Stars and Gripes

Occasionally interesting insight (and gripes) about the USMNT

Archive for August 2010

Quick Thoughts: ENG, USA and Death of the 4-4-2

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(Very quick thoughts, so please disregard a general lack of proper spelling and grammar)

OK, kidding about the last part of the headline (sorry).  It is interesting though, that England and the United States, two of the principle exponents of the 4-4-2 in South Africa–when most sides had switched to some variation of a single-forward, five-man midfield (4-2-3-1, 4-2-1-3, 4-2-2-1-1)–played a similar formation in their first friendlies since the Cup.  The surprising part?  It wasn’t a 4-4-2.

Both Fabio Capello and Bob Bradley lined up their squads with just one “true” forward–Wayne Rooney for the English, who endured boos throughout, and Edson Buddle for the United States.  Playing behind them in the hole, as “false 9’s”, in the nomenclature of our times, were two men who were deployed primarily on the wing throughout their respective World Cup campaigns: Landon Donovan and Steven Gerrard.

There are some interesting parallels to consider:

– Both men serve as the heart and soul of their nation’s offense.  For all of the support they receive from Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard (in Gerrard’s case), and Clint Dempsey (mainly, in Donovan’s case), England and the United States live and die on the performance of the two men.

– Both prefer playing in the middle, and seem to excel when given the opportunity.  Yet both were also pushed out to the wings in recent years by coaches (Capello and Bradley) seemingly dead-set on playing a rigid 4-4-2 (yes, both have experimented, but they’ve consistently returned to the 4-4-2 when the pressure was on).  In both cases, the rationale was the same: they may start on the wings, but they are given the freedom to roam across the pitch, choosing their positions as they see fit.  At times, this logic was proven correct; at others, it caused both to either disappear for stretches, or to force the subject, leaving the wings bare and their defenses exposed.

What makes the situation even more interesting is that both nations arrived in South Africa obviously short of a quality second striker option of true international caliber.  The United States had lost Charlie Davies nearly eight months prior, while England’s two year audition phase for Peter Crouch, Jermaine Defoe and Emile Heskey had yet to produce a clear winner.  Yet both managers chose to stick to their preferred 4-4-2, forcing their true creators to the wing.

And yet, coming back from a month-long break, both Bradley and Capello opted to move away from the formation, choosing instead to play with their starts in the withdrawn forward role, and to great effect.  Gerrard responded by carrying England with two wonderful second-half strikes, while Donovan–not atypically, mind you–looked the only man on the pitch for the United States who actually deserved to be there, and nearly struck in the third minute after a lovely, mazey run through the Brazilian defense.

I’m not suggesting that Capello and Bradley are tactically naive–that’s just silly.  There is simply irony in the mutual circumstances surrounding the squads, and in the events of the last few days.

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Written by Pete Kavanaugh

August 12, 2010 at 9:38 am

Posted in Uncategorized

USA-Brazil Post Game

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Hello folks,

I was rather surprised to check back today and see there are still a significant number of people checking daily, so apologies for the lack of posts over the last few weeks.  Yet with the dearth of transfer rumors, and the cold, disappointing reality of a job that has mercilessly picked up in pace over the last two months, there has been neither time nor reason.  As for the absence of material around tonight’s USA-Brazil game, well, that was because it just didn’t matter.  It wouldn’t have mattered if they’d have run rampant over the young Brazilians, nor did it matter that they were very much played right off of the pitch in New York.

My quick opinions for a game with no significance for present or future (unless you live in Brazil, in which case the next eight years of your soccer fandom is going to be sweet):

– Bradley was justified in not giving Charlie Davies a look at training camp.  Does that have anything to do with this game?  No.  But I still find it funny that people hold it against Bradley, when Davies isn’t able to get in the Sochaux 18 on game days.  I love Charlie, but come on.  OK, rant over (well, that one, at least).

– Robbie Findley is just rubbish.  As someone who campaigned vehemently against him seeing any time in South Africa, I feel oddly justified with every additional appearance.  He lacks anything approaching technical skill, although the two patented “run to the end line and then panic, all without slowing down or doing anything with the ball” moves did make me (temporarily) giggle.  Seriously, just stop–there’s no point in putting him in friendlies anymore.  Give time to some kids, it’ll be much better used.

– Bedoya also showed why he wasn’t ready for the WC.  Yes, the Brazilians were very quick and energetic, but Davies’ Boston College buddy looked out of place.  I’m being admittedly harsh on him, but for a guy who’s biggest assets are reportedly speed and a good touch, he looked lethargic and overwhelmed, particularly for someone who had the summer off.

– The Bradley-Edu pairing in central midfield is promising, but there’s work to be done.  Bradley was lacking his usual touch, while Edu, though energetic, seemed a bit out of control with his movement.  Granted, they had a lot to handle in the middle since they had no defensive cover from Feilhaber and Bedoya on the wings.

Now, two relatively upbeat comments:

– I liked seeing Donovan play in the hole behind Buddle, and would love to see him play in that spot with Altidore up top.  Throughout May and June, I kicked and screamed like an annoying child because Bradley refused to play with a lone striker, despite a lack of class on the forward line.  Depending on the progress of Stuart Holden and Jose Torres, I could see the Donovan-Altidore partnership becoming the first choice in the future.

– Omar Gonzalez was quite impressive.  He held his ground well, and clearly has the athleticism to play on this level.  I’m excited to see his continued progress.

Written by Pete Kavanaugh

August 11, 2010 at 12:25 am

Posted in Uncategorized