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Graham Zusi for the U.S. Gold Cup roster, anyone?

Jul 17, 2013, 1:04 PM EDT

United States v Jamaica - FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier Getty Images

United States manager Jurgen Klinsmann hinted late last night – actually, something a little stronger than a “hint” – that reinforcement are en route as his team preps to meet El Salvador in this weekend’s Gold Cup’s quarterfinals.

Even more difficult matches lie ahead, assuming Klinsmann’s young team handles its business Sunday in Baltimore.  Tournament rules allow teams to make up to four changes after the group stage; any additions must come from the original list of 35 names submitted back in May.

My best guess: Graham Zusi (pictured) soon be on the scene. That’s who I would most like to see, at least.

If we examine it from this angle, the Sporting Kansas City man makes the most sense: “Where has the United States been lacking in the group stage?”

It’s tricky, because Klinsmann’s current bunch had barely been stretched before Tuesday’s late, 1-0 win over Costa Rica. Still, there have been areas on the field where player performance rated weaker than others.

For me, Oguchi Onyewu remains a bit of a problem. He lost his mark on one of Cuba’s few opportunities. Not. Good.

Left back remains a bit wobbly in my mind, as Edgar Castillo and DaMarcus Beasley have both demonstrated ongoing defensive liabilities. (Castillo more than Beasley, but still ….)

Right back remains an issue; Michael Parkhurst and Tony Beltran have performed fine defensively, but neither has raised much of a fuss on attack, and that is a sure requirement at international level.

There is some creative ability still missing – and that’s where I believe Klinsmann might lean.

Graham Zusi can create from the very area where the United States has lacked. Alejandro Bedoya could not poke any holes in the Costa Rican defense last night. Joe Corona was better three nights earlier … but I just wasn’t as excited about his performance against Cuba as some others. U.S. attackers need to dominate their areas against the regional minnows; Corona was good in the game, but I would argue that he wasn’t great.

Landon Donovan could man the right side, but Klinsmann has used him mostly as a second forward over the last four matches (the Gold Cup group contests plus the pre-tourney friendly against Guatemala.)

I won’t be shocked to see another center back come in, either Omar Gonzalez or Matt Besler. The problem is that both clubs have MLS matches over the next two weeks. LA Galaxy manager Bruce Arena has already complained about player absenteeism for international duty, so that may be an obstacle for Gonzalez.

Zusi’s arrival may block a call for Besler; as Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes could potentially balk at losing two of his best men to a tournament that, honestly, doesn’t mean much beyond the player personnel subplots. (And thank goodness we have those to argue about, eh?)

Any changes must be made today – so we won’t have to wait long on this one.

  1. drewvt6 - Jul 17, 2013 at 3:58 PM

    I’d love to see how he mixes with Donovan and Holden. With a healthy Holden and a motivated Donovan, Zusi will be a bit player in Brazil if you assume Bradley/Jones in the central spots.

    • dreadpirate82 - Jul 17, 2013 at 5:23 PM

      What if Donovan and Zusi are manning the wide spots, switching from right to left, as play dictates? Zusi and Kei Kamara have done this very effectively at SKC, a similar system to the USMNT. I don’t see Holden playing wide.

      • takethelongview - Jul 17, 2013 at 7:35 PM

        The Dreadpirate has it right. Too many people have viewed this matter as EITHER Donovan OR Zusi, and too few have contemplated BOTH Donovan AND Zusi. Both players switch flanks as a matter of routine. It would be most fascinating to watch them combine with one another. Argue all you wish about who should start…all it means is the US can now anticipate a luxury in Brazil it never boasted at any prior World Cup: The luxury of not starting the same XI in each group stage match, because we now have the depth to mix and match. More importantly, squad rotation means rested players, and rested players means when a second round match heads to overtime, your most valuable pieces won’t be walking around the pitch because a) we no longer have a “most valuable” (Donovan in 2010); instead we have many valuable players; and b) those players won’t be on their fourth game in 8 days because they weren’t required to start every flipping game.

  2. mdac1012 - Jul 17, 2013 at 9:23 PM

    Donovan and Zusi on the field together? I like the sound of that!

  3. drewvt6 - Jul 29, 2013 at 4:10 PM

    If you recall prior to his injury Stu was used quite often on the flanks.

    I thought before this tournament it’s silly to make any comparison between Zusi and Donovan. If there’s any either/or arguments it needs to be Zusi/Holden or Zusi/Bedoya.

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