USA 2 – Canada 0

It’s 2009 all over again. A pair of young forwards, deployed in front of a quality midfield and a solid backline, led the way to a 2-0 victory. Charlie Davies still isn’t ready for National Team duty, but Juan Agudelo proved a more than serviceable replacement in his first important international fixture.

Canada sat very deep in their 4-4-1-1, allowing the USA to control the pace of the match.

Due to the absence of Stuart Holden and Benny Feilhaber, and in light of Agudelo’s excellent form, Bob Bradley pulled out the ol’ 4-4-2. Tactically, it seemed as if nothing had changed since the 2009 Confederations Cup.

Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey manned the flanks, with Dempsey operating as an inverted winger. Michael Bradley was the more offensive-minded of the two central midfielders. And Steve Cherundolo played higher up the pitch than his counterpart, Carlos Bocanegra.

Canada, using a 4-4-1-1 that de-emphasized pressing, was in trouble from the get-go. Jozy Altidore and Agudelo pressured the backline and the goalkeeper when Canada had possession, creating a series of turnovers in the early going.

Canada’s day never got much better. They spent long stretches of the first half, and the opening 20 minutes of the second, chasing the ball. But for all of the American’s dominance, it took two mistakes for the gringos to open their account.

Center back Kevin McKenna neglected to play the offside trap in the 15th, allowing Altidore to get into the box, and Altidore should count himself fortunate that Lars Hirschfeld didn’t stop his near post shot. Hirschfeld, though, was left helpless by USA’s second goal, Clint Dempsey’s sliding strike in the 62nd.

Needing to score, the Canadians shifted to a lopsided 4-4-2. And while they had more offensive fluidity in that formation, the gringos had already stopped pressed. The match’s outcome was never in doubt.

But I can’t help but think this was – tactically speaking – a step backwards. Bradley the Elder closed 2010 and opened 2011 using a 4-2-3-1. No formation is inherently better than any other, but certain formations do provide benefits when fielded against particular strategies or formations.

As we saw last Saturday, the 4-4-2 struggles when fielded against formations with 3 central midfielders. Yes, Spain was always going to control Saturday’s match. And, yes, Spain is the best team in the world. But there were times when the USA’s overworked central midfield pair had no chance of slowing Spain’s attack, as they were outnumbered 4 to 2 in the middle of the pitch.

Spain, and by extension Barcelona, have found something new in their tiki-taka style. It’s disappointing to see the United States returning to something old to get a result.

Gringos, are you feel as pessimistic as I am? Or am I being way too hard on Bob?

2 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Ben says:

    It was simplistic strategically, but at least it was working! There were some nice little pockets of chemistry working between pairs of players–Ream/Goodson, Cherundolo/Donovan, Jones/Bradley and now I don’t think we are likely to see Bob shift from his good old 4-4-2 unless USA falls behind.

    I think Donovan pinching in so much helped staff the midfield too…

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