USA – Poland Analysis

The USA's Jermaine Jones (15) and Poland's Jakub Blaszczykowski struggle for the ball during the second half of their international friendly soccer match in Chicago, October 9, 2010. REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT SOCCER)Tonight’s match marked the beginning of Bradley’s “2nd term” as USMNT boss, and all eyes were on how he would begin to reform/evolve the team that simultaneously thrilled and let down a nation of fans at the 2010 World Cup. Does he have the character to adapt and grow this ever-improving squad to be a top ten national team?

First Half

Bradley finally broke from his tried and true 4-4-2 and played with a formation we’ve actually suggested here at FFG: a 4-2-3-1 (see diagram). Five midfielders gave Team USA plenty of options

1st Half: Holden covered ground/Bocanegra got pounded

in the middle of the pitch, although both Holden and Dempsey seemed to have more leash from Bradley to read play and roam as needed. Although on paper this formation saw Altidore as the loan striker, Dempsey’s offensive instinct pushed him high, usually at least even with Altidore and many times higher.

Bradley Jr. had a quiet, neutral first half, but Jones, in his first cap, integrated nicely into the midfield. Not only was his positioning effective, but he showed he possesses a wonderful visionary touch, lofting a perfectly weighted pass to Altidore, who broke his slump by bringing down Jones’ ball and finishing.

The good news about our defense is that we broke the curse of conceding in the first 15 minutes. The bad news is that we still look shaky at times–perhaps partly due to the fact the Edu has been placed as a centerback. It’s a position he certainly can play, but he’s adjusted so effectively to midfield at Rangers he’d probably put centerback out of his mind. Poland pounded Bocanegra on the right side–obviously making it their game plan to use their impressive speed to beat the wise, but not so sprinty veteran.

Holden stood out for his work rate and field coverage. Several times he made runs toward the top of the box, made crosses from outside on the right, and even defended from inside the USA box. Ironically, though, it was a comedy of errors kicked off by Holden’s poor clearance and capped off by Onyewu’s failed header that led to Poland’s equalizer.

Second Half

Bradley made few tactical adjustments other than a like-for-like substitution of Bedoya for Felhaber in the 63rd minute. He also flipped Holden and Bedoya on the two wings, but overall movement was similar to the first half. Big Onyewu made up for his first half fumble by connecting on a picturesque corner from Holden, but it was more sloppy defensive work trying to clear the ball–this time from Jones–that allowed Poland to equalize yet again. Jones did have a positive match, however. He outshone Bradley as the main provider from the back, showing a world class accuracy in his long ball/through ball that put Altidore in a threatening position on more than a few occasions.

A last minute blitz on the Polish net was fun to watch, but the US was unable to finish.

Is the EPL the World’s Best Training Ground?

Despite Holden’s defensive hiccups, tonight’s two best US performances came from Holden (Bolton) and Dempsey (Fulham)–the two players currently in form and getting minutes in the English Premier League. In this physical, direct and fast-paced match, these two were the most confident and resilient, and in the final stretches of the match they seemed the two most mentally clear players on the pitch, still making themselves available, pushing toward goal, and providing clean touches and/or drawing well-placed fouls.

This was a completely European squad, of course, so we can’t blame the MLS for below-par level (not that we ever should–but it often happens). Players like Altidore (Villareal) and Onyewu (AC Milan) have seen little or NO minutes for their respective clubs, and their rusty-ness showed. It will be fascinating to see how the integration of Pearce and Shea–two in form MLS players–impacts the overall US performance vs Colombia on Tuesday.

One Comments Post a Comment
  1. Blake Owen says:

    It was great to see Jones out there, though it’s too bad he gave up the 2nd goal.

    Big kudos to Bob for employing a 4-2-3-1. I do think, however, that the match started in a traditional 4-4-2. As the 1st half progressed, Dempsey moved deeper and made a 4-4-1-1.

    In the 54th, the cameras actually caught Bob yelling to Dempsey/Feilhaber to make the switch to the 4-2-3-1.

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