Brazil 4, USA 1: The Bird’s Eye Review & Midfield View

Yes, yes we were watching.

This review by Darius Tahir, frequent TSG contributor and now noted photogenic nosebleed level master

It’s appropriate the scorelines of the past two games were just nearly opposite—if Scotland is the high for Jurgen Klinsmann, then we certainly hope Brazil is the low for Klinsmann.

Obviously nothing is guaranteed either way, but this feels like reasonable bookends for defining the performance of the team and setting expectations for the future. As such I think we have a pretty good handle on the future direction of the team, at least in the near-term future.

The revealed preference of Klinsmann appears to center around three box-to-box type midfielders who can bully opposing midfields and defenders into submission, win the ball up the field, and distribute or create as necessary.

That may be why Klinsmann wished for more “nasty” from his team—the team that scythed down a player (Jones), got in fights and generally sent Brazilian players to the deck at a fairly regular occurrence.

Klinsmann wants the US to go Beastie Boys….”Hello Nasty!”

It was not obvious–from a bird’s eye view–that the team lacked nasty. It lacked the same voracious pressing as against Scotland, though. This ferocious pressing might resemble, say, Sporting KC at their best or Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea teams—proactivity through bullying. The problem with bullying is that eventually you meet someone your own size or bigger; Brazil is that. Then you need some ability. This is where the midfield comes into play.

Michael Bradley is the perfect avatar for Klinsmann’s direction—he can do so much: he has energy and bite, but can pass the ball around and create a little bit too. He’s an all-arounder. Jermaine Jones is a step down, but probably acceptable at this point in time. At his age—30—it might not necessarily be a surprise if his performance rapidly erodes, but he’s good enough for Klinsmann to pencil into the first eleven–aside from the temper issues.

Edu vs. Hulk

This leaves Edu.

Most will focus on the central defense as the area of weakness for the team, but I felt the central midfield was the more pressing issue. Jones had a weak game by his standards; Edu, unfortunately, played exactly as perhaps expected him to.

His game was revealed from the top corner of FedEx Field—sadly, in too many quick moments to capture by  camera, but there nevertheless. He has a poor first touch, but his speed of play is the more bothersome issue. There were several instances in which he executed a turn too slowly, or dawdled on the ball too long, or selected the second-best option when the best option was available; or, worse, selected a bad option when a decent option was available.

Such decisions are hard to pick up on, especially statistically, but they are there.

The question about Edu’s speed of play resembles in some ways Bradley’s; Bradley, however, being perhaps the hungriest and hard-workingest player in U.S. colors, challenged himself to get better at it and did.

That’s the narrative of his career—of Bradley biting off more than it seemed he could, but finding that he had the appetite to force it all down anyway. Edu, on the other hand, went to a “big club” in a league that is probably worse than MLS at this point.

As a consequence Edu gets generous time and space and is therefore rarely challenged in league games; in European games he bunkers, which is also not particularly challenging. So he needs to move to a tougher league, for a team in which he will need to try, fail, and then learn to play faster and better. It’s not impossible, but it does seem unlikely.

This is unfortunate, because there was a perfect midfielder for what we’ll call the “Edu” role today—the advanced destroyer with good touch, good passing, and quick thinking. His name is Stuart Holden.

While we can’t write off the possibility completely, it would be the height of wishful thinking to believe that he can return to his old level. At a certain point, there are too many injuries. The lack of Stuart Holden might define this Klinsmann cycle as the lack of Charlie Davies defined the Bob Bradley cycle.

As with Davies, production will be fine for the purposes of most teams—Bradley teams, despite wayward forwards, scored plenty of goals; Klinsmann central midfields under the current team will boss the Scotlands of the world—but be exposed clearly against the top-tier teams.

This is mostly speculation, but it’s a possibility to think about.

After the top three guys, who is there? Kljestan is a good player but not quite the perfect fit; at any rate, Klinsmann seems disinclined to try to fit him in. Danny Williams seems like a good bet; Graham Zusi, possibly.

Beckerman, like Jones, is edging towards an uncomfortable age.

