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Klinsmann attends to the left flank
by Ridge Mahoney, August 5th, 2011 1:10AM

TAGS:  men's national team


[USA CONFIDENTIAL] Among the many intriguing aspects of the 22-man squad named by Coach Juergen Klinsmann is a notable component of left-sided players, including veteran DaMarcus Beasley and once-capped Edgar Castillo. ... Remember those halcyon days when the U.S. national team seemed to have a continuous conveyor belt of left-sided players?

Jeff Agoos, David Regis, Greg Vanney, Bobby Convey, Beasley, Preki and Eddie Lewis, just to name a few. Agoos, Regis and Vanney played in the back, Convey and Beasley were slashing wingers, Preki's touches dropped befuddled defenders on their butts, and Lewis could bend the ball -- if not like Beckham -- pretty darn well. Their common characteristic was a left foot the opponent had to be wary of.

Nowadays, the most glaring holes of the team are left mid and left back, and that’s one good reason that Klinsmann has named Beasley and Edgar Castillo to the 22-man U.S. squad for the friendly against Mexico Wednesday. While captain Carlos Bocanegra may again wind up playing left back by default, Klinsmann obviously wants options on that side further up the field.

Heath Pearce has played both outside back positions as well as center back and defensive mid during his professional career; a pure lefty he’s not. Neither is Jose Torres, who has spent much of his time at Pachuca in a left-central midfield role.

The lack of a true lefty – aside from Bocanegra -- has plagued the U.S. and limited its attacking options, especially on corner kicks, which are normally right-sided deliveries by Landon Donovan, the nominal first choice at left mid if Clint Dempsey plays on the right or up top. The return to the team of Freddy Adu gives the U.S. a player capable of hitting set plays with his left foot, but during his national-team career he hasn’t shown a preference for the left wing.

Dempsey played a lot of left mid last season for Fulham; former coach Mark Hughes gave him considerable license to work inside onto his right foot. He is not in the squad for the Mexico game, and neither is Alejandro Bedoya, who is left-sided but has spent much of his club career for Swedish club Orebro on the right flank. Two other midfielders not selected, Benny Feilhaber and Stuart Holden, are not left-footed yet have seen time on that flank in their careers. Also excluded is Jonathan Bornstein, who was converted to left back in college and has played most of his pro career as a defender.

A strong left-sided midfielder, regardless of his particular strengths, pulls opponents to that side and creates space across the field. He also creates additional angles from which to launch runs, trigger combinations, and serve balls behind the defenders and beyond the goalkeeper.

In announcing his squad, Klinsmann stated an intent to increase competition at as many positions as possible. He also wants survival of the fittest specifically on the left side, which could be good news for Brad Davis and a few others not called upon this time.

  1. Eric in DC
    commented on: August 5, 2011 at 7:49 a.m.
    Hmm...Brek Shea should get a chance on the left wing too...I don't know if he's a true lefty, but he plays alot on that side for Dallas

  1. Javier Padilla
    commented on: August 5, 2011 at 8:01 a.m.
    curious why Todd Dunivant doesn't get a call for the left back slot. he's done very well in MLS and in international friendlies. he has good crosses from the left. he's a much a better left back than Heath Pearce. he's also probably the most under rated left back in MLS.

  1. Phil Love
    commented on: August 5, 2011 at 8:45 a.m.
    Heath Pearce does some things well, but he is miserable at crossing the ball. I don't think he's the answer. Maybe it's because I haven't seen as much of Dunivant, but I'd pick him over Pearce too.

  1. David Huff
    commented on: August 5, 2011 at 12:31 p.m.
    The ferment of positive changes for the USMNT is in the air. Ein volk, ein USA, ein Klinsmann!! :)

  1. Ric Fonseca
    commented on: August 5, 2011 at 12:57 p.m.
    David Huff: Vielen danke! I agree that Todd Dunivant needs to be given a chance and he will in due time. As for Ragin Ridge Mahoney' even mention of Bornstein.... is your "santo de tu devocion" (your devoted saint) like Banality Bradley junior was?

  1. David Huff
    commented on: August 5, 2011 at 1:04 p.m.
    @Ric, bitte mi amigo, can you tell that I am a bit giddy about the positive changes that have taken place in the past week? For the first time in years I am looking forward to watching a USMNT game. I don't care if we win or lose next week in our underdog role against Mexico, just knowing that we have a coach that is willing to make changes and put together lineups that make sense is very uplifting ans a liberating departure from the staleness of the Bradley/Gulati/Flynn regime.

  1. Scott O'connor
    commented on: August 5, 2011 at 2 p.m.
    The new coach named Michael Bradley to the team. Thus putting an end to the cries of nepotism....

  1. David Huff
    commented on: August 5, 2011 at 2:31 p.m.
    @Scott, don't start counting your Bradley chickens yet, somehow I don't think he's going to receive the same coddled treatment that he had in the past (i.e. always a starter and never subbed out). He won't have Daddy around to cover for him anymore.

  1. Mats Wichmann
    commented on: August 5, 2011 at 3:30 p.m.
    A focus on making sure the left side is up to snuff is great, but it doesn't /have/ to be done only through left-footed players. Modern football has plenty of space for "wrong-footed" players on the flanks, as when they cut inside they've got the stronger foot in the best position to shoot or pass. Meanwhile, whipping in the cross from wide seems overrated, statistically it's a rather inefficient tactic (surprisingly low percentage lead to goals). The cross is a tool that should be in the arsenal but it's no longer a dominant one. So let's applaud competition for the left and not get hung up on the footedness.

  1. Scott O'connor
    commented on: August 5, 2011 at 3:34 p.m.
    Mike Bradley - Yes, I agree with you. But he is clearly deserving of a spot on the team on his own merits. Hopefully he will be subbed out regularly when the game needs it. Also, hopefully he will ride the pine a bit and give others a chance to show what they can do without him there.

  1. Power Dive
    commented on: August 5, 2011 at 4:09 p.m.
    M. Bradley has scored some huge goals for us over the years. I think he's earned a spot on the team (or, at least fairly regular call-ups), but I agree with DH that he is not even close to the category of always start/never subbed out. He's just not as dynamic and creative of a player that you need as a center midfielder. I see him more as an 80th minute sub to replace an offensive center-mid type player if we are winning and need defense, and replace a center defender if we are losing and need offense.

  1. David Huff
    commented on: August 5, 2011 at 4:36 p.m.
    @ Scott and Power Dive, I concur to some extent with what you have indicated, if Bradley wants more playing time he is going to have to do something about his penchant for giving the ball away on bad passes, if he can improve his technical skills in this area then I think he presents more value to the team and will be on the field longer.

  1. Kenneth Barr
    commented on: August 5, 2011 at 6:03 p.m.
    David Regis often played like he had two left feet. As far as anyone, Donovan included, being an automatic selection, in the words of Herb Brooks, "You aren't talented enough to win on talent alone."

  1. John Roode
    commented on: August 7, 2011 at 12:29 p.m.
    If I ever see Bornstein on the pitch again I will shoot myself.

  1. John Roode
    commented on: August 7, 2011 at 12:32 p.m.
    I have been a critique of Bradley in the past. But he's improved a great deal in the past year, IMO. His defense has improved... he's breaking down better in the tackle and isn't nearly the matador he once was. However, Klinsmann will still need to pair him with an above average defender in the middle to compensate for his defensive weaknesses. He might have the will to defend, but he just doesn't have the quickness or the proper mental approach to ever be able to hold his own in that regard. He will always need cover.

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