TSG’s USA vs. Ukraine Preview: Shadow Casting

Ruslan Rotan and Clint Dempsey may face off again Thursday almost three years after they dueled in the Europa League.

Ruslan Rotan and Clint Dempsey may face off again Wednesday almost three years after they dueled in the Europa League. Deuce dropped a brace on Dnipro as Fulham led a rout at home on the day.

Wednesday’s USMNT match will be a game of shadows.

The stratified and sweeping pall of turmoil dragging south from Ukraine, clinging to the nation’s players like a wet lapel in unrelenting snow.

The Ukrainian republic compacted in a beleaguered state of revolt, tamped down under the sole of the imperialistic whimsy of Vladamir Putin and Russia. And, as is such with many smaller Eastern European republics, the narrative of the national football team somehow gets interwoven tightly with the national dealings. This week–in fact yesterday–became an exercise is media manipulation as reports–apparently perhaps erroneous–out of the former Soviet state claimed players unwilling or refusing to travel for competition.



More, European rags just two months ago were enlivened by the cartoonish words of recently-ousted Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych who shook his fist at none other than John Terry–yes freaking that John Terry–blaming the centerback for his country’s rickety state of affairs, sternly pointing to the Chelsea centerback cleaning a ball off his goal-line in a key Euro 2012 match and consequently dumping the Yellow-Blue out of the Euro championship tourney. That Euro championship of course was partly held on Ukraine soil in what now seems like a half-decade ago.

Many a fair accusation has been laid at the feet of the villainous English defender; this however is not remotely one of them.

[Note: Simon Schuster, Reporter for Time, is a must-follow on Twitter for events happening on the ground in the Ukraine.]

For the US, the theme is shadows too–none as magnanimous or important as the ones their opponents will tote with them, respectfully.

The States were expected to have a fairly rigorous test here as the World Cup countdown marched into double digits–playing Ukraine on their home pitch with a fairly flush US side.

However, injuries to Michael Bradley and even Tim Chandler–word was the Nurnberg man finally played his way back into contention–Mix Diskerud retained by his club  and MLS’s season kickoff have conspired to further muddle the prospects of the match for the visiting side and making it more an individual player fact-finding mission.

Pep: "Head westward young man!"

Pep: “Head westward young man!”

The US training path wrapped through Frankfurt this week with some player story lines distilling into focus–none more omnipresent than Bayern II man Julian Green in camp for a look-see.

Another want-away refugee from what seems like a bottomless vat of German-American dual nationals, Green brings as much or more of the sizzle that American fans grasped at with the early reviews of Juan Agudelo in South Africa or YouTube watch sessions of Josh Gatt.

Green is already who we thought Charlie Davies might be–and then some.

Word around the camp is that US skipper Jurgen Klinsmann is dangling Brazil in front of Green, knowing that the 22nd-rostered man may or may not make a difference in South America, but the commitment could see Green blossom into a force come Russia 2018….if he chooses the red, white and blue.

A few other fresh and grizzled faces of note are in camp. Birmingham defender Will Packwood who just overcame a Bryan Oviedo-esque leg injury gets a look. Long time centerback Oguchi Onyewu, coming off an injury, is in camp and looking to scratch his way into May’s 30-man roster. RFK October 2009 seems like just yesterday.

Also, of note, leftback Edgar Castillo and left wing Brek Shea are both in camp and it sure looks like “a Klinsmann tell” here. With DaMarcus Beasley and Fabian Johnson already locked in to Rio, Castillo and Shea may be battling for the final southpaw role.

Likewise, Sacha Kljestan and Danny Williams (with Diskerud’s club embargo) may be battling for an ultimate look in midfield. Since Mo Edu has trailed off, the US has been desperately lacking a tracking central midfielder to guard against inverted wingers. (More here in a minute.)

Williams has a golden opportunity to put his star back on Klinsmann’s clipboard. Then again and once again, Alfredo Morales has somehow “earned” a call. Morales is to Klinsmann as Findley was to Bradley…or something like that.

Without further Freddy Adu, we get to our customary preview. This time it goes:

» About the Opponent: Ukraine

» TSG What We’re Looking For

» 11 At the Whistle

Yarmo & Kono...

