Soccer: USA vs. Argentina.

3月26日

It’s only the 32nd minute of the international friendly match between the USA and Argentina soccer teams.  The Argentina squad features the 2009/2010 world player of the year Lionel Messi and the US boasts their best through the likes of Landon Donvan and Michael Bradley.

Currently the score is tied 0-0 but it’s only a matter of time before Argentina breaks the game open with a few goals.  I would have waited to draft this blog after the game but I’m seeing so many problems with the USA team I thought I should point them out now before I forget….or before I’m too disgusted.

The great thing about playing the number one team in the world is that they’re really exploiting all the weaknesses that the US poses, which can easily be pointed out.  So I’ll give the US the benefit of the doubt and list their strengths.

Strengths:
1.  There aren’t many but one thing is clear is that they’re focused on stopping Lionel Messi. Whether it’s double/triple teaming him or fouling him, so far they’ve contained him for the most part since the score is still 0-0 but it’s only a matter of time that the flea will give the US defense fits.

2.  The US’s defense has stood stout but mostly because they’re loading the box which is why there really hasn’t been much offense.

3.  Michael Bradely seems like the only player composed and holding the ball.

4.  Physically the US is fit but how long can they keep running around after the ball after 90 minutes?  This also gets them into trouble because they’d rather get physical with the Argentina players rather than focusing on what’s happening around them.

Weaknesses:
1.  There are so many I don’t know where to start.  [UPDATE: As I was writing this Messi broke through with a penetrating run into the box and after a jostling of the ball in front of the net, Cambiasso fires a rocket into the upper left corner of the goal in the 42nd minute.] Let’s start with composure.  Give Argentina much credit for pressuring the ball, but it’s clear that the US lacks composure.  The US players start to panic when on the ball and pressured.

2.  Selfish. The US players are selfish.  Rather than holding the ball for possession,  I’ve already seen Dempsey and Altidore try to take 3 guys on rather than holding on to the ball or laying it off to teammates.  Partly because of the pressure from Argentina, there is clearly too much individualism going on.

3.  Forcing the ball.  The defenders and the midfielder of the US, rather than working the ball up insist on launching long balls a low percentage pass to the top.  The Argentina defense is easily cutting these balls off.  Onyewu, instead of composing himself and laying the ball off to DeMerit or Howard, got himself in trouble early a few times in the back so this may have played with his head. Rather than giving an easy pass around pressure he launches a ball to no one in the Argentina third of the field.

4.  Transition.  Going back to composure and forcing the ball the US is lacking in this area.  Countless times I’ve seen so many open lanes for the US to pass and move the ball around yet they insist on dribbling and taking on defenders when they could easily lay the ball off to open teammates….And even with time, they insist on launching a 60 yard pass to a guy who has 2 defenders on them.  Why?

5.  Moving off the ball.  Part of the reason the US is getting themselves into trouble when on the ball is because there’s a lot of ball watching going on.  When teammates should be moving around to get open or give options to the player with the ball, I see some players standing and watching to see the player do something.  So perhaps Dempsey wouldn’t take a couple of guys on if he had more options to pass but it goes back to giving him open lanes to pass to.

6.  Ball watching.  I’ve touched on it a bit above but part of the reason the US defense has got in trouble with Argentina’s penetrating runs in the box is because they’re watching the ball but not realizing there are other players around them that are moving and don’t have the ball.  They need to be aware of the wings making the runs into the box or the central attackers making overlapping runs.

7.  Trust in each other.  The US players need to put more trust in each other and use their passing to get them out of trouble from the Argentina defense.

8.  Stabbing.  A few times the US players have been guilty of stabbing at the ball and getting burnt by the Argentina player that has the ball.

Well there  you have it.  If you look at the weaknesses that the US has, there’s a lot of fundamental soccer that they’re lacking.  But again, give Argentina credit, their pace, fluidity and speed of play is phenomenal.  But the US shouldn’t forget what got them to where they are now and that’s growing up and playing sound team soccer.  Well here we go start of the 2nd half, hopefully they change things up.  I can only imagine what they’ll think after watching the tape of this game.

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