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Building from the base
by Paul Kennedy, May 28th, 2014 6:14PM

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TAGS:  men's national team

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By Paul Kennedy

Much has been written about the diamond midfield Jurgen Klinsmann has employed the last two matches with mixed results. Its deployment offensively has the focus of everyone's attention -- how Michael Bradley, at the tip of the diamond, tore apart the Mexico defense in the first half of the April 2 friendly in Arizona and how quiet he was on Tuesday night at Candlestick, where the USA pulled out a labored 2-0 win thanks to late goals by subs Mix Diskerud and Aron Johannsson.

But for Klinsmann, the No. 1 priority of the formation is defensive in nature: protect the most vulnerable part of his lineup -- the two center backs. It is no coincidence his pairing of center backs is the one part of the lineup he says he'll experiment with throughout the sendoff series before making a decision on his starting combination for the World Cup.

The four players -- Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron, Omar Gonzalez and John Brooks -- have none of the attributes you'd hope to take into the World Cup. No one has been there before. No one is a beast. And no one is a threat going forward.

That makes Jermaine Jones (or Kyle Beckerman), sitting at the base of the diamond, so important. The holding midfielder provides cover defensively for the center backs and serves as an outlet to start attacks.

The purpose of the diamond is to create triangles for players to play off and combine with. In Klinsmann's view, the most important triangle is the one formed by the two center backs and the player at the base of the diamond.

One of the biggest question marks has been Jones' discipline to stay back and occupy the third point in the triangle. He answered that in the extreme against Azerbaijan, sitting in the center circle almost the entire game and rarely venturing more than 20 yards in any direction.

“He’s played years throughout different roles,” Klinsmann said of Jones after Tuesday's game. “If we play a diamond like we did, then it’s really important that he stays there and protects our two center backs. And with his passing technique he can open up and switch a game right away."

At the age of 32 and with a history of disciplinary problems -- it should be mentioned, though, that Jones cut down his card countdown from seven yellows in 12 games in 2012 to one in 12 games in 2013 and he's never been red carded for the USA -- Jones is a risk at the base of the diamond but a risk Klinsmann is clearly willing to take.

“He understood that role,” Klinsmann added. “The way he recovers balls and is physical with the opponent, that’s just one of his strengths that we hopefully see in Brazil.”


11 comments
  1. Vince Leone
    commented on: May 28, 2014 at 6:57 p.m.
    I'm eager to see Brooks play in the upcoming friendlies, especially since he was so bad against the Ukraine. I'm also eager to see Omar dropped to the bench now--he was questionable even against Azerbaijan and has not looked confident for a long time in a U.S. jersey. Everyone's asking why Donovan got cut, but I think the more pressing question is why Omar did not get cut.

  1. roger longman
    commented on: May 28, 2014 at 8:15 p.m.
    Donovan at 75% is able to turn a game to his teams advantage. I have never rated Klinsman as a coach and, this decision has cemented my view. It was taken on the basis of personality diferences. Oh, I'm British and, I do know the game.

  1. Tim Gibson
    commented on: May 28, 2014 at 8:20 p.m.
    I'm an American, yet I can see the forest from the trees. Stick a fork in LD, he's done already, fuggetabbotit....GO USA!

  1. Peter Skouras
    commented on: May 28, 2014 at 8:38 p.m.
    Diamond midfield? Try a Ruby or a Pearl!!!:) The United States needs (desperately needs) more players forward. With 4 in the back it's not going to happen. Everyone in the World is playing with "3" and sometimes "2!" 4 in the back will always be an option, however, kind of "obsolete!" Problem is, we (in the US) can't Coach it! Let's go US!

  1. Ric Fonseca
    commented on: May 28, 2014 at 9:02 p.m.
    KUDOS to Tim Gibson for a brief, succinct and to the point comment!!! CLARO QUE SI, GO USA, SI SE PUEDE!!!

  1. Pat Sharp
    commented on: May 28, 2014 at 9:57 p.m.
    right on, Roger. You said it all!

  1. Chris Sapien
    commented on: May 28, 2014 at 10:25 p.m.
    I am no fan of how Donovan handled the questions regarding his hiatus, and then when he was brought back into the fold last summer. Let it be a lesson. You either determine your own outcomes with mind and mouth, or you let others conclude your intent/desire for you! With that being said, regardless how you feel about LDs current capabilities, now, you will see NO ONE press any of our group opponent's defenders, and stretch the field creating space and lanes! Bedoya, Mix, Bradley, Dempsey or Jozy? None will put any defender's head on a swivel, or play that cut ball back or weighted into space the way Landon still can. The others? All good players, but certainly not likely that any Group G players are going to lose any sleep over them. Even less is the chance a defender will find any of them behind their line, pulling away, and then being forced to foul or leave it to fate! "Building from the base" is hardly an issue when you need to outscore the opponent as we will need to.

  1. John Hofmann
    commented on: May 28, 2014 at 10:36 p.m.
    If I'm recalling this correctly -- didn't Geoff Cameron came into MLS as a mid-fielder, and was doing a very good job for Houston there. Kinear was forced to patch up his back line because of injuries or suspensions or something, put Cameron back there on an emergency basis, and Geoff has done well there too. Of the four backs mentioned in the article, he would seem to be one with actual experience elsewhere on the field.

  1. John Bamford
    commented on: May 28, 2014 at 10:47 p.m.
    I actually think we should scrap the diamond and return to three central midfielders: Bradley and Jones as the two holding mids, and Diskerud --- who is class --- as the attacking mid. We don't get enough possession, attack, or creativity with Bradley alone as the CAM. If we played with the triangle, Bradley or Jones could join Mix on attacks through the center. Would be more dynamic. Like this: _____________Howard Cameron__Gonzo___Besler___Johnson ________Bradley___Jones ____________Diskerud Zusi_________Altidore_____Dempsey

  1. Charles Stamos
    commented on: May 30, 2014 at 1 a.m.
    Kind of a lame discussion what formation you say you are in - it's more important what your personel does on and off the ball; and since there's only one ball, when your team has pocession, any one field player will have the ball an average of only 10% of the time. So moving off the ball is critical and that wasn't very creative against the Ajeri. Viva Total Soccer.

  1. Alex G. Sicre
    commented on: May 30, 2014 at 2:15 p.m.
    No he's not Ric & buddy Tim, todavia Landon lo puede acer con orgullo.


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