|USA-Canada: As exciting as this picture suggests.|
“@WillParchman: I missed #USMNT live in a 5-1 win and a 4-1 loss. Odds on the first one I see this week being a lifeless 0-0 draw? 80-90%, probs.”
A great public show has been made this week over Jurgen's comments about nastiness and grit and bare knuckles coated in broken glass and whatever else those tropes entail, so I think it only appropriate to start there. In the pregame, Kyle Martino asked Clint Dempsey what it meant to the guys, Klinsmann's recent comments regarding gamesmanship. His answer was laced with sporting cliches and hems and haws, saying something without saying much like so many professional athletes have done since time immemorial. It was clear that Dempsey didn't have much clue as to what Klinsmann wanted exactly (I don't necessarily think "getting stuck in" as a rule has much to do with it), and I can only speculate that his teammates either aren't sure either or are disenfranchised enough with the idea that they don't outwardly acknowledge it. Being told that the way you play, that the way you were raised to play, isn't quite the winning model isn't necessarily going to be met by a locker room enthused minds.
The lead shining example put forth has been Jermaine Jones, who fittingly picked up a yellow on Sunday. The illustrative point that I think gets at Klinsmann's point better than anything, something Greg alluded to yesterday, was the foul Jones drew on Andre Hainault that drew yellow on a flight down the right flank in Canada's third in the second half. Jones made a move outside and cut free of Hainault, who in response extended a hand and sashayed his hips outward. Down went Jones. It's not that Jones shouldn't have gone to ground. He merely made it easy for the ref to choose. Watching the replay, Jones maybe could have made provisions to fall with more difficulty, but he was going down anyway. Better to make sure the ref sees it than cling to some shadow notion of chivalry that does not exist. That we are Americans and we only go down by hammers and chisels or whatever. Whether the ref pulls a card or not isn't up to Jones, but it was clear by the conviction with which Jones fell that he knew what to do all along. As the player most versed in the European model of the game, this isn't surprising. Some may disagree, and that's okay, but I think Jones represents the vanguard attitude here.
As for the good, not much to speak of. I've heard it said that Clarence Goodson was the only player who personally raised his stock on Sunday, and I think it's about right. And you know that's saying something when I come out with it, because I'm not a huge Goodson guy. The most mentioned name Sunday was left back Edgar Castillo, who came on just before the opening whistle when Fabian Johnson became a late scratch through injury. Castillo did what he does, whipping up dirt in the opponent's third and generally looking suspect in defense. His unbelievably stupid back pass in traffic led to a Canadian goal that was graciously wiped off by a shin tap that the side linesman couldn't explain later to a miffed DeRo. Castillo has fast feet and gets snow blind in defense. Hot news, no? Other than that, a nibble of info that wasn't unknown, we learned little.
The defensive structure was intriguing, not because of how it was laid out but because of how it settled once the boys got comfy. Both Castillo and Dolo lived on the other side of the halfway line while Goodson and Boca spread out a little wider in central defense to compensate. Bradley and Jones alternated turns playing almost a true sweeper role in front while the other went box to box.
I brought up something to this effect on a recent Central Winger article on MLSsoccer.com. I'll reproduce here my response to Devin Pleuler's well constructed article, which you can find here. Pleuler's thesis was that Bradley was being employed in a certain fashion by Klinsmann that was contrary to ways we'd previously seen the midfielder. My response presents a different idea.
I'm fascinated by studies like these, but I'm constantly left wondering how much of this has actually been scripted by Klinsmann himself and how much is a product of free will exercised within a loose construct. It is indeed interesting that Bradley tends to slip out wide. It also tends to benefit the side. But can it be assumed that this is a rigid design of Klinsmann's scheme? Or rather has the freedom given to Bradley, who was hinged into place in his father's empty bucket, finally released him to play in areas in which he is more comfortable?
One of the things I've always gathered is that Klinsmann has a plan, but he's not willing to tamp it down the throat if the player can take the basic framework of the ideal and make it his own. Indeed, I see that to be one of the very enticing things about the guy. He eliminates the robot. This all may be moot conjecture or a chicken-egg scenario as it were, since Klinsmann's laissez-faire tactics may have brought this about in the first place. But if that's the case, I think Bradley needs to receive more plaudits than Klinsmann.
The reason why I believe Bradley has been given the freedom to do things like this, to read and react as it goes, is based on Klinsmann's comments on Dempsey after halftime. Martino adroitly asked whether Dempsey's propensity to drift deep like the snows of Kilimanjaro had anything to do with Klinsmann's design. He swatted the idea down fairly quickly, passing off the tactic onto Dempsey's lack of recent games and his desire to get injected into the flow. He also wasn't entirely displeased. It also didn't seem like he'd made any great speech to the Nacogdoches Ninja at halftime. This confirmed to me that Klinsmann isn't into tinkering. I can reinforce that idea through Bradley's actions, which are telling. Once Edu came on, Bradley was released to go forward not as much because Klinsmann told Bradley to go forward (this may have happened, though I very much doubt it), but because Bradley knew what gaining a holding player like Edu meant. I applaud Bradley in these situations because he is much more adept at reading the game than most give him credit for. The guy is a read-and-adapt player of the highest order. Nobody on this team is more versatile and more consistent.
Lastly, Arlo White's favorite word: Live wire. And Martino seems to think Donovan and Dempsey are akin to D-Wade and LeBron. Okay? Okay.