Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Aftermath: Belgium 2 - USMNT 1 (Part 1)

The inter-office debate rages on:

Mark: Well that was a heart breaker. My random thoughts: we are back at 1994 watching "Bora Ball" and the all-heart team try to dodge twenty shots and then steal the game with a goal. That wasn't the style Klinsmann was supposed to bring in. This was a great exhibition of heart, but we got outshot and outpossessed dramatically in three of the four games. There could have been some very lopsided losses in this Cup for us.
Ed: That's a step too far< I think.  Klinsi didn't promise possession, just more attacking soccer.  And when we got the ball we did attack in numbers.  Plus there was no team that played a tougher four opponents.  But no, we are not as technically gifted as Belgium's golden generation or Germany.  But we were surprisingly close to Portugal on that regard.
Mark: Michael Bradley is the toughest player to ever play for the US national team, but should never play another game as an attacking midfielder. Klinsmann really did a poor job of casting him.
Ed: Completely agree.  He never looked better than when he orchestrated from the holding position in extra time.  I was reminded how solid he is back there where he should be.  He simply doesn't have the speed or creativity or desire to take on players and space in the attack.  Dempsey does, and dempsey also looked better when he returned to the number 10 spot.
Mark: Jermaine Jones is a beast, but like Bradley was expected to carry the team offensively and he just does not have the distribution ability.
Ed: Agreed again!  A tough holder who makes for a great spine.  Guys like that thrive on the premier league and his muscle made us better.  But destroyers are never also creators.
Mark: Kyle Beckerman is a tremendous position player, and we missed him today. The middle was far more open without him in there. Belgium had far more opportunities than German which is a stronger side. Was shocked he got pulled.
Ed: Can't say, really.  Cameron made Fellaini look pretty ineffective.  But Beckerman had a good tourney for a slow dude with big hair.
Mark: Why does it seem like we switch formations every game in the World Cup under Klinsmann?
Ed: I think that's called tactics and I'm okay with it.  The Dutch switched their formation at halftime against Mexico and it paid off, we can switch game to game if we have too.

