Archive for the ‘Midfielders’ Category


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.”


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, which lists all of the active goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders, and forwards who have played for the MNT, their caps, goals, club squad, and DOB.

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 unless otherwise noted)

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

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

MIDFIELDERS (8): Davy Arnaud (6’0, 165 [;  5’11, 159 []), Kyle Beckerman (5’11, 155), Colin Clark (5’11, 161 []), 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 [

FORWARDS (3): Brian Ching (6’0, 185), Kenny Cooper (6’3, 207 []), Santino Quaranta (6’1, 185 [])

Read more…

Diskerud’s 80

July 15, 2009 Leave a comment

Today Stabaek (Norwegian champs) began the second qualifying round for the Champions League with an away match at Albanian champs KF Tirana.  And American U-20 Mikkel Diskerud saw plenty of action in his team’s 1-1 draw starting the match and playing 80′ before being substituted.  (The Stabaek goal was by Daigo Kobayashi.)

Yanks Abroad — the source of most Americans’ knowledge of Diskerud — had a brief write up on Diskerud’s expected role in the match:

The young Diskerud has found his niche this season as coach one of Jan Jönsson’s most dangerous weapons off the bench, and will likely see the field in the second half for his European debut, only weeks after scoring his first international goal for the US U-20 squad.

But instead of being a super sub, Diskerud got the start.  Coupled with the news that he’s excited about being back in the U.S. fold, I have to admit that Mix is going to be getting more attention from this fan than he used to.  And when you add in the news that Szetela has found a home at D.C. United, it’s looking like a good time to be a young American midfielder.

The second, home leg for Stabaek is on July 21.

Categories: Midfielders Tags:

Davies and Holden Rate Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

July 14, 2009 Leave a comment


Thumbs Up?  Thumbs Down?  Does it even matter?  It’s in 3-freakin’-D.

(From the twitpic of Charlie Davies:  Davies and Holden outside Ice Age 3 in 3-D. (I assume Brian Ching’s the cameraman.))

Stuart Holden’s Relatively Illustrious Company

July 12, 2009 Leave a comment

I’ve updated our running tally of MNT Stats Since 2006 to include the results from the Haiti match.  In so doing, I noticed that Stuart Holden has – in his first two MNT matches – already joined a relatively impressive group of players.  Since January 1, 2007, Bob Bradley has given caps to 78 defenders, midfielders, and forwards.  Yesterday, Stuart Holden became only the 14th player to earn at least 5 points for the MNT during the Bradley era.

Tied at 5 points with Holden are (with minutes played in parentheses):  Steve Cherundolo (1128), Benny Feilhaber (1202), and Frankie Hejduk (837).  No American has earned more points in fewer total minutes than Holden; the only player close is Freddy Adu with 6 points in 709 minutes.

Please Freddy, Do Hurt ‘Em

June 30, 2009 2 comments

The U.S.’s performance in the Confederations Cup is arguably the greatest performance ever by a team that finished with a losing record.  And, as we look forward to the World Cup, it occurred to me that with the guys who were injured (but who presumably won’t be in June 2010) the chance to win a spot on the World Cup team suddenly looks a lot smaller for a lot of guys.  As a result, the last couple of spots are going to be a numbers game.  And the 2009 Gold Cup may be Freddy Adu’s last chance to force himself onto the 2010 World Cup roster.

Back in April, Yanks Abroad compiled what they called 23 Tickets to South Africa.  Just two months later, that article reads like ancient history:  DaMarcus Beasley “Nearly A Lock” and Spector, DeMerit, Bornstein, and Feilhaber all below Bobby Convey?

Read more…

Onyewu Ranked Worst Player at Confederations Cup

June 29, 2009 4 comments

The Casterol Index is a system that FIFA plans on using in the World Cup to get an objective rating of how the actions of each player on the field affect the score.  For each action a player takes, the Casterol Index assigns it a value based on a variety of factors, including where it happens on the field.

With the exception of Dempsey, Donovan, and Bradley, the Casterol Index was not kind to U.S. players throughout the tournament.  In fact, the Casterol Index concluded that Tim Howard had a better game against Egypt (when he sat) than he did against either Italy or Brazil.  But now the final numbers are out and they look a little better for the team.

You can see the full rankings at  Here are some highlights:

Overall:  Clint Dempsey — 9.01  (2d Overall, to Lucio (BRA))

Goalkeepers:  Tim Howard — 5.88 (2d Keeper) Read more…

Brazil’s Victory: What the U.S. Did Wrong, Right

June 28, 2009 1 comment

In the coming days, much will be written about the U.S. team, its gritty performance, its improved attitude, and its ability to atone (to a small degree) for its poor group-stage performance against Brazil.  Indeed, it was a fine performance that should get American fans excited about the World Cup.

What the U.S. Did Wrong

But the U.S. fell victim to a couple of its old problems.  First, the U.S. once again allowed its opponent to put an almost endless stream of shots on goal — 31 shots (13 on goal) — that the U.S. could not match — 9 shots (4 on goal).  Second, even when the U.S. had possession of the ball, it kept the ball in front of its own goal for too long:  16% of its total possession was spent directly in front of Tim Howard.  Third, the U.S. allowed Brazil to play its game — passing at will.

The passing numbers are so ridiculous that they merit in-depth discussion:

Read more…

The Rest of the U.S. Midfield — A Final Preview

June 28, 2009 Leave a comment

We have already laid out the statistics on Michael Bradley and his two most likely replacements:  Benny Feilhaber and Sacha Kljestan.  So let’s look now at the rest of the midfield.  We can expect that Donovan, Dempsey, and Clark will all start.  DaMarcus Beasley has an outside shot at coming on as a late sub (perhaps redemption for his whiff on a short corner that Brazil easily converted into its second goal.)  But we think Bob Bradley will probably just encourage Beasley to get some regular playing time at the club level and prepare himself for possible inclusion on the World Cup roster.

Here are our stats on Donovan, Dempsey, Clark, and Beasley.  As usual, the majority of these statistics are from  The table below is a copy of our own organization of the data, which was contained on at least 10 different pages.

  Donovan Dempsey Clark Beasley
Minutes 360 358 213 64
Goals 1 2    
Shots (on goal): 5(2) 13(4) 5(0) 0(0)
Top Speed:  29.83 28.32 28.98 26.64
Solo Runs 8 6 0 1
Tackles Suffered 5 4 3 0
Tackles Suffered Losing Possession 2 2 2 0
Lost Balls 6 6 3 1
Offsides 1 0 0 0
Assists 1 1 0 0
Deliveries in Penalty Area 7 6 2 0
Passes: 170 159 102 24
Pass Completion Rate: 64% 68% 67% 54%
Crosses (Completed): 12(7) 5(1) 1(0) 1(0)
Passes (PCR) v. Spain: 62% 74% 71%
Passes (PCR) v. Egypt: 67% 75% 73%
Passes (PCR) v. Brazil: 70% 58% 56%
Passes Received: 107 119 64 21
Tackles (Gaining Possession): 4(3) 6(2) 3(1) 1(1)
Clearances: 2 3 0 0
Favorite Pass Target: Dempsey & Bradley Donovan Dempsey Bornstein
Teammate Passing To Player Most Often: Dempsey Donovan Dempsey Bornstein
Casterol Index Rating 7.75 8.98 5.73