Extremely Mini USA vs. Slovenia Preview

Setting expectations, time constraints prevent our customary official preview format.

The USA plays Slovenia Tuesday in a rematch of the US World Cup group stage second match.  No doubt there will be review of that match in depth across the US soccer media outlets. Here’s one piece from us back then.

Let’s get right into it:

The Lead-Up

It took nearly horizontal--or drag--runs from Altidore to open up the Slovenia defense a year ago....

• I went to private Catholic school until I was in 6th grade. It was a common occurrence when the teacher left the room to put someone in charge who would write down people’s names who talked during that time–a really odd social experiment. I was one of those students that wouldn’t push the envelope on the absent teacher’s rules, but I would engage in a little banter here and there.

There was always that one student who remained near-mummy-like during the time that a teacher was out of the room. It was amazing. Through paper airplanes, tons of laughter, stuff being thrown out the window or at other people, that same student would be stoic, observing the teacher’s rule to the letter while the teacher was away.

Slovenia has eleven of those now-grown adults playing defense. The hallmark of that defense? Extreme discipline and extreme focus on positioning.

Slovenia is perennially one of the stingiest teams in UEFA and in all of international football. In fact, in the lead-up to World Cup 2010, no team that was going to South Africa conceded less than Slovenia. Amazing.

The US picked apart Slovenia in the 2nd half at the World Cup by–incredulously–a defensive miscue–Steve Cherundolo played an up-the-line ball to Landon Donovan that the defender misjudged when going for the interception. The second goal was shear will from Michael Bradley, who beat his man into the box and poked home a Jozy Altidore knock down.

You have to get Slovenia on the run or through the set-piece.–the US scored two on the run as did England against the feisty Eastern European squad during that World Cup. Those are two attack-types, by the way, that Jurgen Klinsmann’s teams haven’t focused on yet.

What will the States do?

• Good question.

I expect the States to make very few changes from their France line-up. I think they’ll move Fabian Johnson into Danny Williams role to provide some attacking nous. That’s one side.

On the other side, look for the US to make a concerted effort to bring Brek Shea more into the action. Shea was almost a bystander against France; his play reminding many of his game against Colombia last Fall before his soccer growth spurt. Shea, with his ability to play wide and loop in a cross should be–and will need to be–an integral part of the States attack.

• Now for the defense….

The United States will play a very different game against Slovenia, which likes to counterattack in the same vein as the States did prior to Klinsmann’s introduction, then they did at World Cup 2010.

For Onyewu, a difficult final match in South Africa

The US was ripe–through their weakness at centerback and CM task list–for the two goals Slovenia scored. The first of course was a rusty Oguchi Onyewu getting caught in space and nobody helping out as Slovenia rocketed one past Tim Howard. (The US’s current deployment will here because a single holder is responsible for covering the center of the pitch, not a dual situation where both players hesitate on if their counterpart is going to take the shutdown.)

The second was Michael Bradley going for a tackle on a counter and not getting. Slovenia thundered down the field for a pretty counter-attack score.

The US will likely try and press up the pitch against Slovenia as Jurgen Klinsmann–it would appear–looks to educate and employ that style of defense.

Slovenia play a lot hold-up through their forwards while thrusting up their wings, Valter Birsa in particular who terrorized the US last summer. The US should avoid the situations that got them into peril against Slovenia last year, but expect Slovenia to really attack the US centerback combinations with their two forwards.

For a legacy review of Slovenia–who play the 4-4-2 like their petrified of odd number formations–see here from World Cup 2010.

11 At The Whistle

How hungry will Maurice Edu be for his goal?

From back to front…

While Oguchi Onyewu was pronounced fit at CB for the United States, expect Clarence Goodson to get the nod again (unless Klinsmann gets sentimental so that Gooch can exonerate the demons of South Africa from the final game he played in there.) I’m inclined to start agreeing with TSG’s Tuesday (who wrote the Orozco-Fiscal piece), in that the US will use a CB by committee, playing Orozco-Fiscal against CONCACAF teams that pose slightly less of an aerial threat and employing Goodson or Onyewu against European teams. So you may see Onyewu, but odds are on Goodson.

