Sun Tzu's Keys to Effective Soccer.

"Invincibility lies in the defense."   Today's translation is "Defense wins Championships."  If you doubt me look no further than the New England Patriots Super Bowl win.  It was a defensive stand at the goal line that won them the game.

"The possibility of victory lies in the attack."  Today's translation is "Offense wins games."  Look again to New England's Super Bowl win for confirmation as the Tom Brady offense made winning the game a possibility.

Now, let's address soccer.

"For should the enemy strengthen his van, he will weaken his rear;"  This has been very much on my mind as I have watched recent matches involving the USMNT. The team has played very direct soccer often utilizing the long ball in counter attacking to play in a forward.  The whole premise of the attack seems to be of a blitzkrieg mentality. 

This also applies to how Michael Bradley is being deployed.  Because of his incredible fitness level, Jurgeon Klinsman has chosen to play Bradley in an advanced attacking midfielder role.  It is not coincidence the USMNT defending has suffered without Bradley in his customary holding defensive mid role.

What I have also noticed is the gaps between the forward line and that of the rest of the team that occurs when the USMNT attacks in this manner. It's no secret the US back line has struggled mightily in recent matches. Sun Tzu's words ring clear here - the rear of the US formation is weakened by the direct dump and run play of its attack.

"should he strengthen his rear, he will weaken his van;"

The trendy formation for years was the 4-4-2.  The USWNT played a 4-4-2 against France this past weekend... and lost 0-2 to a talented French side. While the defense was solid except or a two minute span in the second half missing from the US play was the accustomed counter attacks and build ups to probing attacks that have defined USWNT soccer for years.

"should he strengthen his left, he will weaken his right; should he strengthen his right, he will weaken his left."   Remember the commentators for the USWNT match with France commenting how Carly Lloyd had been switched from the right to the left side of the formation? Ostensibly this was to strength the defense against France's Elodie Thomis who was giving the USA's Lori Chalupny fits.  In moving to strengthen the left side, the US weakened its attacking right side. 

Both our USMNT and USWNT have been caught in reactive modes to the perceived strengths of their opponents.  Yet, this is not entirely about playing to your own strengths.  Rather, this is about forcing your opponents to respect the possibility of attack coming from any point along the front.

If he sends reinforcements everywhere, he will everywhere be weak.  Numerical weakness comes from having to prepare against possible attacks;"

This is what the USWNT succumbed to against France.  It is also what the USMNT has been battling in recent friendlies.  And, if you will remember, this is what I have written about concerning our Grand Lake United teams success last spring and summer.  One coach commented to me,  "We played you 3 times this season and watched you several more. Your team is impossible to scout.  It's a different player having a big game every time we watch. You generate goals differently every time we watch."

"numerical strength, from compelling our adversary to make these preparations against us."

I also referenced playing a team in a tournament shortly after having faced them in a league match. Our foreign exchange student had wrecked their defense in scoring a hat trick and leading us to victory in the league game.  We knew he would be double teamed by the opponent in the tournament. So, I didn't even start Calo against them. We scored early and were up 2-0 before Calo ever took the field. I left the early goal scorers in the game when I sent Calo on.  Think of the conundrum facing the opponents at this point. 

It's not a great secret that successful soccer revolves around creating numbers up situations both when attacking and when defending. If you strengthen your ability to be numbers up in all phases of play, you can diminish an opponents ability to do so and chances are good the run of the game will be in your favor. 

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