USA v. Panama Gold Cup Final Preview: War Of Attrition Or Composition?

The US is seeking to drink from the Cup for the first time since 2007. Led by return of Landon Timmyboy Donovan....

The US is seeking to drink from the Cup for the first time since 2007. Led by return of Landon Timmyboy Donovan….

(Limited gushing for Panama head coach Jorge Dely Valdes this time. If you read TSG, well, you know already. The Anderson Silva look-a-like with his evil doppelganger brother always nearby is held up on a pedestal around here.)

It’s not the route, pleasantly, that was predicted or the opponent that was anticipated, but the USMNT finds itself, as expected, in Chicago for the CONCACAF Gold Cup final; a bittersweet chance (no Mexico) to vanquish overwhelming defeats in the past two Finals in this Series–2011’s Bob-Bradley-ousting two-goal lead capitulation and 2009’s-live-by-the-B-team-die-by-the-B-team 5-0 final.

If a 2-1 loss on the road in World Cup qualifying in February was the nadir for the US’s play during Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure, then a 3-1 win Wednesday certainly represents a temporary zenith. The ceiling being recalibrated by media and fans alike.

The US has not lost in competition since that fateful day at San Pedro Sula and their latest spin through the Gold Cup group stage and elimination rounds has been blinding. While the fare has been–to be generous–meek, the US nevertheless has been wielding a sledgehammer and almost aimlessly swinging it through opposition defenses, the walloping being felt hardest by Belize, Cuba and El Salavador.

The lone mundane result? A 1-0 win against a Costa Rican side content to sit way back in a 5-4-1 and accept the the consequences of looking exclusively for a single attacker–Arrieta–to provide some magic that might scratch a point out of the match.

The US for the most part accomplished its wins this tournament by revving up and then shifting down the tempo in an effort to balance the need to create scoring opportunities (revved up) with the the steadfast dedication to setting its team values as Defense (revved down) -Team-Attack-Country. Or something close to that.

However, the results have not been without a few visible blemishes that any iPad-toting coach can rewind and discover.

Cuba and El Salvadaor both opened the US up with a single dangerous attacker who found some space in the States’ defensive half of the field. Both US fullbacks–Michael Parkhurst and DaMarcus Beasley–have shown they can bend and not break for the most part, but some branches may snap off in the process.

The US attacking forays up the flanks have–at times–led to serious pressure primarily on the US right rearguard (Goodson or Onyewu and Parkhurst) and some emergency defending that was supposed be left behind with the theatrical game play of last cycle.

For their part, Panama arrive in Chicago brimming with a similar confidence having paddywhacked El Tri back to what was surely a toxic homecoming.

The Panamanians cruised through the group stage like the US–though they didn’t light the lamp nearly as frequently they still banged six in on Cuba and then tortured Mexico with timely clearances and faithful devotion to disciplined defending.

The scoreline read 2-1 at the final whistle to the good for the Canaleros at the whistle. El Tri lobbed in grenade after grenade into the box, but the Panama bunker remained stout and Chicago became the team’s next Alamo.

And there’s more. To add to the intrigue, the US has dueled with Panama thrice in the past two years when stakes are on the line and once in a friendly in January of 2012.

Just a few weeks ago, JK & Co. clamped down on the Dely Valdes interlopers and registered the most comprehensive WCQ third round win to date on the Canaleros.

In the 2011 Gold Cup, the Yanks faced up with the Canaleros twice, dropping a 2-1 group stage decision, but following it up by scratching out a critical 1-0 victory through some electric boogaloo of Adu-to-Landon-to-Demps.

For more on Panama, check out Panama’s overarching strategy, check out the “About The Opponent” section here.

Without further Freddy Adu, we get to a unique USMNT preview!

It goes:

TSG What Are We Looking For.

11 At The Whistle

Rapping with the Coach: Wilmer Cabrera

From The Twitterati

Man, why you bringing up old sh*t.....!

Man, why you bringing up old sh*t…..!

TSG What Are We Looking For

» Blas Perez & The US’s Weak Ankle.

This may be a bunch of CONCACAF B teams skirmishing for the right to get a shot at the 2013 Confederation’s Cup, but Panama has stayed true to their senior team strategy of defense first. However, they’re also carry quite an attacking load. On Sunday they’ll offload their best pure striker (Blas Perez), their most dynamic attacking midfielder (arguably Alberto Quintero) and their speedy sub who created some tense moments against the States A team a few weeks ago (Rolando Blackburn) onto Soldier Field.

FC Dallas man Blas Perez is the stick that makes butter out of the Panama attack.

It was Perez’s absence against the States in Seattle that changed the entire complexion of the Panamanian side and left them throwing hopeful roundhouses up the flanks instead of playing a little Route One to Perez and giving him license to uppercut the center of the US defense.

Perez is a true target striker. He’s adept at movement, both off-ball and in possession. He’s an underrated passer and typically solid finisher. Perhaps most importantly–this is CONCACAF–and Perez works the zebras like Bono works a crowd. He may be the region’s best “call-milker” since Carlos Ruiz.

Blas Perez attacking half passes against El Tri Wednesday. He worked primarily on El Tri's weaker right flank; he'll likely try the same against the States.

