As the title suggests, this is me blowing off some steam after reading and hearing stupidities from people across the web. But there are takeaways here that are well founded.
Is the result all that matters?
It’s a damn shame when the majority of the media, and dare I say fans, focus on the 1-1 instead of what transpired on the field.
It was a clinic!
No, not just the first 45, for the full 90. What … you think because the US got several counters and set pieces, we didn’t get bossed the second half as well? Please.
This game was a virtual carbon copy of the 2-0 US victory over Spain.
That was a clinic too!
Until we learn to transcend the final score, and start realizing the lessons being taught on the field, we can’t progress.
Teams in south america have tied or beat Argentina for decades.
Most recently Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Paraguay all beat them at home during qualifying. Oh and let’s not forget, Bolivia thrashed them 6-1! Do you think any of those fan-bases thought for a minute their futbol was progressing to the next level?
Only the Chileans did. And that’s because of the way they played.
Bielsa’s Chile played.
Bradley’s US does not.
And yes, it’s how you play that matters. Because among other things, it’s how you play that yields consistency.
On Player Selection
Many say you can only make lemonade out of lemons? But Bradley picks lemons when he could be picking oranges. The problem is that people believe we only have lemons. And that’s just not true!
Even within his current pool there are oranges (I won’t discuss the riches outside the pool). Instead he chooses players that are less technical and intelligent.
Gomez, Torres, Feilhaber, Bunbury, and even Buddle are players with some quality. Yes the last two were not available, but that’s not the point. All these guys play second or third fiddle to the junk that BB prefers.
Altidore is a terrible player! What is the obsession with this guy? He sucks!
Demerit is terrible!
Onyewu? Another obsession. This guy has always sucked balls too. And you know who will replace him? Omar Gonzalez. Another lumbering giant with no soccer brain and sub-par technique. But it’s all good cuz he can win headers!
People, what the hell are we doing? Can’t you see how poor and ill-suited these guys are? Can’t you see that the type of player a coach selects is directly related to how he views the game? Bradley will never give us a National Team with quality.
There are craploads of Agudelo quality players in this country. Unfortunately, most are not physically imposing and so not even on the radar. It’s funny when people think that if there were an American Iniesta, Xavi, or Alvez they would be on the NT. Sorry. Not true. Incompetent coaches don’t know how to utilize them. This is why Torres, Fielhaber, and Gomez are not A-listers.
Could you imagine if I recommended a 19 year old Dani Alvez for outside back to an MLS coach? Or how about a Milito, who in case you don’t know has the speed of a snail, for center back? Iniesta for center mid?
I would be laughed right out the front office!
Think I’m making it up? It’s happened (without the laughing of course). This country’s coaches just don’t know what to do with technical, intelligent ballers.
But it’s not just player selection … it’s Bob’s soccer limitations and philosophy.
Ok, so we were playing Argentina. I would never expect him in 2011 to field a team that will knock the ball around like they do – to boss them around. Admittedly, we do not have that level a player (but we do have far better than what we are fielding). We could be showing spells throughout the 90 minutes demonstrating quality play. Spells where we too have a structured build-up. Spells where we connect 5, 10, 20 passes. Instead we have panicking center backs who launch the ball forward, and in many cases can’t even keep it inbounds.
But players and this Argentina encounter aside, just look at how the NT performs against “inferior” talent. When we play Trinidad, Jamaica, Canada, et al, I fully expect to see us play the beautiful game. This is what would show real progress, real understanding, and a real intent to evolve. I’m still waiting …
And this my friends comes from the coach, not from any pound-for-pound player inferiority.
There is so much to say especially after the “awesome” performance last night (and I don’t have time now). Some bullets:
• How the hell can we play three center mids who are almost identical for two straight games, i.e., where is the variability offered by a more creative central player? I agree those players are out there.
• Why not make more changes? I think we already know what most of these guys can do.
