Snap Judgements: USA vs. Argentina

Jay Bell with his thoughts on today’s match. TSG’s match review coming shortly…

What happened to the US team that could go toe-to-toe with the Spains, Brazils, and Argentinas of international football without looking so poor at times?

Hedjuk? What's his pic doing in here?

Do not be fooled. The US was bullied around for most of the game tonight, but the US’s best young starlet continues to play beyond his years. The US squad was lucky that Tim Howard was in “beast mode” once again against Argentina. A young and inexperienced Brazil squad embarrassed the US back in August as well.

But it all starts with defense. In 2008, 2009 and 2010 the US back line had an in form rightback: Frankie Hejduk, Jonathan Spector and Steve Cherundolo; a leftback playing over his head: Heath Pearce, Jonathan Bornstein and Carlos Bocanegra; and resilient centerbacks who did not punt the ball upfield every possession: Bocanegra, Danny Califf, Jay Demerit and Oguchi Onyewu. Well, none of those are the case any more unless Cherundolo goes into the summer continuing his good form.

And the US will need him to be in top form this summer. Timothy Chandler and Eric Lichaj should be options behind him because Spector should not be an option anymore. Onyewu is not the same player that he was in the summer of 2009. The US needs a leader in the back and Onyewu may not be it. Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, Clarence Goodson and even Maurice Edu should be given the chance to step up at CB. Bocanegra can still play leftback, but he, Gooch and Demerit should not be on the field at the same time. Bornstein and even Chandler or Lichaj could get a look.

If the defense does not work out its issues, then a team like Costa Rica or Guadeloupe will surprise the US before they even get the chance to be toasted by Chicharito and Vela in the final.

How does the team go from typically one defensive CM to three, and the midfield pressure gets weaker?

Simple: They are all too similar. Mr. Kyle Martino said it best when he said all three of Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley and Edu are left marking space instead of players. Stuart Holden obviously would have fit in somewhere, but now that will have to wait a while after his injury.

Spector or even Kljestan would work more efficiently with two of those three instead of clogging the midfield again.

Donovan and Dempsey HAVE to be allowed to create offense and the current system just is not allowing it.

Creator. Yes. Playmaker. Yes. All-out Defender? No.

Numerous matches have provided evidence that a bulk of the US’s attack goes through Landon Donovan. When Donovan is not in the driver’s seat, then Clint Dempsey is the aggressor. Coach Sweats was most likely hoping that Holden would be able to take up some of that attacking responsibility, now he must look for other options. It does not look like Bradley or Jones will be the answer with both playing further back.

With a combination of Spector and Bocanegra, Dempsey and Donovan are spending so much time in the defensive half and are unable to get forward. Cherundolo or Chandler may be able to help change that predicament, but Bradley will have to find an answer before the US matches up with Spain in June.

The end result? The US reverts back to a standard 4-4-2 for Gold Cup.

It seems inevitable now with Stuart Holden out. The rapid ascension of Juan Agudelo certainly facilitates this change as much as anything. Agudelo can pair with Altidore or even Dempsey or Donovan if necessary. Mikkel Diskerud (I want Mix Disk to catch on so bad), Sacha Kljestan, Spector, Alejandro Bedoya or Chandler could emerge as possible starters in wide midfield positions. Benny Feilhaber can maintain his role as a supersub for those positions as well.

The emergence of a crop of forwards can help as well. Agudelo is the star, but Bunbury will be an option once he maintains his health again. Edson Buddle, Chris Wondolowski and Robbie Findley will be fighting for inclusion when healthy. Kenny Cooper and, yes, even Charlie Davies are going to be pushing for a spot through MLS play.

So just prepare for it US fans. Fans have pined for an evolution away from the 4-4-2, but Holden’s injury likely stymies that development. The alternative is that Bradley forces the team to retain the 4-2-3-1 system in a detrimental manner similar to his attachment to Robbie Findley last summer.

15 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Soccernst on 2011/03/26 at 10:55 PM

    Which was the better result, Mexico’s or the USA’s?

    That 4-5-1 was painful to watch. In my admittedly novice opinion the issue starts with the MB, Edu, Jones getting tangled up in each others underware. From there the central defenders begin to panic and boot at all times, meanwhile LD and Clint both are tracking back as far as their own box. When the hail mary goes to Altidore, he’s going to what, hold up the ball for 10 seconds before clint and LD can catch up? That is a tall order.

