Skip to content

Will the fabled German lean to pragmatism prevail for Jurgen Klinsmann against Mexico?

Mar 26, 2013, 12:00 PM EDT

Jurgen Klinsmann, Eddie Johnson Getty Images

Mexico is reeling, clearly, and the United States is in a better place thanks to a restorative, memorable achievement Friday. Given the initiative in the Jurgen Klinsmann era to press the attack, to pressure teams high up the field – heck, ambitious attacking is in the German manager’s DNA – this might look like the perfect place to carpe that doggone diem and knock the staggering opponents onto their Mexican keesters.

But is it?

In reality, nothing has changed in terms of an American team still missing lots of first-choice defensive pieces.

And nothing has changed in terms of Azteca Stadium being tough as razor wire for collecting points. This is still Mexico, a talented collection even when reduced to a place of lesser confidence. This is still Mexico City, burdened with the thin air (7,200 feet) and smog so thick a U.S. player once told me it was like playing inside a smoky bar.

This is still a stadium of abundant mystique, where Mexico has historically dominated, never mind that draw last month with Jamaica.

(MORE: PST general match preview for  U.S.-Mexico)

A more pragmatic approach seems in order here. After all, even a draw in Mexico City would be seen as a “win” for everyone involved. There’s no question that Klinsmann’s men would feel OK about taking a point from tonight’s match – leaving the Mexicans with just three points from a possible nine, disappointing 105,000 or so fans on hand and stacking yet more hardship on embattled El Tri manager José Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre.

That’s not to say the United States should “park the bus” at Azteca, sitting back in an overly defensive crouch and hoping to tie. Klinsmann will always be hard-wired for the win … but how they go after it needs tweaking for this one.

Inside a building where the team owns a meager 1-19-1 record, the tactics and lineups just need prudent adjustment into something slightly less aggressive, perhaps akin to the useful setup that guided his team into a confidence-inspiring win in Italy last year.

That lineup included three defensive-minded midfielders (Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu and Danny Williams) along with just one striker (Jozy Altidore). Similarly, Klinsmann assigned three midfielders (Williams, Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones) to fairly deep roles last August as the United States upset El Tri, 1-0.

It just makes sense to lean a little more defensive in this one. Who cares if critics complain that defensively inclined tactics look too similar to the way of former manager Bob Bradley? Bradley was a good manager, after all, who guided the team to second-round appearance at World Cup 2010. Yes, his tactics were predictable and conservative – and so what?

Klinsmann arrived with a mandate of moving the program forward, of incorporating more creativity and a set-up meant to seize greater initiative. But that shouldn’t be done in a vacuum. No one should be hell-bent to attack to such an extent that all practicality goes out the Mexico City window.

A young United States defense didn’t gain that much experience over 90 character-testing minutes in snowy Denver. Omar Gonzalez, talented as he is stall, and the other young defenders still need protection from positions ahead of them.  And that back line probably needs a lineup adjustment.

Converted midfielder DaMarcus Beasley was the right choice for a home match against a defensively dug-in opponent. That much was clear from the first 30 minutes Friday – the only period of a unique contest where any discernible tactical shape was evident, before deteriorating conditions made it strictly a game of will, wits and ball-winning.

source: ReutersBut Klinsmann should opt for real defenders in this one. Which is why Maurice Edu should be along the U.S. back line, or perhaps one of the younger, true fullbacks, like Justin Morrow. That’s also why Geoff Cameron should remain at right back, helping to pack as much defensive instinct as possible along the back line.

There is still Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez (pictured, on right) to deal with.

Playing Beasley further up the field might make sense; he knows the Mexican game and never has a problem honoring defensive duty out of midfield.

None of this is to say the United States should not try to win; but the way Klinsmann and Co. looks for another historic achievement needs wise management.

For instance, in Clint Dempsey the United States has a man who knows how to manage his fitness (limited, having just come off injury with Tottenham), who understands how to select his moments, and who can still go claim a huge goal even when not at his best. That’s exactly what we saw from the current U.S. captain Friday with an immense strike at DSG Park.

So, they could manage with one fewer offensive type in the starting XI.

To keep the score low, protect the defense, look to pick off a goal and get out of Azteca with a point (or, with some luck, all three) would be monumental. It would leave the U.S. drive for Brazil 2014 in a good place.

The only way to erase all the progress in improved team accord made last week would be to take a 3-0 or 4-0 beating in Mexico City – and who north of the border wants to see that?

Latest Posts
  1. Manchester United, adidas unveil kits with “smashing” photos

    Jul 31, 2015, 9:52 PM EDT

    man-fb-mata_3331957

    The leaked images of United’s kit were the real McCoy, and the Red Devils white-cuffed kits are pretty sharp.

  2. Pep Guardiola on final year of contract: “Not completely convinced” he’s right for Bayern

    Jul 31, 2015, 8:14 PM EDT

    GUANGZHOU, CHINA - JULY 23: Pep Guardiola, coach of Bayern Munich FC looks on after losing the International Friendly Match of Volkswagen Cup between Bayern Munich FC and Guangzhou Evergrande at Tianhe Stadium on July 23, 2015 in Guangzhou, China.  (Photo by Zhong Zhi/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Guardiola can erase a minor Bayern demon with his first Super Cup win on Saturday versus Wolfsburg.

