USA vs. Jamaica Primer: Kingston’s Chalkboard Confessional

Steve Fenn writes for TSG & BigDSoccer (a fantastic publication on FC Dallas).

Be sure to check out TSG’s Game Day Catch-all post, Orange Slices: USA v. Jamaica

Like most US soccer fans, I spent the last couple day grousing about Klinsmann’s Kingston catastrophe, letting my fear of qualification failure lead to anger, anger lead to hate, and hate lead to suffering (of those closest to me, who had to tiptoe around during the dark side of my ravings). Today I sought understanding and perspective in the cold, hard facts of the match in the Opta Chalkboard. This exercise reminded me of one of the team’s achievements on the day I had lost sight of during my weekend doldrums.

Over the course of the game the US defense did an excellent job of limiting the Jamaicans to very speculative opportunities. Here is the Opta Chalkboard’s map of every shot taken by the hosts:

Based on the scale of this graphic the closest attempt was slightly over 30 yards from goal. Also, on closer inspection Opta states that only 9 of the 13 came in the run of play.

For perspective, I consulted the 2011-2012 EPL Opta statistics, provided through the MCFC Analytics initiative from Manchester City’s head of performance analysis, Gavin Fleig. Side note: if you have any interest in studying soccer statistics, follow this link, check out their terms and conditions, and download the data and play with it yourself.

From this data I was able to break down shots faced and outcomes both inside and outside the box, as well as the subset of direct free kicks. I did so for both the full league and Everton, for whom Tim Howard played every available minute, also breaking the data into save percentage and goals per 13 shots, the number Jamaica took.

Not surprisingly, shots inside the box were much more effective, but it is informative to see just how much more. Direct free kicks were a little more likely to score than other shots outside the box, and when I dug deeper I found that only once last season did a Premier League side score twice on direct free kicks in a single match (Manchester United’s 8-2 slaughter of Arsenal on 8/28/11). Klinsmann’s greatest defensive adjustment for Tuesday may be regression to the mean. If they keep Jamaica out of the box again, the odds of a shutout are pretty good.

All of this analysis is done from a bird’s eye view, and since stagnation equals death there we can expect at least a couple of small-scale tweaks in the defensive approach.

For example, as noted in the comments of the last post, the US wall seemed to be ignorant to indicators within Jamaica free kick takers’ run-ups to the likelihood that jumping was the right or wrong approach. At least one personnel change is guaranteed, since Clarence Goodson will be suspended for yellow card accumulation, and Klinsmann stated today that Carlos Bocanegra will take his place and captain the team. Whoever lines up in the back tomorrow night, we should all hope they are as successful as Friday night’s crew in limiting the quality of Jamaican shots.

Inventive and important adjustments look to be much more necessary further up the field, though.

(Editor’s note: Well said on that last statement Steve. :>)

16 responses to this post.

  1. I’m not sure if this makes me feel better or worse about the game’s outcome.

    As far as changes goes, I’d much rather see Shea get a run out, but I don’t know if he can go the full 90 and be effective. I think you get 60 out of him and then bring on Corona. I know this game screams for Torres but I’m so sick of him I can’t bring myself to put him in the XI. If Dolo is able to go then we’ve got him out right and I’d almost rather see Danny Williams than Edu or Jones, both of whom I would like to throw back into the Salvation Army bin that is the majority of our midfield pool.

    I’d bring on Boyd for Jozy, actually. I don’t like pushing Gomez out to the wing but the alternative is a 4-2-2-2 and I’ve seen enough of that in my lifetime to be done with it. Shea out on the left, Dempsey in the space behind Boyd and Gomez sliding in from the right – though this will be Williams if JK goes with the 4-2-3-1, with Edu and Jones/Becks as the two shielding midfielders. It’s unbalanced but I’m pretty okay with it since it gets more attackers on the field and reestablishes our numbers advantage in midfield.

    If Donovan and Bradley were healthy, that’s our ideal formation, with Landycakes on for Williams/Gomez (who I would probably then play for Boyd up top and bring Boyd on late) and Bradley as the more advanced CDM of the pairing. And with that crew, you can play Beckerman, who suffers that lack of pace but is less likely to go Ron Artest like Jermaine, or turn into a revolving door like Edu occasionally does.


