Who Caps The Line-up For The States?

Which strikers will process out of the tunnel? (courtesy, Matt Mathai)

TSG writers Brian, Matthew, Tuesday and Shaun take positions on who starts for the Yanks up top on Saturday and why. Note, the position taken by the writer does not necessarily reflect their personal position.

Proposed Starters: Altidore and Dempsey

Defender: Tuesday


Can the Deuce man hang up top on Saturday? (courtesy, Matt Mathai)

Let’s face it, no one really knows what Bob Bradley has planned for Saturday and that’s the way he likes it. Expect a conservative start with a strong defensive shift to keep things tight for the opening 45 minutes. That was Bradley’s plan against Turkey, so there’s every reason to think he may have tipped his hand in the Philly friendly. To add defensive solidity to resist England’s strength in midfield, I think either the US starts with Stu Holden on the right or DaMarcus Beasley on the left. That leaves Bradley with a choice: Push Dempsey up top or save him for a second half substitute?

Altidore, a lot to handle in any position (courtesy, Matt Mathai)

There’s really only one decision. Bob has faith in him as a potential game-breaker who can create something special out of nothing with a moment of individual brilliance: Deuce needs a full 90 minutes to try and find that moment. His sometimes frustrating tendency to try to do too much seems to have been pared down as Fulham’s run to the Europa League Final progressed and as   his US team-mates were distilled to the 23. Dempsey’s presence on the field means the defensive focus can’t be solely on his US co-star, allowing Donovan to be a bigger influence in the attack than on his own.

This approach may get your best 11 players on the pitch but Dempsey is not at his most influential up front at the highest level. Dempsey is far more dangerous to opponent defenses when cutting inside from a deeper left-midfield starting position with a speedy striker making diagonal runs ahead of him. If he does start up top, it’s important that he find deeper starting positions than he did against Turkey, trusting Altidore to lead the line. A deeper role behind the striker but ahead of midfield makes better use of his qualities but expect Dempsey to revert to his midfield position early in the second half.

With Altidore facing a race for fitness after picking up a training knock, Bob could keep Capello and US fans guessing with a reprise of 2002 by pushing Donovan up top behind his LA Galaxy team-mate Edson Buddle in Dempsey’s stead. There’s chemistry there, which is exactly the sort of thing Bob likes to leverage.


Proposed Starters: Altidore or Findley. 4-5-1 or 4-2-3-1

Defender: Shaun


Will Findley's quick feet earn him a singular nod? (courtesy, Matt Mathai)

A lot of people assume that a 4-5-1 or any formation with a lone striker is a more defensive strategy but in fact it can have a lot more offensive possibilities especially in the case of the USMNT. You can really commit too 4 offensive minded players but they are coming from out wide as well as down the middle. If you’re lone striker is good at the holding the ball, the ball can come to him and he holds it up for fast pacy wingers to go at the defense from out wide. You’re also going to win most midfield battles and the extra midfielder can ensure that the wing backs can move up as well.

All in all this is a good strategy for pajama pants to utilize against England. The use of speedy wingers and wing backs will keep the English defense on their toes and the extra midfielder will help bulk up the midfield and defense against the attacking instincts of Lampard, Lennon, Cole and Gerrard.
So who does Senior choose as his lone striker? Based on current form I would go with Findley. He’s not as aggressive or powerful as Dozy but he doesn’t need to be. He needs to be able to control the ball and be able to pass it well to Donovan or Dempsey who will be in support and do all the running at the English defense. Altidore can be brought in late if they are down as his aggressiveness will press the English back but with Findley they’re attacking in a more controlled calculated way. His chip to Donovan to set up the first goal against Turkey is the sort of ball control that the US need from their lone striker.
His speed will also help get into the spaces that Landon and Sir Deuce of Nacogdoches will be able to pass the ball into. The one thing he needs to do though is be a better finisher. He didn’t help himself against Australia and will need to improve in front of goal if the US are to challenge England.

Proposed Starters: Jozy Altidore-Robbie Findley

Defender: Brian


Herm Edwards has an opinion on how the USA should approach the England game.

