World Cup: USA v. Slovenia Preview
Is it an exaggeration to say that the USA's game with Slovenia tomorrow is its most important since its knockout round win over Mexico in 2002? I do not think so.
Off of a lucky draw with England in its first match, the USA can virtually assure itself of getting through to the round of 16 with a win over Slovenia tomorrow. A loss would almost certainly knock them out. A draw would force a USA win in its third game, against Algeria to even have a chance to go through.
Should the USA win this game? Yes. Because the USA should win, this becomes a huge, pressure filled game. I hope Bob Bradley puts the right team on the field. I thought he did not in the game against England. On the flip,what I think Bradley should do.
Slovenia is a pedestrian team with meager offensive skills. They will play tight and defensive and hope for a counter goal. The theory is that the USA will have to be more offensive minded to get the win, I agree. But there are different ways to be offensive minded.
After watching a week of the World Cup, I have become convinced that the new Adidas ball is not conducive to possession-based attacks with long buildups. It is conducive to long runs and passes, and shots from outside the penalty box.
USA should put on the field on the offensive side good shooters and players with pace. That of course means Donovan, Dempsey and Altidore. But, in my view, it does not mean Robbie Findley, who has speed, but no long run potential nor is he a finisher. Edson Buddle is opportunistic and shoots. He should clearly start over Findley (if not Buddle, then Hercules Gomez.)
As holding midfielders, Michael Bradley should start again; Ricardo Clark should not. Because Clark is inept at offense, he has gained a reputation as a good defender. I do not see it. Clark makes too many mistakes (such as his mistake on Gerrard that led to England's goal in the first game.) Clark will make the same type of mistakes against Slovenia. I would start Stuart Holden, who not only will be a better defender than Clark, but will get the ball quickly to Donovan or Dempsey. In short, I think Holden is the better player period.
The defense is what it is. Bradley is playing his best 4 and there is nothing more that can be done about that. Cherundulo had a very good game moving forward against England, but I would ask him to stay home more in this game.
In short, I would play conservative at the back and hope that our stars- Donovan, Dempsey and Altidore - can find ways to shoot, and score.
Given the conditions (including the ball) and the relative skills of the teams, this is, in my view, the best strategy for USA.
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