Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Top 5 things to watch for against Jamaica

MLS is taking an extended ice bath this weekend. The USMNT is kicking off the braces and dipping into the CONCACAF pool again for a twin bill against Jamaica spanning just four days. The one piece of MLS news breaking the international picket line today is this nugget about Eiður Guðjohnsen (weird umlautty things FTW!) that's already spinning the tired tills of inequity. Back into the fray we go, gentlemen.

So as we break off from that, let's take a dive into five things I'll be watching for from the laddies on Friday.

#5. How much does it matter that we've never won there?

Clint Dempsey has already paid lip service to the fact that the US has never won on Jamaican soil during these cycles, so it's obvious this little factoid is making the rounds in the locker room. It matters, but to what extent I am unsure. The draw on Guatemalan shores that Marco Pappa secured with a late free kick raised some immediate eyebrows about late-game finishing, but let's be honest. CONCACAF away fixtures are always a mixed bag replete with lumpy pitches, weather-beaten grounds and uncommonly hostile crowds. In the best of circumstances I have no doubt the boys' depth and experience should carry the day, but when are CONCACAF away fixtures played in even moderately good circumstances? After all, they get to play in this sprawling eyesore.

#4. Transfers galore

It has been a strange transfer window for some of Klinsmann's key pieces. Dempsey waited out an agonizing transfer saga he escaped only to hear the window snap shut as his heels cleared the sill. Carlos Bocanegra (Racing) and Oguchi Onyewu (Malaga) both somehow landed on Spanish rosters, and Onyewu startlingly beat Dempsey to the Champions League in the process. Geoff Cameron secured his inevitable move to England when Stoke swooped in for his services, and Mo Edu joined him on Trentside shortly thereafter. And need I even mention the most impressive move of them all (for this Roma fan anyway), Michael Bradley falling into Zdenek Zeman's 4-3-3 project at Roma over the summer. All of these moves (and a few smaller ones, like Terrence Boyd's transfer to Rapid Vienna) will play on Klinsmann's mind as he makes decisions this weekend. Injuries to Bradley and Landon Donovan will shift the formation, which means a likely out-of-form Dempsey will have a role to play. Where the rest of these freshly moved pieces fall into place will be interesting to see.

#3. The defense

The back line shift turned into an experiment gone right at the Azteca, but what kind of future does it have? Cameron, we'll all agree (I hope), is our central defender of the future, but what of Edu? After Boca's uncertain summer spent in the wilds of the Scottish fourth division, who knows if he's up for a full 90, and Edu at least has a 90 to remember at Azteca in his pocket. And that's not even getting into the matter of Edu-as-defender vs. Edu-as-midfielder, an argument that's spawned any number of vigorous debates. With this many in-form holding midfielders on the roster, I have my doubts that Edu is all that useful to Klinsmann in that spot when weighed against his utility in central defense — until he proves otherwise. My guess is Fabian Johnson will almost assuredly start on the left with Dolo getting the call on the right with Cameron anchoring the middle. That second center back place will depend on Boca's condition. If it's not there, I tremble at the possibility of Clarence Goodson's awkward, gawking Big Bird legs tripping over themselves as Dane Richards thunders down upon him. And he's miserable aerially. But it's an outcome that would not surprise.

#2. Damn you, Jose Torres

I don't feel an iota of guilt for claiming after the Mexico friendly in August that I'd given up on Torres. When he was subbed out at halftime at the Saprissa following a truly horrid showing in 2009 WC qualis, I defended him. When he disappeared (pick you game), I defended him. But I reached my breaking point against Mexico when, in a much-needed advanced playmaker role, he abandoned the pitch and went out for a smoke and a pancake somewhere around the 5th minute. I will no longer support the idea that Torres is our advanced playmaker of the future or that he has any future there at all. But a glimpse at the roster for Jamaica reveals a troubling lack of forward-thinking mids, which wasn't helped by a hamstring injury to Josh Gatt that ruled him out. Beckerman, Jones and Williams are all defensive mids without an ounce of flair in their marrow. Shea almost has to be a super sub at this point, Zusi is a big glob of meh outside of his free kicks and Joe Corona is a project that's far, far away from being complete. That leaves... Torres. Hope for the best, prep for the worst. Dempsey could drop back, but with his fitness likely being what it is I doubt Klinsmann will be keen to move him from the front line.

#1. Excitement/wonky TV contracts

This is the part where I get to be lame. It's World Cup qualifying, gents. Alas, I don't get BeIn Sport Channel or whatever it's called, and I have to work late Friday night anyway, so I'll have to rely on spotty replays from bootlegged broadcasts. But then again, shaky, pixelated broadcasts that look like they've been shot in an exploding access tunnel cut right to the heart of CONCACAF, don't they?