Speed and power... (courtesy Matt Mathai)

Bob Bradley is a man of pride. He knows that if he gets a tie against England by parking the bus, it proves nothing. He wants a win against England, not only to prove the US a strong side, but also to earn the respect as a world class manager that he has never gotten.

England has two center halves that are not as fleet as they might need to be: Ledley King possesses injury-prone knees and John Terry has trouble moving laterally and can’t accelerate, forcing him to foul. A pacey striker could be devastating to the English defense, but unfortunately Charlie Davies isn’t fit. What we do have though is Robbie Findley, a man with all the tools to be a star, but has never proven himself consistently on any level.

With Jozy Altidore holding up play, Findley can receive balls near the backline then make a dash for opportunities, as fans bore witness against Australia. The finishing is always a doubt with Findley, but at very least he can tire out the aged England defense to a point where the likes of Herculez Gomez can come on and poach a goal. Findley might not be the best player at the forward position, but he’s the only difference-maker.


Proposed Starters: Buddle and Altidore

Defender: Matthew


Miroslav-Klose! Let's get THIS man in the ball game... (courtesy, Matt Mathai)

Edson and Jozy are the pairing that should take the field in the opening frame for the Yanks. However, this selection has as much to do with Robbie Findley as it has to do with the two names above. First, and this I believe is the point I’ve put the most faith in, I believe Edson Buddle is just fast enough to keep the England backline honest. If Buddle can be a threat on the line, then the England defense will not be able to press up the field and help out their weakened holding midfield spot.

Buddle or Altidore can then both be used as a target forward and wear down the venerable pair of John Terry and Ledley King and distribute effectively to Dempsey and Donovan. This will make way for a Robbie Findley sighting around the 65th min as the England team has tired and now has to contend with a fresh Robbie Findley who can either be a target or make that cut to the flag or around the corner.

As I’ve mentioned before, it is much more difficult for a team with few collective games together to adjust within a half than at half time. I think Bob Bradley is keen on this.

Finally, and this should not be overlooked, Buddle can get off his shot and is willing to let fly. He’s either going to hit pay dirt or ask the question of England’s keeper….and we all know that the Yanks love to pounce on balls idling in the 18-yard box scrum.


19 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by s44 on 2010/06/09 at 4:30 PM

    Holden isn’t starting. If there were any chance of this Donovan wouldn’t have been shifted over to RM for the entire match against the Aussies. If Dempsey plays up top (outside chance, given that he didn’t at all in the last tuneup), Beasley will be assigned to harass Lennon.

    I think Bradley is likely to use a “twin tower” Buddle-Altidore attack in a later game, but does that mean he won’t against England?


    • Posted by Kevin on 2010/06/10 at 7:57 PM

      But LD 10 favors the left side so if deuce goes up top LD goes to the left. Would you rather have LD harrassing on left and Holden crossing on right or Beasly running on left with LD trying to play in his forwards. His strength is running at defenders and he likes to cut in just like Deuce. That leaves right side. Stu or Benny? On right I’d say Stu. I still think we’re best suited for diamond midfield…


  2. Posted by dude on 2010/06/09 at 7:37 PM

    Crazy. People agree with me about Buddle-Jozy. Thought I was alone.


  3. I appreciate all of the analysis breaking down the options. Can’t say it any better than it was said above: “No one really knows what Bob Bradley has planned for Saturday and that’s the way he likes it.”

    With that in mind I think you probably won’t see the 4-5-1/ 4-2-3-1 on Saturday for the simply fact that it hasn’t effectively been trialed with this personnel (though we don’t know what has been going on in practice the last week). It provides to many unknown pairings not only up top but in the midfield as well. I think it would be unwise for that reason and I don’t see it matching up well against England’s formation unless the 3 CM’s work really well and move in coordination well. Not enough time to make that leap. Also while I see Findley’s ability to bring down the ball and move, I think if you were to have 1 striker up top it seems like Buddle might be the best option. (but really no one has enough experience in that role).

