Connect with us

Bob Bradley

A New Day for American Coaches?


Peter Nowak’s decision to adjust his tactics (ironically enough in line with what most American Soccer Spot readers suggested the other day) shows a tactical savvy and willingness to take chances that many American coaches have quite frankly lacked in big competitions. Since the debacle of Steve Sampson 3-6-1 in the 1998 World Cup, American managers have implemented a very basic tactical structure one which is based on counter attacking and generally does not consider the strengths or weaknesses of the upcoming opposition.

In changing his tactics and starting XI immediately before a major tournament Peter Nowak has turned conventional American coaching wisdom on its head. A three point victory later critics across the blogosphere and among some of our best soccer writers are asking why and how did he do it? Many say benching Jozy Altidore whose performances for Nowak’s side have been average at best was risky. Others have stated that moving Mo Edu to center back was silly instead of picking a natural center back, perhaps at an over age level like Danny Califf or Jay DeMerit. I will state on both counts I believe Nowak made the right decision.

Several days ago, I called for Altidore’s benching. This was one of the toughest things I have written since beginning this website. Altidore hails from the town next to me and I have done everything I could to openly support him. But given Jozy’s form which was below average both at the Olympic qualifying tournament and at the ING Cup, he had to be dropped. Most disagreed but that is because of the culture in American Soccer that certain players are untouchable.

The benching will help Altidore long term as he will work hard, as he always does to regain his first team place. It’s not all his fault: the weight of Addidas ads, and the over hyping of an 18 year old by US Soccer including playing for his club, his senior national team, and his youth national team all at once has worn down the youngster as it would to any other human being.

The other big change in Nowak’s setup was to add a fifth midfielder, again a suggestion frequently advocated by your’s truly and our readers. Since the Bruce Arena era I have editorializing the need to make tactical changes before big matches and have time and time again seen the US come out with the same flat approach. That’s why Nowak’s changes were so notable yesterday. By adding a fifth midfielder, the US controlled possession and the flow of the game against a quicker, more attacking oriented and arguably more talented side. Nowak has done something most US National Team coaches have been scared to since Sampson changes blew up in his face: Could this be the dawning of a new more tactical era in US Soccer? One must surely, hope but until then job well done, Peter Nowak!

200+ Channels With Sports & News
  • Starting price: $33/mo. for fubo Latino Package
  • Watch Premier League, World Cup, Euro 2024 & more
  • Includes NBC, USA, FOX, ESPN, CBSSN & more
Live & On Demand TV Streaming
  • Price: $69.99/mo. for Entertainment package
  • Watch World Cup, Euro 2024 & MLS
  • Includes ESPN, ESPN2, FS1 + local channels
Many Sports & ESPN Originals
  • Price: $6.99/mo. (or get ESPN+, Hulu & Disney+ for $13.99/mo.)
  • Features Bundesliga, LaLiga, Championship, & more
  • Also includes daily ESPN FC news & highlights show
2,000+ soccer games per year
  • Price: $4.99/mo
  • Features Champions League, Serie A, Europa League & NWSL
  • Includes CBS, Star Trek & CBS Sports HQ
175 Premier League Games & PL TV
  • Starting price: $4.99/mo. for Peacock Premium
  • Watch 175 exclusive EPL games per season
  • Includes Premier League TV channel plus movies, TV shows & more



  1. Chop

    August 9, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    I’m not sure I watched the same match most of you did. I saw a US team that sat back and defended and countered. They had very little positive possession of the ball, with Kjlestan giving it away nearly every time he touched it.

    Very often the defense of the US would simply clear balls downfield instead of passing their way out of trouble. That left Adu and McBride essentially playing with their backs to the goal the entire match. While this is standard for McBride, you can’t have a 5’6″ striker fending off Japanese defenders 40 yards from goal with his back to the goal. Adu needs to face his defenders.

    While this nominally seemed like a 4-5-1, it was rendered useless by the constant giveaways in midfield when the US did actually have the ball. Rogers and Holden did their best on the wings (though I would like to see Holden take on at least one player during the course of the match) and Wynne did well to overlap from time to time.

    However, there was precious little offensively from the US and you can’t go through this tournament playing that timid offensively. You have to score goals at some point.

    In hindsight (a soccer fans best and most effective weapon), having Adu drop into midfield and Altidore up top probably would have worked better. You could have also gone with Feilhaber instead of Kjlestan too. I just don’t get the whole Sacha thing. This guy is arguably an MLS Best X1 player the past two seasons but when he dons the US jersey, he turns into Mike Burns.

    While it’s way too early to heap dirt on Sacha’s international career, it does go to show that even though you play well in MLS, it doesn’t necessarily mean it translates well internationally.

    Just ask Jason Kreis, Roy Lassiter, Ante Razov, Steve Ralston, etc….

  2. Brian

    August 8, 2008 at 11:06 pm

    Nowak did this??? Is this a dream???

    Good for him, good to know an American coach can change things up on the fly – guess he took a page from Dominic Kinnear’s book.

  3. John Harris

    August 8, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    Adjustments and tactical savvy is something our coaches have lacked through the years.

    Nowak may have lucked out yesterday quite frankly. Only time will tell. The 4-5-1 is a good formation but it depends on accurate service from the flanks as well as a speedy striker up top, and with McBride we have more of a target player. Also Rogers crosses leave much to be desired.

  4. Flash

    August 8, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    Great piece and I am very very impressed by the possession our team showed.

  5. Ronald

    August 8, 2008 at 10:58 am

    Nowak got his tactics right now doubt.

    But it can be argued playing more defensuvely would be a good idea given how poorly we defended in the last ten minutes since Nowak insisted on playing just one defensive midfielder.

    I am not advocating the “bucket” to start a match but with a one goal lead I would have put 8-9 men behind the ball which we did not do. Adu, Kljestan and Altidore hardly tracked back except on set pieces.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

More in Bob Bradley

Translate »