TSG’s Official US vs. Spain Preview

US frontman Clint Dempsey is coming off a platinum and record-setting performance abroad this year...

See this: “*

That asterisk is a huge disclaimer on this match.

You have a Spain team with many players coming off an arduous and elongated (read: Champion’s League schedule) club season preceded by a lengthy World Cup run. Victory and dominance may be invigorating, but a whole year of it for the Spaniards? Who could blame most of the players if they took a few late night sojourns to Top of the Hub, Toro or some other full service Beantown late night dining location?


The last time Landon Donovan, Bob Bradley and company played Spain, the States emerged victorious through a gritty 2-0 win that saw big plays from Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey. The US absorbed wave and wave of attack while displaying some pretty nifty counterattacking to get the “w.”

It was a batten up the hatches and defend the spine at all costs approach as Bradley’s battalion survived more than thrived.

Jozy turned his teammate Capdevila for the first score in 2009. This time they may meet up again on Spain's left flank.

But there were undeniably glimpses that game of the moxie that the team if not the specific players would show a year later on the same stage: Altidore with a dastardly seal-off-and-score job on his then-teammate Joan Capdevila, Clint Dempsey throwing junk all night and getting loose on multiple occasions, Tim Howard with more than one magnificent save and Charlie Davies continually flummoxing Spain’s defense, driving back defenders with non-stop angular runs.

The tactics and execution were applauded by managers and media alike, none more praiseworthy that English tactical guru Jonathan Wilson.

This Saturday the US takes on Spain again, this time on the home soil of Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:30pm EST, 1:30pm PST.

Spain brings with them a near A+ class team that will look to dominate possession and slot passes to in-cutting forwards in Pedro and David Villa.

Perhaps as many as eight or even nine players that take the field Saturday in the ‘Borough will be the same starters who were on the pitch that day in 2009 when the US halted Spain’s 35-match unbeaten streak.

Without further adieu we get to our traditional TSG preview. It goes:


TSG: What are we looking for/at?

The Opponent

11 At The Whistle



TSG: What are we looking for?

1) What’s Bob looking for here?

Bradley: Not lame-ducking around...

Well, what’s Bob looking for here? Because it’s not specifically clear.

We know the the following from Bradley’s friendly match history against quality opponents. He plays conservatively in the first half and goes for it in the second. Against the top level opponents, he rarely risks multiple new inclusions in the squad.

For this specific friendly, the strategy by Coach Bradley less clear.

Just three days later the US will play the first of three important group stage games in the Gold Cup. There’s fatigue–key fullbacks Steve Cherundolo and Carlos Bocanegra are now in their thirties. There’s testing out the mettle of the non-core players, like Tim Ream and Eric Lichaj. And there’s the need to have a good showing to build momentum for the CONCACAF tournament.

All need to be balanced by Bradley.

Hard to predict what specifically what Bradley will do here, but you’ll likely get the Argentina deployment model of veterans in the first half followed by at least three scripted substitutions in the second. History has shown Bradley introduces subs earlier–one or two at the half–if the team is trailing and usually waits to the 65th minute if the team is the equal or better of their opponent.

2) No Jay DeMerit. Uh-oh?

The impact of Jay DeMerit on the defense against explosive offensive sides cannot be understated.

DeMerit may make an “I-can’t-believe-he-just-did-that” play once or twice a game, but his presence in the line-up is invaluable to the Yanks for two reasons: 1) he’s adept at knowing when to come up aggressively and win a tackle or 50-50 ball that immediately thwarts an attack and when to stay back and 2) he’s got an innate sense of knowing when to play help defense  on the right flank and when to stay at home.

Through the past two years–be it Steve Cherundolo or Jonathan Spector on the corner–DeMerit always seems to be Jay-on-the-spot if an attacker breaks down the flank.

Against Spain, no such luxury with DeMerit with his club team, the Vancouver Whitecaps.

He more than deserves it...but will Clarence get clearance against Spain? Bet on it.

So what does Bob Bradley do? He’ll obviously help out per usual with a central midfielder covering over the central defender on the right, that most likely being Jermaine Jones.

Does Bradley go with Oguchi Onyewu in DeMerit’s spot and test the veteran further against the likes of Pedro and Iniesta?

Or does Bradley go with Clarence Goodson–a player who has been prone to one gaffe in the box per game for the States, but who is probably on form more than any other central defender for the States right now. Additionally, in terms of exhibiting  “DeMeritness,” Goodson probably is the closest.

….Or does Bradley go with both and sit the promising lefty Tim Ream who’s been off-form lately?

