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Thursday, April 13, 2006 

Deutschland Bound (Part II)

First of all, we'd like to apologize for some technical difficulties we've experienced over the past couple days with the "Post Comment" option. We have received a handful of emails saying that readers can't post their thoughts, which sucks, because we have NO idea how to fix it. It hasn't happened to everybody though, bceause some people have been able to post. Veird. If this happens with you, feel free to email us at noobsports@gmail.com with your comments, and we'll go ahead and post them for you, and our responses when necessary.

Moving on, welcome to Part II of "Deutschland Bound". In this episode, I posed two question to Hile and myself:

1 - "If you were Bruce Arena, what formation would you use for the '06 World cup, and why?"

2 - "In that same formation, who would your starting 11 be?"

Up first, Hile's thoughts:

This is much harder than in recent years. The increase in the talent pool has allowed Bruce Arena to utilize various formations, many of which could be effective. While I believe that the best formation for our team would be a 3-5-2, I believe that we will spend most of our time in the 4-4-2. It has been Bruce's preferred formation since he took over as coach and most of our European-based players are in England and Germany, countries where the 4-4-2 dominates.

I also believe that the 4-4-2 will be our best option against the teams we face. Against the Czech Republic, a 3-5-2 would give Nedved far too much room to wreak havoc on the wings. Italian teams have struggled strongly against English teams inEuropean competition and the Italian catenaccio defense is strong up the middle but susceptible to attacks up the wing. African squads like Ghana frequently have trouble with well organized teams that are equally athletic.

That being said, Arena has the options to tweak the system to what we need. He will not hesitate to make changes based on the matchups and has proved extremely capable at that in the past. Without thinking about matchups, injuries, yellow cards, etc., this is what I believe will be the US starting lineup for the World Cup.

[Note: Reyna/O'Brien means whichever one of the two is healthy... which might be a long shot]

SEL's Thoughts:

I feel there a 3 different formations that should be considered here, and then I'll explain my favorite and why. The formations are the 3-5-2, the 4-4-2, and the 4-3-3.

The 3-5-2 (perfected by the Hope College Flying Dutchmen, by the way) strength lies in it's midfield. With two defensive center midfielders, an attacking center midfielder, and two wingers placed wide, the US would almost certainly control the midfield of every game. The weaknesses are that there are only 3 defenders, and all 3 of those defenders have to be 1) excellent ballwinner, 2) excellent readers of the game, and 3) excellent distributors of the ball out of the back. I think we're 2/3 of the way there with Onyewu and Gibbs, but we don't have that third piece, therefore I don't think it would work.

The 4-4-2 is the most popular formation in the world. It's strenghts are that it's balanced, you're not too defensive, not too offensive, and have a good amount of players in the middle. This is what we'll most likely run, however I'm opposed to this because it's boring. It's average. I'm looking for something with more flair, something that will make other teams say "oh shit, how do we stop this."

That brings us to the 4-3-3. This is my deravation of the formation: Flat 4 in the back, with the two center backs being more man-marking backs than anything else, and covering for one-another. The outside backs play ahead of them, and they defend when they have to, but on offense they get involved in the attack, and they get WIDE. In the midfield, I like all 3 players to be in the center, with no outside midfielders. Play with 1 holding center midfielder (who is basically a glorified stopper), and 2 attacking center midfielders (one predominantly left, one predominantly right). Up top, you play with 3 forwards. One central, pressed as far forward as the other team will let you, and he acts as a target man and a ball-winner. The other forwards again play WIDE, and play a little withdrawn. The team gets it's width from it's outside backs and outside forwards... the backs get forward on offense as much as possible, and the forwards track back to cover opposing teams outside midfielders.

First I'll tell you who my starters will be, then I'll give you justification for it.

In the back: Onyewu and Gibbs are no-brainers at center back. I like Lewis on the left because he is a natural left-footed left-midfielder, so getting forward with the ball won't be a problem. Stevie C. has also shown the ability to get forward, most notably against Poland and Japan, where he was causing absolute havoc running forward. Plus they can both defend when they need to.

