The Orange Tuxedo: US Belle Of The Ball With 3-2 Win Over Slovenia

Can’t shake it.

Just can’t shake it.

The US Men’s team came under fire after Friday’s loss to France for its inability to create attacking chances and it’s failure to scintillate under new manager Jurgen Klinsmann. For a brief moment now, with a 3-2 victory on the road in Slovenia, the nervous fidgeting  that was beginning to surround the team and it’s new manager has quelled.

I just can’t shake the scene above. “Dumb and Dumber” references to the USMNT are staid, but this one just seemed to scream for inclusion.

Two, "striking"....seemed to work...

I can’t find the full clip, but if you’re a fan of the 1990’s comedy, you’ll know it. Lloyd Christmas–what a fantastic name–is getting dolled up for a fundraiser to meet a women he’s smitten with that hardly knows him. Refined, he and road trip buddy “Harry” are not, and Lloyd–Jim Carrey of course–tries on what seems like 20 different sophisticated tuxedos before he settles on the hideous one that draws the rave reviews of his moronic partner in travel.

A closet full of presentable and refined suits thrown out in favor of a gaudy one that will temporarily shock onlookers into attention, but eventually over the duration of the event, make them cringe.

Just can’t shake that orange tuxedo was the United States today and Jurgen Klinsmann the tailor that reluctantly gave in to its fitting and display.

US fans and pundits clamored for goals and attacking soccer–not un-rightfully so since it was Klinsmann who promised them that nirvana through the feet of Latino players (not one of whom was on the pitch on Tuesday oddly enough).

US fans demanded results–noted USMNT striker-turn-broadcaster Eric Wynalda–going so far as to feature in a piece in the New York Times demanding it and explaining the ethos of the USMNT.

And Klinsmann, it would appear, gave in. A 4-3-3 featuring a single striker set was cast into the back of the closet as the tried-and-true 4-4-2 of US days of yore was ironed and trotted out.

And the US scored. And scored again. And…again.

A trifecta, in the first half, against a Slovenia team that concedes less graciously than either side in the NBA lockout.

Fabian Johnson with a German waltz...

It was an explosive, if sloppy display, that saw the US score with some Charlie Hustle, pouncing on a turnover created deep in Slovenia’s end for score number one, with some good ol’lunchpail, a set piece ricocheting off Clint Dempsey’s cranium, and with panache, German-American Fabian Johnson twinkling through the Slovenia defense and being clipped in the box. Jozy Altidore would step up them and punctually bury the penalty kick.

The Slovenia defensive integrity crumbled–but in the process so did the United States cohesiveness–a beacon of hope in the otherwise dreary France match–and their stoutness as well.

Chance upon chance was manufactured or gifted to Slovenia who was no less sloppy on the day in a performance that mirrored the colloidal mist that hovered over their home turf.

The US withstood an onslaught to end the first half and a bevy of them in the second half. The display by Slovenia is one that is normally reserved for highly offensive teams–like Brazil–who have taken an opponent lightly early on and now need to dominate….rather than a team that typically goes about their business in a defensive manner hoping to catch a snoozing opponent on the counter.

When the final whistle finally and gleefully pierced the fog, there was a full set of happy faces on the US sidelines, but certainly a sense of a relief.

The United States had traipsed out on the pitch in their orange tuxedo for the night. It was gaudy, but it worked.

It got them noticed–in the movie the Harry and Lloyd are labeled as having a sense of humor with the outfit–but it will surely be out style or a sad attempt at attracting attention next time. The tailor needs to get back to work.

Our review bullets:

• Positive: Tempo, tempo, tempo

Don’t look now but the US concludes this friendly series with one massive positive. They were able to dictate tempo for large stretches of two matches.

Against France it was, of course, the US pushing up the pitch and forcing France to drop players back into pockets to link up field.

Against Slovenia Tuesday–and perhaps it merely a direct result of Edson Buddle ringing the post on the first goal–it was opening up the game to quick vertical attacks against a normally reclusive opponent.

Remember, this was a Slovenia team–yes new coach and some new personnel–that the US struggled to breakdown until they were forced to at World Cup 2010.

• Seal the back, create no chances. Add to the attack, and rear guard must go to work.

Probably the biggest takeaway here.

While much of the focus will be put on the States deploying with two strikers against Slovenia, the reality is that today’s win and style of play was based on the State’s desire to create chances at the expense of the defense.

To put it in perspective, if the US comes out with today’s line-up against the French, they’re likely found, face down, on the wrong end of a 3-1 or 4-1 scoreline.

Tuesday’s strategy and deployment worked because the speed of the opponent was at best on par with the United States. Clint Dempsey was able to dribble out of trouble against two Slovenian defenders multiple times–against Yann M’Vila on Friday he was shackled.

Fabian Johnson, a revelation finally in the right place on the field, waltzed through Slovenia right rear guard. Adil Rami and friends would have likely shut him down on Friday.

This is, of course, not to suggest that the 4-3-1-2 with two strikers didn’t help–it most certainly was the catalyst for taking initiative–putting players up the pitch, enabling interplay deep in the attacking zone.

However as the US thrust up the field, it couldn’t remain cohesive as many four attackers (Buddle, Altidore, Dempsey and Johnson) looked to speed into the 18-yard box “impact zone.”

This left Michael Bradley coming in from the “weak” right side to help out and Kyle Beckerman to defend in front of a backline that had wide chasms in their “B-gaps” to borrow a term from American football and communication challenges in keeping a high line tidy.

