in town for free camps
Apologies for the late content. My wireless card started acting funny this morning and I had to deal with drivers for the first time in a long while.
Hello. Every year I gather up a collection of the web's finest Michigan bloggers and scream and beg and plead and scream until they submit articles to me, which I lightly burnish and send to Maple Street Press, which puts it in a book which is then put on sale. Here's this year's edition:
- I do the usual preview of the team, this year with bonus excessive quarterback analysis.
- Jerry Hinnen previews the opponent schedule, except…
- Sam Eley, who used to run We Will Always Have Tempe, previews OSU.
- Johnny of RBUAS tackles Demar Dorsey, the phenomenon.
- Andy Reid, late of the Daily, interviews Fred Jackson about the jumbled tailback spot.
- Misopogon revises and publishes a version of the Decimated Defense you can send to all your friends who keep annoying you with their lack of context.
- Chris Brown of Smart Football goes in-depth on the 3-3-5's origins and setup; I evaluate how well Michigan's existing players will fit in their new holes.
- Craig Ross looks at the evolution of offense from the single wing to the spread.
- Michael Elkon takes a look at what actually predicts turnovers, why Michigan had two straight years of incredibly poor turnover margins, and what their prospects are for 2010.
- Jamiemac explores Michigan's re-entry into recruiting Ohio like mad.
- John Kryk surveys the history of Michigan's helmet stickers.
- Greg Dooley of MVictors recounts the story of Michigan Stadium's construction.
- And, finally, a bunch of the above others take cracks at answering the questions of the day in a Wolverine Roundtable.
It is 128 pages and $12.99. This is approximately ten cents per page, many of which have very nice pictures on them. One is even of Biff the Wolverine. If you don't purchase it, chances are you have a brain tumor which causes you to make bad decisions. Check if you have a chicken on your head and go see a doctor, but not before you purchase it. You can get it online or from bookstores across the state.
FL QB Kevin Sousa has become Michigan's quarterback for the 2011 class. His last name is pronounced like the home run-hitting Sammy Sosa, not "The Victors is the greatest college fight song ever written"-sayin' composer John Phillip Sousa.
|3*, #31 QB||3*, #21 Dual QB||3*, 78, #22 QB|
In addition to the above national rankings, the Orlando Sentinel calls him the #14 overall prospect in Central Florida. Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let's talk about his build. Heights on the three recruiting sites range from 6-2 to 6-4, and weights from 207 all the way up to 235. I would guess right in the middle on height, at a solid 6-3. The weights were actually skewed slightly towards the lower end, so I think 215-220 is probably about right. With a college weight training program, he should reach prototypical measureables.
Keep in mind when reading the descriptions of his game, that the majority of them basically say: "He is a prospect with tons of potential as a QB, but he is really raw." That is understandable, as Sousa didn't start playing football until his sophomore year of high school:
"He's an unbelievable, gifted talent and he just needed someone to pull it out of him. I tell everybody he's just getting his feet wet," says [Lake Nona assistant coach Anthony] Paradiso. "I found him roaming the halls (at Cypress Creek) when I first met him and he was just a soccer player.
"He never played football. I got him to buy into something, buy into the fact that he could be great."
In the age where kids are trained from the womb to be roboQBs, Sousa was a soccer player up until the past two years. This means upside galore. Now, on to the evaluations. First, from his ESPN profile:
He can make all the throws due to strength and when his feet are set he flashes a powerful downfield arm... Has very good feet and pocket awareness to buy second chances and is an accomplished scrambler that is adept at making things happen when the play breaks down. He has strength and elusiveness as a runner and can not only make people miss, but can also lower his shoulder and initiate contact in the open field to fight for extra yards.
And now, the negatives:
He is also very mechanical and not always a smooth passer with consistent fundamental delivery mechanics... Feet are not always in concert with his arm and as a result he will throw off balance and can miss the strikezone at times... Must learn to change ball speeds and touch depending on the throw and consistently lead receivers within a reasonable catch radius.
