World Cup content ahoy. The below is a conversation with War Blog Eagle proprietor, guy who is basically dog blood comprised of 90% cocaine during the first round of the NCAA tournament, and gracious host for the MGoRoadtrip to Auburn-LSU Jerry Hinnen. If you're trolling for more WC content, Stars and Gripes remains highly recommended, and I'd add the Shin Guardian to that list despite the fact that more than one of their contributors advocates a Robbie Findley start on Saturday.
I'm in bold; Jerry is plaintext.
So I know that after this whole Demar Dorsey thing you're ready to think about something totally non-stressful and anti-depressing. Let's talk about the U.S. central defense! Do we battle Wayne Rooney with the guy who plays (regularly!) in Norway and spearheaded the defensive "effort" against Mexico in the 5-0 Gold Cup loss? Or the guy who hasn't played more than 45 minutes since October and runs like your grandfather?
Probably the guy who not only runs but looks like my grandfather, if my grandfather was Greg Oden. As soon as Onyewu sprouted that hellacious neckbeard it was like it had always been there. Bradley said he was ready to go 90, and while that might be a smokescreen the USA backline actually started clearing crosses before they hit the ground when he came in against the Aussies.
With England seemingly set to start Emile Heskey, strength will be at a premium over speed, and it's not like Goodson is that quick or agile anyway. I think you deploy two destroyers in front of the central D and hope.
What would you do? Leave a comment below!
Ives, I agree. If Slovenia or Algeria were the opening match, I'd advise playing it safe with Goodson and giving Onyewu another few days to get the beard up to "Eliminator" standards. But England is the damn-the-torpedoes, high-variance, all-or-nothing match. Onyewu's ceiling is so many thousands of miles higher than Goodson's.
Plus Demerit seems to not be suffering a prolonged seizure when Gooch is out there, too, plus plus thanks to B. Bradley's marathon training sessions--as in "let's be fit enough to run one"--we may be OK burning a sub in central defense if we have to. So that's one of the two big lineup questions. The other: who are your forwards?
No, seriously: send Bornstein home with a bruised ego and bring in Ching. Seriously. No foolies.
Do I hear a second? Sustained.
Failing that, I would go with Jozy and Dempsey because I'd rather have Holden on the field than Buddle. Given Buddle's ability to score goals when they are put on a plate, though, I'd be okay with having him start if you're dead set on having Dempsey in the midfield.
Findley: absolutely not. I will be stabby if he gets 90.
What, you're not interested in having his speed stretch the defense? But the defense! It'll be stretched! Because of his speed! That's far more important than his ability to, you know, score in an empty net from three yards.
To be fair, one of those was from like... eight yards.
You're right, I'm being too harsh on the guy who scored once in 12 MLS games this year. Me, I start Altidore and Buddle. Dempsey just seems so much more comfortable starting in midfield and moving up later, and for my money "how can we get the most out of Dempsey?" is a more important question than the Buddle/Holden dilemma. Besides, dude, Buddle was visited by some sort of magical goalscoring fairy last offseason.
I won't be mad if it's Buddle-Altidore. I will only be mad if Findley starts. I can see him as a 60th minute sub against an old and creaky English defense, but that's all. I mean, aren't Jozy and Buddle somewhat close to his speed?
Yes. They are not slow. I wonder if Bradley believes they are because they are not short.
You left out one positional debate: midfielder who is not Bradley.
Who should start next to Bradley? Leave your thoughts below!
We can discuss our choice for not-Bradley defensive midfielder, but I'll eat a raw egg if it's not Clark. Donovan said after the Aussie match B. Bradley had used it to get his guys used to playing 90 at altitude. That Clark played that 90 (until his weird hamstring/thigh injury that no one is allowed to talk about, ever, for some weird reason) tells me it's not even a matter of debate.
Does that bother you at all? Clark sucked against Turkey. Pulling him off for Torres turned that game around. Against Australia the midfield provided almost no resistance, leaving the back four exposed. He's supposed to be a destroyer but I don't remember one tackle from the friendlies. How effective can Clark be if he's not even picking up yellows? I don't even know if that's a joke.
He was balls against Turkey but I think you're selling him a little short against the Aussies; he wasn't great, but he had a handful of decent plays, and he played the cross-field ball to Cherundolo that set him up for the run-and-cross to Buddle.
I'd start Edu myself, but I don't think England is the right game for Torres. Because jobs No. 1, 1a, 1b, and 1c for whoever starts alongside Bradley are: Mark Frank Lampard. Possession is awful nice, we all know that, but taking Lampard out of the game and unshackling Bradley from that kind of dirty work might be even nicer. If you disrupt Lampard, maybe Gerrard has to come forward to try and get something going in the middle, maybe now we've got even more space on the counter for Bradley. I think Edu could manage that assignment and give us some ball control, but I'm all right with Clark.