Blas Perez attacking half passes against El Tri Wednesday. He worked primarily on El Tri’s weaker right flank; he’ll likely try the same against the States.

Tactically, though, Perez’s field positioning and skillset will likely be consistently kicking at the USMNT’s weak ankle, the right rear guard.

Perez will probably get himself to the US’s right hashmark and force Goodson to decide how far to track him. Depending upon Perez’s movement and reception, Quintero will run of the FCD forward and present some challenges to the US there.

In this tournament–and during the latest WCQ run–the US has solved it’s deficiencies at RB (injuries, speed) and RCB (lack of experience, lack of focus, offsides trap mismanagement) by typically: (1) pushing higher with the “RCM” (Diskerud, Holden) and allowing some cover with the deeper-lying CM (Beckerman) and (2) (with some exceptions) Keeping it’s rightback deep, taking less overlapping forays.

A third and minor tactic has roosted occassionally: The US–like it does with Zusi on the “A” team and did some with Bedoya against Honduras, run its RM inside earlier in the game, forcing any counter to go wide first rather than up the gut. That retardation has been key in the early goings.

Now, teams like Costa Rica have dared the US to push both their flanks up at the same time by committing numbers defensively to defend the US’s left flank advancement and staying narrow on the right. And there’s the chess match where Perez and Quintero come into play.

If the US commits its RFB to the attack, they’ll be acres of space behind for Panama to exploit. Against El Salvador, Michael Parkhurst got high and deep in the attacking third.

El Sal was able to outlet occasionally behind him to Rodolfo Zelaya who filet’d the US rear flank.

Perez will compound the problem because he can either attack or drop to an onrushing midfielder. Zelaya for El Salvador didn’t have the option all that often.

The secondary defense, specifically the line call of Besler and the positioning of Beckerman will be absolutely critical as well.

Beckerman was shaded to the left against Honduras.

Beckerman was shaded to the left against Honduras.

In the US attacking set Beckerman can find himself shaded just left. This is Beckerman’s heat map against Honduras.

Now let’s look at the Zelaya goal and how the US gets broken down on their right.

El Salvador PK-play developing

El Salvador PK-play developing

After a turn, El Sal’s Zelaya is found in space on the right; trailing the play is Mix Diskerud and Joe Corona, the right midfield protection.

Roll forward.

Zelaya begins his horizontal box hokey-pokey ending in a penalty call.

Zelaya begins his horizontal box hokey-pokey ending in a penalty call.

Zelaya has now incut against Parkhurst and left the slow defender in his wake. Corona is late in supporting and closing down over the top. Diskerud is walking into the play after being well behind it.

Worse for the US in this case, Beckerman has been shaded left and is attempting to close the touchline-moving space in front of Zelaya. He’s late…. with acceptable reason.

These are the types of plays the US is now more prone to give up because to create offense the US has committed numbers to the attack and increased it’s speed of attack. Commit numbers and bum rush up the field and you’ll find yourself in a more challenging spot to close down the bum rush back the other way.

With Perez’s motion Sunday comes more danger as the central positioning of Goodson and Besler will be challenged to stay central and not create a bigger gap.

Besler’s line calls and Beckerman’s positioning…again vital.

» Midfield overload overlords.

Working in batches off the hashes.

Okay, quick how many people are reading this passage right now? 17, okay great. Show of hands, how many people hated Mexico’s attacking strategy on Wednesday? Wow, 35 hands.

How did that happen?

What Chepo and El Tri were thinking in regards to attacking Panama suggests that someone left the glue out in their locker room beforehand. Mexico beyond being embarrassingly disjointed as a team, consistently took cautious space on the outsides and flung in hopeless crosses against Panama.

That’s like taking Chris Paul and asking him to dunk on Dwight Howard.

Better off drawing Howard to you on dribble penetration and dishing to someone else (BJ Mullen, really Clips?) for success. Parallel solution? Work the defense out of position, something the United States has done extremely well throughout this tournament due to Beckerman, Donovan, Johnson, Beasley and Corona.

Whereas Mexico was content to rush attacks and just get something in the box, the US will need to manage tempo as they have done, thrust attackers forward and force Panama to compromise their shape.

You do this in two ways with Panama outside of the piston-like movement of Eddie Johnson (or Chris Wondolowski) and Landon Donovan. (1) Overload pairs on the outside after Panama has been challenged in deal with EJ-Donovan and (2) Knocking diagonal balls to the other side to keep the defense honest. Circle gets a square.

And patience here for the US–as it showed Wednesday night in working out its spacing in the first 20 minutes is the key.

Panama is flat-out tough without the marble. In non-friendly competition in 2013, they’ve given up just 10 goals in 11 games. And a handful of these even have been of the amazing variety: a Bryan Ruiz bicycle kick, a Bryan Ruiz straight-shot-seeing-eye free kick that a toddler could have stopped it he saw it, two powerful headers (anomalies) by 6’1” Marvin Elliot for Jamaica and 6’1” Costa Rican striker Alvaro Saborio.

» Set pieces

The US must improve their set piece defense and not fall asleep on marks. Panama is very good at defending and attacking set pieces and scored once against the States (2011 GC group stage) off a set piece scrum in the box.

That is all.

A possible US deployment on Sunday.

