USA – Chile Preview

The USA men fell to the Netherlands 2-1 at Amsterdam ArenA, Wednesday, March 3, 2010.

It’s been four years to the day since Bob Bradley donned his tracksuit for the first time as USA’s manager, posting a 3-1 victory over Denmark in his debut. The win came on the heels of his first January training camp, a camp that laid the foundation for Jonathan Bornstein’s international career. The then Chivas USA left back earned his first cap against Denmark, the first of many international appearances on his way to the 2010 World Cup.

On Saturday, Bradley will try to replicate his 2007 success in USA’s opening match of 2011 (Chile, 7 PM PST). Perhaps more importantly, a number of young players will attempt to follow in Bornstein’s footsteps.

USA

It’s a friendly so expect multiple personnel configurations and at least two formations. Variations on 4-4-2 and 4-2-3-1 will probably be the theme.

The formation and personnel grouping FFG hopes to see

Bradley the Elder does appear to be moving away from his 4-4-2. In the four 2010 post-World Cup matches, Bob reversed his strategy of starting matches in a 4-4-2 and shifting to one-striker formations. In the first halves of those matches the USA deployed a 4-1-4-1, a 4-2-3-1 (twice), and a 4-4-1-1; they closed games in a 4-4-2 on two occasions.

FFG thinks that shift is a step in the right direction – to read more, go here, here, here, here, here, and here – and we hope the trend continues against Chile.

Personnel

Many of the available gringos will be debutantes or relatively new faces. There are a few particular players that FFG wants to watch:

Juan Agudelo and Mikkel Diskerud – It didn’t take long for these two to impress in their first international match. In November, Agudelo and Diskerud combined to score the winner against South Africa. Similar heroics Saturday could set the stage for 2011 Gold Cup consideration.

Anthony Wallace – Finding a consistent, attack-minded left back has been a problem for a decade. Wallace’s performances in the MLS Playoffs suggest he could eventually fit the bill.

Tim Ream and Omar Gonzalez – The two center backs could push Oguchi Onyewu for playing time come 2014. If they both pan out, Ream (23) and Gonzalez (22) would be USA’s center back pairing for the next decade.

Zach Loyd – He plays for FC Dallas. We’re getting jingoistic with this one. But in our defense he’s an attacking fullback who can also platoon at center back and outside midfield.

Dax McCarty and Jeff Larentowicz – The two holding midfielders (gingers both) were at times the best players for their championship-contending squads, FC Dallas (McCarty) and Colorado (Larentowicz).

Alejandro Bedoya and Brek Shea – The Americans will need wingers to pin back Chile’s 3-3-1-3 (see below). Shea and Bedoya are the only natural wingers on the squad. They’re also flexible enough to play as inverted wingers, a tactic that has allowed Clint Dempsey to flourish for club and country.

Dominic Cervi – A heralded prospect out of college, Cervi has yet to play a competitive game since signing with Scottish superclub Celtic. It’d be great to finally see the phenom take the field.

Chile

During 2010 World Cup qualifying, Chile stormed to a second place CONMEBOL finish. Yes, they finished ahead of powerhouse Argentina and eventual third-place World Cup finishers Uruguay. Only Brazil, victorious over Chile in both qualifying meetings, topped Chile. The seleção also ousted Chile from South Africa.

Highlighted are three areas of Chile's 3-3-1-3 that seem to be vulnerable, but their pressing and efficient use of possession often mutes the vulnerability.

Chile, though, took the match to Brazil for much of the encounter. And days earlier they troubled eventual champions Spain in a 2-1 defeat. While Chilean players young (Alexis Sanchez) and old (David Suazo) helped the squad flummox Brazil and Spain, it was Marcelo Bielsa’s 3-3-1-3 that stole the headlines, attention that was well-deserved.

His tactical flair turned also-ran CONMEBOL minnows into the World Cup’s must-watch squad. Not only did they possess a swarming, sophisticated attack, they pressed high up the pitch, using Barcelona-style defending to ensure they were rarely out of possession.

At first glance it appears that Chile’s 3-3-1-3 leaves far too much space in front of the center backs and along the flanks. However, their high pressing forces opponents into mistakes, and the spare center back is free to move up to assist the holding midfielder. When their wingbacks and wingers drop deep, opponents can quickly find themselves facing a traditional 8-man defense, though their pressing is so intense, and possession so efficient, they rarely have to utilize that tactic.

But as with any team that attempts lots of tackles up the pitch, Chile is vulnerable to counters. Shea and Bedoya could prove instrumental in exploiting that weakness.

Since this is a friendly, there’s no guarantee Bielsa will use his first-choice formation anyway. He also used a 4-2-3-1 in the World Cup, and because he’s fielding just as inexperienced a squad as Bradley (Esteban Paredes is the only one we’ve ever seen play), Bielsa might not force the 3-3-1-3 on players unfamiliar with his tactical philosophy.

So there you have it. Bob might be moving away from a 4-4-2. Bielsa may or may not use a 3-3-1-3. And we don’t know anything.

Gringos, are you looking forward to the match? Hope Bielsa uses his 3-3-1-3? Have any players you’re excited to watch?

2 Comments Post a Comment
  1. bensten says:

    I’d love to see the 3-3-1-3. Talk about flair and guts!

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