Revisiting Friday’s U.S. loss: tactics and personnel

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Tactics are frequently misunderstood as a starting point for dissecting wins, losses and longer season fortunes.

That’s why I almost often join the camp that says “tactics schmatics” when critical analysis starts there. It’s not that tactics aren’t important; rather, it’s because tactical discussion are too often conducted in a vacuum.

As in: “The 4-2-3-1 is better / worse / superior / inferior to the 4-4-2.” Those discussions leave me wanting to change the channel or go sit at the next table.

Now, choosing the best personnel to fit a system and the optimal game-day arrangement of the correct personnel is certainly a discussion worth biting into – even if we don’t always get it right. This is all more art than science, of course, and always highly subjective.

The prescient tactical choices serve to illuminate players rather than bathing them in dimming shadows.

Of course, having the right personnel is the bedrock starting point.

For instance, give me a couple of difference makers in a match where the opponent misses the same, and even my mushy-pea brain stands a reasonable chance of arranging a limited set of tactics that can carry the day. It’s really about assigning players to comfortable roles and then drilling home the importance of dodging collective booboos. From there, you just let the game-changers do their doggone thing.

Now, about Friday:

Again, missing Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley in the midfield, and having Clint Dempsey at a clearly under-inflated tire pressure was simply too much to overcome. That’s how I saw the setback in Kingston.

As for the finer points, this read from Shinguardian is a great tactical breakdown of Friday’s result. It’s smart analysis of where tactics and personnel just didn’t line up to maximum effect.

Good points not to be missed from the article:

  • How the choice of playing a deeply recessed back line didn’t mesh with Kyle Beckerman’s abilities. (For me, the defensive plan was far from a fiasco, considering Jamaica put very little pressure on goalkeeper Tim Howard in open play. The only defensive demerit came in the fouling – which did prove quite damaging.)
  • How Clint Dempsey’s assigned role just does not suit him. It never will. I made the same point here in a post that dropped just after Friday’s match.
  • How Graham Zusi could have helped sooth the burn of missing Bradley and Donovan. I’m not sure I agree with that one – but see my comment above regarding subjectivity.

There’s plenty more in the article to agree or disagree with.