I've been hearing a lot about Belgium's disproportinate amount of talent to the actual size of the country talent pool. Verdit still looks out. Very winnable game for the US.
I did not make this headline up
6/26/2014 – USA 0, Germany 1 – 1-1-1, 4 points, second place group G
In the aftermath of what quite a lot of people are calling Best Loss Ever there's a kind of dissonance. We lost; we advanced. Soccer luddites are persnickety about it in the annoying way that fills my Twitter timeline with backlash to a meme I'm only aware of because of the backlash. And yes while any baseball fan who's like "but you lost" should be tossed into a woodchipper, they're not entirely wrong.
There is something a bit unsatisfying about putting your guts in a blender for 55 minutes, turning it up to "pulverize" for 25 more, and then finally having the pressure release when the Ghana goalie decides that catching is for people who get paid. When he bats the ball directly to the Best Player In The World, he scores a goal so stupid nobody even celebrates it. Ronaldo didn't celebrate a goal that put his team up in the 80th minute. If it's not the dumbest goal ever scored at a World Cup, it is in the top ten.
So, yeah. Pile all the masculine guitar riffs and stony anthem game face you want into the USA's escape from the Group of Death. Pile them into a bowl for my face. I crave them all. Give me Dempsey photoshopped onto everything. It was a bit of an escape, though.
And that's fine! We aren't that good at this soccer business yet. We're quite good at not getting sent off in the first 20 minutes of the World Cup. We're quite good at not needing a literal convoy of money to be sent from the homeland in a partially successful attempt to abort all-out rebellion.
— John Bennett (@JohnBennettBBC) June 26, 2014
This is not the kind of asset you think about when sports are intra-country things. It turns out that having your shit together is a skill. The USA got out of the Group of Death because we pay our taxes, both literally and metaphorically.
But what happens when you're a guy who feels pretty good about not waiting until April 15th this year and you're up against some dude who got them in by February?
this either happened in the 68th or 91st minute
You spent a lot of time being impressed with how organized that guy is. Like, he pulls out that Franklin Planner your mom gave you when you were 15 and it is battered. He sends thank you notes. He has a meticulously organized collection of all his Halloween costumes dating back to 1988 (Alf, if you're wondering). And he is where he is supposed to be all the time.
In the preview I said that Germany looks like the hypothetical end point of what USA soccer will be. While that may be thousands of years in the future, that seemed pretty on-point as the Germans outclassed the USA in one area in particular: the high press.
Trying to win the ball back high up the field has been one of the primary tactical trends of the last decade. Spain and Barcelona—often one and the same—are widely credited for that shift, as both adopted a relentlessly possession-based style predicated on the fact that the opponent can't win if they don't have the ball. When it works, it's metronomically ruthless, as Spain's three straight major tournament wins demonstrate.
Everything is a copycat league, so high pressing has become a defining characteristic of soccer. Teams either can or cannot do it and can or cannot cope with it. Germany can do it; Germany can cope with it. The US is… working on it. They could barely touch the ball in the first 10 minutes, but came back to fight the Germans nearly equally for the rest of that half.
— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) June 26, 2014
In the second half, things fell back to those first ten minutes, but it wasn't for lack of trying by the US. The US flew high up the press, trying desperately to get one of the Aimless Upfield Punts that generally result when high pressure hits home. But Germany wouldn't cooperate, with Neuer casually dribbling past a charging USA player and dumping it back to the other side of the field.
Howard and the USA had far less success and far more AUPs. Here are unsuccessful passes from the goalies and central defenders of each team.
Germany left; USA right
Please mentally delete the two Germany AUPs from #1 that occur outside of the box, as they were Neuer rushing out to cut out potential USA through balls and not Germany losing possession. Once that's done, the AUP edge for the Germans is truly prodigious. Thus the USA's inability to get the ball in the second half: they gave it away a lot and couldn't force Germany into the same mistakes.
Maybe this was a tiredness thing. I don't think it was—or it was at least not entirely that. Ghana boxed the US in for most of that game, for one. And when the screws get turned up the US is still liable to get itself in trouble and boot the thing upfield for safety's sake. It is in our soccer blood; I have seen it for twelve years.
