“The player development is the main thing I like (about Michigan),” Williams said. “You can see that they develop their players. They get them in the gym and they work them hard. And their hard work pays off.”
A German coaches the US National team, and it's time for the World Cup. This combination results in people who don't know what they're talking about making big, sweeping generalizations about what it all means. The result: a rather spectacular 24 hours wherein the New York Times published a piece claiming Klinsmann was making US soccer less American and the Wall Street Journal published one claiming he was making it more so.
Meanwhile, Brits are whining that USA fans use their own lingo too much and shouldn't use correct lingo… in the same article. A classics professor is writing the de rigueur "Soccer is Un-American" article. (The premise of this brief piece is obvious, but if there is anything that is Un-American (there isn't), it's some fusty old twit in a tweed jacket getting the vapors about the Romans.)
This self-contradictory pile is all very American. One of my wife's most prized possessions is a keychain from the Eugene V. Debs Memorial Kazoo Night. The Eugene V. Debs Memorial Kazoo Night was held annually at Tiger Stadium until it was torn down. Labor people would show up at a baseball game to give each other trinkets and pay tribute to a guy who was locked up for protesting the USA's involvement in World War I. With kazoos, evidently.
The keychain created for this event at the national pastime of the most capitalistic society yet implemented reads "Lock Up Capitalist Lackeys." The United States contains multitudes.
One of these multitudes last washed his hair in 1976, several years before he was born. He brought an acoustic guitar to the World Cup. Another is here because his family was fortunate enough to emigrate from Haiti. Clint Dempsey's parents sold some of their guns to finance their kid's soccer career. Jermaine Jones is here because his dad was still in Germany 30 years after World War II ended. Michael Bradley is the spear-bald son of a spear-bald soccer coach. Matt Besler's just a normal guy.
The confusion about just how American soccer is, and how American USA soccer is, is based on a conception of America that erroneously excludes things. The US soccer team is a bunch of second or third generation immigrants and Americans who fell in love with the weird kicky game, because who knows why but go to hell if you want to tell me what to do.
If we didn't invent it we stole it, or are in the process of stealing it, and putting it in ourselves. We are less advanced in our assimilation of soccer than we are pizza. We are nonetheless coming.
If you hate it, oh well. No one cares, because the most American thing is: don't tread.
Note: With roundups of last weekend's Sound Mind Sound Body camp still being published, as well as various visit reactions from prospects currently on campus for Michigan's technique camp, I'm pushing back the recruiting roundup to tomorrow. Breathing into a paper bag in preparation for USA-Ghana may also have played a role here. Thankfully, I started writing this post last week.
I started writing up the 2009 offensive recruits as a whole, but I couldn't get past the first paragraph of Tate Forcier's profile before realizing the two quarterbacks in the class needed their own post. Hell, I couldn't get past the first sentence [emphasis mine]:
Tate Forcier is the one who didn't get away, the one who was planning on committing even when Kevin Newsome and Shavodrick Beaver hadn't twirled their mustaches in dastardly fashion and tied Michigan football's hopes to the train tracks before effecting their getaways. His brother is my favorite Michigan player of all time who never played. He is a relentlessly trained quarterback prodigy ready to step in on day one—which was a month ago—and challenge Steven Threet for the starting job. God help us if he flames out.
When this post was written, Forcier had already enrolled at Michigan and subsequently dominated the Spring Game—back when it actually resembled real football—in a fashion that caused junior-in-college me to make this video, and I'll admit it was no small thrill to see my name on this here site:
Then, of course, came spring:
I just watched that thing again and it's pure sport porn; I sort of wish Ace had left in Forcier's three incompletions—one bad read, one Stonum drop, and one overthrown screen—so it wasn't a just a possibly-misleading highlight reel but was instead the whole spring performance. My favorite part is that little swing pass to Moundros on the rollout: Forcier's getting pressure from a defender, calmly positions himself, and puts a perfectly-led ball right in Moundros' arms, allowing him to turn upfield against the chasing linebacker. That is the sort of precision Michigan's offense was lacking last year.
