The Back 4: USA v. Brazil

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Here is what you need to watch for in the Brazil v. USA matchup on Sunday:

  1. First and foremost, Brazil’s lineup will tell a tale – does Dani Alves start at right back, or does Dunga use Maicon? If he plays both (which is highly possible), does Alves play on the left or right?
    If Alves sets up on the right-hand side, Charlie Davies is going to have a lot of room to work with. Alves loves to play high up the field, often sacrificing defense for the sake of attempts on goal. Much like Davies’ speed exploited Sergio Ramos, the US will have to use his speed to exploit Dani Alves.
    Given that Dunga is quite aware of Donovan’s speed, I tend to think he’ll use Maicon on the right (and Alves on the left). While Maicon is a fine attacking player, he’s less prone to “floating” around the formation like Alves is. Being that Clint Dempsey has been less of a threat on the right than the rest of the USA front four, Alves’ defensive lapses could be hidden much easier on the left. Andre Santos or Kleber could both get the start on the left side of defense for Brazil in place of Alves, but I have a feeling Dunga will get his best players on the field from the start in this game.
  2. Once again, the work rate of Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey will be a key component, either to an American success or its failure. Against Spain, Donovan and Dempsey kept their formation like world class wings, clinging to the touchlines on offense and shadowing the Spanish wings on defense. They ran themselves into the ground with the amount of tracking back that they did.
    Unfortunately, Brazil doesn’t offer any traditional “wings” for Landon and Deuce to track. This could prove a problem if both players start to drift further and further into the middle of the field, as the lack of a true wing threat (aside from the attacking fullbacks) could make them lose their discipline. While Dempsey seems to be a natural wing at times – he loves to attack players at and from the touchline – Landon is far from natural on the outside. Having no wing to defend against might give Donovan too much freedom to move to his more natural inside position through the run of play.
    Regardless, Donovan and Dempsey are going to have to track back on guys like Ramires, Elano, Kaka, and Robinho.
  3. Jay DeMerit. Simply put, the veteran center-half had a massive game against Spain. He shadowed David Villa as well as any player has in the past 12 months, not allowing the striker any time on the ball whatsoever. Once again, DeMerit will be up against a similar striker – Luis Fabiano. Fabiano is not quite the lethal marksman that Villa is, but he’s much less likely to be pushed around as easily as Villa was. A quality performance from DeMerit could mean a shutout for the Americans.
  4. Benny Feilhaber and Rico Clark. With Michael Bradley out for this game, Rico Clark is going to have to step up. He received some praise for his play against Spain, but it’s hard to argue that it wasn’t Michael Bradley th made that midfield look so strong. Fortunately for Rico, the combination of Gilberto Silva and Felipe Melo isn’t the quickest by any stretch. In fact, Clark’s game is strikingly similar to that of Silva.
    Feilhaber, however, has a chance to make his presence the dominant one in this game. Whatever he lacks in defense (compared to his compatriot Bradley), he makes up for with great vision, passing range, and on-ball skills. He’s the one American with Brazilian flair (he should be, he grew up there), and also the American with the biggest chance to be a game-changing player. He is a quicker player than Melo and Silva, which will hopefully allow him to get into space and hit diagonal balls in behind the Brazilian wingbacks.
    If the Americans are to make a run at the Samba kings, Feilhaber must play well.

I’ll be back with some lineup predictions and more later this evening.

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2 Responses

  1. Some other points:

    1. Defensive shape: Given Brazil’s style of play, collapsing the midfield as they did against Spain (I realize that was a intentional game plan) could be a very fatal mistake as Brazil does have legit targets on crosses. Brazil may not have the same technical wow factor in the mid as Spain does; however, they really are equally threatening both inside and along the flanks – whereas you can let Spain cross without too much worry.

    2. First 30 minutes: I really feel the USA immediately altered the state of the game and their opponent in Spain by being aggressive early. We all saw what happened vs. Brazil when we sat back and allowed them to attack us. Brazil has some defensive flaws that can be exploited and those should be something we go for immediately.

    3. No playing to score the first goal: The USA cannot build their game plan around scoring the first goal and bunkering back into a more defensive stance. With a team as lethal as Brazil, you cannot guarantee the USA will score first, let alone be able to maintain that lead for the remainder of the game.

    BB’s plan worked well against Spain but I fear giving Brazil that much possession (as they did to Spain) could really cost the US. Additionally, I think it’s just not a habit the USA should develop. Our players have the ability to play complete soccer for 90 minutes. The “score and then pray” method isn’t a legit approach.

    Final thought: I know the USA has played better since their 0-3 thumping at the hands of Brazil but Brazil is an opponent that scares me more than Spain relative to the US MNT. They match us in size, they can run well, they counter beautifully, and they can punish poor decisions quickly.

    The USA needs to stay on their feet (giving up free kicks in our defensive end proved costly in the first game) and actually attack Brazil’s weaknesses early – it took Spector and Donovan nearly 80 minutes before they started exploiting Brazil’s weak left side. Additionally, if we’re going to choose to counter as our main method of offense, we MUST play fundamental, pass-to-feet combination soccer and none of this long ball crap.

  2. Can we get CSC a gig with the USMNT? He (or she) pretty much nailed the weaknesses of using the push-the-ball-wide strategy against the Brazilians.

    (Funnily enough, I vividly remember Harkes (or was it Wynalda?) a couple of years back during a US-Brazil friendly mentioning how Brazil lulls opponents into giving up the flanks, where they’d prefer to attack from anyhow, but no mention of it this time around.)

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