A possible US deployment on Sunday.

11 At The Whistle

G: Nick Rimando

The skinny: Rimando’s been strong and unflustered when underpressure with the ball at his feet. The US will need to play an effective highline on Sunday and Rimando is a terrific clean-up artist behind that.

DEF: Michael Parkhurst, Clarence Goodson, Matt Besler, DaMarcus Beasley

The skinny: I imagine that hypnosis, acupuncture, ice cream rewards and iPhone privilege threats have all been used already, but Clarence Goodson is unable to change.going to change. His tendency to wander offsides of his own trap line and to be compromised in a 1.v.1 situation each game continues and better teams will punish the US from these.

But Goodson has been very good outside of those bonehead moments this Gold Cup, from going forward and being the fox-on-PEDs-in-the-box to his perennial aerial dominance (save that one against Belize). The question is: Are Goodson’s mistakes fewer and easier to cover up than Omar Gonzalez’s? Get back to me in Rio in 2014 on that one.

Mentioned a few weeks ago on the Tweetmachine that young defenders should watch Matt Besler for his flawless fundamentals. TSG has now broached Besler and KC about doing a five-volume VHS set on the subject. Out in a participating Blockbuster or Hollywood Video in October. (Sadly half of you will have to Google this half-joke.)

Klinsmann has done a terrific job with this backline of playing to their strengths and overcoming their weaknesses.

CM: Kyle Beckerman


That smooth….–

This is how good KB-Drederman has been in the Gold Cup —————-> (understated tie)

Yeah, that good. The word “metronome” is often cliched in soccer; so call Beckerman the US’s “Paddle Ball Champ” — sending out passes at whatever varying degrees optimal and then receiving the next and sending it out just as well, all the while keeping the ball moving.

Beckerman’s complement will, amazingly, be Mix Diskerud who when this tournament started was called out by TSG as miscast in a starting and role. Diskerud has been okay and his improved  defense against El Salvador was revelatory. He’ll need to keep the progression up to pass US “A” team muster though.

Diskerud’s defensive chops on the turnover should be one of the “Three points for the US” on Sunday by Fox as it pumps Gus Johnson full of espresso and plays the NFL music.

RM/LM: Joe Corona, Joey Torres

The skinny: Joey Torres.

Using this space to officially change Jose Torres, name to Joey. Joey Torres finally showed a little bite on Wednesday, perhaps his best game in a US shirt since Turkey 2010, depending on how you value Jamaica 2012 at home.

Torres was barking at the refs, actively checking to the ball and showed a willingness to take on players centrally. You always see the flashes with Torres, but Bob Bradley and Jurgen Klinsmann have yet to extract the talent with their coaching needles. Torres will and could greatly benefit from a big Gold Cup final.

Lunchpail Joe Corona has showed two things over this Gold Cup run: (1) He’s not a winger and needs to drift centrally, (2) he’s got a little bit of that Deuce-like appearing-in-the-right spot ability. Corona deposited two calm Deuce-like goals in the Gold Cup thus far.

Corona–and Torres–are on alert here against a very physical Panama team. Panama will him ya and both need to take the physical bruising in stride.

Ale Bedoya’s direct industry is an option here, but ultimately Corona’s vanish-and-reappear routine and his horizontal movement will be favored.

Buddies: Eddie Johnson, Landon Donovan

The skinny: Are they both strikers? Is one withdrawn? Either way, these guys played like best friends on Wednesday.

Does anything more need to be said about Landon. He brought the swagger–you and I both know Landy-San that the “Shades in the Corner” routine was a bit of your ego coming out–but more importantly Donovan has become the US spacesaver, ghosting in and out of positions seamlessly. Further, Donovan would have no less than 327 assists in the tourney if his teammates would make proactive instead of reactive runs.

Eddie Johnson has also been revelatory. Quick, stop and name a better all-around game that Eddie Johnson has played in a US shirt than Wednesday at Honduras. Willing to wager you can’t.

Not only was EJ overpowering, he also directed traffic. Eddie Johnson. Directing things tactically.

[Drops mic, walks away from “11 At The Whistle” Section.]

Wilmer Cabrera for the Colorado Rapids

Wilmer Cabrera for the Colorado Rapids

Rapping with Wilmer: Coach’s corner.

(Editor’s note: Wilmer Cabrera is the former US U-17 head coach and currently an assistant coach on Oscar Pareja’s staff in Colorado. The Rapids have overcome injuries and youth to be one of the surprises of the MLS season.)

TSG: Hey coach; thanks for joining me for a quick chat today. Your U-17 teams were a joy to watch and I see some of the same principles that you implemented at work with the US Gold Cup team today. Let’s get right to it.

Tactically, what is the biggest difference we are witnessing with the US team in this Gold Cup or rather what have you liked about this team?

Cabrera: I really like that it’s a very very compact team.

I was watching the game the other day with my son and he asked, “Daddy, why are all the players so crammed close to one another?”

I said, “That’s the tactical part of the game. They want to put pressure on together and they want to win additional balls.”

The lines and spacing is very good. And good pressure too. They want to win the ball very quick.

