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Klinsmann's midfield: Williams vs. Beckerman
by Ridge Mahoney, September 14th, 2012 4:30PM

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TAGS:  men's national team


In praising U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann as lavishly for his lineup changes for the second game against Jamaica as he'd been criticized for choices in game one, not many of those commenting focused on a common element of the two games.

Specifically, did Klinsmann's fondness for Kyle Beckerman override his judgment as to why he was stationed for the first game in the role manned so ably by Danny Williams in Columbus? Deployed in a narrow triangle with Maurice Edu and Jermaine Jones and starved of wide support from the outside backs, Beckerman and Co. were overrun in Kingston. Williams replaced Beckerman in the 58th minute, and four minutes later a foul by Edu yielded the free kick that Luton Sheldon blasted into the net for the winning goal.

For the second game, Williams took over the holding role in support of Graham Zusi and Jose Torres and a much more fluid and cohesive unit emerged.

The games and situations and tactical instructions, not to mention environments and playing conditions, were vastly different, so a direct comparison is compromised. In contrast to their aggressive exuberance in the first game, the Jamaicans sat back in Columbus, which offered Williams the opportunity to change his role from that of holding mid into a more proactive, engaged catalyst. With that much time and space, Beckerman's attributes of quick movement and solid passing would certainly have been magnified.

There's no way to know how much different the first game would have looked if Williams had been given a start in the holding role instead of Beckerman, or if he'd have been preferred to Edu. The speed of play and the chaotic nature of playing on a rough surface flustered the RSL captain, as well as more than a few of his teammates. Yet it was his foul that offered Jamaica a free kick from which it scored an equalizer when Rodolfo Austin's shot caromed off Beckerman's ankle and into the net.

One tough game won't knock Beckerman out of the U.S. pool, just as one good game by Williams won't guarantee him a starting role. Klinsmann can't be blamed for going with experience, as when Williams did come on in Kingston, he was making just his third U.S. appearance and his first in a competitive international. Yet it's also true that it was Klinsmann who gave Beckerman that trust and playing time in the first place.

In the second game, once the U.S. scored and Jamaica cranked up its attacking efforts, the Americans -- now with Edu on as a substitute --- resorted to some of the unsettled, error-cluttered defensive play that had marred its showing in the first game. Edu took a lot of criticism for his play in Columbus, though the OPTA stats revealed he'd completed 13 passes with only two intercepted, and had won as many balls -- two -- as he'd lost.

In these situations, when one team has gone ahead and the opponent takes the initiative and raises its effort and intensity, invariably it's assumed the scoring team has gone into a defensive shell. The trailing team gets little credit for pushing the play, while the leading team is chastised for sitting back. Seldom is the reality so black-and-white.

In a pair of games in which three of four goals were scored directly from free kicks, getting a clear grasp of what occurred during the run of play can diminish in importance. The gloom following the first game was never as dark and dire as portayed by some observers and fans, yet it can be argued that during the phases of contested play -- the first game in Kingston and the final 30 minutes in Columbus -- the Americans didn't show a lot of confidence and poise in the critical areas of possession and team play.

Whether Klinsmann picks Williams or Beckerman to play as a No. 6, or uses Jozy Altidore or Herculez Gomez as a partner for Clint Dempsey, or keeps Jose Torres as a starter or goes all-in with Graham Zusi when Michael Bradley comes back, there needs to be composure amid chaos, for that is what the Hexagonal, especially on the road, is all about.



11 comments
  1. Scott O'connor
    commented on: September 14, 2012 at 5:24 p.m.
    I agree with something that was alluded to by the author. The Jamaican's intensity was high the whole game in Kingston whereas it was only high after going down a goal. In both circumstances the US was not looking comfortable when they had the ball. That needs to improve going forward.

  1. Peggy Cowen
    commented on: September 14, 2012 at 5:41 p.m.
    I think you are being a bit hard on Beckerman. Everyone has an off game, the same as everyone can have a fantastic game. Personally, I would like to see Bradley in the offensive mid position and Beckerman as the defensive mid. Bradley would have to remember to stay forward.

  1. David Sirias
    commented on: September 14, 2012 at 7:23 p.m.
    This is a fair article. Decent analysis and no piling on anyone. If anyone deserves blame for the gut check we had to go through this past week, it's the coach, and I am a fan of his. We knew Jamaica was fast. In fact, their real speed team was not deployed in Kingston. THIS was the one game where Kyle should have sat. If the Coach did not want to introduce Willaims as a #6 in that frenetic environment, he should have played Williams as a #6 a long time ago, instead of wasting all those minutes on him out wide, where he is a good defender but impotent in the attack. That is only half of the problem. Jones' only efficacious role on this team is as a # 6 as well. But Jones either does not want to play there like at his club, or the coach does not trust him enough to be disciplinedas a # 6 for country. And I'm sorry, it may look on paper like Edu only makes a few bad passes each game but they are CERTAIN to happen at bad spots and at bad times. He cannot be trusted as a # 6 or #8. In short: 1. Williams should be given the most looks to claim the # 6 spot. Beckerman should be his backup and partner for late in games to hold a lead ot tie. 2. Edu should play central defense or not at all. His ball winning is outwighed by his inability to possess and high percentage of give aways. Beckerman and Torres can play keep away even against hard charging forwards at the end of a game. Edu and Jones cannot. 3. Jones should be Bradley's backup if he does not want to be a # 6. The body of evidence is overwhlening that Jones lacks the attacking skills needed in the final third--something a #8 must have. 4. Finally, the coach MUST realize now that he needs an "attacking" central mid most of the time (not Dempsey who is a forward). I mean Zusi, Corona, Mix--it does not matter--whoever is hot. They just need to be a professional attacker, rather than professional defenders like Jones and Edu. Coach does these things and the team goes far.