- Will Parchman


TrueCrew said...

Your first point is factually wrong. We've won @Jamaica before, just never in WCQ. We've won at National Stadium before as well. So I don't know what you could be talking about.

Unless you need remedial English classes (common among what passes for journalism these days), never means never. There is no qualifier there.

This is not an Azteca/Mexico type situation. Where we'd NEVER (again, you keep using that word...) won. We have won in Jamaica. We've won in National Stadium.

3-0 in 1994 in Kingston, and 2-1 in 2003, also in Kingston.

Lampard in the End Zone said...

"Clint Dempsey has already paid lip service to the fact that the US has never won on Jamaican soil during these cycles"

Cycles would refer to qualifying cycles. Nevertheless, that is a lot of venom for one point, no?

sean said...

He said never during cycles. Relax man.

Unknown said...

Good lord what a poopy Stadium that is.

My attamept/stab at a starting 11. But with Klinsmann you never know he may just throw another curve ball at the fans for this game.


Subs: Guzan, Boca, Parkhurst, Corona, Torres, Shea, Boyd

Note 1- At this time could you blame Klinsmann for sticking with Edu and Cameron. Both are faster than Boca which will be needed against Jamaica.

Note 2- I see Shea coming on at Halftime with the score at 0-0. I will predict Shea comes on and sparks life into the offense, and provides two Assists to Dempsey and then to Altidore. Boyd comes on at the 80th minute to mop up for Altidore, and Torres comes on for Jones in the 80th minute becaue we all know Jones is always hard pressed to finish a full 90 with the USMNT.

Unknown said...

Get Direct TV Greg and thank me later.No more wonky worries and it sure beats buying Pay-per-view qualifiers!!

Will Parchman said...

I wouldn't be surprised to see a 4-3-3. Maybe Klins gets itchy and starts Shea on the left and sticks in Dempsey on the right up top with Altidore in the middle. But with the dearth of holding mids I doubt it's the case. Doesn't make a ton of sense. 4-2-3-1 is the more sensible option, as it has been for much of his tenure.

dikranovich said...

well a 4-3-3 is really a 4-5-1 anyway, at least on defense. this is a game on the road that usa needs its captain carlos. that is just to much experience to leave on the bench.

Greg Seltzer said...

I had DirecTV when I lived in the States, obviously it's not available to me now. But I always have ways of seeing the game, whether I go out to a satellite bar or have a friend set me up a webcam view (thank heaven for Guatemalan girls). And every so often, it's actually easier for me to see the game than it is for the people back home.

And Anthony... you cannot seriously be considering benching Bocanegra in favor of Edu at left CB for this game. Before long, the whole defensive line will be made of midfielders and we'll all bemoan the lack of depth at center back. And we will be losing.

Phil McCracken said...

For anyone who has BeIN Sport (and I do), their product is great. The picture looks awesome and it seems like they're not afraid to spend some cash on production costs (Yes, I'm looking at you, Fox).

andrés said...

@TrueCrew, what the hell man...let's do some deep breathing exercises together.

Unknown said...

Greg- I will point out that we didn't lose against Mexico. I still think it will be Boca starting, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Edu starting.

And really there is not much difference between playing CDM versus CB. Klinsmann obvioulsy see's both Cameron and Edu as CB's. And I think we should get used to that. To say we will be losing if EDU and Cameron play CB's is a little shortsighted.

Nawsk said...

It would be interesting to see both Jozy and Boyd playing up top together. Two guys, whom are in good form, could be explosive. Not that I think it happens, but I'd love to see two bruisers play off each other.

Greg Seltzer said...

"Greg- I will point out that we didn't lose against Mexico."

A friendly, not the same thing.

"And really there is not much difference between playing CDM versus CB."

Oh, yes, there is.

"Klinsmann obvioulsy see's both Cameron and Edu as CB's. And I think we should get used to that."

He has played Edu there once in a friendly, why should we get used to it? And if he sees Edu as a CB, he sees something no one sees, because there is no evidence of it to date.

I really, really, really do not understand this widespread desire to move players all over the formation.

"To say we will be losing if EDU and Cameron play CB's is a little shortsighted."

I didn't mean losing against Jamaica necessarily. I meant if we start using non-defenders to fill our backline, it is going to backfire big.

DrewVT6 said...

