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U.S. Men's National Team

USMNT Notes: Bradley's wondergoal, goalkeeping situation and more

There have been some memorable moments scattered throughout the U.S. Men’s National Team’s history with Mexico. On Sunday, Michael Bradley created another with what might just be the best goal the rivalry has ever seen.

Just several minutes into Sunday’s match, Michael Bradley stepped into the midfield to pick off a pass from Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez. What followed was simply a moment of absolute brilliance. With Guillermo Ochoa off his line, Bradley chipped a shot from well outside of the box. The shot sailed through the Azteca air, over the outstretched goalkeeper and into the back of the net, giving the U.S. a 1-0 lead.

Level-headed as ever, Bradley’s description of his finish does it little justice.

“We watched a lot of video with some of their movements,” Bradley said. “We knew that at certain moments, Chicharito was looking to come to the ball. It meant that one of those inside midfielders is looking to run through as he’s coming to the ball so it meant that some of those moments the other center backs had to be pulled in to deal with that. I felt like I was able to read what he wanted to do and step in. That led to a good goal for us.

“Surprised? No,” Bradley added. “We’ve played against him a number of times. You know that obviously (Ochoa) is a very good goalkeeper. He’s good with his feet. He gives them a lot in terms of their ability to play outside of his area. As I was able to intercept the pass from Chicharito, I took the first touch and saw that he was a good ways out and here you know that if you catch a ball right with the thin air the ball’s going to really fly. I wanted to make sure I caught it right, and I did.”

Understatement.

Here’s a closer look at some more USMNT news and notes:

ARENA EXPLAINS DECISION TO START GUZAN

When Bruce Arena’s lineup was unveiled, there were several surprises scattered throughout the starting XI. However, none was quite as unexpected as the decision to start Brad Guzan over Tim Howard.

Following the match, Arena reiterated that Howard is the starter and will be the starter going forward. However, given the circumstances, it made sense to give Guzan the nod on the day.

“The decision to start Brad was simply Tim, at his age, needs more time to recover,” Arena said. “In the offseason, he had very difficult surgery. it took four months to recover, which affects his kicking and we wanted to be safe about that. Tonight, we knew our goalkeeper would have to kick the ball a lot. Brad is very strong with that part of his game and we just wanted to be smart about Tim.

“Tim has been our No.1 goalkeeper. We felt Brad as well as other players were positioned to have an opportunity tonight and they all came through and did a good job.”

Guzan was all but untested on the day as he made zero saves while allowing just one goal as Mexico fired nine shots off target.

IN-GAME SWITCHES

Just 31 minutes into the match, Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio knew a change had to be made. He took off Oswaldo Alanis in favor of Jesus Gallardo, giving El Tri a more attacking option at left back. It worked, as Mexico pushed and challenged DeAndre Yedlin repeatedly down that side as they targeted the young Newcastle fullback.

Arena, in turn, was forced to make an adjustment of his own. Yedlin and Paul Arriola were told to cut off the supply line down that side as the two stepped up do deny passes down that side of the field. Rather than sitting back and defending in numbers, the U.S. pushed up more aggressively on that side, denying the ball where ever possible.

It worked, as Yedlin’s game improved as it went on while Arriola put in a spirited 64 minute shifts before being substitute for Darlington Nagbe.

“At halftime, we talked about a tactical switch,” Arriola said. “Their left back was coming up a lot, so how can we avoid him receiving the ball, or do we want to hold in and allow him to receive the ball? We kinda talked over that. And everything was pretty clear. Myself, I was never confused.

“[The organization] comes from the back. I listen to Deandre. During the game, everything was clear.”

ARENA LOOKING AT PRESENT, NOT PAST

Ever since he took over, Arena has been compared with hie predecessor, Jurgen Klinsmann. Those comparions continued on Sunday, but Arena isn’t looking to get caught up in them in any way.

Omar Gonzalez offered the most targeted praise of Arena, crediting the former LA Galaxy boss for his preparation. On the other side, Gonzalez said the USMNT suffered from a lack of preparation under Klinsmann, whose own attempt at a three-at-the-back system went terribly awry against Mexico in November.

Gonzalez was the only one to directly compare the two bosses, but far from the only to credit Arena’s diligent approach for getting the U.S. ready. Arena, however, is just focusing on what he can do rather than how the team has changed under his guidance.