After a season of the Threetsheridammit offense, the fawning over Forcier's readily apparent potential was more than understandable. His accuracy and YPA for a high school quarterback were off the charts, as evidenced by... a (chart?) chart:
|So||157 / 221||1637||71.0%||7.4||10.4||17-4|
|Jr||164 / 213||2387||77.0%||11.2||14.6||21-5|
|Sr||208 / 326||3424||63.8%||10.5||16.5||23-15|
The disconcerting rise in interceptions and drop in completion percentage as a senior was chalked up to a heavily increased workload and a sieve-like offensive line, the latter quite apparent to those who watched him play that season. This brought forth a foreboding aspect to Brian's eerily on-the-money comparison to former Iowa QB Drew Tate:
Forcier was often reduced to scrambling around and chucking it hopefully, which obviously led to the interceptions. Here's another piece of the Drew Tate comparison I've been beating into the ground for months now: Tate (Iowa Version) also saw a senior-year spike in interceptions as Iowa's offensive line regressed (they gave up an extra half-sack per game when Tate was a senior) and Tate took matters into his own hands more often. This tendency can be either wildly good or wildly bad, and threatens to do so on consecutive plays this fall. Only experience will teach Forcier what he can and cannot do at this level.
As it turned out, we'd never learn if added experience would've reduced the considerable "no no no YES"/"no no no AAAAAARRRGGHHHHH" aspect of Forcier's game. As we all well know, he left school after being ruled academically ineligible for the 2010 Gator Bowl, by which time he'd lost his starting gig to Denard Robinson. A certain aspect of Forcier's schooling, at the time noted as a positive—his home-school setup enabled him to work with QB guru Marv Marinovich for hours upon hours—was probably not so positive:
On Fridays in the fall, Tate Forcier doesn't feel like going to school. The night's game is on his mind, and the quarterback for Scripps Ranch High in San Diego can't imagine studying a textbook rather than studying a defense.
No big deal.
"I'll tell my teacher, 'I have a game today,'" Forcier said. "He'll say, 'That's fine; you don't have to come.' And I'll go to my football school and watch film all day."
Ability to shred a cover zero or no, this doesn't really fly at U-M.
I swear I'll get to Denard soon, but first a couple more blockquotes. Marinovich's scouting report of his pupil was so oddly poetic Brian turned it into actual poetry:
"Tate springs off his feet. He bounds from side-to-side to avoid the rush and then accelerates. His peripheral vision is key allowing him stay focused and scan downfield. But really, his mental attitude toward the position along with quick feet and hand-eye coordination blended together is ridiculous."
A haiku version of this:
Tate springs off his feet
He bounds from side to side, and
Finally, Brian makes a most unfortunate typo:
Why Drew Tate? That's my go-to comparison and I'm sticking to it. Forcier is about 6', maybe 6'1". He's nimble and though he took off frequently in high school, in college he won't have as much of an athletic advantage and will mostly use his feet to buy time to throw downfield. He has the proverbial moxie, which occasionally gets him into trouble. The Tate comparison is eerily accurate, except maybe Forcier is better school and will be more accurate than the occasionally-erratic Tate.
With that out of the way, DENARD ROBINSON HIGH SCHOOL HIGHLIGHTS AHOY:
Oddly, Denard's otherworldly running abilty wasn't nearly as prominent in those clips as you'd expect. There isn't so much as a hint of a run until nearly the two-minute mark. In fact, there are only a couple plays in the whole reel that really show off what he was capable of doing, probably because his offensive coordinator ripped the "OBVIOUS ROLLOUTS" page from the Al Borges playbook and left the rest. Denard's highlights are way better in theory than they are in reality.
I'm not sure there's better evidence of how much football offense has evolved even in the last half-decade than Denard Effin' Robinson running every play on his high school highlight tape from under center. In 2008, this may have gone unquestioned. In 2014, there'd be a federal investigation.
