Nov 11, 2011

France 1:0 USMNT: The Ghost of Bob Bradley?

The U.S. MNT took to the Stade de France and turned in a performance that looked more Bob Bradley than Jurgen Klinsmann.  The Ghost of Bob Bradley's bucket 4-4-2 raised its irritating head.  Defensively, the U.S. looked solid, they kept their shape and were well organized.  Obviously Tim Howard came up big a couple times to keep the score line where it was and there was some good central defending, cover and size from Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo and Clarence Goodson.  Tim Chandler looked good defensively but as an attacking left back, couldn't seem to find a rhythm.  I think that if Goodson hadn't been tripped up by Remy, that goal probably would not have happened, but those are the unlucky breaks.

Up top, Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey had good games.  Jozy looked better holding the ball up and Dempsey could hold the ball but there was not enough support so both were getting stripped of the ball too quickly.

So the problem is really in the midfield.  Yes, I know, there were a number of players missing, Landon Donovan being one of them, Torres and Holden.  Tonight I would have loved to have seen what Sasha Kljestan could have done.  But Klinsmann started essentially only three attacking players, Altidore, Dempsey and Brek Shea.  Tonight was Shea's weakest performance in the Klinsmann era and I can see the heaviness in his legs.  Danny Williams showed almost no attacking flair, although was adequate on defense.  But if you look at the U.S. bench, there were attacking options.  Klinsmann could have started Beasly on the left flank and Shea on the right.  Both are speedy wingers who can whip a cross in and have the work rate and energy to play box to box. And speaking of box to box midfielders, Michael Bradley is still one of the best the U.S. has to offer.  What made Bradley dangerous previously was his late runs into the box, but he can't seem to buy a game from Klinsmann.

But tactically, there were a couple of times when you could see the problem.  A ball was played from Edu, Beckerman, Goodson or Bocanegra to Dempsey or Altidore.  The strikers would do their job and hold the ball for a few seconds.  The problem is that neither Edu or Beckerman would pass and then move into the attack.  They would pass and then slow down.  They might move laterally to receive a ball, but then not play the quick ball out wide to Shea or Williams or an overlapping Cherundolo or Chandler.

I did not expect a wide open free-flowing style of play from the U.S. in this game, but there was no link-up play at all in the midfield and there was nothing new on display here.  There was no experimentation, no testing of different player combinations.  Each of the players did exactly as you would expect and they played there roles exactly as they would have done if Bob Bradley and his track suit were on the touchline.  I know that you can't lose games if you never give up a goal, but you can't win games either if nothing is risked.  In a friendly, I would rather lose 3-0 if we are getting good looks at the goal, shooting and attacking.  But the biggest criticism of Bunker Bob Bradley was that he was defensive and played the counter.  

Tonight made me wonder, is Jurgen Klinsmann getting too cynical?  I know what Bob Bradley would do, but what will Klinsmann do on Tuesday?

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