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My top five questions going into the USMNT’s upcoming friendlies
   October 4, 2010 (7:47 PM) by Matt Benson     Email This Post Email This Post

1) Will Bob Bradley attempt to play something other than a 4-4-2?

Bob has lived and died by the 4-4-2 since becoming the manager of the team.  He once tinkered with a 4-5-1/4-3-3 in a World Cup qualifier down in Costa Rica (a 3-1 loss) in 2009, but after getting behind early and the team just looking awful, he quickly abandoned that plan and really hasn’t strayed from the 4-4-2.  I am eager to see if Bob tries anything new or if we will see the standard 4-4-2.

2) Who will step up and be the offensive leader with no Landon Donovan in the lineup?

With Lando trying to win the MLS Supporters’ Shield for the Galaxy (as well as giving him a little bit of a break), he was not called to the team for these friendlies.  He has been the offensive “quarterback” for most of the last four years.  If the US is doing something creative offensively, it is more than likely that Donovan is involved.  It should be interesting to see who steps up and takes the on-the-field leadership when it comes to creating offensively.  Will it be Dempsey?  Or will someone like Benny Feilhaber or Stuart Holden take charge?

3) How far along is Gooch since his injury?

People are quick to write off Gooch since he returned quicker than normal for someone with that major of a knee injury and looked average in the World Cup.  People have forgotten how well he played for the US between 2005-2009.  Plus, he is still less than a year away from his surgery and has not been getting playing time at AC Milan.  These games will give him a chance to play actual minutes in an actual game and I want to see if he looks better.  If the US wants to get that defense back to something of a strength for the team, they are going to need a healthy and confident Gooch.

4) Who is going to play left back?

Heath Pearce will not be able to play in Saturday’s game, but will return (with Brek Shea) for next Tuesday’s game.  Carlos Bocanegra is the next logical choice by looking at the roster, but I would like to see Eric Lichaj and Jonathan Spector given a chance.  While Spector has played LB for West Ham, he has only featured once at LB for the US under Bob Bradley and that was at the 2007 Gold Cup in one game.  This position has been a giant question mark for the US in recent years (long live Jeff Agoos!) and while Bocanegra and Jonathan Bornstein did a serviceable job at the World Cup, the US needs to find someone to take control of the position.

5) How well will Jermaine Jones play within the squad?

One of the best qualities of the US teams in recent years has been the fact that they are close knit family, many of which have grown up playing with each other in the US youth systems.  Now enters this 28-year-old midfielder who grew up in Germany most of his life and is brand new to the US program.  I am just interested in how he interacts with the players on and off the field.

So those are my questions heading into the games over the next week.  What are you interested in seeing or knowing?

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Matt Benson

Matt likes soccer. He likes sleeping in. He is also amused easily. That is pretty much it.

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Categories: Top 5 Lists, US Men's National Team

4 Responses to “My top five questions going into the USMNT’s upcoming friendlies”

  1. Alex says:

    Intriguing questions Matt. I think we’re all looking forward to the game and to start a new World Cup cycle.

    In regards to the defense, I’m looking to see how well Michael Parkhurst plays. This guy has been receiving regular minutes with his club, and the fact that he is coming in and starting immediately after his injury speaks volume about his fitness and mental toughness. What worries me about Gooch is the mental errors that can kill you at center back. Gooch has not been playing any minutes with AC Milan, and he is not going to see any minutes in the near future. The bottom line is he does not play in competitve matches anymore. If I were the coach I’d be concerned. If there are two things I want from a defender, it is that he doesn’t make any mental mistakes or wear down at the end of a game. I hate to say this, but for this exhibition I’d prefer seeing Ream or Gonzalez backing up Parkhurst and Goodson at center back, assuming Bradley sticks to a 4-4-2.

    In regards to LB, I know Bocanegra is on the short-end of his career, but he is enjoying a fine year with his club and has earned that spot. Spector’s days appear to be numbered with West Ham, although I am not sure his international career is over just yet. Right now, I am looking forward to seeing how well Licaj does at either RB or LB backing up Cherundolo and Boca. I tend to think Licaj is a better option than Pearce right now, although Pearce seems to be having a solid year with Dallas. And I’m glad Bradley is ending his love affair with Bornstein (who is having a terrible season with Chivas). Boca-Parkhurst-Goodson-Cherundolo is not a bad starting defense, although it certainly is not great and one has to wonder how many solid years Cherundolo and Boca have left.

  2. alexalex says:

    I’d say a lot of what we played was really 4-2-2-2 with Dempsey and Donovan cutting in from that middle band of 2 behind the strikers. I’d hope that we could possibly see a retry of a 4-2-3-1 with Altidore up top, Dempsey at right, Holden CAM, and Bedoya at the other wing and a little bit lopsided to the left. I think this would allow for the best qualities of these players. Altidore can look good at a No. 9 and his hold up play and distribution with back to goal has looked good at times. Dempsey can cut in as an inverted winger. Holden has looked good at the center for Bolton. And although I’d like to see Donovan instead of Bedoya (and aligned more centrally), if we can see it a bit pushed to the left, it would give up some defensive cover at left wing, give Dempsey space to cut in, and give Cherundolo space Dempsey empties out to push up and put crosses in.

  3. Howie says:

    Good point alex^2 regarding the 4-2-2-2. ZonalMarking had a really good article on the use of the 4-2-2-2 against England in particular which did a good job occupying Cole/Johnson from getting involved with England’s attack.

    For much of the 2nd half of the Slovenia match, the US was running something close to a 4-2-3-1 as Feilhaber came on for Findley and was playing in front of Bradley/Edu (who had come on for Torres). And of course they went with the emergency 3-5-2 when Herc Gomez came on for Oneywu.

  4. alexalex says:

    I would also like to see some experimentation if we do use Dempsey as a striker. I think Spaletti-era Roma could really give some insight into the role of the false-9 that Dempsey might be able to play (sub Dempsey for Totti here – not like for like I know, but consider…). I think this might be useful, especially with our pace and glut of midfielders. It’d also allow us to play almost constantly on the break in counter attack. Playing the 4-6-0 also counteracts our lack of consistency in forwards. Dempsey drops back, turns, and can spray to wingers running on. Holden might also see time in this role, but I think Dempsey might be able to make that initial turn better than Holden that is necessary.

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