Pleasantly surprised that neither team came out looking for a tie? Yeah, it was a defensive struggle, but it wasn’t unnecessarily cynical – it was just good defense.
Here are three thoughts on the 1-0 US win over Costa Rica in East Hartford:
Is Jose Torres the third heat?
Honestly, no. Torres was pretty good in this one at times, but his history of struggles against teams that are able to put immediate pressure on him suggests that “pretty good against Costa Rica” is just about his ceiling. We’ve got too many data points showing that.
HOWEVER … Jurgen Klinsmann’s really hit on something by using him as an “inside left.” I have no other word for the position.
Essentially, Torres has been penciled in as the left winger in a 4-4-2, but is playing much, much narrower, and a bit more advanced than whoever’s been on the right (usually Joe Corona, on Tuesday night Alejandro Bedoya). He’s also advanced higher than either of the two central midfielders.
It’s a good look, because it creates a possession hub higher up the pitch close to the forwards, and it basically vacates the left wing for DaMarcus Beasley to overlap, and/or for Landon Donovan to flare out to the left. That creates fun new angles of attack (especially against a 5-4-1, which really is the death of attractive soccer), provided the final ball is there. When Torres plays inside left, it rarely is.
However, I’m making a mental list of guys who could play that spot, but do so with quicker recognition and a bit more forward push. Clint Dempsey comes to mind, and it’s a fun (if counterintuitive) way of getting him and Donovan into the same lineup, while still keeping room for Jozy Altidore.
Other than that, though, the cupboard is bare. At least until Darlington Nagbe gets his citizenship.
Listen up, eights: A six is speaking
Kyle Beckerman has taken a bit of a beating on certain fan sites (and comment sections) for a perceived lack of forward thrust. But Tuesday night's first half was a great example of how and why you usually want a true No. 6 in that role rather than a pair of eights asked to play as a 6.5.
In short, the backline was exposed a bit. It wasn’t catastrophic – they dealt with most of the run-outs, and the most dangerous one was conveniently snuffed out by a Torres foul that wasn’t called.
But there’s this:
Sign of #USMNT's largely harmless 1st-half possession: center backs Orozco Fiscal & Goodson led in completed passes.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) July 17, 2013
Do we want Clarence Goodson and Michael Orozco Fiscal initiating the attack, or do we want one of our surfeit of classy, precise central midfielders?
With Stuart Holden and Mix Diskerud pushed a bit too high, Goodson and MOF had no other choice. Beckerman wouldn’t have left that gap, would have won a few more second balls in front of the defense, and I’m guessing the US would have made their way into the attacking third quicker.
Plus – this is the big one – knowing a pure ball-winner is there, always in the right spot to recover possession, frees the Donovans of the world to attack with a bit more abandon.
Against Belize, Guatemala and Cuba a pair of 8s is fine. Against Costa Rica or better, we almost always want one 6.
In defense of short corners
Everybody hates ‘em, but as our man Devin Pleuler has pointed out time after time after time, they’re useful.
Primarily, they’re useful to prevent counterattacks. And the opportunity cost between a short corner and a regular corner isn’t huge, so against a team as lethal on the counter as the US are, the short corner makes a hell of a lot of sense.
Someday, people will scout that. I’m glad it wasn’t tonight.