USA-Poland and USA-Colombia Mega-Preview

Aug 10, 2010 - East Rutherford, New Jersey, U.S. - USA Mens Team Group Photo before an international friendly match between the USA Men's soccer team and the Brazilian Men's soccer team. Brazil won the match 2-0.


Over the next five days – as the United States takes on Poland (Oct. 9th) and Colombia (Oct. 12th) – US manager Bob Bradley begins his second go-round as USA’s skipper. Will he continue to commence each match in his favored 4-4-2, regardless of the opposition’s style of play? Or will he show a willingness to experiment and make use of new faces in new roles?

Come Saturday, US fans will have their first opportunity to see whether or not a contractually renewed Bradley is a tactically flexible Bradley. With the 2011 Gold Cup just a few international friendlies away, these two games will be an important part of the squad’s development prior to next summer’s tournament.

USA’s Roster

Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan, Tim Howard

Center back: Carlos BocanegraClarence GoodsonOguchi Onyewu, Michael Parkhurst,

Fullback: Steve Cherundolo, Heath Pearce, Jonathan Spector, Eric Lichaj

Center Midfield: Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, Benny Feilhaber, Stuart Holden, Jermaine Jones,

Outside Midfield: Alejandro Bedoya, Brek Shea

Striker: Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Eddie Johnson

Notable Absences

Landon Donovan, Jay DeMerit

Gringo superstar Landon Donovan doesn’t actually have a club match between the 9th and the 12th (the Galaxy play today and then again on the 16th), but after two straight seasons of suiting up in Europe during MLS’ offseason and leading Team USA in a summer tournament, Landycakes can probably use the brief break.

On the other end of the spectrum, Jay DeMerit is most likely being held out due to his uncertain club situation. The center back, who didn’t renew his contract with Watford at the end of the 09-10 season, still hasn’t signed with a new club. He has most recently been linked with England’s Everton.

New Faces To Watch

The modified 4-4-2 Bradley is likely to use in at least one of the matches

Brek Shea, Eric Lichaj, Jermaine Jones

In August, the FFG podcast pegged winger Shea and right back Lichaj as two young starlets to keep an eye on. Shea has been a standout for FC Dallas in 2010, and though Lichaj has yet to make a league appearance for English Premier League squad Aston Villa, he has featured in two tournament fixtures. Jones, a standout midfielder for Schalke 04, has the talent to immediately step into the US starting lineup, but his presence presents a bit of a tactical dilemma. Earlier this week, FFG proposed a way to easily incorporate him into the squad.

Old Hands to Worry About

Jozy Altidore, Oguchi Onyewu

Onyewu and Altidore are both struggling to earn playing time with their clubs. Altidore has made a few token appearances in tournaments for Villarreal, while Onyewu still hasn’t featured for AC Milan in 2010. Standout performances over the next two days could go a long way to easing Bradley’s mind over their lack of playing time.

The 4-5-1 that we'd like to see

Potential Formations

Given the brief training sessions afforded by the FIFA fixture calendar, it’s difficult, though not impossible, for international managers to make wholesale changes from match to match. So, if Bradley wants to tweak his traditional formation, he’s more likely to field a modified 4-4-2 as opposed to an entirely new formation. Accordingly, expect to see the gringos role out in some type of 4-4-2 in at least one of the matches.

However, a relatively common trend in paired friendlies is for the manager to seek a win in one match and experiment with tactics in the other. And with Jermaine Jones now a part of the national team, Bradley the Elder may want to see if his presence can allow the squad to be a bit more tactically diverse. Regardless of how Bradley decides to approach the matches, Donovan’s absence means US fans are likely to see new some new blood on the pitch.

Scouting the Opposition – Poland

Poland, hosts of Euro 2012, are in a difficult position: as the future hosts of the tournament, they won’t play any qualifying matches since they automatically participate. Manager Franciszek Smuda has responded to the challenge by bringing a relatively young squad to the States, albeit one that has plenty of talent to trouble the gringos.

Poland's potential formation

Players to Watch

Robert Lewandowski – The Borussia Dortmund striker/winger has been a super sub for the German club this season. Despite earning just two starts, Lewandowski has found the net on three occasions, more than all US strikers not named Clint Dempsey.

Jakub Błaszczykowski – Lewandowski’s club teammate Blaszcykowski could present a challenge to US fullbacks young and old. If the young winger earns a start, he’ll provide a stern test for Lichaj and Co.

Scouting the Opposition – Colombia

Like the United States, Colombia are attempting to prepare for a tournament next summer (the 2011 Copa America), perhaps explaining why they’re bringing a more experienced squad than Poland. The South Americans have a lot of talent up top and just in front of their goalkeeper, though it’s questionable whether or not their midfield is up to the task of shuttling the ball between them.

Colombia's potential formation

Players to Watch

Falcao – Porto’s Falcao was one of the world’s most in-form strikers during 2009-2010, notching 29 goals and 4 assists in only 36 matches. He’s one of the best strikers the US will face prior to next summer’s Gold Cup.

Mario Yepes and Ivan Cordoba – Colombia’s center back pairing represents both of Milan’s famous clubs (Inter for Cordoba and Milan for Yepes). Their experience and physicality should show how much Jozy Altidore has developed since the World Cup.

Pressing Questions

While Bob Bradley and his coaching staff might be a bit concerned about the threat presented by Poland and Colombia, their real goal is to learn more about their squad as they continue to prepare for the 2011 Gold Cup. If, after both matches, they can answer the following questions, the week should be considered a success.

  • Can Stuart Holden’s excellent Premier League form translate to international success?
  • Is Oguchi Onyewu fully-fit?
  • Can the gringos succeed without talisman Donovan?
  • Does Jermaine Jones free the squad to move away from the 4-4-2?

So there you have it, gringos. Do you have anything to add ahead of these matches?

One Comments Post a Comment
  1. Bradley's Receding Hairline says:

    The Edu/Jones/Bradley trio would be interesting to see.

    But I think I’m most interested in seeing Onyewu.

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