Archive for the ‘Gold Cup 2011’ Category

Preview Lite: USA vs. Mexico: Been There, Done That

Yee-Haw Lichaj? This will be the biggest game yet for the USMNT's newly annointed leftback

It’s Germany. It’s Argentina? Let’s get it on….

Okay, not quite, that’s the look the US (Germany) and Mexico (Argentina) are going to give you. However, as is well known, these two neighbors battling it out for CONCACAF supremacy–much more so in the wake of Jack Warner’s demise–are very familiar with each other.

This Saturday the prize? The Gold Cup trophy and a trip to the World Cup 2014 warm-up tourney the year before.

As the two favored nations to reach the Final before the tournament started, both teams took decidedly different, but also dramatic, paths to Pasadena.

The United States played, and dreadfully lost, an ill-advised pre-tournament friendly against the world’s number one team Spain.

They followed it up with an uneven group stage that saw their first ever loss–to a well-organized Panama side–in group play.

Coming off that monumental match, the States swapped out their backline–which has now been their key to their organization and defense–made it through the group stage, dismantled an overmatched though on-form Jamaican side, survived a war of field position against Panama and…now here they sit.

Oh, manager Bob Bradley–as is now custom during any camp or tournament of more than two matches–again came under the fire and the US sat their all-time caps, goal leader, and flag boy Landon Donovan on the bench.

Had enough?

Mexico arrives in the final with no less a dramatic drive. Hard to figure what was the bigger headline for El Tri in their group stage?Their tainted-chicken-steroid-player suspension situation–five players are no longer with the team but were replaced–or their overall attack dominance. El Tri lit the lamp 14 times in the group stage. 14 times!

More drama? FIFA is investigating irregularities in some of those matches early-on.

A younger Dempsey takes on Mexico in 2007. What will the mature one do?

As the US neighbor headed through the knockouts they looked decidedly more earthbound, however that was merely because of better competition and tiring legs.

Make no mistake in this one, Mexico is and should be favored going in.

Let’s get to our customary preview. It goes:

About the Opponent: Mexico

TSG What We’re Looking At

11 At The Whistle



About the Opponent: Mexico

Nothing unfamiliar here for the States. Discussion of whether Mexico is running a 4-3-3 or a 4-4-1-1 here is mere semantics. Mexico plays a very adaptable game with players interchanging frequently.

One quick note here, the speedy and on-form Andres Guardado is questionable for the match having received an ankle knock in Wednesday’s match against Honduras. If he can’t go–as is presumed–manager José Manuel de la Torre will insert Aldo de Nigris in his place. We’re not talking a big drop-off at the position because De Nigris himself has been solid in June. (Saturday update: Guardado is now expected to play.)

The Dos Santos Swivel: No matter what "formation" it's considered, Mexico interchanges well. Dos Santos will slide across the field depending on the match-up and Mexico's midfield will support accordingly.

Up top, the Mexican attack will feature Manchester United frontman Chicharito–he of the supreme poaching skills and six Gold Cup 2011 goals–in the center of the pitch.

Off him, Gio Dos Santos (who notoriously always seems like the anti-Donovan to the Yanks despite his big club team failures) will pick his spots and flip from one flank to the other depending on the match-up advantage.

Mexico uses their two wide midfielders Barrera and, Saturday, De Nigris to provide support if they are sharing the flank with Dos Santos or out wide if they are on the opposite flank from Gio.

Next, Israel Castro pushes up to fill in the center with Gerardo Torrado providing Castro with support as well as another option centrally or with Torrado staying home–effectively forming a 3-man backline up the pitch with central defenders Rafa Marquez and Hector Moreno–the fullbacks advancing. Castro and Torrado have been maligned for their speed, but they are smart players who know where to be on the field and that makes up for it.

Carlos Salcido–a teammate last year of Clint Dempsey’s at Fulham–mans the left with Efraín Juárez, Celtic, to the right.

Most folks and media previews will focus on Chicharito in this one, but it’s the 18-yard box-extended and the flanks where Mexico initiates its attack.

Supporting Dos Santos, Barrera and De Nigris well, El Tri likes to push wide and when a help central defender moves to provide cover either issue a cross or play it back on the floor to a trailing midfielder. That is the bigger battle in our opinion.

