Thursday, September 1, 2011

Predicting The Unpredictable

On Friday, the US national team will play its first match in Southern California under Jurgen Klinsmann. It wasn't Klinsmann's idea to play this match here of course but it is a great chance for the locals to get familiar with their locally-based national team manager.

Klinsmann, who has long resided in nearby Orange County, will trot out a host of new players as the U.S. plays Costa Rica.

Wait... new players? Has the lineup been announced?

Hardly. I'm just taking a guess here. I know it's fun to try and sort out a lineup, whether you're a sports writer or a die-hard fan. You think you know what the manager should do and dammit, there's no convincing otherwise.

Well, the only thing I'm certain about the lineup we'll see on Friday is that it will be unpredictable. Probably what many think will happen won't. Probably some of the players we expect to see in the lineup won't be.

I've come to expect nothing but the unexpected from Klinsmann. Why? Because he's not like any coach the U.S. has had. It grew easier and easier to fill out Bob Bradley's lineups, and it was similarly the same with Bruce Arena. Sure, Bradley threw us an Adu-esque curve every now and then but any casual fan could guess his lineups and expect 70 percent accuracy, even in friendlies.

Klinsmann... I just don't see him as the guy who will field the same 11 match after match, at least on in friendlies and least of all now, for his second and third game as national team manager. He's going to want/need to see new players and going to want/need to see young players. The veterans he's seen but how will they mesh with each other under this new scheme?

Having said that, Klinsmann could start any player on the roster and make a valid reason why that guy should be starting. I suppose that speaks to how wide-open spots are right now. If Bradley would have started say Jose Torres or Brek Shea in the midfield, you knew they had no chance of playing with Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones ahead of them in the pecking order.

There is no pecking order now. Yeah, you have Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and other strong talents on the squad (LD only for Costa Rica, Deuce only for Belgium) so those guys aren't going anywhere, but mostly there are spots up for grabs.

So predict away but just don't be disappointed if... *when* your prediction comes up wrong.

My wrong prediction...

Howard; Castillo, Bocanegra, Orozco Fiscal, Chandler; Rogers, Torres, Shea, Edu, Donovan; Altidore

I hate to use alignments as in this being a 4-5-1 because that's pretty rigid and I see this as fluid. Edu could serve in the holding midfielder role with Rogers and Donovan on the wings and Shea and Torres in the middle but I wouldn't be surprised to see all those given freedom to roam, to the point that where they go wouldn't really resemble whatever formation they came out in.

Anyway, that's what I've got. I like the backline because of the youth and versatility and overall there is a lot of youth. This is progression, folks. The kind of progression we should have seen right after the World Cup.


john said...

On the game, I think there were alot of positives, obviously the score not being one of them.

Altidore played some of his best soccer, though he faded as the match wore on as his fitness ususally does to him. Agudelo continues to impress.

Torres was great on the ball. Felt his work rate off the ball really slowed outside the first 30 minutes. Would also like to see him get the ball in more forward areas. Edu was great, the best I've ever seen from him in the USMNT, that's a good role for him. Shea was brilliant at times, but I don't know if midfield is the right spot for him as he provides almost nothing defensively.

Actually agreed with Harkes on something. The attack was much too narrow, he was right, they should have tried to get around the outsides more.

Typical CONCACAF BS tactics from Costa Rica. When the US had the better of play in the first 30 minutes, CR was fouling like crazy to slow us down. One player had 3 or 4 fouls in just a matter of minutes with no card. Then later in the game CR players start going bananas every time they get fouled. Deliberate tactics and the Honduran referee in typical CONCACAF fashion lets them get away with persistent/tactical fouls and then dissenting time wasting later.

john said...

BTW, this quote is dead on from Klinsmann. US players need to stop being such nice boys on the field and become tough, nasty, greedy soccer men.

On physicality of the game:
“The next step they need to get to at that point is to be even more determined. There needs to be another piece of determination, another piece of being greedy for that goal. A bit more nastiness is part of it too, but Costa Rica did very well and on all of their one against one’s they were very nasty. There were a lot of fouls. They tried to interrupt our rhythm. The physical part of it is where we need to step up more and be more hungry at that moment and finish off one of our chances.”