3) Who plays the Charlie Davies role?

Last time up against Spain, a fully fit and committed Charlie Davies did an outstanding job, especially down the left flank, of pulling Spanish defenders out of the center of the pitch and opening up the transition game. The movement was instrumental in Jozy Altidore notching the first US goal by sliding into the center of a sagging Spain defense and turning his mark, leading to a score.

No Charlie Davies this time for Bob Bradley and Juan Agudelo–the best physically to mimic Davies offball movement–has just not exhibited Davies off-ball prowess to date. Agudelo has preferred in his nascent career to wander back or wide looking for the ball or jut back to space as oppose to forward.

Perhaps Bradley has given Agudelo enough of an education for him to handle the chore–and to show he has the all important Bob Bradley defensive chops–to have the Coach employ the same game plan.

November 2010: Agudelo runs the left channel for NYRB against the Earthquakes in the MLS playoffs, emblazoning his name in the minds of US Soccer fans. Will he get that chance to slot in to the left in Foxborough?

If Agudelo–or even Chris Wondolowski who moves extremely well without the ball despite lacking pace–are not up for that task yet, more than likely you’re going to see the Yanks start out in some manner of a 4-5-1 with Jermaine Jones, Maurice Edu, and Michael Bradley all in the midfield with Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore ahead of them.

This seems more plausible if only because Agudelo’s impact off the bench if Spain plays a high defensive line is more appealing than Wondolowski or an advanced Clint Dempsey.

4) Can Landon Donovan get loose against The Fall Guy, Sergio Busquets?

By hook or by crook, Busquets has been silencing the opposition over the past year...

Perhaps a minor point on the evening in Foxborough, but the young Busquets, despite his theatrics, has been a phenomenal defender for club and country over the past year continually marking the opposition’s #10 or striker out of the match. Busquests will be charged for a good portion of the game with containing Landon Donovan.

Given Donovan’s penchant for sometimes being content to be in the background and let the game come to him getting taken out of his game by aggressive man-marking, this match-up will bear watching on Saturday. Donovan needs to show a little more in this department

About Spain

First of all, this is not your complete La Furia Roja.

Missing from the Spanish contingent headed to Boston: Xavi, Cesc Fabregas, Carlos Puyol and Jesus Navas.

Whereas Argentina present a similar looking pitch complexion to Spain; the attack manners of the two teams are decidedly different.

Argentina, through primarily the feet of Messi and DiMaria, attempt to drive-and-dish so to speak, looking to force the issue and either beat a defender or draw another and then find the open player with a pass. Argentina’s midfield hub looks for individual match-ups to exploit and then swings the offensive support to complement that attack.

Spain is decidedly more methodical and patient in possession. Their offense a “beautiful” struggle between creating space and width balanced with interior runs that create a scoring opportunity with one pass.

Iniesta, Spain.

Though maestro Xavi is missing, expect Spain to use the seasoned feet and decision-making of Iniesta and the off-ball movement in the middle and rely on Pedro and David Villa to dissect–or attempt to dissect–the States’ defense ahead of him.

The mimicking of Xavi will be the biggest inflection point to Spain’s Saturday attack.

Iniesta–the accomplished passer and attacker who typically slots out to the left for Spain–has been the typical selection (3-2 Spain win over Scotland, October 2010) to play inside when Xavi and Fabregas are both absent. In the scenario below, Iniesta moves to the middle, while Pedro slots out left, and David Silva plays a somewhat “Iniesta-looking” role on the right.

(Another wrinkle here on Iniesta moving centrally is the addition of Santi Cazorla–instead of Silva perhaps. As Pedro and Cazorla can play with either foot, this deployment would give manager Vincente Del Bosque more flexibility without substitution.)

Spain's expected deployment on Saturday...

Iniesta to the center, however, is a suboptimal deployment for Spain here for two reasons in our opinion.

First, Iniesta’s slight frame would face a constant barrage of hits, tugs and swats from the interior of the States central defense in at least Michael Bradley and one or more of Edu and Jones; the La Masia graduate has been banged up all year and might falter if he lacks desire and needs to put up with physical play for 90 minutes.

Second, taking Iniesta off the flank removes his best skillset, knowing when to move his attack vector inside or outside depending on the opponent’s defense and where he can receive the ball.

When Iniesta aligns with the edge of the box, the threat of his dribble usually forces the wing defender to collapse and opens up the flank for a run from the fullback.


Iniesta on the flank, always troubling....for the opposition.

Thus Del Bosque has another, though less probable option here–though recommended by TSG.

