Set Pieces vol. 1: USMNT issue 2
The kick off: The USMNT faces Martinique tonight after a subpar performance against Panama — who’s coach seems to have Arena’s number. There’s no point in looking back at it since anything well said has been put out there by The Yanks Are coming, Total Soccer Show, and American Soccer Now.
One thing that I’ll add that I don’t think was covered by them or at least not in depth is how much Saif’s injury has impacted Arena’s plans. I’m not saying Kenny is a class above the other options, he might but there’s not a big enough sample to make that conclusion yet.
Arena has had to play right footed players on the left the past two games — which isn’t the end of the world but we also saw how reliant the team was on Villafana to send in the bulk of the crosses. Rowe & Arriola did fine. It’s just that a natural left footed player on the left wing would’ve been nice.
Free kick: So, who should start for the USMNT tonight? One thing that can be counted on is that Arena will rotate his players to help keep them fresher. The million dollar question is who get’s rotated?
In the back, wouldn’t change all four players. I’d bring in Hedges (to be the organizer that Besler & Gonzalez aren’t) as well as Lichaj (because Zusi simply isn’t an international level right back). Why leave Omar out there even though he’s gotten a lot of crap? I just think it would help to have some continuity for Guzan (who was the MOTM for USA, IMHO). I actually disliked Besler performance more than Gonzalez.
Also, I think the US was needs faster players on the pitch. Which means a center midfield of Acosta, Bedoya (h/t to @JBellEoL) & Corona.
Up top, Agudelo, Morris, & Arriola. I think Dwyer deserves a rest but odds are he’ll start (and he’s obviously earned it). He’d be the first guy off the bench if US needs more attacking options though.
Corner kick: Based on what on the two games we’ve seen so far, I decided to look at who I’d call in & drop at this moment — assuming US makes it to the next round & utilizes their 6 changes they could make.
- Nagbe for Saif — Not a shocker but his ability to play wide or centrally will help Bruce to remain tactically flexible.
- Trapp or McNamara for Zardes — I just can’t handle touch. Use him a a striker, but not on the wing please.
- Bradley for McCarty or Roldan — I’d like to see Roldan play before making a final decision but I think McCarty’s lack of pace might be a problem with tougher teams.
- Birnbaum for Miazga — I hope Matt gets some playing time but if Bruce ultimately decides he’s not a starter, then let him go back to Europe and sort out his next loan. Also, Birnbaum can play RB if needed.
- Zusi or Morrow for Garza — I think Greg has had a solid start to the MLS season for ATL. Zusi isn’t getting it done and Garza has more upside to Morrow.
- Altidore/Dempsey for Agudelo/Morris — My guess is Morris is higher on the list than Juan but I don’t see Bruce leaving out either of those players for the next round. Probably both get added in reality.
I really hope Bruce goes for the win even though sorting his WC roster is a higher priority. I think this is the best opportunity to at least force a Confederations Cup playoff to see who will represent CONCACAF in that tournament.