Midfield: I love Pablo Mastroeni as a holding center midfielder in this formation. He will play very defensive minded, probably mark the opposing teams attacking center midfielder, and generally clog up that area of the pitch. He's strong on the tackle, and a great ball-winner in the air. He won't be called upon a lot to get into the attack, just distribute the ball to his outside backs, outside forwards, or fellow center midfielders.

As far as the other two midfielders go, I have both Reyna and O'Brien in there. This of course is assuming both are healthy, which is a possibility, but not probable. I think both Captain America and JOB are our two most creative players, and they both have the ability to change the game. They will get into the attack often, shooting through the gaps between our center forward and our outside forwards. They can distribute the ball, make things happen, take players on 1 on 1, combine with the fowards, and finish. They will both be keyin this formation. If either one of them is hurt (which is likely), I like bringing in Clint Dempsey, and letting him be as creative as he wants in that role. He can get forward well, and, along with Beasley, is our best player at taking opposing players on 1 on 1.

Forwards: McBride is the obvious target man. He's strong, he wins balls in the air, he can hold the ball up, and he can finish. End of argument. (If he gets injured, Taylor Twellman is actually a very good reserve to bring in).

On the left I like DeMarcus Beasley, and I think this would be the ideal position for him. First of all, he's used to playing this position with his club PSV Eindhoven, where he has been very successful. Play the ball into space, and he can run onto it and get behind the defense. Play the ball to his feet and he has the ability to put in great service with his left foot, or to take players 1 on 1 and run at the defense. He has also shown the ability to combine well with O'Brien (WC '02) and McBride. Having him out wide as well means he would have more space to work with, and his blistering pace great foot skills would just kill other teams.

On the right I like Landon Donovan, and here's why: I think when he's in the center of the field and the focal point for the US, he wilts (A la Fred Bergman). He doesn't perform well in the spotlight, and when he has to be the teams leader and controller of the games pace and playmaking, he struggles. I think he puts too much pressure on himself to perform, and ends up trying to do too mcuh, which turns out to be detrimental to the team.

I made this argument about a month ago, but Liverpool has done exactly the same thing with Steven Gerrard, with unbelievable results. Gerrard is arguably their best player, but started struggling when he had to be THE playmaker in the center of the field. Rafa Benitez saw this, and asked Gerrard to move to an outside midfield position, and they haven't gone back since. Gerrard is still the most dangerous player on the field, but he doesn't have to be involved in every play. The same would work brilliantly for Donovan. He's the best server of the ball on the team, and his crosses are deadly. Having him out on the wing lets him be able to serve that bending ball to the back post where McBride / Beasley / O'Brien / Reyna will be waiting. He can also beat his player down the wing, or bring the ball central and take on defenders that way. Plus he will have plenty of options in the box to score. (For the record, if we end up playing a 4-4-2 like Hile suggests, I'd still like to see Donovan on the right, Beasley on the left, and Mastroeni and O'Brien/Reyna in the center).

As always, feel free to post your thoughts and comments in the comment section. If you can't get it to work, email it to us and we'll post it for you... you noobs.

1.) Does Josh Wolff really warrant a position on the team? We're going to need clutch performers against this group, and calling Wolff "clutch" seems like a long shot.

2.) Notwithstanding the more accurate lense through which we now see Freddy Adu, do you think a good argument can be made for putting him on the roster just so he gets a taste of the World Cup? Even if he never touches the ball outside of practice, maybe the experience of him just being there could pay dividends in future cups.

Those are good questions, and I think I can address them both at the same time.

The reality of the situation is that yes, we are bringing 23 players to the World Cup, but AT MOST 14 of them will play in any one game (due to FIFA's 3 substitution limit). Unless we receive a ton of injuries, my guess would be that we won't go very deep, or mix up our lineup too much.