Slovenia's Lucy picked on the USMNT's Charlie Brown through 90 minutes...

With Chandler, especially, and Cherundolo extremely wide, Beckerman as the lone cover and Carlos Bocanegra not doing enough back four management in his 100th cap, the United States felt the wrath of the Slovenia counterattack.

Which brings up to…

• Chop down those player ratings

TSG is not a big fan of player ratings and more so on a day like Tuesday where: (a) fog impairs a view of the whole field (b) new players are in very new roles (c) the opposition is in test mode as well and (d) it’s international friendly.

Of course, Jozy Altidore was more effective with Edson Buddle to play off of. That actually creates more of a question than a positive. Can Jozy manage against even weaker sides if he is the lone striker.

Of course, Clarence Goodson and Carlos Bocanegra looked shaky in pairing. First there was the impaired visibility on the over-the-top balls, but also there was very little pressure up the pitch on the service.

Kyle Beckerman didn’t have his best game in a US uniform, but he was far from bad. After discussion with many soccer analysts yesterday after the match, the general consensus was, “That’s a lot of sh*t for Beckerman to clean-up back there. No wonder Bob Bradley used two central defensive midfielders when the States went 4-4-2.” And, of course, Beckerman had just sprinted around after roosters in Paris and was facing a sneaky physically strong side for the first time east of the Italian boot.

As his dad would say, Michael Bradley needed to "be sharper"...and he was...

And of course, on Michael Bradley.

Bradley, as we mentioned on Twitter yesterday, completed 77% of his passes. In the Gold Cup, he committed 90% of his passes to lead the USMNT. Today was his better day. Bradley followed the game plan from Klinsmann which is make positive passes, not neutral or negative. And get this, review that first goal by Slovenia. It was a Bradley turnover pass up the field that led to the quick counter and score and you know what? It was the right play; the play Klinsmann is looking for–it just didn’t get executed but Bradley tried it. Fascinating.

He was absolutely prescient on set pieces–probably the most under-hyped headline coming out of yesterday.

Yes he was still challenged to maintain position on defense–and his offball movement continually looked more “safe” than “adventurous.”

However for a player that for so long bore the burden of US success and was conditioned to make the safe, protective play, it was a solid game back in the starting line-up.

The Walkaway

With Klinsmann’s tactical tradeoff and the contrast of the first and second half Tuesday, there is a lot of work to be done. Dictating tempo was a huge positive against both France and Slovenia, but the conundrum of how to solve the offense without sacrificing the defense and vice versa should be the lead challenge headed into 2011. On Tuesday, the orange tuxedo did the job–and it’ll probably get a few run-outs in 2012. But by 2014, the USMNT better look a lot more dapper.

A number of smartly-dressed playboys await.

72 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by hoover dam on 2011/11/16 at 10:36 AM

    Hey, wanna hear the most annoying sound in the world?


    • Posted by chazcar2 on 2011/11/16 at 10:54 AM

      4-4-2 to the rescue!! OH MY GOD two strikers!!!! AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

      Head…. Hand… Slap… Sadness…


    • Posted by vik on 2011/11/16 at 11:31 AM

      I just felt bad for Ian Darke. He would set up an interesting tangent with such panache, and Harkes would completely ignore/miss it. It also feels like Harkes has gotten a little lazier in his pre-match prep. I really wouldn’t mind another non-player in the booth; I feel like many former players do not understand how to communicate their insight at the speed and with the coherence play-by-play commentary requires.
      Also, how could no one in the booth or studio know that Williams had played spot duty at left back for Freiburg on multiple occasions? I know I follow the team closely, but these people are being paid to stay informed.


      • Posted by dude on 2011/11/16 at 11:58 AM

        It’s infuriating especially given the analysis being put forth by Twellman, or Eric Wynalda on Fox Soccer. John Harkes isn’t nearly as good.


        • Posted by Shawn on 2011/11/16 at 12:36 PM

          Although Twellman always seems a bit angry. I’ve always liked Phil Schoen from GolTV, but I bet ESPN doesn’t think his appearance can cut it for them.


          • Posted by dude on 2011/11/16 at 12:44 PM

            I would, too, if I had head aches every day and a great career slashed by concussion.


            • Posted by Shawn on 2011/11/16 at 1:21 PM

              good point. and having the league deny his move to Preston North End.

        • Posted by vik on 2011/11/18 at 8:34 PM

          I like Wynalda a lot; but when he gets emotional, he has the tendency to lose it. Like when the US was playing a really poor game during the 2006 world cup, he just couldn’t bring himself to say anything other than “this is a disgrace” through clenched teeth. It was not really professional enough from him. That said, when he’s calm and collected, he provides some very good insight and heartfelt points to the table.


  2. Posted by Union on 2011/11/16 at 11:05 AM

    Figured it would be worth posting this here:

    Check out the clips of the U-23 team on US Soccer. Boyd looks tremendous, and says all the right things in interviews. I find it hard to believe that he won’t be on the Olympic squad (arguably, one of the better Olympic squads the US has put together in awhile).

    Also, great to see Jurgen landing Americans at German clubs. As someone who stupidly claimed to jump off of the Jurgen bandwagon after the France game, I come back with my tail between my legs. Even if his lineup decisions are questionable, this kind of stuff is what you pay him for.


