Match Preview - US v. Sweden

Somewhat lost in the drama of the past two weeks (Milan starry-eyed over Becks! Donovan wows in desert- and snow-bound friendlies! SuperDraft! MLS training camps open!) is the fact that we're closing in on the Annual Scandanavian Scrub Challenge, wherein a US B-side, consisting of MLS and out-of-season Euro-players take on the domestic best of some random Scandanavian nation. This year's edition did promise one former glittering star of world football. No, no, not Danny Califf! Henrik Larsson. But alas, his name has mysteriously vanished from the Swedish roster.

Now, rather than boring you with what lineup I think Bob is going to trot out (it's already been done to death elsewhere, and nobody seems to disagree much--such is the drab, gray world of Bob Bradley), I'm going to pick a few things that I'll be on the lookout for come tomorrow evening . . .

(1) Does Bob insist on sticking to "The System"? By his own admission, Bradley is enamored of how futbol is usually played at the highest level on the club and international stages, with four at the back, two holding midfielders in the center of the park, one true forward, and three tweeners operating between the forward and holding mids--the wide men having more defensive responsibility than the central, who often plays a bit closer to the lone forward. Given the number of forwards in camp, I wonder if he's going to play more of a 4-4-2 or stick to his tactical guns? That's of particular interest because . . .

(2) It will be interesting to see what the young midfield guns can produce. Whether it be the insouciant touches and "dagger ball" passing of the Scotland-bound Kljestan; the so-nasty-it's-good wing wizardry of Robbie Rogers; the awkward, stoned, Ichabod Crane-ish grace of Eddie Gaven; the combative, tornadic flailing of the Dynamo dynamo, Rico Clark; or the drive and thunderous finishing of Stuart Holden, there should be plenty of weapons at Bob's disposal. Whether he takes the tactical shackles off the ones that might impress more without them is another question entirely.

(3) Free Charlie Davies! Yes, yes, Chinger will likely start against Mexico and needs some minutes, Cooper brings an interesting (and potentially useful) set of tools for a big man, and I've always had a soft spot for the enigma-wrapped-in-a-mystery that is Chris Rolfe, but Davies has something they all lack--raw speed. I get the sense from the transfer talk that he's just about gotten all he can from the Swedish league and is looking to take the next step. And if there's something that will unsettle our amigos south of the 2-0 border in February, it's not the power and holding ability of Ching, it's the speed and runs of Davies. Can he play as the lone striker in Bob's formation? Wouldn't this be an ideal time to test that? Sadly, I'm afraid he's stuck in the role of late game "change of pace super-sub" and/or desperation second forward when we really need a goal.

(4) Who gets the nod at right back? Yes, I may have gradually shifted to holding/defensive mid as my playing career progressed, but my heart will always be that of a true #2--torturing opposition wingers' ankles and bombing down the right flank. Consensus opinion seems to hold that Wynne is a lock, but I'm not so sure. Yes, after the flashes of brilliance he showed down the stretch for TFC last year, I think Wynne is ready to move beyond the "great athlete" tag and start making a name for himself as a soccer player, and I would absolutely start him. But Bob? Well, Bob seems to have it in his head that John Thorrington will be a good attacking right back. Good? When Wynne has an opportunity to be great and is still well short of the 30-year iceberg that Thorrington is about to smack into?

Decisions, decisions. What are you looking forward to tomorrow? Eager to see former United keeper Perkins get the call in net? Waiting to see what Kljestan pulls out of the bag before he bids adieu to SoCal? Wondering who Bob will play up top? Planning to drink heavily to make the game more "exciting"?

1 comment:

  1. Despite this being a b-side game for both teams, I'm looking forward to seeing what players will make a claim to being in the regular player pool. With qualifiers, the Confederations Cup and the Gold Cup we will need a deep pool this year. The Euro based players will get first crack at the qualifiers and Confed Cup but some of these guys can make a case for those squads and most will probably be looked at for the Gold Cup.

    With regard to you points:

    1. I think Bradley uses the January camp to see which players fit into his system (at least that was the rationale for not calling up guys like Cooper last year); so I'm not betting on much change in formation or tactics. I'm not sure if that is good or bad, but I can see some logic in building a team that way where the coach figures out who can play what positions in the system and the players learn and understand what is expected of them to continue getting call-ups

    2. The midfielders - This should be Klejstan's opportunity to shine before he dissappears to the "did not dress/did not play" roster of American stars in Europe. Rogers can make a case for himself to be Beasely's main challenger on the left wing given the demise of Convey and it will be interesting to see if Holden does well. I will be surprised if Gaven gets any playing time but Clark has fared well in Bradley's system so it will be interesting to see if he shows the promise of 2007 or the mediocrity of 2008.

    3. Davies! The new Eddie Johnson of the squad...only better. You are right that he will be the supersub or the alternate starter like Johnson was...only better. Cooper takes over Twellman's role on the depth chart behind Ching and Altidore.

    4. Defenders...I wonder why Conrad or Robinson were so systematically ignored given their proven performances on Bradley's squads?