If I was Bruce...
Ever since the United States got the absolute dog shit beaten out of them by the Czech Republic on Monday, a lot of people have asked me (SEL) what the United States needs to do differently against Italy on Saturday in order to win and stay alive in World Cup. Apparently people think I know something about soccer.
Coach Bruce Arena has managed to find himself in a pretty bad place. I've always been a fan of Das Bruce, but I don't envy his position right now. His team came into the tournament way overhyped, and he spoke with such bravado and confidence that we expected them to dominate their group and make a serious run in the World Cup. After they got their asses handed to them on Monday, people started immediately questioning Bruce's motivational skills and roster selection.
What changes should he make so the United States doesn't make an early exit like in '98? More importantly for Bruce, what changes should he make so he doesn't (almost certainly) lose his job? Well, If I was Bruce...
(by the way, I often like to PRETEND that my name is Bruce. Whenever I order a meal and they ask me for my name I tell them "Bruce." If I start talking to somebody and can tell within the first five seconds that I never want to see them again, I tell them my name is "Bruce." I often fill out surveys or sign up for useless shit using the full name "Bruce Braswell." When I put on my ass-less chaps and head down to the Manhole, I tell people I meet there.... nevermind.)
If I was Bruce, I would play in a 3-5-2. For an example of that formation, I would look to the Hope College Flying Dutchmen teams of the early to mid 2000's, who pounded teams using that system. Opponents of that theory point to the fact that there are only 3 defenders. At this point, the United States has no choice other than to attack, because a loss or a draw and we're (pretty much) done. Might as well make it an attacking-minded formation.
If I was Bruce, I would bench Eddie Pope and play with Oguchi Onyewu as the only center back.
If I was Bruce, I keep Eddie Lewis at left-back. Despite his less-than-stellar performance against the Czech Republic, he is very good at attacking out of the back. We need all the attacking help we can get.
If I was Bruce, I would contemplate subbing out Steve Cherundolo and replacing him with last years MLS Defender of the year and Noob Sports reader Jimmy Conrad. Even though he is more comfortable at center back, I think it would be nice to have him out there trying to stop Luca Toni and company. However, I would most likely keep Stevie C. back there.
If I was Bruce, I would bench DeMarcus Beasley and keep Bobby Convey on at left midfield. Convey has that great left-foot, and is one of our best free-kick takers. I would also think about bringing Beasley on as a sub for Convey, to add that extra boost of energy and speed when Italy is tiring towards the end of the game.
If I was Bruce, I would put Clint Dempsey on at right midfield. He has pace, he's fearless, he has great ball skills, and he is probably our most compeitive player. I would love to see Deuce cutting people up down the right side all day.
If I was Bruce, I would put our best three players (and playmakers) together in the center of midfield, and let them try to take over the game. These players, of course, are Landon Donovan, John O'Brien, and Claudio Reyna. Let their creativity feed off one another, let them play the beautiful game together, and let's see what happens.
If I was Bruce, I would run Brian McBride and Eddie Johnson together up front. McBride is without a doubt our best forward, and always has the ability to score off a header or a scrum in the box. Johnson is the perfect compliment to a player who is big, holds the ball well, and dominates in the air (like McBride). He has blazing speed, good ball skills, high energy, and has the ability to score goals. Goals, obviously, are important to the U.S. getting a result on Saturday.
If I was Bruce, my lineup would look like this:
If I was Bruce, that's exactly what I would do. And damnit, I think we would win.