Yarmo & Kono…

About The Opponent: Ukraine

Not only did Ukraine get bounced from their home Euros in 2012, but the former Soviet state is still smarting from getting knee-capped–hard–from a World Cup birth at the eleventh hour by a resilient French side just a few months ago. That loss all the more compounding as Ukraine bowed out in a similar style for a 2010 World Cup bid, succumbing to Greece on their home turf. Tragic poetry that you just cannot make up under present circumstances.

Irrespective of outcomes, Ukraine have been struggling since that 2010 qualification campaign to develop their style, but under former FC Dynamo Kyiv defender Mykhaylo Fomenko–their fifth manager in six years when he assumed the top spot in December 2012–the national team hopes are now at minimum flickering. It appears a committed youth movement is in flight. In fact, only one or two starters remain from the side that crashed out of the ill-fated 2012 Euro.

For USMNT watchers, most are pinning Ukraine as a warm-up for the States’ third group match against Germany in Brazil. However, a closer look at the Ukrainians unveils a side that is nearly identical to how the Portuguese play, replete with similar strengths and weaknesses.

Ukraine organizes well as most Eastern European sides do, explodes into attack on turnovers when it presses the opponents’ backline, but they can have difficulty breaking down good defensive sides.

For Ukraine, like Portugal, it all begins on the flanks in attack.

Yevhen Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko, Ukraine’s Ronaldo and Nani in some one-two order.

Both are the future for Ukraine. They are both strong, technical inverted wingers who must be accounted for at all times.

Konoplyanka is arguably the chief conductor of the Ukraine attack. “Kono”–a Liverpool transfer target this past January and dubbed the “Ukrainian Messi”–actually plays like a sturdier version of Brazil’s Robinho, matching the Milan man’s skillset and uncanny ability to exploit space between the lines.


… This is a little nifty play here. A dead ball has produced an entry pass to Stephenko. Konoplyanka has occupied the right back for France who faceguards him (top arrow) between the lines–this move however releases the left back who will have a free run-on to a well played ball if the opposing right midfielder is unaware of his assignment or falls asleep. Organized well though the ball is misplayed on this occasion.

The winger can often be found looking to drive the touchline or tucking in centrally between the lines (above) and allowing for his left fullback to overlap. Those fond of the Robinho comparison will immediately recall Michel Bastos marauding down the flank as Robinho caused fits off the 18-yard hashmarks at World Cup 2010. (The Dutch remember.)

Kono is a spirited and well-balanced dribbler and Geoff Cameron’s movement and communication will be tested in handling him–especially in transitions. (More on the Cameron-Konoplyanka dynamic below.)

On the other wing is the Ukrainian Nani to continue the narrative and frankly mangle it a bit too.

Strong and stout at 6’2”, Andriy Yarmolenko actually plays a lot closer to another United player–an inverted Valencia. Konoplyanka and Yarmolenko both came up through the ranks together, but with Kono preferred at left wing, Yarmolenko was tried unsuccessfully at leftback before settling in on the right. (Look for the pair to switch if the opportunity or advantage presents itself Wednesday.)

On to Ukraine’s weaknesses which ape Portugal’s, keenly the lack of a true striker and central midfield management.

Up top, 23-year-old Roman Bezus has been demoing. He’s a fair if not freakish facsimile for Portugal’s Postiga. Bezus will be a nuisance for the uninitiated Onyewu-Brooks combo and can scurry through on probing balls on the floor but will get worked over if he needs to fend in the air. Think Soldado for Spurs if Postiga’s game play escapes you.

As for the midfield management, Ukraine can get caught in two mindsets that are as much the challenge of their tactics as of the players.

The formation will be labeled a classic 4-2-3-1 but how it truly plays is more of a 4-1-3-1-1.

In attack, it will likely be the aforementioned Bezus with veteran Ruslan Rotan pushed forward from his box-to-box role.

Rotan moved forward accounts for Denys Harmash to make the first eleven.

Harmash will be expected to form the base of the attacking midfield and has developed chemistry with Konoplayanka and Yarmolenka since the youth teams. Few discussions about the prospects of the Ukraine team begin without the mention of this trio.

Harmash will be backed by another youngster, Taras Stepanenko recently back from injury. The 24-year-old was thought to ooze potential but common thinking on the Shaktar player is that’s he up for nearly any one-vs-one battle, but is positionally naive or just negligent.

This is where Dempsey’s movement off Jozy Altidore–think Deuce against Panama in Seattle–may should create a chance or two.