I'm just leery of Clark because he's basically Onyewu. He has hardly played since the end of the last MLS season. The difference in the midfield is that the US has options. Edu's battled injury problems of his own but got some significant run for Rangers towards the end of the season and just looks more ready to play. I know some of the soccer insider folks have been suggesting he will start and Clark's friendly experience was an effort to get him fitness, fitness that Edu already has. I'm hoping that's the case.
I agree that the US will be playing to absorb pressure and will be thrilled with a draw, so Torres will not and should not start. If the US is behind at the half, I think he might be a quick sub, but that's only if things aren't going well.
Here's to hoping the insiders are right. I'm not losing sleep over Clark (not more than I'm already losing anyway), but there's loads more potential for a transcendent, England-beating performance with Edu.
There's seems to be a growing consensus out there that Torres needs to start against Slovenia and Algeria, though. We're part of that consensus, right? Is anyone not?
I am so on-board with that consensus. Going back to the "form" argument, Torres has logged a ton of time for Pachuca, way more than the other viable options. He takes pressure off a central defense that will feature Demerit and someone who is not Bocanegra. Bocanegra is pretty good with the ball at his feet and takes pressure off his central defense partner when he's in the middle; when he's not the US has hoofers. Having Torres drop back to pick up possession, relieve pressure, and release freakily accurate balls to attacking players makes the US way more likely to score from the run of play.
You and I are charter members of the Jose Torres fan club, though. At halftime of the Costa Rica game in CR we were ready to fly down there and scream at Bradley for yanking Torres at the half.
I don't know if I've ever been more confused by any coach I've followed, in any sport, than Bob Bradley. He makes so many decisions that make me think a ferret with a Ouija board could do better. But the results are there: 1st in the Hex. Confed Cup finalists. Even these two friendlies; 2-1 over Turkey and 3-1 over Australia (both of those teams something close to their respective A-sides) are light years ahead of what we saw in the '98, '06, and even '02 run-ups. I can't decide if I want to hug him or strangle him. Maybe start to hug him and turn it into a strangle.
In any case: no more ambivalence after Saturday, which is nice. You on the panic side or the 1776 all over again side?
I'm not expecting a win. That Onyewu injury is haunting. Right after everything with the Confed Cup that got him the Milan transfer, a meaningless game against Costa Rica, the injury... the total lack of field time... I mean, I think the US is a good bet to score against England but unless Timmah puts on a Spain-like show I think they're going down.
My personal prediction is a 2-2 draw with the U.S. going up 2-1 early in the second and just barely--like, batting cage-style bombardment on Howard's goal--hanging on for the point. I'm thinking we really need a point at least, though, because I've to the conclusion that Slovenia could be nightmarish. It's _so_ easy to see an early mental lapse in defense, a 1-0 deficit, and 80 minutes of useless pounding away at the same defense that did just that to Russia. (Russia as coached by Guus Hiddink, nonetheless.) Tell me why that won't happen. Please? I'm begging you. Seriously, I'm on my knees here.
Russia doesn't have Jose Torres.
No, just Andrei Arshavin.
I cannot tell you anything about Slovenia other than the vague overviews, but that's totally possible. The US is only 56% to advance according to Nate Silver's crazy computer, but the Slovenians are just going to sit back and hope, really. Their defense is fantastic; their offense is piddling. I think that's the game Torres comes in and maintains possession like a mofo.
That video does fill me with hope. Still, I think the most likely path to progression for U.S. remains England draw, Slovenia draw, Algeria win, five points is good for second. I do think progression is the most likely outcome, since Slovenia (despite my worries) and Algeria are still Slovenia and Algeria. But thanks to the defense, I'm still clutching my knees to my chest and singing Amazing Grace to myself twice daily.
What do you think of the U.S.'s chances of getting out of the group? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
I'd rather look at the broader picture with Slovenia: they had a weak group and bombed out of Euro '08. Algeria is widely regarded as the weakest team outside of the pure minnows (North Korea, New Zealand, and Honduras) and may be eliminated already. And England has a rich history of wobbly play. I do think Silver is about right and the US is only 60-40 to get out of the group, but 60-40 isn't bad.
But there is nothing that can possibly calm my nerves. What if they played college football once every four years and made the season 3-6 games? You would die, and nothing could prevent you from doing so. Thus the World Cup.
There is something both soul-crushingly horrible and soul-stirringly fantastic about being the kind of soccer fan--a species I'm going to hyperbolically claim is unique to the U.S., and which I believe represents the both of us--who love the sport, never attached themselves to a club side for geographic reasons, and root exclusively for the national side. Our team plays, essentially, three games that matter every four years. They mean absolutely everything. There is no next year, no fallback, no safety net of a club for our investment as fans. Defeat is unbearable. But victory a la 1994 or 2002 is ... it's hard to describe. I mean, remember the Portugal game? My dog could have been run over by the girl who wouldn't go out with me in seventh grade and I'd have written her a check for tire damage. Or something.
I do. That was the greatest day of soccer fandom ever for me, because I was in Ireland and the next game was the famous 1-1 draw with Germany that basically put the Irish through to the second round. May some day this month equal it.