Denard's passing stats fell well short of Forcier's, as would be expected. Less expected were the rushing stats:
Oddly, Robinson's rushing yards weren't spectacular. He had only 538, which was fewer than Forcier had, though Forcier wasn't going up against big schools in Florida at Scripps Ranch. Does this indicate a Drew Tate Forcier-like tendency to run around in the backfield and then launch it deep? A couple of throws above and that yards per completion number indicate "yes", but he also breaks contain several times and takes off and those are just highlights so maybe he got sacked a lot for ridiculous yardage after running around like a headless chicken and I guess what I'm trying to say is we just don't know, dude.
We just have to go on the universal heavy panting about this guy's ability to outrun a cheetah in a Porsche strapped to a jet engine and dropped out of a plane. Which, like, okay.
I'd say the first bit is explained by the highlight tape. About that last bit: Both the "cheetah in a Porsche..." and "Denard Robinson is made of dilithium" tags were fixtures on this site before Robinson ever got to campus. Even before he proved Mike Patrick's "broken plays are very dangerous" mantra in real time, this was totally justified.
Deerfield Beach's Denard Robinson got the near-perfect start he needed, motored down the straightaway and won the 100 meters in a personal-best 10.44 seconds at the BCAA Track Championships at Coral Springs on Saturday.
Robinson's personal-best … is the second-fastest high school time in the nation, according to Dyestat Elite 100 rankings.
Denard's reaction was even better:
''I was kind of disappointed in myself to run a 10.44, but I will accept that,'' Robinson said.
It comes as little surprise that a bolt of lightning recruited to play quarterback for Rich Rodriguez received comparisons to Pat White from everyone, Brian included. The excitement to see this athlete in that offense managed to rival the avalanche of Forcier hype even though Robinson didn't get the benefit of an early enrollment. Surely the blogger who set Sam McGuffie's general excitement level at "AAAAIIEEEE!" saw the nearly unlimited potential that would soon be realized in arguably the greatest QB rushing season ever:
General Excitement Level: Slightly under high.
We're no longer on speaking terms, boss.
Michigan basketball holds off on offering juniors until June 15th, whereupon they send out a wave. June 15th was yesterday; the wave:
NV PG Derryck Thornton Jr.
Of course. Thornton's profile has been building for years, as he adds a little bit of hype to the pile every time he breaks someone's ankles. By now you probably know the details here: assistant Jeff Meyer coached the elder Thornton, they've been on campus multiple times, they convinced Battle to come along for a four-day visit that coincided with Michigan's elite camp.
Thornton's made some noises about an early decision, first telling UM Hoops that that it was a possibility and then Scout's Kyle Bogenschutz that he was thinking of pulling the trigger($) during the very conversation in which he found out he got his offer. With his dad describing the visit as a "15 out of 10," Michigan is the favorite. It seems like he wants to confirm things with an official visit in the fall… on which he would be on a commit watch unprecedented in the recent history of Michigan basketball.
Thornton does plan a Kentucky visit in the next week or two that should result in a UK offer. Memories of Devin Booker make that fairly ominous, but if Michigan's still in the lead after that it doesn't seem likely anything will displace them. I have added "Derryck" to my spell check, FWIW.
PROJECTION: Thornton commits to Michigan on his official visit, which I bet a dollar will be for the PSU football game.
MI PG Cassius Winston
Winston has received much less attention from the Michigan internets than Thornton largely because he seems less likely to end up in Ann Arbor. He is just about as talented as Thornton, and his rankings reflect that—he's top 50 everywhere and pushing for five-star status some places. Observers at the elite camp thought he outplayed Thornton slightly, even.
Winston is not likely to make an early decision:
In his two remaining years of high school, Winston has plenty to refine in his game and several goals that he’d like to accomplish before thinking ahead to Michigan. He insisted that even if he gets an offer, he’d like to take in the whole process and then gauge what the next move will be.
