Well there goes another dramatic return to the beautiful Bay Area for the US men’s national team.
Last time in San Francisco, Taylor Twellman lit the lamp once and dropped two dimes in a 3-2 victory over Japan in February 2006.
Bruce Arena left him off the World Cup roster in place of someone from Landon Donovan’s wedding party who had nary a contribution in Germany.
Save for Clint Dempsey late chest-thumping lash–“Don’t discount just yet the fight .. the heart … the vigor … the verve of the USA!”—the US would go scoreless of their own accord at World Cup 2006. If not for a Cristian Zaccardo–good thing he wasn’t Colombian–moment of American brilliance, Arena & Co. were coming back from Germany with three “L’s” in their pocket and very little of redeeming value.
This time, the US again assembles its World Cup camp in the hotbed of technology investment and a few basic beep tests later, the US’s all-time leading goal scorer is somehow deemed surplus to product requirements.
The coach’s son uses the Twitter megaphone to broadcast his elation of the Landon news and Jurgen Klinsmann sends the US team cannonballing into the Send-Off Series.
See you again in seven years Julian Green where more drama will surely unfold.
In nothing short of a shocker, American soccer whistleblower Twellman announced Klinsmann’s US selections on Thursday to a stunned fanbase.
No Terrence Boyd–who many thought a shoe-in as Jozy Altidore’s back-up and no Michael Parkhurst, perhaps the best technical defender the US has ever produced.
No Brad Evans who dutifully soldiered on at an unfamiliar position through qualifying only to be tasked with playing another unfamiliar one, centerback, almost exclusively in the Stanford camp.
In their stead, a combination of MLS wunderkind Chris Wondolowski–a product of nearby Danville, CA, World Cup rookie Brad Davis–who is six months older than Donovan himself and some youngster phenoms: Hertha Berlin John Brooks and Bayern II riser Julian Green.
This is conjecture of the highest order, but if you think Brazil tickets weren’t on the table during the Green negotiations, then I’d like to sell you Myspace … or a rotary phone. Or anything at a premium.
Let’s address the Donovan drop head-on and pithily.
Donovan is one of the US’s top 23 players–according to Tim Howard’s he’s much, much higher up.
Donovan is not the player he once was.
Donovan is one of the US’s top 23 players.
At the end of the day, the US–like most international sides–is short on game changers.
This isn’t England dropping Theo Walcott in 2010; he had potential, not resume. This isn’t Spain dropping Raul before Euro 2008–there was a clear set of those able to ascend to the throne. It’s not Ronaldhino for Brazil. Or, for that matter, Kahn for Klinsmann’s Germany–as crazy Jens Lehman was already making stupid saves.
No team-player combination had the bookends of “been there, done that” (Donovan) and “unsure whose ready to step-up waiting in the wings” (USMNT).
It’s one thing to cut out a cancer. That makes abundant sense. You could say that with Roy Keane for Ireland in 2002 or maybe Samir Nasri being left out of this year’s French drama troupe. It’s another thing to say there isn’t a fit at forward–then you realize if not for Donovan the US may not’ve won the 2013 Gold Cup.
And Donovan’s played the bench role before–after being maligned for being uninvolved, benched for lack of commitment.
The response? Emphatic when called.
He took a Freddy Adu pass and glided past Panama’s left rear flank, slipped a pass between the legs of a defender for Clint Dempsey to push in and to push the US into the Gold Cup 2011 final. He may or may not be a 90′ player (Does anyone really believe the fitness bunk? I hope not.)…
…but–like Giovanni Van Bronkhorst fizzing a pellet passed Frances Muslera’s coconut in 2010–he still can make a play.
You don’t need more than a second to change a game and though it’s not prevalent to be fair, history still gives us the twilighting cases of the aforementioned Van Bronkhorst, Rivaldo and debatably 2010 Forlán.
This whole ever-present debate can really be answered one way. Review this scenario:
It’s June 24th in Recife. It’s 1-0 bad guys.
