By J Hutcherson – WASHINGTON, DC (June 2, 2013) US Soccer Players – From a hot afternoon in the press box at RFK Stadium where seeing all four corners of the field isn’t a given, here are a quick four things I’m taking away from the United States – Germany friendly.
Playing With Pressure
The United States played a high line with their forwards on a Germany goal kick in the fifth minute. If it does nothing more than make the other team think about what they’re doing this early in a game, it’s worth it. Even more so if it leads to the kind of miscue that put the ball into the back of Germany’s own net in the 16th minute in a forgettable moment for international level goalkeeping. There’s too much given up tactically by teams not considering the little things. Early on, the US had Germany considering every step they took. It’s not simply about pressuring, it’s establishing early on that should mistakes happen, they’ll turn into opportunities. This is something we normally don’t associate with the style of play under Klinsmann or his predecessors. For every free flowing display, there’s the desperation hedge with multiple midfielders taking defensive roles and simply trying to keep the other team from scoring. There’s respecting the abilities of an opponent and harming your own game by simply not playing. It’s a risk/reward equation that’s difficult for any team, but it’s also one where the USA should almost always take the tactical risk. That’s how the confidence and the program grow. Otherwise, it’s more of the same: an overly defensive mindset that’s about trying to control a score line rather than playing creative and high pressure soccer.
RFK Stadium Is An Advantage
Look, I’ve lived here for years and after a decade of the humid summers, ridiculous traffic, clueless tourists, and lack of what most of us think of as a downtown, I’m more than happy to bag on the District. However, what’s beyond reproach is how this area turns out for the United States National Team. Set aside the region’s ability to do the same for other National Teams, when it comes to the USA there’s a noise and commitment level that’s tough to downplay. As hard as it is to admit for those of us that won’t be bothered by its demise, RFK Stadium plays a part in that. There’s a reason why it’s missed by National Football League fans. Even in its decrepit state, it’s the best soccer venue on the East Coast. Whether or not that makes it the best soccer venue in the country is an open question. There’s no guarantee that soccer specificity or a new NFL stadium changes that, and it’s worth realizing when the noise hangs in the air after something like Jozy Altidore’s 13th minute goal. Maybe it’s a statement for what US soccer is all about that one of the best settings is an antiquated stadium that plays like a hot box and punishes fans and players alike for making the trip. It has to be about the game here.
Dempsey And Altidore Need A Complicated Offense
Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore aren’t target forwards, but they are the best option for the United States attack. That means creating around them rather than forcing them to take positions that aren’t likely to work. Altidore at club level needs a partner. Dempsey at club level needs forwards playing in front of him. Playing off of each other in a US jersey doesn’t do either of their games any favors. Instead, it almost forces them to regress from what they’re doing in Europe. That’s not good enough. The players are there in the US squad and the tactics should follow. Again, it’s a risk/reward problem and it’s the coach’s to solve, but what they do on the field suggests a better answer than planting them in front of a traditional midfield shape in a strike partnership. Add in Eddie Johnson in the secondThe problem when talking about tactics in this region is CONCACAF itself. Tactical nuance normally isn’t necessary to succeed in the region. There are a relatively limited number of games when it really matters. Unfortunately, those games normally come at World Cup level.
Paying Attention To What Doesn’t Work
US National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann deserves credit for one of the more noticeable lapses against Belgium last Wednesday in Cleveland. The US gave up too much space in their own half of the field, allowing Belgium’s attackers the time to make choices that weren’t forced. There wasn’t the kind of panic on the ball for Belgium that turns scoring opportunities into half chances, and the USA paid the price. Against Germany, the spacing was simply better. Part of that is due to having closer to a first choice squad, with Michael Bradley and Fabian Johnson both able to take defensive duties without emptying out the attacking options. With players of their quality, it’s not one or the other and that helped answer a glaring problem.
J Hutcherson started covering soccer in 1999 and has worked as the general manager of the US National Soccer Team Players Association since 2002. Contact him email@example.com.
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