Quick Follow-Ups: Banner Day For The US, Runs The Table

The marble abides...

Abbreviated due to time constraints.

Okay, Porter, Sundhage, Klinsmann, here’s a directive.

1) Stand up

2) Raise hand

3) Bend elbow

4) Pat back

The US was in action yesterday and couldn’t have hoped for better results. The women, men’s senior side, and junior side kept a collective clean sheet and outscored their opponents in aggregate 8-0, as three wins were posted in three matches. US Soccer has suffered some difficult days and results over the past year, but this was the exact opposite.

Let’s just go bullet-by-bullet with some review:

Bradley worked well within in his role...

• Italy and Klinsmann have done you well Michael Bradley

No player was perhaps more impressive–in his improvement yesterday–than Michael Bradley. It’s not hard to look at Bradley and see that he took his dogmatic approach to practice and worked on the two parts of his game that have handicapped his collective work over the past two years: composure in advancing the ball and defensive discipline.

Yesterday was of course a single observation, but, offensively, skills were on display yesterday that have never been associated with the junior Bradley–most acutely looking up the field and looking to advance the ball in the face of high pressure.

Bradley was calm on the ball and more importantly seems–in respect to yesterday–that he has developed some range to his ball collection and distribution. The Chievo man used an arsenal of one-touch, two touch, box out and scuffle, crossovers, etc. to get the ball out of trouble on numerous occasions.

The key Bradley stat: 43 of 49 passing with only five back passes attempted and all missed passes were forward foraging. That’s stupendous.

A chain reaction of events seem to have drastically improved Bradley’s game.

First, was the dismissal of his father from the senior side.

That may be harsh words, but under Bob Bradley the younger was tasked with just way too much to do on the field. This was coupled with reward for making the safe pass, usually a back pass.

It was what was tasked of Bradley during the previous era and in turn he didn’t develop his game. A reporter once said that when Bradley went on trial to Aston Villa that he lacked the touch and vision on the ball necessary to succeed in the English game.

True or not true, Bradley’s forward touch was not a strength of his game.

Credit must be given to Jurgen Klinsmann for his man management of Bradley. Klinsmann sat Bradley in the early going of his tenure, and one could see how conflicted Bradley seemed to be. During his early substitute appearances under the new coach, Bradley regressed to maintaining to much possession, dropping too deep for reception and making the safe pass too often.

It was correct to sit Bradley. What was shown Saturday in Genoa was very different and as much as Bradley’s great passing percentage was great, what is more impressive was his refusal to go back with the ball. It was a massive turn of events.

• CBs Wobble, But They Don’t Fall Down


If you could see Bradleys inner conflict, then you can easily see the conflict that playing a highline puts on the US centerbacks. This was something that Klinsmann surely knew and took a calculated gamble on.

Protect the backline with a holder who is instructed not to come up in attack. Push the attack up and to the left flank when possible, so that your better defenders will be your last line of defense.

The challenge comes then the backline is tasked with holding a line and the team in front of them is stretched. Does the backline come up and risk getting beat over the top? Or do they play a little deeper and try to call the team back?

Yesterday, the backline–with the help of a midfield that had trouble shutting down Italian playmaker Andrea Pirlo–got off to an inauspicious start. Pirlo, in the second minute, challenged Clarence Goodson with an over the top pass to Mazzi, and if not for the covering of Tim Howard, the Azzurri could have been up 1-0 for the good.

Many other balls found the feet of Italian attacker throughout the first stanza.

Goodson defended well...but only in his end. Chart depicts tackles won and clearances made....

The back four was under a steady siege and several times the line was challenged with the main culprit being Clarence Goodson who kept the Italians onside and in great striking range. (It’s somewhat understandable given Goodson has not played competitively for awhile)

In the second half the tune changed. Despite some coverage gaps, the backline remained stiff and attentive to its line, even as Giovinco in particular, challenged it time and time again. On the road, with possession in front of it faltering, that is not an easy task. Many of the offsides calls were very close; but they were offsides calls nonetheless.

Despite the positive play, yesterday showed that neither Goodson or Bocanegra really play to highline with any strength. They are both good defenders, but their defensive plays usually come when they are positioned inside their own 18”. It would be wise for Klinsmann–as he likely attempted to do with Orozco-Fiscal–to introduce Geoff Cameron more frequently as the year wears on. Cameron’s speed enable him to play high with relative ease; his flexibility allows him to play either side of the backline.

Quick hits:

» Fabian Johnson has quickly vaulted to the top of the leftback pecking order. The German-American has class and poise on the ball, showed positional awareness, and a natural inclination to go forward. With Steve Cherundolo beginning to show his age on the pitch, the US would be wise to move Tim Chandler over to a position he can thrive in.

» The move of Johnson to leftback would create some short term problems for Brek Shea. Both by the attack’s design and by his nature, Shea likes to hug close to the touch line in attack–his best move being a little deek inward, whilst pushing the ball deep on the left, gaining a load of space and going to retrieve it in attack.

Johnson however, favors getting forward and takes up Shea’s natural space. The result yesterday was Shea was unsure where to move on the pitch, resistant to come inside and created a number of turnovers.

» Why didn’t Jenny Finch get a start? Okay, bad new jersey comment. Moving on.

» Tim Howard, taken for granted, but just like Everton in the EPL, on-form right now.