Klinsmann's challenge is to take the US from back to front and get them passing to each other despite Germans pouring across the border, and to turn up the pressure himself. He said this himself when he was hired. The Group of Death has shown us just how far they have come… and how far they have to go.
What the pants man. Any remaining questions about whether it was a good idea to leave Landon Donovan at home have been resolved: hell no. Brad Davis, Donovan's obvious replacement, reprised his awful Turkey performance in his first start since the 2005 Gold Cup.
All you need to know: a guy whose one asset is a kick-ass left foot for crosses and whatnot was flipped to his off wing so the defensively meh Graham Zusi could check a German center-back who was 1) playing out of position and 2) annihilating the USA left flank.
Davis got lifted before the 60 minute mark, and that was 60 minutes too long. Presumably that will be the last time he dons a USA shirt. At least this World Cup only features the inexplicable inclusion in one start instead of three—I still shudder to think that Robbie Findlay started every game he was not suspended for in 2010.
Tactically, that was bizarre. The US was low on options, but should have gone with a defensively-oriented guy on the left and an attacking player on the right—Germany's left back was hesitant to get anywhere near the US box. Bedoya left, Diskerud right. Maybe Bedoya is exhausted, but an exhausted Bedoya would have more impact on the game than Davis.
Gonzo. Klinsmann's other tactical gambit went better. Everyone was terrified when Omar Gonzalez was announced as a starter, and Gonzo's first 15 minutes bore that out. He whiffed on a cross that easily could have resulted in a goal; he lost a couple German dudes on crosses in the box. (To be fair, it's super easy to lose German attackers.) His distribution out of the back was problematic.
As he came into the game, though, you saw flashes of why he was supposed to be the next big thing at the beginning of the last cycle. One of those Boateng crosses looked like an inch-perfect replica of the Ronaldo cross from the end of the Portugal game, down to the guy running onto the end of it; Gonzalez recovered and challenged so that the resulting header went harmlessly over the bar. It was a little like watching Jake Ryan close on someone with speed he shouldn't have.
In re: not having options from the first bullet. In almost all ways I am very positive on Klinsmann, but this USA roster has a number of obvious flaws that are biting now and will further bite in the event that the US gets to the quarters and one of their D-mids gets a yellow card suspension. There's no target guy to spot Altidore; there's no backup to Beckerman or Jones; the inclusion of Davis and Julian Green leaves the US desperately short on reasonable substitutes in a witheringly hot and humid tournament.
But seriously Klinsmann is A-OK. We got out of the group, and on his watch the US has acquired a number of promising dual-nationals. There are no Neven Subotic escapes on his watch, and the guys he's adding… well, you're college football fans. You know the importance of recruiting. Julian Green is a lottery ticket; Gedion Zelalem is a lottery ticket; you need lots of lottery tickets so you don't end up with a bench as short as the USA's in this tournament.
Meanwhile, I am 100% behind his attempt to revise the youth levels of USA soccer. When the U20s took on Spain they pressed like mofos for about 40 minutes and looked Spain's equal or better before they got torn apart, because Spain. That lets the USA know how far they have to go, but the only way to get on the level of elite teams is to organize your entire system around playing a technical, high-pressing style.
While he's not perfect, his supposed tactical deficiencies are overstated. He's led the US to a ton of landmark victories (beating Italy in Italy, winning in Azteca) and has at least reacted well to the situation when it was clear Beckerman needed to play with Jones. The adjustment to the 4-2-3-1 after Jozy went out was the right move against Portugal, and flipping Johnson to right back was a great move that prevented someone like Brad Evans or Tim Chandler from having to start.
If you say something bad about Beasley I will cut you. Again Beasley is hung out to dry by the narrowness of the USA's formation; in this game Jones was cut loose to shoot upfield so much more than he had been before, so the only guy he had covering for him was Davis and then Zusi. As a result he was exposed to constant two-on-ones on which the best option was to give Boateng space and time to cross. Things got better when Zusi flipped to his side, but he was still isolated quite a bit.
Beasley's not perfect, but why is he the guy constantly left on an island? Right. Because the only thing that happens is some guy gets in a cross from a middlingly dangerous position.