On the young players front—Perry Kitchen probably isn’t a good enough passer; Amobi Okugo is a victim of Peter Nowak’s Not Playing Young Players Youth Experiment; Luis Gil is too young (but could hypothetically mature very quickly) and at any rate not a perfect fit (though it seems very possible he’ll be a ball-playing #8 rather than the #10 he’s been hyped to be…not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

So, keep your eye on that.

Tactical pictures

Blurry…but Brazil width….

The big risk with the Klinsmann system as a tactical matter is width. Note in this picture from the second half how well outside the Brazil players are from their American markers. That’s a change from the first half; the U.S. defended narrow and Brazil was perhaps not the best at exploiting the width at that time, at least from my eye-in-the-sky vantage point.

The U.S. fullbacks seemed to be operating on a pulley system—they rarely had both of them forward at the same time.

Here’s Fabian forward:

Fab Johnson going forward….

Here’s ‘Dolo:

Cherundolo goes forward…

The system kept three in the back at all times; sometimes Bradley, generally the deepest midfielder, dropped between the two centerbacks.

It really could’ve gotten worse, by the way. At many points when the U.S. were chasing the game, Oguchi Onyewu would drop deep, all alone, presumably as the last option. With Onyewu’s speed these days, this is not terribly reassuring. Then again, being down more than two goals against Brazil is also not terribly reassuring, so this is not exactly the most cutting criticism ever.


The crowd got boisterous at times, and wasn’t terribly tilted towards one team or another. If the U.S. had really been able to get anything together for a sustained period, I suspect the atmosphere would’ve been great.

That said, this is the type of sports town where, walking from the Metro to FedEx Field, hemmed between a bunch of rowhouses trying desperately to look old, dignified, and stately, one can hear earnest conversations about minute changes in the space program’s leadership.

A wag of the finger to whomever’s in charge of the place, though: the exit I left through featured an extremely narrow chute that, for whatever reason, was partially blocked by a concrete barrier of the type you see guarding the edges of freeways. So people did a tight shuffle forward, able to see nothing in particular ahead of you and owning no more than a tight square of personal space. Supposing there was a panic in the crowd—something very bad could’ve happened. And the directions out of the place, for the pedestrian, are quite awful—you don’t know where you’re going at all, and no signs attempt to inform you. As a consequence a large number of people in the line filing out of the place had no idea where they were heading to and relying only on the intelligence of the crowds to get back to the metro.


I am now convinced, by the way, that the best way to take in a game of soccer is at the heights of the stadium, looking down on all 22 players. You will see how the whole puzzle fits together.

37 responses to this post.

  1. I agree with most of this, but (homer that I am) I think there are reasons for being a little more optimistic about Holden. None of his injuries have been recurring injuries in a troublesome spot. His first major injury was the eye-socket fracture. The second, a broken leg from being DeJong’d. The third, ligament and cartilage issues in his left knee. To his credit, this third time, he’s taken his time with the recovery, so hopefully that issue won’t nag.
    And, again, in his defense, his play has improved in the aftermath of every horrific injury.

    That small disagreement aside, I think the criticism of Edu is spot-on. His first touch was egregious, his decision-making poor, especially under pressure, and I hold him responsible for not tracking back to deal with Marcelo on Brazil’s third goal (as I saw it, there were two Brazilians in the area, one directly behind Neymar, whom MB closed down, and Marcelo, who was completely unmarked).

    As to the future of the United States’ central midfield…I hope that Danny Williams and Alfredo Morales come good. Williams, especially, seems to be getting regular playing time with Hoffenheim. Like all of the Wages of Empire, he’s spectacularly athletic, and while he didn’t impress much on the wing offensively, his work in tracking back and helping Cherundolo was stellar.


    • Posted by dth on 2012/05/31 at 2:39 PM

      I forgot about Morales. Also Conor O´Brien who is in the Danish league, which is certainly a level where you have to start paying attention to players.


    • Posted by mbw on 2012/05/31 at 2:49 PM

      I agree that Williams is the natural candidate for Edu’s spot. Should’ve gotten a tryout there already, but for Klinsmann’s confounded eccentricities. . . .


    • Posted by Jared on 2012/06/01 at 8:34 AM

      Holden is out this time because of the knee injury that wasn’t operated on properly or reinjured during rehab the first time. I’d say that’s a nagging injury when it requires 2 different ops 6 months apart.