» Lot of buzz about Danny Williams playing on the right hash. Williams has zero offensive chops for that role and made a number of poor decisions–not least of which was an ill-advised turn inward, under duress late in the game that would have gotten Ricardo Clark creamed on Twitter–but, if you’re looking for someone to mimic Donovan’s trackback-ability, he’s probably your guy.


» Jozy Altidore’s book is closed–for now–in my…book. Altidore is quintessentially inconsistent. Oh you could tell Altidore was trying hard, and also trying to adhere to the coach’s words. In the 12th minute Shea took a shot instead of laying it off  to a somewhat open Jozy Altidore in the right slot. Altidore pouted for a second and then clapped. As the game moved on though, more pouting ensued.

» Clint Dempsey goal was sublime. Italy’s Gigi Buffon was moving left with Johnson’s pass and Altidore’s layoff, but Dempsey slotted in on the ground on his wrong foot. Well-skilled.

» Terrence Boyd will be with the senior team for awhile–though he’ll take a detour through the Olympics with U-23’s.

» Speaking of U-23’s, that Joseph Gyau is one extremely speedy player. In playing ulimate frisbee, I had a friend, Coco, who someone once commented, “Coco happens”–that is just the move, the sprint is done before you even notice. That’s Gyau’s impact on a game. Before you’ve noticed he puts the defense under duress.

Gyau playing as an attacking midfielder and sometimes wide forward, but he’d be great to play off a target man like a Buddle (just a for example) and open up space. I can see why Gyau was deployed on the left flank for the U-23’s and he’s the type of player–good in possession as well–that could add a dynamic to the senior side in short order.

Bill Hamid commanded his box well for the U-23’s. Credit that to Everton and US goal coach Chris Woods who has done a masterful job in improving Hamid’s command on the pitch.

» Ike Opara. Welcome back.

83 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by dth on 2012/03/01 at 11:35 PM

    Least surprising fact ever: Pete Carroll and Klinsmann are friends. (judging by twitter).


    • Posted by Crow on 2012/03/02 at 2:04 PM

      I wonder if Ben Howland is in the friend circle as well.

      Seriously, I’ve seen in interviews Klinsmann reference his relationship with Carroll several times- he likes what he did at USC, his approach I guess.


  2. Posted by 4now on 2012/03/02 at 12:03 AM

    Excellent work TSG! Welcome back, as well.
    Question: Could the US switch to an attack-minded 5-4-1 or 3-2-2-2-1?


    -Johnson and Chandler provide widith & speed on the flanks, but must cover.
    -Ream-Williams-Cameron provide a highline and are free to join in the attack should the space merit it, ala Phil Jones.



    • Posted by Berniebernier on 2012/03/02 at 5:34 AM

      A 3 man backline really doesn’t work in the modern game. You can’t play a 3 man backline against a 1 up top and almost every top team can go 4-2-3-1.


      • Posted by John on 2012/03/02 at 6:29 AM

        Actually take a look at Napoli’s 3-4-3 line-up. They switched to this 3-man back line in response to the rest of their country playing a 4-2-3-1.


        • Posted by Berniebernier on 2012/03/02 at 7:30 AM

          Good point. I would argue though that most of the Italian teams play what is much closer to a 4-3-3 (or at least the best teams do) in the fact that the outside players in the 3 are more attacking players then outside MF players. If that is the case a 4-2-3-1 is really just a slightly more defensive version of a 4-3-3 (with the wings droping back into the band with the ACM).

          Think of the difference between Shea (with the US)/Dempsey (with Fulham) as the highest left sided player and what we saw from Gyau against Mexico as the highest left side player.

          I would refine my point in saying that a 3 man back line doesn’t work if the team is playing a target man in a 4-2-3-1 (which most of the good teams are capable of putting out.

          A 3 man back line could work on a rare occasion but not as the main formation.


        • Also look at Barcelona’s tendencies. The come out with 4 in the back on paper but in attack Alves and Abidal push high and the holding mid drops in between the CBs to play 3 in the back.

          For it to work for the USMNT I think we’d really need to change how we move off the ball to maintain possession better. It wouldn’t hurt to unearth a US Messi who forces the opposition to ALWAYS be mindful of pushing too high.


      • Posted by fireBB on 2012/03/02 at 7:05 AM

        agreed. 3 man backlines only work against 2 up top from the opponent. with 4 in the back against a lone striker, the 2 cbs can double team as necessary and allow the wingbacks to push up the pitch allowing for a more dynamic attack/defense.


  3. Posted by Berniebernier on 2012/03/02 at 5:45 AM

    Watching both games it seemed to me (this was the first time I saw Gyau) that very close today between Gyau and Shea. Both play different styles but I am not sure that I would start Shea over Gyau if I was Porter (or at least it would depend on the opponent).


    • Posted by dth on 2012/03/02 at 9:23 AM

      Of course, Gyau was playing against fellow under 23 players and Shea was playing against one of the best national teams in the world…you have to take that into account.

      FWIW, reporters who watched the team practice in Dallas thought Shea was better than Gyau.


      • Posted by Berniebernier on 2012/03/02 at 9:33 AM

        Understood. That said, I have seen a number of Shea’s USMNT and FCD games.

        I just think that they both bring something different to the table. I don’t see Shea torturing the outside back nearly as much as Gyau did. That said, Gyau doesn’t seem to be as good as Shea when he isn’t running at people (obviously it was one game and that can change – Landon was world class when running at people in 2002 but not much else)

        If we are going to play to “offensive” MF in Carona and Mix I like Gyau better from a tactial standpoint. If we play two “defensive” MF (like we tend to do with the senior team) Shea is a much better fit.