    • Posted by Martin on 2011/11/16 at 7:03 PM

      You can thank Thomas Rongen for the Americans at German clubs thing, though most of you probably won’t.


  3. Posted by CarolinaKeeper on 2011/11/16 at 11:10 AM

    Agree with most of this. But perhaps rather than “reluctantly gave in,” do you think Klinsmann was simply trotting out the formation we’ll see him employ in most of qualifying? Yes, we ultimately need to perfect a formation that we can use to beat teams that are better than us, if we’re going to move beyond the levels that Arena and Bradley have already taken us to. But I hope Klinsy also plans to dictate like this against weaker teams, too.

    It felt like the team lost composure with a 3-1 lead against a European squad – it’s been so long, they seemingly didn’t know how to react. Of course, same thing happened against Mexico in the Gold Cup. Difference between the two (beyond quality of opponent) was that Bradley kept the pedal down in search of goal 4. Yesterday seemed more like hanging on for dear life.

    But given the scenario – new coach, with new expectations, trying out new players unused to one another, in a winter fog in Europe – can’t say that’s really too surprising. “Let’s get this win and get outta here for the holidays!”

    P.S. No comment on the irony of the scoreline? Wonder if Coulibaly watched …


  4. Summed up my thoughts precisely!

    The kind of heat that Kyle is receiving is in a similar vein to the heat that Jonathan Bornstein took, and it is totally misguided.

    Bornstein’s trouble was that he was simply not good enough to be playing at the international level. Beckerman’s trouble is that he is largely a single holding midfielder experiment for a team who’s defense has been a question mark for quite some time.

    I’m not saying the Beckerman is the best player on the team – he isn’t. But, his performance is more effected by the total team’s performance than anyone outside of Tim Howard.


    • Posted by jesran on 2011/11/16 at 12:31 PM

      Nah, bad excuse. Beckerman still sucked against France right next to other holding mid-fielder Edu. The main issue is that he is a key part of US attempts to enter the world-wide possession-based soccer zeitgeist. He does a wonderful job of gaining possession, but a miserable job of retaining it. Even his few passes that are not complete give-aways are ill conceived 50-50 lobs or semi-hospital balls into pressure as opposed to open space. In watching him it is clear that his field vision sucks or the good old American boot-and-chase from his childhood is too ingrained in him to adjust. Either way he is a liability to the 2011 US Soccer Curriculum that clearly states that the style of play an offensive style of play based on keeping possession and quick
      movement of the ball. “Quick” I will give him, but possession is lost too much from his touch. Get him out.


      • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/11/16 at 12:45 PM

        Respectfully, Prove it Jesran.
        Prove the Beckerman sucked. First, when you win a challenge, most players look to dump the ball back. That’s not what JK has given instruction to do. Second, look at the “options” in front of him esp. against France. Not many.
        Did you watch the Gold Cup Final, because I saw two US CMs get overrun by 30-year-old CMs from the other team. They didn’t even gain possession.

        You may be right, but your argument above has convinced me.


        • Posted by jesran on 2011/11/16 at 9:18 PM

          Against France we had two holding mid-fielders and they both performed poorly from an offensive, possession perspective, in my opinion.

          Beckerman did play better than Edu overall, but mostly because of his defense, but I am not criticizing USMNT defense. 1 goal versus France is not bad defense.

          The zero goals that USMNT scored and the struggle with JK implementing a new plan was in large part due to squandered possession by Beckerman at an average of once every 4-5 minutes. That is too much to get comfortable with possession based offense with him on the field.

          Beckerman squanders possession:
          1. 6:40
          2. 9:13
          3. 15:20
          4. 20:02
          5. 25:50
          6. 30:54
          7. 38:29
          8. 42:02
          9. 44:19
          10. 46:16
          11. 50:04
          12. 57:07
          13. 61:19
          14. 65:00

          Then he was taken out at 65:05. Thank God!

          Slovenia was similar as is any international game he is in. A boy amongst men unable to perform basic technical skills with his feet like making a decent decision/pass with the ball. Sorry…


    • Posted by Shawn on 2011/11/16 at 12:52 PM

      I too think Beckerman is currently the best man for the job to sit right in front of the Defense. You can trust that he won’t try to join the offense, but will stay back. I could be wrong, but one thing that I don’t remember seeing is many goals from outside the box on us when Beckerman is there. Before him, it seemed like a lot of open shots were available to our opponent. Am I correct?


      • Posted by scweeb on 2011/11/16 at 2:55 PM

        K so my source on this is from a fellow coworker who know the guys from real salt lake very well. But according to him the biggest reason Kyle is in the place he is in during the games is because he does exactly what JK asks of him.
        Cause if you look at how he is playing for JK you can note that its not the same when he plays for RSL. Like JK has been saying all along he isn’t looking for the best players he is looking for the players that fits the spots he sees. So if Kyle is playing all these minutes its not cause he is the best its cause he does exactly what JK asks of him to do in that spot.


  5. Posted by Jared on 2011/11/16 at 11:20 AM

    True the US had 2 strikers which clearly made a difference but it wasn’t a 4-4-2 so it was still different than Bunker Bob’s style. I’d say it was more a 4-1-2-1-2 or so (used to be my favorite formation back when I played FIFA) with Beckerman as the one in front of the defense then Johnson/Bradley then Dempsey. I hated that so many of the pundits just seemed to see 2 strikers and think the US had reverted back to its old style.

