder, not a good time to pick up a ding. That said, will DaMarcus Beasley be there? We’re betting “no” as well.

Despite meriting a call-up, we think Bob Bradley leaves the progress of Sacha Kljestan at Anderlecht unimpeded eschewing an excursion back to the States for the SoCal midfielder.

Similarly, Jermaine Jones, who uberfans are pining to see, probably should right his club career first before getting called in.

Ricardo Clark doesn’t want to pull a hamstring from too much time on the sideline; he stays in the land of Dunkel. Also, because well, chance he gets booed? (Not a real reason, but something to think about).

Dear Bob Bradley, I can score and play striker, From Edson Buddle... (courtesy, Matt Mathai)

STR: Robbie Findley, Edson Buddle, Herculez Gomez, Brian Ching

Other guesses: Jozy Altidore, Charlie Davies

The skinny: Like Feilhaber, the last thing that Altidore needs is an injury. Very important that the hope of America at striker settles his club situation.

That said, the youngster hails from New Jersey and played for Red Bull. So could go either way on this one.

Charlie Davies, like Onyewu, was hurt on international duty. Politics do matter and I think Charlie Davies–if healthy–is making it to the Poland friendly, maybe not this one.

—-

Other notes:

Freddie Ljundberg, taking his game, his ref squabbling and his assortment of fashionable scarves with him to the Chicago Fire. Not sure about that move for the Fire. Anyone?

• Freddy Adu didn’t hang on in the Alps after a trial at Swiss club Sion. Yikes! Back to Benfica, but then where for Adu?

• Friend of TSG Kyle Martino made his switch from ESPN to Fox Soccer permanent. He’ll host a show that we’ll hear the details about shortly.

• Congrats to the USA Milk Cup squad for getting it done.

World Cup 2014: Scribbled On The Gym Wall

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.

Guidelines:

• 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.

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Moving On: USA vs. Brazil, August 10th

TSG will be back this week with a boatload of debrief on the USA’s second round run in World Cup 2010.

Agbossoumonde &.....

In the meantime, moving forward, who should take part in the USA vs. Brazil exhibition August 10th in New Jersey.

We’ll take another look beyond this one. Don’t worry.

Here’s a very early stab at selecting some of the 23 right now:

G: Brad Guzan, Nick Rimando

The skinny: Will Guzan get out for this one? He certainly needs some exposure, especially if he’s planning on competing with Tim Howard who will be 36-years-old for World Cup 2014, Brazil.

I’d like to see Bill Hamid make the drive up the road from D.C., but I think that’s a bit too early.

...Lichaj...future defensive bookends?

DEF: Jonathan Bornstein, Chad Marshall, Clarence Goodson, Eric Lichaj, Omar Gonzalez, Kevin Alston, Gale Agbossoumonde, Tim Ream, Sean Franklin, Jonathan Spector

The skinny: Hard not to include hometown man Ream. Not a huge fan of Ike Opara, but he perhaps warrant a look or spot. Both Agbossoumonde and Lichaj deserve to be in next year’s Gold Cup squad if not on the pitch August 10th.

Omar Gonzalez is….a no-brainer.

MID: Landon Donovan, Alejandro Bedoya, Stu Holden, Maurice Edu, Robbie Rogers, Benny Feilhaber, Jose Torres, Mix Diskerud

The skinny: I think you have to run Donovan out there. He’s local with the Galaxy and he just screams USA Soccer enough with relative fresh faces likely to be in the picture.

Stu Holden should start. Period. End of question. I don’t even care if he’s not there. A travesty at Holden’s lack of playing time this June.

Will Diskerud be in the "mix"?

Will Mikkel Diskerud make the jump? How about player on the periphery Jeffrey who will be starting up a Bundesliga campaign?

STR: Charlie Davies, Robbie Findley, Jozy Altidore, Tristan Bowen

The skinny: Would be a great moment for the fans to Charlie Davies get a run out. Mike Grella who spent a lot of pine time at Leeds might merit consideration.

Freddy Adu, should not. He’s had his chances and though he’s from nearby Maryland. It’s time for a fresh face to represent the States up top.

Others to consider: Herculez Gomez (F), Sam Cronin (M), Kenny Cooper (F), Brad Evans (D), Sacha Kljestan (M), Jared Jeffrey(M), Gabriel Ferrari (F), Sal Zizzo (F), Ike Opara (D), Luis Gil (M), Mike Grella (F) and Jimmy Conrad (D – as a veteran presence and MLS representative).

Who do you think?


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