US vs. Trinidad & Tobago – New Dynamics

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First off, some acknowledgment on El Salvador.

Absolutely first rate commentating by my brother on the review of the El Salvador match. Spot on with his analysis in my opinion. We only differed on Mike Bradley’s impact as I expect even more from our center mids.

Great job by Shaun–a Brit I might add–in keeping the in-game minutes. It’s great, especially on this publication, to get a more impartial view to how the game is running.

Did Marshall play big enough to earn another start?

Did Marshall play big enough to earn another start?

As for the US’s play against El Salvador–I had many of my questions answered and a few more were cultivated.  For example, can Chad Marshall add enough offense to be considered in the center back rotation? Speaking of that rotation, Captain Carlos played an exceedingly strong game mentally with a few blemishes physically, how does his role evolve?

Are we seeing Landon effect on our wingback evaluation? While Bornstein was rusty against top competition, he clearly did an admirable job of containment with help from Landon. Conversely, Spector’s play was spotty, in the absence of Donovan. Was it an anomaly or was Spector’s play dicey with the lack of LD to provide cover?

Have we seen the beginning of Ric0 Clark’s diminishing pitch time?

Fresh questions from a game where the US fan should have expected a more dominating performance from the home team. And let’s not forget another small note: “Benny! Benny! Benny!”

With these thoughts in mind and Rio Tinto still fresh in our memory, let’s get to our T&T preview.

The Port-of-Spain pitch presents an extremely different game dynamic for Team USA vs. T&T. And dynamic is the word we’ll use here as we process through the preview.

Soca Warrior namesake

Soca Warrior namesake

Quick aside: Has anyone else wondered the origins of T&T’s phenomenal nickname, the Soca Warriors. It simply, in basic terms, means, “dancing warriors” as “soca” is a form of Caribbean dancing that has its roots in T&T through “Lord Shorty” considered the father of Soca. (Shame he missed the MTV generation.)

Okay, back to the preview and dynamics. The US will face a decidedly different team and offensive attack. T&T comes in with nary a clue on how to navigate to the World Cup 2010. After a coaching change a few months ago, that also saw famed star Dwight Yorke assume an assistant role, the Soca Warriors come in, in last place in the group and attempting to revamp their entire game strategy and approach–not a good combination if you’re trying to survive. The new look Warriors boast a more offensive game than earlier this year (Altidore’s trifecta led to a 3-0 Fool’s Day drubbing in Nashville, Tenn.) but that offensive game has opened up even more holes in the transition and defensive side that the U.S. can exploit. Honduras took kindly to those holes this past weekend to the tune of 4-1.

Jones: Try and keep up with him

Jones: Try and keep up with him

Additionally, the Soca attack will be the converse of El Salvador, leading with Sunderland strong man Kenwyne Jones. If Jones’ name sounds familiar, that’s because TSG has been touting his exploits in advance of this meeting. Jones is a one-man wrecking crew cut out of a mold of 1-part Altidore, 1-part John Carew (for the heading), 2-parts Drogba. He’s a handful and it will be absolute great viewing pleasure to watch Gooch (without a yellow card worry) battle him on headers.

Add Wigan striker Jason Scotland to the attack, along with vet Cornell Glen and you have a very sturdy offensive unit. Note: Fulham attack man Bobby Zamora has not featured for T&T yet after switching allegiance–not sure if he’ll make this one either.

The next two lines of Soca line-up are bigger question marks. A decidedly inconsistent midfield that lacks any sort of size should see the U.S. not get knocked off the ball that much. Watch out for Carlos Edwards though–he’s a burner who may give the US left back position some fits.

On defense look for the U.S. to punish the Warriors over the top and on post-up through balls as the only 1st division defender is Bolton part timer Jlloyd Samuel–that name mind you is not misspelled nor pronounceable.

What do we see for the US? I think we’re going to see a US team with a little bit more confidence who will create more chances against a disjointed back 8 for the opponents. If I had to wager, I might suggest a 2-1 or 1-0 U.S. victory, though with the Soca Warriors at home and nothing to lose a draw might be more in the offing.

As usual we’ll follow the TSG preview format:

TSG “What We’re Looking For”

11 at the Whistle


On we go…

TSG ” What We’re Looking For”

Going into this game, there is one common theme and that is….Bob Bradley’s got a lot of work and introspection to do….

  • Uh, yes, we go Clint again…but this time it’s a Bob Bradley decision.

Late last night my brother texted me with the following, “We’ve beaten the Clint angle to death, can we not go there?” I’d love to Mark; I really would, but I can’t. My responsibility to the fans beckons.

