Why USA Soccer Can't Compete Internationally (and How to Fix It)

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Why USA Soccer Can't Compete Internationally (and How to Fix It)
(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

The U.S. men's national soccer team has recently shown flashes of breaking through and becoming one of the top teams in the world. 

Then a game like USA vs. Mexico happens. 

There is a reason that the U.S. doesn’t perform well in most international tournaments.  It isn’t due to having players that are significantly worse than the ones they are competing against, either. It has to do with the formations they use and the type of soccer that they play. 

Simply put, the USA plays a style of soccer that is outdated and doesn’t work in the modern game. The team plays predictable soccer that is not only boring to watch, but does not result in wins on the field. 

Against Mexico, the U.S. came out strong and got an early goal. Instead of using the momentum that the goal brought to them, the U.S. team went into “sit back” mode, making an attempt to defend the lead and put nothing into the attack. This will rarely, if ever, result in a win against an opponent with any talent. 

Some readers might say that Italy has traditionally defended a goal lead and they have won World Cups that way. There is, however, a huge flaw with that statement.

Italy possesses the ball. After watching many games that Bob Bradley has coached, I’m not sure he has ever heard of this concept. 

The Mexicans kept control of the ball, and it was because of this that they were able to secure the victory. 

The same thing happened in the Confederations Cup Finals when the U.S. had a 2-0 lead over Brazil and were unable to possess the ball, which allowed Brazil to score three times in the second half to win the tournament.

If you can possess the ball, you should never lose a game during which you lead by two.

Bradley is a very similar coach to the one he replaced—Bruce Arena. Bradley replacing Arena makes perfect sense because Bradley was an assistant to Arena on several different levels. 

However, this has resulted in pretty much the same style of play that caused Arena to lose his job. 

The U.S. has recently used a 4-5-1 and a 4-4-2 formation, both of which do not work the way the U.S. plays them. 

Simply put, the American style of play uses no creativity, which results in limited scoring chances. 

The team uses its athleticism to defeat the smaller, weaker Central American teams in CONCACAF games, but the Americans' lack of creativity and scoring chances results in losses against opponents that have also had skilled athletes.

One of the issues with the team is that they do not play some of the players that create scoring chances. The best example of this is Freddy Adu, who has fallen out of favor with the coaches for some reason. 

Adu has shown tremendous talent and he has matured significantly in the past few years. If used properly, he would be a weapon for the U.S. team going into the World Cup.

The formation that I believe the U.S. would be successful using is the 4-3-3.  It would allow the U.S. to take advantage of the talent they have up front, and it would look something like this:

                   —Tim Howard—

—Jonathan Spector—Oguchi Onyewu—Jay DeMerit—Carlos Bocanegra (C)—

            —Clint Dempsey—Michael Bradley—DaMarcus Beasley—

                 —Landon Donovan—Jozy Altidore—Freddy Adu—

 

In this formation, the U.S. would have a great deal of pace as well as a phenomenal attack. 

Using the 4-3-3, this team has the potential to do quite a bit of damage in the World Cup. Tim Howard is a rock in goal, the defense is solid, the midfield would have the capability of both pushing the attack and playing solid defense, and the attack would be very strong. 

A formation such as this takes advantage of the players' strengths and would help the USA be competitive at the 2010 World Cup.

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