• I was glad to see Ream, he gets closer to the mark in what the team needs than anyone save Agudelo.
• The performance last night and the result was ironic after the Argentina-USA performance. The irony seems lost on the commentators.
• I think Bradley represents how a lot of the USA soccer insiders consider the way the USA plays, and as such he defends our soccer culture. They would like this approach to be a success (even though it won’t be and it is absolutely shit!). I see the type of game he promotes at the National team level reflected every weekend on the youth pitches here.
• I’ll save more for later, but I had some interesting conversations and observations during a day field marshaling at the Region IV youth championships last year.
Sarah Rudd says
Do you think Michael Hoyos would have been successful had he stayed in the US? Watching him and Funes Mori in the CONMEBOL U-20 was sheer torture knowing that we had them in our backyard and let them go.
Funny that you bring up Altidore. I’ve heard people blame his and Adu’s lack of soccer intelligence on the fact that they went pro too soon and were put in a situation where the focus was on results instead of learning the game. I think in one of your posts you mentioned how in Argentina they throw the players into the fire if they are good enough and let them play in the first team much sooner than in the US. How many people in Argentina blame a player’s shortcomings on going pro too soon? Zero. I’m guessing the difference is quality of coaching rather than anything to do with the individuals or what age they crack the first team.
Gary Kleiban says
I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t watched any of the U-20 games, or Hoyos, thus far. Looks like there are plenty of replays available on espn3, so I’m gonna take a look. Then I’ll let you know for sure what I think.
For now I’ll give you a fact and a bit of speculation from experience:
Something to consider is that Hoyos was cut from ODP at U12.
From my experience, if you don’t have “resume”, your chances of going to a top D1 college and playing are slim to none. I mention that because this is the fattest pipeline to going pro in this country. So that avenue, in my opinion was not going to materialize for him.
But more importantly, I surmise that since an Argentinean club signed him and the youth NT coach considered him quality enough to be on the U20s, then by induction he has player attributes that are most definitely NOT valued by US Soccer.
So … NO! Not a chance in hell he would have been successful had he stayed here.
Gary, you always tell the hard truth and that’s why I love this site.
Do you think there may be a silver lining in all of this with the talk of Bielsa possibly being technical director?
Gary Kleiban says
And nope. I have no illusions of Bielsa being hired in a position that truly has influence. It seems that US Soccer is hell-bent on keeping everything within the ‘circle of trust’.
You talked a lot about player selection both for the pool and the game itself, and Bradley simply stinks. There are the obvious choices, but Bradley is bringing nothing new to the MNT, nothing. His selections are horribly stale and the team is going sideways fast, but he also brings nothing tactically except joy strangling defense. The USA has so much more to offer tactically, if someone just had the guts to do it, and the players to implement it.
The history of soccer is full of teams that burst on the scene by employing new tactics that blow the competition away (Uruguay, Hungary, Brazil, Holland, …) as long as the skill is there. The sporting culture in the USA has a rich vein of innovation to draw upon that could be adapted to tactically spice up the game and surprise the World. Jonathan Wilson has opined such a possibility, but our coaches seem to be utterly incapable of innovation. Instead they are mining the old tactical practices from the United Kingdom that were outdated twenty year ago.
Aspects of basketball and American football offer potential inspiration. As a possible case in point, let me make an observation about the innovative defensive approach taken by Barça under Guardiola/World Cup Winning Spain. The front seven are involved in aggressively pressing the loss of possession, and cutting off all short-passing options leaving the long to medium pass the only viable option for their opponents. To combat this, the centerbacks (Puyol, Pique) drop wide and the holding mid drops between them (Busquets) to defuse the possibility of counterattack (note they do this for the buildup out of the back as well). With Barça the outside backs push up high to help the attack, and press upon loss of possession with the centermids and forwards.