So, there's quite a bit to work on. The upshot:
There is no doubt that Sousa can remain at QB [though he could also play tight end or another position], but he will need to focus on the passing game, footwork, patience and settling in to being a passer that is a great athlete and not an athlete playing QB. Drill work, coaching and scheme familiarity will enhance his chances.
As expected: lots of potential, but raw. Coach Paradiso thinks that, as the rawness goes away with experience, Kevin could be something special:
"This is the best high school quarterback I have ever seen," Paradiso says, "and I've seen a bunch. I saw John Brantley (next year's UF starter) when he was at Ocala Trinity and Kevin has a much stronger arm. Now John was a lot more accurate, but that'll come."
On top of improving his accuracy, Kevin is (understandably) novice at reading coverages, something else that will come with more experience and coaching. At an Under Armour combine in Jacksonville, he told ESPN's Craig Haubert that accuracy is the biggest thing he's working on. He has plenty of time to polish that release, as football and weightlifting are the only high school sports he participates in. The Orlando Sentinel talks about how he performed at that event:
He did 20 reps on the bench press, almost unheard of for a quarterback, and his 4.8 laser time in the 40-yard dash was equally impressive considering Sousa's size -- 6-4, 220 -- and the fact that he had stretched his hamstring a bit during the run.
"Big Sousa, man .. I tell ya. He looked like a big stud out there," Waseem said.
The weightlifting thing is doing him right, it appears. He's been hitting up seemingly every combine in the nation, so here's a later performance, as told by Tom Luginbill:
Once again, Kevin Sousa (Lake Nona, Fla./Lake Nona) shows up to an Elite 11 regional camp and each time he gets better. In fact, this was by far his best outing and he is starting to really iron out some kinks in his delivery and become more smooth and fluid as a passer. Athletically he is ultra impressive, but there were times on Friday when he got his feet, timing and delivery to sync up and for that moment, was the best guy in the camp. He can do some things that are very impressive and with a redshirt year, some program is going to get a nice little gem.
This is about as ringing an endorsement you can get for an under-the-radar prospect. With college coaching, he'll develop some consistency, and hopefully get "feet timing, and delivery to sync up" all the time. Luginbill's colleague Billy Tucker echoes the sentiment, though giving special attention to arm strength and Kevin's ability to spin the ball.
He displays an excellent work ethic, according to Coach Paradiso, and has lofty goals for the near future:
"I plan on winning the Golden Gun for Elite 11 (accuracy) and being the top QB at Nike camp (Gainesville) and the Under Armour in Atlanta, as well," he said.
If he can continue to improve day-to-day as he has been, that just may happen. In that case, Michigan will have a serious, serious sleeper prospect in the fold - though he might not be a sleeper anymore by that time.
Sousa is also a good student, amassing a 3.5 GPA as a junior. He's interested in studying mechanical engineering, so he's made a good choice in the academic department as well.
Despite his production early in his football career, and the fact that he drew raves seemingly every time he set foot in a camp, offers were slow in coming for Kevin. By the time he committed to the Wolverines, he had offers from the likes of FIU, Middle Tennessee, and UCF in the lesser conferences, and BCS-level tenders from Illinois, Louisville, South Florida, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, and West Virginia. He also held a verbal offer from Miami (YTM). Colorado State was his most recent (non-Michigan) offer.
Sousa had been waiting for the Michigan offer for quite some time, so when it came, he immediately booked a flight to Ann Arbor, and made the commitment. He has been picking up momentum over the summer as he's impressed on the camp circuit. If he weren't an early commit, there's a good chance he could have ended up with several other solid offers.
Per his Scout profile:
Dual threat QB who threw for 1,346 yards and eight TDs, he ran another 916 yards [and 5 TDs -t]. Honorable Mention All State for 3A classification. Second Team All Central Florida by Orlando Sentinel.
That was but Sousa's second year ever playing football. The program being in its first year also means it's unlikely he had very much help. As both Lake Nona and Sousa himself get more football experience and coaching, he could explode in his senior year. In his first year, according to the Orlando Sentinel, he racked up some gaudy numbers in only seven games:
He certainly looked the part last year for first-year program Lake Nona. Sousa passed for 1,290 yards and eight touchdowns and rushed for another 859 yards and five scores in the first seven games, but injured his knee in the eighth game and was done for the season. Not too shabby for seven games.
