Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Five Things To Draw From Guadeloupe

US Soccer Players writes of the five things we learned from the US 1-0 victory over Guadeloupe in the CONCACAF Gold Cup-

Play Up: The United States might have ended the first-half with one goal, but they put themselves in the position to score several more. That's a distinct difference from what we've seen, especially early. Part of that was simply not wasting opportunities before getting to the final touch. That final touch let them down on a few occasions, but getting into good positions in the first place was a step forward. That's not patronizing. Like any team that finds itself out of sync, the US had to reestablish a rhythm. They had the added indignity of having to do that in the group stage of a tournament. As we've seen from very good tournament teams that crashed out at the group stage in other Confederations and World Cup level, it isn't an easy turnaround.

Go Direct: Part of flattering the opponent is trying to make the relatively simple act of scoring too complicated. Players out wide driving in crosses isn't necessary against teams that don't have a strong spine. No offense to Guadeloupe, but nothing about their goalkeeper or the defensive positioning in front of him should've intimidated the US. Jozy Altidore's goal was from distance, but other US opportunities were in front of goal. That's exactly what the US needed to build confidence in an attack that in many ways rattled itself against Panama.

Let The Offense Do Their Work: Part of the problems the US defense has faced since that friendly against Spain is over-use. At Gold Cup level, there are only a couple of teams that should be capable of really threatening the US over 90 minutes. None of them were drawn into Group C, but more often than necessary Panama, Guadeloupe, and even Canada ended up with solid chances. The US defense was having to do too much, without the offense relieving pressure by simply keeping the ball in the other half of the field. There are very few clubs in CONCACAF that try to build from the midfield. That usually leaves enough space for a better team to relieve pressure, work a lead, and eat time.

Passing Routes: Unfortunately for the US, the last game of Group C wasn't an exclamation point as they attempt to reclaim their reputation as the team to be feared in the Gold Cup. Part of that is a problem that's been on display throughout their group stage schedule. Though the US hasn't reverted to route one soccer, they also haven't impressed with their ability to connect on passing moves. That's especially true with balls played to the wings. The passes aren't as accurate as they need to be for the tactics to work. The quick response is to change the tactics.

The Advantage: The next step for the United States is to shake off what happened in Group C. That doesn't mean dismissing or explaining away a bad result, it simply means moving on. Shaking off a result and showing a confident look next game out is by far and away the best response coming out of Group C. It also puts the near misses in the past rather than letting them tell the story of the United States in the 2011 Gold Cup. There's no need for 'might've been' moments with this version of the US National Team. They're good enough to get a game with Mexico.

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