Breaking Down Slovenia’s Goals – part 2

This post is an assessment of the second Slovenia goal – check back later for further analysis of what we should learn from these goals. See the breakdown of the first goal here and look for another post assessing what we have learned.

The second goal scored by Slovenia was the result of a great move by Slovenia as well as complete defensive breakdown by the US that began with Michael Bradley in the midfield and ended with Oguchi Onyewu in the central defense.

Second Goal: Scored by Slovenian striker #9 Ljubiankic. US Players at fault – Oguchi Onyewu, Michael Bradley, Jay Demerit. Watch it:

Part 1: Michael Bradley Fail – Slovenia win the ball in the midfield. Donovan loses the ball in a crowded midfield in Slovenia’s half of the center circle. Michael Bradley then rashly sprints forward to attempt to win the ball back. It is a gamble, since if he fails to win the ball the US midfield and the backline will be exposed. What is so shocking, is Bradley doesn’t even make a challenge – no instead he just tamely runs by the two Slovenian players that have actually bumped into each other on the ball. In fact, my description is not harsh enough on Bradley. His effort to break up the play was naive and lackadaisical. He gets his angles all wrong, such that by the time that Bradley and the Slovenian midfielder on the ball are level with each other, the Slovenian is already a yard above Bradley and therefore away into space in the midfield. Bradley is so far out of the play as it advances he ends up being behind Donovan and Dempsey.

This was a hugely costly error. Soccer is about creating space for attacking moves. And out of nothing and for no reason, Michael Bradley gifted Slovenia acres of space in the midfield. However, everybody makes mistakes and you would expect your backline to be able to cover.

Part 2: Torres Covers – Centerbacks out of sorts. After Michael Bradley’s meek challenge, the Slovenian midfielder Brecko pushes up field to his left and is picked up will by Jose Torres. But in having to pick up the driving midfielder, he leaves Slovenia’s withdrawn striker – the big #11 Novakovic open in the center of the park.

At this point the dysfunction amongst the centerbacks becomes apparent. There are two crucial problems, both of which demonstrate a tremendous failure to communicate and poor positional sense.

1. Both Demerit and Gooch are essentially worrying about the same guy – Slovenia’s other striker #9 Ljubiankic. Because Torres has pushed the Slovenian to his left, Ljubiankic is threatening to make a deep diagonal run into the channel toward the corner flag. Both Demerit and Gooch are focused on reacting to that run.

2. Gooch is ten yards behind Demerit – thereby allowing Slovenia to operate in acres of space. This isn’t even about holding a high line for the offsides trap, which is potentially dangerous – it is about defensive cohesion. One centerback cannot be so far behind the other. Three of the US’s defenders – Bocanegra, Demerit, and Cherundolo – are on an even plane. It is Gooch that is ten yards behind them playing as if he is some sort of old school sweeper. This can’t be by design.

3. Part 3: Brecko unlocks the US. Credit has to be given to Brecko in the midfield, who instead of playing the obvious long ball into the channel for the #9 striker, plays a no-look cut back pass to the withdrawn striker #11 Novakovic who has been left free by Michael Bradley’s disastrous run and which neither centerback has bothered to pick up. It was the failure to account for Novakovic, which led to the goal.

In fact, both centerbacks can be blamed. Demerit is floating covering no one – why he is concerned about the #9 striker who is five yards behind him is beyond me. Oneywu, furthermore, had no need to play so deep and should have been tracking the #11 player, which would have put Slovenia’s advanced striker offside.

4. Part 4: Goal – Gooch and Demerit in scramble mode. By the time Novakovic recieves the ball the US are in total scramble mode. Bocanegra and Cherundolo realizing the danger abandon their men at the wings and attempt to help but are too far out of the play. But shockingly both Gooch and Demerit repeat their earlier mistake – they both focus on the same player – this time the #11, which leaves the #9 open in space.

At this point, Gooch has a decision to make. 1. He can aggressively move forward toward the #11 in an effort to not just close him down but to draw the #9 offside. 2. He can hedge hold his ground. 3. Shade toward #9 Ljubiankic to prevent the through pass to him. This would essentially concede a shot from distance to the #11, but would unlikely lead to a clean run in on goal, because Demerit and Bocanegra are rapidly closing him down.

The US would likely have survived if Gooch had chosen either option 1 or 3. Instead, he chose option 2 – to stand his ground. The result was he played the #9 onside, as Ljubiankic carefully checked his run. In fact, by standing still Gooch made it easy on Ljubiankic. The result is Gooch looks like a frozen statue as the ball is easily played through into space. Ljubiankic is free on goal and easily puts the ball in.


What lessons to be learned?

1. Our centerbacks have to communicate much better. What is so shocking is that the two were marking/chasing the same man not once, but twice on the the goal scoring move. Both simply followed the ball and when the ball moved their focus moved as well. You can’t just follow the ball at this level and the two should have told each other who to mark. As a result, they marked no one and were left chasing.

2. Gooch has to relearn the offsides rule. I don’t mean to be harsh, but Gooch is most at fault on the goal. First, he is so far behind the backline – 10 yards behind Demerit – that he opens up acres of space for the withdrawn striker. Second, when it all breaks down and its a 2 on 1 he fails to push up and force the #9 offsides. By standing still, he makes it easy for Slovenia.

3. Michael Bradley can’t take himself out of the play like that. He is responsible for the initial organizational break down. There are times when a midfielder simply should commit a foul to break up play, instead Bradley lazily ran himself out of the play. The lack of effort, focus, and urgency by Bradley was shocking.

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2 Responses

  1. All the World Cup 2010 Games in South Africa will be streamed live at http://www.WorldCupTV.org 18:32

  2. All the World Cup 2010 Games in South Africa will be streamed live at http://www.WorldCupTV.org 08:09

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