He could choose to keep Iniesta in the withdrawn forward role on the left and insert Borja Valero, instead, in the “Xavi” role.

Valero has yet to start for Spain in 2011 and has but a single cap in 2009 to his resume, but the Villarreal man was extraordinary for Villarreal during the ’10-’11 campaign at being the creative link in the center of the pitch.

In the back, it’s near status quo for the Iberians.

The long-maned Carlos Puyol misses out on the trip and Spain will empoy Barca veteran Gerard Pique in the middle with ex-Liverpool man Alvaro Arbeloa.

Both of these players are excellent, but they can get caught out against quick attackers.

Pique and Arbeloa will be bookended by Joan Capdevila on the left and either Sergio Ramos or his Real Madrid brethern Raul Albiol on the right. The elder Capdevila, 33, can get up in the attack, but Spain is more likely to play off-center to the left with the ball and see Ramos or Albiol bomb on the right if they want width through a fullback.

Iker Casillas–without his girlfriend standing guard unfortunately–keeps the net.

Note: Check out the commentary for two sentiments that Alonso steps up into the distributor role. (one, two)

11 At The Whistle

Summary: TSG spent no less than five hours contemplating what Bob Bradley might do here.

And despite our head telling us–because of the roster and his most recent experiments–Bradley will go with a 4-2-3-1, we go with our gut.

We’ll go with the Yanks employing a narrow 4-4-2 here to counteract Spain’s 4-2-3-1. The main impetus for this selection is that we expect Bob Bradley to defend the interior at all costs (the States’ deployment will often look more like a 4-2-2-2) and then use the counterattack, primarily on the left, to pin back the Spanish fullback advancement and or exploit it.

G: Tim Howard

DEF: Steve Cherundolo, Clarence Goodson, Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra

The skinny: Gut feeling tells me Bob Bradley wants to get a good look at Clarence Goodson in advance of the Gold Cup after Goodson was unable to make the March camps with an injury. A bet there that he starts here; the Denmark league star has earned it.

With Bocanegra staying out wide, it will play into Bradley’s countterattack strategy as the left side of Spain’s attack is sucked in with the open space on the wing.

A quick turnover in possession and perhaps the Yanks can get vertical in a hurry in the exposed, vacated space.

CM: Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley

MID: Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey

The skinny: Jones and Bradley protect the backline and provide cover over the flanks where some coupling of Spain’ Silva, Pedro and-or Cazorla will put ample pressure on the Bocanegra and Cherundolo.

Donovan and Dempsey will be used in transition and also come back centrally to defend deep-lying Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets on defense. The understanding (and experience) of Donovan and Dempsey knowing when to stay narrow is vital to the strategy working on defense.

STR: Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo

The skinny: The pairing of Jozy Altidore and Juan Agudelo will be tasked with dragging Spain’s central defenders to the wings and keeping Spain’s outside backs from getting forward or getting in behind them. Agudelo matches up on the left with Donovan, while Jozy works with Clint on the right–at least to start.

Bradley–as he is wont to do on many occasions–will mix and match Donovan and Dempsey and their forward counterparts depending on Spain’s tactical moves.

US attack deployment if they go 4-4-2 (or 4-2-2-2 if you prefer)



Offensive action out of a 4-2-3-1 formation....

• The US goes 4-2-3-1; Edu steps in for Agudelo

Odds: 50%

» The skinny: Using this formation, the US typically likes to pummel the rear left flank (the Yanks’ right flank) of the opponent. Cherundolo bombs up the pitch, Jozy drags across the backline and Clint Dempsey enters.

The conduit of the attack is Landon Donovan.
A different wrinkle here if this is the case and I see Bob Bradley moving Michael Bradley up into the CM role as oppose to Maurice Edu who occupied that spot against Argentina.

• Jonathan Bornstein goes out left, Carlos Bocanegra to the center

Odds: 10%

» The skinny: Given that we believe a Goodson start is in the offing, this would put Onyewu on the bench. Not likely, but with Spain little threat through the air–unless they start Llorente–that’s not necessarily a bad decision. All up to Gooch’s fitness, so hard to call this one with Bob Bradley.

• Tim Ream for Goodson.

Odds: 5%

» The skinny: Hard to believe an off-form Ream gets the start against Spain, but….

• Chris Wondolowksi for Juan Agudelo up top. Wondo plays target man to Altidore’s free role.

Odds: 5%

» The skinny: Stranger things have happened. Was just fun to throw this one in there.