The only other change I see being from the France affair s at RM where Fabian Johnson comes in for Danny Williams. The States will get more attacking prowess from Johnson over Williams obviously and there is less need to protect the rearguard now that Ribery is an afterthought.

If you told me the Yanks had two other changes, I might suggest Michael Bradley for Maurice Edu (fatigue) and Jermaine Jones for Kyle Beckerman (fatigue).

Your thoughts?

46 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by John on 2011/11/14 at 11:41 AM

    I predict a goal via a lofted ball over a CB’s head.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/11/14 at 11:42 AM

      For the US or for Slovenia?


      • Posted by John on 2011/11/14 at 12:10 PM



        • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/11/14 at 12:25 PM

          No breaking the trend here?


          • Posted by John on 2011/11/14 at 1:06 PM

            Depends on which trend. I think pressuring and having a high line is going to disrupt Slovenia more than it did France. I think we are going to see a bit more attacking verve from the US and a bit less scattershot approach. I also tend to think that we will see more of a concerted effort to bridge the gap from the defensive midfield/back four up into the attacking segment.

            However, I still think that with boca/goodson or boca/oneywu that we are going to be positionally weak at points during the game and if we play that pressuring to the man defense that the US played against France we will see long balls out of frustration.

            Oddly enough the “fixing” of some points of the defense may lead to the exploitation of the defense through the frustration of the opponent.


  2. Posted by KMac on 2011/11/14 at 11:56 AM

    It will be interesting to see how Klinsman’s formation with an extra man in midfield fares against Slovenia’s 4-4-2 with a potential extra man in the midfield for the US.
    John may be right with his prediction (which I assume is against the US) with the higher line Klinsman has been playing (a la France). Which personnel he place especially at Center Backs and holding DMF could foil that. The Charlie Browns are good, but they are not France!


  3. Posted by BernieBernier on 2011/11/14 at 11:58 AM

    Matt, did you mean to do a 4-2-3-1 or was that just accidental?

    I predict me getting angry when I see Edu and Beckerman in the line-up… I would love to see a 4-3-3 with a more attacking capable player in the #8 spot.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/11/14 at 11:59 AM

      Depends on how far Johnson (or Williams) is pushed back. That was generally how the positioning shook out against France.

      But not perfect.


  4. Posted by Jared on 2011/11/14 at 11:59 AM

    I really don’t want to see Williams out on the right again. He’s clearly not a wide midfielder and his passing not good against France. If possession is what Klinsi wants then he can’t leave him on the right.

    I’d like to see MB90 given a look in the Edu role (never thought I’d be saying that I want MB90 in there more) but Edu just isn’t suited for that role. MB90 also brings ability to take set pieces and corners.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/11/14 at 12:06 PM

      Agreed that Edu is not suited for that role. Again, it’s Bradley’s first instinct. If he thinks to turn up the field, he’ll get the spot.

      As a note–and just a note–there is a decided different view of Michael Bradley overseas than there is in the States.

      Here he is widely considered a star and in fact, it’s hard to argue that he’s not. Went to Europe early and had a tremendous World Cup.

      However, the reviews of Bradley overseas are all decidedly similar and provoke a question. They are “phenomenally high work rate, skills slightly above average at best.”

      Now with that said, are his skills behind Edu’s in the CM role–I’m not so sure.

      Personally, I think Klinsmann is just giving him an adjustment period to recaliber his role on the team. If you saw during that Ecuador friendly, he was aggressive–trying to prove something?–in defense, but he also flew completely across the field on two tackle attempts–that’s not good positioning.

      On the attack there was a moment –had to be around the 70th minute or so, where Bradley came all the way back to the backline to get the ball before trying to move it forward –that’s clearly *not* what Klinsmann wants.

      I think Bradley will get there. I think Klinsmann is just working on him in practice (I would imagine — total guess there.)


