Ok so quick player ratings for this game. Obviously everyone was excited for Jurgen Klinsmann’s debut. It is definitely a new era in USMNT soccer. I really wanted to see what this man was about and to be honest, I was not disappointed.
GK Tim Howard 7- Not really tested throughout the game so I guess I can’t give him an exceptional grade but he did well to grab any balls played over the top of the USA defense before they could cause trouble. He could not have done anything on the first goal.
LB Edgar Castillo 3- He gave away too many balls. His passes were not crisp or on target and he ruined way too many American attacks. Heard his name called a lot less towards the end of the game but I think that was due to the US being on offense and thus taking the pressure off of him. He was ok in defense however which is good. He did not make too many killer mistakes though some bad give aways and an occasional lack of aggressiveness did threaten to cause problems. I won’t call an end to his international career yet as this is just his second cap and he looked nervous, especially going forward. I say give him another cap or 2 or maybe 3 before calling it quits.
CB Boca and Orozco-Fiscal 7- I am grouping them because I think they both did a solid job. Between them they held the line and cleaned up any mess that came their way. I did not see more than a couple mistakes on either’s part. Good showing here.
RB Stevie Cherundolo 5- Did well enough on defense and in the beginning of the game threatened on offense. He did not seem as sharp as usual though but I’ll chalk that one up to the injury he is still overcoming from the GC final.
CDM Kyle Beckerman 7- I was surprised by his call up and his start but admittedly I had never seen him play before in his preferred position. ( do not count the substitute appearance or 2 under Bradley as a preferred position as CM has multiple positions within it.) He did really well in shielding the back line and holding possession. In the beginning of the game I noticed him more as he was able to dribble out of pressure and keep the ball with short sharp passes. Later in the game, I noticed him a lot less but in the good sort of way. Beckerman really seemed to flow with the offense and defense, not stopping an attacks and doing the little things that get them going.
CM Jermaine Jones 4- Too be honest, I am not a Jones enthusiast. He is just too old in my opinion to warrant a big role in a CM heavy team. The same could be said of Beckerman as well but so far his role was slightly different than the other CMs. Jones plays basically exactly like Bradley who is younger and has more potential left. That being said. Jones did an ok job tonight. I would have loved to see him more involved in defense but often times Bradley had to drop too deep from his central role to help on Jones who should have been deeper. Jones was also slow on the ball at times and was very backward thinking in his passes.
CM Michael Bradley 5- Not his best and not his worst performance. Bradley was not in his best position as the “creator” position of the central midfield. Bradley is too much a work horse box to box player for that to work in my opinion. He should have been in Jones position and when he was in Jones position for that short time in the second half, he played pretty well. Up top though he did not seem to know where to be often pushing too forward too fast or too deep and not being forward enough for the ball. In essence, he went box to box and he should play in a position that will allow it. That being said, he did well to shut down Mexico’s attack and he was good at keeping possession in the middle. His thought process was a lot faster than Jones’s. He just needs to be played in a different position. Oh and definitely should have done better on his mark for the Mexico goal that his marking wasn’t all THAT poor and the goal was pretty awesome when you think about that kind of touch from such body contortion.
LM Jose Torres 6- Best on ball player for the US and CDM for Pachuca. Why was he out wide at first? I loved his creativity and ability to turn out wide but he drifted inward far too often and did not know when to cross and when to keep it on the ground at times. He was very effective in the middle though as a deeper playmaker to spring Donovan and Shea and the likes. I love his ability to turn and pass on the ground and if he is in the middle, he will be a key cog in this cycle.
RM Landon Donovan 7- He was a no show until he moved up top. As a RM he did well to help on defense and try to get up field but often times he was caught way too deep and was unable to show up on offense. Once he was brought on to what seemed to be second striker, he was suddenly everywhere at once. Another player where I think Klinsmann is trying to find the best postion for.