        • Posted by Eric on 2012/03/04 at 2:22 PM

          Shea’s a better player and in my opinion has a lot more versatility than gyau. Shea has the size to go along with speed to make him more than just a guy who can run at people. He’ll be a threat on set pieces and is less likely to get pushed off the ball than Gyau.


  4. Posted by euroman on 2012/03/02 at 7:11 AM

    What a complete waste of time this article was….just goes to show that people that don’t know the game and obviously never played at an advanced level should stay away from computers. You could have been doing something productive like cutting the grass instead of this waste.


    • Posted by Jared on 2012/03/02 at 8:16 AM

      Yes, let’s get more analysis from guys like Warren Barton, Alan Shearer or John Harkes. They really know how to analyze well.


    • Posted by Crow on 2012/03/02 at 1:51 PM



      • Posted by Paul on 2012/03/02 at 5:58 PM

        GRE analogy of the day:

        Euroman: Leander Schaerlaeckens :: Clark Kent: Superman

        Matt, nice job using stats to explain Bradley’s work versus Italy, and the trouble with the current backline in lieu of the more aggressive style Klinsi wants to play.


        • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/03/02 at 9:29 PM

          thank you.


        • Posted by dikranovich on 2012/03/02 at 9:52 PM

          is euroman really leander shellacker?


          • Posted by Paul on 2012/03/03 at 9:13 PM

            Possibly: he is sort of giving off that “if you haven’t played the game or came from the appropriate culture” assumption most Eurosnobs rely on when claiming the US is filled with players whose main traits are “athletic,” “hardworking,” “strong,” and “courageous,” traits more apt for a Bradley-style scheme than the one Klinsi is slowly trying to encourage. The “Italy=Return to Bradley’s Success” meme is in Leander’s work and spread like a bad case of the flu to others in the US blogosphere.

            What we need–and what Matt provided–was an analysis based on what we all have in common: statistical evidence. My eyes told me that this team took a few steps in the direction of Klinsi’s vision, rather than merely reverting to Bradley ball throughout the match. What would substantiate such evidence? Passing completion rate and where the passes were taken and completed, for starters. Look at Bradley’s passes: a good number came in the middle third, completed over a short distance, going towards the sidelines–all of this against Coach Bradley’s classic long ball or quick counter strategy.

            What might be evidence against the claim that Klinsi is accepting the talent level of his squad, “regressing” to the tactics of Bradley? Certainly the ability to hold the ball and create chances in the final third is a problem. But this could be a result of an incomplete installation of Klinsi’s plan, not a reversion to Bradley ball. This is, in my view, the major problem with the team under Klinsi, and the reason why we are not creating as many chances (and of a particular sort) as one would expect under the new attacking scheme.


    • Posted by Antonio Henry on 2012/03/02 at 5:28 PM

      Sorry I couldn’t keep myself from replying to this.

      I’ve never seen Lord of the Rings, but I know a troll from Mordor when I see one.


  5. I feel like Jozy goes down too easily too.


  6. Matt, I completely understand the “blazing fast frisbee player” thing. All of a sudden the force is broken and there’s a man very, very wide open sprinting for the front cone. We called that the “Lindy go” play in college. When a player has that gearbox – and you can tell it’s there even when the guy’s jogging, because he looks like he’s exerting no effort at all and then all of a sudden he’s absolutely gone, and the defender hasn’t even started chasing him yet. Some guys just have that gift, and the rest of us slow-footed mortals can only point at them, yell “Strike!,” and pray that the marker denies the deep flick long enough for another defender to pick up the runner.

    If Gyau is that player (and from what I watched of the U-23 game, I think he very well could be), then that opens up all kinds of attacking options for the senior side heading down the road. Hopefully JK isn’t so attached to Shea that he doesn’t give Gyau a good, long opportunity to get a runout.


  7. Posted by mathmatics on 2012/03/02 at 7:47 AM

    Starting Johnson at left back _would_ present a short term Brek Shea problem unless…

    You put Donovan in Brek Shea’s place. When he cuts in onto his right foot (see his first assist with Everton this term), Johnson would have plenty of room to overlap.

    Then put Chandler in Danny Williams spot. He could offer the same defensive steel, but he’d be orders of magnitude more dangerous going forward. He’s got speed to gain the corner and his right footed service is excellent.

    When Dolo fades, you’d have the option to move Chandler back. Or if our attack has been humming along, perhaps just insert Lichaj. Very small sample, but the Chandler-Lichaj pairing looked fluid in the 2011 friendly v Paraguay.


    • Posted by Berniebernier on 2012/03/02 at 9:36 AM

      I love this idea. I am becoming more convinced that this is our best line-up and has the potential to be devistating on the wings.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/03/02 at 9:59 AM

      Don’t have all the answers, but not sure I want (at least) Chandler playing any other position than RB. he can/could be devastating. he infrequently needs help on defense if at all, and he can get vertical up the wing in a hurry.

      I think it would be a waste to put him anywhere else.

      Until Lichaj proves he can remain fit and be dominating, he can’t be a starter — that said I like Fabian on the left and Lichaj as a better floating back-up than Spector….

      A player like Chandler…if further observations shows…is crucial. it’s like Ashley Cole, you never have to worry about him and the other team does. If Chandler is at LB or RM I just don’t think as an opposing coach I worry about him as much.