76 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jesse G. on 2011/06/01 at 11:08 PM

    I’m not sure why Spain need a “Xavi” if Xavi isn’t playing? Why not play more like Madrid and let Alonso be the creative hub playing his deep-lying playmaker role (I always think of this as the Pirlo)? Let Iniesta, Pedro/Cazorla, and Silva interchange as they see fit. Then Xabi Alonso can just pick out whichever one is in an advantageous position. Busquets can fill the other part of Xavi’s role by always being available for a safe pass. Thoughts?


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/06/01 at 11:13 PM

      A few reasons.

      1) Not really Alonso’s skillset in terms of the Spain set up. He’s almost–gulp–English in his value/impact for Spain in that he usually trails the play and lashes a shot or makes a pass with seeing the entire field and not typically under duress.

      2) Spain’s never played without one of Xavi, Iniesta or Fabregas manning that CM/CAM type role for the past two years.

      3) Having a player control the ball is integral to Spain’s attack.
      I did suggest Valero there–which I think is a little more the type of player you were going for there Jesse. He’s solid in possession under duress and can pick out an attacking pass.
      So that was my attempt on what you suggested above.

      Don’t disagree though.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/06/02 at 3:41 PM

      Note, I have referenced your comment in the body of the piece.


  2. […] Shin Guardian knows his tactics about eleventy billion times more than I do.  So go check out his extensive preview on the US-Spain friendly.  You will become smarter (then come back over here so you can become dumber.  It’s always […]


  3. Posted by StevenG on 2011/06/02 at 1:24 AM

    Agudelo and Altidore: two forwards who rarely play/score for their club, but somehow manage to get on the national team. Talk about a dearth of quality. Sigh……..


  4. Posted by Jared on 2011/06/02 at 5:58 AM

    The idea of Gooch going up against the movement of Villa, Pedro, Silva and Iniesta is scary. He has the turning radius of an oil tanker at this point.

    Wouldn’t it be more likely that Albiol pairs with Pique? I thought Arbeloa was more of a full back than Albiol at least with the way I’ve seen them play with Real.

    I’m going to be very disappointed if MBDNP at Villa goes back to being MB90 with the USMNT. The fact that Edu was used as the more forward central midfielder before was a mistake. Bradley is a better offensive player and based on this season so is Spector.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/06/02 at 7:09 AM

      Oil tanker — too funny. That said, I think Gooch has given a lot of cushion but rarely gets beat. Not ideal mind you as others need to help in a hurry.


  5. Posted by euroman on 2011/06/02 at 6:07 AM

    Could you please list when Goodson has had a gaff per game….you are the only one who has witnessed this. He’s been a rock everytime he’s put the US kit on including Mexico in 2009.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/06/02 at 7:08 AM

      USA vs. Honduras January Camp 2010 (dropped mark for Honduras goal)
      USA vs. Turkey, Send Off Series 2010 (beaten off poor positioning twice, once in box where Howard I believe came to rescue)

      Two off the top of the head. Look, think he is a very very solid player AND better now than before, but if you want to know why BB likely went –incorrectly–with Gooch in 2010 part of the reason there.


      • I think I remember Goodson also missing a mark or really poorly misplaying a cross that led to one of the goals against Czech Republic in the send off series.

        But yeah, kid is a solid defender. I am pumped.


  6. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/06/02 at 6:23 AM

    Looking at Spain’s formation, without the ball, doesn’t Spain usually play with Busquets just in front of the back four- just like he does with Barca ( with Xavi & Iniesta in front of him)? I understand that Del Bosque’s team look more like a 4-2-3-1 rather than Barca’s 4-3-3…

    And considering how effective Villa is drifting in from the left, can you honestly see Del Bosque deploying him differently?


  7. […] The Shin Guardian previews this weekend’s USA v Spain friendly. […]


  8. Posted by Jake C on 2011/06/02 at 7:17 AM

    If they go with that 3 Defensive midfield look again I expect (and kind of hope) for them to be decimated by Spain. Too much quality in passing in Spains midfield, and their high pressure defense won’t let our guys take time to distribute–which typically flummoxes MB90 and Edu.


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/06/02 at 7:27 AM

      True. But if Spain press like we know they can, and Dempsey and Donovan are pinned back, can you see the forwards holding up the ball and maintaining possession until options arrive?


      • Posted by Jake C on 2011/06/02 at 7:46 AM

        Also true, but I think we’re better off with two forwards rather than those three in terms of distribution. I’d stick with Bradley and jones in the middle


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/06/02 at 8:14 AM

          I am talking about split forwards (rather than what TSG illustrates), one needs to slot back so you don’t get completely over-manned in the central midfield. Then the isolation up top becomes apparent.