      It’s surprising when you realize how long Williams has been around for now with the national team that he has yet to get a game in the spot Edu has been playing. I think he’s better than Edu right now because he seems to have a better first touch. He’ll also improve much more than Edu considering that he’s playing in one of the top 4 leagues in Europe as opposed to Scotland which at this point can’t be considered better than MLS.


  2. “I am now convinced, by the way, that the best way to take in a game of soccer is at the heights of the stadium, looking down on all 22 players. You will see how the whole puzzle fits together.”

    Agree 100 percent. I once saw a game (not a professional game, was possibly a university game) from the top of the Eiffel Tower and you could see things unfold long before players made it happen. The overhead view is—if you’ll forgive an outdated pop-culture reference—like being able to see The Matrix.


  3. Posted by Chazcar on 2012/05/31 at 2:09 PM

    At the half I though “Gooch and Edu need to come off”. When they played the second half I was disappointed. They both were having horrible nights and were killing us. Other players were also not playing their best, but its hard to when there are two large holes in the team.

    At about 60 minutes I realized that it was important for Klinsmann to leave them in. They improved a bit, but were still bad. However, by pulling them at the half he would have destroyed their confidence entirely. Gooch and Edu have it in them to be solid players and are hard workers. In a must win game I would make the sub, but when you are playing for more than a result its better to leave them in. I would like to see Klinsmann’s faith rewarded come 2014.

    That said, I agree that Edu needs the same type of club move Bradley made. He needs to have his game challenged. I see a move to something mid table in Ligue 1 or La Liga? Premeir league is too physical and expansive (playing to Edu’s strengths). Something technical and compressed would aid his game. As for Gooch, he just needs a whole season injury free.

    Other quick hits
    -Boca especially seems to miss having Edu right there in front of him. It just would be nice if more of our core players played together at the club level.
    -Boca and Dolo both seemed to lose confidence in Gooch and were trying to cover that spot too much.
    -Bradley’s is acceptable as a deep playmaker/Defensive shield but much better as an attacking midfielder/advanced distributor
    -I would like to see Donavon, Bradley, Torres, and Dempsey all playing together behind a central striker (Gomez, Boyd, Altidore). But that requires a really good Defensive Midfielder, which we are missing. (formation 4-1-4-1)


    • Posted by CJ on 2012/05/31 at 5:34 PM

      There are three players I think that contributed to Brazil’s success and showed to be are vulnerabilities in the 1st half. Both Edu and Gooch have been touched on but, I don’t see anyone mentioning Torres.

      I didn’t overly watch him but, I can’t remember more than maybe 1 or 2 positive contributions to his maybe 10(?) opportunities to make an impact. Constantly, like Edu, I saw him trapped by an aggressive tracker from the more forward line of Brazilians. I didn’t see him take control of the ball or the space he occupied. He may have an upside but, just like Edu unless he leaves the Mexican league, I pray to not see him in any more matches against faster/more talented opponents. It’s almost like he’s shy and overconfident in his own abilities at the same time.

      When he has the ball he thinks they’ll respect me, I’m Paco, no one would dare close the space, I could folly anybody, and then boom. It’s swept off his feet. And then to recover it’s like he thinks “maybe, if I poke my leg here I might get a touch on it, ooo darn, just missed, oh well”.


      • Posted by CJ on 2012/05/31 at 5:40 PM

        To add to this point, two things. I distinctly remember the play where Gomez, yes GOMEZ, tracked back Hulk (I think) all the way to the corner of our own box. Torres? Never.

        Second, as soon as the 90% Dempsey came on the pitch, the LM/LW/LF location completely turned in our favor. Respect had to be given, not just because of his name, or that the opposition had backed off slightly at that point but, because Deuce can do everything that others say Torres is capable of. Yet, I never see him execute on the pitch in International play against a solid team.

        When we’re pressed onto our heels, players like Donovan, Dempsey, Holden, Johnson, Gomez, Bradley (the new Bradley), are able to change the game from their individual skill and linking ability with others around them. I just don’t see it in Torres. Maybe, someday. Just not today.


        • Posted by arisrules on 2012/05/31 at 7:47 PM

          Torres was horrible all game. He’s so soft.