I bet Cameron returns for Belgium. He's more deft with the ball at his feet and in a game the USA is planning to win, having more of the ball will be important. Gonzalez would draw into the lineup if one of the defensive mids gets suspended, I'd imagine, with Cameron moving forward.
Bradley… man. He has improved since Ghana but he has not looked much like the potential breakout star everyone was hoping for. He'll get it together for Belgium. That's the ticket.
Don't read too much into their most recent game against South Korea. For one, Belgium was playing a bunch of subs with advancement assured. (The guy who got red-carded had about a 2% chance to see the field against the USA.) For two, South Korea has been a shambolic mess the whole way. They got blitzed 4-0 by Ghana before the tournament and only got a point in the World Cup because Russia's goalie decided to give 'em one.
In their other two games, Belgium left it late, scoring only with substitutes and only after the 70th minute. They dominated the Algeria game but could not provide much threat until one of Belgium's Bob Ross guys came on (Marouane Fellaini); the Russia game was dead even almost the whole way. Chelsea star Eden Hazard was anonymous until the final 15 minutes, when a tired Russia started allowing him space; he got to the most dangerous crossing area (inside the box on the endline) and set up a teammate for the winner.
Belgium is a lot like Germany. They play four center-backs due to a lack of quality full-backs; their offensive players are very talented and interchange frequently. Belgium is a bit more structured, and their Klose I-head-the-ball figure—Fellaini—is actually a midfielder(!).
The good news: the US has been pretty successful at cramming the middle of the field and forcing things to go around the outside, which Belgium isn't much suited for. The bad news: they flipped to a straight 4-4-2 with Fellaini and strapping 19-year-old Divock Origi up top when trailing late against a packed-in Algeria side and immediately pounded in goals from crosses to win.
Belgium is not Germany's match for the high pressing that stifled the USA in two of their three group matches. They've got a couple of winger types not particularly inclined to harass defenders. Unfortunately they've just provided their starting 11 plenty of rest and with the USA's ability to play it out of the back an obvious weakness they're likely to give it a shot.
I've been hearing a lot about Belgium's disproportinate amount of talent to the actual size of the country talent pool. Verdit still looks out. Very winnable game for the US.
They have a ton of talent, but they are very young (3rd youngest squad in the tournament). Their starters' ages, by formation, are
25-28-28-27 (the veteran part of the team)
And a striker who absolutely would be starting if he wasn't injured is also 23. I think part of their "loaded with talent but haven't looked like they put it together yet" is that so many of these guys are young enough that they just don't have the team reps with each other that some of the other squads have. They're already dark horse contenders. They're going to be one of the favorites at Euro 2016 and probably 2018 World Cup.
(By comparison, the US squad is:
and Bradley back to being himself. We're through, pressure is down (a little) just relax and do what you do, man. Belgium is beatable for sure.
References to two different Coen Bros. films in the last sentence of the first paragraph. Well played, sir.
Thank you for this.
Now that's the real brain buster.
Wondo took Donovan's spot.
Who took Altidore's replacements' spots?
Jozy Altidore jogging some laps around the practice field. Now getting stretched out. Ready by Tuesday?
— Dan Wetzel (@DanWetzel) June 27, 2014
Certainly hope so, but I'm not going to get my hopes up. Hammys can take a while to get back to full strength, and jogging is a long way from what he'll have to do in a game.
Cool. Just had three players draft and we're talking soccer.
In 2.5 weeks, this horrible nightmare will be over.
Stay strong, friend. Your bravery is admired.
Cool. Just had three players drafted and we're talking soccer.
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Sounds like a good GTA V heist mission to me.
One lottery, two first rounders, three drafted and I'm looking at soccer?! I watched part of the game yesterday and rooted for the USA, but where was the Thursday recruting update?
Please send Brian all refund requests via email, not in the comments. Thank you!
