4th of July Special Top 5: Americans playing in Europe
To celebrate the 4th of July, I thought it would be a good chance to have a look at the top five USA players currently plying their trade in Europe. The ever increasing talent pool of American players means that representatives of the US national team are currently playing in elite leagues across Europe. American […]
3 Big Questions Every USMNT Fan Should Be Thinking About
As the USMNT moves on from its (cough) uninspiring 0-0 draw with Canada on Tuesday night, all eyes will now be focused on next Wednesday’s hexagonal clash with Honduras. Here are three big questions facing Jurgen Klinsmann and the USMNT as the game approaches. Question No. 1: Who starts at outside back if both Steve Cherundolo and Fabian Johnson stay injured? Fabian Johnson missed Hoffenheim’s game last weekend with what has been reported as a knee bruise and a strained ligament. Steve Cherundolo also missed his Bundesliga match last weekend for Hannover with a knee injury. If both Johnson and Cherundolo–the U.S.’ obvious first-choice outside backs–are unavailable, how will the U.S. organize its back line? Timmy Chandler, the part-time U.S. international who has in the past avoided international games that would have left him cap-tied, reportedly will accept a call-up for Honduras. Although Chandler is right-footed, he has experience on both sides of defense and was used by former USMNT head coach Bob Bradley on the left on a number of occasions. The other obvious choice is Michael Parkhurst, who also has experience on both sides of the back line and was recently used on the left side for the [...]The post 3 Big Questions Every USMNT Fan Should Be Thinking About appeared first on American Touchline.
- The Yanks wowed with a dominant display vs Scotland and then struggled in subsequent matches vs Brazil and Canada. We compare and contrast the three performances based on four important factors.Playing from the Back The most promising difference between the regimes of Jurgen Klinsmann and Bob Bradley has been the insistence on keeping the ball on the floor. This philosophy was on display in a beautiful manner against Scotland. It must be noted that the Scots dropped deep and applied little pressure to the Yanks back four which made it easy for the defense to find Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu and Jermaine Jones to advance the ball up the pitch. This ball retention philosophy allowed the US to dominate the run of play and also pin Scotland back and make them unable to counter attack because they could only recover the ball deep inside their half. However, the Brazil match was a different story. The Samba Boys applied higher pressure to the US back four and the American defense was rushed and uncomfortable. This resulted in long balls into Herculez Gomez through the center or out wide to Donovan or Torres. These low percentage punts upfield allowed Brazil to easily win the ball back. In the first half against Canada, the US followed a similar course. With Canada dropping all eleven players to midfield or deeper, the Yanks became frustrated. As a result, they sent long balls towards the front three which played into the Canadian’s strategy. As the game went on, Clint Dempsey became more frustrated and started to drop deeper to look for the ball which was good and bad. The good is that it gave the US a central numbers advantage and helped them move the ball towards goal. The bad was that Dempsey was often too far from goal to create chances in the final third. If the Klinsmann stylistic revolution is going to have a lasting impact, the US will have to play a more patient game in defense to try and break down opponents via player and ball movement like we saw against Scotland.Midfield Shape & Setup In the three matches, we saw three different midfield setups and two different formations. This experimentation is what friendlies are for. However, only one of the setups was effective. Against Scotland, the Yanks played Edu as the holding midfielder with Jones and Bradley as box to box players. This setup allowed Jones and Bradley to spring forward using their pace and support the front three. Also, this shape allowed Michael Bradley to shine. Since moving to Chievo, he has developed from a player who relied on athleticism and effort to a player who still possess those attributes but also has tactical awareness and creative skill to craft scoring chances. For example, he slipped in Donovan for a second half goal against Scotland. However, Bradley and Edu swapped roles against Brazil. @BrianStraus of the Sporting News explained the move on twitter, “JK said MB deep v Brazil b/c of pressure, needed someone who could make good passes to feet. Canada yielding MF, so why not push MB higher?” Logically, playing Bradley deeper in the Brazil match made sense but the move neutralized the best attributes of Edu and Bradley. Edu’s best position is the holding role because he is not great as a distributor or a creator. He excels on stopping attacks through the middle which protects the back four. Bradley could have provided more of an attacking spark playing closer to goal. Also, Bradley at times struggles in his tactical positioning as seen in the goal by Marcelo. Brazil attacked from the middle to the left and Marcelo’s run into the box was not tracked by Bradley resulting in an easy goal. Against Canada, the US went with a 4-4-1-1 or a 4-4-2 look. Jones and Bradley partnered without a designated holding player. Often times they were fulfilling the same duties which made their roles redundant. They frequently dropped deep in tandem to collect the ball from defense which left a gap in the center.Creating Chances After creating chances in multiple ways against Scotland, the US suffered from not having a plan b in the other two matches. The main difference was the lack of high pressure from the front men. The first goal in the Scotland match was a result of Torres winning the ball deep in Scotland’s half and striking on the counter. In the other two matches, Gomez was eager to work to win the ball back, but as a unit the front six did not press aggressively. This allowed the Brazil fullbacks, Marcelo and Danilo, time to gallop forward. Canada was allowed time to relieve pressure by simply playing the ball across the back four. The other issue was playing with two narrow wide players. Torres and Donovan are not natural wide players so they instinctively cut in to receive the ball. While this allowed the fullbacks to overlap to provide width, the fullbacks were isolated. This meant their only option was to cross. This tactic was fairly effective but too predictable. When the US scored v Brazil, Fabian Johnson was able to interchange and play a one-two to get in the box and cross from a better position. The lack of interplay or cutting inside from the flanks made the fullbacks role easy to combat. Finally, the US never tested the Canada defense by moving the ball from one side to the other. By switching the point of attack, the defense has to completely shift and the possibility of a rotational breakdown elevates. The only time the Yanks did the against Canada was in the second half when Dempsey started it on the left and it swung to Donovan on the right who crossed to Jones at the back post but his header was clear. This horizontal movement enabled a better crossing angle for Donovan.Defensive Performance Since Klinsmann has taken charge, the US defense has been pretty reliable. However, the Brazil match exposed some flaws. Three of the four defenders, Cherundolo, Bocanegra and Onyewu, lack pace. This was troublesome especially against Neymar and Hulk. Furthermore, the three friendlies did not address whether Bocanegra and Cherundolo are in the World Cup 2014 plans. Being in the starting eleven suggests that Klinsmann is high on them, but the pair will be 35 in 2014. Marcelo and Neymar marauded down the left flank all night, making Cherundolo look like a traffic cone. They are two excellent players but the US needs to at least experiment with other options. I wish Klinsmann would have tinkered with a Goodson/Parkhurst or Goodson/Cameron pairing just to see what it could bring to the side. At right back, Cherundolo is holding his place due to a lack of competiton. With Timmy Chandler failing to fully commit to playing for the US and Eric Lichaj not playing often for Aston Villa, there are no viable replacements. Hopefully Lichaj can accumulate more starts next season for Villa or another club because he has the potential to be an attacking threat down the right. In limited minutes we can tell that Michael Parkhurst is not a right back. He was too timid to take on the Canadian defense in one v one situations and was exposed in the buildup to Simeon Jackson’s late chance in the match. The good news is Fabian Johnson has played very well and looks to be the right back of the future for the US. Overall, we have learned a lot about the squad from the past two weeks and that Klinsmann is still experimenting on how to incorporate Dempsey into the lineup. While a few question marks remain, the upcoming match against Antigua & Barbuda should allow the team more time to figure out the minor issues.We want to hear your thoughts from the three friendlies.Tweet us @kpngacleansheetOr post on our Facebook Wall.