Michael Bradley Scores Totti-esque Chipped Golazo Against Mexico

Michael Bradley Scores Totti-esque Chipped Golazo Against Mexico

Michael Bradley scored a stunning golazo against Mexico in Sunday in World Cup qualifying when he chipped Mexico’s goalkeeper Memo Ochoa from some 40 yards out while sprinting. Bradley’s goal was worthy of Francesco Totti who lived to score by the cucchiaio, as it’s called in Italian.

Several minutes into the game against Mexico, Bradley stole a pass from Mexico weaved right in between two defenders and more or less immediately hit a soft chip while sprinting over Ochoa who was near the top of his own penalty box.

Shawn Francis had it right when he posted a photo of Michael Bradley on Twitter with the caption, “Remember when you thought my dad got me this job?”

Bradley’s goal was impressive for several reasons. First, he hit his chip without any hesitation when he possibly could have tried to score by hitting his shot low and hard into the corner. Second, Bradley hit the chip from some 40 yards out, and, third, it’s very difficult to get the weight of the shot just right off a chip. Finally, Bradley hit his chip while dribbling at a sprint which makes the chip so much harder not to hit too hard over the crossbar.

In many ways, you can’t help thinking that Bradley should still be playing in Serie A if he’s able to score that caliber of an international goal. MLS offered Bradley a huge salary, but Bradley’s abilities are better maximized in European club soccer. In Serie A, Bradley proved himself to be an excellent dead ball specialist, and his chip against Mexico further showcased this control of the ball.

Before Bruce Arena took over as head coach of the United States, fans and the media had been lamenting Bradley’s play with the national team, but with better players deployed in a more logical tactical setup, it appears the Bradley’s struggles might have been caused by playing with subpar players.

After a goal like he just scored, Bradley might have silenced a small minority of his critics who unjustly blamed him for the U.S.’s poor play before Arena took over.

 

Christian Pulisic Represents a New Level for American Soccer Players

Christian Pulisic Represents a New Level for American Soccer Players

Christian Pulisic is the first American soccer player to be starting at an attacking position for a top European club team. That already makes him different than other top American soccer players in the past.

The 18-year-old attacking midfielder from Pennsylvania Pulisic is not only technically-skilled enough to play for a club like Borussia Dortmund, but he also has electric speed, creativity, coolness under pressure, and great vision. Just for clarification, Borussia Dortmund is one of the top German club teams in the Bundesliga, which is a league that is much better than say the English Premier League in terms of overall skill and quality of play.

Pulisic has mostly featured as wing for Dortmund, but he has played centrally as a playmaker, which is where United States coach Bruce Arena started playing him several games ago. Using Pulisic as a Number 10 opened up the American attack making it more dangerous, and it also allowed Clint Dempsey to have a playmaker playing behind him that could actually feed him the ball in scoring positions and play on his level. The U.S. National Team has had the problem where Dempsey and Landon Donovan were much better than all of their teammates, but now Dempsey has an attacking player player playing with him who seems even better than Donovan. It could even be said that Pulisic is a better passer and assist man than Donovan, as Pulisic has displayed more creativity and trickery than Donovan who didn’t used to attempt the kind of bold and audacious passes that Pulisic has routinely been pulling off without any hesitation.

While the players on the national team are much better than in years past, Pulisic has been a revelation for the team not only for his playmaking and ability to set up Dempsey but also for his own scoring ability. Pulisic is clinical in front of goal and he doesn’t hesitate to pull the trigger with either foot. Based on the type of skill and movement that Bobby Wood and Pulisic have shown in the attack, it’s fair to say that the United States is a more skilled and creative team than it was in the past, and Pulisic is the orchestrator and driving force of the United States now. Dempsey is still likely the best player, but Pulisic is the key to creating more opportunities for Dempsey and the teams other forwards.

When you watch Pulisic play for the United States, what you see is a player who plays with the combination of skill and speed need to beat defenders, and the U.S. didn’t used to have that. Donovan was skilled and fast, but it wasn’t at the same level as Pulisic, plus Donovan was also not quite as aggressive and direct against top competition. Dempsey was and is very technically-skilled and quick, but he lacks the extra gear of speed and quickness that Pulisic uses to blow past defenders.

 

Who Should the United States Start Against Mexico in World Cup qualifying?

Who Should the United States Start Against Mexico in World Cup qualifying?

