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.”