Monday, March 28, 2011

Gardner might have lost the plot in US - Argentina analysis

I was a little shocked in Paul Gardner's post-match analysis of the friendly between the United States and Argentina. Not because he bashed Bob Bradley and the US team, but because of how much he was off the plot in his analysis.

Gardner's points:

* Frustration in the US relying in their goalkeeper against the top world powers - my guess is that any team up against the likes of Messi and Di Maria would need to have solid goalkeeping to get a result. Just ask Arsenal in the Champions League in dealing with the brilliance of Barcelona. Tim Howard had an outstanding match for the US, and needed to be up to the task against the attacking arsenal of Argentina. That is less a knock on the US, and more a commentary of how dangerous Messi and Di Maria were. Both created numerous scoring chances, with Howard snuffing out most of them.

* "Bradley has now had more than six months in charge in his second spell. That’s ample time to show evidence of a new approach, something fresh, some new and different players, at least an attempt to change the pattern of his college-game thinking." - I think the alignment that the US played- implementing a 4-2-3-1 from his traditional 4-4-2 - was an attempt at a new approach. That same system is utilized by most of the top teams in the world, and was very different from how the team had played in the past summer's World Cup.

* "Of course, Bradley denied that. In his well-orchestrated, coach-friendly post-game press conference, he said it wasn’t the USA’s intention to play defensively in the first half, but that Argentina had found its rhythm so quickly that the USA had been forced into a defensive mode." - Argentina had certainly pushed the US team back into their own third of the field quite a bit during the first half, dictating the tempo of the match as well as to what third of the field the game would be played in. Soccer is a game of field position, and sometimes one team can push another back into their own half of the field - again, Barcelona was able to do that to Arsenal in both Champions League matches, dictating where the game was played and who was in possession.

* "Oh, really. A team that takes the field with one guy up front, that abjectly retreats into its own half en masse whenever the opponents get the ball, that is so obviously looking for the quick counter, right from the start ... a team with the evident intention of getting through to halftime with a 0-0 scoreline -- this is not a team with a defensive mindset?" - Regardless as to whether you saw it as a lone central striker or as Altidore playing with two wingers flanking him, it would be hard to say that an alignment that has both Donovan and Dempsey deployed would be a team 'with one guy up front'. Donovan and Dempsey's jobs were clearly to join up with Altidore, and if they weren't pushed back so far at times, probably would have found more opportunities to do so. Saying that, Dempsey did have two shots in the first half - which wouldn't sound like a team in a 'defensive mindset'.

I thought Bradley made some great moves, including switching back to a more attacking-oriented 4-4-2 at halftime and the inclusion of Juan Agudelo and Timothy Chandler. Each of those moves - both in the alignment and in the substitutions - appeared to be added boosts to the game. The US did claw a goal back and make the match fairly even in the second half.

As for added youth to the team, the second half featured 5 players under the age of 25: Chandler, Bradley, Edu, Agudelo and Altidore. Maybe Altidore, Edu and Bradley are holdovers from the previous World Cup, but they were all very young players there who have now gained solid experience. Coach Bradley has added some youth to his nucleus, and is attempting to do so at a pace that will allow those players to acclimate themselves to the nucleus.

Gardner can slag off Bob Bradley all he wants, but for me, BRADLEY was the man of the match for me!

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