          Bradley has been our best CM for 6 years or so. It was a complete joke when JK dropped him.


          • Posted by schmutzdeck on 2012/06/01 at 5:01 PM

            It’s not fair to say JK dropped him. Bradley was working on his move to Italy and getting acclimated to new country and a new league after what had to be a pretty rocky time at Villa.

            Besides it’s not as if the US had any games they really had to win during MB’s sabbatical. And looked at how well MB’s vacation worked out.


  4. Posted by mdb on 2012/05/31 at 2:10 PM

    I think you struck on an important point that has been lost in most of the analysis so far… the lack of mf width in Klinsmann’s 4-3-3 last night was EXACTLY what Brazil was exploiting (well that and the lack of pace and sharpness of our CB’s over the top). Brazil largely went AROUND (or over) our MF rather than attacking it directly.

    I was also there (yes FEDEX is a dump of a stadium that could not be harder to get to or more miserable to be at…) and went out that same exit, which is undoubtedly a death trap.


    • Posted by Berniebernier on 2012/05/31 at 2:31 PM

      Let me ask the question, why do we lack width? I assume that JK notices this too. Isn’t the biggest knock about a 4-3-2-1 how narrow it is? I am not tactically brilliant but it seems playing with DM rather than wings resulting in narrowness can’t be a revalation. So why does JK emply this formation?

      – Is it to provide cover for our slow aging CBs?
      – Is it that we lack talent on the wings?
      – Is it that Dolo and Johnson aren’t providing it?
      – Is it that Donovan and Torres pinch in too much?
      – Is it to get our best 11 on the field at the same time?

      My take is that it is a combination of 1 and 4. I think we are trying to cover for our CBs. I also think that in this formation Donovan and Torres need to hug the line more rather than drift in. They should only be drifting in if the FB is overlapping.


      • One of the reasons we lack width is that we don’t have any true wingers in the squad. You could argue Brek (obviously not there) can fill that role, but really, the only players we have that naturally provide width are Dolo and Johnson. When you have three (actually four with Torres) central MF types and three Forward types (after Dempsey came on) in the match, they’re going to tend to drift centrally. This is especially true on the left, where we don’t have a left footed wing player if Brek isn’t in the match. Torres was in the left winger role yesterday, but he wants to look towards the middle of the field. More than anything, I think our lack of width is a personnel issue.


      • Posted by mdb on 2012/05/31 at 3:15 PM

        Actually, I didn’t mean to suggest that the formation gives us NO width. The wingbacks and wide FWDs provided good width in attack as seen above. HOWEVER, the 3-man midfield (ALL CENTER MFs by trade) were very narrow in transition to DEF – and THAT is what was exploited all night long.


        • I understood what you were saying. I think part of the problem is that because our MF drifts to the middle going forward, they’re drawn out of position to compress attackers towards the sideline when we’re going back. If you have a wide player going forward, he’s going to funnel the ball back towards the middle when possession changes.


      • I take it that there’s a distinction between offensive width and defensive width. The former is intuitively obvious, and I think the US did it well last night. Both Johnson and Cherundolo go up the pitch (though only one at a time). Johnson did it better, which is probably due to a combination of his generally superior athleticism and the fact that Marcelo is a whole hell of a lot better than whoever the Brazilians had on the right.
        The latter is the ability to deny the opponent two-on-one matchups against one’s outside backs. Because Donovan tends to pinch in, and is effective doing so (part of the whole “central winger” phenomenon) and Torres gets more useless the closer he gets to the touchline–he’s not going to blow by anyone one-on-one (not that he was particularly effective at all against Brazil…came deep to receive the ball, and had trouble playing attacking passes due to the pressing)–they tend not to do as good a job getting back and covering the outside backs (though Donovan is usually pretty good at this).
        In any case, the Tannenbaum ends up with the American fullbacks being exposed when the ball is lost and quickly played out to the wings, as demonstrated by Neymar and Marcelo teaming up time after time to abuse poor Cherundolo.
        I think the upshot here is that either a) someone needs to start hauling ass to cover the opponent’s fullbacks as soon as we lose the ball, or b) the midfield needs to press like hell to deny service out to the wings. I think Bradley and Jones would have been more comfortable and effective doing this were they able to play in front of a confidence-inspiring #6. Danny Williams, hopefully, will fill this role. A healthy Stuart Holden probably would as well.
        In any case, I don’t think having Torres and Donovan hug the wings is the way to go, because–Torres especially–they are far, far less effective there than cutting inside to create overloads.