I'm not convinced that having Jozy Altidore back on the field is a plus, but it's clear that Klinsmann is a great coach when he has options from which to choose. Altidore probably won't start, but throwing him in there in the 2nd half if we need a goal could make all the difference. Some guys just love coming off the bench with something to prove. I think Altidore could make a huge impact on offense if he comes on the field in the 2nd half after it seems like eveyrone has settled in for a certain type of game. Like when a pitcher lures a batter by throwing off-speed stuff, then blows a fastball right by them for a strikeout. I'd love to see Altidore come on and figuratively punch Belgium right in the mouth.
I caught a little flack from a couple people for being critical of Cameron after your last post. Well I think you're wrong again. I don't believe Cameron should start, and I don't think he will. He's just not "heady" enough to take on the responsibility of a starting center-defender at the beginning of the game. Cameron is better suited to coming on later in the game if we have a 1 goal lead and we just want to dig in and grind out a win.
Your criticism of Beasley is a little misguided as well. Live ball crosses are usually not much to worry about. It's rare when one of the best players in the world kicks a perfect cross that connects just right through a sea of defense in the middle of the field. That's why I'm so annoyed with Geoff Cameron. That cross from Ronaldo should've never amounted to anything. Crosses rarely do. It's clear that Klinsmann is more worried about through balls and fancy footwork up the middle. Beasley can concede all the crosses he wants in my opinion.... just don't let that guy get inside of you.
I do agree about Bradley though. It seems clear that he's also not able to handle the pressure very well, but I think Klinsmann keeps him out there because of the work ethic. Also, I wouldn't be surprised if Klinsmann was thinking that Bradley just flat-out needs to be out there for his potential to be a star at any minute. It's a gamble keeping someone out there that isn't playing well, but I bet Klinsmann figures that we're totally screwed if Bradley's backup has to come in so we might as well stick with him and hope for the best.
Let's just hope the field is dry on Tuesday.
Here's what I find funny about Cameron: He had the exact same game against Portugal as Gonzalez did against Germany.
First few minutes, terrible mistake. The only difference being totally unlucky that his shoddy clearance when straight to Nani, whereas Gonzalez's did what those type of clearances usually do: went harmlessly awry.
Afterwards, solid throughout. People will blame him for the last goal against Portugal, which is silly. The final goal against Portugal was a catastrophe by everyone involved and the simple fact is, Cameron had three guys he was supposed to worry about because Johnson (who I must say has been okay going forward and below average at the back) didn't track back on his guy and everyone else was shifting towards Ronaldo.
Of course, everyone is now saying Gonzalez was great and what a wonderful move it was by Klinsmann.
Really, if you want to go by performances at the World Cup, you'd put Cameron at RB because he actually plays defense and stick Gonzalez and Besler (our best defender right now) in the middle with Beasley (old man speed!) continuing to do his thing on the left. If you really want to play Johnson, why not put him on the right wing?
I like having Cameron at RB as well. Replacing Zusi or Bedoya with Fabian is an upgrade in my eyes. That means we can have either Bedoya or Zusi coming off the bench and not someone like Brad Davis.
Right. There's really nothing outstanding about Johnson as a defender. Its been his guy (Ghana, Portugal) that has scored twice in two games. His positive attributes are going forward, so why not let him play to his strength without having to worry as much about leaving the CBs hanging out to dry.
You're listening to the ESPN announcers too much. Those guys will never throw an individual player under the bus.
That final goal by Portugal was all on Cameron in my opinion. He's the biggest guy back there, and he had the best position of anyone to get to the ball. If he wasn't in the best position, then the goal scorer would've been flagged offsides. So clearly he was at least even with the goal scorer, and he's a giant, relatively speaking. Cameron needs to be the first to touch that ball.
Cameron and Gonzalez may have had similar starts to their games, but not similar finishes. Gonzalez essentially came onto the field cold for the start of a game in a monsoon against arguably the best team in the tournament. After early mis-hits and jitters, he played extremely aggressive and effectively. Case in point is the late cross that Brian mentions from Germany. Gonzalez had that intangible ability to win the ball when he needed to. Those two plays (Ronaldo cross, and Boateng cross) tell me all I need to know about those 2 players as center defenders.
Maybe I'm not reading your post correctly, or not reading Brian's correctly, but I'm pretty sure Brian isn't criticizing Beasley. I think he is sayin the exact same thing you are; that Beasley is left out on the island on the left, and the only thing he lets by him are crosses that usually amount to nothing. In the pantheon of bad things a defense can do, that is not high on the list.
