After having a night to reflect on the game from last night, there are a couple of things that became apparent in the US-Argentina game which might make it a little clearer for the US as they approach the CONCACAF Gold Cup in June.
Before getting to the US, Argentina demonstrated great improvement from the summer. They play a much more reasonable possession game similar to Barcelona and Spain. They move the ball quickly and pressure high up the field when they lose the ball. Lionel Messi looks far more comfortable with his role in this squad than he did in the summer.
However, Argentina are still frail at the back. They are missing Walter Samuel, and they are unlikely to have him back for the Copa America. Their centerbacks of Burdisso and Gabriel Milito struggled dealing with Altidore/Agudelo in the second half. Building a strong defense will be their biggest worry as their offense looks potent even when it was without Gonzalo Higuain, Diego Milito, Kun Aguero, and Carlos Tevez.
For the US, the first question is the formation. The 4-2-3-1 didn’t work in the first half. It wasn’t necessarily given a fair chance given Jones had a lazy game and this was a game where they needed everyone working at maximum effort. However, the biggest question at this point is whether the US has anyone to play the lone forward. Altidore couldn’t hold the ball-up and these were not the most physical centerbacks. The US may be required to move to a 4-4-2 to accommodate the forwards, however, I think the problem still remains in identifying who should play in the hole behind the striker in the 4-2-3-1 i.e. Edu is not the ideal candidate as he showed no signs of interplay with Altidore.
The second thing is the debuts of Chandler and Agudelo with the full national team. Agudelo has played before, but this was his first game with the A team. Both were impressive. Agudelo’s pace and ability to run at players offers a great change of pace. If he keeps on playing this well, he should be a lock for the Gold Cup squad and pushing for a starting spot.
For Chandler, he played a solid game. He did pick up an early and stupid yellow, but for the most part he did his defensive duties, but he also put in some attacks and great crosses. At 20 years old, he has a great future and with Steve Cherundolo getting up there in years, he may have put himself in line to take over the spot in the future.
Bob Bradley deserves a lot of credit for changing things at halftime. The 4-4-2 gave them an attacking outlet which didn’t allow Argentina’s fullbacks to push up with as much frequency. Furthermore, when they did so, the US could punish them with a counter attack as Donovan and Dempsey got wider and exploited the space that the fullbacks were leaving.
Defensively for the US, it was a very good performance. They still struggle with pace at the fullback position, but the team did a good job pushing most things wide. Messi often put balls across the face of net rather than getting a shot directly. The pairing of Onyewu and DeMerit looked good defending, but lacked the composure passing out of the back. However, it does show what the US missed at the World Cup this summer with Onyewu not fully fit.
The Paraguay game on Tuesday should offer more opportunity for the fringe players as I certainly expect more than 2 subs to be used. It will be interesting to see if Tim Ream gets a start as he is an defensive option with the composure to build attacks from the back. Hopefully, creative midfielders Feilhaber and Diskeruud will also get a chance to see if they can fill the Stuart Holden void.
What did you think of the US performance last night? Who impressed you the most? What players do you want to see play against Paraguay?