TSG: They’re facing a Panama team for one reason or another that you’ve looked at recently. Panama is highly, highly organized. Two banks of four with interchanging strikers ahead of them. If that team is going to sit back and play very disciplined defense and the US has to possess and come forward, how much risk is the States at with Panama’s counterattack and what do they have to worry about?

Cabrera: Definitely that’s going to be the game, because Panama is a team that has been growing across all their teams. They’re very good in defense. They’re very strong. They’re very organized.

If they get the ball forward, their strikers will create problems.

I think this is something that important and something that has to be managed well: The US needs to be aware that any attacker can create a counterattack.

The US has to manage the game because if they get caught up in that game, suddenly it’s an open game.

TSG: If you’re managing the US how do you breakdown the Panama side? Wednesday Mexico was very speculative and just throw in some crosses into the box which was probably a pretty poor strategy. How would you break down the Panamanian side? Would you try to do 1-2’s in the middle as Spain did in their friendly win against them? Do you take the flanks knowing that if you push to high now your defense is exposed?

Cabrera: No matter what’s involved, the field is 75 yards wide. You have to use those 75 yards. If you try to penetrate and create a funnel (down the middle) it’s going to be better for the Panama team. You have to go wide and you have to go to the other side of the field once everyone slides over.

And you have to be patient!

Hopefully for the US they get up quick, but if not, you have 90 minutes to be patient, to be building. You have a lot of options.

And then on a turn, on a 50-50 you have to slow and stop the game. You have to be sure off those balls that Panama doesn’t cut you and get on the counterattack.

Donovan, looking young again...

Donovan, looking young again…

TSG: Who is the most important player tactically for the US on Sunday?

Cabrera: It’s Landon Donovan. At this point, why? Because he has the experience and knowledge to move to the open spaces to create problems for Panama.

With defense very close, you need that experience.

TSG: Where can the US’s defense get hurt the most? With Parkhurt-Goodson? Besler-Goodson? If I’m the Panama coach, where am I attacking?

Cabrera: I would say if you don’t cover each other you can get exposed.

If the US defense covers each other, they’ll be good. If I’m the coach for Panama I would try to isolate one of the defenders because they’re (Panama

TSG: But *who* would you target? Goodson? Parkhurst?

Cabrera: Listen. It’s not just different players. It’s just trying to find pockets. You know, if Parkhurst is going to play and he’s going to go forward then he’s going to leave that big space behind him. And that pocket has to covered by Goodson and Goodson by Besler. It’s about covering for players when the go forward.

TSG: Final question, talk about the young US players in this tourney?

Cabrera: For me, it’s important to continue believing in our league MLS. Because the league is providing good players.

For a player like Jack MacInerney, it’s a big opportunity, but also for Wondolowski and score a hat trick and prove that he can be part of the national team.

TSG: Thanks coach, best of luck the rest of the season. Absolutely terrific job overcoming injuries and youth to be in the spot you are now. Good luck to the Rapids.

From The Twitterati

Questions for the US soccer proletariat:
(Courtesy Justin Scarborough @justinscarb34): On Brek Shea’s form?

The skinny: Unabashed Shea backer here and he’s had at best an average Gold Cup. Much like Bob Bradley kept trying Eddie Johnson in camps last round and Bruce Arena coerced John O’Brien onto the World Cup 2006 roster, there are certain players in the pool that give you certain skillsets. Shea’s unique make-up: 1v1 ability, crossing ability and then (in theory) height to get on the opposite end of right flank crosses set up like a dream winger.

The challenge with Shea has been confidence and playing time; they’re obviously connected. If you remember Shea’s first USMNT runout (USA v. Columbia 2010), he was subbed right after halftime because he could not even keep up with the game speed.

She’s Shea is the type of player who needs reps–which he hasn’t gotten. He’s a stretch away from having the right reaction within the system as well. Yet, who else besides a weak crossing, inconsistent-as-well Fabian Johnson does the US have to draw a defense wide left.

If the US is having trouble breaking Panama down on Sunday, don’t be surprised to find yourself rooting for him to enter in the 65th because the US needs “something different.”

» (Courtesy: Nicholas Cole @Coleosis651): From Parkhurst potential for A team minutes or 23 status? 

The skinny: Parkhurst just keeps truckin doesn’t he. Digging into a little bit of the forthcoming “Official USMNT Depth Chart” piece, but ….

The line of thinking here: Parkhurst will challenge Brad Evans for the right to be Tim Chandler’s back-up if Steve Cherundolo’s form has officially trailed off.

Right now, rightback is the US’s biggest question mark. More so than even right centerback. Will Chandler be committed and will his teammates accept him. Will Dolo continue to show that has the wheels as his career gets into it’s Julio Franco-stage? Will both of these players–and this is key–remain healthy.

With Parkhurst and Evans, Klinsmann has two similar players with better-than-average distribution and high positional awareness. You’re not going to win if either of these players are asked to carry the offensive load (Evans vs. Canada, Parkhurst vs. Jamaica on the road), but you rarely will lose. Right now, Parkhurst with the better distribution, better height, and better experience at RB is fighting for one of the last spots in the Brazil roster. He’ll get “A” team minutes only because the US should be able to survive CONCACAF competition with either he or Evans back there.

He’ll start on Sunday and if the US stays true to tactics, he’ll probably have about a dozen can-openers balls on the floor to Donovan or EJ or crosses into Panama’s kitchen.

