Yes, exactly. The usual round of soccer meta-backlash posts is underway—I had a contribution to the genre—after the usual round of soccer backlash posts. Will Leitch's is the best because it communicates the thing:
I don't know whether you like soccer, or whether you don't, whether you've been tracking USMNT for two decades or you just popped by the bar after work and oh hey look at the TV that's the country I'm from. I just know that when John Brooks -- who is 21 years old, who was born nine days after Bill Clinton was inaugurated in 1993 -- scored that header for the United States to take a stunning 2-1 lead against Ghana on Monday, it is worryingly possible that I accidentally made it to second base with every person in the bar. No matter where I was looking, no matter what direction I was pointing … whatever was in front of me was my best friend. It was a collective gaggle of fists and elbows and screams.
I had fun! Lots of fun. That's why I like the soccering. I like it and find it fun. I guess it's cool if that makes you want to throw a shoe at my head, but you're missing out, man.
Game takes: Beasley edition. It is an infallible rule of soccer that no matter how unfathomable a post-game opinion is, someone will hold it with the ferocity of a thousand suns. I haven't quite found someone with a thunderous defense of Bradley's uncharacteristically poor play, but I'm sure he's out there, asserting that despite all available evidence he should just be a defensive mid.
The major point of contention seems to be about Beasley's performance. Some are like "let's try Chandler":
D DaMarcus Beasley (3) – To put it bluntly, Beasley was roasted on the left. Ghana identified him as a weakness and attacked him over and over again as a result. It’s worth wondering if an uncomfortable Timmy Chandler might even be better, especially since it will get no easier facing Nani against Portugal.
That guy gave Howard a 9 for fielding a large number of the harmless balls flung in by Atsu, which seems… unbalanced.
SI's Liviu Bird has a take that's kinder to Beasley that seems about right:
Ghana concentrated its attacks on the right side, trying to exploit Christian Atsu’s youth and athleticism against DaMarcus Beasley.
The Black Stars got into dangerous areas multiple times, but their service left a lot to be desired. Multiple crosses were overhit, blocked or poorly placed.
The strategy played to Ghana’s athletic strengths, but it also put the U.S. defenders in a situation they find most comfortable, as Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler and Tim Howard play in leagues where defending crosses is a necessity.
To me the key thing in Beasley's favor here is that Atsu plays his club football as a winger… a left winger. Dude is left footed, and the large number of crosses Beasley gave up were ineffectual because
- Most of them were from the winger's weak foot.
- They were shot in at a bracketed Asamoah Gyan and a bunch of 5'8" bros.
Putting Atsu on the right was a tactical move that wanted to get through-balls and other items in the box with an inverted winger. The US responded by packing the middle and leaving Beasley on an island… again, Spain redux. Matt Doyle:
But considering he was going 1-v-2, he did well because – and I'm going all caps here because I don't trust the weight of mere words – NOBODY GOT BEHIND HIM. The US can deal with crosses all day, but you don't want Geoff Cameron, Besler – most likelyJohn Brooks now – or especially Omar Gonzalez having to come out and meet attackers wide.
They hit 30 crosses from open play – seven more than anyone else this tournament! That's [recently fired ManU manager] David Moyes territory.
With Gyan limited by congestion in the middle all he could do was fire in that one brilliant header that was wide and Howard had covered anyway. Gyan's other moment of threat was a cut in from the USA's right that got him a shot from just outside the box that tested Howard. Do we want those, or do we want guys trying to get on the end of crosses? Seems obvious. FWIW, crosses per game are down from 32 to 27 compared to 2010. They're a bit passé.
Theory: Beasley getting his ankles broken early like he'd just experienced a Derryck Thornton crossover made everyone super nervous about what would happen for the rest of the game, and even though not much did that nervousness leaked into some evaluations.
How is this different from the Chandler performance against Turkey I ripped? Chandler ceded one free goal and allowed another shot from inside the six yard box; also his side of the field was exposed not only to crosses but to shots, lots of shots.
Game takes: tactics. The US got penned in and ate possession, but how much of that was poor tactics (or injury misfortune) and how much was just bad play? It seems like a big chunk of the problem was just bad play, particularly from Bradley. FourFourTwo:
Ghana dominated the ball from the first whistle, and Klinsmann's team didn't do a great job of protecting their early lead. They completed just 201 passes at a rate of 73%, and gave the ball away cheaply whenever they got sight of the opposition half. Ghana recovered possession a huge 56 times (to USA's 31): loose balls from poor play, effectively.
Opta "recoveries" are balls that get played to you without you having to go get it with a tackle. They're unforced errors, for the most part. In fact:
USA’s pass completion was 73% which is the second lowest seen in the World Cup so far (only Iran with 72% vs Nigeria have shown lower).
That obviously cannot continue if the US is going to do anything against even a depleted Portugal.
Zonal Marking points out that Johannsson's total lack of impact was expected and that a midfielder (Mix Diskerud?) may have been preferred.
In fact, when Altidore departed midway through the first half, the USA were already under heavy pressure. Klinsmann might have considered bringing on an extra midfielder at this stage, because his side simply weren’t covering the midfield ground effectively. Dempsey and Johansson were stuck upfront with little service, covering the responsibilities of one man, and it felt like the USA were playing with ten players at times.
However, Kinsmann was able to depend upon good performances at the back, while Kyle Beckerman was excellent at screening the defence – he protected the ‘red zone’ excellently, meaning Ghana always looked out wide for their route to goal. Tim Howard, meanwhile, claimed crosses well and swept off his line intelligently.
Whoops. In the column yesterday I said Zusi lost the run of Ayew on the goal; that was Johnson.
React video. As per tradition.
Not often that the best and most overwhelmed response is from the dude who actually put it in.
— Goal Posts (@TNRWorldCup) June 17, 2014
By Sunday, Portugal will be down to potted plants. Already down Almeida, Coentrao, and Pepe, Portugal is now saying their starting goalie could be out. Portugal's other options are a guy who seems on the downside who just signed for a Croatian team and Sevilla's starter, who's only got a few caps. That's not as big of a deal as their other losses, but it certainly doesn't help.
UPDATE: Ronaldo limps out of practice with an ice-packed knee. !!!
If Besler's ready, he should go. He's been working on chemistry with Cameron for a month now and played very well during his 45 against Ghana. Brooks can be our target forward.
Working it out of the back: more possible now. While the FIFA rankings think Portugal is a much better team than Ghana, the setup should be more comfortable for the US. Ghana's athleticism and youth (they're the youngest team at the tournament) allowed them to press the US high for big stretches of the game after the early goal and Altidore departure.
The results were pretty ugly. The game featured the second-fewest passes per possession since Klinsmann took over. While the results of these low-possession games haven't been too bad, life is easier when you have the ball.
Portugal isn't nearly as suited to press high. Ronaldo in particular does not work on D, and while I'm not sure about this Eder guy coming in for Almeida it doesn't seem like he did much to harry the Germans. Of course, by the time he got in Portugal was falling apart at the seams. So… yeah.
The weather also means that high pressing is probably not in the cards. The Italy-England game got really sloppy because of the heat; forwards are likely to conserve energy when not in possession.
This means that not having Jozy isn't as bad as it could be, since the US should be able to play it on the ground out of their defense.