This approach looks almost identical to American football’s Tampa 2 coverage, used to defeat the deep pass in the NFL. There the two safeties split the deep coverage into two zones, and the middle linebacker covers the deep middle zone. The cornerbacks aggressively jam the receivers close to the line of scrimmage (and there are a lot of blitzes too). Its not clear if Gaurdiola took any inspiration from the NFL, or he simply invented a similar solution for a similar problem. His defensive scheme provides an answer that dovetails with their offensive approach.
There are a lot of other pass coverage schemes in American football, basketball is full of pressing schemes, and offensive movement/passing offenses that were they appropriately tweaked and implemented could be applied to soccer. All we need is the coaching brain (and balls) to do it with the right level of talent. It would require a new breed of players rarely seen on the USMNT, players chosen for skill and brains rather than power and pace.
Maybe we could finally claim our place in the history of the game and have a distinctive style. If we do find our way it will probably come from the college or MLS if the game can be relieved of the overly-physical play that strangles skill and smothers tactics.
Gary Kleiban says
I don’t know what to say Bill.
I’ve followed Basketball, Football, and even Hockey up until several years ago. But I don’t know enough to understand the things you mention. I can only imagine how rich in complexity all those sports are. Just like soccer.
I’m certain there are ideas and lessons that can translate and help with innovation.
But I don’t think I want US Soccer to try “wacky” stuff. I prefer them not to experiment with the beautiful game (even though it seems that is precisely what they’ve been doing for years), at least not yet.
Instead, let’s try to emulate the styles of the world powers. The tried and true. The leaders of global soccer philosophy. For too long, we’ve been doing it the “American way”.
I guess from what I can see US Soccer’s primary M.O. is really drawn from the traditional British-Scottish approach to the game, i.e., very physical, big target man, big tall center backs, lots of crosses, lots of passes bypassing the midfield, “when in doubt knock it out” mentality, and an emphasis on size, speed and passion/effort. Our coaches seem to be actually backward and simplistic tactically. There is a strongly anti-intellectual element to the game that detracts from progress.
While US Soccer shouldn’t immediately try the wacky stuff, it might be good if someone in club, college or MLS were innovating tactically in a competitive environment that had some relevance to the international game. I’m not talking about some soft-boiled football coach moonlighting as a soccer coach, but someone who understands both games and sees the parallels. If it were successful there, it could be refined and adopted higher up and eventually be the National team. The sort of progression from club to global is how total football grew from Ajax to the Dutch “clockwork orange”. They may have failed to win everything in the ’74 World Cup, but it won three consecutive European Cup for Ajax. Its present form and success is now found at Barcelona and the Spanish national team.
The point is the USA has a unique sporting culture, which could be a distinct advantage rather than a drain of gifted potential players. To be valuable this requires what you’ve been preaching, the adoption of the best practices from around the World first as a foundation. This puts us in the position of always playing catch up. The tactical innovation would allow us to leverage the skill with a competitive advantage.
American sports are rich tactically because coaches have a relatively great ability to adjust tactics during a game, and a lot of American sports are only really played in the USA. Many sports have parallels to situations found in soccer that could inspire different solutions than presently found in the game.
Johnny L says
/late to the party
Very good. The main difference, however, is that the aforementioned sports are more situational than football/soccer. Unless the possession is at Barca’s level, it leaves little opportunity to run a scripted play where everybody is in the right spot and can time the movement to perfection.
It strikes me from some posts here that intelligence and physicality are somehow mutually exclusive. Not at all in my opinion. To add quality weight (muscles) and run faster is always going to be a lot easier to accomplish then to teach player how to process information fast and be creative. Simple vs complex work.
You can explain an intelligent individual what needs to be improved on. He/she will accept the criticism and work hard to correct the deficiency. Such player is likely to master a new tactical concept in the shorter time period.
El Memo says
“Its how you play that yields consistency.” I’m going to have to have to steal that one.
I also like ” the type of player a coach selects is directly related to how he views the game.” Which usually sucks.