Mexico is very fluid and very good in tight spaces, so a disciplined shape from the Yanks is essential.

One more note, I’ve been somewhat surprised by just how frequently Mexico is issuing crosses in the air this tournament, perhaps a result of their confidence in Chicharito.

The Yanks have had one notorious breakdown–against Panama in the group stage–on a set piece cross and Saturday, if Mexico chooses that route, Clarence Goodson and Carlos Bocanegra–both very able aerially–will need to be on their games here.

TSG What We’re Looking For

MB90 like never before?

Can the USMNT central midfield tandem of Michael Bradley-Jermaine Jones hold up for one more game and find the hold-up player?

For US fans, this is the biggest question.

A long-running criticism of Coach Bob Bradley is his insistence on keeping son Michael on the pitch for the full ninety minutes. In fact, it’s earned midfielder the nickname “MB90” for Bradley’s son as much as the midfielder’s aggressive, never-say-die style of play.

For the States, of course, this will be the grueling fifth game in 15 days. (And remember, no team has a homestand in this tournament. The US went Detroit, Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Washington DC, Houston and now Pasadena–that’s brutal).

Towards the 70th minute of the last two matches, Bradley The Son tired.

For the United States, Bradley is critical as the defensive funnel and as the lead ball distributor from the back.

Mexico will flood centrally when the ball is on the flank, Bradley will have to do yoeman track-back work–he typically sits ahead of Jermaine Jones on defense–and will have to find the high-pressure outlet–and this is perhaps the most key point of this preview–after the US wins possession in its end.

If not? The States will play huck-it-up ball to a teenager against a seasoned backline and it could be a long afternoon.

Key match-up: Chicharito vs. Clarence Goodson-Carlos Bocanegra

Both the US centerbacks will be tasked with minding the off-ball work of Chicharito. Whether this means holding a disciplined line, following an angled run or dueling in the air, the communication between the veteran and the up-and-comer in central defense will need to spot on.

Can the US get its flankers up the pitch?

Mexico love to attack the gaps between the wide defenders and the centerback. That will often mean many times–more so than in any other game in this tournament–that Eric Lichaj and Steve Cherundolo will have to be narrow with the centerbacks on defense. Can they make their way up and wide on the pitch to provide support?

Remember it’s the Yanks wide fullback play that has been more key to their width than their midfielders in Summer 2011.

Um, might be nice to have Charlie Daves or Robbie Findley hanging around.

El Tri has been playing a highline for a bulk of the tournament using their front six pressure to create nightmares on a change in turnover. As their opponents have looked for joy up the field to alleviate pressure, they’ve been introduced to the Mexican backline playing far up the field.

The US will have to ping the ball on the floor to get out of the back, but as soon as a Clint Dempsey or Alejandro Bedoya has the ball up field they’ll need another outlet further up the field or risk being closed down by Mex’s “last line” defenders.”

Will Agudelo find the spots and does anyone on the States have enough speed to worry Moreno and Marquez for Mexico and force them to sit deeper?

11 At The Whistle:

The skinny: Two basic questions:

» How does Bob Bradley get his best, in-form players on the pitch together in a cohesive line-up all at one time?

» How does Bradley address the Mexican attack–the toughest one of the tourney–in terms of a defensive posture?

Gut feeling here is that Bradley with the below line-up.

Defensive posture from the Yanks in the line-up that Bradley may use... *amended with help of the TSG community...

Beyond the regular starters this Gold Cup, Alejandro Bedoya will be used to help Steve Cherundolo over the right flank or Eric Lichaj over the left flank. Only concern about putting Bedoya on the left flank is both he and Lichaj are new to the Mexican rivalry on the same side.

*Thanks to the TSG community for the commentary on the US line-up.

G: Tim Howard

The skinny: Mexico loves the cutback ball, in the air or on the ground. Howard’s going to be challenged on when to come out and when to stay put in this one. Oh not only on the wide balls played-in, but on the counters when the US may be caught out. It’s going to happen.