The fullbacks in the Ukrainian equation are the unspectacular Yevhen Khacheridi on the right and Yevhen Makarenko on the left. Khacheridi, of course, is the rightback who chopped down Ribery with 40 minutes to go in the French home-and-away elimination series to all but scuttle Ukraine’s bid for Brazil.

Makarenko–who should see his first cap–on the other hand has the homeland (as it much as it can be right now) buzzing. He’s Ukraine’s Josh Gatt so to speak–fast, fearless, but inexperienced.

The centerback pairing is Oleksandr Kucher and Yaroslav Rakytskiy.

And finally, at keeper is what should be a settled situation for Fomenko but is not (a courtesy to English journo-on-Ukraine John Bradley on Twitter for this intel).

Not traveling to Cyprus is Oleksandr Rybka who completed a two-year PED ban just days ago. By all accounts, Rybka is the future for Ukraine in goal but with less than two full matches since his ban ended, Fomenko went with Shakhtar Donetsk’s Andriy Pyatov–who comes with the memo, “Just shoot because you never know which way he’s blowing on the day.”

A possible Ukraine deployment.

A possible Ukraine deployment.

The Ukrainians–excepting a mindset that is likely worlds away from the match–will look to pressure high sporadically and create some chances.

When not commanding the run of play or pressing, Fomenko’s team will drop to a low block defense and look to swarm the ball once the US fullbacks have committed to being in possession at the top of the attacking third–it’s a defensive strategy that perennially gives the US fits.

In the back Oleksandr Kucher and Yaroslav Rakytskiy can sometimes be sucked in to trying to win aerial balls in their opponent’s defensive half. The young pair can be had with balls measured into space behind the them–that sound you heard was Aron Johannsson revving his engine.

Also, the Americans need to be wary of Ukraine’s set piece game–it’s less physically dominant than cunning.

The Ukrainians tend to take quick restarts looking for a down the line run when deep or for a quick switch or set play that catches the defense off guard. A gambling man would likely get good returns on betting Ukraine to get one on a restart or scrum after a restart.

The similarities to Portugal again are many.



TSG – What Are We Looking For

Rightback hazards.

Cameron v. Konplyanka. UFC 238.

No one is Ronaldo and the Ukrainian Messi is certainly hyperbole, but Konoplyanka will ape Ronaldo well–a strong right-footed winger who is devastating coming off the left touchline. This is precisely the type of movement the US will need to solve in Game 2 in a few months and similar quick movement that has troubled Geoff Cameron at his rightback spot. (Remember this publication thinks Cameron should be inked in permanently at CB for the States and Stoke City though we’ll take him over all comers still at RB too.)


The first series of images here is from the US – Belgium friendly almost a year ago in Cleveland. Any defender asked to defend an international caliber forward in space will have a challenge as Cameron does here when Kevin Mirallas is floated an over-the-top ball. The sequence here leads to Mirallas gaining space centrally and Tim Howard spilling a Romelu Lukaku shot on a criss-cross run. Eden Hazard cleans up the mess for Belgium’s first goal on the evening.


Once again, just a month ago against Chelsea in the League Cup, Cameron is foiled–this time directly–by Hazard. Early in the game, Cameron closes aggressively on Hazard. The Belgium winger skips by him on his stronger right foot and buzzes centrally to create a chance.

It was the work of a pedestrian Andres Guardado in the US’s 0-0 draw in Mexico City that gave Klinsmann pause to anointing Cameron his rightback last year and Cameron–who has improved dramatically on the corner this year–still struggles with pacey wingers.

Of course, as is the change in state of the US team under Klinsmann, team defense, not emergency defense is the focal point. The US tries desperately to keep the ball off its weaker right flank early in the match. A situation above where Cameron is caught in space is already a breakdown of the defense ahead in defending the long pass. Continually, it’s the play of the defenders around Cameron who will be tasked with–and are just as culpable if–a breakdown occurs.

Wednesday that should be Danny Williams centrally and Oguchi Onyewu at centerback. This is where the US defense should be evaluated as well.

Take a look below at Konoplyana going up against England at the end of 2013.