As for Altidore, I think he definitely would help (my personal opinion, which admittedly is not based on a ton of experience). It seems the US does not handle ball pressure well, and disecting a defense with percise passing is not the US's forte. Altidore is the only realy bigger, physical forward who the US can just kick it deep and he can come up with a good portion of those balls. That releives a lot of pressure on the rest of the US offense to pick apart a D, and the D has to respect the threat of Altidore.
Ohh maybe I didn't catch his sarcasm correctly then. I thought the talk about Beasley was saying that he leaves too much room and allows too many crosses. I'll have to read it again.
Edit: just re-read what ws mentioned about Beasley. I take back what I said. I agree wholeheartedly. Beasley is being leaned on heavily in this tournament, and he's done a fine job.
Belgium, despite winning their group, hasn't lived up to their dark horse stature like Columbia or Chile has...at least not yet. They have an incredible amount of talent but haven't had the four goal outburst that they are capable of. Yet.
Anything his possible in the knockout stage and this USMNT has the appearance of the 2002 squad who nearly beat Germany (damn handball) in the Quarter Finals after the original Dos a Cero win over Mexico in the round of 16.
This team has a puncher's chance against virtually anyone, just that like team did when it beat Portugal, Mexico and nearly Germany in 2002. Belgium's defense is suspect despite their talent. They're also not completely healthy, which is why Kompany was rested yesterday. They are also missing Christian Benteke, which is bad for them but good for everyone else.
Rest isn't a big deal. Injuries however, that's another story.
I like our chances from a fitness standpoint. We basically only have one injured player, Altidore, and everyone else is healthy and ready to go. Besler was a question mark early on, but clearly his hamstring is fine, and the other injuries that I've heard of are all non-muscular (broken noses). 2-3 days rest is enough for a healthy player.
Fitness shouldn't be that much of an issue--especially since they're done playing in the jungle. Klinsmann was determined to get them into incredible shape in the run-up to the tournament.
A bigger deal, though, in the knockout stage, is extra time. That's where the US faltered against Ghana in 2010. One errant pass and the game was over. If they go into extra time, sub usage will be critical. The timing of subs late in the match becomes that much more important when either the match is tied or you're chasing for a goal.
The second paragraph of what you wrote is important. I looked back through Belgium's qualifying results and while it wasn't as clear as I thought it was, this Belgium squad has always given off an impression of getting better throughout the game.
They won all 3 group games late, and at least half of their wins in qualifying were either won or locked up on second half goals. Team that's just as dangerous in the 90th minute as they are in the 1st and that's a big concern.
I would say that Belgium getting better later in the game has to do with their subs.
I said below that Lukaku has been underwhelming and Origi has been very active and a catalyst coming off the bench.
I think 3 of their 4 goals have come from subs.
Belgium vs Algeria 2-1
Mertens (46', goal in 80th min)
Fellaini (65', goal in 70th min)
Belgium vs Russia 1-0
Origi (57', goal in 88th min)
Belgium vs South Korea 1-0
Vertonghen scores the winner in the 77th minute and started.
I might have been expecting too much from Belgium, but I haven't been blown away with their play in the group stage.
Lukaku looks lost sometimes and his movement has been pretty bad.
For some reason people don't mention their keeper. Courtois is world class and will probably be considered one of the best in the world in the coming years.
Belgium is unbeaten when he is in goal. 15 wins 5 draws.
Lukaku has been terrible. But without Benteke, there's limited options. I wouldn't be shocked if they go with Origi from the start or at least bring him on at half if Lukaku can't get it going.
Agree on Courtois and I'd even leave out the in coming years part. One of best in the world right now.
In the last two games, they brought Origi off the bench around the 60th min. He might not be they type that can go a full 90 so they always bring him off the bench. I have heard that Mertens is someone who doesn't have the stamina to last 90. Mertens coming off the bench with his speed scares me.
I knew Courtois was young, but I was shocked last year when I found out how young he was.
That's why Courtois been on loan at Athletico Madrid...don't think he'll be leaving Chelski loan again after last season.