STR Edson Buddle 4- Starved of service and support so his best qualities like knocking the ball down to oncoming support was negated. That being said, he could have used a few more ideas up top. Strong player but not as much in the way of creativity and 1 on 1 ability. Decent option up top though, esp for a sub or if we can get numbers forward.
LM Brek Shea 8- After that terribly nervous debut for the USMNT, he came of age tonight. He was at once in the attack and in defense. He height helped on long balls and his ability to run at defenders as well as keep his head up for the pass served him, and the US offense as a whole, well. Superb job fighting off defenders in order to get his cross to Rogers for the assist. I think his time in CD helped out his defense as well because he was strong and courageous in his tackling.
STR Juan Agudelo 7- One of his best performances in a USA shirt. He was creative and always willing to try an win the ball whether near the box or coming back to get it. His header to himself and chip over the defense to spring Rogers was brilliant. At times though his youth showed in taking a few too many touches. Sometimes he just needs to know when to pull the trigger or pass out of the defense. He definitely plays better when he is surrounded by high energy players who look forward to getting forward than when left on an island to hold up and wait for his teammates to catch up. His touch to set up Shea’s cross was a testament to that.
RM Robbie Rogers 6- Rather surprise at this move as I though Bradley was fine in the middle of the pitch. Overall though brilliant sub by Klinsmann as it left playmaker Torres in while freeing Donovan up to play second striker. Rogers did a fine job staying wide and using his speed to do the talking while also helping out Cherundolo on defense. He also refrained from holding the ball too long and just played short passes and got into dangerous positions off ball. If he keeps this up he may well be a valuable asset. In the right place at the right time for the goal but I suppose thats sort of a skill in and of its own. I am glad he didn’t screw it up. Good showing here and I wouldn’t mind seeing more of him as a sub.
CM Ricardo Clark NR- He had a short spell at the end so I will not rate him. Good for him to work his way back into the team though after a long lay off. Could have done better on a shot/cross/something that ended a very promising attack for the US but he nearly got an assist at the end of the game but played it slightly behind Agudelo I think it was. Overall okay showing though not enough time to make an impression (good or bad).
Klinsmann: I love the guy so far. I think it is great that he is experimenting with different players in different positions than usual. Hopefully he will one day come up with a line-up that works and stick with it. What really struck me though was that when asked to sum up his first impression as coach, he said it was FUN. I loved that, it made me smile because he did seem to have fun. He was smiling even when Mexico scored and even though that is weird, it didn’t seem wrong. It seemed like a “laugh off a really nice goal and not panic” smile. What a happy and fun guy he seems to be. I am excited for the future.
Tactics discussion coming tomorrow btw but feel free to comment for now.
Ok so this is old news now but due to me being busy…and well quite frankly, lazy, I have not posted in a while about the USA soccer. Since my last post, Bob was fired, Jurgy was hired, and the roster for the friendly against Mexico this coming wednesday night was chosen. Here is said roster:
GOALKEEPERS (2): Bill Hamid (D.C.United), Tim Howard (Everton)
DEFENDERS (8): Carlos Bocanegra (Saint-Etienne), Edgar Castillo (Club America), Timmy Chandler (FC Nürnberg), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Michael Orozco Fiscal (San Luis), Heath Pearce (Chivas USA), Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Ricardo Clark (Eintracht Frankfurt), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Brek Shea (FC Dallas), José Torres (Pachuca)
FORWARDS (5): Freddy Adu (Benfica), Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Edson Buddle (FC Ingolstadt), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy)
And then, since this was posted, Timmy Chandler was injured and was replaced by Zach Lloyd of FC Dallas. Chandler did play a full 90 today which made for cries for conspiracy from the general public but it was all fine when Chandler committed to both the September friendlies to make up for it.
