State of the US (National Team)

USA Coach Bob Bradley is interviewed after the FIFA Final Draw for the FIFA World Cup 2010 South Africa held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) on December 4, 2009. Photo via Newscom

Earlier this week the United States began its march to the 2014 World Cup. On Tuesday, Bob Bradley’s annual January training camp kicked off. The camp’s importance is well-documented: two 2008 newcomers, Jonathan Bornstein and Ricardo Clark, ended up making the 2010 World Cup squad. And with MLS youngsters comprising the majority of the roster, some new faces will have the opportunity to tease their 2014 potential.

While Bradley’s immediate objective is to prepare for a January 22nd friendly against Chile, a secondary purpose is to determine which starlets might be ready to take part in the 2011 Gold Cup.

Pressing Issue: Preparation for the 2011 Gold Cup

World Cup success is the ultimate aim of every national team manager, though there are certainly smaller goals along the way. The success of USA’s 2011 will be determined by how Bradley’s squad performs in the Gold Cup (June 5th – 25th).

If the US emerges victorious, they’ll then be able to participate in the 2013 Confederations Cup, a World Cup warm-up tournament. While it’s debatable whether or not the Confederations Cup matches provide valuable experience (see Spain’s 2009 semifinal exit), participating gives squads the chance to scope out the lay of the land, as the tournament is held by the next World Cup host.

But before the United States can plan a 2013 trip to Brazil, they’ll have to figure out how to counter Mexico. The two CONCACAF giants have won all but a single Gold Cup, almost guaranteeing they’ll meet in the final. Any fixture beaten the two countries is sure to be hotly contested, but Mexico’s young attacking trio will bring a new dynamic to the rivalry.

Giovanni dos Santos (Tottenham Hotspur), Carlos Vela (Arsenal), and Chicharito (Manchester United) each have the potential to terrorize the United States’ backline. When they play together, they all have to be accounted for, a tall task. As the year advances, expect more info on how FFG believes the United States can tactically trump their neighbor.

Current Starting XI

Defeating Mexico and winning the Gold Cup may be priority number one, but to get there Bob Bradley has to decide which formation best utilizes USA’s available talent. We believe Bob’s current ideal setup would look something like the following 4-4-1-1:

Strengths

This formation accommodates USA’s most talented attackers – Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey – while making room for its most in-form player, Stuart Holden. How does it differ from Bradley’s usual 4-4-2? Dempsey functions more like an attacking midfielder than any other American striker, though he can still scoot up top when necessary.

Weaknesses

As usual, the backline presents the biggest headache. Aside from Steve Cherundolo, none of the defenders could be considered quick, much less fast. Teams with small, pacy forwards (like Mexico) would be very difficult for this back four to counter.

Contrasting Views

Ugly American

The January camp is full of overrated MLS standouts  and youngsters who will never amount to anything. Not only will the squad lose to Chile, none of the players will perform well enough to warrant further national team attention, creating a lack of depth heading into the Gold Cup. A loss to Mexico will be sure to follow.

Yankee Doodle Dandy

Over the next two weeks Bob Bradley will unearth the left back-of-the-future (Anthony Wallace) and a game-changing super sub (Mikkel Diskerud). But even Wallace and Diskerud won’t surpass Juan Agudelo. The young striker will shine against Chile, forcing Jozy Altidore to up his game lest he lose his starting spot. An energized Altidore will lead the USA to an inevitable Gold Cup triumph.

2 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Bradley's Receding Hairline says:

    The Gold Cup will be a great test. It’d be nice if Wallace or someone else pushes Bornstein to the bench. I’m still not sold on the guy.

  2. bensten says:

    Happy to see Holden in the starting XI. Definitely deserved. Excited to see Jones there, too. Chicharito has me terrified, and that’s how our backline should feel too. But before we face Mexico let’s see what the Chile match drums up. I’m holding out for the Yankee Doodle Dandy.

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