Thursday, June 30, 2011

Talking Tactics

Team USA tied Spain 0-0 today, in a match that went pretty much as expected. The Americans outshot the Spaniards 5-2, and played very good defense, but neither team showed its full hand. Spain used its regular starters and subs, but they played slower than usual. Team USA mixed up its lines, using starters and substitute rotations from the Preliminary Round, not the Tournament Round.

Here are a few pics from today's match:
Terrell Nowlin heading for goal
Shaun Ridley squeezes in a shot
Cheering section (L-R): Mallory Hill, Shannon Snell, Connie Thompson, & Terry Summerfelt. Thanks for making the trip!
In case you didn't know who they were connected to!
Now, on to Saturday. What will the USA need to do to win the gold? Here's a quick break-down of the Championship match:

The game will be a classic battle of two styles. The Spanish are very skilled, and lead the group in scoring (6 goals in 3 games). The Americans are very athletic, and lead the entire competition (Prelims and Tournament) in defense, having given up just 2 goals in 6 games. More importantly, however, the two teams play two different formations. Spain uses a 2-2, and the USA uses a 1-2-1. What is the difference?
This graphic shows two teams playing a 1-2-1. Notice the diamond shape. Each team has one defender, two wing midfielders, and one central forward. As the graphic shows, in this formation, the goal is to get the ball to the center forward. That player then distributes the ball to wingers running toward goal, and all three attacking players (forward and midfielders) crash the goal.

In contrast, the 2-2 allows players more flexibility:

                 x                 x       
                 x                 x

Here, any player can become a winger, and forwards can be central or wide. The drawback is that the flexibility makes it hard to practice particular patterns, or ways to attack. The options are so numerous that players can find it hard to adjust and "be on the same page."

Here is what the field looks like when a 2-2 plays against a 1-2-1.

                        x                    y                      x
Sp                                                                                        USA   
GK                  y                                            y                    GK

                       x                    y                       x

In this match-up, the game is usually determined by the ability to "recover," or get back on defense. One of the wingers in the 1-2-1 must get back on defense to cover the extra forward in the 2-2. And on the other hand, one of the forwards in the 2-2 must get back on defense to account for the third attacker in the 1-2-1. Whichever team fails to recover will lose. For the Americans, this means that the wingers must run up and down the length of the field. However, Team USA has three lines of wingers, providing enough depth to cover the players' exhaustion. Today, and throughout the tournament, the Spanish have been slow to recover, and they do not have the depth the Americans have. Team USA hopes to have a particularly productive second half.
Thomas Smith recovers to pressure a shot from the Spanish captain, and Sam Huffman blocks it! Way to defend, guys!
So, now you're in the know about the gold medal match-up! But if you want to see everything else the players have been up to, click on the Extra Photos link in the sidebar to the right.

Tomorrow, the guys have no game. They will spend the day in Athens, visiting the Acropolis and browsing the shopping district of Plaka (as long as security officials decide it is safe). Alternatives include Technopolis, a craft community in West Athens, and watching the gold medal softball game. The team was present at the USA's 14-2 win over Canada today:
Cheering on the softball team, with hats courtesy of Team USA Gymnastics!
After spending the day out and about, the team will have a light walkthrough in the evening and then settle down for a good night's rest before trying to become the first American soccer team to win gold at the Special Olympics World Games.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome!! Way to go guys! So very proud of all of you!! We are all cheering for you! Have a great, relaxing, safe day off tomorrow!!