In the first set of images, Kono has gotten loose with Steven Gerrard tracking him. This is good defense by the Three Lions here as Gerrard insures that a cutback doesn’t happen by playing almost behind Kono’s run. Gerrard knows it is Gary Cahill–not Jamie Carragher–helping over the top. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)


In the second set of images here, Kyle Walker bites on the fullback overlap and Kono has a channel centrally. Whether Kono is respecting Walker’s speed, doesn’t like the look or whatever Kono fails to be aggressive and issues a relatively harmless entry pass that is well-defended.

Cameron vs. Kono will be the marquee match-up for Klinsmann’s staff Wednesday from the individual duel as well as the team defense. It’s one for fans to watch with Ronaldo dawning.

Will it be Gooch on ice skates in Cypress? Hopefully not. (Photo credit: The Yanks Are Coming.)

Will it be Gooch on ice skates in Cypress? Hopefully not. (Photo credit: The Yanks Are Coming.)

• Can you pass for a centerback?

It goes without saying that distribution is not at the top of the checklist for many a Yank centerback–save Matt Besler perhaps.

With the challenges of moving the ball and the desire to provide a layer of protection ahead of Tim Howard, Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley can often be found dropping deep, separately or in parallel, in hopes of grinding the attack into motion.

Wednesday will showcase Onyewu–a lead-footed passer–paired with John Brooks–smoother handles, but inexperienced. Like Portugal, Ukraine will jump on vertical passing mistakes. How will Gooch and  Brooks fare? And will Jones have to drop deep and attempt hero balls to get the attack moving.

[The sound of a bunch of dishes crashing]

“I hear you knocking, but you STILL can’t come in!”

The US has found its attack lacking on road in Europe lacking under Klinsmann, save the a wild result 4-3 result in Slovenia.

Call it a 4-4-2 contact high. Remember that?

As with any team that swarms at the top of its defensive third, the US will need to proactively find the passing triangles– yeah those things–and get the ball moving horizontally. In the land of gang tackle, the square pass is king–that made sense I swear when I wrote it.

Anywho, for this reason, the US Thomas Muller–look I’m going to beat the sh*t out of this comparison so deal with it–Aron Johansson. Johannsson will be instrumental in coming all the way across the field to support on the right flank and integral is allowing for Fabian Johnson’s overlaps on the left. Space monkey!

11 At The Whistle

A possible US deployment in Cypress.

A possible US deployment in Cypress

G: Tim Howard

The skinny: Duh.

DEF: Geoff Cameron, Oguchi Onyewu, John Brooks, Fabian Johnson

The skinny: Some veteran European presence here….and that is important as the US will trot out “Not Michael Bradley” in the shield role. Geoff Cameron again here looks to wrest the RB job away from Brad Evans. Geoff Cameron again here looks to wrest the RB job away from Brad Evans. That’s not a typo–the Brad Evans thing always takes another minute to sink in.

Onyewu and Brooks should be aerially superior, but at times positionally-challenged. Omar Gonzalez has shown similarly, but with good emergency defending–will these guys?

And Fabian Johnson in what should be a freer and better role. Leftback certainly looks like Diamond McBeasley’s position to lose but with Johnson given rope to push up the flank he may pencil in a good camp battle with a solid showing against Yarmolenko.

CDM: Danny Williams

The skinny: Danny Williams is playing and playing well for Reading while Sacha Kljestan has been in and out of the line-up in Belgium.

Have you ever thought to yourself, “What happens is Geoff Cameron’s my rightback of choice and Michael Bradley gets Costa Rican’d in the first game?” I bet Klinsman has on his mind-clearing copter rides and so should you … so should you.

Welcome back Danny Williams. I bet you’d even take playing out at right mid again; wouldn’t you?



CM: Jermaine Jones

The skinny: ‘Sup Pharrell.

I love everything about Jermaine Jones’s instagram account and intensity …. and almost nothing about the way he starts off game. A 20-30’ JJ drinking game should get every US fans loose on Thursday.

Short pass to the opposition. Take a sip.

Long ball to where only Robbie Findley roams. Drink twice.

Frustration foul in the back. Pound it.

Shank to the ankle of the opposite #10 with a concealed weapon in his heal. Pound two. (Oh what, you don’t think that can’t happen?)

Bedoya hoping to fly his magic red carpet to Rio.

Bedoya hoping to fly his magic red carpet to Rio.

RM: Alejandro Bedoya

The skinny: TSG dubbed Ale Bedoya The Ambassador to Brazil way back in 2011. Looks like it’s coming good. We also thought that Robbie Rogers might surprise on the road to Brazil. Wrong category though.

