Tuesday, November 19, 2013

We 3 Things: USA-Austria

The United States lost a game it largely controlled to close out the calendar year, falling 1-0 in Vienna Tuesday night.

Neither defense showered itself in glory, but the U.S. gave Austria more under less pressure and paid for it in the 33rd minute when Marc Janko roofed home a György Garics cross. 

Jurgen Klinsmann's side improved in the second half, but Jozy Altidore took a touch or two too many in the 74th minute on the team's best chance and the Austrians comfortably absorbed all further pressure.

Here's what we learned:

1. Brooks not ready to start World Cup yet
Most 20-year-old defenders aren't, but the U.S. may need him to.

John Anthony Brooks whiffed on the game's deciding play, misreading a skipping but otherwise routine cross six yards from Tim Howard's net. Janko dealt with the opportunity like any international should, and the U.S. lost.

Mistakes like that can't happen in a World Cup. Most every team in Brazil will field at least one striker as good or better than Janko and there will be plenty who are more dynamic. But Brooks struggled mightily with Austria's straightforward attack.

Though he got better in the second half and distributed very well, his retreating kept Austria onside far too often. For a U.S. team that will need to keep a high line and the midfield pressure that comes with it to contend against the best teams in the world, Brooks' hesitance to step is a fatal flaw.

He's still probably the No. 4 center back. That says a lot more about the depth of the American center back pool than it does about Brooks' readiness to start on the world's stage.

2. Bradley better without Jones
Maybe you already knew this, but Jermaine Jones was just as much of a shackle on Michael Bradley's ability to influence the game as he was on any Austrian players.

The 67th-minute switch to a 4-4-2 opened up the U.S. attack, and yes, Austria was retreating in the game's final stanzas. Still, it's no coincidence that when the eager Jones left the game, Bradley's grip on the match tightened. Seemingly every other touch fell to the Roma midfielder's foot.

At that point, the game belonged to the U.S. and Bradley was delivering it. 

Jones took too much of the deep playmaking role in his hour-plus on the field. He wasn't bad at it, playing some teasing diagonals and cycling play through midfield. But Bradley was better. His long-range passes picked out men in space. Jones' found them back-to-goal or out of bounds.

And whether it's a more anchored defensive midfielder next to Bradley or a silkier operator like Mix Diskerud or Sacha Kljestan, the American midfield runs better without Jones.

Note: Bradley wasn't even fully on form, becoming overly reliant on the chipped ball in the late stages.

The U.S. will play at least one game next summer where it will need to dictate play -- better to have Bradley doing so as Jones has yet to show he can get out the General's way.

3. Geoff Cameron, actual right back
Though overly hesitant in the first half -- limiting Alejandro Bedoya's effectiveness -- Cameron fully filled the right back role. He kept his flank more or less on lockdown and pinned Austria back with his possession on the right flank as well as the odd overlap.

Hardly perfect, Marko Arnutovic twice caught him leaning forward, but Cameron always recovered, decisively winning the battle with his Stoke City teammate. The mistakes he made were ones for which Steve Cherundolo would gladly be forgiven.

Cameron's inside-out lefty cross to Altidore in the 74th minute gave the U.S. its best chance and capped a complete performance before he gave way to Eric Lichaj seven minutes later.

The threats he presented going forward brought home the confidence and physical versatility that will have to carry this team next summer.

- Jacob Klinger


mark said...

Two questions. If we are better without Jones and playing a 442 does Klinsmann change?

Jacob Klinger said...

Only one man can really answer that question, but I think we're much more likely to see a 4-4-2 with Jones than any formation without him.

mark said...

Agreed. Its just really interesting to see the spark the team plays with when 2 strikers are on the field. The US will live or die with Jones and Bradley on the field.

Jacob Klinger said...

I hope not. Part of the 4-4-2's success today was situational, but there is some pattern to it.

I know it drives people like myself crazy because the team just starts playing the way it should in any formation - stretches the field, mixes up the range of passes, interchanges in and out of the middle - in the 4-4-2.

It's not that it's some magical nuance. And in fact, I think the team is more defensively stable in a 4-2-3-1 - makes sense - but the gears begin to click when the team goes to a '2.'

Now you've got me going ... that's not to say it's without tactical cause of course. The second striker pushes the defense back, giving midfielders extra time on the ball. That in turn gives the wings and fullbacks more time to develop their runs and suddenly the U.S. is spoiled for passing choice.

I do think a different CM combo at the base of the 4-2-3-1 can, and has, yielded similar, defensively sounder results, but here we are.

Joosey said...

I don't think it's fair to say that Jones holds Bradley back. It's what each is being asked to do and the formation that is being played.

I agree that Bradley plays better farther up the field and Jones is better covering the back four. It's hard to understand why this is not at least given a shot. I also think using a 442 from the start should at least be given a try.

Jacob Klinger said...

The reason I say Jones is holding Bradley back and stopped qualifying it the way you just did is that every time Jones takes the field next to Bradley it plays out like this in some way. When it should be the opposite close to always.

Jones' deployment like that is a constant of his time with the national team under Klinsmann. We don't know him any other way. So in that sense, from the only sample size I have of Bradley and Jones playing together, Jones is holding Bradley back.

I hear you, and I've qualified that judgment in the past. That's just why I didn't this time.

chalaron said...

My favorite part about this post is about Jones. I think Jones is a good player but he and Bradley just don't play well together. They've played plenty of matches together and they have rarely ever looked in sync. He just seems to always try and do too much and he's just not good enough to play the way he tries to play. I think either Cameron or Diskerud partnering with MB gives the US a better chance than Jones. If Jones could play the stay at home DM that would be one thing but he's never played that way in a US shirt (whether by design of the coaches or unwillingness of the player I can't say)and it seems to hurt MBs game. This been a recurring problem that leads to times when both our CMs are caught too far upfield and the gulf between them and the CBs leads to too many chances from the opponent. The funny thing is that even when MB is paired with Mix or Sascha who are both more offensive than Jones, the defensive lapses don't seem to happen as much. Jones will be in Brazil, but I hope he's not a starter personally.

mark said...

Its been a hard case to solve going back to prepping for the last cup. We aee deeper in CM's then any position so it makes sense to play with more in the midfield but their has been something of spark offensivley when we play with a second striker. I just hope that Klinsmann can be willing to try a diffrent combo in the center before the cup.

The other big thing to think about is it will depend on on opposition and we have yet to see an inform Dempsey Altidore Donovan Bradley Jones and Fabian and on the field together.

Kirk Diggler said...

Yes on number 2, 25 hours a day, 8 days a week, 53 weeks a year. Jones makes our best midfielder rather avg at times and I don't want that. I prefer Kljestan to Jones at this point even though Sacha is merely okay.

Big time yes on No 3. The RB spot should be Cameron's, although I'm still incredibly intrigued by Cameron playing next to Bradley and doing the things that Jones refuses to do. Cameron looked class, easy to see why, all those games in the Barclay's add up.

Lichaj could also beat out Evans for RB, wish we had seen more of him but at least he finally got that call up.