USA – Mexico Preview

Jurgen Klinsmann faces a tall task in his first match as US manager: defeat Mexico and avenge the 4-2 Gold Cup final loss. A victory would instantly install warm fuzzies in the hearts of all USA fans.

But to get there he has to stymie a Mexican attack that scythed through the US defense at will. Clint Dempsey’s absence will be hard-felt, as the Texan’s defensive tenacity will be missed. Otherwise, the roster probably won’t look too different from the Gold Cup final.

Here’s the list of available players.

And here’s how FFG sees the lineup shaking out.

Goalkeeper

Tim Howard starts. Youngster Bill Hamid watches and prays Timmy doesn’t get hurt. An international debut against Meixco would be quite trying for the twenty-year-old.

Defense

While Klinsmann held his first practice on Sunday, the logistical nightmare of FIFA friendlies reduces the amount of practice time the full squad will have.

It's always difficult to predict formations in friendlies, but here's our best shot at predicting the starting lineups.

In other words, it’s unlikely fans will see any sweeping changes from the Gold Cup squad (here’s Ben’s analysis of the final, if you missed it). Carlos Bocanegra and Clarence Goodson* are likely to get the call at center back. And Steve Cherundolo should have a chance to reaffirm his status as America’s top fullback following his injury-aborted Gold Cup showing.

Left back, as always, remains the most contentious position. Outside of Bocanegra, Heath Pearce is the most experienced option, but FFG wouldn’t mind seeing Edgar Castillo. Pearce has recently been lining up at center back for Chivas USA and Castillo might have a better chance of keeping up with and/or pinning back Mexico’s right winger Pablo Barrera.

Midfield

Much like the backline, the midfield should closely resemble the Gold Cup lineup. So expect Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones to be the holders, Landon Donovan and one of DaMarcus Beasley/Brek Shea/Robbie Rogers on the wing, and Freddy Adu as the trequartista (this is assuming he plays a 4-2-3-1, of course).

Klinsmann’s hardest decision will be whether to field natural or inverted wingers. He has a pair of lefties (Shea and Beasley) and righties (Donovan and Rogers). A counter-attacking style slightly favors natural wingers, with inverted giving a similar, small advantage to teams employing a possession-based attack. Of course, he could split the difference, like Bradley did, and use one inverted and one natural, getting the best of both worlds.

Forward

We find it unlikely that Landon Donovan will be employed as a lone striker, à la the Gold Cup final. Without Clint Dempsey, Donovan will be needed on the wing. FFG hopes Juan Agudelo is Donovan’s replacement, as we all know what Edson Buddle can and can’t do.

Tactics suggestion – Press, Press, Press!

We’re on record that Bradley’s problem in the Gold Cup final wasn’t personnel or shape, but rather a lack of pressing. USA’s marking was anything but tight. Mexico’s attackers were able to pick passes from deep positions, forcing the American defenders to run with their backs to goal.

On the other end, the gringos were fairly efficient going forward, at least until they got into the box. Their 13 shots attempted was respectable a respectable total. But three shots on-goal was not. Still, Clint Dempsey was inches away from equalizing (at 3-3) in the 59th. And Dempsey, Donovan, and Freddy Adu strung together a number of clever passing sequences. Giving USA’s attacking quartet more time on the ball by pressing is probably the only tactic Klinsmann can use to shore up the shoddy finishing. There’s nothing he can do about the overall lack of depth up top.

Mexico’s lineup – more of the same (and that’s a bad thing for the US)

Mexico certainly isn’t taking this friendly lightly, as Chicharito is the only Gold Cup starter not making the trip. However, Gold Cup revelation Aldo de Nigris will also be absent. Mexico, as a result, only has one true striker on the roster, Oribe Peralta. The other options are either more comfortable on the wing – Pablo Barrera and Omar Arellano – or closer to the midfield – Giovani dos Santos and Christian Bermudez.

If Jose Manuel de la Torre sticks with the 4-4-1-1 he used in the Gold Cup, Peralta would likely step into Chicharito’s spot. If he wants to field his most experienced players, a possession-based 4-3-3 is not out of the question. Either way, the United States would have its hands full.

Giovani dos Santos, Andres Guardado, and Pablo Barrera present a more accomplished attacking trio than anything Klinsmann has at his disposal.

To stop them – and we’re harping on a theme here – we really think USA’s best chance is to press as often as possible. If they do, we should see a better outcome than the Gold Cup final.

* Addendum

Reader James pointed out that Clarence Goodson is injured (report here). It’s likely Tim Ream will start alongside Bocanegra.

Also, I neglected to write about the player who is, in my opinion, the most fascinating inclusion on the roster, DaMarcus Beasley. DaMarcus fell out of favor following the 2009 Confederations Cup, but he put in a star performance against the Netherlands in March 2010. Bob Bradley rarely used Beasley again (he made a token appearance against Algeria in the World Cup). In other words, it’s been a long time since Beasley received extended playing time in a game that matters. And, even though this is a friendly, boy does it matter. Here’s hoping Beasley can recapture some of his old form.

6 Comments Post a Comment
  1. James says:

    Agreed on the lineup for the most part, but I think you may see Torres in there somewhere, perhaps in Bradley’s spot. Klinsmann knows we’ll need better posession and Torres offer more hope of that and better distribution. Klinsmann knows that two holding mids won’t allow the US to dictate things as much, and as he said, the US should want to determine things more on their own. Bradley tends to play a little too deep and might be better as a sub for Jones (or vice versa).

  2. Cisco says:

    When are are you going to be making more podcast?

    • Blake Owen says:

      To be perfectly honest, we’re not sure. Our schedule don’t exactly line-up at the moment, which makes recording difficult.

      But we do still plan for more in that nebulous, out-there future! Thanks for the interest.

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