Below is an article by J Hutcherson from the USSoccerPlayers Newsletter, who writes about Bob Bradley's experimenting with the US lineup.
Credit Bob Bradley with ending an experiment that was never likely to work in CONCACAF, but wonder aloud with me over the long-term value of holding onto a few ideas that need not be etched in stone. The most obvious is the insistence on a defensive midfielder against any and all opponents, but it goes past that.
Bradley is also propping up an old National Team idea, that it's perfectly acceptable to play someone out of position and then judge accordingly. That dovetails the defensive mid issue with Michael Bradley, a gifted attacking player who has shown that in two European leagues. There's also DaMarcus Beasley, who had at least one major outlet use the word "regressed" in describing his game... at left back.
Saturday gave us new-look wingers as Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey continue to move around the starting eleven. Just like the US Soccer Federation's official player pool didn't have Conor Casey listed at all when he took the field on Saturday (still doesn't as of this morning, when he's part of the squad heading to South Africa) they're also not clear on where Donovan and Dempsey actually play. One is listed as a forward, the other as a midfielder, and both have turned into the easy alteration in Bradley's starting eleven.
Even players that have shown they can perform where needed can use some stability in assignments. It's different getting forward from the wing than it is from central midfield, much less upfront.
In broad terms, that's the lesson from Saturday night. Playing actual defenders in their positions worked for the United States. Even then, there's a left back playing in central defense, but we'll assume most US fans don't catch a lot of Rennes games.
Bradley had Jonathan Spector on the left Saturday night, and he should have confirmed he belonged even for those that can't wrap their mind around the idea that a regular at Premier League level should be able to do the job for the National Team. Spector is also capable of playing all over the back, including defensive midfield. You would think he would be the kind of player that would fit right into the Bradley era and his unique version of squad rotation.
Where does this leave the United States as they setup shop in South Africa? As usual, in flux. That could actually work to their advantage, because it's got to be tough to scout a team that has shown so many different looks.
Consider what happened to Honduras. A goal up, they opted to see if the US would punch themselves out with possession while Honduras waited for space on the counter. Had they substituted an ineffective forward earlier, that might have worked. They also underestimated Jonathan Spector, a player who they probably didn't expect to see.
In fairness to Bob Bradley, he's got a wide player pool that isn't very deep past the obvious. In fairness to the obvious, there's been too much tinkering.
There's a US lineup that competes well at the highest levels. We've seen glimpses. Now there's a week with enough of the best available American players before taking the big stage to prove it.