  1. Tom G
    commented on: September 14, 2012 at 9:04 p.m.
    WEll DONE and appreciate a coherent assessment.

  1. Kent James
    commented on: September 14, 2012 at 11:18 p.m.
    Ridge, excellent analysis. Context is very important, and that was never clearer than in the difference in period before the goal was scored when the Jamaicans sat back, and afterwards when they attacked (the Jamaican coach should be the one coming under fire...). But I don't see how you can discuss the US midfield without noting Klinsmann's dedication to Jermaine Jones (even making him captain at times). He covers a lot of ground (he chases back exceptionally well, and has speed over distance), but he strikes me as a very undisciplined destroyer (both tactically and personally) who gives the ball away more than he should, and commits stupid fouls. Jones did have some nice passes in Columbus, but that's not his strength. I'd like Jones to play a less prominent role in the US midfield. Klinsmann's predilection for using multiple defensive midfielders is my primary criticism of his tenure as a coach; I think he's too defensive-minded, and perhaps not sufficiently confident in his players to put the more offensively minded players on the field and let them go forward. I thought that he was going to take a more offensive minded approach, so that has been a disappointment. I think Edu (who did not have a strong game in Columbus) is generally as good a defender as Jones is, but better on the ball (David, I think you're being a bit hard on Edu; I think his weakness is that he doesn't beat many people on the dribble or make many incisive passes, but I think he's generally pretty reliable because he plays safely. But I agree with the rest of your assessment).

  1. Ric Fonseca
    commented on: September 15, 2012 at 3:16 a.m.
    With Williams and Torres in the middle, I'd be reluctant to insert Bradley given his lack of quality playing time. Beckerman is simply not suited for that position as was eveident in the away game; to say that JK has an affinity or fondness for him is pretty disingenuous, yet Mahoney's assessment is one of the few instances when he's called it correectly, though Altidore is just not a caliber player as he seems to have lost his ability to run at players whenever he got the ball, and Edu is indeed suspect in that position, though I wouldn't go so far as to say he "plays safely..."

  1. American Touchline.com
    commented on: September 15, 2012 at 8:47 a.m.
    Danny Williams had seven appearances for the U.S. national team when Klinsmann chose him to start the second Jamaica game, not three.

  1. Walt Pericciuoli
    commented on: September 15, 2012 at 8:53 a.m.
    I agree with most of Ridge's analysis but I don't see Beckerman having a future with the Nat team at all.Whenever he is thrust into a pressure situation at this level,he has failed.If Williams plays regularly at the #6 spot for his club,why has it taken this long to see him there?He is the future,stay with him.I agree that Jones and Edu cannot play in the MF together.Edu has shown to be a pretty good Central Def.With Edu,Cameron,Ream, Gonzales and Goodson,it seems wewould have a decent corp of central defenders for years to come.Jones should come off the bench if at all.I liked Torres and Susi and with Bradley,Shea and Donovan,those are our best attacking MF.I would love to see Dempsey in the MF,but I understand our need to play him up top. Gomez and Boyd should be our #1 and 2 forwards to team up with Dempsey. Altidore has not shown that he can fit with Dempsey or Gomez.

  1. James Froehlich
    commented on: September 15, 2012 at 10:11 a.m.
    Well done Ridge! For me your past couple of columns have been excellent. Obviously, one of us is taking his meds regularly. Lots of great comments today. I definitely liked Walt's lineup and Kent's analysis. Ric-- I didn't understand your reference to Bradley since, for me the only thing that has kept him out of the lineup is his injury-- is that what you were referring to? Totally agree that Beckermann is not a long term answer in the midfield -- he lacks the hign level passing skills that we need in mid-field. I've also felt that his reaction time is too slow, indecisive. Zusi was a bright light, just hope he doesn't turn out to be a shooting star.

  1. Daniel Clifton
    commented on: September 16, 2012 at 9:31 a.m.
    I liked the article, a pretty good analysis. I agree with everyone's comments about Jones. Why doesn't Klinnsmann see what everyone else sees. Jones is a liability on the field. Recently I have watched replays of Altidore's four scores in two games for his club team. He obviously has chemistry with his teamates and the confidence to take defenders off the dribble. It is hard to believe the defenders he is facing in CONCACAF are that much better than the defenders he is facing in Holland. It appears to me he lacks confidence on the national team and has no chemistry with his teamates.

  1. Mike Gaire
    commented on: September 17, 2012 at 6:15 p.m.
    I would like to see Edu and Beckerman a on the bench and Jones dropped. I think we have plenty of better options.


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