My first thought on the friendly roster was rather negative but after looking over it, I am very happy with the mixture of veterans and newcomers…except perhaps Ricardo Clark. He is a great player but I do not think he deserves another look. Don’t get me wrong, it is not only because of his gaff at the WC, it is also because we have Bradley and Edu who play his position and are better as well as the aging Jermaine Jones, the perpetually injured Stu Holden (who is my second favorite player btw), Jose Torres, Sacha Klejstan, and Freddy Adu who all also play in the middle. There is no room for Clark in my opinion but hey I guess a back up is always good to have. Same goes for Beckerman but I cannot say I know as much about him as I do about Clark. Perhaps that is because he is not quite as good though.
Anyways, I am curious where Jose Torres will play this cycle and I am excited to see Castillo and Lloyd and Shea play. I think all of them have great mentors on this team. IMO, that is the only reason Beasely was called in, to help out with Shea. Besides Beasely, idk if there are any other good left sided wingers in the pool and no Dempsey does not count as a winger though he is unarguably a great player.
I am really hoping for a 4-2-3-1 with right to left:
D: Lloyd, Ream, Boca, Castillo
CM: Torres, Bradley
M: Shea, Adu, Donovan
That line-up is still rather young and perhaps the Mexico game is not the best time to break it out but I feel like it is the closest to a future line-up we have here besides Boca but I like his leadership.
Comments? Thoughts? Reasons I am completely wrong?
Ok due to another question, I have another advice post on tennis. I apologize for the late response but I was pretty busy lately.
This one discusses the merits of net play. Now net play is always good, especially in doubles. The closer you are to net, the better angles you get to hit and the the more angles you can cut off. Of course, you also get lobbed more easily so watch that. Basically I like to say that you take a step in towards the for any ball that your opponent will have a tough time getting too unless you think they will lob you. Basically you need to find the balance between getting too close and getting lobbed and staying too far back and getting balls hit at you feet.
So here is a very simple tutorial on volleys that I took a video on. It is far from comprehensive but it encompasses the 2 most simple rules:
Now from that video you learned that you need to keep the tip back first and the racquet out in front. 1 VERY IMPORTANT RULE I FAILED TO MENTION WAS USE CONTINENTAL GRIP. A couple more rules are butt out in front of the head and the head always above the wrist. Do that you and should be good. Also notice how my racquet barely moved except to at the very end to give a slight lift to the ball. Too much lift and the ball will go out and not enough will dump the ball into the net. Be sure to bend your knees so that you accomodate all these rules. Bending at the waist or dropping the racquet head will absolutely destroy your volley technique.
Now to the main question:
If you are playing doubles, yes you should come to net regardless of how poor your volleys are. First of all, if you follow my rules you will get better up there. Second, net is such a big advantage in both doubles and singles that it is not worth staying back. This, of course, is much more true in doubles. In my 4 years of high school doubles, nothing was more frustrating than playing with a partner who refused to come to net…well except a partner with a patty cake second serve.
Which brings me to my next topic: yes definitely come in on second serves. I did it all the time. It is a quick split step and go. No backswing, just take a flat stroke early way inside the baseline and you should be good. It was one of my favorite things to do. This only works going forward. Just be real sure to keep the ball really low or else you will get a hard shot ripped at you on the way in. Always split step between shots if you do this. That means just as you opponent hits the serve and just as he/she hits the next shot. And if you do come in on a second serve, be sure you know its a loopy ball you can handle because catching the ball late will send it out more often than not.
In doubles though, come in whenever you get a short ball. Either lob and come in or better keep it really low and come in. Just do not come in on a high ball in doubles unless you hit it to an opponent who is at the baseline.
But really, if you are smart and can keep the ball low at your net opponent, they will have a hard time doing anything with that shot so come in freely. Never be scared of coming in because a will placed groundstroke (notice I said well placed and not hard hit) off a short ball will make coming in easy. Good luck, I hope this was clear enough.
I would love to thank my readers for this question posed on the comments section of one of the posts on the blog. For those of you unfamiliar, the reader is a big hitter who needs help with their game because they are perhaps not the fleetest of foot so they need to maximize the large groundstroke game.