At the point Winston does get serious about a commitment Thornton will either be in the bag, off the board, or in that state where the supposed leader has led to long for it to be a good thing.
PROJECTION: If nothing changes with Thornton, drifts elsewhere. If Thornton's head gets turned, Michigan turns the jets on.
KY PG Quentin Goodin
In a bit of a surprise, Goodin did get his offer. He checked the visit box with his own appearance at the elite camp, and he is just a notch below Winston/Thornton to the guys doing the rankings. Michigan may have felt secure enough to offer because Goodin's made no bones about where he wants to go if the opportunity arrives…
"I would definitely take the opportunity to play at Kentucky if I got it.”
…and by the time that gets resolved Michigan will have a good idea about whether or not they're going to close out the Thornton sweepstakes. Goodin says he won't commit until next August, so offering now is relatively risk-free.
PROJECTION: Commits to Indiana.
NJ SG Tyus Battle
Battle is a relatively new name, and a high-profile one with interest from Syracuse, Kentucky, Duke, etc. He visited with Thornton fro the duration of the elite camp, and that has put Michigan in excellent position, especially if they get a commitment from Thornton. Battle's dad:
“Michigan was awesome, we had a great time,” Gary said. “Tyus really enjoyed the visit. The coaching staff is very thorough. We really enjoyed their presentation and the campus and the way they would use Tyus. Obviously, academically Michigan is something we like a lot.”
This is not a slam dunk like Thornton seems, though: Battle went from Michigan to Villanova and will swing through Louisville and Kentucky in the near future. Thornton's top group appears to be Michigan and I guess some other guys; Battle is going to be a… battle. He gave Bogenschutz some positive quotes($), but nothing on the level of those Thornton is issuing.
PROJECTION: I don't know, man.
OH SF Seth Towns
yes that's Trey Burke's high school
Towns didn't have the best elite camp but Michigan still pulled the trigger anyway. Like Thornton, Michigan seems to be way out in front for Towns (Webb paraphrasing Towns($): Michigan "DEFINITELY number one"); like Thornton, Towns is not pulling the trigger immediately.
With the June 15 offer Towns's recruitment is a formality; as long as Michigan keeps their interest level high he'll be in the class. So expect a 6'7" or 6'8" shooter($)…
"As a player, his ability to shoot it is his strength, for sure," Always100 Ohio Warriors AAU coach Fred Moyer said in May. "He can get it off the dribble and go. His best attribute right now is getting it off the catch and a one-dribble pull-up jumper. That's money when it's on.
…Zak Irvin 2.0?
PROJECTION: Commits to Michigan by end of summer.
CA PF TJ Leaf
Leaf is a five star inside/outside big who could play the 4 or 5 at M. He's been on campus multiple times, with his most recent visit a brief trip up from Bloomington, where his AAU team was playing. Leaf's interest is sincere; he seems to have a relatively solid top four of Michigan, Indiana, UCLA, and Arizona. He told Scout recently that those were the teams recruiting him hardest, and dropped this quote on M:
"I just went to Michigan. I loved the coaches and liked the campus. It's a really good program."
That top four was the same in May, FWIW.
Leaf has previously said that one of the things that makes Michigan attractive is the certainty that Beilein be there for the duration of his career, something that is probably true at UCLA and Arizona as well. Indiana… maybe not.
Leaf plans a January decision after some official visits. The major question is "are Towns and Leaf mutually exclusive?" If so, Leaf will get pushed out of the class by Towns unless he changes his timetable. I don't think that's necessarily the case, as a 3/4 like Towns can coexist with a 4/5 like Leaf.
PROJECTION: No good feel for this one, but UCLA has a coach who isn't on the hot seat and Michigan is likely to have competition for his scholarship slot. So: UCLA.