          • Posted by KMac on 2011/06/02 at 9:41 AM

            George is “spot on” – I will summarize my key tactical points vs Spain later this evening. But no being outmanned in the middle 4 v 3 and pressure are the only ways to minimize being picked apart. Switzerland did a great job of this against Spain last summer (borrowing several pages of Coach Sweats Conf Cup ’09 playbook against Spain). Holding will be less successful than quick counter with the US using someone on the left side to open space like Davies did in ’09…


          • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/06/02 at 9:46 AM

            Note: Per the diagram, that is the US attack in the 4-2-2-2.


          • Posted by dth on 2011/06/02 at 9:14 PM

            It would be interesting to see whether Agudelo calls his own number and tries to do this himself. One of the fascinating subplots of the Red Bulls season is Agudelo trying to do this (not at all badly, I might add) and Backe trying to make him into a Chicharito-style hug-the-shoulder-of-the-defender forward. (Guessing that’s what Backe wants, at least…)


  9. Posted by Colin on 2011/06/02 at 8:30 AM

    Whats the asterisk for? Sure the spaniards came off a long season, but they remember what happened last summer and will do everything they can to prevent losing to the same team twice in a year. They will also be doing everything they can to keep their historic recent record intact. If USA comes out and beats them again…i see no reason for an asterisk.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/06/02 at 9:22 AM

      I do think Spain sees it that way Colin. Sure they have a sense of pride, but let’s be honest, many of their players are both World Cup champions and Champion’s League victors over the last year.

      After Spain won the Cup last year, I believe they drew a lethargic Mexico side and then they lost 4-1 to Argentina. They shouldn’t have been beat 4-1 by Argentina.


      • Posted by Colin on 2011/06/02 at 12:01 PM

        Word, I must have missed them losing 4-1 to argentina…I thought that switzerland was the only other defeat in 4+ years or however long.

        Looking now, Im also seeing a loss to Portugal.

        Either way, I think that this match would have no more of an asterisk than any other friendly. A win is great, but doesnt necessarily mean a whole lot for either team.


  10. Posted by SamT on 2011/06/02 at 8:56 AM

    Nice preview. Will also be interesting to see if Adu or Kljestan get minutes in the second half — and to see how they are used.


  11. Posted by Andy on 2011/06/02 at 9:07 AM

    “Without further adu we get to our traditional TSG preview.”

    If the spelling/grammar weren’t so consistently terrible on this site, I would have thought this was a Freddy pun


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/06/02 at 9:27 AM

      I actually considered the pun, thought it was hooky and decided to go with the thrifty misspelling instead.


    • Posted by SamT on 2011/06/02 at 10:16 AM

      If the spelling/grammar criticism on here weren’t so consistently junking up the comments section, this site might actually be perfect.

      Look. I know you are saying this in jest, but yours is one of many comments I regularly read on here slamming the editing. Well guess what? The editors on mainstream sites who make sure the spelling and grammar are perfect, are the same editors who edit out all the useful commentary and insights.

      This is blog. A very good one. And people need to come to grips with everything that comes with that.


  12. Posted by Antonio H. on 2011/06/02 at 10:55 AM

    This would be a perfect game for Adu and/or Mixx. If Busquets is gonna be preoccupied with Landon as you say he will, this would provide some well needed breathing room for the two to create behind a lone striker. Unfortunately Mixx isn’t in the camp, and I’m not sure how or if Adu will factor into this match.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/06/02 at 11:01 AM

      Concur. Would have been a good match to see Mix — and I think Bob was probably thinking of using Holden or Feilhaber as well here in the center of the pitch.


    • Posted by Antonio H. on 2011/06/04 at 7:46 AM

      And now he has neither… Idk about you but I’m really anxious to see how his supposed maturity has mixed with his natural ability and skill. Especially against an opponent with team members that aren’t that large.


  13. Posted by Alex on 2011/06/02 at 11:19 AM

    A few thoughts I had. Lately, our wing set up in the Midfield has been Dempsey Left, Dono Right. But I agree that Dono left, Dempsey right makes much more defensive sense. Dono has the more defensive workrate so he’s more favorable to help with Ramos, and has the speed to break behind when he’s advanced too far. Dempsey seems better matched up against the less mobile/static Capdevilla.

    Now on the offensive end, I have a little different thinking. Harken back to Altidore’s time with NYRB he’s always prefered to work the inside-left channel, cutting in on right foot for a chance on goal. Then for both Villareal and Bursapor, he’s been almost like a left winger/left striker. So, why not have Altidore off on the left and Agudelo/Wondo central. Both Agudelo and Wondo have great lateral off-ball movement, which can keep Spain’s defense spread and honest, overload the leftside with Dono, Altidore, and a CF attacking that side, or drag the CBs out onto the left and open up an inside right channel for Dempsey to drive into.