He did that at Cypress Creek High School before Lake Nona opened.
FAKE 40 TIME
Rivals pegs him for a 4.69-second 40 time. As noted above, the floor here is a combine-verified 4.8-second (laser-timed) 40. MGoUser Swenet1111 reports that his 40 times have been reported as 4.48, 4.56, 4.69, and 4.9, outside of that combine time.
As a dual-threat quarterback, those aren't unrealistic, and with a combine-verified time, it's hard to dole out the FAKEness. I give him one FAKE out of five. I fully expect to hear about him running 4.2-second laser-timed 40s sometime soon.
You can see how he performed in Lake Nona's spring game (which was reportedly impressive enough to solidify the offer), but a more comprehensive look comes from his junior highlights. Part 1:
...and Part 2:
Those interested can see how he's improved since his sophomore year.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Sousa has exceptional physical tools, but has yet to become a true quarterback. This is unsurprising for a kids who exclusively played soccer just a couple years ago (by the way, condolences on his mother's national side, Ivory Coast, being eliminated in group play at the World Cup). Fortunately for Kevin, he's stepped into what seems to be the perfect situation. Michigan has a pair of QBs that are two years ahead of him, and Devin Gardner one year up. That means he is a near-holy lock to redshirt and work on his skills for a year before he'll even sniff the field.
Assuming Gardner stays four years (which is likely at this point), Sousa will be behind all three quarterbacks as a redshirt freshman, then things get a little fuzzy. Does Denard switch positions, or get used only as a part-time QB if he's not the #1 guy? Does Tate keep up the family tradition of transferring if he doesn't win the job? Either way, Sousa's redshirt, at the very least puts him two years behind Gardner (assuming no redshirt for Devin this fall), meaning he could have mopup/backup duty as a redshirt sophomore, and come into his own as a redshirt junior.
With his physical tools and potential, as long as Sousa gets good coaching (we already know he has great work ethic), the sky is the limit. In his senior season, there's the chance he could compete for national awards and All-American status.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan has their quarterback for the 2011 class. That means they're looking for very few skill players at this point. One running back (hopefully Demetrius Hart), one more outside wideout (likely AJ Jordan, or the Wolverines could hold out for Sammy Watkins, since a second wideout isn't a necessity), and a tight end (Ray Hamilton?) are still on the menu.
Once Michigan gets those skill players locked down, offensive line and defense become the highest priorities. 3-4 OL in addition to Jack Miller, along with an emphasis on linebackers should fill out the remainder of the class.
|3*, #84 DE||3* DE||78, #44 DT|
Naturally, none of the gurus have Miller ranked at the position he's going to play in college - offensive line. As recently as last summer, he was a 6-4, 230lb tight end (that also seems to be when his father passed away, for which we offer our condolences). Notre Dame looked at him as a 3-4 DE, and he seems to be very versatile:
After transferring from St. Edward's High School in Lakewood, Ohio, where he started at defensive end his sophomore season, the 6-foot-4, 270-pounder started at both defensive end and offensive right tackle during his junior season at St. John's High School.
"Cincinnati offered me to play defensive end. Illinois, North Carolina and Pitt offered me to play center or guard. Northwestern and Boston College want me to play defensive tackle," said Miller. "I'd say I have about 17 or 18 offers."
When he talked to TomVH, he confirmed that Michigan wants him on OL, and divulged his measureables:
TOM: Where does Michigan see you fitting in?
JACK: They'r recruiting me for offensive guard, or center. I'm comfortable on the offensive side, and I really like the idea of playing offensive line for them.
TOM: Oh, wow. What is your height and weight right now, then? I think there's some varying numbers out there.
JACK: Yeah, I'm at 6-foot-4, and I weigh 270-pounds right now.
There's precious little about his actual game available, so here's ESPN's breakdown:
Offensive tackle is an option, but he seems like a better fit on defense. While he is solid at the end position it is hard to believe that he will not grow into a defensive tackle. He already is a fairly big kid and displays the frame to pack on more good size and will likely grow into a fulltime interior player sooner then later.