      • Posted by Berniebernier on 2012/03/02 at 10:39 AM

        I 100% undertand what you are saying. Right now Dolo is a fine RB. That is subject to change as he ages.

        The premise is basically are we better with Fabian/Shea and Chandler/Donovan pairings or Fabia/Donovan and Dolo/Chandler. Personally I like Donovan helping Fabian out and I think the two of them will work very well together especially because Landon can help put on D when need be better than Shea.

        If Fabian is LB as you suggest in your piece then Dolo is the odd man out. At this point I think Shea should be the odd man out.


        • I don’t think Chandler is ahead of Dolo at RB yet. He still makes too many mistakes. Yes, he gets forward well but Dolo is no slouch in that department either. Maybe by WC 2014 but even then I wouldn’t be surprised to see Klinsmann opt for the experience of Boca and Dolo over the superior athleticism of some of the younger players.


      • Posted by mathmatics on 2012/03/02 at 10:54 AM

        I agree on the value of having two shutdown outside backs who also pose a threat going forward. I think in 18 months, we should pretty much be building the team around that concept.

        Shea and the 23s will all have had another year playing professionally, so find the winger who fits in best and run him on the opposite flank of Donovan.

        We would finally be a team capable of putting even a good defense on it’s heels for a full game.


      • Posted by Antonio Henry on 2012/03/02 at 5:31 PM



  8. Posted by Jared on 2012/03/02 at 8:20 AM

    At this point, I think Brek Shea is presenting short term problems for himself. He’s lost the spark that he had in the first few games under Klinsmann that was initially attributed to the fact that he had played something like 500 minutes in 4 weeks between USMNT and club. Now that is looking more like a guy who was very hot and is settling back to his normal level.

    I think Lichaj getting games at any level would be a big advantage for the USMNT. That would allow the flexibility to use Johnson and Chandler in midfield. I was very impressed by Lichaj during his stretch with the USMNT.


  9. I was not impressed with Shea’s decision making in the final third. I don’t think Shea’s tendancy has actually been to drive up the left touchline. That’s his starting position, but from there he tends to cut inside on the diagonal when he gets the ball rather than getting to the byline on the outside and playing in a cross. With Dempsey on the field, he should be getting crosses back to the far post from advanced areas much more frequently. There were also a number of times when he failed to find Johnson on the overlap in promising positions to get the ball into the box.

    I thought, however, the interplay between he and Johnson was promising, especially through the middle third. Shea’s impact became clearer when he came off for Klejstan. The US struggled to find the out ball and were unable to relieve pressure with good spells of possession meaning they were much more easily pinned back in their own half defending for their lives. That didn’t happen for the first 70-odd minutes of the match.

    Bradley is a different player than he was a year ago. He was every bit as classy and comfortable in possession as Dempsey has consistently been over the past year. He seemed to trust the players around him far more than under his dad and didn’t try to do too much. He played within the tactical system, showed good positioning and pressured effectively without over committing to the ball. His first touch was miles better than I’ve seen before, he was much more willing to turn with the ball even in the sort of tight spaces where he would never previously have dreamed of doing it. He provided the linking play that has so often been missing from central midfield since Reyna. Very promising.

    Speaking of Dempsey, he should be commended as much for the defensive work he did shadowing Pirlo in the second half as for his goal. The change from the first half was fairly pronounced, so I’d assume it an instruction from Klinsmann’s at halftime. Jozy also, tended to position himself to deny the ball to Pirlo, limiting his influence for most of the match. Props to the gaffer for a simple, effective tactic that made life easier for the back four through most of the second half.


    • Posted by kaya on 2012/03/02 at 10:11 AM

      Ugh. The change from Johnson-Shea to Spector-Kljelstan was just frightening. It better a better substitution for Italy than any they could make on their own roster.


    • Posted by Union on 2012/03/02 at 11:00 AM

      Great analysis Matt. I agree with just about everything. Also happy that someone is finally pointing out that Jozy might have hit his ceiling. I don’t hate on the guy (his on-field personality reminds me of my own when I played, not necessarily a good thing, but I empathize with him). When there is smoke there is fire, and outside of the MLS, Jozy has found himself having the same problems at every club he has joined. At least part of it, is just his skill level. While decently fast and very physical, his touch is so inconsistent and he doesn’t really have any skills on the ball. Not to mention the fact that, despite his physicality, he got pushed off the ball with ease, especially during the first half. Now, the above wouldn’t be as huge of an issue if it weren’t for the fact that at least mentally, he still seems absent from games. He rarely makes well-timed runs and he never makes creative runs in general. He still, essentially, stands in the middle of the 18 yard box waiting for someone to make something happy. Now, I’m still not entirely sure of Boyd’s skill level (though given his pedigree, I imagine its pretty good) and who knows what Agudelo’s ceiling is, but the one thing both of those guys have is tenacity and if Altiodre doesn’t show it soon, he’s going to be the odd man out.

