Part II: Your USA vs. Poland Preview

(Part I of our October friendlies primer can be found here.)

Like how we tied the preview in. This is me stretching my arm to pat myself on the back. Doesn’t work. Surprise!

Last time the US top squad pitched in Chitown, Carlos Boca Juniors went horizontal with a grass-cutter of a header to beat Honduras. Great moment...

Welcome back to our “near” traditional preview.

Per usual, we go:

TSG What We’re Looking For

11 At The Whistle


However, we’ll invert this a little and start with the proposed starters.

11 At The Whistle:

I think it’s pretty simple actually given the roster selections.

Of course, I’m the same guy who thought that Stu Holden would get much more than four minutes in South Africa and I’m the same guy that thought Liverpool would have a top-5 finish this year. So more than a few grains of salt scattered through this column.

Bradley will–likely–select some combination of 4 fullbacks, 5 midfielders/forwards and 1 striker.

Our guess at the personnel and deployment is that it will be  similar to the U.S. deployment against Turkey that we had in yesterday’s primer piece, both because it is a formation that the Yanks seem to be gyrating towards and because Poland play a 4-3-3 (or 4-3-2-1 if they keep their wingers narrow).

Countering the Polish formation, it works best to have forwards in the central gaps where the central midfielder of the “3”–as we spoke about yesterday–is forced to make a choice of whom to defend.

Our best guess is that the States deploys in a 4-3-2-1...

Okay, let’s deploy:

Jozy Altidore is the target man up top.

Clint Dempsey provides a supporting forward role.

Alejandro Bedoya provides the weakside forward/winger role/monsterback role (see below).

You’ve seen Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley (Czech Republic send-off match) in this role previously.

Maurice Edu and Michael Bradley provide your starting center midfield pairing. It’s not that I don’t think you can’t start Jermaine Jones; it’s just that it would be, well, weak if Maurice Edu who rarely started in South Africa loses his now-position without a fight.

• Benny Feilhaber or Stu Holden provide your tucked in midfielder forming an essentially three-man midfield. This one will be a battle and I’d say it’s a pick’em here. While TSG believes Stu Holden–who has upped his defensive game measurably at Bolton–should play more centrally, Bob Bradley will still defer to Junior in the middle and Stu gets the start outside.

Steve Cherundolo and Carlos Bocanegra provide your outside fullbacks at least here in Friendly One against Poland. The former grew up nearby; the latter once with played with the Fire and has a history of good games in Chicago.

Two things here, Heath Pearce is still in Dallas for this one and note this if it changes, Bob Bradley has shown a complete reluctance to put an off-footed outside fullback on the pitch. Over the past two years–excluding the 2009 Gold Cup “B” crew–Bradley has always put a left-footed back at leftback (Bocanegra, Pearce, Bornstein) and a right-footed one at rightback.

Clarence Goodson and Oguchi Onyewu form your center defense pairing. You didn’t think Parkhurst was getting the nod in his first game since his sub-par effort in…well the near disaster against Haiti in Foxboro…that Stu Holden rescued. Cue video.

• Steady Tim Howard guards the pipes for the Yanks, but gives way to Brad Guzan in the 2nd half.


Rather than throw our probabilities here as this is a friendly and any line-up can materialize, we’ll go with some more visuals for you. You could say we’re graphics-happy today.

If the Yanks go 4-2-2-2...

If the Yanks go 4-2-3-1

TSG What We’re Looking For

• Stu Holden, what’s your zip code?

We know Holden’s area code is midfield. The Dynamo-to-Wanderer has been approved for a mortgage centrally in Owen Coyle’s 4-2-3-1 formation.

On offense, Holden drops deep and becomes a distributor from the back. On defense–in what I’ve written before in excellent tactics from Coyle–Holden presses up the pitch and looks to create turnovers with the very capable Fabrice Muamba (a candidate eventually for the England national team) providing cover in the same manner a Maurice Edu would.

Holden, in our opinion, is not a great choice for an attacking mid or forward because he prefers to complement players around him and make the pass rather than excel at running at a defender like a Dempsey or Bedoya.

Stu will probably be used as a tucked in midfielder this game, but getting some centrally in what has historically been Michael Bradley’s role certainly makes sense.