    I was slightly concerned by the fact that Buddle and Jozy didn’t seem to have much interplay between the two of them.

    Buddle needs to pay attention to the defensive line. There were several times where he was a good 2 yards offside for no reason. He wasn’t making a particular run where they caught him out but he was just a couple yards ahead.

    If we’re going to go back to playing with 2 strikers against weaker opposition then Klinsmann had better call in Herc. I’d rather see him up top with Jozy than Buddle and Jozy.


    • Yeah, this was not a standard 4-4-2.

      First of all, it was very fluid in attack from that 4-1-2-1-2 mold. Dempsey had a free role, coming deep or playing behind the strikers. Johnson had the freedom to get forward and join Dempsey or to make it a front three. Altidore could drop wider/deeper, as he does even when he’s the lone striker. Bradley could get forward and drift out wide. The only non-moving parts were Beckerman holding and the center backs.

      Before we get hung up on the system, I think Klinsmann actually put one over on us here. Behind the front 2, I thought this was exactly the same system – Klinsmann simply replaced his left winger with a striker. The 4-1-2-1- was exactly the same as in the 4-3-3 we’d been playing, with a couple key changes in personnel that meant we were much more fluid.

      Attacking fluidity = chance creation. Klinsmann said “we’re playing a 4-4-2” and we played effectively the same system with far more success. I think the problem with the 4-3-3 is that the US players aren’t as comfortable in it to be fluid in their movement/interchange within the system yet. That will come with time and experience. For now, he simply let them think they were playing a 4-4-2.


      • Posted by Jared on 2011/11/16 at 12:32 PM

        If that’s what Klinsmann did and that was his plan to call it a 4-4-2 but only have it kind of be a 4-4-2 then he’s a genius. It shuts up the people calling for the 2 strikers without going back to the 4-4-2 that most people are used to seeing the US play.


      • I get what you’re saying, and it’s not the first time I’ve thought about this. The manager has what he want’s to play, but he has to get other players to play the role that he has in mind. One person’s attacking midfield could be another’s striker. One person’s pinched in right midfielder might be another’s RCM. It’s all about perception.


  6. Posted by Justin on 2011/11/16 at 11:27 AM

    Great piece.

    There has to be some happy medium between 2 up top or 5 in the midfield. I can’t see us winning on a consistent basis against teams like france without 5 in the midfield. But I loved how we were able to score with 2 up top yesterday.
    However with bradley tucking in, it almost looked like a 4-2-3-1 with a huge shift to the left on fabian’s side. That always left a huge gap on the right side for Dolo to slide into. Unfortunately he was not able to send in testing crosses on a consistent basis

    The most important thing was the amount of people we had in the box. This was one of the first games under klinsmann where I saw more than 2 people running into the box. That was great to see.


  7. Posted by dude on 2011/11/16 at 12:02 PM

    I’m not sure if this proves the formation is a failure, but certainly will be if we don’t find defenders with good positioning And recovery speed. After watching Goodson struggle outside the bunker, I understand better why Orozco is being tried.

    Unfortunately, none of our more established crop works with the high line idea. Maybe players like Geoff Cameron will step up.


  8. Posted by Patrick on 2011/11/16 at 12:03 PM

    In a nutshell, KJ finally matched the talent/resources available to him with a strategy to win – thats what leaders do. Maybe USMNT style of soccer just is what we saw yesterday and for the past decade, only they need to do it much better to succeed, instead of changing styles to be more like other countries?


  9. Everyone’s wrong. Beckerman was actually quite good yesterday. Lots of forward passes on his chalkboard. Much better than against France, with some movement in front of him. He just doesn’t have the ability to cover ground like the players around him. That’s fine, he needs them to do some of that work for him. We do not want a holding midfielder running around trying to tackle, we want him taking away passing lanes and intercepting, which he did well. Everyone thinks he’s rubbish because of the second goal which exposed his lack of speed. But he did the right thing, took away the more dangerous option by forcing Matavž wide.

    Finally, I got to see Mikey in the role in the team he’s most suited for. He provided the link between defense and attack that was sorely missing against France. When he drifts into wide areas from the shuttling role in a midfield three, that’s fine. When he does the same thing as part of a defensive midfield pairing – problems. He still had the typical Mikey-moment where he went tearing up the pitch to pressure, and kept on jogging casually up the pitch after he was beaten. It was Bradley’s inclusion, as much as anything else, that made the defensive shape a lot less solid.

    Still, all told, a good return to the fold and a strong argument for his continued inclusion. Elsewhere, someone handing out player ratings commented that he needs to learn the limits of his role, but I think coming out from under Bob’s wing will finally be the making of him as a player.

    If you compare the passing stats, (12 of 18) Fabian Johnson’s performance wouldn’t seem to be superior to Shea’s as a sub (7 of 10). But we don’t have any numbers to encapsulate and compare their movement – Johnson was absolutely the key to the US threat in the first half. Look at Johnson’s passing chart – he’s playing everywhere. Look at Shea’s – he’s in one spot, wide left. Johnson got great attacking areas where he played alongside Dempsey, both functioning as interiores behind Buddle and Altidore. He joined the forward line at times, with the US attacking in a 4-1-2-3 shape, with fullbacks advancing. His movement also contributed somewhat to a lack of defensive solidity, but when he needed to stay back, he usually did.

