Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ugly Game For Undisciplined United States Soccer Team

The United States men’s national soccer team is still a long way from being as good as they can be. Wednesday night’s 3-1 drubbing at the hands of Costa Rica proved that.

Last night’s game showed the U.S. squad playing undisciplined and out of position soccer.

The first problem was with the defense, specifically the outside fullbacks.

Anytime a soccer team gives up three goals, the defense was bad. Last night though, Marvell Wynne showed his inexperience at the senior level and DaMarcus Beasley displayed his unfamiliarity with the left back position as well as being out of form from sitting at Rangers.

Wynne was outplayed by give and go’s and other combinations that negated his chase-down ability. He also was only able to get forward on an overlapping run once and he botched the play.

Beasley was worse.

On the second goal Costa Rica scored Beasley sat in the box, leaving three players unmarked. While it’s possible he sat back a little in order to best defend a cross to any three of the players, once Celso Borges got the ball, Beasley needed to challenge him, but he didn’t.

Take a look at the third goal. Deep in the U.S.’s defensive end, Michael Bradley gets beat by Pablo Herrera, who goes in unchallenged (Carlos Bocanegra needed to step up and stop the ball) to score.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Well, Beasley, who is supposed to be the left fullback—the side where Herrera came from—is nowhere near being in the picture.

Beasley was out of position too frequently and Costa Rica did a good job of singling him out and taking advantage of Beasley being unsettled in a new position.
Compounding the defense’s ineffectiveness was the formation. The U.S. came out with four defenders, three midfielders, and three forwards. With already a limited number of midfielders, only Michael Bradley consistently came back to help on defense, leaving them outnumbered.

Too many men went unmarked, and this caused the defenders to be indecisive on who to guard and when to go after the ball, such as what happened to Bocanegra and Beasley.
The formation caused problems on offense as well.

With only three midfielders there is only one central midfielder. This can be a problem when, of the six midfielders and forwards, at times five of them were really center mids.

Pablo Mastroeni got the nod as the starting center mid (it didn’t help that he played one of the worst games of his national team career). However, Michael Bradley is usually a center mid, and although Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan are listed as forwards and have played out wide in an effort to maximize their creativity on the ball, they too are both naturally center mids.

When Sacha Kljestan was subbed in for José Francisco Torres—who was, ironically, the only one not out of position, as he is a left-sided mifielder—that brought out another guy who usually plays in the center of the field.

The U.S. has an abundance of center midfielders; Mastroeni, Bradley, Kljestan, Freddy Adu, Ricardo Clark, and Maurice Edu.

Conversely, the options at the left and right side of the midfield are thin. So guys are going to have to play out of position in order for them to get on the field and for the U.S. to field its most talented team.

However, last night, certainly a time of adversity, guys began to lose their discipline and shaping and went to what is normally comfortable to them.

Players began to drift and bunch in the middle. That left nobody on the outside to
be an outlet and to attack down the flank.

Instead of spacing the Costa Rican team out, the U.S. bunched in the middle and tried to force themselves up the field. This left no space and players were continually in each other’s way.

It also hindered what Jozy Altidore could do. Because everyone was in the middle, Costa Rica’s defense could guard the U.S. with fewer players, and there was no room for Altidore to get free and use his speed and strength to attack.

While Costa Rica was able to defend the U.S. with fewer players because of poor spacing, when the U.S. turned over the ball, Costa Rica had players on the outside open, leading to a dangerous counterattack.

The result was ugly, but it is not the end of the road for the United States. There are more games still to play. They are still in second place in the standings (the top three automatically qualify for a spot in the World Cup). Plus, they get will meet Costa Rica again, this time at home.

What the U.S. needs to do now is buckle down and get ready to play a tough Honduras team on Saturday. The weekend game will be in Chicago and the Americans need to take care of business at home.

Photo Credits.
Top: AP Photo/ Kent Gilbert
Beasley: AP Photo/ Dario Lopez-Mills

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