USA – Australia Tactical Analysis

Vince Grella tackles Ricardo Clark of the U.S. during their friendly soccer match at the Ruimsig stadium in Roodepoort, just outside of Johannesburg

As FFG has previously observed, the United States has a tendency to allow too much space along the flanks. While opponents’ ability to counter along the left is limited by Carlos Bocanegra’s defensive role, the opposite wing has been a source of concern. Today, Bob Bradley adjusted and showed a way to shore up the right side of defense.

After US defenders gained possession, center midfielder Michael Bradley dropped back to receive an outlet pass (a normal occurrence for a CM). What made his positioning unique was that he consistently shifted to the right back position, with Steve Cherundolo pushing towards the midfield line. Bradley’s new location allowed him to make use of his excellent vision and placed him in a position to defend against counter attacks should Cherundolo push further forward. Obviously Bradley did not spend the entire match at right back, but it was clear the United States were making an effort to cover that space.

Unfortunately, Bradley’s deep-lying role moved Ricardo ‘I have rocks for feet’ Clark into a more advanced position and he became a one-man bottleneck for the US attack. Clark repeatedly lost control of his dribble and/or made poor decisions, notably slamming a pass off a heavily-defended Edson Buddle when an unmarked Landon Donovan stood just a few yards away.

If Clark puts forth a similar display against England, the US will leak goal-scoring opportunities.

Position Battles:

Striker: Edson Buddle’s two goals may have been enough to earn a start against England, and Buddle and Findley played off each other quite well, often correctly reading each others’ runs. Neither player, however, was clinical when in possession and the two found themselves chasing passes as often as latching onto them. Findley in particular lacked precision, twice missing an open net. Their competition, Herculez Gomez, only received 10 minutes of playing time but still managed to score, likely ensuring he will be a US super sub throughout the World Cup.

Center midfield: Bob Bradley has apparently decided that Ricardo Clark is his second starter, and it’s not immediately clear why. Clark can’t dribble, pass, or defend (he does physically challenge opponents but has terrible positioning). What does he bring to the table? Jose Torres has looked head and shoulders above Clark in all aspects and Maurice Edu, in limited playing time against the Czech Republic, appeared better as well. To be fair, while Ricardo has looked horrible this summer, he was part of the squad that defeated Spain last year and can be a defensive force when on his game.

Outside midfield: DaMarcus Beasley only received limited playing time and Stuart Holden saw none. Bob Bradley must have already decided to start the dynamic Dempsey/Donovan duo (as opposed to moving Dempsey to striker).

Center back: DeMerit and Goodson proved a decent pair but will need the match of their lives to deal with Wayne Rooney. Onyewu had a 30-minute cameo and the big fella still looks tentative.

Left back: Jonathan Bornstein replaced Bocanegra for most of the second half and put in a much better showing than in the previous friendlies. He’s still unlikely to see the pitch unless Bocanegra gets hurt.

Right back: Cherundolo had a few dicey moments but, on the whole, put in another fine performance. Come back tomorrow to see his every touch.

Goalkeeper: Marcus Hahnemann was given a second-half audition and showed a lack of familiarity with his teammates, coming out to clear a few crosses that his defenders were trying to deal with.

3 Comments Post a Comment
  1. bensten says:

    In complete agreement with all your insights today. Didn’t anyone in the US entourage have a cap they could have tossed Hahnemann? Poor guy looked like a little leaguer chasing pop flies straight into the sun…

    Would love to see Torres or Edu in the second CM spot, but if they didn’t see a single minute today doesn’t look like they’ll get the nod for the opener.

  2. Rupert J Pelfrey says:

    2 points for ” Ricardo ‘I have rocks for feet’ Clark”

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