My personal opinion is that for some of the last players on our 23 man squad, we should bring some young guys in who probably won't get playing time, but will get the experience and excitement of being there... which will prepare us for future World Cups. This is why I included guys like Johnathon Spector, Heath Pearce, and Conor Casey.

That line of reasoning, however, should mean I should include Freddy Adu, right? Here's the thing, Freddy is young (17), and has had behavior problems. He's the highest paid player in the MLS, so others have a natural disliking towards him. Also, Freddy is SUPER competitive, and if he doesn't get playing time, he gets upset (look at the D.C. United situation). We don't need a player getting upset because he's not getting playing time at the World Cup.

I would compare his situation to Kobe Bryant. They're both super-competitive, to the point where it's almost a fault. This causes other players and members of the media to dislike them. I think 4 years for Freddy, giving him time to grow up and mature, he'll be ready to come in and make the World Cup team and hopefully contribute.

I included Josh Wolff over Freddy Adu for the following reasons. As far as I know, Josh is a good "clubhouse guy". He's funny, he picks others up, and he's fine with it if he doesn't get playing time. He differs greatly from Freddy in that aspect.

As far as playing time goes, neither Adu nor Wolff would probably see the field in the World Cup. However, if they did, Wolff has MUCH more experience, and would have a better chance of making something happen.

Also, imagine we get out of our group stage and we're playing Brazil in the knockout round. McBride has suffered his inevitable injury, so we've been playing with Twellman and Johnson up front. We're down 1-0, with about 20 minutes to play. If you're Bruce Arena, and you want to throw an extra forward in there... do we have a better option at that point than Josh Wolff? I know it's not awe-inspiring, but he's the kind of guy who could be given a foot of space and finish a rocket of a shot. Of course I could be wrong (and probably am), but that's the reason for my inclusion of Wolff and not Adu.


If Reyna and O'Brien are healthy, I think your formation and line up would definitly give us the best chance to win. That's a big if, but I say we get bold, and play to our strengths.

Good stuff.

Are you guys ever going to discuss how you've cursed the Tigs and that they'll end up at 4-158 because of the Fridge's article? Great fuckin' job gentlemen!

I think I posted the article when they were 5-0, but point well taken. They have been shitting all over the bed. Life has been miserable at work for me in Chicago, surrounded by Pale Hose fans. Plus Verlander broke my heart yesterday, and Maroth's injury means that I will see the Gambler pitch tonight instead of Verlander. Trust me, this hurts me just as much as it hurts you.

Having said that, you're a noob if you believe in jinxes.

As someone who only pays attention to soccer once every four years, I need to ask -- what happened to that dude Clint Howard? Wasn't he all hot shit and whatever?

Where do you see Bobby Convey coming into sub? For Beasley on the left? He is going to have to make some appearances - he would bring a lot of energy, and as much as I love him, Beasley has been shoddy for the Nats in the last few games.

Clint Howard is one of the most under-appreciated actors of his generation. He is absolutely magnificent at what he does - good enough to make an impact, but low key enough that he won't distract from the leading man.

Which is the antithesis of Clint Mathis - brilliantly gifted, but he always had his temper. Which was fine when he was in form, but not when combined with his poor fitness and love for Bud Light and Doritos, He had the talent to be a superstar but is instead a journeyman who's very far from the national team picture.

Though he will always be remembered with the Jack Edwards line, "That's why he's here!"

I do see Convey coming in at left-mid... Beasley, as sweet as he is, does have the tendancy to disappear at points during a game. He also weighs about a buck twenty-five, so injuries are always a risk.

Convey has looked very good lately, playing well for Reading and is always dangerous when he's on the ball. However, in the past he has looked shockingly awful for the USMNT.

As far as Clint Howard goes, spinachdip, that's a great answer. He did have tons of potential (despite his questionable mohawk), but seems to have wasted it all away. He's a hot head, but was such a great finisher that it makes you think what if...

I try and pay attention but with all the recent things happening in American sports I missed it. How did Reyna hurt himself this time? How bad is it and what do you think the chances he'll be 100%?

for the record nobody "wilts" like me

what is soccer?

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