OH C Jon Teske
Unless that's a small child I estimate Teske's height at 11 feet
Teske is the least-hyped of all the offerees. A consensus three-star, Teske fits the mold of Beilein big men: he's a developmental project with a soft shooting touch. Coach quote:
"The thing that he's got is that he can score and shoot the basketball," said Medina coach Chris Hassinger. "His skill development is maybe higher than the guys they have at the Division I level right now."
Teske may not be a three star for that much longer, as he picked up an Ohio State offer recently and is now being listed at 6'11"… and growing. Injuries have limited his exposure to date.
PROJECTION: If OSU goes after him hard they will probably get him, otherwise money is on M.
Haitian-born and Canadian-raised 2016 CB/S Patrice Rene (Peterborough, ON/St. Peter's) has taken an unconventioanl route to becoming a coveted football prospect, but now that he's been identified, he's camping and peforming like everyone else to earn offers. He participated in the Sound Mind Sound Body camp in Detroit over the weekend and checked out Michigan's campus once it was over. Rene had great things to say about his trip to Ann Arbor.
It went really well! I enjoyed every second of it. I saw the whole campus, all of the facilities, and even The Big House. It was an overall great experience. I was able to speak with Coach Hoke, Coach Mallory, and Coach Manning. They are all very impressed with me and are willing to offer, but they want to see a bit more film now since they are looking at me as a corner or possibly a safety. I think personally, I'd like to play corner at the next level.
Rene's recruitment has been made difficult by the fact that he plays north of the border, but that will change in August, as he's moving into the US for a chance at more exposure.
It has been a little tough getting recruited being in Canada, but this season I will be attending Episcopal High School in Virginia to better my recruitment and help me develop for the next level. My parents, coach, and I evaluated the option and it was the best fit. Episcopal has great academics and a decent football program. Also, a lot of schools that are recruiting me know that school already.
The schools that Rene referred to are familiar foes who will be competing with Michigan for his services. One being Ohio State who offered Rene over the weekend.
Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Michigan State are all familiar with that area and I thought that would be good for me. Ohio State just offered and that is a big offer! I've been talking to them for a while now. I've built a solid relationship with the coaches so I've been blessed to be offered by them.
Rene mentioned that the Michigan coaches have already talked to him about a potential offer and it too would be a big one for his personal list.
An offer from Michigan would also mean a lot. I've been a Michigan fan for a long time. For right now though I honestly don't have any favorites. I'm open to any school willing to recruit me but Michigan would definitely be a school that I'd strongly consider. I'm very confident that I will be offered by them, I'm not worried. They'll be at my games and recruiting me hard they said, so yeah, I think it's coming.
I couldn't help but take note of Rene's one-of-a-kind upbringing that likely will have him playing football somewhere in the Big Ten so I asked him if it was realistic that he could travel from Haiti, to Canada, to Virginia, to Michigan, and he answered with a laugh, "That is a strong possibility."
Obviously Rene will have to be offered by the Wolverine staff before that can become a real possibility, but based on everything he told me and the way his visit went I think it's only a matter of time before that happens. At 6'2" and 190 lbs. Rene has the exact build that the Michigan coaches love in the secondary, whether it's at corner or safety. It sounds like the coaches are just waiting to see which spot they'd prefer him at before an offer materializes.
Name: Levonta Taylor
Ht/Wt: 5’11" / 178 lbs.
Location: Ocean Lakes - Virginia Beach, VA (2016)
Offers: Virginia, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Hawaii, LSU, Marshall, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, NC State, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Old Dominion, Penn State, Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, West Virginia, Wisconsin
Rating: ★★★★ .9805 (247 Composite)
Ranking: #44 NAT / #3 CB (247 Composite)
Michigan has done well recruiting in Virginia plucking Derrick Green in 2013, Wilton Speight in 2014, and Garrett Taylor who is currently a verbal pledge from the 2015 class. With hopes of continuing that tradition, the Wolverines recently offered 2016 cornerback Levonta Taylor out of Virginia Beach.