» Courtesy Darrell McGaham, @durdledaturtle3h: Give us hair ratings based on the Fabio Scale

The skinny: Well the US has come a long way since it committed to having a bald coach, bald player as its chief midfield general and a balding forward as its star its leading scorer at World Cup 2010.

But is it going the right direction. Here goes:

* Kyle Beckerman – 7.5: While Beckerman’s dreds probably invoke fan fury at his inclusion, you have to consider that the other team expects him to probably be a chill playmaker. Hardly, Beckerman drops ankle hammers all the time.

* Mix Diskerud – 5.5: Here’s the problem with Mix. He’s not quite good enough in traffic to be an attacker (and showcase his curly-brown shoulder length locks) so the coaching staff has moved him to worker bee status in the midfield. It would make a HELL-OF-A-F*CKING statement if Miskerud, in keeping with him improved ability in the tackle, went mohawk. In fact, I’d ratchet him up as a candidate for Brazil.

* Joey Torres – .5: The school boy, I just went to the barber with mommy and got a lollipop ‘do is a little too close to the theme that Torres lacks focus and bite. Torres should go shave and get a tat. Massive game upgrade.

* Brek Shea – 6.5: Just about passing grade; just about right. Shea is “just about passing” this Gold Cup and his hair still stays true to his “there are guns, roosters and CSI dvds around my house” roots without being too outrageous where he might get a “you can have hair like that when you contribute” feel to it. Just about right. For now.

* Eddie Johnson – 9.0 – The blonde. Johnson is playing fast and sleek and his coif is on point with it. Dont’ change Eddie. In fact, dye your hole body. In fact, go back to the gold grill and that’s straight-up fear you’ll see in CONCACAF defenders eyes.

* Stu Holden – 7.0 – Needs to be a wee bit shorter or less gelled to reflect where his game is in respect to his ceiling. It’s a little too pretty boy right now. Just a tad and I think, like Torres, you have to say, “Give me the substance, not the frills”

* Michael Parkhurst 8.0 – Did you notice. It’s a bit on the shaggy, but not out of place German side. You get some fake specs off the pitch Parkhurst and you might just dupe Klinsmann into a Brazil ticket.

* Jurgen Klinsmann 8.5 – Fun in the sun. You get that sense that Klinsmann at times wants to put on a hideous Adidas kit and get back out there. But there is no gell and it’s 100% “in-place” with the hair. Right call by the skipper.

53 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Crow on 2013/07/26 at 2:18 PM

    I just wanted to say that I think this website deserves a huge compliment for taking soccer coverage to the next level.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/07/26 at 5:14 PM

      Thanks for the compliment Crow.


      • Posted by Crow on 2013/07/26 at 5:33 PM

        I was trying to be a little humorous using some of JK’s favorite press-conference phrases but also was sincere. I think this might have been one of the best posts ever from the site. It seemed to combine the advanced technical analysis of the site and the humorous/grantland side perfectly.

        I have no idea how long a post like this takes to work up- I know how long it takes for me to write up some of my comments. I’ve noticed sites like and newer sites like ASN adding more and more technical analysis but I don’t remember seeing that anywhere else before I saw it here. And for every “Piotr Nowak coach of the year” selection I like to rag on mercilessly, there are 10 unacanny Nostradamus accurate “you heard it hear first proclamations about guys like Zusi, Cameron, and Valdes and the Panamanian team. The site is like the Pitchfork/Gorilla vs Bear of soccer discoveries in North America.

        I’d even like to go as far as saying it has helped me become a more intelligent soccer fan, especially because I had limited exposure growing up, and also temper the bad side of my emotional fandom. Anyway, keep up the good work I know this isn’t a day job.

        One question I had- when is the next TSG “video contest”. I’d really like to get in on one of those contests sometime.


        • Posted by scweeb on 2013/07/27 at 8:00 AM

          I can’t agree more. I have some friends who just started to get into soccer. So you know the ones that when a guy is way off sides gets all upset that it was a bad call then looks over like what is off sides. Well i told them if you really want to start learning the game to come here to theshinguardian and you will love the articles. Plus the community here is so great.


  2. Posted by SamT on 2013/07/26 at 2:31 PM

    “Diskerud’s defensive chops on the turnover should be one of the “Three points for the US” on Sunday by Fox as it pumps Gus Johnson full of espresso and plays the NFL music.”

    That’s the sound of TSG hitting a temporary zenith as well. Nicely done.


    • Posted by Nelson on 2013/07/27 at 9:59 PM

      I gotta disagree about Mix’s rating. His locks are of a Greek god and soon his skill will match his hair to place him in the pantheon of America’s greatest.

      actually he has a bit to come but I’m most excited about his potential and possibly terrifying goldilocks mohawk.


  3. Posted by Chris herron on 2013/07/26 at 2:46 PM

    Well done like always…did call Shea she, accidental but funny as hell


  4. Posted by Cornelius on 2013/07/26 at 3:01 PM

    I’m buying those Besler VHS tapes from the nearest Hollywood Video come October.


  5. Great job! Long term for Shea is whether he’ll play at Stoke City. I believe he has a new coach (didn’t sign him), has to play (not guaranteed), and while has all the things we covet… would JK take a player that sits in EPL all season? Its possible. While I feel Holden will only get better when he goes back to club.

