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4-2-3-1

August 20, 2010 1 comment

During the recent World Cup the newest popular formation was the 4-2-3-1.  Don’t you dare call it a 4-5-1 or a 4-3-3!  Spain, the Netherlands, and Germany, the top 3 teams in the tournament, all generally played the same 4-2-3-1 attacking formation.

Although two other disappointing teams from South America, Brazil and Argentina, also played the same formation, some of their sub-par performance may have been due to their coaches’ inexplicable tendency to prove that they could win without some of their best players.  Maradona left home his best holding midfielder and best fullback (Cambiasso and Zanetti), while Dunga left home at least three of his best attacking options (Ronaldinho, Pato, Diego, etc.).

To a certain extent, teams like Brazil and Argentina can pick and choose from their country’s best players when formulating their squad.  Diego Milito scored two goals in the Champions League final for Inter Milan, but nobody would seriously argue that it was a huge mistake to start Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuain instead of Milito.  Similarly, Ronaldinho’s omission may have been a mistake, but Brazil had Kaka on one wing and Robinho on the other.

Which brings me to the reason why this article is on a website dedicated to the USA Men’s Soccer Team.  Simply put, the USMNT does not have the depth or the talent for the coach, whether Bob Bradley or his replacement, to slot players into his preferred formation.  Rather, the coach needs to utilize the country’s best players in a formation best suited to their strengths.

For an example from another sport, look at the coaching styles of Pat Riley during the 80s and 90s.  With Magic Johnson at point guard, Riley led the Showtime Lakers to multiple titles.  When he later became coach of the New York Knicks, Riley immediately recognized that he did not have the personnel to create Showtime 2.0.  Instead, he slowed down the game on both ends and created a grind-it-out style that, although abysmal to watch, was very effective.  Even though Riley may not have won a title with the Knicks, this was due more to the team’s lack of talent than any mistake in coaching strategy.

Until Charlie Davies works himself back into the national team picture, the best USMNT formation, for several reasons, is the newly-popular 4-2-3-1.  Why?  First, Jozy Altidore is our only legitimate forward.  As we all saw during the World Cup, Robbie Findley is not the answer.  Edson Buddle is not the answer (or at least he won’t be in four years).  With seemingly all of our forward options getting limited time with their clubs, it doesn’t make sense to play one of them up top just because we always play a 4-4-2.  Thus, a primary advantage of adopting the 4-2-3-1 is that the coach does not need to slot a less talented player into the lineup solely because he needs someone at that position.

On a related note, the 4-2-3-1 is a formation that places our best players in their best positions.  Our two best attackers, Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, are both best used on the wing.  However, they are also needed to cut inside to create goal scoring opportunities.  The 4-2-3-1 gives those players width but also the opportunity to move inside.  Third, our other talented players get a chance in the midfield.  For example, Stuart Holden played in the middle of a similar formation just this week for Bolton, looking effective at times.  Alternatively, the new coach could place Michael Bradley in the middle of the 3, giving him more opportunity to move forward in attack, while also freeing up spots for true destroyers at DMF such as Maurice Edu, Ricardo Clark, and (possibly) Jermaine Jones.

Finally, this blog has noted before the USMNT’s problem with keeping possession and accurate passing.  This may be one part of the solution.  By placing another midfielder on the pitch, players will have more options to pass to when under pressure, instead of being forced to attempt a diagonal outlet to one of the two forwards.

Add it all up and you can see why Grant Wahl commented on his blog that he is “really starting to wonder why the U.S. doesn’t play with five mids, especially against the best teams.”

Writing for The USA 10 Kit

July 28, 2010 1 comment

As I alluded to yesterday, the folks at The USA 10 Kit are giving me a chance to join them.  I’m really excited about this opportunity and look forward to your continued support.

My first story, What Made Charlie Davies Great?, is up on the site now.  It is a comparison of Davies’ stats from the Confederations Cup and Robbie Findley’s stats from the World Cup.  If you have a chance, please check it out.

Resource for Your 2014 Arguments

June 27, 2010 2 comments

US fans are already arguing about who will start for the US in the 2014 World Cup. A very good resource for these debates is ussoccerplayers.com, which lists all of the active goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders, and forwards who have played for the MNT, their caps, goals, club squad, and DOB.