It’s the 85′ and the US needs to scratch out a draw against Germany to go through the group. Michael Bradley has just artfully pulled a 180-degree turn in possession on Sam Khedira after a corner kick has found its way out of the 18-yard box scrum. Bradley steams down the center of the pitch with the Germans in pursuit and Phil Lahm stepping to him to force distribution, but Bradley’s got two players burning up either channel with Per Mertesacker waiting for the commit.
On one flank is Julian Green. The other Landon Donovan.
Who do you want him to pass to? Who does he pass to?
So now, it’s appropriately the Send-Off Series in more ways than one.
And Klinsmann has his squad.
And there is much merit–to be clear–in his selections.
World Cup defenders are getting younger, especially at centerback–Klinsmann went younger too. The US will still have the second oldest outfield in Group G in Brazil. Germany and Ghana averaging almost two years younger across the defenders, mids and forwards.
Klinsmann brought the aforementioned Chris Wondolowski, a technical player who likely would’ve been eschewed by predecessors for his lack of physical superiority. But Klinsmann sees someone who merely puts the ball in the back of the net. Should Wondo be needed, this will be great theatre for all those who dismiss the US’s historical reliance on physical players over technical players, but them summarily dismiss the MLS goal machine’s abilities.
(Wondo’s subtle movement here is just as important as a Chicharito poking around the near post.)
The manager went Tim Chandler, a player’s whose commitment could certainly be questioned more so than Landon’s. Chandler is a game gambit to defend Ronaldo in Manaus at the whistle, but can he do it in the 75’?
Klinsmann is aping his moves from Germany 2006.
He’s questioning fitness and driving a regimen against it. He’s going with younger, unproven players. But that’s where the comparisons end. The pedigree is not the same. The tactical nous of Jurge Low absent.
And let it be said here, it’s controversial from Klinsmann, but it’s not altogether a poor gambit. Ignorance is bliss and a World Cup can be places where youth is served. It’s usually cold but there are moments when it can be scalding. (See Donovan, Landon, 2002)
Again, it will be fascinating theatre. Half-built stadiums and ESPN shining moments await.
Without further Freddy Adu we get to our preview.
About The Opponent: Azerbaijan
11 At The Whistle
TSG: What Are We Looking For (abbreviated)
About The Opponent: Azerbaijan
Should you care about Azerbaijan? Only if they beat the US.
In what surely is a make-good on securing the services Azerbaijan manager and former coach-of-Klinsy Berti Vogts, the US’s opponent Tuesday comes from the nether regions of UEFA.
CONCACAF powerhouses Haiti and Trinidad & Tobago both claim FIFA rankings higher than Azerbaijan’s “85” to add some perspective.
If you agree that Nigeria is the likely match in style for Ghana and that Turkey can be bent into a clone of Portugal than Azerbaijan is Germany.
[Drop mic. Closes Twitter account. Goes to read Inverting the Pyramid.]
In all seriousness though, there are more than a few parallels between Die Mannschaft and the Milli starting with a team, of course, coached by a former German national.
For all its’ lack of talent breadth and bouts with individual execution, Azerbaijan is highly organized like nearly all Eastern European sides. Vogts’ squad conceded just 10 times in nine qualifying matches. That’s impressive considering their dearth of talent and that they do take chances breaking shape on the counter.
Defensively the team will sit in a 4-1-4-1 formation or a flat 4-4-2. Take a close look at the Milli defense because one can see some principles of it being incorporated by the US through Vogts….most acutely a midfield band that functions with five across often.
That shape gives way to a very fluid 4-2-2-2 in transition, one not dissimilar from what you saw from both the US and Germany at World Cup 2010 (and many other squads too, but we’ll use those comps.)
In fact, dare I saw a very similar “chance”–it wasn’t converted–manufactured from Azerbaijan on tape to this one by the Mainshaft against the Three Kitties in 2010.
The keys for the visitors in their typical gameplan is to clog the top of the attacking third and feast on a mistake high to grab a chance on the break or force the other side to breakdown a compact low-block defense. cut out an ill-timed pass or snatch a turnover … and shuttle the ball quickly high and wide to the free-flowing wingers. The front four for Azjerbaijan all read-and-react to the others’ movement very well. This will a test of the US’s back four team defense.