Most of the talk is about his defensive abilities (fairly polished, a number of pass-rush moves, but limited top-end speed), but we'll skip to the offensive part:
Offense is an option. He is a physical run blocker who gets hands on, but needs to watch his pad level. Miller is a good sized and physical kid who offers some versatility. He needs to keep developing aspects of his game, but we feel he should settle in well as a defensive lineman.
So I guess they really don't like him on the offensive line, though they only looked at him as a tackle, not a guard.
He evaluated his game (defensively only) in a free Scout article (H/T: UMGoBlog):
“Defensively, I bring a lot to the table,” Miller told Scout.com. “My technique is really what helps me. I can rush the pass real well, and I can stop the run. I’m a bigger, heavier defensive end which helps stopping the run. I can apply a lot of pressure to the quarterback.”
He also decided to quit basketball in order to focus on football.
His first offer didn't come until, February from Ball State (that's also when he visited Ann Arbor for Michigan's first Junior Day of the year). By the time he committed to Michigan, however, he had racked up enough offers to prove that he's no MAC-level prospect. Boston College was his other finalist, and he also turned down offers from most of the Big East, and Michigan's Big Ten brethren Illinois, Michigan State, and Northwestern, along with Stanford.
Aside from his self-reported 12 sacks, I couldn't find any junior stats on Miller. A common name mixed with a non-glamour position makes him tough to research.
FAKE 40 TIME
Rivals lists his 40 time at 4.78 seconds, which is pretty FAKE, especially if he's truly at 270 pounds. I'll give it four FAKEs out of five.
Ohio prospect = Scouting Ohio Video reel. I wish they'd improve their site design, though.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Since other schools seemed to be primarily recruiting him for defense, it's obvious that Miller has yet to specialize on the offensive side of the ball. That means, on top of the obligatory redshirt year for offensive linemen, it'll probably take him a little longer to settle in.
If he can focus on his work in the weightroom in the years that he doesn't see the field, he could develop into a very solid offensive lineman at the next level. By his redshirt junior year, the potential is there for him to become a regular contributor at guard or center, though I don't think he'll ever really challenge for top all-conference honors. He has the potential to be a solid, though never spectacular, Big Ten lineman.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Yay! Michigan finally landed an offensive lineman in a class that has a dire need for them! Miller should be just the first of four or five OL in this class. A couple more inside guys, and a couple outside guys are all likely to end up in the class.
At this time, Anthony Zettel and Tony Posada are looking like the most likely options that are already holding offers, but there are several other realistic prospects for the Wolverines. There's still a long way to signing day, so we'll have to wait and see how it all shakes out.
Michigan is clearly pursuing a tight end in the class of 2011, with a number of offers out. Miller told Tom that he just so happens to be good friends with one of the Wolverines' top targets at the position, OH TE Ray Hamilton. Could Miller help bring his buddy into the fold?
Kellen Jones is a linebacker from Houston, Texas, recently highlighted in the Weekly Update post. We got a chance to hear from Jones' coach, now we get a chance to hear from Kellen himself on where he stands with his recruitment. First, the highlights, then the talking.
TOM: I know that your dad is a big Michigan fan, are you also a fan like he is?
KELLEN: I grew up a Michigan fan through my dad, and he grew up a Michigan fan, so yeah. He was a big fan when Jim Harbaugh was playing quarterback for Michigan. He loves the maize and blue, and he passed that on to me. I know The Victors song, and everything.
TOM: So what was it like getting an offer from Michigan then?
KELLEN: Coach Jackson came to visit me this spring, and I was very excited to see him. He said he had a special letter for me as I was just walking off the field, and it was crazy. I have a good relationship with Coach Jackson; it’s definitely a good relationship. We talk all the time, and I just started to talking with Coach Robinson, too. I know all about his resume. He won Super Bowls with the Broncos, and coached at Texas, so that’s great.
TOM: Is that something that impresses you, or something you’re looking into?
KELLEN: Oh yeah, definitely. I want to play for someone that has a good resume, and a lot of experience at my position. I like Coach Robinson’s Super Bowl wins.