Nice spotting by Dax McCarty to find Bedoya on the Oscar’s the other night by the way.

LM: Aron Jóhannsson

The skinny: This is a bit of a stab here, but it makes some sense. Johannson is on form. Moves well laterally and will be asked to come centrally to support Dempsey in the attack.

If it’s not Johannsson, expect it to be Fabian Johnson in the midfield with Edgar Castillo behind him.

CM: Clint Dempsey

The skinny: Paging Clinton Drew. Clinton Drew. Will Clint Dempsey please report to the pitch in 2014 and “TRY SOME SH*T!”

How do you think Don Garber feels about dollars recouped from Dempsey’s Fulham spell? It’s almost like getting comped at the casino. “Oh I’m sorry, you lost $1200, but here take a watered down Jack & Coke and please do come back.”

STR: Jozy Altidore

The skinny: I actually subscribe to the theory that Jozy’s education in hard knocks at Sunderland is better than tapping in shots in the Eredivisie.

Yup, talking myself into that line of reasoning.

Elsewhere: ESPN’s Rog Bennett with a cool retrospective on the 1994 World Cup.

37 responses to this post.

  1. […] The Shin Guardian has a rather in-depth preview of Wednesday’s game. Look for PSP’s later this morning. […]


  2. Posted by mathmatics on 2014/03/04 at 9:00 AM

    “Castillo and Shea may be battling for the final southpaw role.”

    If this is the case, and it may well be, than dangling a Brazil ticket in front of Julian Green isn’t necessarily sacrificing a 2014 roster spot for 2018. It’s not unthinkable that Green is already better than both Castillo and Shea.


  3. Posted by matthewsf on 2014/03/04 at 9:03 AM

    Agree right there. Think Green only goes to Brazil with a promise of playing time from Klinsmann — which would really be something. If you’re not going to play, why close up your eligibility with 4 years until the next World Cup.


    • Well, considering that Shea has been sick for the last 1-2 weeks not playing with club team and either bad luck or whatever you want to call Shea’s time in Europe. To me, it would be quite interesting to see if Green sees that he could, at minimum, play in the World Cup.

      We all forget that Shea made good plays while still playing for FC Dallas and in the Gold Cup coming off his injuries played poorly in his lone start… stole a goal from Donovan (reality is you make sure the goal is going in so stole made be a little extreme, lets just say took the goal away) but he did make a goal in a big game (although he kicked the ball right at the goalie and luckily it went under his elbow to score). I think you guys are right for Shea and Castillo.

      How many of you think any of these players can make the WC 2014 roster?
      Agudelo – I think he could surprise but only if we take 4 strikers (love his passing ability and even how he heads the ball to give his players opportunities toward goal)
      D.Williams – I like his ability to pass the ball in midfield and have seen him play for England club team. He’s playing well now. Is he playing for backup role behind Jones or behind Bradley?
      Kljestan – Even when he was playing well for club team, I just don’t have him above Diskerud or even Williams, who is just coming back.
      Bedoya – I have him on team at the moment backing Zusi at RM/RW.
      Boyd – I think he needs more time to continue to improve and mature (thinking Olympics for him).
      Brooks – Not starting anymore for club team doesn’t help him and this game will really give us a good idea on where he is.
      Onyewu – If healthy, right now… I think he goes. He is the lone experienced player with multiple WC games under his belt. I’m not sure he has the jumping ability as he once had but no one questions his physical game. That could be big versus all three teams. He too needs to have a big game.
      Either Onyewu or Brooks will go and I think its pretty much due to options with only Fiscal left that has played CB for US other than Besler, Gonzalez, Goodson.

      What do you guys think?


      • Posted by mathmatics on 2014/03/04 at 10:34 AM

        One of Agudelo, Boyd, Wondo or Gomez needs to convince JK that a fourth striker is necessary given the flexibility of Donovan and Dempsey.

        Brooks, Goodson, Orozco, Onyewu, and I guess Packwood are fighting for 1-2 remaining center back spots. One spot if Cameron is considered a center back and JK brings two other right backs. Two spots if he considers Cameron the #1 RB and only brings one guy to back him up.

        Honestly there isn’t much to separate any of these players. We’re already facing an uphill battle to get out of the group. If our progression rests on any of the guys listed above, it’s probably curtains.