Actually, this Clint “story” is different from the rest before; we now have a definitive eval on Deuce that presents quite a conundrum for Bob Bradley and that is: “A disinterested Clint Dempsey who shines for a few minutes each game, what’s it worth?”

I’m sure your high school and college coaches used to tell you the same thing or be on theme with this, “It’s about scoring goals and not getting scored on.” Well with Clint–kind of like Andrei Schvechenko in his waning days at A.C. Milan–he flat-out scores goals. Despite all his other mishaps–turnovers, ref temper tantrums, and lack of coverage–how do you take him out of the line-up? He does the one thing you need to win the game.

And that’s the decision that Bradley faces and I think he’ll just ride the Deuce….until he stops scoring goals. So we fans are going to have to take the good with the bad.

Another note here, I’m convinced that Deuce, as others have written in past commentary, has sullied on his role on the US team. At Fulham he’s give more free reign to move about the top 1/3 of the pitch. Either Dempsey has to realize his role on the US team and change his game or Bradley has to move him up (and create that open role) to get him involved.

  • More Bob Bradley:  How do I get Stu in there earlier?
Is the US Antonio Valencia lurking?

Is the US Antonio Valencia lurking?

Bradley should be outright commended for his development and continuing efforts to introduce Stu Holden. There may be some complaints of Stu’s turnover prowess, but it is crystal that Stu Holden brings a new dynamic to the team.

For my part, I had no idea how fast Stu was….he can take his chances down the wing, because much like Landon, he can make it back on defense. In an odd way, he reminds me of what I’ve seen out of Antonio Valencia for Man U this year. Stu can get down the line and create just enough space to absolutely nail a cross into the box. That skill and yes the dynamic that it brings to the US attack cannot be ignored.

Does Stu start? If I’m Bob, I can’t discount Holden’s play any longer and I also realize what he gives me. A tough decision here.

  • Discounting Davies injury, does Altidore pair Ching or Davies up top?

TSG thinks this is a no-brainer. Davies and Altidore up top. However, BB is a highly respectful coach of both player and the player’s originating club team. If Davies is dinged, you may see him him bench bound and the duo of Ching and Altidore get the nod. Remember it was that combo that literally beat down the Warriors up in Elvis country….so I wouldn’t be disappointed. Bradley I’m sure wants to keep Davies healthy.

  • One last hurrah for Rico?

Sure it was Kyle Beckerman’s home stadium, but Rico not even on the bench? We’ll see Rico on the roster tomorrow. The question is, will we see him on the pitch and if so when?

In our CB to WB column, we took Rico to task for his first touch and I think Bob Bradley has done the same–effectively realizing Clark’s role as a track-down defender alone is too one-dimentional. I think you’ll see BB continue with his  Mike Bradley, Benny pairing here and try to see how they improve play together. With the 6’5” Gooch and perhaps the 6’4” Marshall in there, the US can handle Soca’s strength in the middle.

  • Speaking of the backline Bob, how does this head scratcher end up: Boca? Bornstein, Cherundolo? …even Agoos?!

TSG is going to toot our own horn here and comment that we kind of nailed the starters vs. El Salvador. Don’t expect the same here. If I’m BB coming out of Salt Lake, here’s my takeaway. Bornstein needed a lot of Donovan cover, but handled some 1-on-1 situations decently. Spector, clearly faultered with the lack of Donovan over the top.

Boca…Boca should get amazing plaudits for his efforts on Saturday. He is hands down the smartest and best technical defender for the US–unfortunately, he just doesn’t have the physical abilities and offensive prowess to match that at this stage of his career–case in point, the El Salvador goal where Boca realized the speed mismatch and had to conceded the space that allowed Zelaya to generate an effective cross. You typically need to stand that guy up. Wait, no, you have to come stand that guy up.

What does BB do? And how about Chad Marshall? He had some rookie lapses, but his service from the central defense was a new offensive wrinkle for the US and was very effective. Does he stay? Sit?

My brother and I had this exchange this morning on perhaps the most important “What We’re Looking For” point yet:


I think Bornstein could get the start if Bob has predetermined that he would give him 180 minutes to see if he was ZA-worthy before this round of qualifiers even began. But if it was based on his performance on Saturday, I am not sure how you put him back out there. If he was better than Spector on defense it was marginal and I didn’t think he was productive in pushing forward. So, I think we’ll see Spector-Dolo w/ Boca-Gooch.


I agree with you on Bornstein — I think it’s more based on Boca — if you want to have Boca in the starting line-up then you move out Bornstein — that’s the logical decision.


Unless Bradley moves Spector to LB.


