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With the 23-man set, how does the USMNT line up for the World Cup?

May 22, 2014, 9:25 PM EDT

USMNT AP

Now that we’ve all taken a deep breath from the Landon Donovan news this evening, it’s time to look big picture with the squad.

Agree or disagree with Jurgen Klinsmann’s omissions, it is what it is, and it’s important to look at how things go forward.

Thing is, after what we saw today, it just became that much harder to figure out what’s going on in Klinsmann’s head when it comes to who he believes is the best at each position.

There are a number of positions that we thought were solidified, but now that we know the skipper’s not afraid to shake things up, may not be so easy to call after all.

In addition, given either injury or performance at any of the friendlies the USMNT has scheduled before they make their way to Brazil, things could change then as well.

Nonetheless, we’ll do our best to analyze how each position will break down as we see it now, and how the US formation could play out.  First, let’s take another look at the roster:

Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan, Tim Howard, Nick Rimando

Defenders: DeAndre Yedlin, Omar Gonzalez, Timmy Chandler, John Anthony Brooks, Matt Besler, DaMarcus Beasley, Geoff Cameron, Fabian Johnson

Midfielders: Michael Bradley, Graham Zusi, Jermaine Jones, Kyle Beckerman, Mix Diskerud, Ale Bedoya, Brad Davis

Forwards: Chris Wondolowski, Aron Johannsson, Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Julian Green

There are many questions going forward.  For example, who plays on the outside of defense? Who plays next to Besler in the middle? Is Altidore alone up front? Where does Klinsmann use Dempsey? All of those will be discussed here briefly.

But first, for a point of reference, here’s how the team lined up in their most recent competitive match that really had something riding on it, a 2-0 win over Jamaica in  World Cup qualifying:

……………………Howard……………………
Evans – Cameron – Besler – Beasley
………………Diskerud – Jones……………..
Johannsson – Donovan – Bedoya
…………………..Altidore…………………..

Remember, Michael Bradley was injured at the time.  Now, here’s what I believe to be the best lineup from this 23-man roster:

…………………..Howard…………………..
..Johnson – Cameron – Besler – Beasley..
………………Bradley – Jones……………..
……Johannsson – Dempsey – Zusi……
…………………..Altidore…………………..

There are plenty of questions that I keep asking myself with this roster. Here they are:

source: AP

Jozy Altidore struggled with a lack of service at Sunderland. Is it ok to leave him by himself up front?

1) Leaving Altidore isolated at the top is dangerous, is it really the right choice?

It’s been shown before that with Altidore as a lone striker, he will get much too isolated if the opposing midfield pegs the US back in possession.  If he doesn’t get service at the top, he’s on an island, and will get disheartened quickly.

However, I still don’t think Clint Dempsey’s best position is at the front of the attack, and with Johannsson pushing up the right and feeding the middle, the attack shouldn’t be too starved at the front.

2) Who is the best option at RB?

The question on many US fans’ minds is, who is the best person to cover Ronaldo against Portugal? He will likely be on the left wing, which means the right-back is going to be tasked with covering the winner of the Ballon d’Or.

Let’s start by saying this: nobody can cover Ronaldo. Flat out, end of, stop.  Therefore, the question may not be at RB, but at LB.

Both Fabian Johnson and Timmy Chandler are right backs by trade, and Beasley plays on the left. It follows then that to start both Chandler and Johnson, one of them (Fabian) would have to move to the left, and I don’t think Chandler is anywhere close to being able to cover a star left winger.  Therefore, I went with Beasley on the left and Fabian on the right.

Judging by how Chandler fared in the heat against Mexico (hint: not so well), I personally hope Klinsmann doesn’t pick him in the jungle climate against Cristiano Ronaldo.

3) Is it possible to find room in the midfield for Kyle Beckerman?

I still can’t get out of my mind how well Michael Bradley and Kyle Beckerman paired up in the match against Mexico. Having Beckerman at the back end of the diamond allowed Bradley to get forward and make things happen in the 18-yard box.

However, Bradley’s a lock obviously, and at this point Jermaine Jones still ranks above Beckerman in the midfield pecking order.  It’s possible Klinsmann could spot-start Beckerman in one of the matches if he chooses to play a possession game and get Bradley farther forward, but at this point Jones is the penciled-in starter. Also, ask Landon Donovan what Klinsmann thinks of pecking orders…

4) Where the heck is Clint Dempsey’s best position?

As someone who has watched Clint for years at Fulham as well as with the USMNT, I still have not figured out where he slots in best.  Clint’s put in wonderful performances from striker, from the attacking midfield, and from the left wing.

However, in my experience watching Clint, at striker he feasts mostly upon lesser talent, and in a stacked group, there will be no lesser talent to feast upon.  He’s a great feeder on the wing, but often you lose his goalscoring ability sticking him on the touchline.  Therefore, I think sitting behind Altidore is the best spot for him, where he can both dish to Jozy/Aron/Bradley, and also take feeds from those men if he wishes to have a go himself.

As the captain of this team, Dempsey needs to take charge, and slotted just behind the striker is the best spot to do that.

source: AP

Teen phenom Julian Green made the 23-man roster, but will he see the field much in Brazil?

5) Who comes off the bench?

As something not addressed above, it’s also prudent to see who is first off the bench in certain situations.