As a note, it would be nice to see Bradley–independent of his defensive responsibility–pushed up more in attack responsible for trailing and attacking as oppose to linking, but more on this at another time…

• How do women feel when you call them old?

Concerns bordering on criticisms that I’ve heard recently lament the fact that players like Jermaine Jones (32 at World Cup 2014) or Steve Cherundolo (34 at World Cup 2014) may be too long in the tooth come the next World Cup.

Veron: Still steely in our book...

Supporters of that notion would be wise to consider two World Cup 2010 contributors in Juan Sebastián Verón for Argentina who was both a sub and starter for Argentina and Giovanni Christiaan van Bronckhorst, he of the firecracker (perhaps) goal of the Cup.

The former, Veron, played World Cup was 35-years-old at World Cup 2010 and is every much as injury-prone and ferocious a player as the analogous Jermaine Jones.

The latter, van Bronckhorst played for World Cup champ runner-up Holland at 35-years-old and unleashed this boombasa on Uruguay.

Nearly every player that Bob Bradley called in to camp has some shot if not a solid shot to make the 2014 roster and if the player can’t do it anymore they’ll be phased out.

(P.S. Don’t like the comparisons to players that are arguably more established than Jones or Cherundolo? Frankie Hedjuk, if not injured, would have started at left or rightback for the Yanks in 2006 if he wasn’t injured. He was 32.)

Oh, and one more thing: those that castigate the selection of Eddie Johnson should be, well, ashamed of themselves for their blathering.

First, name another American striker who is playing right now in one of Europe’s top  three leagues. The only player is obviously Jozy Altidore. I’m willing to bet those throwing EJ under the bus are the same that pushed so hard for him when he wasn’t ready in 2006.

Peter O: Finally coming into his 29.

Anywho, here’s another player analogy, Peter Odemwingie. The 29-year-old was just, correctly, named EPL player of the month for September and has West Brom humming.

More on Odemwingie? It’s long been though he could be a difference maker on the Nigerian national team, despite his failure to put it together.

That and the fact that he didn’t establish himself consistently at such notables clubs as La Louviere and Lokomotiv Moscow.

Is Eddie Johnson the answer at striker for the U.S.? Wrong question. Does he deserve a shot until better options are available? You bet. Maybe he’s a late-bloomer. Maybe he’s an Odemwingie. Probably not, but your next option is…?

• The Monsterback Position

The off-side forward position that we described above and is inhabited in our starting eleven by Ale Bedoya, I like to consider the “Monsterback Position.”

In football, the monsterback is a player who has license to attack the offense with less defensive responsibilities.

Shea, a potential monsterback?

I’m extremely excited–if the formation and personnel comes to fruition–to see what offense we can generate out of that position from players like Bedoya and Brek Shea (a natural fit for him).

In the system, the player has the option of trailing the attack and being a shooter, gaining possession and running at the defense or making a down-the-line-run and sending a cross back to the center.

Other fits here for this role not in camp are: Landon (obviously), Mix Diskerud and Sacha Kljestan.

Exciting stuff.

We’ll be back on Saturday for some live commentary I believe.

35 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Ryan R. on 2010/10/06 at 12:31 PM

    My fear is that Bradley decides to start Jones along with Bradley and Edu, playing those three as the three in the 4-3-2-1, but all with defensive minded responsibilities.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/10/06 at 12:41 PM

      That is my fear as well…HOWEVER I think Benny and Stu are his first choice “tuck in” midfielders…so when I remember that I relax….

      I have to watch more of Jones game to really understand where he fits in. That’s why I’m treading lightly in regard to his role.


      • Posted by Ryan R. on 2010/10/06 at 8:08 PM

        I saw him play on the left side of the midfield and was pleasantly surprised. I think that playing on the left of the three in a 4-3-2-1 he could be effective, but that still likely leaves Bradley and Edu playing next to him. The only way I could possibly see that working is if Jr. is free to push much further up the pitch, somewhat like his role for Heerenveen, but I don’t see Pops allowing him to go forward that much. It also squeezes both Benny and Stu out, which I can’t say I like.


  2. Posted by T-Muck on 2010/10/06 at 12:41 PM

    I like the formation on the right of the side-by-sides with two Bradley’s. Is it Michael Bradley cloning himself to take up two positions, or the great sweatpants themselves on the field, which is it the world demands an answer?