Coach Roy Manning, who is the Virginia area recruiter as well as the cornerbacks coach, is heading up Taylor's recruitment and so far it is off to a great start.
I was at the Rivals 5-Star challenge getting registered for that and right when I first got there my coach just called me and told me that Michigan had offered. It was a great offer to get because I'm real cool with Coach Roy. He's the cornerbacks coach and it's good for me too because he's my area recruiter. That's a big plus for me that he's going to be recruiting me and would be my position coach too.
Coach Manning isn't the only thing that Taylor likes about the Wolverines. One of the things that draws Taylor to Michigan has been there for almost 90 years and another hasn't been there at all yet.
Another thing that I love about Michigan is that they have the biggest stadium. I've always loved playing in front of a crowd. Plus they are going to have one of my favorite players from high school, Jabrill Peppers.
Taylor has taken notice of MIchigan's recruiting efforts but as a top 50 player many other schools are putting in work as well.
Virginia, Michigan State, and LSU are coming at me pretty hard. There's like a lot more that are coming at me but those two or three are coming at me the most. Clemson too.
As a rising junior, Taylor has two full seasons of high school football left but he already has a loose plan in place of how his recruitment will come to an end.
My parents want me to commit before or maybe during my senior season so I'll be coming out with a list probably after this upcoming season. I'm going to come with a top 10 and then probably two or three months after that release a top 5. Michigan will always be in my top group, no matter what. Whether it's 10 or 5, they'll be there.
Taylor says that a visit to Ann Arbor is definitely in his future plans but doesn't have anything on the calendar just yet. He has played in a 7 on 7 tournament before with his Virginia Thoroughbred's team in the state of Michigan, but has never been on campus. Taylor also mentioned his late aunt that graduated from Michigan and says he knows she'd love the idea of him sporting the maize and blue someday.
5 – Trending Blue
4 – Solidly in a top 2-3
3 – Contender in a top 3-7
2 – Among large (8-15) group under consideration
1 – Let’s see if he visits before we talk
0 – Passing interest or none
Just after Taylor and I spoke he was invited to The Opening, a big deal for a 2016 prospect. He mentioned that he was waiting for that invitation so he could plan out his summer a little bit better as a multi-day trip to Oregon tends to chop up the calendar a bit. I will be in touch with Levonta to see if a trip to Ann Arbor materializes but his relationship with Roy Manning and the connections that the staff has made in Virginia already seem to have gone a long way with him.
|WHAT||USA vs Ghana|
|WHERE||Arena das Dunas
|WHEN||6 PM Eastern
SO. IT IS TIME. I'VE GOT SEVEN LIVES LEFT, BUDDY
THE THEM: Bête noires
Quail and quake at the USA's World Cup nemesis: Ghana. The Black Stars' ongoing revenge for Freddy Adu has been sporadic but ruthless, just like their team. I took in their final warmup friendly against South Korea* and was mostly unimpressed, but Ghana just kept scoring goals despite my opinion of their overall play.
If you remember anything about the USA's previous matchups with Ghana, the way those goals went down will be no surprise: transition. Ghana's second was in fact a virtual replay of Ricardo Clark's disaster from four years ago, albeit with a much greater case for a foul. Of the four goals that the Black Stars have scored at the US's expense, two were derf giveaways in the USA's defensive third, one was a long ball over the top on which the USA's slow and aging 2010 central defense corps was exposed, and the fourth was a ridiculous penalty issued against Oguchi Onyewu.
Transition: avoid it at all costs.
With the theme and many of the players the same guys the US took on four years ago, Ghana will feel much like they did in 2010. This was not necessarily the case until an injury.
While Abdul Waris is not officially ruled out it seems unlikely anyone can recover from a torn quad in under a week. This rules out the 4-4-2 they ran a lot of in qualifying; expect the 4-2-3-1 that is world's default at the moment and what Ghana ran in 2010, with Kevin Prince Boateng ranging underneath Gyan. Via The Shin Guardian, a likely lineup:
GOALIE: This should be an area of advantage for the US; Ghana's probable starter plays in the South African league. 2010 starter Richard Kingson wasn't elite but was a much more established player, at least for Ghana.