    And an alternative 451 looks could have either Spector/Klejstan starting between Jones and Bradley. From highlights and one match I saw of West Ham (WH vs Chelsea) Spector looked lively in the midfield. He was able to pressure and intercept some passes when out of possession, and made aggressive runs and smart passes when with possession. Klejstan has good movement and is very aggressive with his passing, so he would be very helpful offensively (when on form, which I hope he is). Hopefully he’s alleviated his penchant to trying to being cute deep in the midfield, and passive defensive effort. I don’t see either of these two options starting this game, but it would be interesting to see.

    Btw, I don’t post many comments, but I just wanted to say this is by far my favorite site for US Soccer coverage and intelligent information. Much respect to TSG. I hope my post wasn’t too long winded and/or blatanly wrong haha. Anyways, keep up the great work.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/06/02 at 11:33 AM

      Hey, first, thanks for posting and second completely agree with your sentiments.

      On having Altidore ahead of Donovan, I just don’t think Altidore has enough handles and speed to really threaten like an Agudelo. Plus, Altidore and Dempsey seem to work together quite a bit (USA vs. Holland) (USA vs. SLO) for the US. But your solution above is plausible.

      On your 4-5-1, I almost but something just like that in as a disclaimer. In the end, I decided against only because a) on Kljestan, Bob has not tried him centrally in over a year and b) on Spector, I’m not quite sure Bob knows that to do with him. I think Spector is much better in the secondary or trailing CM…he’s good at offball movement, but at WH, he really relied on Scott Parker being the defensive focus of the opponent, not sure I like him pushed up.

      Keep contributing and thanks.


  14. Posted by Natalie on 2011/06/02 at 12:23 PM

    there was no mention of torres….?


  15. Posted by Kevin on 2011/06/02 at 2:35 PM

    I was actually at Gillette yesterday as the sod was being laid for the match, and it presented me with one of my biggest concerns at this point. Sod was only laid down for about 100 yards, as opposed to some of the lengthier fields over in Europe, which may present the U.S. with quite the conundrum. As we all know, the U.S. has not extensively shown the capability to play possession football, tending to rely more on the Route 1 approach, but with a short field, kick and chase may not be as effective. I’d be interested to see how the field size, assuming it stays at a mere 100 yards, will affect the game. The only thing I can say for sure is I’ll have quite the view of the effects from the stands.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/06/02 at 3:39 PM

      KEvin — what are the field dimensions there?


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/06/02 at 3:40 PM

      Smaller pitch could also make it harder for Spain to break you down / easier for you to stay compact, no?

      And you may as well tell the groundsmen not to cut the grass too short or water the pitch!


  16. Posted by Ryan on 2011/06/02 at 2:41 PM

    “Spain is going down….again.”

    -Mark my words, Ryan McLaughlin 7th grade middle school teacher and avid reader of TSG.


  17. Posted by chazcar2 on 2011/06/02 at 2:48 PM

    I keep thinking that a 3-5-2 is a good answer to someone running a 4-2-3-1. After this last world cup I think the 4-2-3-1 is going to be the new formation that teams try to run. I think we have the players to run a 3-5-2 really well.


    • Posted by Berniebernier on 2011/06/02 at 4:20 PM

      Most 3-5-2’s I have seen are really just 5-3-2 where the outside guys can rip forward. Think of putting someone like Chandler on the outside of the 5 in a 3-5-2. He can play enough defense that our back 3 aren’t exposed and he can get forward enough to keep it from being a 5-3-2.

      If we were to go 3-5-2 it would have to be something more like…

      Dolo – Ream – Gooch
      Chandler – Jones – Lichaj(?)
      Holden – Donovan
      Dempsey – Aguedelo

      Not sure that is the best fit for our talent. Formation and tactics are important but getting your people in the right place to do what they do best is the real key. I think this formation have weaknesses, doesn’t let Dolo get up the field, Lichaj/Bornstein/who has a left foot, Holden isn’t in ideal position.

      I really like the 4-2-2-2 (with Dolo/Chandler/Lichaj at RB) or if we are going to drift from it once Holden gets back I would like to play a 4-3-3 like Chelsea with


      I am really just most opposed to playing three defensive MFs at a time with 4 back leaving only 3 to attack. Only works if you have a world-class (in the dth meaning of the word) striker.