DEF: Steve Cherundolo, Clarence Goodson, Carlos Bocanegra, Eric Lichaj

The skinny: No surprises here, biggest game of Lichaj’s short tenure manning the left fullback spot.

Will the industrious Bedoya get yet another start?

MID: Alejandro Bedoya, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones,  Landon Donovan

The skinny: Can Bedoya continue his all out up-down play that’s been the hallmark of a very positive Gold Cup for him. He’s going to need to help Dolo and get ahead in the attack.

On Donovan: If he’s healthy he plays.

FW: Clint Dempsey

The skinny: (Edit from TSG community) Dempsey will play a roving forward and hold-up role. Makes sense.

STR: Juan Agudelo

The skinny: This ain’t gym class; but it’s also not Panama’s Felipe Baloy. This games sets up much better for Agudelo’s skillset. Can he take advantage.


» Maurice Edu for Donovan or Bedoya (with Donovan moving to his flank)

Odds: 45%

The skinny: Very possible. You don’t think Bradley was perhaps trying out a potential Mexico defensive line-up against the similar Argentina


Oh, and can’t leave this question unattended. Will there be another late game Freddy Adu sighting accompanied by heroics?

Is the writing in the stands?

Orange Slices: USA vs. Panama, Again

Orange Slices is our game day, catch-all post that we update during the day before the match. Don’t accept substitutes, imitators or copycats! Ask for fresh, wholesome Orange Slices by name.

Orange Slices! US vs. Panama

Hello and welcome to game day!

The United States Men’s National finds itself one game away from a possible Gold Cup final showdown against Mexico.

Standing in their way? Group stage foil Panama, who adhered to a disciplined game plan in their 4-4-2 deployment last time and sent the United States to their first ever Gold Cup group stage loss.

What a difference a week makes. The US are coming off a strong showing against the Reggae Boyz of Jamaica while Panama needed penalty kicks to reach the sequel here today.

Reset Button: TSG’s Official USA vs. Panama Preview


Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. CT.

English TV Broadcast: Fox Soccer (Kyle Martino with analysis) —  Spanish TV Broadcast: Univision, Web: or

Live Commentary: Right here at TSG!


Supporting Material:

• Unrelated: Simon Kuper looks at a statistical revolution underway in football. (TSG says it’s always in the numbers also.)

• Anthony Mannino of USA10Kit highlights the keys to the States five man midfield.

•  John Levy, The Yanks Are Coming is thinks the Yanks will roll big in the rematch.

•  Podcast: The Girls In The Cheap Seats, hailing from the Lone Star State, talk US Men’s National Team from a woman’s perspective as they follow around the team during Gold Cup 2011.


American Outlaws members gather here.

Weather forecast:

T-Storms bearing down on H-town. Alas, the US will be facing off with Panama in the Reliant Stadium….dome.

Surf forecast:

There’s no surfing in Houston….you bet there is!

In fact Galveston, Texas–and tanker surfing!–was profiled in probably the best surfing documentary of the 2000’s, Step Into Liquid. We couldn’t find a clip of that, but there is no shortage of southeast Texas–read: Galveston Bay–surfing on YouTube (below) and …. even directions on how you can surf one of those tankers.


When In Houston:

Shoutout to some Houston locals and TSG community members:

Chris Figat: Chris has been coming to TSG since it’s inception. He’s a hell of a graphic designer. He authored TSG’s holiday card andsome USMNT wallpaper before last year’s World Cup. Thanks Chris.

Kevin, Forever Orange: Kevin is youngster who’s been coming to TSG as well since we opened the doors–I believe one of his first comments was pleading for some face time for Bobby Boswell on the USMNT (Sorry Kev, not going to happen :>).

He’s always the first to nominate TSG for best US Soccer Blog at US Soccer. Thanks Kevin. And Kevin, I changed it from “Orange Wedges” to “Orange Slices” because the word “wedges” just annoys me for some reason.


Dempsey, playing at heights never achieved before by a US outfielder...

Nachodelicious!: US forward extraordinaire Clint Dempsey hails from tiny Nacogdoches, TX, a mere two-and-a-half hours north from Houston. Dempsey is likely to have quite an entourage at Reliant tomorrow. Couldn’t find anything official on Clint and Nacogdoches, but I did find that the urban dictionary actually labels a “Clint Dempsey Day.”