    Buddle and Altidore had good performances, but still there’s the same worrying lack of interplay between them that has been apparent in Buddle’s sub appearances. Still, only 10 unsuccessful passes between them meant neither was trying to do too much.

    And finally – Clarence Goodson chasing back towards his own goal is somewhat terrifying. Not sure that his competence in the air made up for his lack of pace. Both he and Bocanegra had trouble dealing with the knock-downs and flick-ons that created a number of scoring chances for Slovenia. But it was Chandler that had the most trouble holding the line – not his most assured performance at left back.

    Now, can Jurgen put together the defensive solidity and the chance creation?


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/11/16 at 12:16 PM

      On Beckerman, I think he was good, but it wasn’t his best game– if only because he did have a follies (handballs, second goal), but the one worrisome thing is the in a number of 1 vs 1 tackles he came out on the wrong end.
      My guess is he wasn’t use to the strength of the Slovenian side–as Jose Torres found out last year. But just something to look for.


      • Posted by dude on 2011/11/16 at 12:47 PM

        Question for the writers: Would Holden work in the role Beckerman’s holding? He’s a smart tackler, but he reads the game very well, gets in the way, and his passing, we all know, is vastly superior.


        • Posted by Jared on 2011/11/16 at 12:54 PM

          I think a healthy Holden would be ideal for that position based on the way he was playing with Bolton last year. He was the leading tackler in the Prem at one point last year and is certainly a better player than Beckerman. We’ll see what his game and speed looks like after so long out with knee injuries.


        • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/11/16 at 1:05 PM

          If you see how Klinsmann is using KB — to funnel, contain and direct even more than stick, then yes I can see him in that role.

          The concern–in a year or so from now–will be Holden’s durability. It’s such a critical position–if you’re going to play one player in it–that they can’t be inconsistent with their availability through injury.

          I think it’s best to write-off Stu Holden until 2013 at this point.

          He’s off the depth chart for now and this is a mammoth knee surgery–not great for a professional athlete to have.


          • Holden is very active, does a lot of running and wants to join the attack. Yes, he offers better passing but I think JK’s idea of the position is very much, stay put, protect the passing lanes into the forwards and close down space in front of the center backs. I’m not sure if he has the skill-set to do that in the same way that Beckerman does.


            • Posted by scweeb on 2011/11/16 at 3:03 PM

              Tuesday thank you for writing that first part for Kyle. I was getting so frustrated watching the game and reading the live commentary on Kyle cause no one was seeing him in the role that he was playing. His job was exactly what you stated don’t make any crazy tackles and cut of the passing lanes and force them out wide and into traffic.
              So for all those people who thought Kyle did horrible i ask you to watch the game again and look and were he possessions him self to take away the threatening passing lane and make them play out wide

          • Posted by Union on 2011/11/16 at 3:08 PM

            What was the word on his follow up surgery? Wasn’t it to correct cartilidge damage or something?


            • Posted by Mike on 2011/11/16 at 4:38 PM

              I believe the original surgery require pins to inserted somewhere in the knee. After returning to full speed and playing a several matches, there were issues/swelling. Exploratory found that the screws had “come lose/shifted/moved” causing cartilage damage resulting in 2nd surgery and another 6 months out….but dont quote me.

      • Posted by Excellency on 2011/11/16 at 7:54 PM

        As you have said before, Beckerman’s strength is positioning – i.e., understanding that the opponent will be forced to go to a certain spot, because of the players in front of him, and arriving there to welcome him. The formation against Slovenia took him out of that role and put him into the open field which is not his forte.


    • Posted by GeorgeCross [@BhasViswanathan] on 2011/11/16 at 7:41 PM

      I’d say tackling is a very important attribute for a holding / defensive midfielder – that and positioning. By playing a diamond, the defence will generally have more protection in the middle than with a flat 4-4-2. But you need your DM to be disciplined. The strategic question then becomes ‘how narrow’ should the diamond be, i.e. how much onus do we put of the fullbacks to get forward and provide the width?

      Beckerman didn’t “force Matavž wide”, far fromit- Matavž went on his favoured right foot to get his shot off…


  10. Posted by Paul on 2011/11/16 at 12:21 PM

    ” It was a Bradley turnover up the field that led to the quick counter and score and you know what? ”

    Sorry, not seeing it. Buddle collects the ball, has time to turn, and runs right into two Slovenians. I don’t see how that’s Bradley’s turnover.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/11/16 at 12:25 PM

      Will re-phrase turnover. It’s what Klinsmann wants him to do, but I assume you play soccer, “Would you pass it up the gut from the defense with two players converging on a player with his back to them?” Maybe with one and room to turn, no?


      • Posted by mathmatics on 2011/11/16 at 2:47 PM

        That exact pass is essential for attacking through possession. As you pointed out, it causes the defense to double team.

        Buddle’s job is to lay it off to any of his attacking options in support who can then find the third runner exploiting space the double team has left vacant.

        Beckerman has to trust that a target player will feel that pressure and not turn into a tackle.

        Note: this from an avowed Beckerman critic.


        • Posted by mathmatics on 2011/11/16 at 2:50 PM

          *Apparently the pass was from Bradley. My point remains. And I remain a Beckerman critic (of the “he’s not embarrassing himself, but surely somebody could do the same job but better” variety).


          • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/11/16 at 3:10 PM

            Two different beasts in your comment.

            On Beckerman, agree to disagree and a piece coming by John Nyen later today.