        Interestingly, Zonal Marking’s analyses of the US team have pointed out that Bradley Senior tended to play Donovan and Dempsey really narrow; so it seems the only effective difference between Bradley’s and Klinsmann’s formations (not systems–Klinsmann clearly employs far more pressing–is that Klinsmann uses an extra midfielder to get forward from deep. In some sense, everything old is new again. Though, I guess Klinsmann does have the advantage of a competent left back in the fold.


        • Posted by BernieBernier on 2012/05/31 at 4:34 PM

          Isn’t option C where by the #6 falls into a 3 man backline and the CBs push out to shut things down. Think Busquets and Puyol. Problem with that is our CBs are fast enough to do that.


        • Posted by mdb on 2012/05/31 at 4:57 PM

          Also, Donovan and Torres/Dempsey are playing in more advanced roles in this system, giving them more ground to cover.


  5. Posted by Union on 2012/05/31 at 3:19 PM

    Thanks DTH, very insightful as always. Always happy to see someone notices the same things as I, and I felt the same exact way about Edu. Anytime he received the ball in close spaces you knew for certain he was going to be depossessed and soon after the ball was at the feet of a man in yellow. His passing was suspect as well, there were a few times in the 1st half where he gave Fabian the ball a step or two behind his run, slowing down the counter. I like to think that Holden will replace him (crossing my fingers). Williams is not as much of a threat offensively and certain posters get down on him, but he plays with that “nastyness” that Jurgen has been talking about. In a way, he is a younger, less tempermental and more athletic version of Jermaine Jones. I see Williams as the natural choice to replace Jones when his age catches up with him. By the way, if you go on US Soccer’s youtube page you will see a series of “Behind the Crest” videos that have been posted throughout camp. The videos overall are terrific (watching Boyd get excited about visiting DC was particularly cool). But if you notice in the videos, Danny Williams has been with the team through the Brazil game. I’m not sure how much longer he’ll be around for, but its great to see that kind of dedication.

    I didn’t see the second half, so I didn’t get a chance to look at Boyd but it seems he and Herc played well next to each other. Fabian, as I’ve said since he filed for his 1 time switch, is an incredibly talented player. Happy to see he is proving me right. I’m surprised he’s still on the sinking ship known as Hoffenheim and some larger club hasn’t made a move for him. Jurgen loves hyperbole but I don’t think he is exaggerating when he says that Fabian was one of (if not the) best LB in the Bundesliga towards the end of last season. I honestly think he would be in consideration for the Germanl national team if he had not made the switch.

    Two things were very troubling against Brazil:

    1) The defense minus Fabian. Yes, Brazil will make a lot of teams look bad. But watch Gooch/’Dolo and even Boca struggle against the Brazilian attackers was frightening. Not because they were overmatched by skilled players, but because their age is starting to show. Who do we have to replace these guys? I’m not sure any of the solutions are on the roster currently.

    2) The width, as discussed above. Our lack of true wingers continues to bite us in the ass. Solutions? I’m not sure. Corona is more of a central player, like Torres. He can play the wing, but I’m not sure he solves the “lack of width” problem. Morales is very skilled. I like him a lot, but he definitely isn’t a winger. And Gil is more central as well. Gyau, Gatt and Shea? Lets start calling em in!


    • Posted by Jared on 2012/06/01 at 8:37 AM

      Edu’s ball skills are troubling and look especially poor when he’s not the holding mid. Playing ahead of MB90 is not the spot for him because there is much less time on the ball there especially against a team like Brazil.

      I was very impressed when I heard that Williams was still with the team. That shows that he cares and is a nice change from the Chandler situation.