  18. Posted by Berniebernier on 2011/06/02 at 2:55 PM

    I am sure you are accurately projecting what Bradley will do but I am really hoping that Baby Sweats is not in the middle of the 3. If we are going to do that I would rather play the 4-2-2-2. Bradley isn’t a great offensive player and if we sit there and play 3 attacking players and just try to absorb pressure we will almost certainly lose to a cracked defense and a brilliant pass.

    With CD9 you can play the super defensive counterattack game. Haven’t seen that speed yet out of Agudelo and Jozy doesn’t have that game.


    • Posted by dth on 2011/06/02 at 9:21 PM

      I’d prefer Baby Sweats to Edu (and Jones to both of ’em) in the middle of the “3” of the 4-2-3-1.

      Mostly I’d prefer Dempsey right there. It’s one of the weirder lost memories of recent USMNT history: post-World Cup everyone was begging for a 4-2-3-1 based on the formation’s effectiveness with Donovan-Dempsey-Feilhaber as the “3.” This combination hasn’t been used since then, and yet practically everyone has decided the 4-2-3-1 won’t work (except maybe for Bradley, but that’s because no one ever knows what he’s thinking), with some even loudly insisting–with shades of Merrie Olde England here–that only 4-4-2 will work for our boys and don’t mess around with those fancy furriner four-banded formations for us. (I mean, what’s next after that from the furriners? Bike sharing programs? Television programs? Socialism? Cats and dogs living together?!??)


      • Posted by KickinNames on 2011/06/03 at 7:19 AM

        DTH es en fuego. Great stuff.


      • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/06/03 at 9:11 AM

        I think Bob is/was really hamstrung with the 4-2-3-1 now that both Feilhaber and Holden (a less likely choice or out). I think we can agree it doesn’t work with an advanced Edu (who probably was only there for defensive reasons).

        The 4-2-3-1 definitely works for the States though and it has two incarnations really: The one diagramed above with Dempsey incutting from the left and Donovan playing the conduit on the counter and then when they flip and Donovan is used to provide the speed threat on the left and Dempsey goes to work on the right.


        • Posted by dth on 2011/06/03 at 10:46 AM

          Yeah, but it seems like Bradley has shortchanged experiments with a more creative bent (why not Donovan-Dempsey-Agudelo? why not Donovan-Dempsey-Bedoya? why not Donovan-Bedoya-Dempsey?) in favor of seeing whether he can turn Edu into a poor man’s Yaya Toure.


          • Posted by Berniebernier on 2011/06/03 at 12:06 PM

            I am not sure we didn’t see Dempsey Donovan Agudelo in the second half against Argentina. From where I say it seemed that many times Agudelo was dropping back into the Dempsey Donovan band.

            This is a little bit of what Kyle Martino was talking about. The difference between a 4-2-2-2 and a 4-2-3-1 could be nothing more than how high the defenses line is (causing the none shoulder hugging forward to drop into the hole).


  19. Posted by Karthik Palaniappan on 2011/06/02 at 3:05 PM

    Iniesta, though employed on the right by delBosque, he never really does the role of a Winger. His position is little ahead of Xavi in the center of the pitch. Moreover Spain mid-field doesnt utilise the full width of the pitch. So i really dont agree to the point that says Iniesta will not be in his natural role when he plays in Xavi’s position. The deep lying play maker role, which Xavi does usually, will be handled by Alonso… JMO
    Spain’s probable starting line up.
    San Iker

    Ramos Marchena Puyol Arbeloa/Capdevilla

    Busquests Alonso

    Torres/Silva Pedro

    More like a 4-3-3 formation Barca has been playing. Since the mid field wings should be taken care by Capdevilla or Ramos additional to their defensive duties…


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/06/02 at 3:35 PM

      I could see that as I mentioned in the 2nd comment, but it really doesn’t allow Villa to do his thing.

      Plus that’s not really Alonso’s best role. Would you agree?


      • Posted by Karthik Palaniappan on 2011/06/02 at 5:26 PM

        Well that’s what Villa has been doing for Spain since 2007 (from Euro qualifiers). All Villa would want is one killer pass and a decent scoring position. Iniesta is more than capable of doing that from any position and does it well from a more central position, simply because this allows Villa to rn on either sides to collect the pass. Anyways it’s going to be a 4 Vs 1 tag team on Villa when the Spain midfield is about to feed him.
        Moreover You have your best sprinters on the wings. Iniesta is not even close in this aspect. Its always better to have Silva or Navas (he ain’t in the squad) or Carzola who can do that and let Iniesta do what he does well.