TOM: Where have the coaches told you they see you fitting into the system?
KELLEN: They have told me linebacker, in general. They say it will most likely be middle linebacker, but it could be at outside linebacker, and coming off the edge, too. I actually just got off the phone with Coach Jackson, and we’re all going to talk about that more, on where I fit in.
TOM: Where are you at right now with your recruitment? What are your plans for the summer?
KELLEN: I’ve already visited Arkansas, Missouri, and Colorado. I plan on visiting Michigan in late July, too. I’m definitely coming this summer. I’m interested in Stanford and Purdue, too. Purdue because of their engineering program. I plan on majoring in engineering, so I like that. Michigan is high on my list, because of their academics and history, too.
TOM: When will you be making your decision then?
KELLEN: I plan on making my decision before the season starts. I’m still going to take some official visits, but it won’t have any impact on my decision. I’ll probably just go to some schools that I’ve always wanted to see growing up. I might as well take advantage of that.
TOM: Ok, and lastly, if you could, just give us an idea of what kind of player you are. What are you like on the field?
KELLEN: I’m a very vocal person on the field. I like to take on the leadership role, and I like to be a playmaker. I have a passion for the game, and I love winning. I hate to lose, and don’t ever want to lose. I love to force fumbles, and make plays.
TOM: Ok, well thanks for talking with me, I appreciate it.
KELLEN: Ok, make sure to tell the Michigan fans that my Dad and I say, Hail to the Victors!
Cone deficiency. The news that Conelius Jones will not be with the program this fall is not exactly news today, but permit me a day to recover from my World Cup hangover. This is the reason:
According to Brown, Jones went through a rough stretch with personal issues over the winter. Although he graduated with the rest of his class and maintained a 2.5 grade-point average, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Jones struggled with the SAT, which kept him from qualifying.
That must have been a rough stretch with grades almost at rock bottom, since Jones claimed he had a 3.7 GPA and offers from Wake Forest, Duke, and Stanford when he committed to Michigan. A decline that steep probably means the initial GPA report was a bit inflated.
Unlike Dorsey and his immediate enrollment at Louisville, Jones will head to Fork Union in an effort to get qualified, at which point he'd come in as a mid-year enrollee. This means he's honestly just a hair away from qualifying—the NCAA severely restricted how much grade magic prep schools could work a couple of years ago—and has a decent chance of getting in in January. Michigan has taken kids from prep schools, although not particularly successfully: Marques Slocum spent a semester at Milford and Arizona CB Quinton McCoy spent a prep year before ending up on campus. Neither lasted two years.
As far as the 2010 team goes, Jones's absence creates a distressing lack of Cone in the hairy depths of the quarterback depth chart, and that's about all.
I don't think Dorsey's situation is at all related to Jones and Kinard. Dorsey was qualified; the other two guys are headed to prep school. That doesn't have anything to do with hypothetical anti-Rodriguez forces executing their dastardly master plan. And even if the academic side of things is cracking down, they have a very good reason to do so: Michigan's latest transfer-saddled APR score is ugly, and Michigan is going to have to put up a major improvement lest they fall below the 925 line of doom.
Meanwhile, the other blame meme floating around is that Rodriguez is bringing in a lot more kids at academic risk. That may or may not be true but unless Jones's transcripts and offers were just totally fictional this doesn't seem like an example. It's one thing to take a guy who has a lot of work to do, and another to take a guy well above the minimums only to watch him collapse.
What happened with Cissoko? In other happy news about never-were kids, Boubacar Cissoko pled guilty to four separate counts of robbery and faces sentencing that won't be 45 years but hypothetically could. The News takes an in-depth look at what happened to a high school kid no one thought would have problems until he got out of this protected environment:
He was intentionally protected, growing up on Rosa Parks Boulevard in Detroit, a neighborhood that was rough-and-tough 40 years before Cissoko got there.
"He came from a sheltered background," Willis said. "By 10:30 he was in, home. He was driven to school, driven home. We are a close-knit family, we were tight on him."
Even the history of the riots which began along what was then known as 12th Street was kept from Cissoko, by the family.
