By: Colin Reese
While the strike partnership of Jozy Altidore and Aron Jóhannsson is definitely something that the United States Men’s National Team should start very soon, a strike partnership of Juan Agudelo with Jozy Altidore presents its own unique benefits.
By and large, it’s safe to say that Agudelo is a more creative, a more technical, and a craftier player than Altidore, but Altidore himself has become a technical player that does display creativity and guile when given a striker partner, as opposed to when he’s stranded on a desert island up top.
The principal benefit and rationale behind starting Agudelo and Altidore together as center forwards is their ability to bring a two-pronged attack comprised of fast, tall, quick, and strong strikers who also bring a lot of skill and scoring ability. Agudelo and Altidore aren’t famous strikers in world football, but they are two strikers who would stretch any defense and make any defense really work.
The American strikers shouldn’t be dismissed as simply two athletes that pose an athletic problem for opposing national teams because their technical ability, finishing, and ball striking abilities could present a real problem for top national teams.
Elite center backs, outside backs, and defensive midfielders are certainly accustomed to dealing with fast and skilled strikers, but American athletes of Agudelo’s and Altidore’s speed, size, and skill on the ball are something of a unique duo because they are essentially the type of strikers that other national teams have been hoping not to see on the United States Men’s National Team.
Assuming the United States was capable of keeping possession and providing service to its strikers, Altidore and Agudelo are certainly strikers that present a somewhat unique combination of athleticism, physicality, and skill that has to be taken seriously by opposing national teams.
Center backs like Thiago Silva and David Luiz can keep pace and defend any striker, but unleashing strikers with Agudelo and Altidore’s physical gifts and technical ability is one way for the United States to capitalize on something that not many national teams can utilize.
Two 6’2” strikers who attack with speed, power, and skill on the ball is something that no national team would take lightly, and one way for the United States to disrupt the defensive shape of opposing teams would be to force defenders to have to mark and defend athletes of Altidore’s and Agudelo’s caliber.
For a national team like the United States that has never really attacked top national teams with conviction, starting Altidore and Agudelo together is one way for the United States to put more attacking pressure on opposing teams and take the game to the opposition, as opposed to being overly focused on trying to contain national teams who possess superior collective skill.
Using midfielders who can combine with and feed strikers like Altidore and Agudelo is a way to take American soccer to the next level and way to win big games in the World Cup.
Jermaine Jones will likely start with Michael Bradley as a two-man defensive midfield in the World Cup, but perhaps starting a Front Six comprised of Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan, Benny Feilhaber, Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, and Juan Agudelo in a 4-1-3-2 formation is a more effective way for the United States to not only keep possession but also play to win.
Using only one defensive midfielder is considered too attack-minded or risky by many people, and with good reason, but on the other hand really attacking your opponents with three attacking midfielders and two strikers is a way to dictate the tempo of the game and to play to win.
Four defenders, a defensive midfielder, and a goalkeeper is plenty of defense in a World Cup for a national team like the United States that needs to embrace the philosophy of attacking opponents when many people consider three U.S. defeats likely.
The United States doesn’t need to accept this belief because the United States has the midfielders and strikers to pass the ball well and score, but this requires eliminating one of the defensive midfielders from the starting line-up; this defensive midfielder is Jermaine Jones.
By starting Altidore with Agudelo the United States combines two athletic and complementary first strikers where Agudelo’s trickery and creativity can help Altidore to have a striker partner that frees him up more to score, but Agudelo’s ability to create his own scoring opportunities and score shouldn’t be understated.
In many ways, Altidore needed several years in Europe to cultivate something closer to the technical ability and soft first touch of Agudelo, but playing with a more experienced striker like Altidore should help Agudelo to be a consistent scoring threat on the international level.
A strike partnership made up of Altidore and Agudelo allows the United States to attack national teams with two center forwards with a nice package of physical gifts and technical skills.