  3. Posted by Hercules on 2010/10/06 at 12:45 PM

    this should be a great opportunity. to see the team without Donovan. and I can’t wait. what time //channel. is the game?


  4. Posted by KickinNames... on 2010/10/06 at 1:31 PM

    Brilliant points all. Well all except the “anybody who wants pick on Eddie Johnson has to come through me” mini-rant. You should pick a stronger horse to run for you. Eddie Johnson’s short career should be a warning to Jozy Altidore. You don’t often see strikers recover from a rep for laziness/poor work habits, timidity in attacking defenders and ‘poor air skills for a big man’ without a good reason. What little I saw of him in the last friendly looked like the same old EJ. Should be….could be….but he’s past the age for potential. To compare him to Odemwingie is a bit of a poor comparison. He was competing against a bunch of Premier League level of Nigerian strikers (Yakubu, Kanu etc) for a slot whereas EJ mostly failed to beat out…………….himself.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/10/06 at 1:33 PM

      Extremely fair point.

      More my “gist” was, who else do you want to see there, and I’ll add, with speed.

      The US desperately needs a speedy striker and right now, the options are Robbie Findley, Eddie Johnson and that’s really it.


      • Posted by Ryan R. on 2010/10/06 at 8:10 PM

        How sad is it that I’m dying for Danny Mwanga to be that guy for him when he’s not even eligible for us yet? I think Mwanga will be a very good forward and can do good things for us in the future, but as soon as he gets citizenship he will be right in the mix as possible best speedy forward. That’s so incredibly sad.


        • Posted by Kevin on 2010/10/06 at 8:20 PM

          IMO I think it’s sad to expect someone playing in your country to chose to play for your national team just because you’ve played there for a while and have citizenship. Could you imagine if English people tried to tempt Fabregas into getting his citizenship and representing England because he’s been there so long? Not to mention that we get all worked up when we think of Rossi chosing to play for Italy. You have to respect a players nationality and what country they see themselves representing in the future.


        • Posted by dth on 2010/10/06 at 8:46 PM

          Well, since Mwanga himself has said it’d be an honor to represent the U.S., and considering immigration is what this country is all about, no, it’s not sad at all. It’s America. (By the way, the English aimed their sights rather lower on the conversion front: they were thinking about Mikkel Arteta. A fine player, to be sure, but no Fabregas. Arteta, however, is ineligible. Oops!)

          For the record I’m not angry at Rossi for choosing Italy–it’s his decision, and if he feels Italian who am I to contradict him?


        • Posted by Kevin on 2010/10/06 at 9:28 PM

          @dth – I see how you could say this is a country all about immigration, and I get that. If Mwanga feels American and wishes to represent the US and is eligible I wouldn’t say no he’s not american. I’m just saying I think it’s wrong that people are always trying to influence that decision. A player should play for whatever nation they are most comfortable representing, and it should be their decision without anyone trying to persuade them one way or the other. This is why I can respect Rossi playing for Italy. I also never singled you out saying you were mad btw. It was just a general statement that a lot of people see Rossi as a backstabber.


        • Posted by dth on 2010/10/06 at 9:39 PM

          No, I just wanted to head off accusations of hypocrisy.

          But look, why shouldn’t people try to influence him? You need to sell yourself and pitch yourself, otherwise the person in question is liable to think he’s unwanted or unwelcome. Part of making people comfortable–particularly in a pretty momentous decision like, “What country do I represent?”–is making an affirmative case for yourself. We should do it for soccer players and we should be doing it for all sorts of immigrants. You can never have too many talented people.


        • Posted by SamsArmySam on 2010/10/07 at 8:04 AM

          Just a brief follow up comment on Danny Mwanga. If you look into it, you’ll find the background of his immigration is a very sad story. His father was an overthrown government official in Congo who in all likelihood was murdered by the current regime. In that context, it should not be surprising that his international allegiance falls to the U.S. rather than Congo. I wish him the best of luck and would be proud to have him represent our country.


  5. Posted by John on 2010/10/06 at 2:51 PM

    Hmm, with Holden being primarily right footed and used to playing on the middle/right with Bolton due you expect him to be on the left as a tucked in/roaming left/center mid?


