You Love Soccer One Month: Forwards

Submitted by Brian on June 11th, 2010 at 1:47 PM

Look: the World Cup comes once every four years and, unlike that other quadrennial mega sporting event, never takes time out to talk to you about polar bears. When someone cries it's not because that's just what you do after you dismount but rather because they are experiencing a life-rending moment. I'm going to blog about the USMNT on the front page. If this annoys you, I cannot help it.

Extremely Tentative Starters


The mantle of First Great American Field Player* was passed from Freddy Adu to Altidore sometime a couple years ago when he fetched an MLS-record transfer fee and Adu was unable to get playing time at a second-division Portuguese club. Altidore is now the It Kid. It's too bad his first season in a top-flight league was marked with the usual pitfalls whenever a hyped American hops the pond—erratic playing time and lack of production. Altidore threw in a headbutt that drew a three-game suspension for good measure, though he was very apologetic about it on Twitter afterwards.

Even so:


Enjoy your starting position, especially in the absence of Brian Ching, the only semi-plausible player in the US pool who could have displaced him in a single-striker formation. Despite an ankle sprain that momentarily scared everyone pantsless when he was "hospitalized" and forced him out of the Australia game, Bradley says Altidore will start against England.

Alitdore's strength, speed, and ability to run at players is world-class but his first touch, passing, and activity are lacking. He's not a hold-up forward, and if the US is forced to go over the top with regularity they'll be giving the ball away most of the time. Of late he's been a nonfactor save for the one or two spectacular moves a game that promise a hellacious 2014 World Cup. A couple of examples from the Netherlands game:

He also provided the one bright spot in the USA's ugly first half against Turkey when he WOOPed his way through three defenders and crossed mere inches in front of Clint Dempsey's foot. He did score later in that game, but he had the simple task of not putting the ball over the net from two feet after Robbie Findley and Landon Donovan unlocked the Turkey defense.

*(Giuseppe Rossi is Italian. This will brook no discussion.)


Apparently. Buddle put in a productive 45 minutes against the Czechs, sat out the Turkey game, and put in ' target=_blank>two against the Aussies. He's fit, scoring loads of goals, and starting regularly at striker—something literally no one else on the 30-man roster, let alone the 23 who are in South Africa, can say. Welcome to the US forward pool.

Buddle is active and athletic, somewhere between Findley and Altidore in terms of speed and strength. He's been a teammate of Landon Donovan for years and should work well with the most important US player, and when given opportunities he's put them in the net. The goals he's been scoring are of a higher quality than those Herculez Gomez is putting in—more on that later—since they often involve shots from outside the box, volleys, excellent headers, and the occasional deft touch or two:

Also, a number of Buddle's goals involve runs from one Landon Donovan that Buddle calmly finishes. He's much more of an aerial threat than Findley—he can plausibly act as a target forward for Altidore to play off of—and is actually, you know, scoring. He's the man, man.

Potentially Useful Men, Perhaps Possibly (Probably Not)


Form over career part II. Herculez Gomez was an MLS afterthought for years, a consistent starter in Los Angeles and Colorado but never a guy you'd single out as one of the better strikers in a pedestrian league. A move to Kansas City was a  total disaster that saw Gomez score once, one time (once), in 34 appearances. After 2009 he became a free agent, signing with Mexican side Puebla in January of this year.

So of course he moves to a much tougher league and pours in ten goals to tie for the Golden Boot, the first time an American has ever done that in a foreign league*. Wha? Double wha: Puebla was not very good, finishing with a goal differential of –3. They were last in their six-team division and 13th in the league overall. Gomez was not the recipient of a ton of service he mostly flubbed. In fact, he's not the recipient of a ton of anything:

Used mainly as a second-half substitute in his 13 appearances this campaign, he is averaging a goal for every 75 minutes played. That's the kind of contribution that could be valuable if carried over to the international level.