Timmy Terrific: Tim Howard is moving up the goalkeeper record charts, and with 35 wins he is third all-time and two behind Tony Meola. With 23 shutouts he is in fourth place, one behind Brad Friedel.

Why Start Now?:  The U.S. has never been eliminated at the semifinal stage of the Gold Cup by a CONCACAF opponent…

….However: The U.S. has made three appearances in Houston and has a 0-1-2 record, losing to Ecuador on June 10, 1988, in the first ever appearance there.

The two U.S. ties in Houston came against Mexico in friendly matches in 2003 (0-0 on May 8, 2003, and 2-2 on Feb. 6, 2008). Jozy Altidore and Oguchi Onyewu scored the goals in the 2008 appearance.

Blas Perez who?: Group stage terror and Panama striker Blas Perez is out this game after receiving a red card against El Salvador. However, his partner-in-crime-Luis Tejada’s three goals in the 2011 Gold Cup have made him Panama’s all-time leading scorer in the tournament with eight career goals. Perez is next with seven career Gold Cup goals, including one in the 2011 opener.

And this is of course….Panama!

Reset: TSG’s Official USA vs. Panama Preview

The States will likely have to do better than just a Goodson header--the lone tally in game one--to knock off Panama..

The United States heads into Wednesday night’s Gold Cup semifinal game with quite a bit of familiarity of their opponent, still brandishing the bruises of playing them in the group stage and now with the ability to hit the reset button on a FIFA game gone wrong.

The States foil for a trip to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena this weekend to contend for the Gold Cup championship? That would be Panama of course, the lone pothole thus far on a meandering road to CONCACAF supremacy and a date with Confederation’s Cup in 2013.

Is Landon Donovan refreshed and ready to go vs. Panama this time? (Another phenomenal shot from Matt Mathai here)

Last time out, the United States were done in by a midfield that got stretched as Panama sat deep, played possum and waited for the States to get caught up the field on a change of possession and head the other way. Unfamiliar and always challenged on breaking down teams that play on the counter, the US attack got caught out of shape and lost the ball with with little quality opportunities in the early going.

Upon a turnover–with the ball at their feet on the turn and quick movement out of their own defensive end–Panama, near the triple digits in FIFA’s team rankings, consistently threatened the Yanks overstretched midfield and its relatively junior centerback pairing. A night to forget for Tim Ream specifically ensued.

This time out it will be fascinating to see how Bob Bradley changes things up as the euphoria around an excellent team outing–and a well coached victory–against Jamaic subsides.

Will Bradley employ the same or similar 4-2-3-1 that he did against Jamaica? Landon Donovan can’t possibly start on the bench again, can he? (Don’t expect that.)

For their part, Les Marea Roja enter the fray with less than confidence one would think from having beaten their opponent. A lengthy struggle in Sunday’s second game, led to extra time–not what weary legs need at this time of the Gold Cup–and to their dominant striker who challenged the US repeatedly, Blas Perez, receiving a red card. He is, of course, unavailable for this one.

Let’s get to our customary preview. It goes:

About The Opponent: Panama

TSG, What We’re Looking For

11 At The Whistle


About The Opponent: Panama

For more on Panama, see here as well.

The tried-and-true Panama they will likely deploy against the States...

Expect much the same for Panama in this one as they showed the Yanks in the first group stage meeting.

The starters all remain the same with the exception of Luis Renteria replacing Blas Perez in the starting line-up.

Coach Julio Dely Valdés must expect that Bob Bradley will be more careful with his forward wing deployment in this one and not have the same gaps that were provided to his team last time for the quick outside-inside counter.

Expect Panama to sit deep again again and let the States take it to them, both because it worked last time with their disciplined defense and also because coming off 120 minutes of up-and-down action Sunday,Dely Valdés will not want to see his team get into a foot race with a slightly fresher side.

Armando Cooper started making central runs when the Yanks pushed up the right flank in their 2nd half 4-2-3-1 last time. Expect more of that this time...

