Talking Tactics



Should the USA switch to a 4-3-3 for it's final Group C match against Algeria?  Let's consider:

Robbie Findley's second yellow card in as many matches - this one for a hand ball offense when the ball clearly struck his face - rules him out of the Algeria match.  If he weren't banned, it still might be worth considering dropping him as he's been unable to make anything of his chance.  That leaves the USA with Jozy Altidore as their target man.  Bob Bradley could introduce Herculez Gomez into the starting eleven, but his speed probably isn't what is going to unsettle a fleet-footed Algeria side.

In fact, our best goal-scoring options - and indeed our best players - are our wide midfielders, Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey.  Both players are as comfortable playing at striker as they are wide, so why not just bring them in from the flanks in support of Jozy?  That immediately gives the USA a direct, and in Altidore and Dempsey a tall and physical, front line.

Going for a front-three wouldn't just be a physical advantage, however.  It would also be a psychological advantage as it would signal the American's intent to win the match, which indeed they need to do if they want to ensure qualification into the next round.  Algeria were too comfortable with England's front two and this shift could unsettle what really isn't a strong defense.

Switching to a 4-3-3 would also be beneficial in helping Bob Bradley select the right midfield mix.  For my money that would be a central trio of Michael Bradley playing in front of both Maurice Edu and Ricardo Clarke.  The Ranger's man did his reputation a world of good with his performance off the bench today, and in truth Clarke didn't have a terrible game against England.  I'm not a huge fan of Clarke's but perhaps in tandem with Edu, sharing the responsibilities of holding the midfield together, he would do the job.

Those two holding midfielders would allow Bradley to roam forward more and support the front players with his range of passing.  This would be Bradley's moment to step up and run the show, and I think he's capable of doing so.

Playing two holding midfielders should... should... also help the shore up the USA defense and hopefully keep their sheets clean through the first 15 minutes of the match.  Algeria will likely try to exploit the USA's nerves in a must-win match when they've been unable to stop from going behind to early goals through qualification and into this tournament.  They will also look to exploit the space in front of the USA's backline from which we've had all sorts of problems.  I would expect Karim Ziani to live in that pocket between defense and midfield and if the USA doesn't pick him up he'll be able to put them under pressure from the off.  Between them, Edu and Clarke would deny Algeria this space.

Of course this formation will put pressure on the USA's fullbacks to offer an attacking impetus and give the team a wide outlet.  Before the tournament I would have been terrified of such a prospect, but after seeing this new and improved version of Steve Cherundulo play I think it could work.  I would even think we could play an unbalanced formation, a la Argentina.  Bocanegra would be the more "stay at home" defender on the left, and Donovan could play wider on that side to compensate for that.  On the right, Dempsey would tuck in closer to Altidore allowing Cherundulo to get forward.  Hopefully this overlapping would keep Nadir Belhadj from getting forward himself.  Belhadj is a much better attacker than a defender so it will be important for the USA to pin him back - something England failed to do today.

So that's my take.  What do you think?  I look forward to hearing from you in the comments.