By J Hutcherson – WASHINGTON, DC (Mar 28, 2011) US Soccer Players — As we look back at the USA – Argentina friendly, here are five things from Saturday’s game to keep in mind as the US prepares for Paraguay on Tuesday.
Passing Is Fun
But Argentina once again showed that pretty soccer and effective soccer can be mutually exclusive. Stringing together multiple passes is nothing to downplay, but if it ends in poor opportunities and bad shot selection it’s just a lot of passing. Looks great, apparently excites the commentators, but ultimately just kills time. This isn’t an excuse for the lack of passes from the United States, but they’re not the only team to show that pretty passes don’t necessarily lead to attractive wins. Argentina isn’t the only top tier team with this problem. And make no mistake, if it’s turning wins into draws it’s a problem.
The International Standard
US coach Bob Bradley deserves the benefit of the doubt in trying something that isn’t a flat 442 against high level opponents in a friendly setting. That’s the only way he’s going to find an answer if the 442 suddenly looks antiquated at the highest levels. It’s getting to the point where that’s the case. The better teams have moved on, and the challenge for a National Team coach is to follow the trend or try something different. Stubbornness by sticking to the old standard isn’t going to work against those top teams. Sure, the US looked stronger with the changes they made at the half. What that provides is working material for further tweaks, not a justification for staying put with a tactically naive system.
The Home Crowd
Whether you want to split it 50/50 or 60/40 in either direction, the big crowd at The New Meadowlands could hardly be called pro Argentina. That’s not the USA’s normal experience in North Jersey. Playing against Mexico and Brazil in that venue, it was lopsided in favor of the other team. This time out, and with a gloryhunter’s fantasy on the field, the support was there for the USA. It will be interesting to see what the split looks like at Foxboro in June when the US plays Spain in their next prestige friendly. Moving that percentage towards the US is its own game, and one the US has slowly started winning.
Offense Vs Defense
Throwing everything forward against a team like Argentina in a friendly setting is a sucker’s bet. With the way Argentina was expected to play and what they showed early and often, a more athletic defense could’ve ended up a more exposed defense. The US did well reassigning roles in midfield to strengthen the defense and absorb Argentina’s flowing attack. US fans are used to this in games that count, and they expect their team to be able to see off pretty soccer. The US did that, limiting the damage in the first-half and taking over during parts of the second-half. It’s a weak criticism to go after the US for style points in the opening 45 minutes. Argentina was in sync, even on a rough playing surface. Against most teams, they go into halftime with the game already won.
Dempsey And Agudelo
Early in the first-half, Clint Dempsey decided to take on a few Argentines in a run towards goal that ended up with a shot directly at the keeper. The quick response was ‘where was the rest of the US attack?’ Dempsey went in alone, made some moves, and took a shot. There were no passing options available. Maybe that was the point. Seeing his tea bogged down in their defensive half while the Argentine attack stringed together those passing moves, Dempsey took it upon himself to make the not so subtle point that the US could pressure as well. It was a big league move, exactly what’s expected from a player like Dempsey. Maybe not so much from an emerging talent like Juan Agudelo, but he followed Dempsey’s example in the second-half. Both played like they expected a result, pushing the offense when it would’ve been easy enough to track back. That’s the biggest talking point coming out of East Rutherford, US players who looked at what the World #4 was doing and saw an opportunity.
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