  6. Good to see some Holden optimism here in the comments : ).

    I agree Union that the age of our defense sans Johnson is troubling. I would like to think that Lichaj is going to get a shot later on, and ho knows with Chandler, but the CB situation needs some reordering. Cameron has certainly shown the potential, now he needs a prolonged stint to show he can handle the responsibility. Either Gooch or Boca needs to go. Gooch didn’t show well last nigh, but as I commented in another post he has only played in 2 games since April after coming back from injury.

    So I’m inclined to think that Gooch actually has more upside *if healthy*. Boca got embarrassed on a play in the second half loosing a midfield battle and then looked really, really, slow in recovery. His positional sense is better, but just not sure he’s going to hold up in the long run as our best option.


    • I think it’s time to start walking the line of qualifying, but preparing for the WC. It would be a shame if Boca and Gooch were our two best options in Brazil, but they’re going to be if we don’t start getting the young talent some run.


  7. Posted by twewlife on 2012/05/31 at 4:53 PM

    I almost blush when I say this, but I still think it is possible for Adu to find his way to the starting eleven. Yes Holden is a better fit. But if Adu steps up his game and learns to really push on defense, there’s a slight chance (or perhaps a chance in hell) that he could take on the destroyer roll. He’s certainly strong enough for the part. He certainly has the on ball awareness. Its just a matter of making consistently good decisions with the ball and defending correctly. There were two moments in the game yesterday when I watched Jones make a run up the pitch to a positive result. Adu could be that guy and more.

    But maybe this is just a pipe dream…

    Also, I’d be curious to hear more thoughts on Gomez’s performance last night. I was pretty impressed. At this point, I’m a bit unsure as who will be a starting striker in a year from now.


    • Posted by 2tone on 2012/06/01 at 5:02 PM

      Uhm, you do know that Freddy Adu is an attacking Midfielder/second striker. Why on earth would he be playing as a destroyer. I do think Frddy will get more opportunities, but as an attacking midfielder because he is an attacking midfielder.


  8. Posted by Paul Antonissen on 2012/05/31 at 4:59 PM

    Unless it’s in the context of “he’s completely regained his pre-injury form”, I’d be happy to never hear/read the name Stuart Holden again. It’s not like he had even established himself as a national team starter when he got injured, so even if he had been healthy, we don’t really know if he would have fulfilled expectations.

    At this point, he’s really back to square one when it comes to the national team. And I’m someone who tends to be skeptical that any player is “injury-prone” as opposed to being just unlucky. Just the lost playing time has got to be a huge setback.


    • Yeah. People are reading a lot into 3/4 of a good season. I’m optimistic for him, but it’s impossible to tell if he’s really going to be better than what we already have.


      • I understand where your coming from, but I can’t help but disagree. First of all you seem to be ignoring the strengths in Holden’s game before his injury.

        1. Intelligence – Holden understands and reads the game well. His positional awareness isn’t something that will have just gone away. Maybe a little rusty, but certainly not gone. It’s not like his injury was a nasty blow to the head.
        2. Technique – Yet again I can’t see this just disappearing. Holden has clearly spent loads of time working on the basics over and over, and it shows. Holden is very technically sound. You will rarely see him scuff a pass, let his first touch get away, or shank a shot. The mechanics of making/controlling a pass won’t be new to him.

        Holden was never the type to rely on his physical ability or athleticism. If he was I would be drastically more worried.


        • Posted by schmutzdeck on 2012/06/01 at 5:19 PM

          Kevin S.

          Re Holden’s two strengths that have not gone away, there are two Americans right now who have those strengths but even more so, Claudio Reyna and John Obrien.

          The problem is neither one has a body that will allow them to compete at a World Cup or international level anymore. If they did I’d take either one of them back in a heartbeat over Holden because they were proven,quality players.

          The point is until Holden proves his body is up to it and can stay up to it, there is little point in discussing him.


    • Posted by CJ on 2012/05/31 at 7:18 PM

      I’d have to say that anyone who doesn’t support the idea that Holden in top form is a starter, is undervaluing his skill set. He’s really good. Sure, we didn’t get the opportunity to watch him in the A team much, but any time he played for the B team, he stood out like Donovan or Dempsey or Howard would as above the rest.