“I think that’s a hard question to answer because I haven’t spent a whole lot of time examining what happened in the past,” Arena said. “In a lot of ways, that’s not my business. I tried to provide the environment that I thought was right for a national team program when I started back in January. That’s all I can say. I’m just doing things the way I do things.

“I can’t comment on things that went on in the past. I can say the players have responded very well and we’re really becoming a team, so I’m really proud of the team.”

17 comments
  • SilverRey

    Come on out and admit it Bruce, you were totally trolling Klinsmann by rolling out that three man back line against Mexico.

    Like

    • mikezissou

      when he said he wasnt smart enough to practice it in January camp he might have been low key trolling

      Like

  • Camelback

    Exactly what did we learn from this game? That we can bunker down and hope for the best against good teams? We already knew that. We have been doing it for a long time.
    Let’s stop pretending Arene invented the wheel. He played the only way a small-mentality coach would. Bunker and counter.

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    • Gary Page

      I wouldn’t call Arena small minded, but a realist. The whole point of hiring Klinsmann was to get away from that approach and transition us into a more pro-active system in order to compete with the best in the world. However, although the team is much deeper and better, it’s still not on that level and we are probably a cycle away from being able to consistently play pro-actively against the really good teams. Both Klinsmann and Arena have been limited by our player pool. Although this game worked out (thanks to a once in a lifetime golazo by MB), I still have to question some of Arena’s personnel choices. I would have taken Besler over Ream since he and Gonzalez have worked together so much and know each other. I’m still not convinced that DMB was the best choice at LB. Since Fabian came off early in the last game and can provide offense, I would have played him instead. I thought he should have brought on the 2nd and especially the 3rd sub sooner. Wood didn’t have a particularly good game and I would have taken him out sooner and maybe brought in Morris the last 10 minutes to try and get behind their defense. The sub of Zusi made no sense at all.

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      • Adam M.

        This team can play proactive soccer against anyone in our region.

        Pulisic-Wood-Fabian Johnson
        Nagbe-Bradley-Acosta
        Yedlin-Brooks-Cameron-Villafana

        Bunkering with an unusual lineup to play for a road tie when the above lineup is available is a cop out. We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard — and we actually (finally) have the talent to do that. We just need to put that talent on the field at the same time.

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      • Jonathan Gilbert

        Agree with Gary about the subs and lineup, some things make me question how much trust Arena has in FJ right now?

        Adam – We need the point, we cannot afford not to make it to Russia, otherwise I agree about what our attitude needs to be moving forward.

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      • Camelback

        Fair enough but let’s not pretend he invented the bunker and counter against Mexico. Every USMNT coach has been doing it, even at home.
        Klinsmann was the only one that tried a different approach. We all know how that worked out

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      • Ronniet

        I really find it hard to come to gripes with what people were expecting the team to do with 7 changes to the lineup. The starters are on two days rest, after playing a friendly and a qualifier at altitude. It would have been unreasonable and illogical for Bruce to trot out many of the regulars on that short amount of rest, it’s called managing the team and im guessing Bruce and his staff know a thing or two about that better than we can all dream to know. Qualifying is not about playing the prettiest soccer, but getting enough points to get to the WC in Russia next summer, you worry about the pretty, proactive soccer when the job is done. Ream is better than Besler, don’t know why that is so hard to understand and BA clearly trust him. Beasley was used with the idea of playing that particular formation in mind and it worked out the way is was drawn up. People can holler bunker all they want but its something to be said for a seemingly defensive team to out shoot mexico on goal, have more corners and created more clear chances on goal! Good for Bruce and the boys!

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    • Jonathan Gilbert

      This was a rather unique situation which required a different approach from Arena. Remember that he came into a situation where we were in a serious hole, and his goal was simple: get us to Russia. If we had gotten point in those games, we would not need the point last night and could play our normal style. As it was, every point matters. On top of that, the Confederation Cup forced this game two days early, at altitude, which meant less recovery for those who played on Thursday (a game we needed to win). I think considering these issues, he did great. Not only did he know how to frustrate Mexico, he figured it out early enough to implement the plan in camp, not the day before the game.

      Like

  • Randy

    The genius of Bradley was realizing that he’s too old or too slow to sprint at Ochoa and finish by either rounding him or ably shooting from up close. Amazing finish – he could not do it any other way😊👍

    Like

  • Scott e Dio93

    Zusi, Besler & Beasley no longer are useful USNT. USNT needs more youthful players like Acosta & Arriola (good to see Acosta playing CM rather leftback).

