Graph: Thinking On USMNT First Halves

The graphics below show the US’s typical first half set. They push the ball high on the left and keep compact defensively. If they get a goal, great, but they rarely ever rev the tempo or get the ball going side to side against quality opponents at the risk of giving one up early.

The arrows show the typical movements by position in attack. The grey, transparent section is the space the US usually elects to defend. Ale Bedoya yesterday or Graham Zusi, their speed and endurance protect the weaker right flank by flashing forward to shut down switchfields or tracking back when compromised.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

12 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by 4now on 2013/11/17 at 11:35 AM

    solid visualization.

    Question Matt – The most gifted/experienced front six would be Altidore, Johannson, Donovan, Dempsey, Bradley and Jones, no? Do you see these six locking down starting positions for Brazil?


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/11/17 at 6:19 PM

      I think Klinsmann thinks of it as follows:

      Jones-Bradley – 90′ locks
      Altidore – lock – starter
      Dempsey – lock – starter

      That leaves two positions on the wings for Graham Zusi, Landon Donovan, Eddie Johnson, Ale Bedoya, Fabian Johnson

      I think Klinsmann prefers Johannson as a sub when the US revs the tempo in 2nd halves. But I would see a scenario where he plays a little wide left and I think he should get some starting chances.

      Outside is completely configurable for the US depending on opponent, but I think Graham Zusi has the lead on the RFW position. He’s extremely underrated, plays at a high tempo (which the US often lacks without him) and is a good shield defender for the RB.

      I think Landon Donovan has the lead on the other LFW spot and may interchange with Dempsey.

      That gives you:
      Altidore, Dempsey, Donovan, Zusi, Fabian, Johannson on the plane. (6)

      And then EJ, Bedoya, Shea, Gomez, Wondo (maybe) competing for 2 or 3 spots.
      I’d have to think right now it’s three with EJ, Bedoya and Shea.


      • Posted by 4now on 2013/11/17 at 6:33 PM

        Thanks Matt. If Zusi and LD get those wing positions, does this mean Fabian drops back to LB, or is he then off the bench?


        • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/11/17 at 8:41 PM

          I’m not sure. What do you think?

          I think what never gets talked enough is that Fabian has been a pretty poor defender on the US–not that Beasley has looked polished. But Fabian has gotten beat, committed poor fouls or been well out of position when playing at leftback.


          • Posted by 4now on 2013/11/18 at 12:54 AM

            I agree. And I think DMB is improving there rapidly. Still, not entirely convinced. Still a lot left to answer. I think I am most concerned at center-half, where no one looks particularly convincing to me.


  2. Great summary visual. Its make things so much easier to understand.

    I’d really appreciate a followup discussion of opportunities and breakdowns. Two examples…

    1. Gonzo tries the long killer pass out of the back that almost never finds its target. BREAKDOWN

    2. After a patient and promising buildup on the left, Beasley back passes all the way back to cameron or howard only to start the buildup again. BREAKDOWN


  3. Posted by Kparker on 2013/11/18 at 8:36 AM

    Seems like a solid approach to first half tactics, particularly given that if the USMNT can be considered truly world class in one particular area, it’s fitness.

    Outlasting opponents physically and taking advantage of their mistakes later in matches could be the key to sustaining dominance against both relatively equal sides and those usually considered weaker (much to Panama’s chagrin)


  4. […] No game previews for this one, but The Shin Guardian takes a quick look at most first halves for the […]


  5. Posted by Eiffel on 2013/11/19 at 8:18 AM

    Is there a reason USMNT focuses on the left attack? Is it personnel or a strategy?


    • Posted by Snack Time on 2013/11/19 at 8:23 AM

      It’s to justify why we continue putting a slash across our kits.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/11/19 at 10:38 AM

      Yes, I think it was to be Cherundolo (with Chandler or Fabian on the other flank), but Klinsmann couldn’t count on Cherundolo’s health.

      The US used the right flank (through Cherundolo and Landon) much of last WC campaign.

      Here you have Beasley who is a very good distributor upfield and can play adequate defense. On the right you have a weak RB, weak CB (depending who’s playing), so you keep the ball on the left and make them work to get it over to the right so that the defense can recalibrate and help support those players.

      One of the most fascinating games from this year was Bosnia where the US may have given up two goals from the left, but they were on errors. Any time Bosnia could get the ball to the US right flank they got an abundance of chances–despite the US playing a very good team defensive game IMO.


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