Except for starting Jozy Altidore over Bobby Wood at center forward, coach Bruce Arena got his United States lineup right in the World Cup qualifying win over Trinidad and Tobago in Denver. The United States beat Trinidad and Tobago 2-0 as they should have, and the U.S. should obviously be playing for the win against Mexico in Mexico City.

Altidore played well for the United States in the last game where he even set up a goal, but Wood is the more dangerous player and the more difficult player to defend and contain. Arena also has the option of altering his formation, but he seems content with his 4-1-3-2 formation which has worked very well for the U.S. It’s even an attacking lineup, which the United States and Arena never used to use.

Wood over Altidore may be the only lineup change for the United States, and having Wood and Pulisic running at the Mexican defense in Azteca should be a more electric attack than the U.S. has ever fielded in Mexico’s enormous Azteca stadium in Mexico City. There is a possibility that Kellyn Acosta will start against Mexico with the logic being that the United States will need another center midfielder to keep possession and recovery possession, and both Bradley and Acosta cover a lot of territory.

Fabian Johnson didn’t play particularly well in either of the last two U.S. games, but nobody doubts his talent, speed, or experience. Nevertheless, Arena should play somebody over Johnson, and that somebody should be Acosta.

Using Acosta would alter the Americans’ formation, and just maybe Dempsey plays tucked in on the left rather than playing as a second striker. Pulisic moves all over the attack and all over the field for that matter, and rigidly confining Dempsey or Pulisic to wide or central roles on the field is a misunderstanding of how they play and how the sport is played.

A strong option for Arena against Mexico therefore is to insert Acosta into the lineup and not use a three-man defense with three center back, which is something the U.S. is comfortable enough with to really use against Mexico. Even though the U.S. just played Thursday, switching up the center backs or the defense at all feels risky. If a player or players get tired, then that’s what substitutes are for. Going with the 4-3-3 formation would help with the fatigue from the recent game since the 4-3-3 would have Nagbe, Bradley, and Acosta as a three-man midfield with three center midfielders to keep possession and recover possession, which would make for an attacking three of Pulisic, Wood, and Dempsey who are all fluid and versatile attackers who know how to move into space and show for the ball. Rather than trotting out some unproven and new defense, Arena should play a three-man midfield of Nagbe, Bradley, and Acosta

Here’s who World Soccer Source believes the United States should start against Mexico:

Goalkeeper: Tim Howard

Right Back: DeAndre Yedlin

Center Back: Geoff Cameron

Center Back: John Brooks

Left Back: Jorge Villafaña

Right Center Midfielder: Kellyn Acosta

Defensive Midfielder: Michael Bradley

Left Center Midfielder: Darlington Nagbe

Right Wing: Christian Pulisic

Center Forward: Bobby Wood

Left Wing: Clint Dempsey

 

Bruce Arena’s Forward Options for the U.S. National Team

Bruce Arena’s Forward Options for the United States Men’s National Team

Bruce Arena has five good forwards for arguably only four forward roster spots. Some of these forwards are clearly better than the others.

For starters, Clint Dempsey is the best forward in the pool, and the best American soccer player ever.

Next, Bobby Wood is the best center forward in the pool, even better than Jozy Altidore. Wood is more technical, faster, more aggressive, and more clinical, and all of these reasons make him better than Altidore.

After Altidore, comes Juan Agudelo, who is more creative and more skilled than Altidore. Like Wood, Agudelo is a more aggressive and direct player than Altidore, who himself has undergone something of a Renaissance. Altidore has vastly improved his playmaking and passing, plus he has been attacking defenders more directly and beating them off the dribble.

Finally, we have Jordan Morris, who plays like Bobby Wood, but Morris still heavily favors his right foot; Morris has also not shown the type of clinical finishing that Wood has shown, but Morris can definitely put the ball in the back of the net. Morris offers speed like Wood, but Morris has to be faster than Wood, who himself is devastatingly fast.

So, we see that Arena has a good problem, and the way the Dempsey plays makes him something of a playmaker, which allows Arena to put all five of these players on the roster. Maybe it’s too many forwards since all are center forwards, but Agudelo, Wood, and Altidore all also play like second strikers or withdrawn forwards.

Because the United States historically has had problems scoring enough goals against elite competition, there is something to be said of just making a habit of calling up four to five forwards who have no problems scoring. Using two forwards at once is common enough and often wise, and a substitute for two forwards would give the roster four forwards, plus Dempsey who of course is also an attacking midfielder.