            On Bradley, it’s the right pass. These games are for trying. The US was in a hard-spot either way. If this is a real game, may Bradley launches it up the pitch, maybe he doesn’t.

            I will add though. Any pass is about seeing ahead. Maybe you put the pass on Buddle’s right outside foot because everyone know he likes to control that way in his hold-up play.

            Maybe you give it to him at his noggin so flicks on and maybe someone can run on.



            • Posted by Paul on 2011/11/16 at 10:25 PM

              I can kind of see your point regarding Bradley’s decision making. Certainly one of the US’s problems has long been the ability to see the play 3 or 4 moves down the line. But just from watching the clip a few times, I think Buddle has enough time to make a better decision than to try and sneak through two defenders.

      • Posted by Martin on 2011/11/17 at 7:36 PM

        “Would you pass it up the gut from the defense with two players converging on a player with his back to them?” Maybe with one and room to turn, no?”

        It depends on who my guy is, who the two defenders were, where my other guys were in realtion to the one I was thinking about passing to, what the score was and where exactly on the field my guy was.

        The short answer is,if everything looked good, sure why not?


  11. Posted by chazcar2 on 2011/11/16 at 12:46 PM

    This game really makes me wish I Jurgen hadn’t switched formations. I think sliding Bradley into the Williams role and Johnson into shea’s would have given you the same result. It was thier performance that opened up the offense and weakened our defense. Also this formation was not a 4-4-2. Two strikers yes, plus a third forward with three midfielders. To me it played like a 4-3-3, just narrow, not wide. We had been playing a 4-3-3/4-5-1, this was 4-3-3/4-4-2.

    It will be interesting what happens from here. I think with shea you have to play with wide midfielders/wingers. With Johnson and bradley I see something narrow. I would like to see the below:


    CDM – I thought Beckerman played acceptably. I like his inclusion and the focus on getting him to play at his best. He offers that skill of forward looking passes and solid positioning in front of the back line with a desire to push far forward. I don’t feel that Edu, Bradley or Jones offers that. I do think Beckerman is a stopgap/backup to a return of Holden or a future of williams. But honestly given when qualifying starts and international soccer in general I think having a solid, proven and acceptable player there is smart.

    RFB- Its Dolo for now, but we need to find the future. Whoever comes through the system is fine. Lichaj, Chandler, Morales, Etc. But we need someone with pace and solid defensive skills.

    Lastly, as a comment on Klinnsman’s roster selections. I like what he has done by having squad players in the 22 or 23 he selects, especially for these friendlys. By having a few guys at every camp he can get people into the system better. Say the 5-7 guys he has no intention of playing but are worthwhile in practice. Bring them to every camp (including cupcake) and now you can build some continuity at every camp. Imagine how much faster drills go when you can start with by just calling the name and having 5 guys start doing it. Everyone else looks at them and then copies them. I can see using camp time effectively as the most important thing for these short international dates.

    So don’t be suprised if at cupcake you see goodson, beckerman, larenowtiz, rogers, etc. helping so the ropes to the new guys.


  12. Posted by matthewsf on 2011/11/16 at 1:22 PM

    I don’t think so.

    A key to remember is if you have two strikers up the pitch you still have to a) get them the ball/involve them in the offense and b) defend with at least one less person. The States actually defended many time yesterday–because they didn’t move as one–as 5 on 6 with Beckerman and the back four against Slovenia’s front 6.

    The challenge will be when the US goes up against teams like Spain, Brazil, Argentina. “Two out-and-out strikers” will be hard to employ.

    But think about this. What teams *would* yesterday’s line-up have worked well against? How about growing power Panama that was the US’s toughest task, save Mexico, at the Gold Cup. Or Paraguay.

    It took a monumental play just to gain a chance against…PANAMA at the Gold Cup. It had to be a moment of sheer unexpected brilliance from Freddy Adu followed by Landon Donovan in near full-stride slotting a ball through a defender’s legs–for one goal.

    The US lost on it’s home soil to Paraguay–an excellent South American defensive team because they couldn’t create chances until late in the game.

    The US showed yesterday–one observation mind you–that they can create a bucket of chances by dictating play, opening up the game against a team in a 4-4-2 with a sit back mindset.

    They need to do it again, but if they play Panama or Paraguay again (and maybe even Italy in February depending on their deployment) it will be interesting to see if JK employs the same tactics.


    • And let’s not forget how much scoring a goal ten minutes in forced Slovenia to open up.


      • Very true. You go into this game expecting Slovenia to be sitting way back on defense, and the early goal against them instead had them pushing way further up the pitch.


    • Posted by Excellency on 2011/11/16 at 8:07 PM

      I think the idea in Klinsmann’s head was to force play from the top of the box offensively.


      The two people “missing” are Shea and Donovan, both MLS players who go wide.

      The 5 who attacked all play in Europe.

      buddle and jozy rarely go wide.

      Dempsey was told to play behind these non wide players

      Fabian says he likes playing inside.

      Bradley rarely moves up the wing.

      Ofc, Fabian and Bradley were lined up wide because they have to cover wide defensively and the middle, defensively, at mid was KB.

      I think Klinsi was “forcing the issue” at the top of the box and I’m glad he finally did.

      We needed that.

      b.t.w., consider that we could start this formation and sub out Buddle and Jozy and put Donovan + 1 middie into the game at any time. Klinsi is a fitness nut and wanted to push Jozy and Buddle from that aspect, I’d guess.

      have no idea if FJ can play defence since he was hidden by the fog. What were your impressions, if any, of his capabilities defensively?