    Enjoyed the tactics. I think Mr. Cabrera had to sit you down when he told you “Listen…” almost like you weren’t getting it! Joking… but not really! Great job TSG!


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/07/26 at 4:02 PM

      He reminded of Pete Vermes who clarifies all his comments with, “Listen…”

      I was really pushing Cabrera for weak line personnel and afterward I told him “that’s a very political answer, but we’ll move on.” :>


      • Posted by Crow on 2013/07/26 at 5:11 PM

        I just wish you would have asked about Junior Flores. I want to know what happened there.


        • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/07/26 at 5:12 PM

          I’ll do that sometime next week. Flores was never a hard worker until recently so that could be it. Christ that kid is talented though.


          • Posted by Crow on 2013/07/26 at 5:35 PM

            Hmm I was wondering about Flores. So it sounds like he had a Freddy Adu syndrome going on. I was wondering if he had some kind of fallout with the coach. Hopefully he turns out and develops because I can’t think of a better place to develop than with Dortmund. He could maybe make us forget about Reyna.


      • Cabrera did give a political answer but it was also accurate. None of the Gold Cup back four guys is particularly bad or particularly good.

        What they are is a good illustration of what happens when everyone on a disciplined team fights for each other. In fact, the only outstanding individual talent on this Gold Cup squad in LD.

        The US has been dominating possession, scoring early and keeping the pressure on after scoring; all of which means the only way the other guys are going to score is probably on the counter.

        It reminds me a little of Capello’s Milan teams.

        And the US defenders are taking turns going forward so they all have the opportunity to be either outstanding or bad.

        Boring but true.


  6. Posted by Crow on 2013/07/26 at 5:17 PM

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who think RB is a concern for next year as we stand.

    Brek Shea was pressing again the other night I believe. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen him look as poor as he has at times the last few games but you still see the bright spots. I don’t think its physical or rust- I think it’s just a mental thing/confidence. Some of his passes remind me of Rick Ankiel when he couldn’t throw to the catcher anymore. I think once he starts playing again and gets his confidence up he will be fine. He is at his best when he is assertive running at people fearless. I do think he disrupted the rhythm the other night as did Diskerud when he came on.

    Just watching footage of Valdes missing his penalty in the Gold Cup final.


  7. Posted by Tom Patton on 2013/07/26 at 6:23 PM

    This is the best site in US soccer by far. WAY, WAY FAR!!!!!!!

    My question: If Shea is to get anytime this year at Stoke shouldn’t he be on the other side of the pond trying to impress Mark Hughes?
    I don’t see where 25 minutes a match in a B side Gold Cup is helping him with Klinsmann’s mantra- “you must be playing to considered.”

    Your thoughts on this since no one on FOX has brought it up?


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/07/26 at 8:52 PM

      It’s a good question and what I don’t know is just who Klinsmann knows at Stoke City. I don’t think his contact was the departed Tony Pulis.

      The reason I being this up is that it’s known in media circles that Klinsmann was a major facilitating factor in getting Cameron and Edu especially to Stoke. Shea I’m uncertain on, but wold imagine he was consulted.

      So iw old imagine that there was a discussion with Mark Hughes no it was decided that it better for Shea to get reps with the US. I believe he’s missed only three friendlies and 10 days of training and will join Stoke on Monday or Tuesday.

      That’s the best newer I have for you. Apologies.


      • Posted by Tom Patton on 2013/07/26 at 9:07 PM

        thanks Matthew – that is the only info. I have gotten anywhere.

        By the way- if you go to the Sunderland website you can see Jozy miss 3 absolute sitters. Oh well, it is early yet because DiCano (sp) did not go ballistic as of yet.


  8. Posted by Berniebernier on 2013/07/26 at 6:40 PM

    I really like the fact that the B team doesn’t have a best 11 but probably 15 guys that can play depending on what you need. I really love that the US is heading towards that. Bedoya or Corona depends what Jurgen wants. Width with speed go Bedoya (shocking) playing narrow with posession go Corona. Want a poacher go Wondo want a back to goal forward with speed go EJ. Want some bite on d go Beckerman and stu want more creativity go Diskerstu.

    Hope we can eventually see this with the A team. Jones when we need D another option when we want more offense. Zusi when we want width Corona for possession.

    Btw US getting close to two deep with guys I feel really comfortable with at A level (assuming a 4-2-3-1)
    G: Howard Guzan
    LB: Beasley Fabian
    Fast CB: Besler Fiscal
    DM Bradley Jones Mix (Cameron and Beckerman in the right circumstances)
    RM Zusi Landon Corona
    AM Dempsey Landon
    LM Landon Fabian
    F Jozy EJ

    Only RB and big CB not two deep.


  9. Posted by Steve Davis on 2013/07/26 at 6:47 PM

    I love that you remember Torres in the Turkey match on the 2010 warmup or farewell or whatever tour that was before south Africa. Great game for him. And yes, probably his last best match before this one. I remember Rob Usry (remember 723FootballFilms??) made an “every touch” video of that game for Torres and it was revelatory. I think Bradley had less of an idea than Klinsmann as to how he should be used, though it did still take Jurgen a year to find that “inside high left” position for him that works well — with a striker drifting right constantly. (Which would likely be Landon’s spot with the A team if Deuce stays where he has been, aka where Donovan has been playing this Gold Cup.)