Don’t Pack Your Bags Yet, Brian

August 5, 2009 Leave a comment

A quick thanks to Michael and the spectacular job he does on this blog.  He’s been busy this past week, so you’ll have to excuse the lack of posts.  Moving and then traveling from your new home all within a four day span doesn’t leave a lot of time to blog.  Lucky for him it was a pretty slow week for USMNT news.  Actually, the most exciting news of the week for the US National Team is probably that the C team that lost 5-0 was actually playing against 13 of the 20 players on Mexico’s A team in the Gold Cup Final.  Not quite B team against B team.

The last time I checked in with an article on this blog I argued that not only did Freddy Adu need to play well, but he needed to play better than the other attacking players in the Gold Cup lineup to solidify his spot on the 2010 World Cup roster.  At the time, I (along with all of the professional writers) was unaware that Freddy was only going to be around for the first two games of the Gold Cup.

The consensus is that Freddy’s play in those two games was a bit disappointing.  Sure, I thought he looked tentative.  I also think he’s one of four guys on the USMNT that has any talent at creating for other players (for the record, it’s Landon, Deuce, Benny and Freddy).  The bad news for Freddy is that Stuart Holden has been a revelation and is deserving of a look off the bench for the “A” team.  Bad for Freddy, but good for the Nats.

Anyway, moving on, one of my favorite types of articles are those that list who are the favorites to earn a spot on the USMNT 2010 World Cup team.  Others may have done this in the run-up to Germany, but the first site that I recall with this type of article was Yanks Abroad.  In the past month other sites have gotten into the act (Soccer by Ives, ESPN Soccernet, and Greg Seltzer at Soccer365 are three that I have seen).

In looking forward to 2010, I thought it might be interesting to take a look back to 2006, or more accurately to September 2005.  Let’s give some major kudos to Yanks Abroad, who was able to accurately predict 21 of the 23 guys who were on Bruce Arena’s original roster.  Ben Olsen was one of the two guys missed, but I don’t want to discuss him right now.  Number 22, Gregg Berhalter, was added onto the team when Cory Gibbs was injured, so we’ll say that he counts as well.  Here’ s the link.

http://yanks-abroad.com/get.php?mode=content&id=1050

That leaves one guy.  And, if you click on the link above, for some reason, one of the players on the list is blank.  I’m not sure why that is, but I am pretty sure the blank should be Steve Ralston.  Here is what Yanks Abroad said about the “pretty safe bet” Ralston:

[Steve Ralston] – F, ()  What he lacks in skill, he makes up for in composure (or is that just plodding play?). Seems to be an Arena favorite and the goal against Mexico will help. (HK) With no obvious candidates presenting themselves, Ralston seems fairly safe for now. (NT)

Ask yourself these questions… Is there a forward on the USMNT who seems to “lack skill,” but arguably  “makes up for it in composure” with usually  “plodding play?”  Is there a current national team forward who “seems to be a [Bradley] favorite?”  Is there a forward whose role on the team is seen as fairly safe not necessarily because of his own success, but because others who would be likely candidates at forward (Freddy Adu, Kenny Cooper, Eddie Johnson, etc.) haven’t “presented themselves?”

Somewhere along the way the composed play of Ralston became plodding and his composure became too methodical. In retrospect, it’s ironic, to say the least, that one of the only two players Yanks Abroad couldn’t predict would make the 2006 USMNT was Brian Ching.

Given that 2005 Ralston appears to have been 2009 Ching, I guess the question for 2010 is “who is going to be Brian Ching’s Brian Ching?”

But that’s another post.

Categories: Forwards, MNT Lineups

Height & Weight: U.S. – Panama

July 18, 2009 Leave a comment

The main stats for the U.S. – Panama quarterfinal were posted yesterday.  But during a discussion with a friend, I began wondering about whether either side had an advantage in height or weight.  Here is what I found.  I know that height and weight statistics are subject to gamesmanship among teams, but for the purposes of this post we will assume that a player’s height and weight are accurately reported.