        • Posted by matthewsf on 2014/03/04 at 10:40 AM

          Packwood and I don’t believe Orozco are in play at this point.

          History has shown as well that often the players who get no run are defenders. If you remember the WC 2010 run, it was Clarence Goodson and Jonathan Spector as the only field players who saw no action for Bob Bradley.

          In that vain–and we’ll have a depth chart out here–I think you’ve got Jozy and Aron with their slots sealed, with EJ more than likely also.

          There could be two more strikers as well if Klinsmann only takes 7 defenders which is possible due to the flexibility of Fabian Johnson and Geoff Cameron. (then again, against Reus, Ronaldo, Nani … there is also the chance of double yellow / red card)

          It’s a good bet that Wondo is getting a serious look for his poacher potential. If the US is hucking crosses into the box late, can Wondo find some space and crack one …. is probably the thinking.

          Independently, I think that leaves Agudelo and Boyd battling for the single back-up target man role. Boyd with the lead here.

          Then again, it can all change.


          • Posted by Usually Ranting on 2014/03/04 at 11:09 AM

            Really torn on EJ. We’re talking about a guy who plays 98% of his minutes without making a crack of an impact and being a liability defensively…and then 2% of his minutes result in some clutch goals/clinical finishing.

            Hard to see him left off the roster given his contributions in qualifying..but still…such a risky choice.

            I don’t think Wondo gets in. He’s going to be outclassed by the competition this go around, I’m sorry. Pepe, Boateng are different animals than what he has succeeded against.


            • Posted by Chazcar2 on 2014/03/04 at 11:34 AM

              I think EJ makes the team unless Agudelo or Boyd really step up. Late game physicality can really change things. If I want a headed goal I would look to EJ over anyone else in the pool. The people in the box to clean things up would be Dempsey and Donovan.

              I bring 3 strikers right now. Altidore, Johannsson, and EJ. Dempsey and Donovan are forwards/midfielders.

            • I believe , this , ( the 1914 World Cup ), will be the US , most disappointing performance in international competition . If they don’t beat Uganda , there is no hope , might us well pack up and come home to practice some more against … maybe Chivas USA .

    • Posted by mathmatics on 2014/03/04 at 1:12 PM

      19 year olds aren’t known for delaying gratification… World Cup, Brazil, right now. 2018 is a lifetime away for a kid his age.

      *crosses fingers*


  4. Is the game on? I thought it had been cancelled.


  5. Posted by Chazcar2 on 2014/03/04 at 10:41 AM

    Fabian Johnson has been playing some right back for his club. He has played there for the States a couple times. I could see klinsmann going that route.

    Geoff Cameron is starting at right back consistently in one of the best leagues in the world. I agree that that fact is a very strong argument for just putting him there and being done with it. But… is it the best for the US team? I really think sliding him inside to center back is a bad choice. I fully embrace Besler-Gonzalez as the top choice, with Goodson as first fill in. After that the fourth centerback spot is up for grabs (if we bring one, with Cameron on the roster you could give that up for more depth elsewhere).

    From here I guess you run into the philosophical discussion of best 11 players or best formation or best formation for best players…

    But disregarding that for now, I think this could be a good game to rest Jones for. I am not a big Jones fan and would be happy with him out of the starting 11 no matter what, but this game in particular he shouldn’t be playing. He hasn’t been playing regularly since his transfer and injury. Having him in the camp is important, but starting seems like an unnecessary risk. Having more of the “Core” intact is probably better for evaluation, but I would leave him out.

    For this game, given the Portugal equivalency, I would start:

    Because for Portugal I would start:

    The idea here is Cameron is deployed so that he can face up on Ronaldo (with Bradley and Gonzalez to back him up). Zusi, Bradley and Dempsey occupy Miereles, Mourtino and Veleso respectively. Donovan will keep Coentrao pinned back giving acres of space to Johnson in between Ronaldo and Coentrao. On paper anyway…


    • Posted by Chazcar2 on 2014/03/04 at 10:50 AM

      One simple point on this is With midfield Service coming from the right from Donovan and Zusi, I can see Jozy near post and Dempsey far post, Bradley late arriving at the top of the box. Beasley cleaning up and recirculating from the left touchline. Cameron switching play…

      Man I am a tactical genius… in my head and on the Internets.