  3. Fourth-tier NPSL, PDL to hold semifinals this weekend; PDL to hold final, too

    Jul 31, 2015, 7:08 PM EDT

    New York Cosmos B New York Cosmos B

    In the PDL, Seattle Sounders U-23, New York Red Bulls U-23, K-W United and Ocala Stampede are left, while the NPSL has New York Cosmos B, Chattanooga FC, Indiana Fire and CD Aguiluchos USA remaining.

  4. FA Community Shield preview: Will Arsenal or Chelsea claim the season’s first reward?

    Jul 31, 2015, 6:45 PM EDT

    Chelsea v Arsenal - Premier League Getty Images

    Arsenal looks to win its second-straight Community Shield, something that only Manchester United has been able to do since 2000.

  5. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Sunderland

    Jul 31, 2015, 6:03 PM EDT

    Sunderland

    Dick Advocaat is hoping familiarity will combine with a couple buys to help Sunderland avoid a relegation fight for the 1st time in a while.

  6. NASL commissioner continues to tout promotion/relegation in BBC feature

    Jul 31, 2015, 5:30 PM EDT

    NASL

    In a BBC feature, Bill Peterson makes it clear he thinks the desire for pro/rel is real.

  7. Report: Aron Johannsson wants MLS move, but clubs hesitant to meet salary demands

    Jul 31, 2015, 4:41 PM EDT

    <>during the 2015 CONCACAF  Gold Cup match between United States and Haiti at Gillette Stadium on July 10, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Getty Images

    Johannsson had already said he wants to play Stateside in “his prime”, but a Yahoo Sports report said his desires have obstacles.

  8. PHOTOS: Orlando City unveils designs for third-largest stadium in MLS

    Jul 31, 2015, 3:54 PM EDT

    Orlando Sentinel Orlando Sentinel

    The Lions will continue to play at the Citrus Bowl until the new venue is completed.

  9. Lambert revival? English striker moves to West Brom from Liverpool

    Jul 31, 2015, 3:16 PM EDT

    wba.co.uk wba.co.uk

    Is this the case of a 33-year-old who’s over the hill, or can he return to the form which saw him score double-digit goals and assists?

  10. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Southampton

    Jul 31, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    southampton

    Will the Saints keep marching up the PL standings? Maybe a European campaign will derail their progress?

  11. Aston Villa sign Rudy Gestede, Jordan Veretout as Sherwood continues French revolution

    Jul 31, 2015, 1:18 PM EDT

    Wolverhampton Wanderers v Aston Villa - Pre Season Friendly Getty Images

    After signing nine new players this summer, is Sherwood taking a gamble?

  12. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Stoke City

    Jul 31, 2015, 11:55 AM EDT

    Stoke City logo

    Can the Potters build on their best-ever PL finish last season? The top eight is a possibility for Hughes’ side.

  13. Jose Mourinho issues Chelsea injury update; believes Arsenal can win Premier League

    Jul 31, 2015, 10:59 AM EDT

    FBL-ENG-PR-COMMUNITY-CHELSEA-ARSENAL FBL-ENG-PR-COMMUNITY-CHELSEA-ARSENAL

    Blues boss compliments Gunners, gives update on injured duo ahead of Community Shield match.

  14. After 12-year absence, Southampton wholeheartedly embrace European return

    Jul 31, 2015, 9:47 AM EDT

    Southampton v Vitesse - UEFA Europa League: Third Qualifying Round 1st Leg Getty Images

    Soaking in the atmosphere on a special night at St Mary’s, as Saints’ Europa League campaign began.

  15. Chelsea’s John Terry calls out haters, says rivals jealous of his success

    Jul 31, 2015, 8:50 AM EDT

    150527-John-Terry Getty Images

    Terry: “Regardless of what people say, you can’t take away what I have won and done in the game.”

  16. Theo Walcott signs lucrative four-year contract at Arsenal; Cazorla extends

    Jul 31, 2015, 7:55 AM EDT

    Walcott Getty Images

    Gunners keep experienced duo around, as Walcott decides to stay at the Emirates.

  17. Where in the world is Angel Di Maria? Man United boss Louis van Gaal has no idea

    Jul 30, 2015, 9:27 PM EDT

    Louis van Gaal & Angel Di Maria, Manchester United FC Louis van Gaal & Angel Di Maria, Manchester United FC

    Louis van Gaal seems to have misplaced his club’s $90 million investment, purchased just 12 months ago.

  18. Anfield exit looming? Balotelli, Borini left out of squad for Liverpool’s final preseason games

    Jul 30, 2015, 8:10 PM EDT

    Mario Balotelli, Liverpool FC Mario Balotelli, Liverpool FC

    With three attacking signings already made this summer, Balotelli and Borini look destined to leave Liverpool before the transfer deadline.

Featured video

What can we expect from PL new boys?