Thoughts on USA v. Australia

There's little doubt how Bob's going to play this World Cup, is there? Two holders in central midfield, limited forays from the fullbacks, and counter, counter, counter till it hurts...

Worshipping at the Church of Mourinho

Of course, the glass-half-full crowd will point to the number of opportunities the US created on those counters. There were certainly chances aplenty, though for every slick transition and lightning dash forward, there were attacks fizzling out through poor touches, the lack of a final ball, or the inability to apply the finish. But pointing to those chances alone ignores what was going on at the other end of the pitch.

What made Mourinho's Inter so successful at surrendering the possession battle this year was that they choked off chances for the opposition. They didn't care if you had the ball; they just made sure there wasn't anything productive you could do with it. Despite the increasing frequency of chances on the break for the US, there were simply way too many free bodies in yellow in the box. If Kennedy can finish or Hahnemann is less sharp in net in the second half, we're looking at a less rosy scoreline.

Choose Your Weapons

But you could point that self-same "failure to finish" finger at the US, Findley in particular. Which raises a bit of a conundrum for Bradley. There's no doubt that Findley's speed caused problems and created chances. Where he fell short was that he's just not as quick with the ball at his feet and, more importantly, he didn't finish the two glorious chances presented to him.

By contrast, both Gomez and Buddle showed how deadly a striker in form can be. They're both riding their confidence at the moment, but neither fits Bob's system as a speedy foil for Altidore up top. So do you go with the hot boot or stick rigidly to your system? I don't think you need a ouija board to know what Bob's answer to that question is going to be.

Closing Thoughts

I'm not enamored of living on the counter, particularly against teams that we hold a technical advantage over, and I'm still hugely worried about the gaps in the back line. But it's encouraging that the US managed a solid result despite playing without a couple of key cogs (Altidore and Onyewu as a sub) and not looking at their sharpest. The size and quality of the pitch (not to mention some questionable officiating) didn't help matters.

Where I'm starting to get a nervous itch is in how Bob approaches the second two matches of the group stage. Much depends on the result in the first match against England, but I do wonder about our ability to create chances from possession rather than on the break. The second half against Turkey showed some promise, but both goals were from restarts rather than sustained possession breaking down a packed defense. Sure, we can score on the counter, but do we really expect Slovenia and Algeria to be coming forward in numbers against us? Will Bob loosen the reins a bit?

We're not far away from finding out...


  1. I'll push you about the limited forays from the fullbacks. Granted, Bocanegra stayed home, but he just doesn't have the skills or the motor to push forward very well and Dempsey, notorious for his lack of tracking back, was in front of him for most of the game. But Cherundolo caused all kinds of problems on the Aussie's left flank. His service on Buddle's second was sublime.

    As an aside, what'd you think of the commentating? I ahve to say, I didn't like Harkes and Tyler together. There was hardly any play-by-play, especially compared to whoever was calling the Netherlands/Hungary match. Harkes and Tyler were just having a 90 minute chat about soccer, which was awkward because of Harkes' knack for oversimplified analysis and Tyler's knack for esoteric factoids and flourish with the spoken word. You could argue that both of them are suited for commentating, but I would come back that they're really commentating for different audiences and shouldn't be commentating together. That's my hope for future matches, anyways.

  2. Algeria has attacking play in their DNA. It's part of the reason their defense is so weak. They'll come at us because they know no other approach. Even the injury to Meghni from Lazio won't stop them.

    Slovenia, on the other hand...