Mark: It's hard for me to believe that Bedoya, Davis and Zusi are the best three wings we have in the American system. The guys who created all of our chances were by no coincidence the fast guys on the team (Johnson, Yedlin, Beasley). If you are not that skilled at least be super athletic. Our three outside backs had far more 1 v 1 ability than our three wings did. That can't happen.
Ed: I take exception to Zusi as I think he's proved his value on qualifiers and MLS.  But no, he doesn't yet make the Belgian or German team, but that's a bit of a tough ask.
Mark: The post script to that is how could you leave Eddie Johnson, and Donovan off a team that clearly had speed (and strength) issues up top and on the wings. Now that the cup is over, I can re-affirm there is no way their omission did not hurt our chances.
Ed: Donovan yes.  Finishing is kind of key and he does that.  He's also clutch.  He's also...wait, we've been down this road before I think.
Mark: Omar Gonzalez is an absolute beast. Has been for a long time in the MLS and its great to see it on the world stage. Besler is tremendously savvy and really solid. He got physically overpowered by a beast forward today (we need one of those).
Ed: Both are excellent.  Besley stumbled clumsily more than being overpowered. It happens after playing so many minutes.  We have two good central defenders - don't remember many USA teams with that.  K deserves credit for defensive organization as well.
Mark: Love what Deondre Yedlin brings to the table.
Ed: The question is always asked as to what the USA is on order to develop out style.  What we are is a country of super fast and athletic guys.  See, e.g., the nba and nfl.  Few guys in Europe match that kind if freakish athleticism.  Yedlin's biggest problem was that he didn't realize how good he was.  I think he could have taken on and busted by defenders more often.
Mark: The commentator was talking about the continued US lack of technical skill (which in my mind was a clear regression from previous years), but the US also has to bring better athletes to the table. In a country as large as ours, it's hard to believe that we can't find a guy who is 6'2 and can run as a striker. Altidore is the closest thing we have to a target man and he's only 6'1 and isn't that fast. The athletic domination of Belgium's back line over our players up top was striking. Jermaine Jones was the only player up top who could even compete for a head ball.
Ed: We lack technical skills compared to Germany and Belgium, but was it so obvious against Portugal?  Regression? Sorry, Claudio Reyna and Ernie Stewart don't make it out of that group.  We are better just not in the top tier....yet. 
Mark: Going forward Klinsmann can't go with three defensive midfielders.  It doesn't matter how good you defend, if you can't hold the ball you'll eventually get beat. And we can't hold the ball. The bad passes from the Bradley, Jones, Cameron trio was well over a dozen. It's hard to win when you turn over that many possession unnecessarily. They are all very good at what they do, but they all have the same skill set and they can't be on the field together.
Ed: Agreed and awful.  I think largely a result of Bradley not a proper no 10.  We had no depth (second principle of attack) because he can't penetrate (fourth and most important principle of attack).
Mark: Fabian Johnson need to become a wing on this team, and Yedlin can take the right back spot. Maybe in four years with Green on the left and Johnson on the right we'll have an attack again.
Ed: Four years from now is forever.  I expect some new 20 something to fill a lot of the roster.  And remember, while I was dead wrong about Beasley - a guy who had a heck if a tourney -- he's going to be as old as you are now by the next World Cup so I would think left back us our biggest priority.
Mark: We have a nice looking backline for the next cup with only the left back spot open. John Brooks is just a kid. He might fight his way into the mix. Chandler is quality depth, and did not even play this cup.
Ed: Agreed.
Mark: We'll certainly have better wing play than the horrible cast we put together this year. Green and Johnson would be the obvious front runners.
Ed: Green looked very good on the ball, never mind his goal.
Mark: Bradley will move back to defensive mid for the next cup, and Cameron might settle in next to him. Bradley is a ferocious competitor and a great anchor to the team as a veteran. Love his leadership.
Ed: For as much hate he got from the press and fans, when players on his team didn't know what to do with the ball they gave it to him.  He's our schweinsteiger, another guy who shouldn't play no 10.
Mark: The huge question is who takes over as the playmaker and up top. I have to think Dempsey is likely done or at least a sub in the next cup. The Striker from Austria probably is in the mix up top and we need somebody with a big body like him. There are a couple young latin strikers floating around the system that are raising eyebrows. I have to think sooner or later one arrives. I am not sold on Altidore mainly because of his injuries and playing time issues. He's not getting younger, either. (hard to believe I am saying that. How time flies.)
Ed: Green perhaps?  These careers are too short.  Dempsey never really got to show everything he had in the position he was forced to play.  I miss him and his awesome name and his disgruntled attitude already.
Mark: As the playmaker I'd look out for Louis Gil, maybe Diego Fagundez who is a 20 year prodigy that plays for New England, or maybe even Notre Dame's Harry Shipp who will likely be MLS rookie for the year. There are a couple other dangerous players out there. There is a center mid on the Fulham reserve team who is starting and will be 21 next cup. Little young, but worth keeping an eye on.
Ed: No comment.
Mark: Overall I think this cup was a success considering we decided to end the Landon Donovan era a little early. There was certainly nothing dull about it. It became the transition cup rather than next cup being the transition cup. There is a lot to like about our ability to breed quality defenders and defensive mids, and there is a whole crop of young talent on reserve teams in Germany, England, Mexico and MLS that should show up in the void created by the departures of Dempsey, Donovan, and every backup striker or wing currently on the team. From a talent standpoint, I have to think we'll have more to work with next cup. The Donovan Dempsey combo was special. It was a quick ten years, but will all the kids playing this sport, someone is going to step up and be better than them.
Ed: Agreed!  Now I'm crying again like at the end of the game.  How am I going to watch the rest of this World Cup without my U S of A?!?
This is farlieonfootie for July 2.

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