Well first of all, thanks for the first comment on the blog. I’ve been rather busy and lazy lately so I haven’t updated much but I think I may come up with a few new things now just cuz I know I still have readers…or occasional readers. Feel free to ask me anytime and I will try to help out.
Anyways, as for your problem, I had the same issue for most of high school barring the fact that I was/am fast. Quick comment though, fast is one thing but to really be a good player, you do not need to be fast, you just need to be able to put your feet in position to make up for the lack of speed. That means lots of small steps instead of big galloping ones across the court to run down all the shots of you know what I mean. Its a positioning game to keep you in position to make the best shot possible whether that means moving up, back, or sideways an inch or two even.
Now on to your problem:
The first thing that comes to mind is that you need to know your opponent. yes they may keep blocking it back but come up with targets. If they have a weak backhand, go there. If they like to run, then jam them so they can’t run. You need to make you opponent uncomfortable. I hard ball to the weaker stroke or right at their feet is very hard to hit well and will set you up for a winner.
Also, keep in mind that big is not always better. You may not be a fast runner but if you can keep the ball deep on shots that you cannot safely hit hard, they you can wait it out. Develop a good deep topspin forehand that is front still rising as it crosses the baseline. To do that, really work on your “windshield wiper finish.”
Also, in the order of consistency, be on balance when you hit a hard shot. The worst thing you can do is try to hit a winner on a ball that you are forced to hit while falling backwards or hit behind you. Always keep the ball in of you on your big shots no matter what, even if that means taking a short backswing. Because of this, you may not be fast but you still need to take small quick steps as those help you position. If you cannot be fast, be able to make small adjustments (like I’m talking inches) so you can maximize your power.
Positioning is always key, recover to the middle but slightly to the cross court side. The bigger angle you give your opponent, the bigger angle they can hit back. As a big hitter who is not quite mobile, be aware of this. Also be aware that if you hit a big shot, come to net. At net you do not need to be fleet of foot but rather fleet of hand. Also you can hit and protect angles up there. So if you hit a big deep shot, follow it up to the same side that you hit it too. Having great volleys will greatly increase your game because if you opponent just blocks back one of your big shots and you are charging the net, you have a very easy shot. And try not to get pushed off the baseline if you cannot move forward. Work on taking shots on the rise which means staying very low on your knees and taking shorter spinnier swings.
So in short, be on balance and work on your positioning, always moving up into the court if possible because those are your strengths based on how you described your game. Research volleys and have good ones because they will be very good for you. Quick tip for volleys: continental grip and no backswing, keep them out in front
I hope this helps. If not, let me know and I will try to clarify the confusing parts or find graphics if needed. Keep the questions coming.
I am sorry but I will not be getting around to making player ratings for this afternoon’s game as I was gone all weekend and was resigned to missing a good amount of the first half watching the rest of the first half on a terrible tv before settling in on a good tv about 5 minutes into the second half. I thus feel that I am not quite qualified to type up ratings. Instead, you will all get my random musings on the game which, if I do say so myself, are considerably interesting.
- That was one of the most entertaining games I have ever watched as well as one of the most emotionally riveting? I don’t have words for it too be honest. My heart was going at a million miles an hour for overtime though. That makes 2 of the most amazing soccer games, well games in general, that I have seen during my lifetime, come during this tournament. Now that might just be because something about rooting for the USA makes me feel all funny inside but I think it is also just a soccer thing. I would never have guessed that before the tournament though. Soccer is just THAT amazing I guess.
- Congrats to Japan, they deserved it with their never let die attitude. I got to hand it to them because going down twice is hard to come back from. They deserve just as much credit coming back against us as we do against Brazil.
- Sawa’s goal was absolutely amazing. I still have no idea how she managed to do that. While it is true the she should have been better marked, that goal was still magic.
