Seeing as how everyone wants to predict lineups for 2014, I thought I’d throw my hat in that ring. Here goes nothing…
Goalkeepers (3): Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Bill Hamid
Reasons: Not hard to figure out here. Tim is #1, Brad is an eternal #2, Hamid is the future.
Other Possibilities: Samir Badr, Chris Seitz
Defenders (7): Oguchi Onyewu, Ike Opara, Omar Gonzalez, Tim Ream, Kevin Alston, Jonathan Spector, Eric Lichaj
Reasons: I think Gooch should be on his last legs, but he’ll still be an aerial force. Opara and Gonzalez are very, very promising though, so I could see them challenging for starting spots in the middle. Personally, I think Spector will be playing full-time at center back for us alongside Gooch by 2014, which is his most natural spot. Ream and Spector provide versatility along the back, Alston and Lichaj provide outside play.
Other Possibilities: Jonathan Bornstein, Edgar Castillo, Marvell Wynne, Chad Marshall, Geoff Cameron, Sean Franklin
Midfielders (9): Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, Jose Torres, Benny Feilhaber, Stu Holden, Alejandro Bedoya, Freddy Adu, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan
Reasons: Pretty much nothing new here. Dempsey and Donovan could go as forwards too, which could open up spots. Bradley and Edu should be our best 2 central players going forward and I love the potential of Ale Bedoya on the left side.
Other Possibilities: Mikkel “Mix” Diskerud, Sebastian Lletget, Robbie Rogers, Eddie Gaven, Tony Tchani, Jermaine Jones, Rico Clark
Forwards (4): Jozy Altidore, Charlie Davies, Tristan Bowen, Danny Mwanga
Reasons: This will be the hardest group to predict. I mean, 4 years ago who would have predicted Findley and Buddle? I think Tracy, if he can stay healthy, is a solid option. Tristan Bowen should be an excellent bench striker by 2014. He’s looked great in his appearances for LA this year. Mwanga looks fantastic, but we have to hope for him to become a US citizen and “choose” the US.
Other Possibilities: Tony Taylor, Marcus Tracy, Kenny Cooper, Eddie Johnson, Robbie Findley, Brek Shea
After watching the German blitzkrieg on hapless Argentina, the gears in my brain started churning.
What if the US could get Joachim Löw.
Better yet, what if we could get Joachim Löw and Jurgen Klinsmann?
So let’s think about a few things.
First off, who are we as a soccer nation? Do we have an identity on the field?
The Spanish have their passing, the Brazilians their Joga Bonito. The Portuguese have individual flair, the Italians their penchant for…defense. (Ok, maybe not, but you’re getting the idea.)
Interestingly, Germany is a major country that doesn’t have much of a defined identity. Yes, their defense has always been stout. But who saw this majestic, juggernaut of an offense coming into 2010? When did Germany become the home of creative attackers like Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Toni Kroos, and Marko Marin?
Joachim Löw has done a masterful job of mixing and matching identities. He took the long-standing German defensive philosophy (tall, imposing centerbacks; quick, skillful wingbacks) and married it with an offense designed to attack. Instead of waiting to counter and absorbing pressure, the Germans have relentlessly pressed forward with the likes of Podolski and Ozil. Schweinsteiger and Khedira have held the ball as little as possible in order to push the ball forward.
Beautiful, isn’t it? A defensively gifted team that constantly looks forward. There’s very little backpassing, very little negative play.
The Germans play with intelligence and power, with the occasional bit of flair. In fact, they personify their coach on the field. Jogi Löw is cool and calculated, and his players show that.
So, what does that have to do with the USA?
Well, if the USSF had any vision for the future, it would throw a blank checkbook at Löw and his old buddy Jurgen Klinsmann and have them overhaul the USSF system from the bottom up.
Why Löw and Klinsmann?
For the reasons above: identity. Right now, the US entirely lacks one.
However, the US also has the potential to mirror the German setup as a team. Much like ourselves as a nation, our soccer team is a melting pot of influences. Our players have learned and trained far and wide, from the fledgling MLS to the stoic German Bundesliga to the frenetic Mexican Clausura and Apertura. We have players from all forms of soccer influence – Benny Feilhaber gets his flair from Brazil, Jose Torres his passing from Mexico, Jozy Altidore his athleticism and power in New York.
We will likely never be a nation that develops a defined identity for its national soccer team.
But that shouldn’t stop us from combining a myriad of influences into a team.
Löw has proven to be an elite coach with his decisions regarding this German team. He has infused offense and creativity into a team known for it’s collective play and defensive stoicism.
That is exactly what I want to see from the USMNT. I want to see our diversity embraced. I want to see Torres’ passing utilized alongside Benny Feilhaber’s flair. I want to see the US begin producing teams that attack relentlessly. I want to see our defense play with poise and skill in the back, rather than raw athleticism and panic.
Personally, I think we need an overhaul as a system, not just as a team. We need a national program that is entirely on the same page – on tactics, player development, personnel decisions, etc.
I also think we can’t do something like this in one world cup cycle. It’ll take more than two.
So my proposal is this, USSF: Let’s put a long-term plan in place.
Make an offer to Löw and Klinsmann as a team. Give them 12 years (3 cycles) to overhaul the USSF system. 2022 looks to be our year for hosting the World Cup, so let’s have that year in mind to be putting forth our most competitive team ever. Give that duo free reign to implement training, development, coaching, and anything they deem necessary to the development of us as a soccer nation.
Keep the pressure off of the next 2 World Cups, but demand improvement. Not just results, but style and development.
More importantly, lay the foundations for the United States to continue and grow into a soccer power. Put us on track for long-term success.
Have some vision and some creativity, like Germany.
…and 42 goals later, the United States has qualified for its 6th consecutive World Cup.