"He's a good kid," Willis said. "When he left, he was praying five times a day."
Isn't there a show about Amish kids who head out into the world for a year or two and go totally nuts? In this case it seems that protecting Cissoko from negative influences left him unprepared to deal with them. He was unvaccinated. Bonus points to the News for deploying one of those beautifully dry newspaper sentences that radiate detached authority:
Less than worldly, he was suddenly thrust into a scene in Ann Arbor in which young adults believe they have achieved a level of sophistication that they may well never attain in life.
Another oddity: court documents show Cissoko's age is actually two years older than Michigan (and Cass Tech) listed him, which might explain why he didn't live up to the recruiting hype.
Burn the regionals down. It takes some doing to make me livid about something that won't happen until 2012 and involves a committee making a decision, but holy aarrgh I want to punch a wall:
First, the announcing of four more regionals means we won't be seeing the slightly less moronic proposed tournament format, which at least included one playoff round that made some sense.
The second problem is the hosts themselves. The hosts will be Minnesota, Michigan Tech, Holy Cross, and Fairfield/Yale. If it feels like a repeat, it's because it pretty much is. The two eastern ones aren't that big of a deal. They're sure to be boring, empty arenas for critically important games, but there aren't really any better options. Plus, with now-defunct Fairfield helping host in Bridgeport, you get the joy of the 17 people in attendance saying, "What the hell is that deer doing in here?"
Tech is hosting in Green Bay, which is WCHA territory. This will be the fourth consecutive year that Minnesota hosts something. They were awarded regionals in 2009 and 2010, get the Frozen Four in 2011, and now have another regional in 2012. WCH points out that over that time span the entire CCHA gets to host three events.
It is ludicrous that the next two years will see zero regionals in CCHA territory. I hope the St. Louis regional is attended by five people. Are any CCHA teams even bidding for these things? Why hasn't Michigan put in a bid using the new rink in Toledo? I'm not sure where the breakdown is, but something's got to change.
It's a big deal. From the looks of it, it's about three times as big a deal as the World Cup. This is Michigan's third straight national title. Seriously: Directors Cup this event, yo.
An actual loss on the tubes. EDSBS found 40 minutes of youtubery not posted by WolverineHistorian. It's the 1988 Michigan-Miami game that Michigan ended up losing 31-30. Though it is depressing, the pants are very tight and Al Trautwig's doing his very best Data impression:
Draft disappointment. We knew that Michigan's 2010 hockey class had collectively slipped in the eyes of NHL evaluators, but the extent to which they did still surprises:
- Jon Merrill fell into the early second round, going #38 to New Jersey.
- Alex Guptill went in the third round to Dallas.
- Luke Moffatt and Lee Moffie were both seventh-rounders.
- Clare, Fallon, and Deblois did not go.
That's disappointing from a talent standpoint. At least Merrill and Guptill went to generally patient, NCAA-friendly organizations. Michigan might get an extra year out of Merrill and stands a good chance of hanging on to Guptill.
Etc.: Nebraska fans are preparing for Big Ten hate. Michigan is not featured. Woo 8-16!
6/26/2010 – USA 1, Ghana 2 – End of World Cup
The internet has a very strong opinions about virtually anything more controversial than the capital of Vermont*. I once read a Wikipedia article about the WWII-era Battle of Kursk that had a distinctly pro-Russian slant and ended up clicking over to the talk page, where German and Russian editors were engaged in a brutal proxy reenactment of history's largest tank battle. Wherever there is a point of view on the internet, there is someone who thinks the holder of that opinion has brain damage.
This goes triple for something as subjective and—for most observers in this country especially, including the author—arcane as the performance of a soccer player. Despite this, the internet was unified in the opinion that Ricardo Clark and Robbie Findley should eat bench after a series of mediocre or worse performances. Even shameless homerism and the extraordinary friendliness of Mormons could not see their way towards pulling for Findley: a poll on the Real Salt Lake official site asked if he should start against Ghana. Findley got 27% of the vote.
The debate was about whether Bob Bradley would share this opinion. At the start of Saturday's game, Bradley did not; 45 minutes into what would end up a 120 minute game he was forced to by events on the field. Again.