Puncher, as in palooka? Or Punter, as in Hagerup?
I'm just glad Klinsmann admitted leaving Donovan off the team was personal and that our coach will allow petty grudges to dictate choosing a weakened squad to prove a point.
Honestly, Greg Howard at Deadspin summed it up: The US lucked out against Ghana, played the game of their lives against Portugal and got unlucky and got dominated by Germany...and it was enough because Ghana and Portugal imploded.
But hey, I'll take it. And now anything can happen.
I just don't get this logic. I mean, the US could have played better, but how did they 'luck out' against Ghana? Both those goals were earned, the US lost their main striker 21 minutes in, and another was playing with a broken nose and couldn't breathe. It wasn't like 2010 when they needed a keeper to majorly fuck-up to give the US a point. And Ghana didn't implode. They drew Germany, were even leading in that game. The only team that imploded was Portugal against Germany, and even then Germany may have 'played the game of their life' as well. And the US didn't implode against Germany. Which is why they're moving on.
1. Anytime you get dominated like the U.S. did against Ghana, I consider it at least somewhat lucky. Could just be a difference of opinion.
2. Have you not followed what's been happening with Ghana?
They could have played better against Ghana on the offensive end, which was terrible in keeping possession, which was frustrating, but I wouldn't say they got dominated. You don't need to have the ball to dictate the game. And in the Ghana game, the US forces Ghana into offensive positions they aren't comfortable with. Ghana had 8 shots on goal, the US had 7. Ghana had more shots on goal against Germany. The US didn't let Ghana knife through the center of the D on fast breaks. It's not like Ghana was rocketing a bunch of shots off the woodwork. That would have been more luck.
And yeah, Ghana may be a mess off the field (sure didn't play like it on the field). The US isn't. That makes them the better team. It's not luck then that they won. Could be just a different way to look at things.
1. But you aren't attributing Ghana's "domination" (which is a dubious claim to begin with) to the injury problems. You have to factor that in if you're going to make that claim.
2. This is an annual issue in any and every competition involving African teams. It is happening with Nigeria as well and they still finished second in their group. And they are less talented than Ghana.
Because it isn't logic.
Depends on what "personal" means. If Donovan has an attitude and is acting conceded, Klinsmann might think of him as a cancer.
It's possible that Klinsmann is preparing this team for 2018 moreso than the current World Cup. Probably why he comes out and says "We're not going to win this World Cup." He's pulling a RichRod (i.e. revamping team philosophy and cleaning out the closets), and by getting through the group stage he's probably bought himself another 4 years to do what he wants to do.
This of course only makes sense if you ignore the inclusion of guys like Wondo and Brad Davis.
Klinsmann = RichRod? So, what you're saying is that Julian Green is going to break out as a offensive weapon, the US is going to be a possetion oriented passing juggernaught, but then the US Soccer Federation is going to fire Klinsmann in the summer of 2017 because the US isn't scoring enough goals the 'American way' on set peices or something?
Klinsmann = RichRod............sure why not. I can't speak to the rest of it. I have no idea if the US Soccer Federation will try to pull a Michigan fanbase/alumni/regent/athletic department on Klinsmann. At least US soccer doesn't have a glorious past full of incredible wins and championships. Most US soccer fans are realistic in their expectations, if not downright pessimistic. So we have that going for us.
because it's a quick-hitting, not a possession-oriented style, and when it breaks it breaks defensively. In their two qualifiers against Sweden Germany gave up seven goals. They scored nine.
There's also the Bruce Arena "an American should coach America" meme. Not to mention "we need more MLS players," and discontent from certain quarters about all the foreign-born players that's similar in it's way to the Michigan-man meme.
Except, as Crash points out, for the successful history.
Hey, it's in the US Constitution. Presidents and US Soccer players have to be born in the US (as long as it's not Alabama). Doesn't matter if they're US citizenship is literally (like actually literally in this case) a birthright.
And is there any indication that this is true? He took time off, came back out of shape, but by all accounts was more or less back to where he needed to be, save for in the somewhat vindictive eyes of Klinsmann. Out of shape and 75% he is still inarguably better than Brad fucking Davis.