The small wrinkle–and the States saw some of it in the second half when Panama was looking to do anything to relieve pressure after the Yanks went 4-2-3-1–is that Panama will likely use right winger Armand0 Cooper--a one time target of MLS’s New York Red Bulls–on central runs both to provide an outlet from pressure and to create a numbers mismatch on the counter in the middle of the field.

Whereas Panama looked to go outside to link in the first half of the first match to Cooper and left wing Nelson Baronha–with the States employing a wider look–Dely Valdez will call on this tactic to try to create a mismatch centrally when the Yanks are pressed up.

Panama will also–as they did in Game 1–look to bring Luis Tejada back to hold up the ball and find the onrushing Cooper or Baronha overlapping wide or Luis Renteria splitting down the right flank.

TSG What Are We Looking For:

• With Jozy Altidore ailing, the decision on who starts up top is both critical and complex?

Quite a conundrum for Bob Bradley here. Quite a conundrum.

Wondo rues his missed sitter to tie in the group stage match against Panama...

With the US having but three true strikers on its depth chart and now likely down to two with Altidore ailing, who Bradley calls on out of the ‘pen and for how long they go are critical to the Yanks’ tournament success.

On form and talent, Juan Agudelo is probably the likely choice in a single striker set. That said, the youngster put in some challenging and thankless minutes Sunday by his lonesome at RFK. If Bradley goes Agudelo here in a single striker set, he’s certainly risking the effectiveness of a player that will be counted on against Mexico in the final if Altidore is unavailable.

The US could go with Chris Wondolowski and Juan Agudelo up top–however if the last game against Panama proved anything, it’s that a two striker set–given how deep Panama sits and little space there is to operate–is probably not a strong deployment.

And finally, the US could go with Chris Wondolowski by as its lone man up top. Allowing a fresh Wondolowski to absorb some of the punishment in the early going knowing that breaking down the Panama defense will stand a better chance as players tire may be a better option for Bradley.

•Will Bradley’s formation force Dempsey and Donovan to do countless shuttle runs?

One thing that Bob Bradley preaches is to “run as little as possible within the team concept on defense.”

What is meant by this, for example, is if the to strikers up top criss-cross one another, they remain on their respective sides or take up the nearest defensive position of the group. In this way, a team doesn’t get stretched and a player is cognizant of where he is on the field rather than rushing back to a position he’ll never get back to.



Continue reading

USA vs. Jamaica: Live Commentary

Happy Father’s Day and apologies no Orange Slices today.

Will the unofficial captain have his say today?

Update: Wow! More surprises from Coach Bradley.

Landon Donovan starts on the bench. Bedoya in his place. Injury, late arrival over night or form?!

Kljestan as well. Meaning a 4-2-3-1?

Freddy Adu makes the bench.

US goes: Howard, Cherundolo, Goodson, Bocanegra, Lichaj, Jones, Bradley, Dempsey, Bedoya, Kljestan, Altidore

The United States faces a tough upstart opponent in the Reggae Boyz of Jamaica at RFK Stadium at 3pm ET for the right to play the winner of Panama v. El Salvador in the semifinals.

Mexico and Honduaras are through already and will square off on the opposite side of the bracket.

Will the United States move on? Will Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey be bleary-eyed from their cross country jaunts cross continent? Does Alejandro Bedoya perhaps get a start? Can Jozy look beyond a single shining moment per match to bunches of them? Will Jonathan Bornstein score another critical goal in CONCACAF at RFK? Does prodigal son Freddy Adu perhaps make the 18?

It all goes down shortly just off Capitol Hill!

If you missed our official preview it’s right here.

See you in a few hours.

Exodus?: TSG’s Official USA vs. Jamaica Preview

Tim Howard's organization skills will be called on again Sunday against the speed Jamaicans...

The tables are turned as the United States heads into its first knockout match of the 2011 Gold Cup.

Their opponent, Jamaica arrives in DC with an industrious upstart moniker similar to the one affixed to the Yanks at World Cup 2010.

Jamaica has buzzed through its CONCACAF tourney competition thus far and, under the guidance of manager and former player Theo “Tappa” Whitmore, shed some of its stereotypical image as great athletes with little more. The Jamaican team is retooled with a stronger–though not faultless–backline, a resolve to maintain poise and possession that comes directly from Whitmore and, devoid of some of it’s biggest global starts, a stronger team ethos on the field than typically accompanies the Reggae Boyz.