        I agree with you on Alonso part. He is by no means do what Xavi does. But he’s got his own creativity. He can be a good play maker and distribute the ball to Iniesta who can do what Xavi does and Alonso does not.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/06/02 at 3:41 PM

      Note I have referenced your comment in the body of the piece.


  20. Posted by Nelsonaoatl on 2011/06/02 at 8:35 PM

    guys see agudelo in the Paraguay game.

    constantly combining on the wing.

    put Dempsey in the attacking mid role. Donovan as the forward. jozy mozy as a withdrawn striker. then agudelo as a floater. he can combine with
    the other mids and attacking wingers.

    the d stays same perhaps play a 4-3-3


  21. Posted by dth on 2011/06/02 at 10:08 PM

    Agudelo repeats the line that Bradley gives you “a lot of freedom on the field”: http://www.mlssoccer.com/videos?catid=112&id=15401


  22. Posted by Chambers on 2011/06/02 at 10:15 PM

    Call me crazy, and many will…but why not spice up an otherwise dreary 4-2-3-1 with Freddie Adu in the CAM role? Altidore spoke of the connection that he had with Davies…and if history serves me right, he had that same kind of connection with Adu, in the U-20 world cup, and in most games they’ve played together. Adu skill set is perfect for it, good vision, ability to dribble past defenses, and make the perfect pass. It’s a harmless friendly, and if it doesn’t work, move on. Take a look at it in the first half, and make adjustments the second.


    • Posted by Jared on 2011/06/04 at 3:24 AM

      I won’t call you crazy. To me that’s really the only position that Adu works in whether that’s part of the 3 in the 4-2-3-1 or the guy in the hole on a 4-4-1-1. Right now he’s the only guy on the team with creativity that would play that position unless you move Deuce or LD into the middle and put Rogers or Bedoya wide.


  23. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/06/03 at 6:30 AM

    Are you sure Villa played centrally? My memory has him playing as an inside forward on the left…


    • Posted by Karthik Palaniappan on 2011/06/03 at 8:26 AM

      Villa has played as the lone center forward, when Torres was dropped or injured… He’s good when he plays a central role. I remember Spain playing him as the lone striker in 4-5-1 combination many times.


    • Posted by dth on 2011/06/03 at 8:44 AM

      Villa’s inside left for Barcelona, but central for Spain and often central for Valencia…


  24. Posted by John on 2011/06/03 at 9:38 AM

    Watched the US v Panama replay on FSC last night. I had actually forgotten what a lineup was used, also forgot how well Beckerman and Holden played in that game.

    That is all.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/06/03 at 9:59 AM

      Too funny John, I was just going over our column (one of our first ever! at TSG) about that game.

      Interesting from that game, Clarence Goodson came out of nowhere to fill in after Conrad went down.
      Yanks played on a narrow pitch like they will on Sunday.

      Thought Beckerman had an up-and-down game. Holden of course was excellent. Rogers over dribbled but opened up the game a little and Davy Arnaud of all people was solid.


      • Posted by John on 2011/06/03 at 10:19 AM

        Typical Rogers run from that game -> Finds space, picks up ball, runs like mad, straight into defender, loses possession, turns around, runs back to midfield, repeat.


  25. Posted by Kevin O' on 2011/06/03 at 10:46 AM

    “Summary: TSG spent no less than five hours contemplating what Bob Bradley might do here.”


    What he might do may be perplexing, but not what he’ll look like on the sideline. I expect to the see the Grand Moff Bob Bradley pose come out no less than fifty times. (The second picture on this page.)



    • Posted by John on 2011/06/03 at 11:05 AM

      Dwayne DeRosario: No! Canada is peaceful! We have no weapons, you can’t possibly…
      Grand Moff Bradley: [impatiently] You would prefer another target, a Footballing target? Then name the system! I grow tired of asking this so it will be the last time: *Where* is the Gold Cup?
      Dwayne DeRosario: …Panama. It’s on Panama.
      Grand Moff Bradley: There. You see, Lord Gulati, he can be reasonable. Continue with the operation; you may score when ready.
      Dwayne DeRosario: WHAT?
      Grand Moff Bradley: You’re far too trusting. Panama is too remote to make an effective demonstration – but don’t worry; we will deal with your footballing friends soon enough.


  26. […] to selling out the 68,000-seat Gillette Stadium!. For a full preview, we’ll point you over to the Shin Guardian. As they remind us, the last time these two met, in the 2009 Gold Cup, the US shocked with a 2-0 […]


  27. […] Haven’t got your fix yet: TSG’s Official US vs. Spain Preview […]


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