The US National Team often times has to fight a two front war for recognition: the first is against an indifferent domestic sporting press and the second is against a downright hostile foreign football press. As the US fights for respect in the football world, and with it the ability to move American players to better clubs, results are important but the way we play is perhaps more so.
The American press and sporting culture is results driven. For that segment of skeptic that has suddenly discovered football in the last 72 hours, the US must win today’s final against Brazil. For the euro skeptic and foreign sporting press a good show will do the trick, although style points matter. Sticking nine men behind the ball and defending generally does not win you any love in the football press unless you are Chelsea and their millions of dollars spent on transfers and you play the role of David against big bad Goliath Barcelona.
As we discussed yesterday, Brazil’s weakness is down their left side and since Dunga likes to rely on counter attacking, Brazil no longer controls possession for long stretches of matches against better opposition. This will allow the US midfielders and attackers to make a strong statement to potential suitors at European clubs.
Again here are our three keys to playing Brazil:
ATTACK THE LEFT SIDE
The left side is where you attack Brazil. Under Dunga, Brazil essentially plays without a left sided midfielder. The left back position for the Brazilians has been a similarly problematic as it has been for the United States. Andres Santos and Klebar are both below the acceptable standard and we saw Dani Alves inserted on the left side late against South Africa despite being right footed.
Brazil’s midfield is stacked towards the right side leaving Robinho, a forward with poor defensive instincts (I can attest to this as a Man City supporter) to track back to provide cover for the left back.
In the first game the US did not exploit this weakness once until perhaps minute 85 or so when Jonathan Spector made a nice run up the right flank and setup Benny Feilhaber’s shot that went off the crossbar. Brazil was already leading 3-0 at the time.
While Cint Dempsey is more comfortable in the middle he and Landon Donovan need to drift right regularly to attack Brazil’s weakness. It may also be worthwhile to start Charlie Davies as the right forward and let him push wide on the right side as he did on the left flank against Spain. This tactical move by Bradley helped to open up the Spanish defense in the first 10 minutes Wednesday and a similar move could be repeated on Sunday.
DEFEND THE COUNTER ATTACK
Under Dunga, Brazil doesn’t play the typical Brazilian style of patient, pretty build up in the midfield. Instead Brazil tends to bunker early and then hit teams pushed up on the counter attack. We saw this against Italy as the Azzuri, notoriously slow starters actually controlled the first 25 minutes of the match but then were beat several times on quick counters.
Brazil’s lightning quick speed on a counter attack was evidenced by the US on the second goal last week when DaMarcus Beasley’s infamous giveaway led to a jailbreak of Brazilian attackers and the US defenders were caught flat footed and out of position.
Committing too many men to the attack and on set pieces can be deadly against Dunga’s Brazil.
KEEP ORGANIZED AT THE BACK
As my colleague Daniel Feuerstein has pointed out in his article on the Brazil-US series, the matches have generally been competitive and spirited. The most notable exception was last week’s embarrassment.
But in previous meetings under US coaches Bora Milutinovic, Steve Sampson and Bruce Arena the US tended to selectively go forward against Brazil and rely on proper spacing and organization at the back to compete.
As we’ve pointed out this Brazilian squad is very different. They don’t constantly pressure the ball or keep possession. That makes them no less formidable as an attacking side however.
That’s it for now. Follow me on twitter at kkfla737 or Brian Zygo at bzygo for live updates during the day. Tonight sometime around 9pm ET look for a full post match wrap up podcast, featuring our usually array of guest talent.