Meanwhile, the United States rolls, nay, totters into Sunday with a somewhat “English” hue shall we say.

A group stage that was supposed to be a dress rehearsal for the Yanks instead exposed flaws in the main production. A sloppy win against Canada preceded a listless loss to Panama which preceded a “just-enough” effort against “powerhouse” Guadeloupe to see the Yanks pull themselves into the knockouts with all the grace of a 2nd-grader attempting his first pull-up.

Beyond the clunky display on the field, a late week announcement that the the Yanks two main offensive stars, Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, would be foregoing practice to participate in their respective sibling’s wedding put the air of lack of focus and dedication around the group–warranted or not–at a time when it looks like the US could use all the stick-together that they can muster.

Tappa Whitmore, an Essien-type, during his playing days..

The US should be sweating Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz when they head into RFK on Sunday as the outlook from this vantage point has upset plastered all over it.

Let’s get to our customer TSG preview. As usual, it goes:

About the opponent: Jamaica

TSG What Are We Looking For

11 At The Whistle



About the opponent: Jamaica

The Reggae-Boyz, rolling in 2011.

Jamaica has been bullying teams like Buffalo Soldiers at Gold Cup 2011.

Seven goals, none conceded, and a quite a bit of conviction behind their style of play. Long known for having speed, uh, speed and athleticism abundance with little discipline, the Reggae Boyz have put it together this summer showing a build-up and possession game that has never been identified with their style of play, until now.

The Boyz opened the tourney by hanging a four spot on overmatched Grenada, followed up it up with a 2-0 victory over Guatemala and concluded the group stage with a convincing 1-0 war of attrition and substitution over Honduras.

The Reggae Boyz have deployed predominantly in a 3-4-3 at the Gold Cup, but against Honduras shifted to a 4-4-2 resting many of their key starters.

The difference in their Honduran schematic was the positioning of MLS striker-forward Ryan Johnson who shifted into a split forward deployment with Dane Richards. In the center, however, is Johnson’s key position this tourney. He has assumed the “big striker role” of injured Ricardo Fuller ; he’s in form and delivering the goods in Gold Cup 2011 with two goals and solid play.

Continue reading

Night-and-Day: Snap Judgements, USA vs. Guadeloupe

Difference on.

The United States eeked out a 1-0 win over Guadeloupe Tuesday at Livestrong Park to move on to the Gold Cup knockout rounds and face Jamaica in Washington, D.C. on Sunday.

Tuesday’s game was a tale of a fatigued squad–two fatigued squads–with the States having more talent than their opponent, enough to subsist for the win.

Some quick snap judgements:

• Cause-and-effect: When the Yanks move off the ball they’re universes better than when they don’t. (Thank you John Harkes.)

Not sure how to highlight this point further. But it’s starkly black-and-white.

When the United States made runs off the ball in the match, they created chances. Good chances.

When they didn’t, those chances were hard to come by and passes were forced.

It’s really that simple.

Countless times a Yank had the ball in the possession and a circumference of players around him were stagnant, the lot maybe drained from the wear-and-tear of the match and looking for the simple “rest” pass.

(You know the position where you make yourself available for the safe, possession-keeping outlet pass, but it does nothing to improve the attack.)

There is a certain measure of fatigue that played into the game, but a good team would acknowledge that by players making runs in spurts–as Alejandro Bedoya did when he entered.

For example: “Okay, Dempsey’s tired, I’ll makes some runs.”

It was really quite a terrible display at many times and if the States do that in the second round…that is stagnate…they’ll be given their walking papers early.

• Jozy Altidore should cancel his membership to the Lebron James School of Development

Jozy Altidore’s first half strike was a “Whoa, where did that come from moment.”

US fans have seen Altidore uncork some shots either on the run or facing up outside the box before, rounding Jamie Carragher at World Cup 2010 and a near miss from the left hash extended in a friendly against the Netherlands come to mind.

Tonight, Jozy Altidore showcase the wide range of his talents, but just not enough.

