Oct 25, 2011

USMNT Attacking Options

Two goals in five games.  When you write that out it looks bad, but that is exactly how many goals have been scored by the US Men's National Team in Jurgen Klinsmann's tenure as the coach.  There are all kinds of reasons or excuses you can find, depending on your point of view.  But the fact of the matter is, the United States has long had a problem finding the back of the net and it has continued under Klinsmann's watch.

I was listening to the most recent Sports Illustrated Soccer Roundtable podcast wherein the panelist were talking about whether the "love affair" with Jozy Altidore needed to come to an end.  However, one of the panelists (Steve Davis I think), mentioned that the Altidore we see playing for AZ Alkmaar is not the same Altidore we see in the U.S. set up.  On the most crass level, that is true, Altidore is lighting up the Eredivise and Altidore is not scoring for the U.S.  For some people it is as basic as that, but you have to look behind the numbers to see why.

If you watch Altidore play for Alkmaar, you can see a very different style of play.  Jozy is coming in from the wing, moving much more and making himself a nuisance through sheer mobility--opposing defenses just don't know where he is going to pop up.  Such tactics make it easy for Jozy to find a hole and then get a ball into the goal.  But when you see Jozy playing up top for the U.S., he is playing almost a target striker role, his mobility is limited by his role. That makes him easier to defend, witness his game against Belgium when Vincent Kompany was in Jozy's hip pocket all game and Jozy did nothing effectively.

But look back two to three years ago and what was Jozy doing then for the United States, he was a mobile striker.  Brian Ching played the target role and Jozy was free to move.  When Ching was not in the side, Bob Bradley, to his credit would generally let Jozy and Charlie Davies simply move around to great effect.  See, Spain in Confederations Cup Semi-Final and Mexico in World Cup Qualifying, or just Jozy on his own being mobile--see Algeria and Slovenia games at the World Cup.  There would be no "target striker" and the movement of both men caused problems and opened up gaps for guys like Donovan and Dempsey to exploit as well as for Altidore and Davies.

Jozy is best and most effective as a mobile striker, swinging out wide and taking defenders on the dribble, or drifting out to the weak side and cutting in on a run to the front or back post.  Where Jozy is not effective is as a static target striker.

So if Jozy is best moving around, how do you complement that strength?  With a goal poacher, a fox in the box.  Oddly enough, a much smaller Juan Agudelo could be that player.  Clint Dempsey might be that player as well and right now, that is where I would put my money.

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