When the team needs a spark, Wondolowski appears to be first off the bench in crunch time when the team needs a goal. As one of the two lone strikers on the roster, this one is pretty obvious.

But is there game time for the others?
-Mix Diskerud and Kyle Beckerman would be first in line for central midfield legs when someone needs relief.
-Brad Davis and Ale Bedoya would appear to be the wing relievers/sparks. Hard to see Julian Green getting much time, unless Klinsmann sees something we don’t (which, admittedly, is very likely).-Gonzalez is the third CB, unless Klinsmann chooses him over Cameron to start.
-On the edge of the back line, it’s tough to see time for Yedlin or Brooks, but they’ve both made it this far, so who knows. One would imagine that whoever doesn’t start of Beasley/Chandler/F. Johnson will still see the field a decent amount, but the rest are on the outside looking in.

6) Does the diamond work with this group?

Jurgen Klinsmann’s trademark in his tenure with the United States has been the diamond midfield formation.  As you can see, the formation I put up above does not exactly follow that tactical choice, instead going with a conventional 4-2-3-1.

Things would be drastically different with a diamond.  The biggest difference would probably be figuring out what to do with Clint Dempsey.  If he moves up front alongside Altidore, then Bradley or Jones would slide into the space behind the strikers as an advanced center-mid.  If Dempsey moved to the wing, Zusi would likely sit and Wondolowski would come in as a second striker, although that is not ideal because Zusi is a winger built on possession, perfect for the diamond.

That formation complicates things a little, and he very well may decide to employ that tactic.  But for right now, there are too many unknowns involved in that decision.

How can you see the US lining up? Will Klinsmann go back to the Beckerman/Bradley diamond that worked so well against a struggling Mexico? How will he deal with Cristiano Ronaldo? Is it ok to leave Jozy Altidore by himself up front after struggling so badly at Sunderland?f

These are all questions that must be answered by the skipper, and for the time being, they’re ours to try and answer as well.

  1. fantom21 - May 23, 2014 at 3:37 AM

    How will they deal with Ronaldo? Easy, park the bus, 10 men behind the ball,try to score on set pieces. Same against Germany.
    4-1-4-1 or 4-4-1-1.
    4-1-4-1: holding mid is Jones, with Bradley and Beckerman in front of him. Dempsey on the right, Zusi on the left, Altidore up top to run down long balls, before being substituted( Wondo).
    4-4-1-1: Jones and Bradley paired up in the middle, Bradley given freedom to attack when he sees fit. Dempsey behind Altidore, acting more like a third center mid. Again, counter until Altidore can’t run, sub in Wondo. Those two games won’t be exciting for us and if he opts for a 4231 where we have to rely on attacking wingers, the U.S has no chance. The match against Ghana; I don’t know how he will approach it, which is why in my opinion, will be the most exciting game for us.

    • lyleoross - May 23, 2014 at 12:03 PM

      Yes, park the bus, just like we’ve done for the past twenty years. How sad. I’d be fine with parking the bus if we could park the bus when we need to, and play through the middle when we need to. But the U.S. is so used to parking the bus that once it’s there, the emergency brake will stick, and there we will be.

      BTW – Chelsea parked the bus often enough this last year in Champions. It works, until you play someone who really has talent, and then you get your backside handed to you. I dare say, Portugal would look at our parked bus and laugh.

    • kurgen99 - May 23, 2014 at 7:36 PM

      You deal with Ronaldo by playing him as physical as possible. Jones, Bradley and Beckerman can do that.

      We are also playing Portugal at the worst possible field in terms of location, and the US is a lot more used to playing in adverse conditions (any Concacaf away game) than Portugal will be. We are typically in better shape than most teams as well.

  2. awsnavely - May 23, 2014 at 10:54 AM

    How is the diamond 4-4-2 Klinsmann’s trademark? He’s use it one time. The “conventional” 4-2-3-1 is a formation Klinsmann started using and was his primary formation the light most all of 2012 and 2013. At the end of the day, I don’t think our tactics are actually going to matter as much as we think they will. Of we’re going to advance out of our group, things will need to happen almost as they did in the 09 Confederations Cup: a whole lot of hard work and a hole lot of luck.

  3. awhayes - May 23, 2014 at 12:35 PM

    This is what we should do against Ghana – 4-1-3-2:

    Chandler, Cameron, Besler, F Johnson
    Beckerman
    Bedoya, Bradley, Zusi
    Dempsey, Johannsson

    That would be an aggressive offensive lineup. And yes, if Klinsmann were at all consistent, Altidore should sit…Johannsson is a greater scoring threat who I’m guessing would partner very well with Dempsey (something I hope we’ll see in the warm-up games).

    • kurgen99 - May 23, 2014 at 7:34 PM

      Low odds that this is going to be ever used. Jurgen loves Jozy and Jermain Jones. The midfield is a possibility, but Clint will be a midfielder/withdrawn forward.

  4. kurgen99 - May 23, 2014 at 7:31 PM

    Ronaldo will not be covered by one person. Jermaine Jones is going to also be all over him. He likes to dribble, so that lends to doubling him up.

    Not only will Jermaine be “covering” Ronaldo, he’s going to be fouling the hell out of him, and that’s where Beckerman comes in. I think he will see plenty of playing time.

    I just don’t get why Brad Davis is there. I would take Landon over him any day.

    I hope this Julian Green kid is some sort of secret weapon or something.

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