    3 options left.
    2 of the following options leave Findley on the bench to come in later. If that is the strategy then which pairing is the better starting option Altidore/Demps or Altidore/Buddle?
    I think in that case Demps starting up top is the better choice for 3 reasons:
    1) Not much (if any? practice?) experience of Altidore/Buddle playing alongside one another.
    2) More importantly. I think Altidore and Buddle are much easier for England’s back line to handle mainly because it is more of a static formation. If the backline isn’t pulled into uncomfortable positions then our entire attack is easier for England to snuff out (including shutting down Donovan). Demps making good cuts could be more dynamic and Demps is better at pressing when needed as well.
    3) We need to have support in the center of the midfield. Demps could provide this more reliably in the hole (if he drops back effectively), than Buddle who would be in a static 4-4-2. If MB and Rico are the only presence in the center than we are going to get eaten alive.

    2 options left:
    I really have a hard time choosing between Altidore/Demps and Altidore/Findley. Could go either way but for the reasons Tuesday mentions above I would side toward Altidore/Demps. Also I have a feeling that if Findley starts you will see Cole or Terry drop off of him enough that his use in spreading the D (at least as a first half option) is relatively neutralized. (read comments on the US letting Heskey somewhat roam from a previous post). England will know they can afford Findley a little more space and will happily let him go wide to receive the ball as more often than not he will take a few extra moments to make his decision on where to distribute the ball next (in which time the space will be closed down). I think Findley will have a few too many turnovers (think of a performance between the Netherlands match and his recent matches). I think Turkey backs bailed him out a few too many times by just knocking out the ball when he was down the line. I could be completely wrong about this but I agree that I think Altidore/Demps allows the team more versatility in the first half, more defensive pressure on the wings (Holden/DMB) and more effective options for the 2nd (fresh Findley, Holden or DMB already on the pitch).

    Still futility holding out for Edu to start. No dis to Rico but this could be a huge difference in our ability to hold formation and more possession in the 1st half and beyond.

    Just my thoughts. Also I was wondering today: When did BB reveal the gameplan to the players? Obviously they have been practicing for a while in training but I have the feeling that BB held out his final plan from the players until maybe this Monday. I think he enjoys pushing every player to be ready if needed. Real question when did BB decide on the lineup? I can’t blame him. I just wish all of this late minute inclusions and lineup trials came a little sooner.

    Whoever plays. We will play as a team. I can’t wait.


    • To take the other side of the coin…..
      I think a Altidore/Buddle partnership does have the advantages that were already discussed, (chemistry with Donovan, Buddle’s form etc.). If Matt is right and Buddle can move quick enough/get in good positions to trouble the defense then I think this is a viable option. It also has the advantage of having both Buddle and Altidore on the pitch so when Findley comes on, you can choose one of them to come off. Torres seems like he is the other likely second half sub. So that leaves one sub for later. This means that Holden might not come on at all.
      I still like the Altidore/Demps pairing better for the reasons above. But that basically depends on if Altidore/Demps were able to make it work in practice. The problem with this is when Torres and Findley come on you probably won’t see Buddle as we would save that last sub for later.


  4. Posted by rusry723 on 2010/06/09 at 8:31 PM

    I hope Matthew is right.

    4-5-1 would suck.

    Dempsey-Altidore does not work.


  5. Posted by Gino on 2010/06/09 at 11:56 PM

    Although I voted for a Jozy-Edson partnership, I’m not sure that’s what we’ll see. I think it’s more likely we see Jozy with Findley if only because Bob has shown he likes to stretch the defense with speed. That said, I really want to see Buddle in this game. I believe his lack of international experience is negated by his current goal scoring form. He simply is on a roll and needs to be on the field. Big games are often decided when someone makes the most of limited chances. The US probably won’t get many opportunities against England but Buddle is King Midas right now. Pair that with his chemistry with Donovan and you’ve got a recipe for success.


  6. Posted by LarryMontanez on 2010/06/10 at 5:50 AM

    agree, gino. i’d rather go with the hot hand than with experience. hopefully capello goes with experience (heskey) over the hot hand (crouch).


  7. I voted for Buddle, Findley. Seriously. I have my questions about Jozy. I actually think Terry and King might struggle with Buddle, especially if Findley’s running leaves one of them isolated. I don’t think Australia is as bad as that pairing made them look. For me, Edson is a cross between Jozy and Ching – he’s imposing like a Dwight Howard and plays even bigger than he is. He was dominant in the air against Australia, knocking down ball after ball for Findley. He’s a Heskey that actually scores. That sounds about right.


