La Guerra Fria Nears!

The USA have played their final (only) warm-up match.  The roster is taking shape.  And with La Guerra Fria only two weeks away (2/11, 7pm ET), we thought it was time to open up the pre-game discussion.  What better way to do that than to weigh in on the who-should-start debate?  Without further ado, here is our preferred lineup:

—————Ching——Altidore—————–

Beasley———–Donovan———–Dempsey

———————-Bradley————————-

Pearce—Bocanegra—Onyewu–Cherundolo

———————-Howard————————

And here is the lineup we expect to see:

——————Ching——————————–

Beasley—————–Donovan——-Dempsey

————–Bradley——Kljestan——————

Pearce—-Bocanegra—-Onyewu–Cherundolo

———————–Howard————————-

Very similar lineups–the only discrepancy is our preference of Altidore in place of Kljestan.  There are a number of reasons to give Kljestan the nod.  To name a few, he is coming off of one of the more impressive US National Team performances in recent memory–his three-goal showing against Sweden; he is an attacking threat for a team that is in desperate need of goals from the run of play; and playing five in the midfield should help us control the game’s pace and provide a stronger defensive presence when needed.  And, let’s face it, the Bob has never been a fan of a true 4-4-2 in games that actually matter.

Despite these completely valid arguments for Kljestan’s presence, we remain steadfast in our support of more attacking formations.  We aren’t altogether against lone-striker formations–we’re just opposed to leaving Ching on an island up top.  We’re not anti-Ching like some.  We’re not in love with Ching like others *cough*ivesgalarcep*cough*.  We’re simply realists.  Ching does some things very well–he’s good with his back to goal, he can trap the ball well, he knows out to distribute, and he’s a master of drawing the foul.  There’s only one problem: HE CAN’T FINISH.  Ching supporters will point to his strike rate in qualifying, to which we reply, 1 tap in, 2 poached, and 1 accidental deflection off his shoulder.  Ching has his uses–we even believe he should be starting–but when you play with one man up top, he must be able to do it all.

Let’s face it.  In theory, playing 5 in the midfield should allow you to control possession.  In theory, it should allow you to limit your opponent’s chances because of the increased defensive presence.  But theory hasn’t held true for the US.  The problem is our lack of a Xavi.  Our lack of an Essien.  In other words, our lack of what we used to get from Claudio Reyna and what we thought we’d be getting from Benny Feilhaber by now.  We lack that midfielder who can hold and effectively distribute the ball.  So despite our clogged midfield, we struggle to win the possession battle and mount attacks.  And to make matters worse, when we do attack, we’re often unsuccessful.

Does throwing Altidore up top in place of a fifth midfielder solve the possession problem?  Not necessarily, but it would allow us to hold more of it in the attacking third.  It would also allow us to make more of our scoring opportunities.  And Ching’s ability to hold and distribute would no longer be wasted due to the lack of a true attacking presence by his side.  We believe it’s time to start taking the game to our opponents instead of sitting back, defending, and waiting for corners and set pieces.

The projected lineup is not all bad.  Playing Kljestan in place of a second defensive midfielder–err, two-way player–shows a little more of an attacking intent.  Perhaps Donovan will show up for the big game and lead the Nats to victory.  Or maybe Ching will make us eat our words by scoring a hattrick.  We aren’t prepared to call the projected lineup doomed.  We do, however, believe our preferred lineup would give our boys a better shot of securing a result in this all-important hexagonal opener.

-ML

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