Showing posts with label USMNT. Show all posts
Showing posts with label USMNT. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

USA vs Guadeloupe: Tactical Analysis

By MJD

According to our favorite scholarly source, Guadeloupe is "an archipelago located in the Leeward Islands, in the Lesser Antilles, with a land area of 1,628 square kilometres (629 sq. mi) and a population of 400,000."  

Contrastingly, the USA, "at 3.79 million square miles (9.83 million km2) and with over 308 million people [is] the third or fourth largest country by total area, and the third largest both by land area and population," in the entire world.

And yet the US managed only a minimal 1-0 win at home in an important tournament. 

Let's be perfectly clear.  The US looked very good overall and much better than the previous three matches (including the Spain friendly)........against Guadeloupe. And at times, the US even looked excellent...........against Guadeloupe, an archipelago located in the Leeward Islands with a land area of only 629 square miles and a population of only 400,000 compared to a country (US) with 3.9 million youth players in a country of 308 million total.

So what gives? 

As a good friend recently remarked, when a team (USMNT) comes out flat and gives up early goals game after game across two major tournaments (World Cup and Gold Cup), the coach has to shoulder a considerable amount of blame. Further, one would not be too off base to blame that coach's tactics.  In short, given the fact that the USMNT has come out flat in two games in the current Gold Cup, repeating a pattern that goes back to the early goals given up in last summer's World Cup, it would not be too off base to question whether Bob Bradley really knows WTF he's doing in both choosing and lining up his starting XI.  Here's what we've seen over the last four games (against Spain, Canada, Panama and tonight against Guadeloupe) to suggest that Bradley, in fact, might be making unwise tactical decisions.

The US is not playing negative football. Which is great. But our high line and our attack-minded approach has left us vulnerable at the back.  As our favorite scholarly source explains, "A high defensive line allows teams to pin opposition teams into their own territory and apply pressure when chasing for a goal, however, it leaves the attacking team vulnerable to counter attacks by quick opposition players."

That last sentence explains much of what has ailed the US over the last four games, including last night's win over Guadeloupe.  Bradley's 4-4-2 requires both Dempsey and Donovan to pinch in and play as attacking central midfielders rather than as wingers.  The US gets its width from the two fullbacks.  In this system, Altidore and either Aguduelo or Wondolowski play as strikers, and both Dempsey and Donovan press forward from either flank, looking to create and shoot from central positions but generally arriving from the outside.  Neither player hugs the sideline, for example, or tries to get behind the opposing fullbacks.  Bradley plays as a type of box-to-box midfielder (although whether such a position still exists in the modern games is subject to some debate), with Jones as the true holding midfielder.  The point being that in the US 4-4-2, Bradley will press forward when he can and Jones will hold back (generally speaking).  Finally, both fullbacks, Bocanegra and Cherundelo, for example, push high up the field. providing support to the attacking four of Dempsey, Donovan, Agudeuelo and Altidore (although through three Gold Cup matches, Donovan has typically stayed deeper than Dempsey, while the latter has often started from deep but has then looked to get forward, mostly on the left but frequently switching sides with Donovan).  To see how the US shape changed as the Panama game went on, click here.

The end result is that the US typically has 6-7 players in the attack phase when they are in possession, which has been fairly frequent in the three Gold Cup matches (I can't find any time-of-possession data thanks to the continued lame statistical coverage of the US soccer media). This is inspiring and shows how much confidence Bradley has in the quality of the US side. But it must be pointed out that Bradley's approach leaves only 3 outfield players (plus Howard in goal) to defend.  And what every team over the last three games has shown (Spain just tore us apart from every angle possible) is that you can get behind our two fullbacks and create havoc.  Panama did it and won, and Guadeloupe and Canada each created quality chances.

Tactically speaking then, pressing our fullbacks high up the pitch combined with coming out mentally flat has left us vulnerable, with the end result being two shaky wins and one loss.

If one wants to fault Bradley for his tactics, you'd have to begin with the fact that the US system thus far has been too attack-minded, leaving us vulnerable.  The "mistake" is thus a result of either too much confidence in the quality of the US side relative to its opponents, and/or a failure to get them mentally ready for the opposition--probably both.  The key vulnerability is pressing our outside defensive backs too high up the pitch.  Jamaica and Mexico will kill us if it continues.

Against Guadeloupe the US created an incredible number of quality chances (19 shots and 10 shots on goal). They muffed some of those chances and others were stopped  by a quality goalkeeper in fine form who had a great night.  Regarding the latter--stuff happens.  Regarding the former--the US has run out of excuses.  If you think riding the bench in Europe means you can throw your jock strap out on the pitch and win against highly-motivated quality athletes in the most important tournament in CONCACAF, you're fooling yourself.  Dempsey and Howard start week in and week out in a arguably the best league in the world.  But the rest of the US squad aren't exactly locked into their respective European clubs' starting XIs.  Donovan plays in the MLS and hasn't done jack in three Gold Cup starts, although last night he was more of a factor than just on free kicks and corners. Dempsey has been stellar throughout the tournament but missed two gimmes last night.  