      • Posted by Jared on 2011/11/14 at 12:17 PM

        It will definitely be an adjustment for MB90. He was allowed to roam at will under Bob but from what I’ve seen with Chievo he is much more disciplined. It’s just a matter of transferring what he’s done well there in terms of positioning and set piece delivery to the USMNT.

        I have that same view of MB90 as the Euros from most of what I’ve seen. It is changing though from what I’ve seen so far with Chievo. He definitely is more skilled than Edu.


        • I’m with you all… if I have to see Edu fumble away a good string of passes again, I might break my TV. He does really well at things like man-marking and tackling and having a high fitness level. He does poorly at things like creating for teammates and passing the ball and collecting the ball quickly and shooting the ball.


    • Posted by PanchoMiguelMoralesdeConejo on 2011/11/15 at 9:09 AM

      MB90? Does that moniker fit anymore? More like MB-DNP.

      I think Beckerman gets the start/1st half. He had a good game for what he was asked to do and is Klinsmans #6. May as well start the KB90 for what it worth.


  5. Posted by Shawn on 2011/11/14 at 12:20 PM

    It would be great if we saw “that look” on the Slovenia keeper’s face again when Donovan smashed it point blank.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/11/14 at 12:23 PM

      I still remember it too. All the better because he’s gangly and tall: Udinese’s Samir Handanovic.

      BTW, Slovenia are a very good side. They have little depth but they competed very well for Euro 2012. It’s no shame they didn’t qualify.


      • Posted by Shawn on 2011/11/14 at 12:30 PM

        I’m trying to remember a slovenia preview that had some video of a slovenia metal band? It was a bit strange, but it stuck in my head, don’t know if I should as for the name of it. Also, I want to you thank you guys for putting together amazing articles and building a great community here. Does TSG have plans for selling t-shirts or something? I would proudly wear one.


        • Posted by John on 2011/11/14 at 2:53 PM

          Perhaps are you thinking of the Danish band “Nephew” that did a song for the world cup?


          • Posted by Shawn on 2011/11/14 at 3:45 PM

            No I remember now. The Slovenian band Laibach – youtube the song Life is Life by them


            • Posted by John on 2011/11/14 at 4:05 PM

              1 minute ago:

              Hey that guy has an answer to his question

              30 seconds ago:

              Laibach eh?! TO YOUTUBE!

              10 seconds ago:


              5 seconds ago:

              Rammstein must be very upset

              1 seconds ago:

              Life is life indeed.

    • “I wanted to make sure my first touch was at the goal. My first thought was to pass … but at the end I took a touch and decided to aim at his head.” – LD


  6. Posted by jaredlaunius on 2011/11/14 at 12:24 PM

    Interesting – I’m certainly logged into WordPress right now, but it’s not showing up as such.

    At any rate, I think, TSG, you might onto something surmising Bradley is riding pine until he proves in U.S. training and with club he can play within the confines of a designated role rather than buzz all over without regard for the space he leaves in his wake. Perhaps it’s a play on the age-old tactic of benching your best player (not saying Bradley is the U.S.’s best player, but go with me here) to teach him a lesson?

    Bradley’s work rate can be a remarkable tool, but it’s got to be used, in Klinsmann’s system at least, to provide a constant outlet, keep tempo and link play all over the field – not to be an attack destroyer in the defensive half. If he can adjust, that engine could be hugely helpful in pressing up the field too, no?


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/11/14 at 12:33 PM

      I think it has to be extremely difficult for Bradley whose had his father be his coach in one capacity or the other for the bulk of his professional playing career.
      I think it’s also a shock in that he was top man on the possession totem pole until this past summer and now he doesn’t have a starting role.
      Again, I would suggest watching that 2nd half of the Ecuador and it’s precisely the effort you would expect from Bradley. He is very pinpoint with his passing and sharper than normal on his tackles–which to me said he was ready and wanted to impress. But a few other things: (1) the cameras had a great shot of him telling Beckerman what to do upon his entrance in an authoritative way (not sure that’s being asked of him at present) and (2) he made a tackle on the left side of the field that was clearly not his responsibility and of course (3) that moment of dropping deep into the backline.