      • Posted by matthewsf on 2014/03/04 at 10:56 AM

        I can’t remember the last time I saw Landon Donovan select the “C” (Cross) button willingly. Unreal huh? He’s been more effective tucked in on the right or incutting from the left.

        I actually quite like the player he’s evolved into in Klinsmann’s system–exactly what’s needed.


        • Posted by Chazcar2 on 2014/03/04 at 11:25 AM

          The is why is see Zusi and Donovan together on the right. Donovan coming inside: under or over altidore while zusi stays wide to cross. I specifically changed the word cross to service in my post because I could see donovan driving at goal with the ball while Zusi is digging out crosses. Also in a more counter attacking 4-4-2 with donovan as the second striker.

          One thing about our current player pool is that we don’t have any one player that can really do all that a Traditional position requires. No all around wingers, fullbacks, number 10’s, or 9’s. I envision job sharing at many spots on the field.


          • So you think we’ll run a 4-3-3 moving forward? I expect it to be our future formation but I really don’t see our current players fitting that mold (talking Dempsey & Donovan in particular).


            • Posted by Chazcar2 on 2014/03/04 at 2:12 PM

              I think we will run a weird blend of 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 that is unbalanced. But it depends on the talent. The US shouldn’t have a formation. They should have a system. It can get really shady to talk too much about 4-4-2 versus 4-2-3-1 versus 4-3-3. They can all be the same thing. I mean a 4-4-2 with Dempsey as a striker is a 4-5-1. or the 4-6-0? I mean it can get into semantics quite quickly.

            • Posted by matthewsf on 2014/03/04 at 2:23 PM

              “Asymmetrical” — not unbalanced. I was correct as well by Devin Pleuler. That formation is very balanced & extremely defensive to boot.

              Let’s see what the US does on Wednesday. They’ve had the same strategy the last few times out for the most part.

              Stuff it up the left side and scratch a goal only if it’s no risk in the first half. Open it up in the 2nd half with wings rushing forward or quick switches.

              Very interested to see what happens here.

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2014/03/04 at 11:04 AM

      The US is not going to abandon it’s 2-man CM with Jones-Bradley — won’t happen and frankly shouldn’t until someone else shows they can handle the physical rigors/tackling inside at the international level, run with players and possess the ball in traffic.


      • Posted by Chazcar2 on 2014/03/04 at 11:29 AM

        I could agree with that as well. Which is why I could also draw this more like a 4-2-3-1 below:


        Subs here could be Bedoya or Johannson for zusi, EJ for Altidore or Jones, Castillo/Johnson for Donovan bring Dempsey underneath the striker.

        All depending on the in game situation.


  6. Playing Jozy A up top, alone, is the experiment that yields the same results over and over but no one likes that conclusion so we do it again.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2014/03/04 at 10:55 AM

      I think Agudelo was in the picture early on for Klinmsann but didn’t mature fast enough, had some injury issues and club rep issues.

      And taking a look at Boyd, he has matured but he is like a Jozy Jr. sometimes with silly mistakes or missed assignments. I believe it was the Germany friendly where he tried to dribble out of his own box and coughed up the ball and thus a goal.

      Jozy’s the best option — unfortunately, but Agudelo and others should challenge in 2018.


  7. […] written above about what Yevhen Konoplyanka is capable of, and there is an outstanding tactical breakdown of the Ukrainian attack in the always excellent Shin Gua… That said, we’ll touch briefly on right winger Andriy Yarmolenko, who had Ukraine’s […]


  8. TSG had been a little dormant of late but this post might be one of it’s best analysis I’ve seen, here or elsewhere. It’s too bad Besler and Gonzalez won’t be here for this pre-Portugal scrimmage. I think that they would have benefitted the most from this game.

    I’m torn with rooting for Cameron to win the RB spot over Evans but it might be the best solution at that position now that Cherundolo and maybe Chandler appear to be out of the running. I just think that Cameron should be starting somewhere, RB, CB or midfield sweeper.

    I thought that maybe Lichaj would get one last chance when Ream was a late scratch but I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

    I’m still holding out for Fab Johnson to claim the LB spot over DMB. This would be the game to make his case. I’ve heard the arguments but I’m still not convinced Beasley can hold up against WC caliber attackers. That’s not to say he hasn’t earned his place so far.