I'm not sure how you call Jones lacking in attacking/creativity. The problem for him is he's usually required to sit so deep. His ability to find the seams with splitting balls over 30-40 yards sets attackers free running at defenders quite often. That's besides his athletic ability where he gets forward faster than almost everyone on the US team. I think I've only seen Donovan turn the afterburners to a higher speed.

Will Parchman said...

I've seen a continual deterioration in Jones' long balls/cross-field switches. They're gradually getting more speculative and less precise. Go watch his first couple games as a Nat, and then watch his last few. His touch has lessened.

That said, yes, I agree, he's more aesthetically inclined than either Beckerman or Williams. But he tried playing an advanced playmaker role when Torres went off in the Mexico game and it just wasn't happening at all.

dikranovich said...

im sorry will, but didnt the usa score in the mexico game when jermaine jones moved into an "advanced playmaker role"?

Greg Seltzer said...

There is a big difference between having enough skill to be able to pick your spot for exploiting a situation while creeping forward from deep and having the primary task of breaking down the defense as playmaker.

No one, Jones included, should imagine he plays with #10 skills and mindset.

dikranovich said...

i hate these freaking numbers and the whole correlation thing. so dempsey he really plays with a 9 mindset, right? just because dempsey makes an occasional tricky pass does not mean he is a 10, or are we talking the euro definition of a 10, or the south american definition? whose a better 10, beckerman or jones, i mean, if you had to choose between the two, who would it be?

Greg Seltzer said...

"i hate these freaking numbers and the whole correlation thing. so dempsey he really plays with a 9 mindset, right?"

Dempsey absolutely in no way plays like a #9, as he told Grant Wahl. He likes make the quick turn and run at the area.

"just because dempsey makes an occasional tricky pass does not mean he is a 10, or are we talking the euro definition of a 10, or the south american definition?"

Forget nationalities and definitions and think of the system. In this system, the #10 can be any of a number of types of player. He can be a Totti, an Aimar, a Sneijder, a Diego Costa, a Hernanes. Look at Ajax now, Siem de Jong plays like none of the prototypical #10 models. Offensively, you want him to be able to show well for the ball, make quick turns, crash the area, run combos with the #9 striker, spray to the wings and fire some long shots. Dempsey does all of those things expertly.

The #10 doesn't necessarily need to be the greatest lock picker, he doesn't necessarily need to be fancy, he doesn't necessarily need to dribble for hours. He doesn't need to fit any specific type other than the one required by his particular team.

"whose a better 10, beckerman or jones, i mean, if you had to choose between the two, who would it be?"

Neither of them should be anywhere near the #10 position, because they hold much, much more value elsewhere. I might sooner field myself at the #10. I've said it a million times, I believe strongly that most everyone should only play in their optimum position, barring an urgent situation or a player that capably plays more than one spot as if it's his home.

In my firm opinion, Jones is an ideal #8, whereas Beckerman is a #6 who can probably step in at #8 against CONCACAF foes. He's a bit of a tweener.

dikranovich said...

thats a fair analysis greg. i guess we are presuming that deuce is going to start tonight, which he probably should, because we will need him.

my feeling is that jamaica is going to come into this game with confidence and controlling the center of the park is going to be the key, along with solid defense, as is almost always the case.

jam rock certainly dont have a #10 who will be spraying the ball all over the field. id like to think the usa will really be looking to send a message tonight. it really is needed, especially since most fans might not even get to see the game

Greg Seltzer said...

I don't know about others, but I am not assuming he starts.

I'd expect Jamaica to come at us wide a good bit, with lots of crosses and over-the-top balls to deal with.

dikranovich said...

well, mother, brother, or any other sucker, clint dempsey better start tonight. this is the most important game to date for the usa.

control the center of the field, dont make any stupid mistakes, let jamaica buzz up and down the flanks. id like to see a good team defensive effort tonight. teamwork should be the buzz word for this game, probably as with all games.

Greg Seltzer said...

Okay... quoting lines from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is always going to win you brownie points.

Phil McCracken said...


In my mind, an #8 is a box-to-box central midfielder while a #6 is a pure holding mid.

Am I wrong in that assessment? Just want to make sure that I'm thinking about it the same way that you're explaining it. Thanks.

Greg Seltzer said...

You have it sussed, sir.

dikranovich said...

phil, dont be confused though, because junior is a 4 for his club team and deuce is a 2 for his, although neither is a defender, even though junior probably will be by 2018

Phil McCracken said...

Dikranovich - Wow, I thought you had a sharper wit than that.

dikranovich said...

phil, you are right, lets forget about the wit and just concentrate on the win. 4 nil USA two from jozy, one from deuce, and one from JJ.

Unknown said...

delusional....i was too