The major story line for the United States’ next game will be whether or not Arena will be wise enough to start Dempsey and Wood together without getting distracted by all the attention and buzz around Altidore’s much improved play. There is also the storyline of Agudelo’s more consistent club play where he’s starting and scoring as a Number 9 for the New England Revolution, and leaving him off the roster would be a big mistake. If one forward has to be left off, then it might have to be Morris, but not calling up a forward with world-class speed combined with aggressive and skillful play might be a big mistake too.

Is Altidore’s improved play more impressive than Agudelo or Morris’ abilities?

We’ll see.

 

MLS Improving from Hacking to Skill Soccer

MLS Is Improving from Hacking to Skill Soccer

The level of play in Major League Soccer has improved, but the level still falls short of the top European and Latin American soccer leagues. The major difference, which stands out immediately, is that the control and smoothness of the passing is not at the same high level as those other leagues. It’s not the speed of the passing per se that makes the passing smoother because the English Premier League has almost out of control and overly fast passing where many of the teams look like there are rushing their passing and putting too much power behind their passes. But, anyone watching the passing in La Liga, the Bundesliga, Serie A, Ligue 1, etc can see that each player normally takes a maximum of two touches when the ball is passed to them: one touch to control the pass and one touch to play the ball to a teammate.

MLS is still improving in this regard. MLS games feature more balls played in the air, more header sequences, and more instances of the ball bouncing around in a chaotic fashion. You could say that the passing and ball control in MLS needs to settle down without transforming into slow, listless, and boring play. By all accounts MLS continues to improve and the overall skill of the players both American and non-American continues to improve, but it is still true that too many players who base their play on physicality over technical skill and athleticism.

The next area where MLS needs to improve is curbing the roughness and dirty, violent play. There’s a difference between some pushing and taking out people’s legs from behind. There’s also a feeling that too many coaches, players, and media members believe that rough tackles are a part of the game. Nobody said slide tackles or shielding the ball don’t belong in soccer, but can’t we draw the line and slide tackling players’ legs from out from behind them without getting the ball. Can’t MLS refs give more cards for stomping player’s ankles, feet, and legs.

MLS fans can now enjoy more technical and creative players who can beat defenders with individual skill and quickly combine with teammates, and while this is great, too many talentless hackers and dirty players are uglying up MLS games with dangerous play that they feel is part of the game. The reality for these players is that you won’t see elite enforcers around the world playing quite as dirty as they do. Of course, any soccer fan can list certain elite players who are dirty hackers, but by and large, this type of thuggery is not allowed by other elite players who keep these hackers in check.

MLS has definitely seen a bump in attractive and creative play, and an excellent example of this is Jozy Altidore, who has been showcasing a new dimension of playmaking and passing to his game. Altidore is fairly or unfairly seen as a player whose play is based on size and strength, but his transformation to a smoother, more refined player signals a change to more skillful play in MLS, that is separate from the continued influx of technical players from outside of the United States.

 

 

Takeaways from the United States’ World Cup Qualifiers against Honduras and Panama

Takeaways from the United States’ World Cup Qualifiers against Honduras and Panama

The United States beat Honduras and drew with Panama for an important four points in World Cup qualifying, but the United States should have taken the full six points from these two games. Bruce Arena reverted to an overly conservative lineup against Panama with both Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones in the center of the midfield, and Arena’s center back choices, Omar Gonzalez and Tim Ream, looked bad against Panama. With Jones in the midfield, the U.S. lost the passing skill and attacking flair they showed with Christian Pulisic as the Number 10 behind Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore.

Here are some of the big takeaways from the United States’ two World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Panama:

Bruce Arena Is a Bigger Proponent of Skill Soccer than Jürgen Klinsmann

Bruce Arena is a bigger proponent of skill soccer than Jürgen Klinsmann, which is strange. Klinsmann is one of the all-time leaders in World Cup goals as a striker, but he never fielded the players and formations needed to really attack opponents. In every game that Arena has coached for the United States in his second coaching stint, he has fielded proactive lineups with as many technical and creative players as he could fit into the lineup. Arena had multiple injuries to deal with against Panama, so that lineup was not as technical, creative, and attack-minded as his Honduras lineup. Nevertheless, Klinsmann’s lineups were never as bold and attack-minded as Arena’s, who used to be known for always using the 4-4-2 formation with two defensive midfielders, except for his use of Sebastian Lletget as the other central midfielder for the LA Galaxy in 2016. With the U.S., Arena’s preference has been to use two forwards with three attacking midfielders and only one defensive midfielder, and Arena was even bold enough to let Christian Pulisic be the team’s Number 10 over both Benny Feilhaber and Sacha Kljestan.

