US Soccer: What the Yanks Must Do Against Slovenia to Achieve Success
On November 11th, the United States lost 1-0 to France in the sixth match in the Jurgen Klinsmann era. Since taking over the national team, Klinsmann has lost four times and has only won once, with the team scoring a paltry two goals.
However, the United States is playing a much stronger brand of soccer since Klinsmann has taken over and the new faces that we are seeing have certainly made the Yanks stronger.
With World Cup qualifying starting next June, fans are expecting to see some positive results before facing Antigua and Barbuda, Guatemala and Jamaica in the preliminary group.
A good time for the Americans to start will be against 2010 World Cup Group C foe Slovenia. In that World Cup matchup, the Yanks had a fantastic comeback after going down by two early in the game. Considering that fantastic comeback, it would be fitting that the United States would comeback from a slow start in the Klinsmann era in this friendly.
If the United States are going to win and get back to the winning ways that fans expect out of them, they will need to change up some facets of their game. Here are 10 of my suggestions for the Americans to improve in Ljubljana for this friendly.
Start off Strong
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A prevalent feature of the Bob Bradley era that has thankfully not carried over to the Klinsmann era is poor starts to matches.
However, the importance of starting off strong cannot be lost on this American squad. Considering how the team has shown that they can fade towards the middle of the match, a strong start would allow for the squad to have more confidence throughout the remainder of the game.
Considering how the US team appears to lose their confidence once a side starts to put together a strong attacking push, it would be beneficial for the Americans to start off strong so they will have more faith in their abilities.
Have a Much Stronger Defensive Effort
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A problem that the Yanks have showcased in these matches under Klinsmann has been the weak ability of the defense. In five of the six matches under the former German coach, the Americans have conceded at least one goal.
Granted, there have only been five goals conceded, but the Americans have also been out-shot in four of those six matches by a 47-28 total.
The Yanks are lucky to not have conceded even more goals in these matches. The defense is lucky to have Tim Howard playing goal and they have been lucky quite a few times.
The defense should start to play with more composure. When teams start to get time around the penalty area, they should simply get the ball out of the attacking third by any means necessary. They need to slow down these sides when they attack by breaking up their rhythm.
Defenders Cannot Get Beat on a Through Ball
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Bad positioning has hurt the United States tremendously and through balls have constantly beaten this defense.
The other night, Loic Remy was able to score after a cleverly placed chip allowed him to net the only goal of the match against the Americans.
Granted, the Americans did hold off the French whenever they tried to get beyond their defense, but these mistakes are inexcusable for this side.
What the Yanks should do here is to have at least one central defender stay behind, while the other defender moves forward. This does not mean that we should see a sweeper come into the fold, even though that is not a bad idea for this team.
Smarter Decisions with the Ball
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The United States passing game was not fantastic against France and they continued to get beaten by the French every time the US held onto the ball for an extended period of time.
Now the French have some great players who should be making these plays, but the Americans need to start making quicker and more efficient passes than they are doing right now.
We should also see the Yanks start to use the defenders on both sides move up and force more pressure on the middle of the pitch.
Also, the strikers will need to shoot when they have an opportunity and more shots taken from outside of the penalty area.
Midfield Must Show More Confidence
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The midfield was awful against France the other night, but that midfield has constantly been subpar throughout the past several matches. The midfield doesn't appear to have a clue over where to pass the ball and they don't utilize the wings enough.
That being said, the US needs to start using their wingers more often and stop keeping the ball congested around several players in the middle of the pitch.
Back when Bob Bradley was manager, the US attacked down the wings more often. Granted, they had Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey moving down the wings and neither have played together since Klinsmann has taken over, but both should be playing more often on the sides.
Once the Yanks start to do this again, they will start getting more shots on target and eventually more goals.
Change Their Attacking Formation
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The United States have continued to use a 4-3-3 formation since Klinsmann has taken over. Even though this formation does implement a strong attacking emphasis, the United States quite simply cannot score goals when they line up like this.
After predominately 4-4-2 formation under Bob Bradley, the Americans have been unable to produce at the level offensively like they did under Bradley. If anything, it looks like the American game is regressing.
In this friendly against Slovenia, the U.S. should decide to implement a formation that the players appear to be most comfortable in, should it be a 4-4-2, a 4-1-4-1 or even a 4-3-3.
Whatever formation that the players are most comfortable with is key for a squad that is constantly changing. It will be the best way to get the right players to play for the American squad and in the long run, will provide the best results for the United States.
Don't Isolate Attacks to Certain Portions of the Match
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The United States has started to isolate their attacks to certain parts of matches since the Klinsmann takeover. The Americans have mainly attacked at the beginning of matches or at the ending of matches.
Although both goals scored in the Klinsmann era have not come in conjunction with the times that the Yanks normally attack, they have been exceptions to the norm.
Basically, the Yanks need to stop isolating attacks to these time periods and instead start attacking whenever they can. Absorbing pressure from strong sides is never a good thing to do and the Americans need to stop doing that. It hurts the quality and confidence of the team when you have a side beating you up.
Isolation is never a good thing in soccer and the Americans need to stop using that policy when it comes to choosing their time to attack.
Defenders Need to Get More Involved with the American Attack
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Another fault that we have seen so far with Klinsmann as coach has been the negligence of the defenders to get more involved with the team's attack.
On the current American squad, four defenders have scored a total of 23 goals with the national team, with Carlos Bocanegra scoring 12 of those goals. Three of these defenders—Oguchi Onyewu, Clarence Goodson and Bocanegra—are all at least six feet tall and are all dangerous on set pieces.
If one of these players were to take the initiative and move into the penalty area more often, the Yanks would be more dangerous and certainly could, at the very least, get more shots on target.
Considering how weak the Americans were against France, this is definitely a task that needs to be changed.
Find a Striker Who Could Work with Jozy Altidore
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Jozy Altidore has been fantastic with AZ Alkmaar this season. The young striker has been able to capitalize on his goal scoring opportunities in Holland and is a much better player now than he was last year at this time.
Altidore has been unable to score goals for the national team like he has scored for Alkmaar this season. However, Jozy has performed fantastically since Klinsmann has been manager, with arguably the best performance by an American in the friendly against France.
What is needed is another striker to play alongside Jozy. Right now, Dempsey is best suited to play in midfield and he moved back into that midfield role throughout that France match.
We could see players such as a Juan Agudelo or Charlie Davies get a call up to the national team to play alongside Jozy.
Agudelo has been touted as the future of the national team and it is outrageous that he isn't starting if he is held in such high regards. Davies came back from injury this season to have a solid season with D.C. United and had a strong partnership with Jozy before his car accident in 2009.
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Finishing goal scoring opportunities has been the biggest problem with the national team. When you score two goals in six matches, there is something wrong, no matter what side you are.
The Americans have been able to get shots on target but their biggest problem is scoring. The problem is that the players don't have enough faith in their finishing abilities under Klinsmann, which is ironic considering how great of a striker Klinsmann was when he was a player.
What needs to be done is get these players to have more faith in their abilities, and Klinsmann should fix this by encouraging his players to attack and shoot more often.
Whenever this happens, the Americans will finally start to score goals and Klinsmann's job security will no longer be in question.
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