      The hardest challenge that Bradley will have earning a role–and why he may not eventually get one–is he thinks to play it safe/go backwards first and he’s very slow in possession. (not even that he’s not creative–look at Edu out there right now.)

      One of my favorite quotes/analogies/vignettes in story is in this one: http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/2011/mar/11/michael-carrick-manchester-united
      And what Keane says to Rio Ferdinand.
      It’s very apropos here–it’s also the reason that Beckerman keeps getting selecting.

      Highly good read as well.


      • Posted by biff on 2011/11/14 at 2:12 PM

        Yeah, I noticed that also at the beginning of the second half against Ecuador when MB strode up to Beckerman as if he were the coach (or were still the coach’s son) and seemed to be telling Beckerman what he wanted him to do. It was weird. Beckerman showed no emotion, just stared at MB. That scene tells me that it must not have been easy at times during the past few years for those USMNT players who were not BB’s son.

        But onward. These are a couple of line-ups I wouldn’t mind seeing Tuesday:













        • Posted by Shawn on 2011/11/14 at 2:48 PM

          That’s interesting. Could sitting both Jones and Bradley be a message to try and end entitlement behavior by those that play at more prestigious clubs?

          I could definitely see that. JK mentioned that he doesn’t care where they play but THAT they play well.

          Ppl naturally tend to rank themselves… pro athletes do this alot by how they much they make. Have US players been doing that by wher ethey play?

          I can remember an article about JK, where even in his prime and playign with top players who were driving all these sport cars- he prided himself on driving a very sensible vehicle.

          Could sitting Bradley and Jones over guys i like Bekcerman and Edu… workman players over talent- be a message about what he expects from the team?…. interesting


          • Posted by Gregorio on 2011/11/14 at 8:55 PM

            I think like the others here, that the sitting & limited minutes for MB is to ease him into the expectations of his play. He reverts to form as witnessed with his coming back to collect and distribute 2 feet in front,or laterally,( or in backwards).
            He needs time to develop a muscle memory of thought, rushing him will cause him to revert to his comfort zone when stressed or pressured.
            Think of moving to England and driving on the wrong side of the road ( I live here so its wrong!) without slowly getting used to the change, most will in a crisis situation, revert to form and go into the wrong lane. ( I did one time driving in Bermuda, whew close call).
            Jones I’m not sure of, he does have an attitude (which I love) he exudes class at times, but then there is always a cringe worthy moment. He needs to be reined in to curtail the silly mental mistakes.


  7. Posted by chazcar2 on 2011/11/14 at 12:32 PM

    Given the opponent I think something like this could be fun:


    -Dropping Altidore to avoid overuse, he took quite a bit of punishment last game.
    -Beasley keeps coming inside from the wide spot, so put him tucked in. His pace in the midfield could be something nice to see (stand in for Donavon?)
    -Dempsey isn’t there to play “hold up” but instead shea and Johnson stay pressed up and Dempsey just moves to where ever he wants, maybe “false 9″ly, I can see Dempsey playing like Van Persie.
    -Bradley goes box to box and tries out his possesion skills. Maybe Jones here?
    -Morales just to see what can happen
    -MOF because if we are going to play a high line against a counter attacking team, best to have a centerback with wheels.
    -???? Pick from Edu, Beckerman, Williams, and Jones. I think that Jones and Bradley can NOT play together. I would play Edu for more speed than Beckerman. I did like some of what williams has shown, so maybe sub him in at the half.


  8. Posted by kaya on 2011/11/14 at 12:59 PM

    Why couldn’t we try Lou Diamond Phillips and Goodson at CB together again? It’s good to have a lefty at LCB, I know, but we don’t have forever and a day to try out guys that won’t be 50 come Brazil.


  9. Posted by Roger Brand on 2011/11/14 at 1:08 PM

    We need to play the 4-3-3 if we want to see an attacking style of play, and we need to leave Beckerman out, he sucks!



    • Posted by BernieBernier on 2011/11/14 at 1:52 PM

      Please try and give us something in your posts so that it benefits the forum.

