Archive for November, 2011

Constants, Variables & Dreadlocks In Orbit Around Planet Klinsmann

By John Nyen

Engels: Invariably

Friedrich Engel, Georg Cantor, Grete Hermann, and Jurgen Klinsmann are related in a very odd way. Of course they are all German.

However, this would miss the implicit point hidden in the Klinsmann way.

That is that they are all German mathematicians.

There have been arguments written back and forth over the context in which Jurgen Klinsmann has been operating the US Men’s Soccer Team over his seven game tenure.

Critiques have flown in regarding player selection, playing time, the formation of the team and even the quotes by the coach himself. This has been exacerbated by losses and low scoring games. There could even be the argument made that USA soccer fans have become accustomed to winning first and foremost despite pretty play or form.

Up until 2011, Bob Bradley had a 62.9% winning record as US head coach. This meant that to those who ran through the Bruce Arena era (65.8 winning percentage) and Bob Bradley era that you were accustomed to turning on a USA game and watching them win or tie a good portion of the time.

El Capitan...

However, the expectations of Klinsmann when it came to winning were nothing compared to the expectations of how USA fans wanted their team to play. More “possession-oriented,” “attacking” and “taking the game to their opponents” stood out as buzzwords like the attributes of what the newest cleaning supplies can do.

These phrases were often uttered by the new coach himself as a way to show his future ideals.

However, these really are future ideals rather than immediate ideals. The eleven on the field are in essence a team of horses that have to be lead in the right way and shaped in the right way. At Klinsmann’s heart, it seems, is an attempt to logically and soundly “Solve for A.”

He is putting together equations with variables and constants in an effort to fix the issues with the team. Fans and observers tend to focus on the mistake or the success, the blown play, the goal scorer, or the own goal scorer. However, what we are missing at times is the formula, the expression which dictates how the mistake or the success happened. Klinsmann himself has expressed the desire to have his team stop focusing on the mistake and attempt to move onto the next play.

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The Orange Tuxedo: US Belle Of The Ball With 3-2 Win Over Slovenia

Can’t shake it.

Just can’t shake it.

The US Men’s team came under fire after Friday’s loss to France for its inability to create attacking chances and it’s failure to scintillate under new manager Jurgen Klinsmann. For a brief moment now, with a 3-2 victory on the road in Slovenia, the nervous fidgeting  that was beginning to surround the team and it’s new manager has quelled.

I just can’t shake the scene above. “Dumb and Dumber” references to the USMNT are staid, but this one just seemed to scream for inclusion.

Two, "striking"....seemed to work...

I can’t find the full clip, but if you’re a fan of the 1990’s comedy, you’ll know it. Lloyd Christmas–what a fantastic name–is getting dolled up for a fundraiser to meet a women he’s smitten with that hardly knows him. Refined, he and road trip buddy “Harry” are not, and Lloyd–Jim Carrey of course–tries on what seems like 20 different sophisticated tuxedos before he settles on the hideous one that draws the rave reviews of his moronic partner in travel.

A closet full of presentable and refined suits thrown out in favor of a gaudy one that will temporarily shock onlookers into attention, but eventually over the duration of the event, make them cringe.

Just can’t shake that orange tuxedo was the United States today and Jurgen Klinsmann the tailor that reluctantly gave in to its fitting and display.

US fans and pundits clamored for goals and attacking soccer–not un-rightfully so since it was Klinsmann who promised them that nirvana through the feet of Latino players (not one of whom was on the pitch on Tuesday oddly enough).

US fans demanded results–noted USMNT striker-turn-broadcaster Eric Wynalda–going so far as to feature in a piece in the New York Times demanding it and explaining the ethos of the USMNT.

And Klinsmann, it would appear, gave in. A 4-3-3 featuring a single striker set was cast into the back of the closet as the tried-and-true 4-4-2 of US days of yore was ironed and trotted out.

And the US scored. And scored again. And…again.

A trifecta, in the first half, against a Slovenia team that concedes less graciously than either side in the NBA lockout.

Fabian Johnson with a German waltz...

It was an explosive, if sloppy display, that saw the US score with some Charlie Hustle, pouncing on a turnover created deep in Slovenia’s end for score number one, with some good ol’lunchpail, a set piece ricocheting off Clint Dempsey’s cranium, and with panache, German-American Fabian Johnson twinkling through the Slovenia defense and being clipped in the box. Jozy Altidore would step up them and punctually bury the penalty kick.

The Slovenia defensive integrity crumbled–but in the process so did the United States cohesiveness–a beacon of hope in the otherwise dreary France match–and their stoutness as well.

Chance upon chance was manufactured or gifted to Slovenia who was no less sloppy on the day in a performance that mirrored the colloidal mist that hovered over their home turf.

The US withstood an onslaught to end the first half and a bevy of them in the second half. The display by Slovenia is one that is normally reserved for highly offensive teams–like Brazil–who have taken an opponent lightly early on and now need to dominate….rather than a team that typically goes about their business in a defensive manner hoping to catch a snoozing opponent on the counter.