Christian Pulisic Should Be the United States’ Permanent Number 10

As soon as Christian Pulisic was allowed to play the Number 10 role, he attacked opponents directly with speed, skill, and vision, and he created four goals for Clint Dempsey in two games. To be fair, one of Dempsey’s goals was a free kick, but Pulisic directly set up three of Dempsey’s four goals. Pulisic has already displayed a full array of passing and attacking skills in the Bundesliga, and as one media member put it, the fact that Panama instantly chose to hack and push Pulisic around was the ultimate sign of respect for his abilities.

Bruce Arena must focus on improving his defense

The United States was without three of its four defenders against Panama, but nevertheless, both Omar Gonzalez and Tim Ream just looked not good enough to be playing for the U.S. Perhaps Ream was just a little nervy at times, but Gonzalez is not quick enough and fast enough to be starting. Arena will have to commit to using Walker Zimmerman and Steve Birnbaum when Geoff Cameron and John Brooks are out, and Arena must also look for some more center backs. Andrew Farrell is one option because his combines the defending, speed, and skill on the ball to play at the international level. Surely, the U.S. has some other center backs as well.

Clint Dempsey Looks Like He’s Still in His Prime

Fresh off of recovering from an irregular heartbeat, Clint Dempsey played like a monster against Honduras and Panama. Deuce benefited from playing with Pulisic, but all of Dempsey’s goals except the fourth one required a ton of skill; the fourth goals required coolness in front of the goal more than anything as the goal was all Pulisic’s work. Not only is Dempsey’s touch and finishing looking sharp, but physically he looked light on his feet and fast. Dempsey has never been lightning fast, but his overly all athletic ability has been underrated as many mischaracterized him as mostly a toughness player. Dempsey has stood out as an American for his skill on the ball, trickery, and clinical finishing, but his continued ability to run all game and beat people in a foot race are also important.

 

The United States Lineup Was Too Conservative in Draw Against Panama

The United States Lineup Was Too Conservative in Draw Against Panama

Bruce Arena fielded an overly conservative United States lineup featuring Jermaine Jones against Panama, and the team showed less passing and attacking prowess in a 1-1 tie. The United States could have used the full three points against a Panama squad that is frankly not good enough to warrant an overly defensive lineup. Not attacking the opponent might be the best way to let the opponent attack you.

In the previous win against Honduras, Arena used only one defensive midfielder behind a line of three attacking midfielders and two forwards, and this setup allowed Christian Pulisic to pull the attacking strings behind Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore. Using a 4-4-2 formation with Jones next to Michael Bradley in the middle of the midfield, the United States didn’t open up the Panamanian defense enough or create enough scoring chances.

Jozy Altidore, who was involved and impressive in his playmaking as a center forward was largely invisible against Panama in a formation that didn’t get him enough touches as it had against Honduras.

Panama was all over Pulisic pushing him around and trying to take him out of the game with physicality, but the Borussia Dortmund attacking midfielder powered through the physicality and was largely unfazed. On the U.S.’ only goal which Dempsey scored, Pulisic shook off and danced around two Panamanian defenders to set up Dempsey from point blank range, and Dempsey didn’t miss. Pulisic continued to display tons of skill and impressive speed, and there can be little doubt now that Pulisic is the best U.S. player along with Dempsey. Pulisic looks to be better than both Landon Donovan and Dempsey, and compared to Dempsey, Pulisic is much quicker and faster, and a better passer.

The American defense was bad with Graham Zusi, Omar Gonzalez, Tim Ream, and Jorge Villafaña from right to left, but Villafaña continues to impress. Zusi, Gonzalez, and Ream shouldn’t be starting when there are better options, which there weren’t.

Darlington Nagbe was excellent again with his passing, slashing runs, and speed, which he uses to bring the ball into dangerous areas in the attack. In the next U.S. game, Arena would be wise to continue to use Nagbe on the left wing with Pulisic in the center and Paul Arriola on the right wing, since Sebastian Lletget is now injured.