      As for the rest, I love the idea of Chandler at RB and Johnson at LB, but I think Jurgen sees Johnsons as superior to Shea on the wing, and wouldn’t be surprised to see Johnson man that position until Shea makes a case that its his position. In terms of the Gyau/Shea argument, maybe reporters saw Shea as being better in terms of training. But Shea is notorious for looking great in training and not putting it together on the field. Honestly, since his emergence against Mexico back in August/early September, he hasn’t had a really strong game. He is incredibly indecisive in the final 3rd, never seems to know when to distribute or when to take people on. I had thought he was a beast when he decided to run at people, but it never seems like he is comfortable doing that anymore. It’s a tough call. As for Gyau, I am pretty high on him. Cracking the first team in the Bundesliga is no small feat at his age. I think he has the ball control you’d expect out of a product of German development and the speed to make any backline sweat. Some of his cross from the goaline were beautiful. My only worry is that he is a small dude, but at least not tiny in the DaMarcus Beasley sense (plus, the “he’s too small” argument has long lost credibility). Sure, playing against Mexico’s U-23s is different from playing against Italy. But still-ya gotta like what he brings.


      • Posted by mathmatics on 2012/03/02 at 11:16 AM

        Of course it’s possible Jozy’s hit his ceiling, just like it’s possible that any player has already peaked.

        But for some perspective, Jozy is younger than Tony Taylor and Will Bruin. He’s a year or less older than Teal Bunbury, Brek Shea, Joe Corona, Darlington Nagbe, Terrance Boyd.

        Those guys are all still considered prospects with potential.


        • Posted by Jared on 2012/03/02 at 11:39 AM

          Here’s some more perspective on Jozy: Dempsey was just starting at New England when he was Jozy’s age. If it is Jozy’s ceiling, he’s the best option we have right now and will be for the foreseeable future until Boyd starts to play regularly for Dortmund or Agudelo runs screaming from Red Bull.


        • Posted by Union on 2012/03/02 at 1:41 PM

          Agreed and I totally get that argument. It’s certainly a valid counterpoint. I’m not that high on Bunbury, so I’ll only speak to Shea, Corona, Boyd. And with those 3, my argument would be that while their ages may be on par with Jozy’s, they are still in earlier stages of development. First off, with Boyd, European clubs are notorious for taking it slow with young players. Especially a club like Dortmund with tons of talent, and thus, no need to bring anyone along quickly. Obviously, certain unique talents start playing with the first team when they are 19,20, 21 (Rooney, Messi, C. Ronaldo, Welbeck, etc.). But, if Dortmund uses Boyd regularly in the gameday 18 for 2012-2013 (as widely expected), that aint bad for someone who just turned 21. As for Brek and Corona (who are 22, 21 respectively), there is still a lot of optimism for their respective development. I don’t know as much about Corona and he doesn’t have the ceiling Brek does, but theoretically he is well positioned to jump to a higher end league where we will see if continues to get better. Brek, @ 22, had a dominating year in the MLS. And he’ll probably jump either in the summer, or in January of next 2013 to Europe. Its yet to be seen if he can further develop and adapt to the higher levels of the game. But there is no reason to think he won’t continue to get better. My issue with Jozy is, he jumped to Spain too young and essentially stopped playing regularly for 3 years. And while he has improved certain aspects of his game, none all that dramatically and his biggest fault remains: he is too inconsistent to be relied on. Maybe its a mental thing, maybe not, but it doesn’t appear that he has improved dramatically off his form from 3 years ago (and yes, I know how many goals he has scored at AZ).

          So I guess, in short, and this argument is purely subjective, but I feel as though its not your age that matters. Its that development path players have taken, or will be taking that matters. And that is why I think Jozy’s hit his ceiling. I’d love to be wrong.


  10. Posted by Shawn on 2012/03/02 at 10:14 AM

    I really like Porter’s team style, especially on defense. I have heard the philosophy of the dutch style that everyone works together to get the ball back, but I’ve never seen a U.S. team do it so well. I think this team will be a big highlight of the Olympics this year. I also think that Porter could be the National Team Coach in 2018.


    • Posted by Berniebernier on 2012/03/02 at 11:45 AM

      For all of those people that are saying that the US senior team played like a Bradley team I am not sure what was expected (he really only has two new players). The U-23 definitely did not play “Bradely style” and delivered everything and more of what Klinsman promised. Mexico was embarrased, they didn’t have posession, there were long stretches where they couldn’t get the ball out of their half, they barely had any shots. I know the game went late east coast time but from about the 55 minute mark on I lost interest as there was 0% chance that Mexico was going to come back. The only question in my mind was would someone play the Marquez role and pick up a dirty red.


      • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/03/02 at 12:28 PM

        I think the strategy may have been more hunker (not bunker) and counter, but the US had very few turnovers in the middle of the field and kept a clean sheet.

        That’s different than years past.


    • Exactly. The whole team pressed and worked hard on D and generally made life miserable for Mexico. That game was, in its own way, just as satisfying to me as the senior side’s.

      We’ve got talent, and we’ve got what looks like a pretty good system in place. After the first JK game against Mexico, Texas 1836 said

      “When Juergen talks about what the “American” style should be, I’ve given it quite a bit of thought this week. And one word that I want to factor in heavily is: SPEED. Hot, nasty, badass speed. Like Eleanor Roosevelt said.
      We are the country of race cars, rocket ships, and Daisy Dukes. We like things fast.
      I want every American soccer team to abuse their opponents with ghastly, obnoxious displays of speed.
      Attacking, unrelenting speed.
      I want us to leave tire marks on the field when we’re done.”

      Our young boys have that, and talent to go with it. The Yanks are coming, and we’re coming at you fast and hard.


    • Posted by Crow on 2012/03/02 at 1:54 PM

      I love the fact that Caleb Porter was selected as U-23 coach. If Sunil was involved his stock rose a bit in my book. dth posted an interesting interview with him from Nashville in the comments section the other day. I love the direction he wants to go in with the team. I like some of the bright young coaches from America- Porter, Kreis, and Olsen. Any of these guys would be outstanding candidates to coach the National team to come. I think one of them will be the first to make it to Europe as well.


