UPDATE: Bob Bradley has really made some significant changes for this game. Edu starts instead of Clark. Gomez get’s the nod of upfront. Bocanegra moves to the middle, Cherundolo to the left, and Bornstein comes in at Right Back. His mindset seems to be, “I know if we lose it probably means my job, if this all backfires then so what anyway.”
Maybe not that extreme but he is putting a lot of faith in Bornstein along the back. Please god keep his defending instincts calm and collected today.
Less than 24 hours remain until the Americans decide their World Cup fate against the Algerians.
To state the obvious, the US is focused on avoiding one of those early goals which have plagued them since qualification. The trend has been especially disconcerting against teams to which they consider themselves superior; Honduras, El Salvador, Slovenia.
Players have said plenty about respecting Algeria but I think this team thinks things will be easy against teams ranked lower than them. An absurd mindset, these teams might be ranked lower but they have gone to South Africa with a belief that they can win and a cockiness that comes from being professionals. They fear few teams, definitely not including the US. When the US starts slowly and thinks that by just playing 90 minutes they will be rewarded with a victory, they leave themselves wide open for one of those awesome kicks to the teeth. Of course, then they get in gear, start to play with more abandon, and hit their potential.
The positive going into this game vs Algeria is that their back is already against the wall and this is when the often play best. My hope is that they will channel that 2nd half from the Slovenia game into a full 90 minute performance. Of course they must maintain discipline at the same time and not get caught up in frantic, unorganized play..
Algeria will provide a quality test. They surely feel as if they could very well be on 2+ points right now, with a serious shot at advancing. As it stands, a win tomorrow could still see them advance if things fall in their favor and they score enough. Even though it’s a long shot, they will come to play and have shown in the previous two matches that they are a team which can’t be overlooked.
Moving on to what we can expect from the US…
Robbie Findley must sit out tomorrow’s game after receiving his 2nd yellow card last week. None of the replacements (Dempsey, Gomez, Buddle) bring the same kind of speed that Findlay offers but all are legitimate options to start up front.
Clint Dempsey has shown an attraction to goal throughout his career, regardless of club or country or position. Bob Bradley has moved him upfront before when the team is in need of goals, but I think he is more comfortable with his alternate striker options than his alternate wide midfield options.
Herculez Gomez has shown a preternatural ability to score when inserted into the game. Twice since his callup to this team he has come on as a substitute and scored. Last Friday his sheer appearance in the game allowed the space for Bradley Jr. to tie the game. Put simply, the man is involved in goals. His finishing ability is among the best on this team and he is probably the most complimentary to Altidore.
Edson Buddle is the third option for Bob Bradley and would form a very tall, physical strike force alongside Jozy Altidore. He has been finishing effectively this season and two forwards of that size and strength would make things very difficult on the Algerian defense which is not as physical as the Slovenians.
I think Bradley will go with Buddle to start but if the US finds a goal hard to come by, Gomez will be introduced somewhere around minute 60.
There is some news now that Altidore missed training today because he was sick, he is expected to play though.
The main question mark still seems to be who will partner with Michael Bradley. I think Ricardo Clark will get the start as he is the most defensively sound and has been BB’s preference. He provides excellent cover for his partner’s forward runs.
If the US is finding goals difficult to come by, you could see Maurice Edu get a late entrance. He has shown the ability to pop up and score very important goals at the club level and was oh so close to replicating for his country.
Benny Feilhaber or Stuart Holden would probably get the start on the flank opposite Donovan if Dempsey were to start as a withdrawn striker. Holden offers some more pace and width but Feilhaber brings a level of experience which is probably more valuable. I love Holden but inserting him into a game like this is asking a lot.
Jose Torres probably missed his chance with his uncharacteristically sloppy performance vs Slovenia. He is young though and should at least be able to learn from this.
There have been some calls for Oguchi Onyewu to be replaced. I see where people are coming from as he has been at least somewhat involved in all 3 conceded goals so far.
The first option for Bradley would be to straight swap him for Clarence Goodson. An interesting prospect as Goodson is excellent on set pieces and the Donovan has been providing great service. However, being a central defender in a game like this requires a level of calm and composure gained only with experience. It would take a lot of faith from BB to see this happen.
The other option is to move Bocanegra into the middle where his speed isn’t as big of a liability. This would mean putting Spector on his unnatural side or starting Jonathan Bornstein. Spector seems to have been worn out by the long European season while Bornstein has a love for committing bad fouls, and nothing would be worse than giving up a PK tomorrow.
I think Onyewu will once again start, let’s all hope that he has gotten better with each game.
The US has to like being in a position where they control their own destiny. A win and they accomplish their first goal, advance to the knockout round.
They must respect Algeria and what they did to get here. Just being here is a credit to their quality and two good performances have them playing with a level of confidence that will surely make things harder than they think.
The US however is coming off a very positive draw last week and has a lot of confidence in their own ability to score. They must, however, stay disciplined and use their advantage in fitness and will to build this game in the image they have visualized.
Apparently a few of the Algerians have packed their bags and brought them to Pretoria so they can leave right after the game. Obviously the Algerian Federation president is not happy about that. A good sign for the American’s but they still have to play the game.
John O’Brien (for the NYTimes) gives his own insight into the unique nature of the final group games.
An EPLTalk contributor chronicles the English’s penchant for underestimating opponents; can also be applied (at a lesser degree) to the Americans.
Obviously there are some other games tomorow too..
England and Slovenia will be interesting, especially as England needs to win to ensure advancement. At least if they fail to make the 2nd round they can be assured they will still be overshadowed by the French disaster. Little consolation though, we all know they will get roundly ripped and push the French out of everyone’s mind if they fail to advance.
The Group D finale in the afternoon is very messy.
Everyone will be looking to win as that is the only way they can hope to advance. Germany and Ghana specifically know that a win will put them in the round of 16, no questions asked.
Serbia advances with a win or a tie and a Ghana win.
Australia needs a lot of help to advance but must at least get a win.
Essentially, it will be a very interesting afternoon of games.