The offense was at its best when Altidore was moving off the ball. Only he did this on just three out of 10 possessions.

Altidore bodied up a few players–a moment in the 47th minute when he earned a foul on a drag run was satisfying, but too often he didn’t initiate contact.

And there was the aforementioned Altidore strike. Fans will be pleading for Altidore to wind up more often.

Consistency game in and game out has proven too difficult for Altidore to achieve over his 37 caps, but Altidore needs to improve his fitness and desire in more frequents spurts during the duration of the game.

He’s that integral right now to the US attack and should be.

• The old guard and new guard owned the corners

Steve Cherundolo quietly goes about his business, shutting down would-be attackers on his flank and being useful and dangerous on the attack.

Tonight, Cherundolo–on his third game in eight days–owned his domain.

Acquitted well...

Likewise, Eric Lichaj, wrong-footed on the left flank, was just as effective if not more so because the Yanks have not seen their leftback get forward in this tournament. In fact, the 43rd minute of Game 3 was the first time the Yanks switched field to an advanced leftback in the tournament to date!

Lichaj was dangerous in the attack, having the discipline to challenge wide on his worse foot rather than continually cutback on this strong one. That takes mental discipline and desire to adhere to the game plan.

In defense, Lichaj held his line well and used his low center of body to ride his attacker off the ball.

And, a huge credit to Lichaj–and something Cherundolo does well–for continuing to pursue a play before an offsides call was about to be made. That’s fundamentals and those efforts do not go unnoticed by a coaching staff.

• A troubling lack of getting stuck-in from the States.

As good as Lichaj was at using his frame and being physical–at one point absorbing a foul and playing on while everyone else on the pitch stood still–the rest of the US team sorely lacked in this operational category.


Beyond Lichaj, Cherundolo and Jermaine Jones, the US showed an amazing lack of challenging for possession and making hard tackles.

Again, perhaps they were tired. Perhaps they were worried about fouls.

Or perhaps Bob Bradley drilled maintaining shape and containment into their persons so much that going for the tackle wasn’t worth it.

Whatever the reason, the US lost most of the physical battles this evening and that’s troubling considering Jamaica–a team made of nails–and perhaps a Panama rematch may be on the docket next.

Quick hits:

• Michael Bradley exhibited thorough soccer best practices on the evenings, at one point continuing a run into the box that most would have broken off. He earned a bonus possession when the ball fell to him. However, Bradley, still should not be the main distributor for the Yanks.

• I’ve never seen Landon Donovan walk so much during a match. He didn’t take on players after a few early spurts and his service was again erratic. I’ve got to believe something’s up.

Captain America, well done.

• Carlos Bocanegra should be commended on his backline management and positioning this evening. It was excellent.

• Alejandro Bedoya played his second impassioned, aggressive game of the tournament….while Robbie Rogers watched from somewhere in the stands. Stain on Bradley here. Bedoya is and was not redundant to a Benny Feilhaber and should have been on the roster from the beginning. He’s precisely the spark off the corner the team needs.

• And yes, finishing, was atrocious, but I do chalk that one up to fatigue unless we see that pathetic of an effort again.

Livestrong Or Die: TSG’s USA vs. Guadeloupe Preview Lite

Not the way Bob Bradley and company planned it arriving at the third group stage game in Gold Cup 2011.

The setting for what is a more important game than what was hoped...

With now three games in eight days, this was to be a chance for the key US  regulars to get a respite before the knockout rounds of the tournament.

Instead the Yanks need to show up to Livestrong Park for Tuesday’s final group stage Gold Cup match against Guadeloupe with a win on their mind. The customary starters, with the expectation, that they’ll take the pitch at the whistle.

The dissection of the States by Panama has created quite a bit of uncertainty.

As we acknowledged Saturday, probably every future opponent this June took notice to the game plan used by Panama manager Julio Dely Valdés to punish the Yanks lack of width, central midfield challenges and inexperience in central defense.

Guadeloupe here in the final game presents a challenge not unlike Algeria did in the final group stage game for the World Cup. They’ve got nothing to lose now having dropped their two first matches and they’ve got just enough panache–coming back both a man down and three goals for the worse against Panama to nearly even things and then playing Canada tight thoughout–to make things more than interesting.