    I think flexing into something like a 4-5-1 from a 4-4-2 is better than starting in a 4-5-1 to get all these “great” mids on the field. Instead this puts 4 truly attack minded players up top where 2 carry the burden of tracking back (LD & Clint). Maybe this is a 4-2-3-1? WIth the ball mainly coming down the right via overlap from chandler/dolo. And no “true #10” as soon as we try that.. we’re coming up the middle and we’re screwed.


  2. Posted by sparkie on 2011/03/26 at 11:23 PM

    Hey Jay, Great snap judgments. In terms of belittling more of Coach’s tactics and his players implementation of them…I don’t think you gave Altidore enough credit (discredit) of his contribution to the overall success of the formation. He played high despite a massively disproportionate possession time – and did very little on the ball. Despite not having many opportunities to “make it work” I found myself wondering “how many more games does Altidore have before he gets dropped?”. Who knows what Holden does in this formation…that is all speculation, but I don’t think the result and the swarm of stripes parading forward would be that much different if Stuey were in there.


    • It was a formation that anyone coaching the US right now would try. We have seen it twice now and it is just not going to work because of the 3 CMs and lack of dynamic fullbacks.

      Altidore is unlikely to be dropped. He is most likely to be paired up top with Agudelo pretty soon with the youngster playing a role akin to how Davies would play off of Altidore. During Davies’ rapid ascension, Altidore looked a lot better while Davies scored the goals.


  3. Posted by Paul C on 2011/03/26 at 11:32 PM

    The only way I see us staying with a 4-2-3-1 is sticking Clint in the hole. I’d be interested to see Chandler tried on the right of a 3 man attacking midfield. I was seriously impressed with him going forward, but I believe he could be a liability in the back.

    I’d love to see us trot out a 4-1-3-2… with Junior holding, Landon and Chandler providing the width, Clint in the hole, and Juan and Jozy up top.

    Regarding the back line, I think confidence is our biggest issue. The distribution was dismal tonight. But that has much to do about confidence. Think about it; Demerit has played twice in 9 months, and Gooch has played what, less than ten games in over a year? Matches like this one will be a huge boost to them. If they can’t get their heads straight, we need to get Ream in. He has all of the pieces to the puzzle, just needs to get some higher level competition under his bealt.


    • Posted by justin on 2011/03/27 at 12:42 AM

      i like how you think


    • Posted by dth on 2011/03/27 at 6:53 AM

      Yeah, Clint in the #10 position. Or Donovan in the #10 position. Someone with an attacking instinct. I truly cannot understand why Bradley would even begin to believe putting Edu in an attacking position would work.


      • Posted by david on 2011/03/27 at 7:20 AM

        Clint has done well with Fulham getting the # 10 spot, I think he could excel. Also, Altidore is getting playing time because of what he could be, while Buddle is sitting but producing for his club. I think sweats should have given the hot striker a chance.


      • Posted by dth on 2011/03/27 at 7:30 AM

        Buddle is producing…sort of. 9 apps, 2 goals, 1 assist in the 2. Bundesliga. Not bad exactly but not like an obvious omission or anything.

        The reason Agudelo/Altidore worked is because both players are so mobile and can each drift to the wings or provide push up the center. Buddle doesn’t quite have that speed or versatility. I’m not quite exercised about Buddle’s absence. The guy who could contribute who I’d like to see is Herculez Gomez…


      • Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/03/27 at 8:02 AM

        Jr belongs in that CAM role of the 3 CMF’s and I don’t understand how his old man cannot see that. Much better in the 2nd half when he could move forward and his on ball defending is not adequate for protecting the back 4.


  4. Posted by Nelson on 2011/03/27 at 12:10 AM

    Good things

    Agudelo has a knack for goal. Chandler can pass from the back or sprint the whole field. Looking bright for some USMNT youngsters. Really was impressed at how Timothy placed the ball not to the middle but the line. Seems more favorable for possession.

    Altidore is better in midfield. The turks must know something. He looks much better pushing wide and crossing than running alone before getting mugged by three defenders.

    Dempsey has swag. Needs to share it a bit more though. My friend pointed out a pass from his rebound would’ve been nice. I can’t blame him though.

    Tim Howard is legend. Wouldve liked his stick save to clear out rather than to cambiasso. Shutting out messi is legit.


    Argentine acting. I watched the Ecuador Colombia game earlier. That ref let a pretty scrappy game flow. This ref never seemed to get the right foul called. Also he got in the way on one of our possessions.

    Donovan done. He couldn’t get in the game. Why not throw him at forward and take jozy out?