When the final whistle finally and gleefully pierced the fog, there was a full set of happy faces on the US sidelines, but certainly a sense of a relief.

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MLS: Twelve Points, Twelve Matches, One Left

James Grossi gets us back into the swing of things by rewinding and pressing play on what happened in this year’s MLS playoffs and the lead-up.

The first twelve matches of the 2011 MLS playoffs have been played; one remains to determine who will take the honours as Champions. There have been some great matches and some dull ones, some standout performances and some disappointments. Players have stepped up, while others have withered in the spotlight.

With plenty to talk about, here’s some of the best:

The New York-Agudelo-Depth-Substitution Complex

"Whew, glad that's over"

New York, despite all the big name star-power has been severely limited by their lack of depth. Coach Hans Backe has consistently been unable or unwilling to rely on his bench, not even bothering to name a full complement of substitutes for the playoff matches.

Nowhere has this controversy been more acute than with the problem of Juan Agudelo – the promising youngster who has been riding the pine all season long. He’s been good enough for his country to select him, but not for club. (Note: Agent Ron Waxman confirmed this morning that Agudelo will train with Bundesliga outfit, VfB Stuttgart.)

Backe is a conservative manager, one who relies on proven heads, and experienced shoulders. His acquisition strategy is a perfect example of this, collecting players with years under their belts. Joel Lindpere, Jan Gunnar Solli, Frank Rost, Luke Rodgers, both Thierry Henry and Rafa Márquez are also deep into their careers.

In part due to his personal ethos, but also because there is an urge to win now in a club that has yet to find any sucess and to connect with the local fan-base. The impetus, to cash in on the hype surrounding their shiny, new ground, and solidify the investment prior to any New York II club coming in and causing divisions.

The US is not particularly deep in the forward category, nor have there been any real matches to speak of – Gold Cup aside – allowing space for a young player with tons of promise. That is simply not the case in New York. A solid, effective partnership between Henry and Rodgers is the obvious first-choice pairing. When Rodgers was out with injury Backe fielded Dane Richards in his stead, instead of the young Columbian-American.

The reason for that is Agudelo’s inexperience; for all his attacking gifts – that goal versus DC early in the season was positively Henry-esque – he is still not a two-way player, tending to drift through the match, rather than rampaging about as do Rodgers and Richards. With Henry on the field, his partner must provide more defensive work, closing down defenders, not allowing them to play out of the back and young Juan just doesn’t provide that.

Had New York not struggled so badly for the entire second half of the season he most definitely would have got more time on the field and that lack of match play made him unsuitable for tense situations in the playoffs. As much as one could argue that it was time to take a chance that is not Backe’s way, preferring the slow grind to the unexpected.

It’s a good sign for the league that the pressure to win has replaced the need to field players not ready for the level of competition, though there should be concern as it could stifle the development of a promising player.

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Live Commentary: USA vs. Slovenia

Retribution? Probably not.

Improvement? Needed.

One overwhelming positive. Captain Carlos Bocanegra with his 100th cap as the United States tangles with Slovenia today.

Starting line-ups shortly.

Funny, still looks young...

Nostalgia: World Cup 2010: USA 2 (3) – Slovenia 2

For TSG’s USA – Slovenia Preview, click here.

World Cup 2010 gave US fans four full games of drama. Group stage game two was of course against the relatively-unknown Slovenia. Charlie Brown put a hurt on the Yanks in the 1st half, but the States would storm back and make more than a game of it.


Perhaps TSG’s favorite goal celebration of all-time in this one. Jozy Altidore bring it’s down. Michael Bradley pokes it home. Bradley immediately wildly waves the US bench over to join him at the corner flag. So many players celebrate themselves or have a premeditated routine. Bradley’s celebration screamed “Team”–a dramatic moment.


More legacy USA vs. Slovenia coverage:

“Donovan for P.M.?” — Fan Diary: The Slovenian Roller Coaster

Another Take: TSG’s Tuesday Comes Full Circle On USA-France

Tuesday with his take on what just happened in Paris

No surprise that this one should become a battle between revolutions.

Blanc's squad: Thumbs up effort...

Laurent Blanc came in to clean the French house after the 2010 World Cup, with the federation sending players like Nicolas Anelka to their international doom. The French team now consists of mostly of players untainted by the decadence of the French team in South Africa.

This was Jurgen Klinsmann’s sixth game in charge of a USA side, as he tries to put his mark on the program from the top level all the way down to the youth ranks. His hope is to emphasize possession and attack.

There’s no compelling narrative here. The USA defended well, but had too little possession and threat to keep France honest and had to concede a goal midway through the second half before showing a little more attacking verve. So, here are some things we’ve learned from USA v FRA:

Defending Like It’s World Cup 1990
We often describe Bradley’s tactics as “defend first, then counter.” In the later stages of his tenure it became “defend (poorly) first, concede early goal(s), then counter.” The Americans only seemed ready to perform when their backs were firmly pressed against the wall. For a team with the game plan that depended on keeping it tight and not conceding goals, Bradley’s defense was often badly organized.