A brief reprieve for the States in at least Guadeloupe does not outright subscribe to a pack-it-in strategy and with the Yanks challenged to score in anything but the counter and set pieces that’s a good thing…we think.

Let’s get to our customary preview. It goes

About The Opponent: Guadeloupe

TSG What Are We Looking For/At

11 At The Whistle



About The Opponent: Guadeloupe

Charlton favorite Therry Racon--here fighting off Canadian Ali Gerba--is the one to watch for Guadeloupe. He'll be flying down Dolo's flank...

Guadeloupe plays a very free flowing brand of soccer that can sometimes leave their backline exposed. Twice in two games this season, they’ve dropped to ten men–in just the 3rd minute against Canada on Saturday–as someone on their backline has committed a foul in defense and been sent off.

Guadeloupe doesn’t have a typical formation, over the past year they’ve used a 4-1-4-1 and 4-2-3-1 and a 4-4-2. Most recently against Canada they matched up in a 4-4-2 while against Panama they went 4-2-3-1 looking for width–the latter perhaps particularly disturbing in that Bob Bradley surely watched how Guadeloupe attacked the 4-4-2 of Panama with a 4-2-3-1 and didn’t follow suit. Both times as well as in their lead-up games to the tourney, Guadeloupe has not matched its opponents formation.

More here shortly….

TSG: What Are We Looking For?

• Will Bob Bradley change the formation?

Can Donovan be as spritely as he was ten years ago?

The crux of Bob Bradley changing his formation will be predicated more on his defensive posture rather than on “freeing Landon Donovan” or “springing Jozy Altidore.”

I think US fans will get a formation change from Bradley in this one for a singular reason: his central midfield on the counter was completely stretched in the first half Saturday evening.

Whether it was Donovan making a run then having to rush to catch-up or Jozy Altidore dropping for Clint Dempsey after the latter cut inside, Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones seemed confused as to how far up to come and hold their midfield line.

Bradley and Jones continually faced the riddle of: “Should I drop deep and support the backline or should I come up and close on the opponent?”

The John Harkesian point of “a team needs to move as one” was never more resounding than with the States on Saturday.

Expect Bradley to morph both the actors and the pieces on the field on Tuesday with Clint Dempsey as the fulcrom.

I imagine you’ll see Dempsey used as a withdrawn striker. The US will defend in a 4-4-2, but on offense look for Donovan and one of Sacha Kljestan, Alejandro Bedoya or Robbie Rogers out wide with Dempsey choosing his spot to float behind Jozy Altidore ahead of him.

The US should be careful though as Guadeloupe has proven they can react well to different game plans and still compete a man down. Too much unfamiliarity or confusion from the Yanks and Les Gwada Boys could capitalize.

• Might Clint Dempsey be hanging on by just a thread right now?

This guy needs to keep *this* up...

Oh about the 30th minute against Panama, an exasperated Clint Dempsey threw his hands up in the air, beckoning to his teammates to move, as he was staving off a tackle attempt and looking to find a man. Only Michael Bradley consistently came to Dempsey’s rescue Saturday.

Right now, the States is certainly looking like a one-trick Deuce pony when it’s not playing on the counter.

Bradley can’t continue to rely on Dempsey and conversely Dempsey needs–as he has to date–to continue to attack.

Dempsey might be deployed differently, but too much ball watching occurs when he has it. That has to stop.

• Looking for culpability around slow starts? How about continuing to make mistakes put continuing to start–no threat of a benching equals no sense of urgency equals complacency and mistkaes.

Is Jermaine Jones a candidate be dropped for his poor performance while Jozy Altidore  is not?

Looks very likely on the Jones-Altidore front.

It’s easy to see Bradley’s continued usage of Altidore up top; whether one agrees with it or not.

Where does he go? Altidore has a US hat trick, a World Cup, a tour in Europe under his belt. Does he have poor body language, poor decision-making, inconsistent play and a penchant to give up on defense from time to time? Yes and you get the picture. However Agudelo has not shown he has the mettle yet and it’s clear that Wondolowski is still adjusting to the speed of play.

There are little, nay zero, non-risky options.

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