Arena made a roster mistake in not bringing Juan Agudelo. Once Altidore was ineffective against Panama, the U.S. needed a sub for Altidore, and there wasn’t one. This should have been Agudelo. Altidore needs a lineup that feeds him the ball more, and his passing and dribbling was impressive against Honduras. Still, it’s hard to start Altidore over a healthy Bobby Wood, who was injured for these two World Cup qualifiers. Even though Altidore impresses, Wood is better at stretching the defense than Altidore, and the Pulisic will be an even bigger weapon with a striker of Wood’s smoothness, directness, and speed.

The big takeaways from this game were several: Altidore continues to improve, Pulisic is outstanding as the playmaker, Dempsey and Pulisic are the best players on the team, and an attack-minded lineup is the best U.S. formation.

There’s no way around the fact that being satisfied with a tie against Panama is a little weak and small-minded. The United States is too good at soccer now to be ok with a tie against Panama when the U.S. could have really used the full three points for the win.

Who Should the United States against Panama?

Who Should the United States against Panama?

Whatever Bruce Arena does, he should be sure not to change the attack-minded nature of the United States’ lineup that beat Honduras 6-0. Arena only used one defensive midfielder, Michael Bradley, as opposed to using a defensive midfielder and a box-to-box midfielder, and this allowed the United States to overload its lineup with attacking players without having too little defensive coverage in front of the defense.

There’s no reason to change goalkeepers, especially since Brad Guzan isn’t even on the roster, so Tim Howard should start in goal again. However, the rest of the defense will have some changes as one of the two starting center backs, John Brooks, is unavailable. Arena was using Geoff Cameron at right back, but Arena may need to move him back to center back because otherwise the center of the American defense may be too week.

The U.S. could start Cameron with Tim Ream, and this would give the United States two athletic and technical center backs to try to get three more points against Panama. Omar Gonzalez is a decent center back, but he frequently looks prone to be wrong-footed or outfoxed with lateral quickness and speed. Likewise, Matt Besler, the only U.S. center back option, is fast but somewhat mediocre for international play. If Arena wants to be really bold again, then he could use Walker Zimmerman who is fast enough, technical enough, and aggressive enough to make for a quality center back in international play. Compared to Gonzalez and Besler, Zimmerman is likely harder to get past and more intimidating for attackers.

In the Front Six, which would include the defensive midfielder, the three attacking midfielders, and the two forwards, the United States should change as little as possible from the lineup that pounded Honduras. For one of the first times ever, the United States looked like they were playing skill soccer, and that lineup produced quick passing, creative play, and goals. Since one of those starters, Sebastian Lletget, cannot start against Panama due to injury, Arena should let Paul Arriola start at right wing over Alejandro Bedoya. Arriola is playing great for Club Tijuana, and Arriola plays the type of free-flowing soccer that Clint Dempsey, Christian Pulisic, Jozy Altidore, and Darlington Nagbe play.

Here’s who the United States should start against Panama:

Goalkeeper: Tim Howard

Right Back: Geoff Cameron

Center Back: Omar Gonzalez

Center Back: Tim Ream

Left Back: Jorge Villafaña

Defensive Midfielder: Michael Bradley

Right Wing: Paul Arriola

Attacking Midfielder: Christian Pulisic

Left Wing: Darlington Nagbe

Forward: Jozy Altidore

Forward: Clint Dempsey

 

Clint Dempsey Is Still Underrated and Disrespected by Americans

Clint Dempsey Is Still Underrated and Disrespected By Americans

At a certain point, underrating someone crosses the line into disrespecting someone, and that applies to Clint Dempsey. Many media members and fans will insist that Dempsey isn’t the best American soccer player ever, and this is very hard to understand. Dempsey has been displaying individual trickery and goals for 12 years, but there is still no widespread acknowledgment of his superiority to Landon Donovan.

Dempsey’s playing resume features some seven years of playing in the English Premier League and scoring goals consistently as a midfielder, even while playing for a mediocre Fulham team without much technical quality or creativity in the squad. At the international level, Dempsey is now just two goals short of Landon Donovan’s goal-scoring record, which is likely the last obstacle to being considered the best American player ever.

More so than the statistics, Dempsey really stands out from Donovan for his ability to always be dangerous and effective even against the very best international opponents. Unlike Donovan, Dempsey wasn’t ever neutralized be opponents or psyched out by elite international opponents, and it was this ability to always be a difference maker, no matter the opponent, that makes him the best American player ever. No matter how bad the rest of the team played, Dempsey always stood out amongst his teammates when the U.S. played.