    Like

  • Lost in Space

    Nagbe, Arrioal, & Acosta all showed very well in this camp/games. Hopefully they’ll carry it over, expand it, into the Gold Cup as starters. Building consistency and chemistry.
    Looking forward to seeing Matt Miazga, Kenny Saief, Gyasi Zardes, & Cristian Roldan turn in similar type performances when they get their opportunities at the GC. Then hopefully we’ll see the end of players like McCarty, Wondo, & Zusi. Still disappointed that Gooch didn’t get the call, as I think he’d make another quality option to compete for a Wide midfield position.

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    • johnnyrazor

      Gooch really only played U23s once Sunderland’s “top players were available” I think he got in a game or two at the end of the season after relegation was assured. Hopefully, he will have the opportunity to start most matches next season as some of the veterans will be moved to ease the salary hit

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      • Ronniet

        i think it had more to do with him sustaining a serious injury that kept him down for a few months so he was never able to fully gain his spot back in the rotation. This season we’ll get a better feel for where he is in the championship, albeit we’d all love to see him playing in the Prem week in and out

        Like

      • Lost in Space

        Before the injury he was one of the few bright spots on a very bad Sunderland team. He was forced into playing a lot of minutes at the start of the season due to veterans being sidelined, but he did play well. Sunderland being relegated may be the best thing for him as a player, as I think he’ll get plenty of opportunities/games next season.

        Gooch is a player who plays with a bit of a chip on his shoulder (like Dempsey); has grit…not afraid to put in physical challenges; but also has the ability to play smart quick combination passes, take defenders on 1 v 1, and get off decent crosses. I’m not suggesting that he’s a starter by any means, but he’s a player who could be a nice complement/trade off for Nagbe or Fabian especially if Pulisic is playing centrally. Could be that impact sub that Feilhaber was back in 2010.

        Depending on who steps up during the Gold Cup we could find ourselves with a decent selection of wide midfielders to choose from towards the end of Qualifying….

        Pulisic – Either Wing or Centrally. Don’t really need to touch on what he brings.
        Fabian – Either wing. Once he knocks off some of the rust, and gets chemistry back with his teammates/coach he should be much more productive than shown this camp.
        Nagbe – Able to play wide or centrally. Quick, good control on the run. Needs to work on his crossing and final pass, but overall a solid option.
        Lletget – Better centrally, but decent out wide. Will obviously need to regain form after his injury, but should have a good shot since Bruce knows him.
        Zardes – Wide Right, or up top. Provides that outright speed option to stretch the defense. Gritty, Harassing player who’ll put in the work. A player designed to go up against CONCACAF teams/refs, especially on the road. Possible option off the bench to run at tired defenders. Arena knows him and what he is capable of.
        Gooch – Either side or Centrally. See above….
        Saief – To be seen what exactly he’s able to bring to the table besides a left sided player. By all accounts has good speed & technical ability. Gold Cup will be his proving ground for inclusion the rest of this cycle.
        Roldan – Similar to Lletget if not quite as clean technically. Added benefit is that he could also provide cover at RB in a pinch.. Gold Cup will be his proving ground for inclusion the rest of this cycle.
        Green – Wide Left or 2nd striker. Bit of a wild card who needs to make up ground on the others. Will need to break into the starting XI & contribute w/ Stuttgard if he wants to get back into the discussion this cycle.
        Bedoya – The veteran who’s quickly falling out of favor. A grinder who is decent defensively, but doesn’t add much going forward.
        Manneh – Still hasn’t been cleared to play for the US. Isn’t seeing much time with his club. Has a ton of ground to make up, but could be an interesting option if he ever gets going.

        4-3-3
        ——-Fabian——Wood—–Pulisic—
        ——Nagbe—–Cameron—-Lletget—
        -Villafana—–Brooks—-TBD—-Yedlin-

        or 4-2-3-1
        ———————-Wood——————-
        —-Nagbe——–Pulisic——-Fabian—
        ————-Acosta——Bradley———-
        –Villafana—-Brooks—-Cameron—Yedlin
        (Lletget for Acosta or Acosta for Bradley?)

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  • DJ

    What did we learn, again? That Brad Guzan does more standing around than a target forward. How many times are we going to see him not move at all while the opponent scores? The guy has awful reaction, at least when playing for the NT, and his positioning was also complete garbage.

    Like

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