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/10/06 at 3:34 PM

      Well, I always see Bradley selecting “roles, then players” rather than vice versa.

      I see Holden used better in the center however I’m not sure Bradley is thinking about him there.

      In the 4-2-2-2 Holden would play the right midfielder tucking in and allowing Dolo to overlap as he did against the Czech republic.

      If the Yanks go 4-3-2-1 and Coach Sweats follows his Turkey schematic then you may see Holden on the left in Benny’s role.

      Either way, it would be a shame if Holden doesn’t get a chance to be a core member of the 1st unit. I’m not sure what else he has to do to earn that.


      • Posted by John on 2010/10/06 at 4:16 PM

        I am almost 100% sure that we wouldn’t see it, but I would be interested in seeing a 4 – 2 – 3 – 1 with Edu/Holden in the center mid 2 and Bradley anchoring between wings of Bedoya and Dempsey.


      • Posted by Kevin on 2010/10/06 at 8:15 PM

        As far as the center midfield goes, I think Shea is the best fit for the “Kaka-like” role. Holden can play in attacking midfield just fine if you ask me, but if you’re looking for someone like a Kaka with vertical offensive skill instead of someone like a “Fabregas/Xavi-like” role I say Shea.


        • Posted by chazcar2 on 2010/10/07 at 6:11 AM

          The US doesn’t have a player available to be that single playmaker (ie Kaka, Messi) and we don’t have someone with outstanding ball control and passing (Xavi). I think we are being too convential by trying to use outside fullbacks pressing forward. I said it on the Part 1, a 3-4-3 or (3-4-2-1) could work for our available personnel. Keeping three center backs on defense with two defensive mids in front of them will strengthen our middle defense. We will likely give away some space on the wings, but that is not how we conceed goals. The wings of the midfield could retreat when we don’t have the ball to creat an almost 5-2-2-1. The problem for us using a 4-2-3-1 is in the lack of attacking mid and a great ball controlling striker. In the 4-3-2-1 the problem is in the quality of the outside backs and again that great ball controlling striker.


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/10/07 at 6:27 AM

          The issue I have with playing 3 centre backs is that more and more teams are playing with one out-and-out striker (albeit with with ‘support’ strikers when in possession), so it seems wasteful to have 2 spare men at the back – and more importantly, getting over-manned elsewhere on the pitch (because of said 2 spare centre backs)…


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/10/07 at 6:30 AM

          NB: I feel there is a difference between a DM slotting in as a third defender when the full-backs advance, and having 3 out-and-out centre backs from the start.


        • Posted by John on 2010/10/07 at 10:30 AM

          In thinking about the “running a 3 man back line” idea, do we have anyone that we really actually trust in our defense anymore?

          Our biggest problem going forward is the advancing age of Bocanegra and Cherundolo, the match fitness/sharpness of Onyewu, and rotation at Left Back.

          Hopefully Lichaj comes into his own and we see more Gonzalez at some point, but our fullback/centre back situation terrifies me more than any at this point.


        • Posted by chazcar2 on 2010/10/07 at 11:52 AM

          Part of my 3 back line thinking is in the weakness with the backs. Having two pressing foward for attacking width leaves just 2 to mark a counter attack. We do tend to stay with three defenders and the DM as is now, because the left back wasn’t effectively getting forward. Thats a bit of why I was thinking of replacing the ineffective Left Back with a center defender and replacing our aging right back with a high energy midfielder (bradley). Almost a 4-3-2-1 with Bradley playing attacking right back.

          When facing a team with only one out and out striker you would have one “spare” center back push out to the ball and the other cover the back side and the main back cover the striker almost man-to-man. You could almost say it becomes a 4-3-2-1 when on defense as the outside midfielder on the side of the field without the ball falls back to that defensive wing.

          Really I guess i am thinking that our current roster of midfielders make better attacking and defending players than our outside fullbacks. To make another brazil comparision, michael bradley makes me think lucio.