 

U.S. Roster (Height & Weight in parentheses, as provided by www.sams-army.com unless otherwise noted)

GOALKEEPERS: Troy Perkins (6’2, 170), Luis Robles (6’1, 180)

DEFENDERS (5): Jimmy Conrad (6’2, 185 [kc.wizards.mlsnet.com]), Clarence Goodson (6’4, 170), Jay Heaps (5’9, 155 [espn.com]), Chad Marshall (6’4″, 190 [espn.com]), Heath Pearce (5’10, 175)

MIDFIELDERS (8): Davy Arnaud (6’0, 165 [kc.wizards.mlsnet.com;  5’11, 159 [espn.com]), Kyle Beckerman (5’11, 155), Colin Clark (5’11, 161 [coloradorapids.com]), Sam Cronin (5’10, 160), Brad Evans (6’1; 160), Stuart Holden (5’10, 160), Logan Pause (5’10, 155), Robbie Rogers (5’10, 165 [columbus.crew.mlsnet.com)

FORWARDS (3): Brian Ching (6’0, 185), Kenny Cooper (6’3, 207 [fc.dallas.mlsnet.com]), Santino Quaranta (6’1, 185 [dcunited.com])

Read more…

Eddie Johnson Adds Two Assists

July 15, 2009 1 comment

Coming on to start the second half, Eddie Johnson set up Erik Nevland on his first and third goals, helping Fulham break open a 1-0 lead en route to a 5-0 victory over Perth Glory.  Eddie’s now got a goal and two assists in his last two substitute appearances in Fulham’s preseason tour of Australia.

Check out the descriptions from Fulham’s site:

Eddie Johnson was fed the ball on the left side of the box and shaped to shoot with his left foot, but instead, he squared the ball to his strike partner [Nevland] who made no mistake. . . .

And [Nevland] completed a stunning seven minute hat-trick soon after. Eddie Johnson was again the provider, with a neat flicked pass setting up the Norwegian who delicately flicked the ball himself beyond the reach of the keeper’s left hand.

With Zamora seemingly on his way to Hull City, it’s nice to see Eddie performing well with Fulham.  At the very least, it will help Fulham secure a good opportunity for him if they loan him out.  So, congrats once again Eddie.

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2010 World Cup Roster Projections — Midfielders

July 15, 2009 2 comments

The final part of our brief, statistical look at the candidates for the 2010 World Cup roster bring us to the midfield.  By now, this should be old hat for readers.  If you’re new, here’s the summary:  Yanks Abroad and ESPN ranked the U.S. players they felt were in contention for the roster and I’m using statistics from ussoccer.com to take a look at the players at each position.

Player Y.A. ESPN 09-min 09-G 09-A BB-min BB-G BB-A
Landon Donovan 1 2 900 4 5 2635 16 14
Clint Dempsey 1 3 879 3 2 2692 10 5
Michael Bradley 1 6 714 3 0 2457 6 0
Benny Feilhaber 10 14 292 0 0 1202 2 1
Jermaine Jones 10 15 0 0 0 0 0 0
Maurice Edu 16 20 1 0 0 624 0 1
Jose Torres 10 27 74 0 0 180 0 0
Ricardo Clark 24 13 484 0 0 1510 1 1
DaMarcus Beasley 28 22 440 0 0 2091 5 5
Sacha Kljestan 28 25 375 3 0 1120 3 3
Stuart Holden 31 28 180 2 1 180 2 1
Pablo Mastroeni 31 30 197 0 0 997 0 1
Robbie Rogers 45 29 248 1 2 248 1 2
Bobby Convey 31   0 0 0 225 0 0
Mikkel Diskerud 31   0 0 0 0 0 0
Santino Quaranta 31   153 1 0 153 1 0

 

As with defenders, we can expect Bradley to take eight players at the position.  Based purely on average rankings from the two sources, Ricardo Clark is the cut-off point and DaMarcus Beasley is the first loser.  It would complete quite the fall from grace for Beasley.  Of the six U.S. players with at least 2000 minutes in the Bradley era, DaMarcus Beasley is the only one who has no points in 2009.

One thing that’s strange about the projected midfielders is that three of them have been virtually nonexistent in 2009:  Jones isn’t even eligible yet, Edu has one minute to his credit, and Torres is stuck on 74′  (though perhaps he’ll merit a look when at be rested enough in time for the WCQ in Mexico).  I suspect this is a bit of optimism by American fans:  a best-is-yet-to-come mentality exciting us for 2010.  But it does force our Gold Cup midfielders to fight battles against apparations and aspirations rather than against concrete opponents.  And it will mean that we should see a couple unusual midfield pairings in full-squad matches so that the tickets are earned based on performances and not presumptions.