3 Keys for 2 Matches

Slovenia-Algeria certainly wasn't one for the ages. Neither team seemed particularly intent on winning the game, being content to knock the ball around the back and midfield, and the dearth of attacking lock-pickers on display was evident. The Slovenian goal would probably go down as the worst goalkeeping effort of the tournament thus far were it not for Robert Green's fumble last night. So what does the US need to do against these two eminently beatable teams?


Even with a man advantage, Slovenia never looked like creating a chance. The one that went in was a hopeful, and not particularly good, shot from outside the box that the Algerian keeper completely whiffed on. They're not ambitious in attack, don't boast much in the way of athleticism, and don't seem to have the spark of quality that might ignite a workmanlike team. So...

  1. Torres Time. The center of the Slovenian midfield is small and pedestrian. We don't need two wrecking balls in the middle. Slovenia also seemed content to keep things in front of them and allow Algeria to build up the play slowly. That screams Torres to me. No need for Clark's energy and defensive work. Rather, let Torres pull the strings from deep and let Bradley get forward in support of the attacking four.
  2. High Energy. Niether Algeria or Slovenia played a high pressure game, but there were indications that the Slovenian center backs might not be the most tuned in at all times. Likewise, the central midfield didn't seem to have the ability to work dangerous through balls. With neither fullback getting forward much, putting high pressure on the center of midfield probably means the forwards will be even more starved of service than they were against Algeria. And keeping pressure on center backs prone to mental lapses might provide a few garbage chances.
  3. Pinch and Overlap. Given the lack of a physical presence in central midfield, Donovan and Dempsey's natural inclination to pinch in beneath the forwards should be encouraged. Width can be provided by quick strikers dragging defenders wide or through overlapping fullbacks. That's not to say that we go full kitchen-sink. Given Slovenia's lack of creativity, they'll be looking to the counter for chances, so we shouldn't over-commit. Still, a little ambition should be well-rewarded. Play possession ball, but play it with the urgency that Algeria lacked.

Algeria looked the most likely to score for most of the match, but never really managed to create a real threat. They have more danger-men than Slovenia, but those danger-men are wings or wingbacks. The forwards seemed more hustle than sparkle.
  1. Dominate the Flanks. When Algeria looked dangerous (and it wasn't very often), they were bursting down the flanks or hitting early crosses to the forwards. The later should be bread-and-butter to Gooch and DeMerit. The former can be discouraged by pressing the issue in wide areas, both by forwards drifting wide and by the wide midfielders. This might be a match to consider wide midfielders who stay wide in order to keep the Algerian wing-backs honest.
  2. Hassle Yebda. Like Slovenia, Algeria were content to knock the ball around the back. Much of their possession cycled through Yebda in central midfield. Choking off his looks forward or keeping him under pressure in order to force bad decisions should swing the possession battle.
  3. Shoot Early, Shoot Often. If they didn't take the lesson from the England game, the US will need little more encouragement after watching Koren's tame effort trickle past the Algerian keeper. Keep hitting shots on frame. Test him. Make him work. The rewards will come.
Enjoy yourselves, I'm off to pack for Ireland...


  1. Mike? You still out there? You get lost in Eire?

  2. Wow I really really miss my fullback