      Are you worried about Dempsey cutting in all the time and the team getting too narrow?
      Why is Bradley better than Beckerman as a single DMF?
      What have you saw from Williams that makes you want to put him on the right again (I am assuming that you are putting Bradley in the middle)?


  10. Posted by Turtle Lover on 2011/11/14 at 1:09 PM



  11. Will be fascinating to see what JK does with the CMs.

    In Paris, the USMNT deployed a Barcelona-style pressing defense against a world class opponent and it (largely) worked wonders. There are still holes (including the need for a speedier cb to pair with Boca who can over those balls over the top) but they were able to largely contain a very good, very speed France side.

    The problem, as TSG rightly noted, was that the USMNT midfield was completely overrun against France…but not in the traditional way. The MF did a great job of keeping shape and even winning the ball back when out of possession, BUT they consistently gave it RIGHT back again. When Edu, Williams, or Beckerman won a ball in transition, the traffic and pressure they were presented with almost invariably led to poor touches, poor passes, and bad decisions. It’s hard to tell if that problem would have been better if the US had kept more width. Also Shea, Edu, and Williams were all slow at various points running off the ball to make themselves available for short passes to teammates under pressure.

    One question that remains is whether the starting MF (outside of Shea) have the technique to run these tactics against world class opposition. As impressed as I’ve been with Beckerman lately (he was stellar in their playoff loss to the Galaxy), he just might not be ready (or able) to handle the speed of the international game.

    Until the MF’s who win the ball back in transition have the capability to hold that ball and do something positive with it, the USMNT cannot take the next step. Since, JK apparently believes in Beckerman’s ability, he will likely trot him back out on Tuesday but the CAM (if we go back to 4-1-3-1) needs to be calmer and more attack-minded than Edu.

    Finally – I hope you’re right and JK is channeling his inner Mr. Miyagi. Wax on, Wax off USMNT. Sometime soon you’ll have to put all these skills together into a coherent and effective whole.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/11/14 at 1:21 PM

      Very fair point and well-stated: “As impressed as I’ve been with Beckerman lately (he was stellar in their playoff loss to the Galaxy), he just might not be ready (or able) to handle the speed of the international game.”


      • Posted by Excellency on 2011/11/14 at 5:57 PM

        On Beckerman:

        Klinsmann pointed out correctly that Belgium was running right up the middle on the USA (Torres, I think) until Beckerman came into the game.

        His game against France was statistically good.

        As Matt has pointed out many times, Beckerman’s positioning is good.

        Klinsi knows Beckerman has to step up his tempo to play at international level against teams like France and is gauging to what extent Beckerman is able to do so.

        I’d like to see Beckerman paired with Johnson at DM with Rooster and Bradley in front of them.


  12. Posted by BernieBernier on 2011/11/14 at 1:43 PM

    I know you can always play the waht if card but…

    How differently do we look at the team if:

    1) Dempsey’s goal against Honduras
    2) Shea’s horrible miss versus Honduras
    3) Donovan’s easy opportunity Costa Rica
    4) Edu’s goal which was called back on a seemingly bad call

    Those are 4 goals that 95% of the time are finished/stand.


    • Posted by BernieBernier on 2011/11/14 at 2:25 PM

      I meant Dempsey’s header that was called back for a questionable push.


    • Posted by Ufficio on 2011/11/14 at 3:44 PM

      It wouldn’t change much for me personally. That’s still only six goals in as many games against mediocre (on the aggregate) competition, and still a dismal number of chances created.

      But ultimately it’s only the ones that end up in the back of the net – and not the should’ves and could’ves – that count.


  13. Posted by Colin on 2011/11/14 at 1:53 PM

    There’s no evidence that Beckerman & Edu are better than Feilhaber and Bradley. Bradley starts in Série A and his goal against Slovenia was a difficult finish because he had to slide to beat the keeper to the ball but then he had to strike it with the bottom of his cleats to punch it over the keeper but keep it under the crossbar. Feilhaber was subbed in every game of the Confederations Cup and World Cup when the US was behind and then tied. Feilhaber immediately improved the passing game of the US and their offensive threat. Feilhaber & Bradley are proven players against Brazil, Italy, Spain, Holland, Argentina, England, and Mexico.