While we dreamed of free flowing, attacking football, Jurgen has given us digital scorelines – 1-1, 0-1, 0-1, 1-0, 0-1, 0-1.

Klinsmann is showing himself to be a very good defensive tactician. His team is well-organized and composed in defense and only occasionally shows the tendency towards emergency defending that was a characteristic of Bradley’s team, and only then when they find themselves under sustained pressure, as during a bad 5-minute stretch during the second half against the French where the US relied heavily on Tim Howard to keep things even.

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Extremely Mini USA vs. Slovenia Preview

Setting expectations, time constraints prevent our customary official preview format.

The USA plays Slovenia Tuesday in a rematch of the US World Cup group stage second match.  No doubt there will be review of that match in depth across the US soccer media outlets. Here’s one piece from us back then.

Let’s get right into it:

The Lead-Up

It took nearly horizontal--or drag--runs from Altidore to open up the Slovenia defense a year ago....

• I went to private Catholic school until I was in 6th grade. It was a common occurrence when the teacher left the room to put someone in charge who would write down people’s names who talked during that time–a really odd social experiment. I was one of those students that wouldn’t push the envelope on the absent teacher’s rules, but I would engage in a little banter here and there.

There was always that one student who remained near-mummy-like during the time that a teacher was out of the room. It was amazing. Through paper airplanes, tons of laughter, stuff being thrown out the window or at other people, that same student would be stoic, observing the teacher’s rule to the letter while the teacher was away.

Slovenia has eleven of those now-grown adults playing defense. The hallmark of that defense? Extreme discipline and extreme focus on positioning.

Slovenia is perennially one of the stingiest teams in UEFA and in all of international football. In fact, in the lead-up to World Cup 2010, no team that was going to South Africa conceded less than Slovenia. Amazing.

The US picked apart Slovenia in the 2nd half at the World Cup by–incredulously–a defensive miscue–Steve Cherundolo played an up-the-line ball to Landon Donovan that the defender misjudged when going for the interception. The second goal was shear will from Michael Bradley, who beat his man into the box and poked home a Jozy Altidore knock down.

You have to get Slovenia on the run or through the set-piece.–the US scored two on the run as did England against the feisty Eastern European squad during that World Cup. Those are two attack-types, by the way, that Jurgen Klinsmann’s teams haven’t focused on yet.

What will the States do?

• Good question.

I expect the States to make very few changes from their France line-up. I think they’ll move Fabian Johnson into Danny Williams role to provide some attacking nous. That’s one side.

On the other side, look for the US to make a concerted effort to bring Brek Shea more into the action. Shea was almost a bystander against France; his play reminding many of his game against Colombia last Fall before his soccer growth spurt. Shea, with his ability to play wide and loop in a cross should be–and will need to be–an integral part of the States attack.

• Now for the defense….

The United States will play a very different game against Slovenia, which likes to counterattack in the same vein as the States did prior to Klinsmann’s introduction, then they did at World Cup 2010.

For Onyewu, a difficult final match in South Africa

The US was ripe–through their weakness at centerback and CM task list–for the two goals Slovenia scored. The first of course was a rusty Oguchi Onyewu getting caught in space and nobody helping out as Slovenia rocketed one past Tim Howard. (The US’s current deployment will here because a single holder is responsible for covering the center of the pitch, not a dual situation where both players hesitate on if their counterpart is going to take the shutdown.)

The second was Michael Bradley going for a tackle on a counter and not getting. Slovenia thundered down the field for a pretty counter-attack score.

The US will likely try and press up the pitch against Slovenia as Jurgen Klinsmann–it would appear–looks to educate and employ that style of defense.

Slovenia play a lot hold-up through their forwards while thrusting up their wings, Valter Birsa in particular who terrorized the US last summer. The US should avoid the situations that got them into peril against Slovenia last year, but expect Slovenia to really attack the US centerback combinations with their two forwards.

For a legacy review of Slovenia–who play the 4-4-2 like their petrified of odd number formations–see here from World Cup 2010.

11 At The Whistle

How hungry will Maurice Edu be for his goal?

From back to front…

While Oguchi Onyewu was pronounced fit at CB for the United States, expect Clarence Goodson to get the nod again (unless Klinsmann gets sentimental so that Gooch can exonerate the demons of South Africa from the final game he played in there.) I’m inclined to start agreeing with TSG’s Tuesday (who wrote the Orozco-Fiscal piece), in that the US will use a CB by committee, playing Orozco-Fiscal against CONCACAF teams that pose slightly less of an aerial threat and employing Goodson or Onyewu against European teams. So you may see Onyewu, but odds are on Goodson.

The only other change I see being from the France affair s at RM where Fabian Johnson comes in for Danny Williams. The States will get more attacking prowess from Johnson over Williams obviously and there is less need to protect the rearguard now that Ribery is an afterthought.

If you told me the Yanks had two other changes, I might suggest Michael Bradley for Maurice Edu (fatigue) and Jermaine Jones for Kyle Beckerman (fatigue).

Your thoughts?


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