Some quick thoughts on today’s match-up between the United States and Brazil:
The two teams are approaching the game from completely different angles.
- For Brazil, it’s out with the old, in with the new, as recently-appointed manager Mano Menezes leads a squad completely revamped after the World Cup. The only returnees from the squad that featured in South Africa are Dani Alves, Ramires, Thiago Silva, and Robinho. The rest are a group of young up-and-comers in the Brazil system, led by wunderkind Neymar, a forward who has so dazzled the Brazilian faithful that his exclusion from the World Cup squad led to more protests than that of Ronaldinho, Pato, or Adriano.
- The U.S, on the other hand, are putting out a veteran squad. The only selections who didn’t make the trip to South Africa are Omar Gonzales, Alejandro Bedoya, and Sacha Kljestan. The U.S. approach is to put the best side forward, bringing perennial stars like Landon Donovan, Tim Howard, and Clint Dempsey in hopes to impress a hopefully large post-Cup audience.
Don’t expect to see the traditional Brazilian Samba King brand of football now that former coach Dunga has moved on.
- Menezes builds his teams in a similar fashion. Tactically, he’s similar to Dunga, with no preferred formation, and his previous teams set out in counter-attacking formations. He’s a fan of wide strikers, so Pato and Neymar could enjoy a great deal of success under his reign.
- Also, his midfielders tend to be well-rounded. Lucas Leiva actually developed under Mano, so expect more controlled passing through the midfield with box-to-box guys like Lucas or Ramires and less attacking from fullbacks (sorry, Maicon).
The key players to watch for the U.S. today will be Robbie Findley, Kljestan, Bedoya, and Gonzales.
- Findley has been given more than ample opportunity to replace the still injured Charlie Davies. A poor performance today could put an end to his young national team career, especially if Bob Bradley moves on.
- Kljestan and Bedoya were on the fringe of the 23-man roster, and both have potentially bright futures in the squad, but the U.S. midfield is chock full of depth, so they’ll need to start putting in quality minutes now. If not, they may get overrun by a horde of young, talented midfielders in the U.S. player pool.
- Finally, Gonzales will be the first young center back given a shot in first team duty. If he fails to perform, guys like Chad Marshall, Tim Ream, and Gale Agbossoumonde may swoop in for his spot.
Could this be Bradley’s last game as head coach of the national team?
- He may pass on an extension for a job in Europe, but he may not even be offered an extension. The opinions within the USSF and outside of it seem to be in disharmony on what kind of manager Bradley is, but if the U.S. can’t find someone who is a significant improvement, it might be best to hang on to ol’ Bob for a little bit longer. For more on that, check out my Big Picture piece on the future of U.S. Soccer.