- Japan did a great job smothering the ball. As I mentioned here in my tactical thoughts on the semifinal, one of the best ways to get around a smothering defense is to swing the ball around. The US was unable to do so consistently, I think they forced the ball into the middle or down the side too much, and thus was forced into a smaller and smaller space and eventually dispossessed.
- From the looks on the players faces after OT was over, I could tell the pk’s would not go as swimmingly as against Brazil, naively, I still held out hope…and Hope did not deliver as admirable as her effort was. The one she got her hand on could have been saved. None the less, the pressure must have been insanely high and I know pk’s are harder than they look so I will not judge too boldly as I have never been in that situation obviously. However, skying one is unacceptable at that level I feel. Carli Lloyd should have at least put it on goal. Also, I was very surprised by the decision to have Heath shoot though.
- Alex Morgan: Athletic, Pacey, Confident, Finisher. Everything I aspire to be as a soccer player. Is that weird that I feel that way as a dude?
- But really, first time I saw her I was like “cute face playing soccer,” awesome. Now: beautiful and no, this time I am talking about her game. She is definitely still rough around the edges as evidenced by how she was caught in possession a few times while taking too long to make a decision and she is sometimes guilty of the Juan Agudelo dribbling too much thing but I love her game and I cannot wait to see more of it at the Olympics and/or the next world cup. Her touch and shot were beautiful and her 2 touch then cross was as well. The combination of speed and grace was, well, beautiful to watch though the over the top ball by Rapinoe will probably once again be overlooked.
- I am naming my daughter, if I ever have one, Alex because that performance was too good. Seriously, I want to model my play style after her. Morgan is like everything we wished Charlie Davies would be and more. Just now Davies is off diving in D.C after coming off an awful car crash while Morgan is putting in her best performance ever ( I think because I have only seen 4) in the Women’s World Cup final.
- Rapinoe is underrated and I am not gonna lie, it is definitely because of her unorthodox look. If she was as hot as pretty as Hope or Alex, she would be an American icon as well. Same with Wombach. Respect for both as they will probably never get their dues, especially from the casual American fan. Hell it is hard enough for me as a soccer fan.
- Last thing before I go to bed, because I am tired: Wombach is always in the right place at the right time. Do you notice that? I think it takes away from the impressiveness of her goals sometimes but being in the right place at the right time and then taking advantage of it is definitely a skill in and of its own. I’ll call it savvy and I do not have it…yet. I just don’t play as much as soccer as I would like to.
- Super Last Thing: I really want to play soccer now. I gotta improve my A Morg skills…yea idk if that nickname works but w/e. Good night world. World Cup soccer and all the cute girls and amazing games that come with it will be missed.
- Something to leave you with.
Ok so yesterday I posted a my first attempt at player ratings. Today, I will attempt to write out the tactical approach that I saw on the pitch. I am by no means an expert but hey, I’ll try my best. Of course my “expertise,” if you will, lies in men’s soccer but I think I know enough about soccer in general to analyze the women’s game as well. So here we go:
Ok so the USA and France started out tactically different. (Random observation: Morgan Freeman is a lefty. Sorry I was watching The Bucket List) Anyways, the US started out in its typical 4-4-2. France started in more of a 4-2-3-1. From the beginning, each team tried to establish a possession oriented game and it seemed like the US was doing a better job of it for the first 15 minutes or so. The offense flowed and they were allowed to build possession from the back until they found that over the top ball or the diagonal ball that allowed for the breakthrough. The frist goal was a classic example. As the first half wore on though, it became more and more apparent to me that the US’s possession was largely meaningless. They would tap the ball around the back for a while. Perhaps the central midfielders or wide players were able to get in a touch or two but this was all on their own side of the pitch. Positive passing was almost impossible and attempts to do so were almost all ways hopeful long balls up to Rodriguez or Wombach. If not, it was because the short passes were cut out before they got anywhere and France gained control of the ball around midfield. It seemed to me that the US always gained possession and had to send it around back until it went wide. Once wide, it was stuck that as France was able to clog all forward and horizontal passing lanes. The CM’s had to pinch towards the side in order to relieve the pressure on the ball and when France eventually go the ball back, the CM’s being out wide allowed for the French attacking 4 and Bompastor to slide forward into the sports where the CM’s should have been, namely in front of the CB’s. If you are a USMNT fan, you are probably used to this happening as its similar to how the goals against England and Slovakia occurred and how Algeria almost scored early in that match. Fortunately Hope Solo stonewalled the French shots.