      • Chandler went flying up the left side quite often, and the reason he didn’t get caught out on a break is because whenever the ball was turned over, FJ was flying back to cover for him. He’s not the strongest tackler in the world, but he did a very good job of cutting off counters and letting Chandler get back behind him.


        • Posted by Excellency on 2011/11/17 at 6:32 PM

          it would be interesting to see a heat map of Shea v. France next to the heat map of FJ v Slovenia

          I have a hard time getting to MLS’s heat map


  13. Posted by kaya on 2011/11/16 at 1:25 PM

    I am not a fan of this style of humor, and so I’ve never watched Dumb and Dumber, but I think I get the analogy.
    I totally got the feeling Klinsi was caving on this one, and that our relatively cohesive shape suffered a lot as a consequence. This is why I was particularly annoyed by Twellman pounding on the goals issue during the pre-game and halftime analysis. The lack of patience translates to the style of play on the field as well as an inability to deal with unflattering score lines in order to make changes for the better.
    I know there are a lot of fans that agree with Twellman, but then I think Bob Bradley and his ilk are more what you want in a coach.
    In any case, it’s not like there’s nothing the take away from the game, and the fog detracted greatly from matchup, anyhow.


  14. Posted by Wook # 6 on 2011/11/16 at 1:37 PM

    Great article.

    There seems to be an emphasis on attacking up the left side. Brek & Johnson tended to push up the wing, while Bradley & Williams moved centrally, which also put them in a position to provide defensive cover. The JK chalkboard formation photo suggested it was Williams’ assignment (for that game at least). What is the rationale for this?

    My thought is it’s a personnel issue and Donovan’s absence left us without attacking options on the right. It could also be that our players on the receiving end are right-footed, and finishing crosses sent in from the left is more natural for them. Should we expect more attacks up the right wing with Landon in the lineup? Is Dolo supposed to be pushing up & getting involved more?

    Is it accurate to say the right mid has been instructed to pinch in & drop back defensively, or is this the duty of the weak-side midfielder, who more often than not has been the RM?


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/11/16 at 1:47 PM

      I agree — I didn’t mention in the article, but there was a concerted effort to move the ball to the left during the game. Not just attack from there, but to swing it there early.

      It’s a great pick-up by you and it’s an odd choice given the strength currently of Tim Chandler at the LB position–but maybe that’s what Klinsmann wanted to test.

      I think the most basic conclusion that you can draw from this is that the US will attack with at least one player wide (Shea or Johnson) to create space in the middle of the pitch. Whereas Bob Bradley would allowed Dempsey and Donovan to find the game in a 4-2-2-2 (L & C being the middle band), Klinsmann is actually creating same effect from a player who comes out of the midfield.

      Whether that player is on the left or right may be undetermined at this point or determined by the opponent.


  15. Posted by Antonio H. on 2011/11/16 at 1:50 PM

    I wouldnt say Johnson “twinkled into the box” for the penalty kick. I thought he displayed some relatively high soccer IQ by just sitting in the space between Brechko and another Slovenian, Tim saw him after he pointed to jis feet forca square pass and bam he was in behind. As I was watching the play develop at first thought I figured Johnson would fade all the way out wide ro give Chandler some wasy options. Very nice work.


  16. Posted by Izzy on 2011/11/16 at 4:11 PM

    Okay, so, I’ve got a comment to make not so much on the game but on TSG in general. You guys clearly know your tactics, but I feel like when I’m reading the piece, I have to interpret waaaay too much. I really like Zonal Marking because they just give you a straight tactical analysis, but here, it’s kind of like I’m back in English class again, y’know? That can make the piece difficult to read.

    That said, I could just be stupid. Either way, I feel like maybe the analysis could be slightly more straight-forward. I feel bad saying that though because you guys have a unique writing style and it’s not my place to say “FORGET THAT”. Plus, you guys are the most tactically apt of any site that does analysis of the U.S., which is a personal downside of ZM, a site that rarely covers the Yanks.

    You guys are great!


    • Posted by John on 2011/11/16 at 4:51 PM

      TSG has done positional analysis using heatmaps and pictures before. It just depends on what is being described. Stick around and you will see many different ways to describe action.

      I can’t wait until we finally do that USA Men’s Team analysis and compare them to the mustaches of 1980’s/70’s celebrities.

      “Carlos Bocanegra is like Vincent Price’s mustache because he is a bit reedy but can still fill the gap between the mid-head and the goal mouth.”

      “Jozy Altidore is like Rollie Fingers mustache, it works but it tends to roll up and out when it needs to work in the middle”

      “Tim Howard is like Tom Sellecks mustache, it is classic, it fills the spot and it never lets you down”

      “Michael Orzco-Fiscal is like John Waters mustache because he seems to get stretched a bit thin and you aren’t always sure what it is that you are looking at.”


      • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/11/16 at 6:59 PM

        Here’s a serious one for you that we had one observation on Tuesday.

        Herc Gomez’s shot at the national team is probably no better today than it was before the US deployed with two strikers on Tuesday.


        Because Jozy was more off-ball than Buddle. If you can’t rely on Jozy for the hold-up play (it’s not going to be Herc.) then you can’t play a non-target guys with him.

        Certainly more observations needed–because Jozy partnered well with Charlie Davies, but that was with a lot more ball carriage from Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan.


