Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Klinsman for Bradley: Change We Can Believe In


Last night's dismantling of a veteran US squad by a young Brazilian team bursting with talent proved just how deep Brazil is and just how badly the US needs a new coach and a new direction.

Brazil advanced further than did the US in this summer's World Cup, and their coach, Dunga, was fired.  The USSF has held on to Bradley at least through last night's friendly, but the performance of the US teams begs the following question: why?  Alexi Lalas is not our favorite commentator. It's one thing to spout your mouth off and be opinionated. We like that in Maradona because the man is flat-out hilarious...and a genius.  But it's another to run your mouth and repeatedly make stupid and uninformed comments that are mere opinions--and get paid for it.  And yet Lalas got it right last night when he pointed out that the USSF should have fired Bradley after the World Cup.  Doing so would have allowed his replacement to begin the next phase of US soccer development at the national level against Brazil.

That the USSF did not at least served the following purposes: it showed just how unimaginative Bradley is as a tactician and just how desperately the US needs a new vision--perhaps a decidedly Germanic vision.

Running out a 4-4-1-1 for the first time this summer looked brilliant in the first ten minutes or so, as the US dominated the young Brazilians and Donovan especially looked outstanding.  Putting the best player the US has produced in the center of the field was reaping great dividends, as John Harkas excitedly pointed out.

But once the youngsters for La Samba settled down they proceeded to dismantle the US, sending ball after ball down the US's left side, and the 2-0 score at half time could easily have been 3-0 or worse.  And, once again, there were the usual problems for the US: our midfield was unorganized and outgunned, and our back four looked completely out of their league.  The Brazilians sent wave after wave at our back line and yours truly completely lost track of how many give-and-gos and through-balls the US was giving up.  It was a nightmare.

At what point does a coach alter not only his team's tactical organization to achieve better results but its makeup and vision?  Harkas pointed out that while the Brazilians had been able to play a bunch of new players to see who might possibly make it into the XI for the next South American Championship and eventually the next World Cup, Bradley ran out essentially the same team that had played so unevenly in South Africa.  More importantly, other than putting Donovan up top and in the middle, Bradley showed no new ideas whatsoever, as if South Africa had been a tremendous leap forward for US football.

Let's be clear. Bradley is the man who led the US to the final of the Confederations Cup last year, to the top of the CONCACAF during World Cup qualifying, and to the final 16 in South Africa.  But we think he's taken the USA as far as he's capable of taking it.

In our view, we have the players to do better.  As such, it's not that we lack talent, it's that whatever talent we do have is not being utilized to its fullest.  Donovan and Bradley (the player, not the coach) are outstanding midfielders who can start in the top divisions in Europe.  We have depth  at keeper and, finally, even at striker (Buddle, Altidore, Gomez, Findlay).  Gomez in particular is just the first of what will prove to be a whole slew of Mexican-American strikers in the years to come, as the sons of immigrants (legal and extra-legal) grow up in the US and choose to play for their homeland and not return to Mexico. In fact, we think once Gomez and his brethren come of age en masse, the US will finally have arrived internationally, with truly International-class keepers, midfielders and FINALLY fast, skilled strikers.

We have seen no indication over the last 12 months that Bradley (the coach) understands any of this, or that he understands how successful tactics are a direct function of the skills of the players on the field and the game at hand, i.e., the challenge posed by the opposition.

For example,  a 5-3-2 with Edu playing just in front of the back four in a central position, with a midfield of Bradley, Donovan (middle) and Feilhaber with Atlidore and Buddle up top would have given us a five-man back line with a flexible midfield allowing either/both Donovan and Bradley to push up.  We certainly missed Dempsey last night.  A midfield of Dempsey, Donovan and Bradley with Jozey and Edson up top would have packed a punch, and the five-man back line, with Edu pushing up into a holding-midfield position could perhaps have done better than the 4-4-1-1 did last night.  Finally, the 5-man back line can quickly  morph into a 5-4-1 or a 5-4-1 with a diamond in the middle if need be.  The point is, ANYTHING was better than what passed for tactics last night.

There was talk at half time by Lalas about Jurgen Klinsman coming in to take over for Bradley.  And this morning on Sky Sports News, Bradley was described as the "leading candidate" for the vacancy at Aston Villa.

Klinsman coming in to reshape the Yanks and Bradley graduating to greener pastures, the first US manager to ever manage in the EPl, would be a win-win for US football.  Let's hope it happens.


Brian F said...

Didn't realize you were one of those folks who freaked out when you forgot to take your Prozac.

It was a FRIENDLY.

Whether Bob Bradley should stay or go (and I'm inclined to think it's time for a change) should NOT be impacted by a 2-0 loss in a FRIENDLY to Brazil.

It's a decision that should have been made before the match.

Brian F said...

And with all due respect, your interesting analysis was undermined by the fact that you claimed we had depth at striker.

Robbie Findley is COMPLETELY USELESS as an international striker.

Jozy, with his atrocious touch, is little better... although he at least has the promise of having been useful at some point, however briefly, in the past. However, he seems to be regressing... a terrible sign at his young age.

Buddle and Gomez have not proven to be international calibre forwards either but they haven't really been given much of a chance so I give them more of a pass. In their limited appearances, they both have looked more useful than Useless and Uselesser.

Brian F said...

In my opinion, the REAL reason we need a change is not because we were outplayed for 60 mins by Brazil's youth team. It's because when Bradley was brought in, he was touted for his discipline and organization and yet in COMPETITIVE matches, we have been regularly torn apart like Swiss cheese.

3 in the 1st half vs Costa Rica (WCQ). 3 in the 2nd half vs Brazil (Confed Cup). 3 in the 2nd half vs Italy (Confed Cup). 5 in the 2nd half v Mexico (Gold Cup). 2 in the 1st half vs Slovenia (!).

For a coach whose primary strength is supposedly discipline and organization, this is not good enough.

Nordecke Luchador said...

I like your point about competitive matches and Bradley's record in those matches. About the strikers, I think I should have said we have more depth than we've had for a year or so. We certainly don't have World Class stikers. Thanks for the comments. --MJD

Mr Gatenby said...

The formation you set out there looks like a 4-1-3-2, a la Spain in Euro 2008, not a 5-3-2. Never seen a holding midfielder described as being part of a back 5 before.