Bradley, apropos as The Thinker

Bradley, apropos as The Thinker

I think Bradley is sold on Spector/Cherundolo on the right — it’s like in the movie Fight Club when Ed Norton’s character is in his 9-to-5 morass of a day job.  “I’ve got the couch covered (RB)….I’ll never need another couch…I’m set….now I need the Ikea table (LB).” But then again, maybe Spector’s your best leftback?

Are you still only doing 2 push-ups per set?

Pardon the digression.

TSG is taking a flyer on the following back four:


….with Marshall sitting to start the away game. But we are likely to be wrong.

11 at the Whistle

G: Tim Howard

D: Steve Cherundolo, Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra, Jonathan Spector

M: Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley, Benny Feilhaber, Clint Dempsey

S: Jozy Altidore, Charlie Davies

* If Davies injured, you’ll see Ching

First subs: Stu Holden, Jonathan Bornstein


  • Bornstein or Marshall starting in the back

Like we said, no idea here how BB plays it — we’ll be wrong somehow.

Probability: 80%

  • Stu Holden to get a surprise start at RM; Dempsey goes to the bench or up top if Davies is absent

Coach Bob has pushed Holden’s development; here’s another chance to push it on the road against a bottom table opponent. Dempsey gets his shot to inhabit the roving offender role?

Probability: 15%

  • Brian Ching up top; Davies to bench (with injury)

This no doubt hinges on Holden and Dempsey. If there is a desire to move Dempsey around or get the Dynamo star more playing time, the play for Ching might give way. If Bradley is content with his midfield, perhaps Ching over the top.

Probability: 35%

  • Ricardo Clark back to the starting XI.

I don’t see it, but some suggest. I think Rico’s ship has sailed

Probability: 25%

A fun and contemplative few days here for US soccer; enjoy the game.

8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/09/08 at 12:25 PM

    One other note here. If you pair Davies and Altidore up top going forward, who’s your back-up supercharged striker?

    Ching is a possession and bang-around-make-a-play guy. If Dempsey is out there already’s he’s not going to be fresh. Casey is redundant with Ching.

    Who’s your Jermaine Defoe or Carlos Vela?
    Should Robbie Findley get a look tomorrow since Bradley took a look at Arnaud?


    • Posted by Mark T on 2009/09/08 at 12:55 PM

      Scrape Dempsey from the starting eleven and there you go.

      Also…can’t believe you forgot your boy Cooper!…not that he is the answer, though.


      • Posted by matthewsf on 2009/09/08 at 12:58 PM

        We’ll leave the Dempsey stuff for now.

        No, we need what Vinnie Johnson was to the Detroit Pistons in basketball or Ben Gordon (now on the Pistons). A scorer off the bench with speed.

        I would have put Davies there, but he deserves to start now. He’s fearless and doesn’t seem to tire.

        Cooper is not that guy. He needs to get into the flow. We need someone who can jitterbug up the pitch when the other team is tired.


  2. Posted by Mark T on 2009/09/08 at 3:14 PM

    I just read that Robbie Findley’s parents are from Trinidad. With Bob Bradley’s penchant for awarding hometown appearances (and capping in general), look for Findley to be on the game day roster and maybe make an appearance if the US is up by a couple.

    An appearance for Findley would also solidify his connection to the USMNT and eliminate any possibility of him jumping ship to rep T&T in the future. Findley attended an U-23 camp for T&T in 2006 and has only played for the US senior team in a friendly, so he is not officially tied to the US yet.


  3. Posted by Kevin on 2009/09/08 at 8:38 PM

    I think Rico’s ship has sailed… as a starter. He has to travel with the team because of Bradley’s knack for cards. Rico also could come on as a sub to try to bunker down and defend the rest of the game as Beckerman did against ES. Findley would be a very good option with his speed, but according to Davies’ twitter his leg feels better now. Spector probably should get a shot at LB now. I’m not a big fan of doing that, but I think he’s your best LB and you have Dolo covering RB.


  4. Posted by Antonio H. on 2009/09/08 at 8:45 PM

    this is basically our last chance to get GD up the wazu. and i mean serious GD. like honduras’ last two games GD. until we become more efficient offensively( i.e. putting the ball on target) i’ll be saying this.Make the goalie make saves


  5. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/09/09 at 5:55 AM

    Good point — last game for goal differential. Or how about just winning back-to-backers? Or one on the road?


    • Posted by Kevin on 2009/09/09 at 2:28 PM

      you can’t set the bar that low because then we’ll be saying at least we made it out of the group stages while other teams are saying we only made it out of the group stages. winning is not the only important thing. Is there any excuse to lose to T&T? I don’t think so. so why not shoot for the stars it’s not gonna do you any worse to have a goal of blowing them away than it is to have a goal of lets just try to win on the road because in order to blow them away you have to win first. If you blow them away you achieve both.


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