          Anywho, back the the part one quote “You go stand there” Formations aren’t really that important


      • Posted by Swa on 2010/10/07 at 10:17 AM

        The fact is we dominated the second halves against Slovenia, Algeria and Ghana when we played a 4-3-2-1 with Altidore up top, Donovan and Dempsey constantly switching sides in support of him, and Junior, Edu and Benny! as the 3 true midfielders. At this point Bob HAS to realize this fact (keep praying). I think we can mostly agree that Benny does his best work off the bench, so I think the starting lineup for these friendlies (at least for the top 6) should without question be Altidore up top with Dempsey and Bedoya behind him and Edu, Junior and Stu as the 3 mids. This really should be our setup moving forward. It gets more of our most talented players on the field, and more importantly keeps EJ and Findley off of it, not to mention that in the ultimate pressure situations in three consecutive games this formation paid off. Yes, all three of our opponents were sitting back and yes, finishing is still a monumental issue, but this is how we maximize our talent. And as much as I love comparisons, there is no need to specifically have a Xavi or a Kaka in order to play a formation such as this. Those two play their roles for the two best national sides as well as the two best club sides in the world, and are literally the two best passers and possessors of the ball in the world, so nobody has a real hope of emulating that. The Christmas Tree maximized our talent during the World Cup and is most likely to do so moving forward.

        Now we just need to figure out the back…


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/10/08 at 11:09 AM

          With the talent the US has, I’d expect you to ‘dominate’ the likes of Slovenia, Algeria and Ghana pretty much regardless of formation!


          • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/10/08 at 11:56 AM

            Not to rehash but…

            Ghana, I would expect them to play competitively. Boateng, Gyan, Mensa — that’s a talented team.

            The US dominated Algeria, just couldn’t put the ball in the hole.

            Slovenia was a let down in the first half brought on by poor team selection in Jose Torres (who started a World Cup game despite not starting for the Yanks for over a year) and Oguchi Onyewu, clearly not fit to be playing against England or Slovenia.


        • Posted by dth on 2010/10/08 at 12:25 PM

          To piggyback, you could make the case Ghana has produced more talent than the U.S. ever has. Obviously Michael Essien wasn’t on the field, but he’s probably a better player than anyone the U.S. has ever produced. Ghana’s also produced a fair few other players on significant Champions League teams (Ayew in OM, Boateng for AC Milan, Muntari for Inter.) That’s better than the U.S. can say right now–who are the contributors for Champions League teams right now, Edu and Jones? That’s hardly formidable.


  6. […] Posted 2010/10/05 by matthewsf in Uncategorized. 25 Comments Part II of II: USA vs. Poland Preview here. […]


  7. Posted by Crow on 2010/10/07 at 5:49 PM

    Thank you for posting that Holden highlight!!! Stu quickly became my 2nd favorite player last year behind Deuce. I loved the service he offers from the right (I feel it is better than anyone else on the roster including Landon), but I like what he offers in the center of the field. He is calm on the ball, he can distribute, and his defense is underrated. I did not know that he led the EPL in tackles, but I had just commented to my father about how good his defense had been.

    I love the fact that you posted the video from that shot because I love that shot. Is it just me or do the Yanks get a little scared of shooting sometimes, especially from outside the box? Torres has a nice shot as does Stu and Deuce, but sometimes Landon, Jozy (he had the nice outside shot vs. the Dutch) and the others seem to hesitate to shoot.

    And it seems that the US gets burnt alot from those shots from the top of the box- see vs. Honduras in Chicago WCQ, vs. Mexico at Azteca, WCQ, vs.Slovenia (World Cup), vs. Ghana (World Cup), etc. etc. etc.

    Doesn’t anyone else notice this? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!!!


    • Posted by Kevin on 2010/10/08 at 6:54 PM

      I would say that as a team, we generally don’t consider the outside shot a possibility. Anyone in our midfield can rip a good one from distance and some of the best teams in the world will rely on a good long shot to win a match. I think it has quite a bit to do with our lack of scoring as well. The other thing is that I feel like it is seen like a last resort. If you see space and you think the keeper is out of position, beat him. It’s not “oh well I ran out of options so I’ll give it a shot…” That same mindset that goes into offense affects us negatively on defense by allowing too much room at the 18.


  8. Posted by Alex on 2010/10/09 at 10:20 AM

    Hey guys,

    So was CD9 driving the car or not? Did you all see the story that just broke? CD9 references something on his twitter.


  9. Posted by Wonderman on 2010/10/09 at 10:28 AM

    Are we getting an “Orange Slices” article today?


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