  11. Posted by calebgunnels@gmail.com on 2012/03/02 at 10:50 AM

    After reading all the comments, I can only take away the fact that we finally have options at many positions. That’s exciting. We have something promising going forward.


    • Posted by Crow on 2012/03/02 at 1:57 PM

      Exactly. I’m not sure if this “next generation” is going to produce the first American superstar but I think the depth will be way better than before. Gone will be the days of guys like Jonathan Bornstein, Ricardo Clark, Robbie Findley, and Pablo Mastroeni starting in World Cup games.

      I am super excited about the U-23 team. Watching the 2000 Olympic qualifiers as a teenager in Hershey, PA is what made me passionate about soccer so there is always somewhat of a sentimental value to the Olympic team for me.

      Somebody please post a good link to watch the games because I dont have NBC Universal or whatever the heck channel the games will be on.


  12. RE: This Match Was a Bradley-like Victory.

    Not even close. This performance was nothing like the 2-0 against Spain. We looked outclassed for the entire game against Spain. We just countered and scored two goals. Bradley’s teams were set up defensively while also being defensively naive. Jurgen has fixed the defensive problems. If Bradley’s team had been as organized and tactically astute in defense as Jurgen’s, we would never have allowed Brazil to score 3 second half goals and win the 2009 Confederations Cup. Truth.

    We didn’t look outclassed here. We played well, competed well and looked in the game. It wasn’t even a smash and grab job really. The US found the breakthrough and held on, one-goal-is-all-you-need Italian-style in Italy. We were defending with comfort and control from about minutes 10 – 70. There were a couple minor hiccups in the first 10 minutes. Then Jurgen used his substitutions in a way he would not have been likely to in the final 20 minutes of a competitive match, meaning we were pushed too far back for the last 15 minutes. Hey, it was a friendly and he needed to look at Klejstan, right?

    I don’t care that we won 1-0. Even if the result seemed to have some surface similarities, I care that this game showed that there is daylight between where we are now and where we were under Bob Bradley. That’s the headline here. A few of the pieces Jurgen’s been molding finally got put together for this one, and it’s a sign of very good things to come.


    • Also, the U-23s were pretty awesome. Minutes 30-60 were very good viewing. Looking forward to seeing what the kids can do at the qualifying tournament and hopefully this summer at the Olympics.


    • Posted by Crow on 2012/03/02 at 2:03 PM

      I completely agree with this comment. I made a comment that I wasn’t “nervous” watching the Italy game until the last 5 minutes. It seemed like the US was in control (to a point) most of the game. I remember everytime the USA played a big opponent under Bradley, I was on pins and needles the whole game. His regime probably took a year off my life, because you never had a feeling a game was safe, even against lesser opponents (I know TSG likes to reference that WCQ vs. El Salvador in SLC).

      It is kind of strange that even though we still don’t have the answers of who will be the replacements at defense, that the defense is dramatically better. The offense still suffers figuring out what to do in the final 1/3, but hopefully they are getting there. It’s funny that everyone was expecting JK to be the Messiah to fix the offense, but he has fixed the defense first.


      • Posted by Berniebernier on 2012/03/02 at 2:20 PM

        I wouldn’t go as far as to say I wasn’t nervous. Lets just say that I felt like 1-0 was a reasonable result for the play. 1-1 would have been a fair result as well.

        Agaist Spain in the CC not even the most biased American fan would have said the US deserved a 2-0 victory. Everyone felt we got lucky. Against Argentia in NYC we didn’t deserve to finish 1-1.

        This game lacked that “lucky” feel. If you don’t want to call it luck lets say… hope not to give up a goal and get lucky on a counter/set piece strategy.


        • Posted by Crow on 2012/03/02 at 2:42 PM

          Excellent way to put what I was trying to stay. Probably the beer I was drinking had something to do with me not being nervous.:)

          I do agree- the game did lack the “lucky” feel.


          • Posted by dth on 2012/03/02 at 4:54 PM

            Disagree. We had, what, one real opportunity from the run of play–which we took? Anytime you go 1/1 in the chance department, you’re lucky.


            • Posted by berniebernier on 2012/03/02 at 5:34 PM

              Between minutes 10 and 70 how many chances did Italy have? Yes Dempsey took that chance.

              Between minute 10 and 70 it was an even game. I would say to win a 50/50 game is not luck but the sign of a good team.

              As I said 1-1 would have been a fair result. Probably the fairest result but it wasn’t like we were outplayed.

              Note I am not giving much weight to Italy for being offside repeatedly. Other than failing to beat the offside trap they did nothing as well

            • Posted by dth on 2012/03/02 at 6:29 PM

              Well, disagree to disagree again. The sign of a good to great team is avoiding 50/50 games, not getting in them.

            • Posted by Berniebernier on 2012/03/02 at 6:45 PM

              It’s Italy on the road not Venezuela at home. but we can agree to disagree. Love reading your comments. Glad you post atTSG.

            • Posted by Crow on 2012/03/02 at 6:52 PM

              I never honestly felt that Italy would score and I always thought that the USA would at least get a draw. So I didnt view it as lucky.

              I kind of view it as a team in say college basketball taking the home team out of their comfort zone. It never seemed Italy was having the game their way. Anytime you do that you have a good chance to win.