  10. Posted by Steve Davis on 2013/07/26 at 6:59 PM

    I love that you remember the Turkey game for Torres. He was outstanding in that game! I remember that Rob Usry (remember 723FootballFilms??) did an “every touch” video of Torres for that game and it was revelatory. (Since disappeared…)

    Bob Bradley never seemed to figure out the best place for him, though it admittedly did take Klinsmann a year and a handful of starts to figure out this “inside high left” that seems to really work for Torres, especially when he has a striker perpetually drifting to the right like EJ has been the last two games and a LB that can overlap him.

    But that becomes Landon Donovan’s most logical position when he comes back into the national team, with Zusi still firmly entrenched on the right, and Landon basically playing the role that Deuce has been crushing for the last year — floating underneath, off of a higher striker, finding space, running lanes, etc? (Though I’ll bet you could make a compelling argument for Donovan being better at that role than Deuce, no?)

    Anyway, great post. One of the best in awhile.


  11. Posted by Tom Patton on 2013/07/26 at 7:21 PM


    You put Mix in front of Cameron in MIDFIELD? Not that I disagree but would like to no your reasons why.


    • Posted by Berniebernier on 2013/07/27 at 7:48 AM

      I wasn’t ranking them as who’s best per se. More along the lines of if I heard someone was starting in Costa Rica or against Mexico would I be concerned.

      I think both Cameron and Beckerman fit the role of DM that plays as a true 6 that allows the other DM (again assuming a 4-2-3-1) to go forward. This is basically what we have been seeing with Beckerman in the Gold Cup. I like Cameron better than Beckerman for that role but that is because I think Beckerman can be exposed by quicker players.

      Cameron and Jones doesn’t work. Cameron and Williams wouldn’t work. Cameron would have to pair with a Bradley or Mix, IMO. To me that limits them to certain situations.

      One could argue that Mix needs someone with him because he doesn’t play enough D. I agree if we look at Mix alone. But I feel he is good enough on D to pair with anyone else in the pool as the other listed DM can really bring the D. Mix and Jones would be fine, Mix and Bradley would be fine (not best use of Bradley but it would work).


  12. Posted by MJ on 2013/07/26 at 10:14 PM

    Question: Now that we know JK is out, what exactly are the rules? Can he be in the stadium? And, either way, is he not allowed to communicate (coach) with the person now in charge? Or does that violate the spirit of the suspension?


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/07/27 at 12:08 AM

      Looking. Not sure they are all public.


    • Posted by RichP on 2013/07/27 at 9:59 PM

      Didn’t Arsene Wenger once violate the terms of a one-match suspension by communicating with his bench? UEFA suspended him an additional 2 matches.


  13. Posted by craggysideburns on 2013/07/26 at 10:53 PM

    it’s soccer. nobody in the U.S. cares. nobody.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/07/26 at 11:58 PM

      I think that’s what is amazing. Only 1.2M people watched a B team Gold Cup friendly against El Salvador on a summer Sunday after in July this past Sunday.

      Imagine when people are start caring. Since that rating already dwarfed most baseball games, the next folks to be threatened are basketball and football fans.

      But oh wait, MLS attendance is catching up to NBA attendance.

      Man, what are you going to do who people start caring and the only thing that soccer doesn’t usurp on TV is American Idol and on ESPN is HGH NFL stories.

      Thanks for coming by and reading the piece and taking the time to comment intelligently no show you care enough to have a reaction.


      • Posted by FellainisFro on 2013/07/27 at 10:59 AM

        With all due respect Mr. Craggysideburns, you are an absolute douche-tard. Your caveman like grunt post with the grammatical awareness of a four year old reminds me of the clueless posts that I see either on yahoo sports or that provides little to no intelligent insight whatsoever on the subject they are commenting on with their preschool comprehension of the world around them.

        “it’s soccer. no body in the U.S. cares. nobody,” is a complete asinine comment considering that soccer is the most participated sport in the “U.S. Americans,” by either gender up to the age of 14 years old.

        Soccer IS the preeminent global sport and as an American who played the holy trinity of American sports of basketball, football and baseball as a child and college athlete. I can say without doubt my favorite sport right now is soccer, which disproves your theory that nobody cares about soccer by one person.

        My apologies to Mathew and all the other fine commentators on what I consider one of the finest websites for analysis on the USMNT for my less than positive post about another commentator. I have truly enjoyed the outstanding camaraderie here amidst a sea of absolutely terrible websites devoted to sports the last 2-3 years and would hate it to devolve to unintelligent gibberish by uneducated morons.

        Keep Calm And Soccer On……..


    • Posted by Tom Patton on 2013/07/27 at 7:00 AM

      I am sure one of my more thoughtful and intelligent fellow football, excuse me,soccer lovers, will answer you in a more erudite and enlightened manner, [edited]


  14. Posted by John Mosby on 2013/07/27 at 8:06 AM

    Of course coach klinsmann can be at the stadium. He is free to purchase a ticket, isn’t he?