    • Posted by BernieBernier on 2011/11/14 at 2:01 PM

      Feilhaber has proven that he can jump start the offense, he has not proven that he plays enough defense to merit inclusion in a 0-0 game. I would love for him to get a shot but his defense in the past has always seemed to have the same intesity that I associate with defense in a pick up basketball game.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/11/14 at 2:12 PM


      That is a point or counterpoint for precisely what?

      There is evidence that Beckerman is capable and Edu is in the wrong role I think we can agree.

      Whether one is better than the other is subjective.

      I would say in Feilhaber’s case, his defensive game wasn’t strong which is why he never started for the US–originally (2007) he was to be the long term midfield tandem partner of Michael Bradley if you remember.

      The reason he was subbed in is because the US was already behind–they needed goals. They weren’t protecting a lead. The game that he didn’t factor in was England in the 2nd half–because the US was protecting a lead.

      The layers of Michael Bradley not in the line-up are multifaceted. Some in this post and across the web. Tim Abraham who covers Aston Villa told us at the time that Bradley struggled in possession: http://theshinguardian.com/2011/04/13/on-michael-bradley-aston-villa/
      He has no US affiliation or had no ulterior motive in saying that.
      Possession is a key attribute that Klinsmann is looking for in players.


  14. Posted by Shawn on 2011/11/14 at 2:06 PM

    Edu as a #8 is driving me nuts. He and Williams seem to be killing any offensive production and possession. I am hoping they can find a replacement soon. I tend to like bradley and want him to do well, but am more than willing to see some creativity to fill that spot. I just go nuts watching Edu play these games in that role and either lose the ball from behind, make poor decisions, mess up some nice combination play, or shoot shots widly into the stands. Three positions stand out as being big holes right now. #8, right winger, and CB. #8 and that right wing seems to be the biggest of the three. It seems even worse when I tend to think better options are there than Edu. I am hoping JK is doing some development with Bradley and trying to get more out of him. I believe that he favors him, as he started by putting him at the #10 role in his first game.

    But even if its not Bradley, some type of solution at that #8 role would help me enjoy the game immensely better and I think it would translate into better offensive production as well.


  15. Posted by John on 2011/11/14 at 2:40 PM

    BTW: March 26th 2005 Klinsmann coached Germany plays Slovenia and defeats them 1 – 0.

    This was Klinsmann’s picks that day.

    Oliver Kahn – Andreas Hinkel (73. Patrick Owomoyela), Arne Friedrich,
    Robert Huth, Thomas Hitzlsperger – Torsten “the Devil” Frings, Frank Baumann (59. Bastian
    Schweinsteiger) – Michael Ballack – Oliver Neuville (84. Tim Borowski), Miroslav
    Klose (75. Kevin Kuranyi), Lukas Podolski

    Podolski got the goal.


  16. Posted by dude on 2011/11/14 at 4:54 PM

    I would rather Bradley play than Edu in this game, although I don’t see why Edu doesn’t play the holding role, and Bradley play the more creative option. That’s who they are. Beckerman is not fast and too easily overheated by high level play. Edu is a good dmid with speed, when given the simpler task.

    Bottom line: Bradley doesn’t start, he’s in trouble.


  17. Posted by Alex on 2011/11/14 at 5:38 PM

    All I really hope for is a goal. Please. Maybe some sembalance of an offense, maybe something that resembles crosses.

    I really do hope it’s worth it I’m skipping class for this haha.


  18. Posted by Scweeb on 2011/11/14 at 6:11 PM

    Can we all agree that the bradley discussion is now like just beating a dead horse. Either pro bradley or not i don’t think adding bradley into this mix is going to magically fix things.
    sorry it just seems like every new usa thread that comes on about half of it turns into start bradley


  19. […] For TSG’s USA – Slovenia Preview, click here. […]


  20. Posted by Brian on 2011/11/14 at 10:12 PM

    Beckerman and Edu in the middle again? Ughhh…gross. Drop at least one of them, if not both.


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