  2. What I’d like to see:


    What I think we’ll see:



    • Posted by twewlife on 2012/09/11 at 7:05 AM

      I’m curious about your inclusion of Spector over Shea and Torres over Jones (or Edu). Specifically, Torres has shown next to nothing for quite some time and his defensive liabilities are pretty clear.


    • Brek + Fabian >> Fabian + Spector


      • Twe – I’m probably one of the few here who don’t think Spector is the worst U.S. player since Bornstein. I think he’s a more-than-capable spot-starter on either flank who offers solid, if unspectacular, defensive play. No, he’s not fast enough to keep-up with the Jamaican wingers. But neither is Fabian or any other fullback in the pool. And they don’t need to be. For all their speed, the Jamaican wingers can’t cross the ball to save their lives.

        Klinsmann has almost exclusively put Torres as a CAM or LM. Problem is, he is neither a CAM nor a LM. He is a pure CM. Let him sit in the middle of the park and dictate tempo, something he does better than any of the other midfielders on the roster. I’m not opposed to Jones starting as a pure DM, but relying on Jones to set the game speed is a recipe for disaster, again. I’d personally like to see what Williams can offer at DM, his natural position. We do not need 3 or even 2 DMs (or midfield destroyers) to control the midfield against Jamaica.

        Sean – Bringing Spector in at LB allows Fabian to move-up to his ‘natural’ position at LM. I’m not sold on Brek, as the only great play he’s offered this year, for club or country, was against Mexico last month. He’s a 1st-choice substitute at this point. Fabian was dynamite at LM against Slovenia last year and depth issues have forced him to LB (a position he does play very well). When Johnson and Shea are both on the field, they like to occupy the same general area. I don’t believe Spector has that problem, simply because he’s not as ambitious as Johnson going forward. I’d be more than content with letting Spector play conservatively on the left if it means he’s less likely to get caught snoozing around the corner.


        • Part of my point was that our backline did their job quite well, and I wouldn’t mess with that part of the field. Outside of the forced Boca for Goodson swap, the change I’d consider is Dolo for Parkhurst.
          To strengthen the midfield you drop a foward for whoever Klinsi will help most in providing an outlet for Beckerm and transition defense to offense. Then put Shea in place of Edu or Jones.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/09/11 at 7:53 AM

      Just a note, if you’re playing a high line/high pressure, better to play with a single holder rather than a double. Can’t keep pressure on that that way.


      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2012/09/11 at 9:23 AM

        Speaking of pressure…

        Who do you think Klinsmann has identified on the Jamaican team with lower levels of technical ability, ie more prone to making mistakes etc., therefore aggressively pressure them to force mistakes and hopefully counter attack?

        Do you think Klinsmann will aggressively set up US team shape to “encourage” Jamaica play to said weaker players so US can press these players more?


        • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/09/11 at 9:27 AM

          He better — check out the bottom of the new column “Orange Slices” for some guesswork.

          The entire backline is shaky in possession for Jamaica. US put zero pressure on them and Edu/Jones actually did a good job when they were tackling above the half-line.


  3. I really can’t see Dempsey going a full 90 even if he stayed in great shape for the months he was out. If Dempsey can’t go full 90, I’d expect to see Torres start and Dempsey come in for him. We’ll see. Shea hasn’t been given many starts in a while but maybe that time is now (my only issue with him has always been whether he’ll put in 90 minutes of effort/defensive ability). I think its time to start Boyd and see what type of energy he can bring to the position. We can always bring in Altidore if Boyd is not affecting the game. I just don’t see any way Edu is not starting in some sort of defensive midfield position.

    Not sure what formation we’ll use but its most likely 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 as someone posted above.


  4. Posted by Crow on 2012/09/11 at 8:45 AM

    I said in the prior post that Jamaica never threatened and if it wasn’t for those two brilliant (Jamaica)/ horrific defending (USA) free kicks we’d be talking about a lackluster win or draw instead of a potentially devastating loss.

    It’s nice to see some stats to back that up.

    Watched the replay on the two fouls that led to the free kick goals multiple times. Beckerman’s was “okay” because he was beat but Edu’s was completely inexcusable. Why do you foul a guy from that far out who is running AWAY from the goal (vertically and horizontally).


  5. […] The Fan In You « USA vs. Jamaica Primer: Kingston’s Chalkboard Confessional […]


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