By Jared Young (@jaredeyoung)
Jurgen Klinsmann’s investment in new players this cycle began to pay off as the USMNT earned some retribution with a late, come-from-behind win, shocking the Netherlands in Amsterdam 4-3. Gyasi Zardes (33’), Danny Williams (’89) and Bobby Wood (90’) all scored their first international goals while center back John Anthony Brooks (70’) scored his second to lead the United States to victory.
The U.S.’ story is one of absorbing extreme offensive pressure from the Dutch, but remaining extremely efficient in the final third. Let’s dig right into the statistics that tell the story beyond the score.
46 shots taken and 22 on goal and other crazy numbers. The stat that jumps off the page is the staggering number of shots taken by both sides. This was a fast paced, wide open and wildly entertaining affair. The Netherlands took 27 of those shots, more than twice as many as the USMNT defense has been allowing since the World Cup, but the U.S. managed 19 of their own. Those 19 shots were two more than the U.S. took in the last three games against Mexico, Switzerland and Denmark combined. In terms of shot production, the U.S. attempted 309 passes in the final third to generate 17 shots in those past three games (18.2 passes per shot), but they were able to sustain a much better ratio of 78 final-third pass attempts to 19 shots in the game against the Netherlands (4.1 passes per shot). That improved ratio was helped by completing 73% of their passes in the final third, which is their best mark in the new cycle.
While the U.S. only took 41% of the total shots in the game, they were even with the Netherlands in shots on target, tied with 11 (yep, the goalies were busy with 7 saves each). This great shift between shots and shots on goal has been a typical trend since the World Cup. The USMNT has been able to neutralize their woeful Total Shots Ratio disadvantage of 38% by shooting 47% of the game’s total shots on target. Obviously, they do that by putting a much higher percentage of their shots on frame--47% accuracy compared to their opponent’s 33%. That is partially because the U.S. have very few shots blocked. The Netherlands blocked just 3 of the U.S.’ 19 shots (typical would be 5) and the U.S. have only had 16% of their shots blocked since the last World Cup. That’s well below the 23% of their opponents’ shots that they have blocked themselves.
Where the USMNT lacks in possession and the taking of shots, they make up for by being very efficient shooting the ball. They have now finished 17.3% of their shots since the World Cup compared to their opponents 11.3%. That’s phenomenal. Too bad that only equalizes their goal differential.
Sitting deep: 37 passes per defensive action in the first 60%. The USMNT definitely respected Oranje and sat much deeper than they have against their two prior foes. Their passes allowed per defensive action in the first 60% of the field was much lower than against even the Swiss, indicating a high level of passiveness.
The offensive center back John Anthony Brooks. Klinsmann seems to desperately want a center back operating in the attacking half. This game it was John Anthony Brooks, who completed seven of eight passes in the attacking half, including a key pass. He also scored the U.S.’ second goal. Compare that with the one pass that was attempted by his center back partners, Alvarado and Orozco. Against Mexico Klinsmann released Omar Gonzalez in the attacking half, but he was much less effective, completing just 6 of his 14 pass attempts. And yes, as the other center back against Mexico, Alvarado stayed back and had just one pass attempt in the attacking half.
Given the defense was sitting so deep against the Netherlands, it’s no accident a center back is pushing into the attacking half. Klinsmann looks to be developing a new kind of dynamic center back that can help with numbers in attack and use their size to finish. Brooks showed tremendous versatility against the Dutch. He looks like the one hands-down starter at center back going into the Gold Cup.
All in all these numbers tell a compelling story of a U.S. counterattack that has become very efficient since the World Cup. The U.S. sat back and allowed the Netherlands to pound away at goal, weathering 27 shots. Meanwhile, when they earned possession they quickly moved into position to take good shots of their own. And by quickly, I’ll reiterate that they only attempted a mind-numbing 4.1 passes per shot in the final third. This efficiency allowed them to keep pace with the Netherlands from a shots-on-target perspective. And as luck would have it, Danny William’s deflected shot from outside the box was the difference in the 90th minute. After all of the late game collapses the U.S. has endured, it sure felt good to be on the other side of a big comeback.