DEFENSE: Projected left back Kwadwo Asamoah isn't as out of position as you may have heard—he's more of a wing-back for his club despite playing most of his time with the national team at central midfield. He is extremely dangerous.
The center backs are the same guys the US took on four years ago, and they're a bit foul prone and tend to get dragged out of position. South Korea was able to generate a number of dangerous chances that they couldn't quite finish as Ghana got pulled out of shape.
The right back plays in Tunisia, and is a little bugger at 5'7"; he's quick and gets in on opponents but might have difficulty with the USA's burly attackers.
MIDFIELD: You remember Prince-Boateng and Essien; though they're getting a bit up in years and Essien's had some injury problems recently. If you don't, Boeteng is the Ghanaian version of Bradley: a dynamic box-to-box midfielder who could easily be deployed as a holder but has found his niche further up the field. He will be the guy trying to get the ball off Beckerman or one of the central defenders.
Essien is a version of Jones… a much, much better version of Jones. Imagine if when Jones pressed forward he was a consistently excellent passer. Essien missed the previous World Cup and has dealt with injuries and declining form; after being a fixture for Chelsea for forever he moved to AC Milan in January and only had seven appearances.
Rabiu is a basic defensive mid.
Andre Ayew will be one of the wing midfielders; he's a regular for Marseille but a seemingly good matchup for DaMarcus Beasley, who was Ayew in a previous existence. The other will be either Ayew's brother Jordan or Sulley Muntari; Muntari is the better player but more of a central mid. If they go with Muntari it'll be on Asamoah to get upfield for with; unfortunately, he's plenty capable of that.
let's not this
FORWARD: Gyan. Guy is doom on a stick if you let him set up, and he has the kind of ability to take a nothing ball against a defender and turn it into a lethal shot. He's been playing in the Qatari league, too: Brazil is like a meat locker to him.
*[Previous friendlies are not helpful here; while they did get basically run off the field by the Netherlands the South Korea game saw ten changes—ie, everyone who played against the Dutch won't be playing against the USA.]
After a strong performance against Nigeria in a formation that makes sense for the USA to replicate, the expectation here is for the US to run out the same 11, and run the same Christmas-tree-to-asymmetric 4-3-3 formation.
DEFENSE: Beasley, Besler, Cameron, Johnson.
While the prospect of Portugal flipping Ronaldo to Beasley's side and just having their ubermensch plow Run DMB over is alarming, Ghana's Andre Ayew is a much more comfortable matchup for the USA's still somewhat makeshift left back. Ayew is a quick little bugger who Beasley can go toe-to-toe with, and not get outrun by.
Besler and Cameron draw the Gyan assignment; hopefully they'll be better equipped to cope with his speed and physicality. Last time out it was a 24-year old Gyan against 30 and 31 year old US center backs; this time Gyan is going up against guys almost exactly as old as him, and considerably more mobile. Consider the ill-fated Bocanegra-at-left-back experiment versus Cameron starting 74 of Stoke's last 78 EPL games, mostly at right back.
The tactics should be set up to shield the center backs from Prince-Boateng… most of the time. When the US loses its shape and they don't have their square o' protection set up, communication between the two center backs will be key. It seems like Besler is the designated guy to step up while Cameron sweeps behind.
Fabian Johnson draws either Jordan Ayew, he of the recent hat trick but previous indifferent national team career, or Muntari, who is left footed but more of a central midfielder. Either way he will surge forward and the US must be prepared to cover.
THIS IS MY BALL. THERE ARE MANY LIKE IT BUT THIS ONE IS MINE. MY BALL IS MY BEST FRIEND. IT IS MY LI—OH SHIT
MIDFIELD: Beckerman, Jones, Bedoya, Bradley
Beckerman, Jones, and Bradley are the key to this game. In possession, they have to give each other options and watch for Ghana's sporadic but incredibly effective pressing.