The point is that if Bradley is going to attack, he needs to get his players' respective and collective heads straight from the start. Respect  your opponent and come out and win the first 20 minutes--and win them hard.  I do not see the US quality as being so far above Panama, Mexico, Jamaica and other countries that they can play without a sense of passion and purpose for a full 90 minutes and be assured of a positive result.  In the next stages of the tournament, Bradley needs to consider dropping the two fullbacks back or even going to a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-5-1.  Whatever the case, something has to change if the US hopes to advance to the final.  Panama showed that we are vulnerable physically and tactically.  We may have more skill and experience then the other teams (save Mexico), but it's clearly not enough if we hope to maintain our dominance of CONCACAF.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Luchametric World Cup Handicapping: Our Upset? Paraguay Over the Azzurri

By MJD and El Luchador

All eyes at Nordecke Luchador are on Gooch's knee, Donovan's mental stability, and the back four (who would have thought at this point we'd be worry about our defense and not our strikers?).  But in fervid and besotted anticipation of South Africa 2010 we offer our meager advice for several opening matches at this year's world cup.

All US fans of the beautiful game look to Saturday's match against England with bowel-shaking anticipation.  We firmly believe the US is being given short shift in this match.  Best odds have the US at a mere 13% chance of a win. This is abject nonsense.  We set this match at a  solid 50% England win; 25% US win; 25% draw.  But, we advise American punters to keep their hands in their pockets.  A US win is just not a good bet--but we absolutely do not count our Yanks out.  Further, English confidence is misplaced.  They are overlooking a team filled with solid professional talent well-seasoned in Europe's top leagues.  And Buddle, Gomez, and Findlay have demonstrated that North American soccer can no longer be discounted out-of-hand

We like Paraguay over Italy as our upset.  We looked closely at Denmark over Holland and Uruguay over France, but we think that France's talent is being overlooked by a world press hungry for stories and that the Dutch without Robben are still one of the top five teams in the world. Still, we think these will be great matches to watch.

Finally, we can't help but conclude that the German machine will roll over the Aussies (Oi!) and that Argentina will win handily over Nigeria in spite of Maradona's abject freaking lunacy.  Lastly, we see Cameroon perhaps falling behind Japan early but coming back to win pulling away.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Luchametric USMNT Tactical Analysis: What to Look for Against Turkey

By MJD
Alright, so now we know which Yanks will be heading to South Africa, but what should we expect to see tactically, hopefully starting Saturday against Turkey?

We've looked through the lineups at football-lineups.com for both the 2009 Confederations Cup and the 2010 World Cup Qualifiers, and what follows is our tentative projection of what to expect from Bradley in the two upcoming friendlies and against England on June 12th.  We went with the above two sets of matches as we think the Gold Cup in 2009 and the various friendlies over the last year don't accurately represent our best XI (in fact, we think our B-team was a grave disappointment in virtually every match it played).

The first graphic (above) is our prediction if Bradley runs out a standard 4-4-2.  In such games, he has historically put Dempsey and Donovan on the right and left flanks respectively.  Clark and Bradley are the two most common holding/defensive mids in Bradley's various lineups.  We think Altidore is a sure starter, and we're going with Gomez up front with him. Why? We think the combination of Altidore's physicality and ability to hold the ball combined with Gomez's speed and technique will give the US two very different looks at striker--which we dig like dirty rice. Note that Goodson could start for Onyewu and Bocanegra for Bornstein. In our review of Bradley's lineups, the back four were very frequently changed up and moved around. We don't think that will change.  If Gooch isn't ready by June 12th, you could very well see Bornstein, Bocanegra, DeMerit and Spector filling out the back four.

Next, Bradley has also used a rather uncommon 4-2-2-2.  In the graphic to the right, you'll see that in this schema, Bradley and Clark drop back in front of the back four, and Donovan and Dempsey switch sides.  Donovan played mostly on the left with Everton this winter and spring, and this may affect Bradley's tactical decisions.  Regardless, we've still got Gomez and Altidore up top.  At Puebla, Gomez was typically the lone striker, and for the US Altidore has played on the both the right and the left, so it will be interesting to see how Bradley decides to use the two forwards (if he goes with Gomez and not Buddle or Findlay).

Finally, we came up with our own lineup, featuring the return of the prodigal son, DaMarcus Beasley.  He's been in our doghouse since the last World Cup, and he's been in Bradley's for about a year, but he looked very, very good against the Czechs.  The last graphic is our hypothetical XI with Beasley in the mix--in this case, a 4-4-1-1.


In this formation, we put Beasley on the right wing, moving Dempsey over next to Donovan with Clark as the sole defensive mid.  Up top we push Altidore ahead of Gomez, allowing Gomez space to create.  We think this is a great attacking formation for the Yanks.  We look forward to seeing what Bradley's actually going to do with Beasley.  For example, Bease could replace Clark or Bradley in the 4-4-2 or the 4-2-2-2.  Also, we haven't even considered the option of pushing Dempsey or Donovan up top as one or both strikers, which would give the US another and very different look.

Needless to say, it's nice to see that the US has some very tantalizing options.  Word.