OK, Bob. Here's What You Do

Now, I know U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) Head Coach Bob Bradley won’t read this post (but I would squeal like a teenager at a Duran Duran concert if he commented; NOTE: anonymous commenters should feel free to post posing as Bradley), but I can’t resist one last stab at the “roster games” that have been so popular over on Ives (that’s EYE-vis, apparently; didn’t know that) Galarcep’s blog.
And, yes, I do visit other sites.

Anyway, Galarcep posted his most recent stab at who he thinks will take the field for the USMNT and where they’ll play; he has since added some details in a more recent post, but I’ll leave it to interested parties to check out his thoughts.

Like many of you, I’ve continued to fret over the line-up (can’t say “obsess” ‘cause I’m still eating and showering) since the game-day roster came out. I posted a fairly safe first stab of my own, but a new-game day lineup came out of all that fretting and it includes one shift I haven’t seen elsewhere. So, given the roster we’ve got, here’s how I’d line them up (4-3-1-2):

------------------- Howard -------------------------

-- Albright -- Conrad -- Bocanegra -- Bornstein --

-- Mapp --------- Mastroeni -------- Convey ------

------------------- Donovan ------------------------

----- Dempsey ------------ Twellman/Johnson ---------

Now, here’s the thinking behind it - which really only amounted to figuring a way to get Dempsey in at forward. Since that was the priority, may as well start with that.

A modest, yet healthy collection of diving, headed goals demonstrates Dempsey’s willingness to put his head where he shouldn’t; he’s definitely willing to mix it up. But what makes me view him as a good candidate at forward are those dribbling moves for which so many American fans admire him. The trick is making that little bit of space in the box, just that little half-step opening that lets you get off a clean shot. That’s something I believe Dempsey does as well as any American player, which combines with the absence of suitable alternatives to make him a good choice up top in my mind.

The Twellman/Johnson split continues to serve as the big question mark: is Twellman fit enough to go 60 minutes? If so, he should be a nearly automatic first choice. As much as I’ve griped about Johnson, I still think I’d tip him over Rolfe, mainly to have a more physical presence available.

No matter who comes on as forwards, however, Donovan is the key player in my little set-up. His focus will be on supporting the forwards, just buzzing around and making sure they’ve got an option, while also keeping a sharp eye for openings of his own. Not to put to fine a point on it, this is Donovan’s time to shine - or he might discover that “interim” tag applies to more bodies than Bradley.

All in all, I’m comfortable with “the top” of this formation - e.g. the attacking options - but feel a little queasy about everything else. And, on the day, I’d have this set-up play very conservatively, which makes sense in light of who Mexico is bringing. The top three would have near-total freedom to probe for openings, but, unless we’re playing from behind, Mapp and Convey would take turns pushing up their side - e.g. one would hang back a bit, while the other pushes into the attack. The defense, including Mastroeni, would play to contain; the back four would, more or less, stay at home, while Mastroeni’s role would be “killing” and distributing quickly.

Some final considerations:

- I flirted with a left-side set-up of Bobby Convey behind Justin Mapp, mainly to mellow concerns about Bornstein getting burned, but couldn’t sell myself on Mapp’s defensive work-rate. If we’re lucky, Mapp will one day push Donovan for that starting “playmaker’s” role.

- I paired Bocanegra and Conrad in the middle on experience alone with the idea being that’s the part of the field you’re most eager to protect. Like a fair number of people, I’m pretty anxious about the Albright/Bornstein outside-back situation. But because I also don’t (quite) trust Boswell (I’m relenting, given the options), Robinson (worry about fouls), I’m not seeing much for alternatives. Maybe some DC fans can make me better understand the merits of Namoff or Carroll - to give an example, I’d have Namoff replace Albright without batting an eye - but I’m not sufficiently familiar with these players to play them with confidence.

- I’d start Mastroeni solely to have a veteran head in the middle and in spite of earlier opinions. If/When the game settles down, I’d give Clark as much time on the field as I can.

Whew. That’s all I’ve got. Have fun ripping it apart.

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