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/07/27 at 9:06 AM

      Editing this comment above.


      • Posted by John Mosby on 2013/07/27 at 9:23 AM

        Matthew could you not find a way to keep the comments about common sense and common cause in there. I mean posters are talking about elephants privates. Alright, have it your way


        • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/07/27 at 9:30 AM

          I didn’t see the elephant privates. But I do object to “b*tt sni…..”
          I’ll look.

          I get off-kilter too, but I want to learn from the comments, not make it personal.


          • Posted by Gregorio on 2013/07/27 at 11:04 AM

            Ah a little personality goes a long ways, Anyway I have been out of touch lately, child rearing is kicking my ass. Anyway I thought of the guys at TSG because I’ll be in Poughkeepsie with the Hudson Valley chapter of AO and Leander is the special guest, Any requests? Just be civil!


            • Posted by Paul on 2013/07/27 at 3:32 PM

              Nice pull for the Hudson Valley chapter of AO. (Just became a member of the Buffalo chapter of American Outlaws. Sad to put away my Sam’s Army membership–I don’t like the “outlaw” theme of American Outlaws–but AO is a much better organization.)

              One question that would be interesting to have answered is how the world of electronic soccer journalism works. It seems odd to have various journalists jumping from company to company, from website to website, without anti-competition requirements drawn into their contracts. Another question would be if he has any knowledge, from his dealings with ESPN and Fox, about these companies’ recent move into covering the Mexican national team. It seems like the demand for English-based internet coverage of El Tri was always a lucrative venture. What took these companies so long to capitalize on this market? A more tactical question would be if Leander’s thinks that the history of Dutch soccer, and, more specifically, “Total Football”, offers any options Spain/Barca have not explored for greater success.

              My snarky, uncivil side might ask Leander if he, knowing what he knows now, would still ask Klinsmann what was wrong with the team at Klinsmann’s opening press conference. That might lead to an interesting question: given Leander’s initial skepticism about the program, how has Klinsmann changed the program or been responsible for various successes?

            • Posted by Gregorio on 2013/07/27 at 9:34 PM

              I love the snarky query but that might be perceived as somewhat hostile, But the questions about “Total Football”, and anti-competition rules seem apt. But I hope they don’t start invoking such clauses in contracts, it would curtail free enterprise & wit. Guess one could also use a good pseudo-name to write on some sites, we could solicit here, I mean c’mon Turd Ferguson is just pure gold.

  15. […] After you read our preview, a lengthier tactical breakdown of the match, with fine commentary from former US U-17 coach Wilmer Cabrera, and the usual sound analysis, check out this preview over at the Shin Guardian. […]


  16. Posted by Bobostales on 2013/07/27 at 10:48 AM

    Scweeb is a fanboy hahaha
    Nice article Matt


  17. Posted by Mark F on 2013/07/27 at 12:32 PM

    This site makes me love US Soccer, that much more.

    Keep up the great work TSG, you are awesome.


  18. Posted by CJ on 2013/07/28 at 5:55 AM

    My commentary isn’t always the best received but, I wouldn’t have a place for it if it wasn’t for the hard work the contributors to TSG put in.

    Thank you very much for your contributions to soccer. Every few months you guys noticeably raise the commentary bar higher and higher.

    I’ve been following since just before the ’10 World Cup and it’s awesome.

    I’d miss a large portion of my soccer reading if you guys were to ever disappear…


  19. Posted by Jon on 2013/07/28 at 9:55 AM

    Fantastic post!

    Two comments: In your interview with Cabrera, you actually come off as more wonk-ish than Cabrera; seems like he was holding back but still made some good points. Still, the asymmetry was kind of jarring because it sort of flipped the normal sports interview where ‘bland questions get bland answers’ to ‘insightful questions get bland answers’

    On the Zelaya penalty, I totally agree with your analysis except that the critical moment on the goal was not in the build-up but was a poor decision by Beasley. Zelaya was moving from USMNT’s right to its left and had no support arriving from the left channel. The Beasley foul occurred with Zelaya moving away from the goal and therefore his step into Zelaya was a completely ill-conceived risk. My point is that although your analysis is correct and perhaps Corona could have anticipated better and supported Parkhurst, the sequence would not likely not have generated a scoring chance if Beasley had shown more calm and restraint, much simpler task in my mind.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/07/29 at 12:48 AM

      Thanks for the note. Only second time I spoke with Cabrera…so he’s opening up more. But phone interviews always hard on tactics, imo.

      On the Beasley play, it’s hard to fault him outright in my opinion. That play should never get to him. And it was probably only a 60-40 foul call at best. Meaning odds slightly in Zelaya’s favor.

      A player going right like that can still unlease a shot–hell Bedoya almost uncorked a solid one today in the Final. First, Beasley is probably not 100% aware of precisely where he is on the field. I mean he knows, but just how much open face of the goal is there is still debatable and maybe there are others making runs. I think Beasley is trying to force him “back and to the right” to avoid a shot and he just steps to hard.

      But we should agree that know attacker should be allowed to trapse (spl?) his way across the goal face. If anyone on El Sal had made a short run, that’s probably a lead pass and goal right way. :>


  20. This website is awesome! Could you please help me with mine I just started and I am not very good. (Any words of advice)


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