      I look at him much like I looked at Donovan over the past 6 months. As soon as he is inserted back into the lineup, our team is better, a lot better. No questions asked. Now, what you’re saying about him not being match fit, and possibly forever scarred by the injury, I completely concur. He is back to Square 1. But, that’s Holden’s Square 1. Not the same square 1 as someone who has never played with the squad. Take Jones or Edu out for a year and bring them back to match fit, you can bet that they’re going to get a longer leash to make it back to where they were.

      I would say Holden was more of a lock than Gomez and I think we could all agree that after the Brazil game Gomez is likely a locked in starter/60th minute sub from now on.

      So, Holden gets to come back to form, in the Championship, with a system and team he’s comfortable with. He doesn’t have to battle right out of the gate with the Man United’s, Chelsea’s, Liverpool’s and the such so the coaching staff will be able to bring him up to match fit much quicker. Then as is likely with a full squad returning, they will dominate and in his 2nd year back from injury he’ll be breaking back into the premier league with a full season of playing time under his belt. I’m extremely optimistic for his recovery to top form and better yet, improvement.

      I would like to think he has the same tenacity as Davies and a much less devastating injury to recover from. But, I do remember how hard it was for Davies to return and that will always nag the back of my mind until I see him truly out due himself.


  9. Agree with both rebuttals in support of Holden. There’s a lot of hand waving going on about how his return wouldn’t mean much and I just can’t agree with that—it seems oddly naive about the type of player he is. This isn’t the goldilocks player from the MLS anymore that we’re talking about—but rather a mature footballer who was highly praised not merely by his team but English fans (and tackling statistics).

    And 3/4s of a “good” season. How about great—and even more so because he quickly battled his way into the starting line-up and became arguably the foundation of a side that collapsed without him. I mean, it wasn’t like he struck gold or discovered magic. He is, as others have said, technically sound and mentally solid. The amount of faith that Own Coyle and Bolton have shown is just another indicator of how important of a player he is. There simply aren’t many American midfielders on our squad or in the talent pool that would be able to walk into the situation he did and establish themselves in the manner that he did unless they possessed a boatload of talent and intangibles.


  10. Posted by Paul Antonissen on 2012/05/31 at 9:34 PM

    “I’d have to say that anyone who doesn’t support the idea that Holden in top form is a starter, is undervaluing his skill set.”

    We barely saw Holden in top form as a starter. For the NT, he didnt’ go through

    No. I want him to earn any starting spot. He wasn’t quite there before he was injured. You could’ve said the same thing abut Adu at several points in hjs development. Holden didn’t even have one full season in the EPL as a starter and a handful of NT games (as a starter) before going down.

    “I look at him much like I looked at Donovan over the past 6 months.”

    This place has turned into BigSoccer. Donovan has an established level of play. Holden was still mostly potential. And the current injury throws some doubt in what his current potential is. He was barely getting established on his club, let alone the NT.

    “But, that’s Holden’s Square 1. Not the same square 1 as someone who has never played with the squad.”

    What’s the difference? There’s only one Square 1 (the others are Square 2, Square 3 etc.). As far as I’m concerned, the current Holden gets treated as someone who has never played with the squad. He’s got a lot to prove again. It’s unfortunate, but he hadn’t established himself before his career (club & NT) got

    As far as I’m concerned, the Holden we have to deal with today, one who hadn’t quite earned a starting spot with the NT before his injury, is a player who should be treated as someone who has never played with the squad. How is his club team treating him? Are they handing him his spot back? Based on less than a season of play? A team that sees a lot more of him in training than Klinsi. Holden first has to prove himself with his club before he’s even in the conversation with the NT. And that’s a big step. It’s a pretty big assumption that he’s even in Jones’ class, even at the time he was injured. At this point, Holden’s contribution to the NT will be a pleasant surprise, not something anyone should count on.

    It’s funny, Bradley, who had established himself with the team (and had a terrific World Cup), had to work his way back onto the squad. With Holden, we just assume his greatness after a series of injuries, the last of which was pretty serious.

    “I would say Holden was more of a lock than Gomez and I think we could all agree that after the Brazil game Gomez is likely a locked in starter/60th minute sub from now on.”

    We can? Gomez had a great game. And it was against Brazil. But it’s still only one game. From an aging forward. Gomez still has a lot to prove. Although, I suppose if I had to lay money on it, I would bet on Holden as someone with the better NT future.