The French attack was able to overwhelm the US midfield with a 5-4 man advantage and Necib and Abily were able to take advantage of it. Necib pushed into the space in front of the defense and when the defense pushed back all the way to the box, it opened up a lot of space for Abily and Thiney and Bompastor to push forward as well. Fortunately the USA defense was able to keep France out of the box and France was relegated to shooting long ones at Hope without any hope (see what I did there?) of them going in, though Bompastor was pretty damn close on a clever little free kick. So basically while France controlled the midfield, when they got to the final 3rd, they could not push into the box as the USA defenders did a great job backing up until France ran out of room and ideas. Also, France had a hard time dealing with the USA doubling up on the ball as soon as the ball went wide and it did often because Necib could only push so far until she ran out of room.
The second half started out with more of the same. France dominated possession through the midfield but could not break through for a while. France started to look even more dangerous, if that was possible, once they were able to break out of the double teams on the wings. They were able to do so similarly to how a basketball team breaks a zone defense. The USA defense caved to one side to double on the ball and force a turnover. France used this to their advantage by swinging the ball around from one side to the other. Watch the goal and you will see how it was done. The ball was on the French right, it was knocked around and eventually sent to the middle above the 18 yard box. It was then sent to Bompastor on the left where she was almost completely unmarked and allowed to send in a wonderful cross. If you watch, you will see one of the US defenders moving towards the right and getting caught wrong footed when the ball was swung around. This continued for a while and France threatened to score a few more times.
Two things turned the tide for the USA in my opinion. First, Pia sent in Rapinoe for the ineffective Lloyd and Morgan for the even less effective Rodriguez. This also moved Chaney to the center, dropped Wombach more into the midfield, and allowed Morgan to Stay up top as a lone forward though her and Wombach occasionally switched. Of course, it wasn’t completely Lloyd’s fault she was ineffective as she was outnumbered in the center and her clever back-heel did spring O’Reilly behind the defense on the first goal. Anyways, have Wombach and occassionally Morgan play more as what seemed like the first 1 in 4-4-1-1 helped alleviate the pressure on the US midfield and Chaney certainly played a lot better in the center than out wide as she drifted towards the center relentlessly when she was stationed out wide. Rapinoe also helped as she worked hard but more importantly, remained wide while in possession. This opened up space in the middle to spread out the French and allow for the USA to work the center more. Rapinoe also sent in many a cross to pressure the French defense and their very uncertain goalie. My goodness am I glad Hope is on our side (pun intended…as was the corny pun intended line). This lead to the corner in the 2nd goal and the 3rd goal as Wombach was able to come back to the ball and send it to Rapinoe who sprung Morgan from her wide position.
The 2nd thing that helped the US was done by the French. In my opinion, bring on Thomis was a mistake. France shifted to more of a 4-4-2 because they lost a DM and gained another attacker. There was thus less pressure on the US midfield and the USA was able to have more positive possession. I do not know why the French coach decided to do this. I suppose it was in desperation to score again but I think they had a very good shot at doing so because of all the pressure put on what must have been a rapidly tiring US side. Props to the USWNT team though for being so in shape.
Anyways, those are my thoughts. Let me know if you agree or disagree. I will not take offense to disagreement as I am an inquiring soccer mind and I want to learn as much as possible. I do not know if that was what the USA was trying to do or not but that is how it seemed. Feedback please.
Oh and for reading through this, here is your reward: