In a heartbreaking turn of events, the US U23 Men surrounded a 3-2 lead with 3 minutes to play to tie El Salvador. The US team, after overcoming a 2-1 deficit and an early injury (requiring them to use a precious sub early), surrendered a last second goal to level the match and costing the US U23 team an advancement spot.
Heartbreaking. The team was just seconds away. Some will take this result and call for Porter’s head. Some will continue to criticize the current soccer regime in our country. I disagree. If we don’t concede a 30 yard goal in waning seconds (if the keeper isn’t fooled by a bounce), no one has this discussion and everyone today is talking about the plucky comeback win.
Caleb Porter is emphasizing possession in attack. Was he hurt by the early injury? Absolutely. He is running a 4-3-3 scheme that depends on subs later to keep fresh legs on the wings. I am not making excuses for him. Possibly Porter’s more difficult tactical mistakes came in the Canada game, but Porter is pushing soccer where it needs to be pushed — mastery over the ball and possession. I hope he survives this loss and is not another in a long list of former U20 US coaches who get fired based on a tournament result. Again, how funny that if the keeper saves the ball, the US win 3-2 and advance an no one is talking about this today.
Us v El Salvador Highlights
Caleb Porter, the USMN U-23 team coach, is implementing a possession-attack oriented offense at the US Men’s U23 levels. He is also currently the head soccer coach at Akron, a college soccer powerhouse. While our senior team has beaten Mexico before, we seldom do it while dominating possession. His system is based on possession, attacking, and pressing. Sounds like Ajax in the early 70s or Barcelona today. Ives Galarcep, a senior writer for Foxsoccer.com and a person who covers the MLS and the US National team, wrote some nice pieces about Caleb Porter and the style of play he teaches. He quotes Porter:
“I think everybody’s scared to attack, and scared to play, and scared to have the ball and not score, and scared to press…I think if you just take the easy way out and you sit behind the ball and defend, that’s the easy thing. That’s what everybody’s done and tried. I’m going to try something new, something different, and I’m confident that it will work. He continued: “To play this way you have to be technical. To play this way you have to want to have the ball. . . You basically have to have 11 guys on the field that are comfortable on the ball. Eleven guys on the field that are comfortable with pressing. It takes a well-rounded player, but I think there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be effective.” You can add the word “here” after “effective” to add emphasis.
Here is another gem: “The essence of this style is that you are the deciding team. I would rather be the deciding team and be proactive and go into a game trying to control it than to flip a coin and sit back and hope you can hit a team on the counter. . . We need more of that because we’re not helping ourselves by just defending and destroying and sitting back. Even though you can win that way, it’s not going to help grow the sport.”
Wow. I seriously love this guy. If you have read any of the postings on this blog, you will know I prefer a possession-based soccer attack. The new US Youth Soccer Coaching guidelines also favor it — as I have noted and published here. It is great to see our national teams winning with possession.
Porter’s U-23 men’s team recently beat Mexico’s U23s handily 2-0, dominating possession. Yesterday, they handed Cuba a 6-0 defeat while starting their qualifying run to the Olympics.
Here is a link to Galarcep’s pre-Cuba game article: http://msn.foxsports.com/foxsoccer/usa/story/caleb-porter-united-states-olympic-squad-eager-to-break-from-old-american-traditions-032212. And here is the link to the post-Cuba 6-0 win article: http://msn.foxsports.com/foxsoccer/usa/story/usa-6-0-cuba-olympic-qualifying-group-stage-match-review-galarcep-032212. In the Cuba game, the US out shot the Cubans 7-1 (on goal) while also recording 17 goal attempts to the Cubans 4.
I watched a replay of the great Champions League match between Napoli and Bayern Munich(“BM”). Both are wonderful teams. I think BM balances possession with attacking nicely. I kept notes in the first half and this is what I discovered (please note, if I say they “played short” I mean a short pass and I assume you know they kept possession — if they play short and lose possession immediately, I will note it):
1. Goal Kicks: BM took 3 GKs that I observed and played long each time. They won 1, lost one, and gained territory on the other (out of bounds on Napoli). Napoli had 5 GKs,played 3 short and of the 2 long. Of the 2 long, they won 1 and lost 1.
2. DFKs& IDFKs (BM): BM had 9 free kicks. Of the 9, 6 were in their half. Of those 6, they played short 5 times and long once (near end of half – Napoli gained possession). Two of the remaining 3 free kicks were taken at midfield – BM played short both times – and 1 was within 30 yards for which they played the ball into the goal. They also played back to their keeper 3 times for which he played long every time. Napoli gained possession all three times. The keeper also saved 2 balls – he punted long once (lost possession) and rolled short the other.
3. DFKs& IDFKs (Napoli): Napoli had 5 free kicks. Of the 5,the played short every time. The closest they were to the BM goal was about 50 yards.
I find this interesting. BM is playing some of the best soccer in the world right now, or, as the Brits would say, are in “top form.” So is Napoli. Napoli played with less risk – opting to play short more times than naught and preserving possession without regard to territorial gain on a 50/50 ball. BM, on the other hand, mixed up their set piece strategy.
If you read my review of the Arsenal v Marseille game Aresnal v Marseille Match Review, I thought Arsenal was dreadfully ineffective within 40 yards of goal–too clever with the ball. BM seems to strike a nicer balance, although the percentages of success on their long plays would suggest that the territorial advantage won was not worth it. Giving BM credit for the OOB ball off the GK, they “won” territory 2/8 times or a 1/4 of the time. So, they surrendered 100% possession hoping to keep the ball + territory. Since they had a 25% success rate, seems like the better play would be to play short unless you are within 40 yards or so of the goal. Seems like the risk you are adding to the defense by placing a ball into the box and the potential reward are high enough to justify the risk of losing possession. Just my two cents. Cheers.