Busy couple of weeks, busy weekend. All conspiring to keep my post production low, and that means…Grab Bag time.
Better Up Top
Those damnable “local blackouts” applied, leaving me with only the Match Day Live condensed version of the United vs. Quakes tilt. Obviously, I feel pretty unqualified to deal in minutiae as a result, but that won’t keep me from making the one obvious observation: De Rosario needs to be up top.
Why? Well, quite simply, he’s our best finisher1 and the only one who can create for himself (assuming Najar and Pontius are not also tried as forwards). The counter-argument goes something along the lines of, “but he was brought in to be a #10, to dish from midfield!” Perhaps he could do that, but it isn’t (a) what he does best2 or (b) what United needs most.
United has created chances. Not in any vast numbers, true, but chances nonetheless. The current batch of front-men haven’t consistently finished those chances. De Rosario does. Does that mean he needs to be playing up top? Not necessarily, but being there affords him the most touches on the ball in goal-scoring areas, which can only be a good thing.
Allow me to anticipate the argument that runs, “but he can make runs from deep in midfield, thereby putting him in a position to both distribute and finish. Maybe. Truth be told, I’d prefer him as a free-role “tweener” with support from two deeper- (though not necessarily deep-) lying midfielders, thus relieving him of defensive responsibilities and allowing him, both as our best player and most dangerous attacker, to shine.
Of course, if we had a mobile destroyer who could eat up turf (and attackers), it’s possible that we could play a single player behind De Rosario in central midfield. Instead, we have Simms. Competent enough in his way, but not up to such a task on his own, necessitating help from either a central partner or pinching shuttlers on the wings. Which, of course, puts shackles Najar and Pontius, our next-best attacking options, neither of whom are particularly great shakes getting back on defense.
Make the best with what you’ve got.
I’m still on the fence over the Klinsmann appointment. On the one hand, it will probably prove a long-term bonus if he’s given the freedom to implement changes that bring about a more technical, quick, and attacking style of play for the program in general. Does that lead to immediate results in 2014? Doubtful.
It’s all about rolling the dice. Sticking with Bradley would have resulted in qualification and early dismissal in Brazil. Results with Klinsmann depend on delegation. The whole thing might click wonderfully or explode in our faces.
Given solid, experienced heads around him, he can focus on what he does best: being the motivational figurehead. That leads to Germany in 2006. If instead he thinks he’s the next Rinus Michels, we get the Bayern abomination.
If nothing else, a more “agile” style of play will probably shake our regional doldrums against less-talented opposition and lead to more consistent results against lesser opposition in general. The real test will be what happens when the US comes up against superior opposition, an area where Bradley more often than not shined.
The notable exception of course being the Gold Cup. And, like it or not, Mexico are superior opposition now. The rematch on August 10th will almost definitely be too soon to make a judgement call on Klinsmann’s approach, but his team selection and tactics should provide a fairly good barometer of where this whole thing is heading.
What the Hex?
I was relieved to see that the crackpot plan to revamp CONCACAF’s World Cup qualifying with more giants v. minnows action and two final groups got the axe, leaving things much the same as in previous years (welcome back, Hex). That leaves the US facing a home-and-away group with a much-improved Jamaica, likely to be joined by Guatemala and Haiti, in order to qualify for the Hex.
All well and good, and nary a Barbados in sight. But what left me scratching my head were the six teams automatically passed to the second group stage. US, Mexico, Honduras, and Costa Rica…duh. Jamaica? Given their decent showing in the Gold Cup, I’d give that one a thumbs up too. But Cuba? Seriously?
Besides hemorrhaging players every time they play abroad, what puts Cuba here? Is it not appearing in a World Cup final since 1938? Is it that lone advancement from the Gold Cup group stage in 2003? Oh wait, it’s being ranked 64th in the FIFA World Rankings, making them the sixth highest in CONCACAF. Which then begs the obvious question…What the hell did they do to be ranked 64th?