USA – Paraguay Analysis

MEX TRAIN BRADLEY

So we didn’t get a lot right in our preview. We assumed Paraguay would utilize a formation with 2 center midfielders and USA a formation with 3. We were wrong on both counts.

1st Half

Paraguay manager Gerardo Martino elected to field a 4-3-3 (a formation Paraguay is not unfamiliar with). Bob Bradley turned to his 4-4-2 that’s not a 4-4-2. While on paper the USA used that most ubiquitous of formations, in practice it was a 4-2-2-2.

The starting lineups

For a more complete breakdown of Bob’s use of this formation, go here. To oblige the link-averse, here’s Bob’s 4-2-2-2 in a nutshell: Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan play inside-out, starting from central positions and moving wide when necessary. This creates a 4 v 3 mismatch in the middle and gives the fullbacks space along the flanks.

It worked wonders against Paraguay. Martino wanted to play a 4-3-3, but with Dempsey and Donovan spending so much time in the middle, all three central midfielders were forced to stay narrow, which – in turn – brought back the outside forwards. The South Americans were left with a 4-5-1 and had to spend most of the first forty-five minutes in their own half.

And yet the gringos still conceded the opening goal. Paraguay managed a few decent chances in the opening minutes, mostly through pressuring the Americans into giving away possession. It was a set piece, however, that ended up breaking the deadlock. Jay DeMerit and Tim Ream both lost their footing on an 18th minute corner, and Oscar Cardozo pounded in a loose ball.

USA changed to a 4-4-1-1 with a half hour to go

Other than DeMerit and Ream’s awkward set piece defending, Bob Bradley’s only first half complaint would have been the interplay between Juan Agudelo and Jozy Altidore. It was nonexistent.

2nd Half

Augdelo and Altidore immediately sought to atone for earlier lack of chemistry as the second half began. In the first two minutes, the strikers combined for a pair of half-chances. During one of the sequences, Agudelo should have been awarded a penalty.

Unfortunately, Altidore came off in the 60th (Eric Lichaj), reducing the amount of time Agudelo and Altidore had to demonstrate their renewed partnership (Carlos Bocanegra, Jermaine Jones, David Yelldell had previously entered for DeMerit, Edu, and Hahnemann). After Lichaj’s arrival, the formation changed to a 4-4-1-1. Dempsey permanently moved into the middle, Chandler pushed up to right midfield, and Lichaj stepped into right back.

Paraguay quickly took advantage of the switch. Chandler, a traditional winger, stayed much wider than Dempsey had, allowing the South Americans a bit more space in the middle. But Lichaj and Chandler quickly developed a rapport, and Paraguay’s advantage was short-lived. The two right-sided players combined with Agudelo to create a shot for Dempsey (67). The Texan couldn’t quite wrap his foot around the ball and ended up placing his shot high.

The USA continued to apply pressure, and as the match closed, Bradley the Elder made more attack-minded changes, bringing on Sacha Kljestan (Bornstein) and Jonathan Spector (Chandler). Bradley then switched the formation to a 3-4-1-2. Following this final change, the United States rarely didn’t have possession.

USA only had 3 at the back over the final 10 minutes

Granted, at that point Paraguay was content to sit nine men behind the ball (Martino never changed formations, making simple, like-for-like switches). But the gringos did force Justo Villar into a handful of saves over the final ten minutes.

Two stops stood out. In the 86th, the keeper shoved a rocketed Bradley half-volley over the bar, and Villar also made a save on the last kick of the match, a Jones effort following a deep Lichaj throw-in.

Not there yet

Bob Bradley again picked the right set of players for the job, and he’s unfortunate to leave Nashville with the loss. Bradley used his formations and substitutions to take the match to the Paraguayans. And all of his changes worked.

Whether playing 4-2-2-2, 4-4-1-1, or 3-4-1-2, the Americans were the more fluid offensive side. Bradley will be pleased with the overall performance. But given the dismantling Mexico gave to Paraguay (a 3-1 victory on Saturday), the US manager will need to make some tweaks if he expects to come out victorious in the upcoming Gold Cup.

One Comments Post a Comment
  1. bensten says:

    It was a shame to fall on such a soft goal, but I did like to watch Bob’s tactical adjustments throughout the second half. It was fun to watch the all-out blitz in the final 10. Both Bradley and Jones had nice strikes on goal.

    Despite the loss, I left the game with an overall positive feeling. BTW…I really like the new red kit.

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