  13. Posted by Crow on 2012/03/02 at 2:41 PM

    -I love the Greg Maddux analogy. It really works for me as a Cubs fan. Growing up it was so hard watching him dominate for the Braves, knowing he got away. The master at placement over power. I was telling my Dad how I love how Deuce always gets his shots “on frame” (i know that is a TSG favorite) even at the expense of power at times, or even if some of the shots are somewhat “weak”. The old cliche- get it on frame or it has no shot of going in; but there are so few players who actually do it. The goal was so intelligent as well. Read the play and goalie so well.

    -I couldn’t help laughing the entire USA-Italy game. I was thinking of the iconic Matt Damon moment in Good Will Hunting- “Do you like apples?” As Michael Bradley was having his masterful game I couldn’t help envisioning dirkanovich knocking on the window of the sports bar and stating the famous line- or finding where all of us were at that moment and doing the same! Seriously, Bradley was a joy to watch. Ive always said that it seems that people love Bradley blindly or hate him with no reason. I’ve always fell in the middle for whatever reason. I love the passion he plays with, but was frustrated by some of his weaknesses and immaturity at times. I thought he was the best American player during the World Cup in 2010 (or at least up there with Dempsey and Donovan), and I thought he was the worst (other than Bornstein and Jones) during the Gold Cup in 2011. Obviously, he hadn’t been playing at all so that did not help. As has been commented, not only was the Bradley vs. Italy the 2010 World Cup Bradley, but he was better- excelling at some of the things the had struggled with the most in the past- positioning, forward passing, composure. Just awesome. What a boon to the team. I know it was one game but I’m pretty confident that is the Bradley we will see going forward.

    -I couldn’t help imagining if Donovan would have been there on the right side. His defense is as good as Williams, and we could have attacked up both flanks. Hopefully the whole team comes together by the WCQ. Still miss you Stu!

    -Speaking of Stu, Leander had a nice article the other day on yet another Stu Holden recovery. Dare I say, Leander has been the strongest writer on ESPN over the last 3-6 months. Maybe he just needed me to call him out on TSG. Okay I think not. I still think conducting the live ESPN game chats its not his forte, though.

    -It seems there was a split majority on Maurice Edu’s performance. I thought he looked dramatically better than his last few games. However, could someone tell him he is not allowed to shoot. Seriously, I’ve seen highlights of some really, really nice goals he had for Rangers. What happnes when he puts on the National Team jersey?

    -I was surprised at some of the comments criticizing Boyd. I liked his intensity. Of course he could have done better on the 2v2, but I was pleased with the few minutes he had.

    – I like Juan Agudelo’s swagger (keep the mohawk!) as long as he keeps it in check and doesn’t become entitled a la Freddy Adu and sometimes Jozy. I think a bit of attitude is missing from the team at times.

    -Was not impressed with George Vescey’s tweet. I might have missed something, but I didn’t see anyone overreacting to the win. I didn’t think the major media outlets were hyping it too much. It was an impressive win even though it was a friendly. Anyway, I thought George Vescey was supposed to personify professionalism and I thought that the tweet certainly did not do that.

    -It’s exciting to see how far support of American soccer has come- a good supporting crowd in Italy. I recently signed up for the American Outlaws trip to 2014 Brazil (my first World Cup!). 50 went to South Africa. This time the first chartered plane of 180 sold out in less than 24 hrs. They are now working on a 3rd plane! However, it is sad at times to see how far it has to go. I worked through lunch on Wednesday and rushed over to a fairly popular sports bar in Harrisburg, PA(not an official soccer pub or anything). NOBODY other than me was actively watching the game, and by the end there were probably close to 75-100 people there. People were watching Sportscenter, the taped Knicks-Mavericks game, and talking about hunting. I really need to finally move from Central PA!


  14. Posted by jesran on 2012/03/02 at 2:42 PM

    Klinsmann’s greatest insight so-far “A high line works for USA (even against Italy) because of certain constants 1) we are fit and 2) our goal-tending is stellar”. Italy knew it was coming, planned for it, execute it and could not beat it. Shut out! Changes the whole outlook of this team for me.


  15. Posted by Crow on 2012/03/02 at 6:59 PM

    Two more things I thought of-

    -Lets say Fabian Johnson in the LB. What do we do while Cherundolo is still capable of manning the RB spot. Chandler has been playing midfield for Nuremberg lately. I just can’t stop thinking about that game in Nashville where Lichaj and Chandler were bombing down the right flank. Chandler is just as good defensively as Williams and would be a threat offensively with speed, agility, and service. Donovan could move back over to the left and Shea could be an option off the bench. I think Chandler is maybe better suited for RB in the future, but until Shea, Gyau, Gatt, etc. develop and while ‘Dolo is still around, he might be more valuable at midfield.

    -I like Taylor Twellman. I think he is a good guy. I liked him as a player. His thoughts and experiences on concussions completely opened my eyes on that subject to the point where I’m disgusted watching the NFL anymore (James Harrison, this Saints bounty nonsense). However, I haven’t been real impressed by him in the color position so far. He’s better than John Harkes, but that is not saying much. His pacing has been terrible at times and at other times it seems like he is trying too hard. Hopefully he can get more comfortable because I would like for him to succeed in that position.


    • I actually missed John Harkes. He has an authoritative voice that it will take Twellman a long time to develop. I didn’t think Twellman added anything to the coverage — would have been just as good with Ian Darke by himself. Can we get Julie Foudy to do the men’s games too?