He might be a victim of American soccer fans and media members being adverse to individual trickery and flashiness, as American soccer fans are still largely influenced by British soccer where tricks and flair are seen as pointless. Many times Dempsey was criticized for some of his 1v1 attempts not panning out, and some people viewed his play as wasteful. Anyway you look at it though, he always looked much better than his teammates, and his goals confirmed that this was in fact true.

In the most recent U.S. victory over Honduras, people kept saying that Dempsey probably wouldn’t start or that he wouldn’t be at 100%, but Dempsey scored a hat trick where every goal showcased technical skill and clinical finishing. The standard criticism of American soccer players is that they lack the skill on the ball of other elite players, but this never applied to Dempsey.

The Texan’s game has always featured stand-out individual skill combined with the mentality and athleticism to play well against any opponent, and even at two goals shy of Donovan’s goal-scoring record, Dempsey must be considered superior to Donovan for his playing resume and skill-level.

Donovan was the first of his kind for an American soccer player, but continuing to not consider Dempsey the best American soccer player ever is simply disrespectful and off-base. We continue to hear forming U.S. Men’s National Team players saying that Dempsey isn’t better than Donovan, yet they can’t support their position with any evidence. Donovan was great, but he wasn’t as great as Dempsey was and is.

Once the reality of Dempsey’s proximity to Donovan’s scoring record really sinks in, people won’t be so quick to declare Donovan better than Dempsey. Honduras isn’t a good opponent, but the United States needed to beat Honduras to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, which is when Dempsey scored three goals, none of which were tap-ins. These goals were a sliding blast into the top corner with a defender hanging all over him, a goal scored past two defenders and a goalkeeper off the dribble, and a world-class free kick to the far post from outside the box.

 

The United States Routs Honduras with Attack-Heavy Lineup

The United States Routs Honduras with Attack-Heavy Lineup

Bruce Arena fielded an attack-heavy U.S. Men’s National Team lineup with only one defensive midfielder, and it allowed the U.S. to destroy Honduras 6-0. Previous coaches of the United States, including Arena, were always reluctant to field lineups with multiple creative attacking players who could facilitate possession and proactive play, but Arena’s lineup allowed for lots of combination play and goals. He started Sebastian Lletget, Christian Pulisic, Darlington Nagbe, Clint Dempsey, and Jozy Altidore all at the same time. American soccer fans have been waiting for the United States to beat a decent opponent with skill instead of just hustle and heart for a long time.

Max Bretos of ESPN commented on social media during the game that Clint Dempsey had been waiting for five years for a player like Christian Pulisic who could feed him passes and combine with him, and how true this is. Dempsey and Pulisic were also combining with Lletget, Nagbe, and Altidore, who displayed a massive improvement in his ball control and deftness in tight spaces with little time to think and react.

Even without Bobby Wood starting, the United States was stretching the Honduran defense as Pulisic, Dempsey, Altidore, and Lletget all took turns making runs. Arena deserves lots of credit for fielding such an attack-minded lineup, and the decision to use Pulisic as a Number 10 or attacking midfielder rather than using Sacha Kljestan was key to opening up the Honduran defense and getting the most out of Altidore and Dempsey.

Arena was also fairly bold in his decision to let Jorge Villafaña start at left back where he displayed attacking skill going forward along with the endurance, speed, and defending to mark Honduras’ attackers. Villafaña always slowed up his attacking counterpart either by getting in front of him or dispossessing him. Even when Villafaña was beaten or out of position, he recovered enough ground to prevent any dangerous advances on the USA goal.

The United States will be without Lletget for the next World Cup qualifier against Panama, but Arena should be praised again for calling up Paul Arriola to replace him, as Arriola brings many of the same attacking and technical qualities that Lletget brought to the right wing. Alejandro Bedoya did a fine job of subbing in for Lletget after Lletget was hacked and injured, and using Bedoya against Panama would be acceptable since he showed more impact and effectiveness than in recent previous appearances.

Whether the coach of the United States uses Kellyn Acosta in the midfield with Bradley or goes with Bedoya or Arriola in a line of three attacking midfielders, the U.S. should have more than enough quality, speed, and verve to beat Panama on Tuesday in Panama. Look for Arena to field a similar type of proactive lineup again, even if that means using Acosta as a central midfielder to be Bradley’s deputy because Acosta brings aggressive, direct, and skillful play to the team.

Big Bruce overloaded the USA lineup with technical and creative attacking players against Honduras. Will he do it again against Panama, and will it signal a change in the United States’ playing style?