Archive for June, 2010

USA v Ghana

June 25, 2010 3 comments

I never had the urge, but after watching this US team for four years, and watching countless hours of other matches, I felt like this was the time to write a blog post. This is not a typical game preview with factoids & basic info on the teams; I try to get a little more in depth….

After reading the Zonal Marking breakdown of the Ghanaian performance v Germany, I think the USA need a tactical change for their round of 16 match on Saturday. This involves a change in formation, and a new player being introduced into the side.

Obviously, this change will probably not happen, but hey, we can all dream.

Ghana have only conceded two goals in its 3 group matches.

In the 2010 African Cup of Nations, the Black Stars conceded 3 to the Ivory Coast and 0 v Burkina Faso. Offensively, they scored on a penalty v Ivory Coast and once in open play v Burkina Faso. In the knockout stages, they also played very dull & defensive battles. Gyan scored a 15th min goal v Angola & a 21st min goal v Nigeria to propel them to the final. In the final they lost to Egypt 1-0 on an 85th min goal. The BBC said the final was not a classic, with each team playing cautiously & tight.

Ghana struggle to breakdown defensive minded sides.

In their opener v Serbia both teams played out a 0-0 snooze fest until a ridiculous hand ball penalty conceded against Serbia in the 89th min.

They played against a 10 man Aussie team for 65 min & failed to score as the game ended 1-1. Ghana equalized in the 25th min after a red card sending off of Harry Kewell after he blocked a shot on the line, with his arm.

Ghana play 3 in midfield with Anaan sitting right in front of the 2 central defenders and Boateng & Asamoah in front of him. They usually attack on the wings with Ayew & Tagoe. Gyan is the lone striker who works hard, helps out in defense & doesn’t get many chances, largely in part due to the lack of support he gets from midfield. Kingson, the keeper, had a howler in conceding Autralia’s goal, so the USA will have the goalkeeper edge.

Also, Ghana like to shoot from distance. So far in the tournament all these shots have been horrifically wide of the goal. However, one fluke long shot could make the difference.

Ghana lack a creative midfield player to unlock an organized defense with a killer pass, long shot or a moment of brilliance.

So, why do all this matter & how does it relate to the USA & the match Saturday?

Well, we should be prepared to get buckled in & get ready to watch some defensive soccer. The knockout stages usually, especially first halves, are cautious because nobody wants to give up a goal early. The best thing that could happen, for the viewer’s sake, would be an early goal (we all know the Americans are capable of conceding one of those).

Now, how should the USA attack Ghana?

First of all, it will be difficult & frustrating to watch and I could easily see this game going to extra time and possibly penalties. Both teams might be a little tired, especially after having a quick turnaround and only 2 days off from their respective last matches.

Zonal Marking & others said that Ozil for Germany was the deciding factor in their 1-0 win over the Black Stars. He dropped into midfield, behind the striker, and Anaan failed to pick him up several times, ultimately leading to the deciding goal.

So, I think the USA need to start out with 5 midfield players & only one striker, Jozy Altidore. Altidore is a prototypical lone striker. Although he did not score many goals for Hull last season in the EPL, he improved on playing physical, drawing fouls (he has drawn 5 bookings in the 3 group matches) and winning a long ball holding it up and getting it to a teammate.

Who do we play in the midfield?

I think Edu should keep his place in the side to protect the back four. I think Onyewu should & will start with Demerit, Cherundolo & Bocanegra. In front of Edu, obviously Michael Bradley will be their & plays as the rampaging midfield player we have seen so far. He thrives when he does not have as much defensive responsibility & Edu lets him sit higher up the pitch. I like the idea of keeping Landon on the right because he and Cherundolo have really worked well together on the wing. Cherundolo has made overlapping runs & has gotten in many dangerous crosses. He has also gotten wide open up space for Landon to cut inside if he wants. I would play Clint Dempsey as a narrow left sided player. He works hard and likes to cut in on his right boot & fire from long range. Occasionally, his shot will slip through the hands of a hapless keeper.

As for the Attacking midfielder to sit behind Jozy?

We all know Bob loves Benny Feilhaber. I think he has been average & unimpressive so far. We could see Beasley on the left & Dempsey in the middle or up top. But, Clint has played better out wide than up top for the Americans. Jose Torres? I like his game but I don’t think Bob will play him after a mediocre first half v Slovenia.

My choice would be Stewart Holden. He was a right sided midfielder in the MLS. But, in the EPL, with Bolton, he moved more central & thrived in this position, until Nigel De Jong broke his leg in a friendly with a ridiculous slide tackle that he should always see red for. Holden has a sweet right foot & is comfortable on the ball & can spray passes around the pitch. Also, Holden, Dempsey & Landon could swap positions throughout the 90 & really work well together.

I think that this adjustment would add a new wrinkle to the team & provide more creativity. However, with limited practice time to prepare for the match, I expect the 4-2-2-2 system to be employed by Bob again.

And hopefully, it will be good enough for the win.

Categories: US Soccer