Through all this, the other attacker – Landon Donovan – has continued to be the most reliable player in the national team set-up.
If the States had to replace three of their attacking four, would it make sense to stay with a system so reliant on these four attackers?
We have seen Stuart Holden’ mixed results (Gold Cup, compared to Honduras), a perfectly acceptable rate of development for a player so young. Robbie Rogers has been similarly inconsistent, while the replacement forward options are also problematic. Conor Casey had a good performance in Honduras, but those are his only international goals, while Brian Ching’s virtues are lost without a player like Davies playing off him.
If the United States ever had to go with Casey, Donovan, Holden and Rogers for a stretch of matches, would they be best served keeping the current formation?
Possibly, possibly not, but the current inflexibility leaves no choice. The lack of options only exacerbates the drawbacks of the 4-2-2-2.
Expanding on Issues: Central Midfield Depth, Two Spots
In the Brazilian system, the key to the two central midfielders’ value is ball-winning ability and distributing diagonally to the wings and forwards going wide to win balls.
Perhaps this explains the United States’ reliance on the counter attack. The U.S. has no players playing the deep midfield roles who can consistently provde this type of distribution (let alone overcome the formation’s problems and link-up conventionally). Michael Bradley could be this type of player in a more traditional, central midfield role but not from a defensive position to which he is less-suited.
In the current set-up, the U.S.’s best option for the pivot positions is to rely on their best ball winners, but Jermaine Jones and Maurice Edu have had fitness issues that could keep them from settling-in before South Africa. Ricardo Clark is the next-best option, showing consistent improvement over the last year, becoming the States’ best ball-winning midfielder.
Michael Bradley has valiantly played this role, slowly adapting over the qualifying cycle, but his talents are wasted in this spot. In addition, his tackling is not his best skill, often putting him in a bad position as a central midfielder. He may never be able to avoid the constant threat of yellow and red cards should he continue to be deployed in this role.