Home Sweet Home? | a USA Match Preview

We're not exactly into "Must Win" territory, but we're getting pretty darn close. Taking a look at the remaining fixtures in the Hex, we've got tonight's match at home to Honduras, Mexico away, El Salvador at home, T&T and Honduras away, and finally Costa Rica at home. Not an impossible stretch by any means, but if the Saprissa performance was an indication of how we're going to travel, that places critical importance on the three remaining home matches, including tonight's tilt. So what tools does Bob have at his disposal?

The Evaporating Player Pool
  • We know for certain that Brian Ching is out through injury, with Colorado's Conor Casey having been called in, presumably to sit on the bench and look hulking and menacing, though his rumored inclusion on the Confederations Cup roster argues that maybe he's here for more than the pine.
  • What we don't know is the status of Frankie Hejduk, though his (again with the rumors!) being left of the Confed Cup roster argues against his ability to go tonight. That said, Frankie's a freakish specimen, so perhaps he can pull it off.
  • Bradley Junior will be suspended after picking up a pretty soft yellow in Costa Rica.

Points to Consider
  • While the "attacking fullbacks" approach did not work on the road on a racquetball court, it might be a sensible option at home on grass. Does that mean I want to see an obviously less than match sharp Beasley or the not-so-technically-gifted Wynne on the flanks? Not really.
  • With Junior suspended and Mastroeni looking a step off the pace, who goes in the middle of midfield for the US? Arguably, Mastroeni might not be so exposed on grass, but Honduras' attack isn't exactly pokey. The energy and hard tackling of Rico Clark is a distinct possibility, but who pairs him? Kljestan of the currently crappy form? Torres? Feilhaber?
  • Last time out, we had plenty of possession but little end result to show for it. Whether the lack of dynamism in attack or creativity in midfield is more to blame is up for debate, but I'd argue for a combination thereof. The exceptions in Saprissa? Altidore in attack and Torres in midfield, and perhaps Adu might get a shout as well. Did Bob recognize that?
  • The greed of USSF will be repaid by yet another home away from home outing for our opposition. Despite the fact that the crowd may be sporting more blue and white than red, white, and blue, it won't be anywhere near the pressure-cooker that Saprissa was.


A few words of explanation...
  • Bocanegra, Onyewu & Howard is pretty much a no-brainer. I've dropped Beasley entirely because I don't think he's sharp enough to be playing at international pace. Do I think Bob will drop him? Not likely, but then, this lineup is pretty much a blend of what I'd like to see and what I think Bob will do, not strictly the first choice of either of our camps. Bornstein takes over on the left to provide some attacking thrust, while Spector plays a more stay-at-home role on the right, giving us three deep to defend against Honduras' tremendous threat on the counter.
  • Torres in the middle? But isn't he a bit lightweight in the defensive department? True, but any more so than yellow-waiting-to-happen Kljestan? Feilhaber would be an option as well, but I don't know how sharp he is. His lack of inclusion against Costa Rica says that maybe he's not quite ready. Torres brings the ability to spot the through ball and both he and Kljestan, in a pinched right midfield role, will be looking to spring the attacking trio up top.
  • Was anybody else extremely frustrated by Donovan's inability to beat a defender one-on-one last time out? That's why I have him playing high here. His quickness can take advantage of the balls from Kljestan and Torres to get behind the Honduran back line in scoring positions, where he's generally reliable, either to go at goal, to cross the ball for Dempsey or Altidore, or to pull it back for the onrushing Kljestan and Torres. Altidore is in a role similar to the one he played in the midweek, free to drop deep for balls that he can dish to advancing playmakers or to push high to look for penetrating balls. Dempsey plays high on the left, looking to cut inside on the dribble to unleash shots from around the top of the D or to play in Altidore who can pull wider when Dempsey goes inside.
  • Davies and Adu were both energetic additions off the bench, and I see both playing a similar role tonight to run at tired defenders.
  • Sadly, Bob will probably play Kljestan and Mastro in the middle, Beasley on the left, and Dempsey on the right. Of course, I didn't expect him to experiment as much as he did against Costa Rica, but given the punishing that new-look crew took, I expect "once bitten, twice shy" is the order of the day, and we'll see little variety.
  • While I don't think anybody, including the great unwashed hordes of the blogosphere and BigSoccer, is quite ready to bench Donovan yet, given his reputation as "America's best player" and ability to do major damage (when he's angry or can be bothered), there might be calls for Dempsey to see pine after his similarly lackluster outing in Saprissa. Personally, I'm hoping both can use that disappointment as motivation and come out chomping at the bit.

Okay, that's about the shape of it to these tired and jaded eyes. What do you think? Who would you run out against Honduras tonight? What kind of result do you expect? I'll go out on a rather spindly, optimistic limb and say 2-1 to the good guys.

1 comment:

  1. The back four should see Spector, Onyewu, Bocanegra and Bornstein but I wouldn't be surprised if Pearce were in the lineup.

    The midfield I would like to see is Dempsey on the right with Clark and Feilhaber paired up in the middle and Torres on the left. Feilhaber is match fit as is Spector, but I' guessing they were not considered for Costa Rica because of the nature of their recurring injuries and the fact the game was played on carpeted concrete. With grass (and Wynne's performance), he will definitely roll out Spector and could trot out Feilhaber.

    Still, won'te be surprised to see Beasley on the left and a Clark-Mastroeni combo.