    • Posted by Jared on 2012/06/01 at 8:49 AM

      Holden will walk back into the Bolton squad with ease. His absence cost them greatly this season and they certainly aren’t going to bring in anyone at the Championship level that will be better than Holden pre injury. The injury that he just had surgery on was caught because they moved forward a routine follow up in the hopes of having him around for the end of the season. It doesn’t seem like you’ve followed his time at Bolton much at all. Read the comments of the Bolton fans and management and you’ll see the level that he was believed to be playing at by the people who watched him the most. They love the guy. You’re completely right in terms of him having to fight his way back into the national team though.

      You’re being far too negative on Herc as well. The guy is in the prime of his career. If he’s aging then our entire team is aging considering he’s younger than Donovan with a lot less mileage. Herc is in the prime of his career. He just turned 30 and is tearing it up at club level. I don’t think he’ll be a locked in starter but I’d be very surprised if he wasn’t the first guy off the bench when the US needs a goal (assuming of course that guys like Dempsey and Donovan are starting that game).


  11. Posted by Paul Antonissen on 2012/06/01 at 10:06 AM

    “Holden will walk back into the Bolton squad with ease. His absence cost them greatly this season and they certainly aren’t going to bring in anyone at the Championship level that will be better than Holden pre injury.”

    Pre injury.

    “Read the comments of the Bolton fans and management and you’ll see the level that he was believed to be playing at by the people who watched him the most.”

    Great, but you’ve never seen a player have a great season (or 3/4 of a season) only to disappoint as his career progressed?

    Regardless, this is irrelevant. The question isn’t how good he was pre injury, it’s how good will he be post injury. And even walking back into a Championship level team is no guarantee that he will become a NT contributor. Can we at least let him re-establish himself at his club before we start talking national team? He’s got a lot to prove at this point no matter how great he was before he got hurt.

    “The guy is in the prime of his career. If he’s aging then our entire team is aging considering he’s younger than Donovan with a lot less mileage.”

    We do have a bit of an age problem with the team. Donovan is aging to (and talking about retirement). Gomez will be 32 by the time the World Cup comes around. He may still be a useful guy to have around, but let’s not get carried away. He’s a 30 year old striker who’s had one great game for us. I’m glad we have him around, but to say he a lock to play every game for the team going forward? Do we really all agree this is the case?


  12. Posted by dth on 2012/06/01 at 6:19 PM

    Re: Holden. I mostly just mention him because while he hadn’t proven himself for a substantial amount of time (neither had Davies, really), the point here is that his skillset was pretty much perfect for what Klinsmann seems to want to be doing.


  13. […] time to receive the ball, and you begin to understand. Is this a product of the league he plays in? Darius Tahir thought so in his review at The Shin Guardian, and it is a good read, and there’s some merit to that argument. Of course, it also might be that he just […]


  14. I believe JK’s pregame strategy and in game tactical adjustments are his biggest weakness; a blindspot that was at least partly negated by Joachim Loew along with higher qualilty and seasoned players when JK was coach of Germany.

    Brazil came out in a 4-2-4 formation with all forwards high pressing the US backline, this aggressive pressing defensive tactic deployed by the brazilians was extremely effective and exposed the US teams lack of skill on the ball, and thought process when challenged. Understand that Barcalona does the samething to opponents in la liga/champions league, and the best counter strategy is to employ in game defensive tactics the likes of Jose Mourinho’s inter milan 2010 team and Chelsea’s strategy this yr in CL. No team can apply this much defensive pressure for a whole 45 minutes, not even young energetic brazilians, it’s to exhausting; but there strategy from the start of both halfs was to use this tactic to throw the US team off its game and score goals, which is exactly what they did. Once the brazilian pressure subsided we witnessed a US side that was able to apply there new found offensive abilities: teamwork, tactics and goalscoring chances effectively, which is JK’s biggest accomplishment with the US team so far along with his infectious energy and enthusiasm . The brazil game can be viewed as a great learning tool for future world class opponents who will enter the game with superior players; skilled, and tactically aware of US teams weaknesses, and how to develop a counter strategy for US team to imploy when facing such opponents.


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