You can judge the quality of his rampage for yourself. Here's with every goal Gomez put in for Puebla this year:

Honestly… eh. A lot of defensive mistakes and simple finishes. Some nice runs off the ball, a couple of shots from somewhat tight angles. The free kick should have been saved, though he gets points for making Mexico's goalie look like a fool.  There's not a whole lot to overrule the rest of his career. Against teams that will actually mark him the smart bet is a return to the average MLS striker he's been for most of his career. At least he's finishing his chances, though, which makes him a step up from most of Eddie Johnson's career. If the two guys are indistinguishable, at least go with the guy who seems on form.

Gomez put in a goal against Australia on a finish that was tougher than it looked (but not that tough) and figures to be a guy the US calls on if they're looking for a late spark. He might have a tough time getting off the bench since Bradley has the option of moving Dempsey up top and bringing one of the USA's many plausible midfielders (Beasley, Holden, Feilhaber, Torres) in. His best bet might be a game in which Dempsey starts up top.

*(Mexico's Premiere division is the most confusing sporting setup I've ever tried to comprehend, and I once played with a Ukranian team in Football Manager. They actually play two seasons per year, the "Apertura" and "Clausura," following those with an eight-team playoff.)


Robbie Findley is very fast. He made a great pass to Landon Donovan to create Altidore's goal against Turkey, and pressured an Aussie defender into the turnover that Buddle converted into the USA's first goal on Saturday. Given Altidore's mandatory place in the 11 and the hot form of Buddle and Gomez for both club and country, he would be the obvious fourth forward and a late substitution at best except for the Charlie Davies theory. That theory, which is being pushed by several people with more soccer knowledge than I have, suggests that Findley's blistering speed is required for the US to play an effective game, that he opens up space for Donovan, Dempsey, Altidore, and others.

My counterpoint to that is Buddle isn't exactly Ching and has performed much better over the past eight months. Once England defenders tire, bringing Findley in as a shock to the system is a move with a potential payoff. But he's just Josh Wolff 2.0.



June 11th, 2010 at 2:10 PM ^

I thought someone cried in soccer because a guys brushed up within 18 inches of him and he fell on the ground like a sniper had hit him.  You know, at least until the ref pulls out a card. Then he's Lazarus.


June 11th, 2010 at 2:17 PM ^

the entire nation of Scotland is going to be cheering on the US like crazy when they play England.

I thought this was really cool to hear when I was meeting with some work colleagues in London, like, wow these Scots really like the US!

Actually, that's not the case.

They just hate seeing England win that much more.

I then learned the Scots famous acronym for such sentiment:

ABE = Anyone But England

Should be a great game.


June 11th, 2010 at 11:13 PM ^

Feel free to get it straight from the horse's mouth if you don't believe him.

You too can dress like us throughout the World Cup as well:…

Or for any BABE's you know:…

These are almost as stylish as my "Sex, Drugs, and Sausage Rolls" t-shirt.


Alba gu brath and God Bless America!


June 11th, 2010 at 2:31 PM ^

Brian is downright hostile over people not being down with the soccer content.  I bet before this World Cup fiasco is over with that he breaks a bottle over a least one persons head.  MGoGirlfriend may want to take a sabbatical. 

I'm glad the world loves soccer, but I do not.  This is Brian's world and if he wants to blog about soccer and Umbros or whatever, then more power to him, but I'd much rather read the much anticipated OSU 2009 UFR than USMNT which I have zero emotional investment in as of today.


June 11th, 2010 at 6:10 PM ^

You would undertand that I don't hate soccer at all.  I just don't get it in the same way I get other sports.  It does not entertain me like other sports do and I do not get emotionally involved in it.  What part of my posts suggest to you that I hate soccer?  If I don't share your enthusiasm for the sport does that make me a hater?

I'm sorry that a contrary opinion gets met wuth such criticism and my attempts at humor where seen as some sort of slight against your soccer posts. 


June 11th, 2010 at 5:33 PM ^

Brian, this is your show and your vision needs no explanation.  As our fearless leader, I would follow you into the fiercest firefight.  I might lie down and play dead then though, because I am also a wuss.