By that point Clark was largely responsible for a goal scored less than five minutes into the game—the second time he'd managed this trick in two World Cup starts—and picked up a silly yellow. Findley had shot a golden chance directly at the keeper. Looking for offense in the second half, Bradley took off a striker. He got a lot of praise for his ability to make halftime adjustments after the US found themselves behind, but four games into a tournament when your halftime adjustments are the same adjustments that turned your fate around after your starters found themselves struggling, you're less an adjustment genius and more a guy who just doesn't learn.
Bradley is totally stuck on his Confed Cup/Hex model put together as the younger Bradley's box-to-box game developed and Charlie Davies established himself a real striker on a real team in the French League. That model was based on a dedicated destroyer who would allow Bradley to get upfield and a pacey striker who would either get in behind the defense if they pushed up or drive the defense back, giving Donovan and Dempsey time and space on the ball. It worked great when the central midfielders managed to stay on the field, seeing the US into its first FIFA final ever and grabbing a win over world #1 Spain. It was a good idea.
Then Clark moved to Germany and got injured, playing only 3 games for his new club. Davies almost died in a car accident. Instead of attempting to adjust his system to get Stuart Holden—who'd actually been impressive on the field for the national team and had just moved to a Premiership club that extended his contract every Tuesday—or Benny Feilhaber—a key player for his Danish club—on the field Bradley shoehorned a guy coming off the bench for RSL into the starting lineup. Putting Edu, an in-form starter for Scottish champs Rangers since February, in didn't even require a tactical change. Edu had even proven himself a more reliable option in South Africa. And yet… Clark and Findley.
You can't even blame Robbie Findley. Here's Findley on the mid-May game in which he scored his first and to-date only goal of the year:
In the second minute, Findley broke behind the Houston defense and in on keeper Pat Onstad. His final touch was a little hard, setting up a tougher angle for his shot, which Onstad saved as it was hit belt high.
"I probably should have gone low on that one," said Findley.
Findley would certainly like to have his opportunity back from the 66th minute. Once again he got behind the back line and broke in toward Onstad. This time, however, he was in the middle of the field with even more open space. He pushed his shot to the far post, but missed the mark wide.
"I did everything wrong on that one," Findley said. "I should have taken my time, maybe taken one more touch and probably gone near post."
The US put a player who cheerfully admits he does "everything wrong" even when he actually scores on the field for three World Cup starts, and a fourth was only averted because of suspension. In his time Findley did exactly nothing to help the USA's cause. In 169 minutes with Findley on the field, the US scored one goal, that the Robert Green gaffe. In 221 without him, the US scored six, two of which were inexplicably waved off.
The team met expectations by getting out of the group and immediately going home against a team from the brutal Serbia-Germany-Ghana trio, and they did it despite having two goals inexplicably wiped away. That's their second-best modern World Cup performance. But it's hard not to be disappointed in Bradley's insistence on pretending Charlie Davies was healthy and stubborn adherence to a tactical system the USA no longer had the personnel for. The US missed a golden opportunity (get to the semis without playing a world power) unlikely to come again, and the main reason seems to be the coach putting the team in a position to fail.
Bradley did a good job in his cycle as the US national coach but it's time to get someone who has the tactical creativity to adapt when the only round pegs available are made out of snow.
*(F$&# YOU IT'S MONTPEILIER)
- A first glance at the 2014 roster seems promising. Howard, Demerit, Cherundolo, and Bocanegra will be 34 or 35, Dempsey 31, Donovan and Onyewu 32. Everyone else of import will still be on the right side of 30. Jermaine Jones will be 32 and possibly available; Davies will be 28. Adu might become useful at some point. The main concern is finding some defenders (I think Onyewu will be fine and possibly one of the other three but good lord the outside back positions look horrendous) and hoping Dempsey and Donovan can still be effective.
- Did anyone else feel a slight pang of regret when the US ended up with Ghana? If the team goes out against Germany, okay, that's going out against Germany. Against Ghana and the Donovan goal maybe loses a tiny bit of its electric mayhem.
Of Great Relief To Certain Folk
WC coverage ends here.