    Jr.’s bad passing. He had a nice if not reaching ball to Chandler. Other than that I only remember sad weak passes that lost possession. O the need of Goku Stu…

    espn Ian Darke has a boner for Argentina. There’s waxing poetic and then there’s being at a loss of words because( insert dirty joke here)…

    All in all though I think this game really helped fuel the Chandler and Agudelo hype. Wanted to see ream in place of gooch. Can herc Gomez teach positioning to altidore??? Otherwise I too see jozys days numbered. But sweatpants has a mancrush…

    See y’all in nashvegas. Indivisible, like zero.


  5. Posted by justin on 2011/03/27 at 12:37 AM

    here are a couple of thoughts after watching a replay of the game…
    the first half we looked disgusting… the second half we were at least digestible…

    i think it’s easiest to break it down by the positions…
    *jozy altidore- the first half the man did not know what he was doing and put absolutely no pressure on the back line of argentina which allowed them to slot the ball anywhere in the midfield they wanted to. It doesn’t look like he can play the single striker. When agudelo came in he looked most effective sliding out to the wing while donovan and dempsy slid inside… he look like a poor man’s anelka. much better second half for jozy. (first half 2 + second half 6)/2 = 4…. maybe a 4.5
    *juan agudelo- the youngster was delicious to watch. he helped the attack to happen. he knew when to hold it up and when to spring it forward. Saw him one time draw 4 argentine defenders with him on a run and not loose the ball. In the right place at the right time for the goal. Nat. team goals = 2 club goals =1… lets see what tusday brings. rating=7.5

    *landon and duece- I’ll put them together because they both played pretty much the same. Tracking back on the wings all the way to the box. They are partially to blame along with jozy and the big 3 in the middle for the poor pressure on the ball exposing the back line. Don’t really know what else to say. Landon gets a half point higher for putting in a good free kick for the agudelo goal. 6 & 6.5

    mids (aka the big 3… or not so big 3)
    great analysis about how they are so much alike they get each other into trouble. they looked super ineffective in the first half. Germany Jones looked useless and he didn’t know where he was supposed to be. The 3 seemed to be rotating so much into different spaces they never really put pressure on anyone. Edu and Bradley looked better the second half but still made some poor passes which led to give-aways in their own 1/3rd… jones-3, edu-4.5, bradley-4.5

    -does not include Boca because he played more of far left CB than anything else. Saw him get forward maybe twice.
    *spector- is now 5th string rb behind dolo, chandler/lichaj, landon donovan (since he played RB better the 1st half anyways)… maybe look at him at middie against paraguay if everyone else gets attacked by killer bees…so not so much really… rating=3
    *chandler- vielen vielen dank! I’ve never seen someone with such a giant forehead run so fast (schnell). German lesson- widows peak= geheimratsecker (directly translated= secret council corners) after he ran past 2 argentine defenders they were looking for him out of the corner of their eye the rest of the half. Got beat a couple of times on D… but who didn’t? Good debut… rating=7
    *CBs +CLB- I agree with matt. Not great, but not bad enough to lose the game… but they pushed their luck a couple of times. DeMerit chasing the dream looked like a nightmare a couple of times and Gooch did not dominate. Boca, well, he’s old and got burned till charred. He should be limited to CB for the Nats from now on. All three= 16.5/3= 5.5

    Tim Howard (we already changed the name of football to soccer here in america and we just offically change the name of goalie to tim howard?)- I am ready to ask to make clones of him and grow one every 10 years from now till the end of the world. He had an amazing performance. ‘Nough said. Rating=9

    that was kindof long, but my wife already fell asleep and I have to tell someone about what I thought.
    Waiting for tuesday… rest up boys


  6. Posted by dth on 2011/03/27 at 6:56 AM

    I’m really unsure about Omar Gonzalez. Few possession skills, and slow of speed* and thought. He is dominant aerially, but I mean still…

    *speed-wise–to borrow a phrase from the NFL, he can’t “flip his hips.” That’s a problem. Chicharito versus Gonzalez would be a grisly mismatch.

    Ream is the guy who must start versus Paraguay.


  7. Posted by Antonio H. on 2011/03/27 at 7:22 AM

    I”m 100% positive Mixx will play on tuesday. Bob will be thinking more attack-minded against a lesser side who got destroyed by mexico.


  8. Folks, if you wanna use Bedoya you should not use him as a winger. His passing foot is not good enough to provide the crosses, he is at his best when he runs deep centrally.


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