    One last thought. I hope I’m wrong but Deuce seems to have lost his mojo and I’m afraid he’s heading into some sort of descent. We definitely need him to be at his best in Brazil.


    • Posted by gino744 on 2014/03/05 at 8:42 AM

      I’m not sure a presidential petition is the way to go about changing the crest. What we might need though is a change in the makers of our National kit. Maybe Under Armour would shake things up a bit and design a less ho-hum jersey. Even though I was chomping at the bit to buy the WC jersey, I didn’t once I saw it. Not even free American Outlaw patches was enticing enough for me to spend $90+ on this letdown. Maybe it’ll grow on me like some shirts have in the past. Maybe I’ll just wait for the blue or maybe red shirts and plunge then. Either way, Nike better step it up because they’re not the only American makers of soccer apparel.


  9. Posted by Carlos on 2014/03/04 at 6:02 PM

    Great analysis, this is the best site by far. Hoping for more to get us through the WC.


  10. Posted by mark on 2014/03/04 at 7:24 PM

    Dempsey has definitely lost his edge, and given Altidore’s current form, the U.S. may have to look elsewhere for scoring. Naturally, I’m thinking Johannsson could end up playing a bigger role, but considering his lack of experience it’s hard to judge exactly how he’ll perform. Fabian Johnson will also be key–he’s been a catalyst in the attack during qualifying will definitely start either on the wing or at left back. Those two guys could bring a dynamic element the team otherwise lacks, especially in the final third.

    The green U.S. backline can be assumed to give up at least 2 goals a game against the teams its going to face in the World Cup, so scoring is going to be paramount, and one goal won’t likely cut it.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2014/03/04 at 8:04 PM

      Actually Mark — I tend to disagree on giving up at least 2 goals — with a big asterisk.

      The US is simply not a good comeback team for the most part now–Bosnia aside.

      The US plays much more compact now and risks less opening-up of their backline–for very good reasons. This is because of it’s scoring challenges–the States simply does not have players–like Pjanic, Iniesta, Ozil, Balotelli–who can create when in possession against a low block defense.

      My tangent to your thinking is, “Escape the first 45 w/o giving up a goal”–if the US can do that they stand a very good chance of advancing.

      It’s if the US gives up the first goal then they’ll need to open up the speed of play and verticality to get back in it earlier. And that’s when they’ll have issues.

      The parallel here is of course Bob Bradley’s teams. Bradley relied on fitness and accepted emergency defending at the cost of maintaining tempo.

      The USMNT under Bradley’s mindset was, “Go go go … vertical.” and such it was no a coincidence that they often gave up the first goal in transition (Rico at the WC, Dempsey in Chicago, Jones’s foul and chasing against Panama 2011). They often advanced vertically from where they were through the defense–and it came at the cost of central turnovers that should’ve maybe been balls out to the flanks.

      Under Klinsmann the mindset has been one of ultra conservatism. Keep the ball at the feet of the veteran distributors — Deuce, DMB, Landon on the left, shield the weaker RB/RCB situation and attempt to create as far away from the US defensive trouble spot as possible.

      The US rarely breaks shape or even leaves it’s RB in space with the ball at the risk of a turnover. It’s quite amazing actually. Pragmatic German defending really.


  11. Posted by Fredo on 2014/03/04 at 11:34 PM

    Agree that we need a tackling & ball winning defensive midfielder in Brazil and that we lack that now. (Bradley does neither very well. Jones thinks he’s a 10.) Disagree that the US’ defensive set up previously has been “emergency defending.” Second string talent may be reason for that assumption. Enjoyed the preview!


  12. […] The usual suspects, The Shin Guardian and The Yanks Are Coming, have some game previews up for […]


  13. Posted by amh on 2014/03/05 at 7:22 AM

    off topic:
    why the disparity in number of friendlies still to be played in 2014 between the US and Mexico?
    Mexico – 5 (Nigeria, United State, Ecuador, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Portugal)
    USA – 2 (Ukraine, Mexico)
    Granted, the US played two in November 2013 that Mexico did not…


    • Posted by mathmatics on 2014/03/05 at 10:54 AM

      The usmnt will have a 3-match world cup send off series. It concludes with Nigeria, the other two opponents are tbd.


  14. […] « TSG’s USA vs. Ukraine Preview: Shadow Casting […]


  15. The Indian National Football team needs to participate more in World Football , and Gulati could do a lot about it .


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