June 11th, 2010 at 6:37 PM ^

If Torres does not get the start, then we are seriously lacking creativity in the middle.  Bradley has a great work rate, and can place a decent pass, but defense unlocking is not his strength.  If we go the safe route and play Edu or Clark in holding spot, then  I'd put Holden on the left.  He has at least some flair and inventiveness and can move inside seamlessly.  Same for Donovan on right.  I would then play Dempsey in a linking position where he can play off Altidore and give Bradley more immediate support in the middle.  This leaves Jozy to kind of go it alone up top, not his strength, but gives us a much greater chance at creating something in a build up as opposed to the long ball.  

     The questions I have are:  Would Donovan actually be better at link up then Dempsey and we switch them?  If Holden, Dempsey, and Donovan can all play in all three positions, it would be beautiful, but are we organized enough to do that and still get our wings tracking back to help with the likes of Joe Cole and Aaron Lennon?  Would Beasley be better at tracking back than Holden while still giving us some life on the right?  The defensive ability and desire of US wingers is a place where my knowledge meets the end of the road, so any help there would be fun.


June 11th, 2010 at 6:44 PM ^

I really dislike the title of USA v England is THE biggest game in US soccer history... No matter what happens both will have an easy chance to advance despite the result tomorrow. This is not the biggest game ever. Not close.


June 11th, 2010 at 7:15 PM ^

I'm also getting really tired of the hyperbolic commentary the media is pushing for the USMNT. They are serviceable, but they are far from a great side. I'm also getting annoyed with the bandwagoners that are climbing aboard due to said hype.


June 11th, 2010 at 11:21 PM ^

the USMNT on the eve of the World Cup.

In the immortal words of Frank Zappa:  "Look, you either get it or you don't.  I'm not going to spend my whole life explaining myself."



June 12th, 2010 at 1:07 AM ^

I'm actually managing a Ukrainian side in FM 2010 "right now". (By that I mean during the odd times where I can actually get myself to focus on it. I usually need to be doing two or three things at once.)

There are some countries that do some kind of crazy things involving promotion (first-half vs. second-half winners, things like that), but I can't seem to find them anywhere. I'll spend a little time on the FM forums and see if anything rings a bell.

Not tomorrow afternoon, of course.


June 12th, 2010 at 9:47 AM ^

The winner of the Eerste Divisie automatically gets promoted, and the last-place team in the Eredivisie goes down. The next two from the bottom of the Eredivisie, the winners of each quarter of the Eerste Divisie season, and the four remaining highest overall finishers in the Eerste (plus extras if a team won multiple quarters or the overall winner won a quarter) play a pair of 5-team brackets for two Eredivisie spots.

Belgium has weird rules for handing out their last Europa League spot, but I think their promotion/relegation rules are pretty straightforward.


June 12th, 2010 at 1:55 AM ^

as a sport.  Why do people care what the content of the PROPRIETOR OF THE BLOG posts in June?  Why do people care any time of year? It's free viewing on the internet, Brian could start posting pictures of kittens all the time, and we'd all just go to another Michigan site (oh wait...).

In all honestly, I'm not that into hockey.  I bet there are people on this board who don't give a shit about FA's baseball posts, or Tim's LAX updates.  It's like watching MTV on Thursday nights and saying "I hate Jersey Shore, why is this always on."  Change the god damn channel if you're not interested in the content, otherwise skip the post, or read it and shrug your shoulders.

As for the question at hand, Jozy alone in a 4-5-1 makes the most sense, so Holden gets on the field (if we assume that Dempsey doesn't like playing up top, which he doesn't).  However, we all know BB will only play a 4-4-2, so Jozy and Buddle makes the most sense.  I actually tend to agree with Brian:  Ching had a role on this team, and Buddle is the closest thing to Ching we have, a battler who can hold up the ball.

Sub in Gomez at 60 minutes when it's 0-1, or sub in Holden at 75 minutes if it's tied or we're up 1, so he'll help keep possession. 

And please start Edu instead of Clark.....