Impressive numbers for a nation long considered to be 3rd-world in the soccer community.
Unfortunately, the most important number for the US is 2.
In the past 48 hours, US Soccer has lost 2 unquestioned starters to injury – Charlie Davies and Oguchi Onyewu. The former is most certainly not going to South Africa, while the latter is facing a long, arduous rehab process to be ready in just 7-8 months time. Coming from personal experience with patellar-related surgery and recouperation, I find it hard to imagine a fully fit Onyewu in that time-frame.
It goes without saying that the injured players are key cogs in the red, white, and blue machine. The influence of each player is going to be sorely missed, and the loss may be too much for this American squad to overcome next year.
…although they are only my thoughts from halftime. Unfortunately, I’m still down a laptop right now and have it hooked up to an ancient monitor that stings my eyes.
Before the thoughts, in case you haven’t seen it – Gooch is out 4 months (at least, I would guess longer than they’re saying) with a torn patellar tendon. Coming from someone who’s been through a patellar-specific surgery, don’t expect Gooch at the World Cup. It’s going to be one helluva long rehab for the big guy.
Also, I thought all three subs were pretty good. Torres probably needs to be starting, to be honest. I’m convinced he might actually be the best two-way midfielder we have. His feel for passes is unmatched in the squad. Robbie Rogers is an entirely different player when employed on the right – wow. Cooper is Cooper – full of tricks and willing to shoot. He needs more time in Davies’ absence.
Anyways, here are my halftime thoughts:
Jozy Altidore – fuggin stud. Seriously, the kid came out on a mission and has been hell on two feet for the entire game. He’s playing with purpose on each touch, and it shows as he’s making quicker decisions than he usually does. Also, it’s not being noticed by many yet, but Jozy’s touch is MASSIVELY improved over the past 18 months. He’s simply doing things with his feet that he couldn’t do last year.
Conor Casey – This may shock some, but I find him useful. Now, in this game he’s been largely crap, but he’s a far superior alternative to Brian Ching. In fact, if Casey had Ching’s mobility, he’d be a bit of a monster for us. The glaring positive for Casey, as opposed to Ching? Casey doesn’t flop. Every header he gets a crack at, his opponent is feeling pain. There is no flopping and quizzically looking at the ref like Ching does – instead, Casey wins challenges, and wins them often. Unfortunately, he’s got almost zero mobility and is really hindering the good runs of Donovan and Altidore.
Landon Donovan – Yes, he’s made some good runs again, but at some point we have to start taking him to task for his decisions on finishing. He pusses out of so many quality chances that we can’t afford to miss on. For someone that has such a great ability to get himself in good positions, he f*cks them up way too often to be considered our best player. Also, I don’t want to hear anything about that Honduras free kick, because it’s an aberration. He seemingly has no control over his free kicks, and I’m thinking that strike against Honduras is proving to be pure luck. Also, there should never be any talk about how hard Landon defends – because he doesn’t. Plain and simple, he doesn’t defend. He follows the play 99% of the time.
Stuart Holden – He’s killing us. Like I said a month ago, he’s not a wing and doesn’t play like one. Yes, the kid is able to hit a reasonably good cross – but that doesn’t make him a wing. Why not? Because he’s spent the better portion of this game crowding our central players. He has no sense of where to be on the field as a wing and is causing us all kinds of spacing problems on the right and in the middle. The Holden fanboys will be up in arms I’m sure, but he doesn’t belong on this level yet (and I’m not convinced he ever will).
Benny Feilhaber – If you follow him closely, you’ll see why he’s such a quality player. Not only does he have fantastic feel for the pace of the game, he also knows how to play after he makes passes. He is brilliant at getting his defender on his heels with the ball, only to make a quick pass to Bradley turn into a nice 1-2 moving forward. I know there will always be the contingent of fans that whine about his defense not being stellar, but he’s far from being bad. He’s not a crunching tackler, but he’s also rarely caught out of position and has a pretty good sense of how and when to cover his outside back. This guy needs to be on the field for us at all times.
Michael Bradley – much like Feilhaber, Bradley just understands the game. He sees the whole field and reads the flow of the game better than almost any other player in our system. He still makes the odd bad touch or two, but he makes up for it with his 2-3 brilliant through-balls per game. Plus, I think we need to set him up for a few more strikes from distance. The kid has a cannon for a right leg and the confidence to use it, so why not let him have a few gos at goal?
Jonathan Bornstein – Abysmal. He makes up for some of his awfulness with wreckless tackles, but my god the kid just has no sense for positioning. He is constantly out of position and never seems to know where his mark is. We better hope and pray to everything holy that Bornstein gets dropped like a bad habit.
Steve Cherundolo – Not a great return for the tiny wingback. He looks a bit lost on the right, but he is also having to cover for Holden’s ineptitude as well. The biggest problem Cherundolo has is that he makes a few too many runs that he just can’t complete, which in turn leave us badly exposed down the touchline. He also doesn’t hit balls into the box or pass near as well as Spector does.
Centerbacks – Our center-half pairing is steady, and I’d even say Gooch looks better than usual. Their outside backs are giving them no help though.
Charlie Davies is still in surgery after a horrible 1-car accident this morning at 3:15 am. The accident took the life of a young woman, and left Charlie and one other passenger in the hospital. The injuries are not life-threatening according to multiple sources.
After 6+ hours of surgery, Charlie is in “serious” condition at the hospital. It is expected that there will be a more extensive update on his injuries around 8pm (CT).
The only info we seem to have is that he has a broken leg (femur\thigh and fibula\shin) and internal injuries that are not life-threatening.
We also now know that Charlie was NOT the driver of the car, nor was the young woman who lost her life. We also know, unfortunately, that Charlie was indeed out past curfew last night.