    • Posted by LarryMontanez on 2010/06/10 at 10:07 AM

      I think you’re right, in that neither Terry or King will be able to handle Buddle one-on-one. Back when Buddle was still with the MetroStars, and they played Barcelona, i saw Buddle make Rafa Marquez look pretty bad more than once. and that’s when Rafa was still decent, and Buddle was a lot less experienced. I envision Terry dragging Buddle down in the box


    • Posted by jb on 2010/06/10 at 10:32 AM

      Agree with Buddle-Findley. Findley may be the poorest finisher on the team, but his speed and daring was the key that unlocked our most potent attacks as a team in the most recent friendlies. I think he has to start and play most of the match (subbed by Gomez around the 65th maybe). Dempsey has been more effective from midfield. So my question is between Altidore and Buddle. When Jozy goes all out he is a dominating presence, but he just isn’t consistent. Buddle is the player that has been remarkably steady and is in the best form so I go with him to start. I recognize the audacity of starting these two woefully inexperienced strikers against England, and would take my hat off to Bradley if he had the guts to try it.


  8. Posted by DanPA on 2010/06/10 at 8:10 AM

    I really hope a 1-striker formation is a no-go…. in addition to what the above posts point out, if we play our outside backs as wing backs (a bit similar to the way England does), we will lose the battle of who pins-back who.

    Based on Bob’s valuation of defense and workrate from his striker, I really believe that we will see Altidore and Findley…. with Findley responsible for defending and pressing as much as for offense.


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/06/10 at 8:15 AM

      IMO, playing a lone striker might be OK as long as it is not Altidore. He just doesn’t possess the skill and intelligence to do it.


      • Agreed. I think he may get there eventually, but considering how he likes to lay the ball off I think he’s much better with another striker at this point.


  9. One comment from Tuesday I found really interesting on Dempsey:
    “Bob has faith in him as a potential game-breaker who can create something special out of nothing with a moment of individual brilliance: Deuce needs a full 90 minutes to try and find that moment.”

    I agree, but does he really need 90 minutes? Not that I think he’ll start on the bench, because I realize there’s no way he will, but what about Dempsey as our impact sub? He’s shown that knack for late game heroics with Fulham not playing a full 90.

    That being said, I think my vote is for Matt’s Jozy/Buddle starting pair with Findley a 60th minute sub, maybe Dempsey sliding up top to bring on Holden as well. I like the idea of having two big, physical strikers in there to wear down Terry and King then bringing on the burner to try to take advantage of heavy legs. Gomez might be an interesting one to bring on late to, he has that gift for finding holes in a defense.


  10. Posted by Talley B. on 2010/06/10 at 2:14 PM

    Can we make that the last use of “venerable” to describe John Terry?

    Thanks. The consensus seems to be that the one-speed dinos playing center-half for england need to be drawn forward so that landon and deuce can drive in behind. If gerro plays on the left for england (or joe cole, really, or anybody who can play there), LD10 is going to be able to go wild over there or force England to sacrifice cashley’s attacking instincts. We really need someone who can pass to him (and to Dempsey, who should have his way with Johnson, please God). I guess Bob’s not gonna put JFT up there, so I guess Robbie is our best striker-distributor. The goals won’t be coming from him anyway (he won’t walk through England’s back line with the same ease that led to his Aussie Nightmares), so let him stand at midfield and flick the ball over John Terry’s venerated head all day.

    Jozy must play because he’ll be challenged from the defense, not the midfield, when he drops back to pick up the ball, and he can turn more forcefully than any of our other forwards.

    Dolo behind Landon, Mikey and (sigh) Clark in the midfield. Damn the torpedoes.



  11. Posted by Kevin on 2010/06/10 at 8:12 PM

    I think the most probable is JZA with Findley Findley will come off for Holden and Deuce will move up top. If I know anything about BB that’s what will happen but I guess well see. It would also be nice to see torres come on for Clark.


  12. […] it were TSG, well we’d be kicking off with the twin battering ram of Jozy Altidore and Edson Buddle. Will Altidore inflate his game on the world […]


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