While Beckerman had one bad turnover in the Nigeria game, his entire career is built around being in the place he's supposed to be and playing the simple ball away from pressure to allow his team the opportunity to retain possession and build an attack. It's no exaggeration to say that this is the culmination of his career. The pressure will be intense.
Jones will rove as he is wont to do; his most important role in this one is as the break-in-case-of-fire axe, the USA's OH SHIT button. As such he definitely shouldn't be putting himself in positions like the on that occasioned his impressive 70-yard recovery run against Nigeria; he can range forward when warranted but he should be the one laying it off and waiting instead of trying to burst forward himself. Jones has always been a guy whose offensive ambitions exceed his grasp; that's the last bit of wildness the US would fear from him.
Bedoya's main role is to work for the team and provide width that allows Johnson to shoot upfield inside of him.
And Bradley. Here's Michael Essien. Be him, and outplay him. No problem. Part of the Clark disaster linked above was a four-years-younger Bradley putting Clark in a bad position. He's been a fixture at Roma, he's the guy the USA and his club team are built around, he broke the damn beep test. Now it is time to demonstrate that you are Michael Bradley and that means something.
This was Gyan-like
FORWARD: Altidore, Dempsey
Altidore's flash of brilliance against Nigeria is a hopeful sign; more hopeful yet is the consistently quality hold-up work he's put in against the Turks and the Super Eagles. He's put the ball on Dempsey's boot a number of times, and he has worked hard even when the ball wasn't going in for him. The US figures to boot it upfield more than they have been, so his ability to get down the channels* will figure in against Ghana outside backs who figure to get upfield.
Meanwhile, Dempsey has been off. He's been provided numerous opportunities to create something by Bradley and his first touch let him down consistently in the Send Off Series. He did have a near goal late against Nigeria that he created with fancy footwork; even on that it seemed like a layoff to Altidore for another tap in was the move. Dempsey's footwork earned him a penalty in the 2010 game against these center backs, and he should be a handful for the same gentlemen.
*[IE: run diagonally from the center of the field to one of the corners, hopefully getting and retaining possession and perhaps dragging one the the central defenders with you.]
SUBS: If the US is leading the only subs that make sense will be striker swaps. They're playing all their midfielders who have a defensive edge already. Pulling Dempsey, who doesn't work on defense much, for a fresh guy who can press from the front would make sense—Johannsson or possibly Diskerud.
Tied or behind, Beckerman could be sacrificed for either Diskerud or one of the strikers, with Bradley withdrawing and the US bombing forward with its centerbacks exposed; Zusi would likely come on for Bedoya.
KEYS OTHER THAN SCORING MORE GOALPOINTS
Don't get caught with the ball on defense. For all the talk about becoming more of a possession team, if there's a doubt against these guys, just punt it upfield. As much as possible, make Ghana try to break you down.
Don't get dragged too far out of shape without a really good reason. Looking mostly at Jones and Bedoya here, as they will be pushing forward and also have extensive defensive responsibilities. The 23 selected makes this even more imperative, since there's a high chance Beckerman takes a tactical yellow card at some point, leaving him exposed for however long he's got after that.
Defend and counter… mostly. Sit deep against a fast team, keep your shape, funnel them to the outside, and look to shoot upfield when the ball is turned over. The US has center backs who can make a long pass and two box to box midfielders who can carry it upfield. Look for a breakthrough while denying Ghana's break and then see if you need to make changes later.
Press high when afforded the opportunity. The US has a counter-attacking trick or two up its sleeve, as well. Bradley has a terrific knock for perceiving when he can dispossess a guy in a dangerous spot, and the US has generated chances the last two games off of that. Bradley's ability to disrupt the Ghana attack from the front is a major asset.
WIN THE GAME. #winthegame
SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES