USMNT Roundtable: Will we take three off El Tri?
OTF’s USMNT roundtable has one thing on its mind: how to handle El Tri…
How can USMNT channel the frustrations endured in San José into a positive outing in Columbus? What will Jürgen Klinsmann do to counter the threat posed by El Tri — and are there enough players not carrying suspension or injury to do that for Klinsi?
OTF’s USMNT roundtable considers these, and a few other questions, in advance of the showdown between CONCACAF’s big beasts.
While hunting it’s always the wounded animal that should be feared the most. The animal knows that you’re trying to take away its life and is determined to stop you as the hunter. Both the United States and Mexico lost their World Cup qualifying matches last Saturday; neither match was pretty and each team is desperate coming in to today’s tilt.
Tonight brings the clash of two wounded animals with massive egos to defend and each has intention to gun for the other’s neck for the full 90 minutes. El Tri has been dying to live up to the massive potential of their roster but things just haven’t clicked yet. USMNT is patching itself back up after losing Jozy Altidore, Matt Besler, and Geoff Cameron to yellow card accumulation, and Michael Bradley to injury.
The USMNT needs to line up as follows:
Guzan; Orozco, Goodson, Gonzalez, Beasley; Beckerman, Jones; Johannsson, Donovan, Zusi; Dempsey.
The key to quelling the Mexican attack will be the defensive triangle of Goodson, Gonzalez, and Beckerman and how well they can deal with the various avenues of delivery the Mexican wingers will use to connect with effective poachers like Javier Hernandez and Oribe Peralta.
Going forward, the USMNT does not have the means for an effective slow-build attack, forcing it to rely on the moments of personal brilliance from its very capable stars. The stage is set, and the playbill reads only two words: Hero Time.
Who is going to step up?
Considering last Friday night’s shocking(?) result in Azteca, followed by the aftermath that sent Chepo packing, the Yanks’ roster challenges shouldn’t matter; El Tri is a team in turmoil. Once Klinsi sorts out his squad he’ll need to muster all his coaching moxie to convince his men to forget about the debacle in San Jose and focus solely on the opportunity that lies ahead of them in Columbus: World Cup qualification in front of what’s sure to be a raucous, rabid home crowd. If there was ever a time to go for three points, it’s now.
While USMNT’s Gold Cup opposition this summer was certainly a notch below what it currently faces in the Hexagonal, it seems to me this current crop of US players – albeit a different bunch – would be better employed as their counterparts were mere weeks ago. Recall that USMNT romped its way through the Gold Cup tournament playing attacking soccer, most effectively in a double pivot 4-4-2. Its poor accommodations and a hostile environment in Costa Rica notwithstanding, Klinsmann may have put his team at a disadvantage by rolling out a 4-2-3-1 on Friday night. That said, the loss of Michael Bradley to an ankle injury during warm-ups surely dealt a psychological blow to both the manager and his players, perhaps rendering any tactical nuance superfluous. After all, without il Giocatore in the midfield (along with a pensive Jermaine Jones), USMNT struggled to find its shape at the opening whistle and paid dearly – twice – within a mere ten minutes.
Fast forward to Crew Stadium. If nothing else, a “win and you’re in” scenario against your hated rival, a team that’s ripe for the kicking while it’s down, should have the US players’ mouths watering – no matter who they are. Besler, Cameron, Altidore are certainly out (suspension) and it doesn’t look like any amount of magic spray will cure what ails Bradley. Tuesday night, I hope to see USMNT come out in the following 4-4-2, press the hell out of Mexico, and qualify for Brasil 2014 on home soil:
Bench: Guzan; Orozco, Beasley; Beckerman, Bedoya; Johannsson, Johnson
When Klinsi named this team, American soccer fans were salivating at the prospect of meeting El Tri. We had all guns blazing again with Donovan back in the team. There was the chance to set a 14 game win streak in front of great support in Columbus. But not everything has gone our way.
The Michael Bradley blow is a big one. I believe its inescapably apparent to all USMNT fans that Bradley is an incredibly vital piece to the machine, if not its most relied upon. Coupled with the loss of Geoff Cameron for this game, it looks like the U.S. is going to send out Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman to partner in the midfield. This could be much worse, and Beckerman has played well recently, but our problems don’t stop there.
The phantom yellow card issued to Matt Besler at the end of the Costa Rica game is both an atrocious call (one that should have CONCACAF reviewing their appeal process) and a paralyzing blow to the U.S. backline. Besler has been our most consistent center back over the past six months. But, Goodson has also been playing well recently and may be able to pair serviceably with Omar Gonzalez.
Now that I’ve listed most of the negatives headed into this game, I’ll conclude by saying I still expect the Yanks to pull out a win in Columbus. Mexico’s trials have been well documented and probably outweigh those of the U.S. Plus, they will be under a new coach who has had all of three days to prepare his squad.
Though one point wouldn’t be a disaster, look for the men in red, white, and blue to grab three.
Mexico is the proverbial wounded tiger in this match, after losing to Honduras at home. Though El Tri did what they should have done months ago by firing their manager De la Torre, one may even start to wonder if Mexico does the unthinkable: not even qualify for the World Cup.
The US has its own set of challenges after losing Michael Bradley to a pregame ankle injury and having three players (Besler, Cameron, & Altidore) suspended due to yellow card accumulation.
The loss of these four players will significantly alter the team composition when this game kicks off. I feel that it’s a no brainer that we will see Clarence Goodson as the replacement for Matt Besler. A slightly harder choice is who will replace Jozy Altidore? My initial guess is that Eddie Johnson will get the start at top and will pair up with Clint Dempsey. So who replaces Bradely? I suppose you can make a claim for the defensive-minded Kyle Beckerman to pair with Jermaine Jones. If Klinsmann wants to get in a more offensive frame of mind, then I think we will see Mix Diskerud pulling some strings.
Let’s be honest here. This game is not going to be for the faint of heart. It is going to be a man’s game in every sense. It is going to be physical and chippy to the level expected between the Yanks and El Tri. It’ll be soccer’s answer to a Stanley Cup Finals game.
That said, I would like to see a bit of balance from the USMNT. I want to see the back four stay at home and defend. I’m not talking about parking the bus in front of the goal; I’m talking about defend first and not getting caught out of position and being vulnerable to El Tri’s counter-attack. I also want to see actual possession being held by the midfield, but without Michael Bradley, I don’t see it happening.
If they can do that, they will at least get a point, which is all they need. As nice as three points would be, one is essential here. I think Mexico is going to play desperate, yet tactically strong with the sacking of Chepo. If the Nats can absorb Mexico’s pressure in the first 15-20 minutes, without giving up a goal, the game should be theirs. Because if El Tri doesn’t get an early goal, I see frustration setting in — ultimately leading to something stupid.
As for my lineup, here is what I’d like (even though it won’t happen):
Guzan (he did the job at Azteca),
Castillo, Gonzalez, Goodson, Parkhurst
Zusi, Diskerud, Beckerman, Donovan
My prediction isn’t quite 2-0, but a 2-1 win by the Yanks nevertheless.
OTF founder, Scott Fenwick is @OnTheFire97, and can be heard at OnTheFire Radio, available via all good podcast distributors. If you want to add your voice to OTF’s USMNT coverage, shoot Austin Fido an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet @canetop.