      • Posted by Jared on 2012/03/03 at 9:50 AM

        John Harkes, is that you? He has an authoritative voice because he only says the same 5 phrases in every game. I’m not even sure that he was actually calling games or if ESPN just recorded his voice then hit play. Keep Foudy and Harkes far away from calling any games.

        I didn’t find Twellman very good but I’ll give him a chance as he’s at least not Harkes.


  16. Posted by dth on 2012/03/02 at 9:04 PM

    I’m sure others have remarked upon this earlier–i.e. much earlier–but man, Cherundolo has really faded. Always sad to see from such a great pro, but I think it’s time for the U.S. to move on at that starting spot–especially since Chandler is so capable.


    • Posted by Jared on 2012/03/03 at 9:52 AM

      I agree and so would his club as he isn’t the fixture in defense for them either. I’d rather see the US (with Donovan) with Johnson-Boca-Gooch/Cameron/Goodson-Chandler left to right.


  17. Posted by jesran on 2012/03/02 at 9:08 PM

    For me Maurice Edu played well. Most importantly, no bone headed passes in the back and middle third causing devastation as he is prone to. Some aggressive slide tackle in the center of the pitch just outside the 18, and a brilliant no-look header away from Giovinco on an over the top lob that happened to be onside and looked like potential trouble. Sure a shot or two were completely ill-conceived, but the purpose of shooting with abandon is to set up the next opportunity where the defense covers your shot and gives you the lay off. Can’t criticize anybody for shooting even Brek Shea who took some incredibly lame chances, but again the next time the big blonde has the ball within striking distance you have to block, thereby opening the lay off. Shoot shoot shoot!


    • Posted by dth on 2012/03/02 at 10:22 PM

      Edu, I thought, was generally OK, but he was brutally dispossessed–we’ll call it Ricardo Clark-style–in the middle of the park at one point. Big error, there, that I can’t help but remember.


      • Posted by Berniebernier on 2012/03/02 at 10:26 PM

        God I can’t wait for Stu to get healthy and take Edu’s place.


        • At this point, I really have no expectation of Stu’s fitness, ever. If he gets healthy and finds his form again, great, I’ll consider it a bonus but as far as I’m concerned for now it’ll be Torres fitting into that spot.


      • If I am thinking of the same moment that you’re thinking, it was a Bornstein Ball* from Bradley into Edu that put him under pressure. Pretty much the only poor moment for Bradley in possession that was. Putting that solely on Edu and judging his performance on that is harsh. It takes two to make a pass.

        * denoting a telegraphed and underweighted pass into the center of the field from the flank.


  18. Posted by crow on 2012/03/02 at 9:38 PM

    The new jerseys are actually starting to grow on me. I thought they were horrid at first but they didn’t look bad in action. If they could just fix that tacky collar.


    • Posted by Berniebernier on 2012/03/02 at 10:22 PM

      On the jerseys. Was Howard wearing the hideous jersey with the stars that was leaked or was that a total fake?


  19. Posted by Carlos on 2012/03/02 at 10:16 PM

    TSG…is the spot for thoughtful incisive analysis.
    I like the idea of having Donovan as LM & Chandler as RM. Keep everything else the same except replacing Edu w/ Jones. Dempsey really does belong up top. Altidore is the best we got, but that does not mean we can not try out others in the next couple of friendlies. We know what Altidore brings (Good & Bad) what we need to find out is, what kind of player the Boyd’s, Aguedelo, & Taylor’s are all about.


  20. Posted by ZG on 2012/03/03 at 4:01 AM

    Full side to choose from:

    LD, Deuce
    Stu, MB90
    Fabian, Boca, Goodson/Gooch/Ream/Agoos/etc, Dolo

    …yes? nay?


  21. Posted by ZG on 2012/03/03 at 4:02 AM

    *sorry, should read:

    Stu, Edu, MB90 in the middle. My fault. That was poorly crafted on several levels. Just kind of curious what folks think, though.


    • Posted by Jared on 2012/03/03 at 9:55 AM

      I’d rather see someone like Torres in there for Edu if we’re going to have 3 central mids. Holden and MB90 can handle the tackling necessary against all but the top teams and Torres provides much better passing and possession than Edu.

      Also, Chandler would start ahead of Dolo for me.


  22. If Holden would every get healthy I’d love to see a 4-3-3 with (left to right) Holden – Bradley – Donovan. Not sure at this point how well it would work, but certainly something to consider, and something I would like to see in action.We’ve got good fullbacks to to overlap in a 4-3-3. With Dempsey in the form he is in and Shea’s past performance’s at LW, I’m really just pondering the RW and CB pairing. This is all just speculation if Holden can’t get healthy again, or we find another CM who can perform the same task.

    Question : Is Gyau left or right footed?


  23. I remember being wowed while watching the 2007 U20 World Cup and had a similar feeling with the U23 game; loved the style of play

    Agree on Jozy (too inconsistent and I’m off the wagon for now) and Gyau (wow


  24. Posted by Texas 1836 on 2012/03/03 at 11:16 PM

    Can Gyau play on the right?


  25. Posted by Eric L on 2012/03/04 at 4:14 PM

    Good read TSG.

    I read most of the comments and saw no mention of J Jones. Does anyone think he could do a job for USA or are you viewing him as a non-factor moving forward? In my opinion he should be talked about as a potential starter.


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