        • Posted by Martin on 2011/11/18 at 6:46 PM

          Maybe Jozy was “more off-ball” because Buddle is a more classic hold up player.

          What makes you say Herculez is a “non-target guy”?

          From what I’ve seen Gomez is more of an all around player than people give him credit for. His off the ball movement is good and so are his basic skills. He was a midfielder for a long time. Herculez is a pretty well rounded player.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/11/16 at 5:53 PM

      No worries Izzy. I wrote today’s piece in about an hour so it’s a little disjointed — not my best work. But suggestion and feedback noted.


      • Posted by Izzy on 2011/11/16 at 6:45 PM

        Yeah, but I think you’re as good a tactical analyzer as there is out there right now. Up there with Zonal Marking for sure.


        • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/11/16 at 6:57 PM

          It’s fun. We should get a speed chess league going here. A lot of the same stuff. :>

          And thanks.


    • Posted by BernieBernier on 2011/11/17 at 12:24 PM

      Honestly I would just stick around for a while… read articles and ask questions. I have learned a ton tactically here and many people have been very helpful in the comment section to educate me. I try to pay that forward but not sure I am on the level of some others here.


  17. Posted by arisrules on 2011/11/16 at 5:39 PM

    I have to admit, I was surprised, no shocked, that by not having three pure d-mids in the midfield, our backline was shit. Did anybody else have that reaction? I thought Klinsmann had discovered the magic elixir that cured ALL of our issues in the backline.

    The question, which I posed last time, and still stands, is how would inserting Torres (for MB I assume, not in the same spot, but on the field, going by JK’s preferences) and Donovan into the starting lineup would not result in a similar slaughter of the backline?

    Yet this game basically highlights the ultimate frustration of coaching the US; we have a supremely flawed pool of players. Today exposed Beckerman who just is not good enough to play alone in the d-mid spot (but we already knew this heading into the game), without having dedicated support in the midfield (preferably two other players). The difficulty in the end is how do you balance the need for some offensive punch with a creaky backline? My more immediate question though is that Beckerman is pretty old with lots of limitations: why hasn’t Klinsman tried other players in that position? Why no Wiliams there? Why no Edu? Why not even try MB, who has been playing with more discipline?

    Also MB should start. Best service on set pieces on this team by a pretty wide margin at this point. He’s our best central midfielder by a wide margin.


  18. Posted by Just my .02 on 2011/11/16 at 6:50 PM

    Great article as usual! KB is getting waaaaaayyyy to much flack for his play, so undeserved. As was mentioned before he’s doing exactly what Klinsy’s asking of him and getting little to no help from the back 4. He’s a solid option, and I’m glad he’s getting the call ups.

    Now onto Stu Holden, let me preface this with… Im a big fan of Stu, and think he’s a great player. To use him in the KB role I think would be a waste of his talent. Now personally, I’m not so sure of his future with the USMNT. This might upset people but truth is, he’s a liability because he’s way too injury prone. Yes, injurys can happen to anyone at any given time, but look at his track record… not good. I think he’s going to have to go completely injury free for at least a full season before he’ll be seriously a part of Klinsy’s plans. And let’s be honest here playing in as psysical of a league like the EPL, the odds are stacked against him. (I think he’s wasting his time with Bolton anyway, but that’s a topic for a different discussion)

    Now another thing that bothers me(and I may just get burned at the stake for saying this)is the whole discussion about LD and how having him an Dempsey would make a difference in the attack(Before people label me as a Donovan hater, he’s one of my all time favorite players to ever don the US jersey). Well yes it would IF LD played like the LD we need him to play like. But let’s be honest here, when was the last time Donovan played the way we need him too? Aside from a few moments here and there, he is just disappearing way to much for me to believe he’s going to make a big difference.

    Just my .02


  19. Posted by Berniebernier on 2011/11/18 at 5:59 AM

    I have a crazy thought. Could the US play two different formations regularly or is there just not enough camp time to be successful?

    My thought is that why not play a 4-4-2 diamond when we play weaker teamsnwe should be takingbthe game to and then a 4-5-1 (4-3-3) against top side team and hope to squeak something out. ManU seems to do something like this going 4-5-1 in CL and 4-4-2 against weaker EPL teams.


    • Posted by Martin on 2011/11/18 at 6:25 AM

      Well, the US just did that. More midfield flooding for France, a little more open for Slovenia.

      And it is fairly common for teams to do that. The only question is does JK have the players who can make it work. Camp and practice time is one thing: having the players who can actually make it happen is another.

      If he were managing Germany or Holland right now I’d say yes.
      With this group that has yet to be determined


      • Posted by BernieBernier on 2011/11/18 at 9:28 AM

        I was origionally thinking that we would see a 4-4-2 diamond going forward.

        The players are the players so, we just have to find the best tactics for the group we have. I really liked the 4-3-3 defensively but obviously not creating chances is a problematic thing (although I was excusing it as not having Torres and Landon).

        I actually think we played a little better against France then we did against Slovenia despite the different results. That said, we don’t need the conservative 4-3-3 to beat Antigua in WCQ


        • Posted by Jared on 2011/11/18 at 11:07 AM

          I think we’ll continue to see those two formations going forward depending on opposition.

          After MB90’s positive passing performance the other day, I would like to see him in the role that Edu was playing in the 4-3-3. If we have someone who has more offensive ability like an MB90 then maybe that formation works a little better.


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