Sunday, March 27, 2011

US Soccer - hard fought draw v Argentina

On paper, a 4-2-3-1 seems like the perfect formation for the US, since we have an abundance of quality midfielders, but not many experienced forwards.  With capable offensive minded players such as Donovan, Dempsey and Holden as well as more defensive minded players like Bradley, Jones and Edu all comfortable starters for us, not to mention a variety of interesting options off the bench such as Feilhaber, Diskerud, Torres, etc, it makes sense to deploy 5 instead of 4.

On the field, 4-2-3-1 was a unmitigated disaster vs Argentina.  Obviously we should not expect to have an equal share of possession vs Messi and co, but it was worse than that.  Our formation seemed to play right into their hands.  Landon and Dempsey, the wings of our formation, seemed to be tucked way inside to help out defensively and we conceded both flanks to them.  Also, with Bradley, Jones and Edu occupying the central roles, it seems that we didn't know how to cohesively and systematically defend centrally.  Three defensive mids seemed always out of shape and a step behind.  Messi always had easy options to pass to as he waltzed right down the middle.  It could just be that Messi can waltz through anyone since it seems impossible to take the ball off him, but it was especially ridiculous in the 1st half.

It could also be that Holden would have fared much better in the advanced CM instead of Edu and he might have given us a chance to hold the ball for longer periods of time.  Nevertheless, we were pinned back and just grasping at straws.  Bradley responded by subbing in Juan Agudelo, a 2nd striker, and removing one of our 3 DMs, in Jermaine Jones.  Jones was over-aggressive and fouling the entire 1st half.  He also seemed out of sorts with his ball-control and passing.  Still, I probably would've taken out Edu instead.

Either way, we reverted to the 4-4-2 and the difference was obvious.  Perhaps we were more comfortable with the formation, but it seemed to close some of the holes that Argentina was exploiting and got Altidore a lot more support going forward.  Jozy, by the way, needs to learn not to try and take on 3 defenders.... no, 3 himself.

Juan Agudelo's fortunate putback goal off Boca's header means that he has scored 2 goals in 2 games with the senior team.  Not bad for an 18 year old.  Not bad for a team in dire need of somebody with a scoring touch up front.

Timothy Chandler, a 20 year old German-born Nurnberg starter at RB that I must confess I've never even heard of until mid-last week, was competent going forward and could be the future after Cherundolo's eventual retirement.  Eric Lichaj could have something to say about that before this cycle is through.

On the other hand, LB, currently filled in by Bocanegra, is still a disaster.  Bocanegra does not have the on-the-ball skills to go forward and he does not have the speed to shut down a fast winger.  Its not his fault, he's still probably our best CB, but he's also our best (only) LB option.  Scary.

But on this day, it did not cost us.  A draw vs Messi and Argentina where we scored?  I'll take that every day of the week.

Tim Howard, man of the match.  One of the best performances I've ever seen from him.

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