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USA-Nigeria: Three U.S. lineup dilemmas
by Paul Kennedy, June 5th, 2014 8:39PM

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TAGS:  men's national team, nigeria, world cup 2014

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[WORLD CUP 2014 COUNTDOWN] Will Jurgen Klinsmann's tinkering continue? The USA plays its final game of its pre-World Cup series before heading to Brazil when it faces Nigeria Saturday at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida (live at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN, WatchESPN, Univision). Here are three decisions Klinsmann must still make before the USA opens June 16 against Ghana.

Who will start at left back? DaMarcus Beasley started the Azerbaijan game before giving way to Timmy Chandler after the break, and the Eintracht Frankfurt-bound player played the whole game against Turkey.

Chandler seems to be Klinsmann's No. 1 choice -- it might explain Beasley's sudden reluctance to take to the media ahead of the send-off series -- though Chandler faded badly in the late stages of the Turkey and was responsible for Turks' consolation goal at the end of the game.

That performance brought back memories of Chandler's lone competitive match for the USA -- the Hexagonal opener against Honduras in which he had a horrible game. It was hot in San Pedro Sula, just as it was hot in New Jersey and just as it will be hot Saturday in Jax and at the World Cup, and how Chandler copes with the heat will be one of the many storylines of the USA's maligned back four.

It's still close between Beasley and Chandler, but a third option -- a long shot -- would be to switch Fabian Johnson back to the left side and play DeAndre Yedlin on the right. After all, Klinsmann gave the young Sounders defender significant minutes off the bench in both games.

Send-Off Series:
Paul Kennedy: Jacksonville is new soccer hotbed
Mike Woitalla: Brad Friedel: It's easier to play as the underdog
Paul Kennedy: Jozy Altidore: 'My confidence is fine'
Paul Kennedy: Building from the base
Ridge Mahoney: Brad Davis: 'Never shut the door on a dream'
Mike Woitalla: The USA's new No. 10: Mix Diskerud
Mike Woitalla: Johannsson has reason to celebrate

Who'll start at left mid? Brad Davis. Starter. World Cup. Those are hardly words one would have strung together three months ago, let alone a year ago, but that's looking more and more likely.

Alejandro Bedoya
got the start against Azerbaijan, but Davis played the second half at Candlestick and started against Turkey. Teenager Julian Green came on late in the game but underwhelmed.

Davis, who started all of five games in the first nine years of his national team career, has started three of five games in 2014, and his contributions in the Azerbaijan and Turkey matches cannot be overlooked.

Davis fed Aron Johannsson for the second goal against Azerbaijan (video), showing off his patented left foot on corner kicks, and had "second assists" on the goals scored by Johnson (video) and Clint Dempsey (video) against Turkey.

With Landon Donovan not in the squad, Davis and Graham Zusi are the USA's two main set-piece takers, making one or both players likely to start at the World Cup.



U.S. Player Ratings:
Mike Woitalla:
USA-Turkey
Ridge Mahoney: USA-Azerbaijan

Where will Michael Bradley line up? Much has been made of the use of a diamond midfield against Mexico (with good success), against Azerbaijan (not so much) and for the first part of the Turkey game (until it became clear the USA would be overrun without help for the player lined up at the base of the diamond).

The problem in the Azerbaijan game was the lack of support for Michael Bradley. Against Turkey, it was Jermaine Jones who was being exposed defensively, requiring that Bradley drop back in a more conventional 4-4-2 formation.

Even before the Turkey game, Bradley said tactics and formations were getting blown out of proportion.

“My role is in the center of the field,” he says. “In the center of the midfield, I try to do as much as possible to help the team whether it’s scoring goals, setting up goals, winning tackles, intercepting balls, you know? I try to have as big an impact on the game as possible."

Simple enough.


15 comments
  1. John Bamford
    commented on: June 5, 2014 at 10:01 p.m.
    No to Chandler. Dump the diamond and bring Beckerman into a central triangle with Jones and Bradley. Ultra-stable. Like so: ______________Howard Johnson__Cameron__Brooks__Beasley ________Beckerman___Jones ______________Bradley Zusi________Altidore______Dempsey

  1. John Bamford
    commented on: June 5, 2014 at 10:09 p.m.
    Cosmetic correction to the above: Howard Johnson Cameron Brooks Beasley Beckerman Jones Zusi Bradley Dempsey Altidore

  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: June 6, 2014 at 12:47 a.m.
    We've had this discussion many times since the Bob Bradley days. Michael Bradley is a great midfielder and our most dependable guy on the field, but he is not an attacking midfielder. He has played successfully for club and country in a dmid capacity and has excelled. But he struggles in that creative role. I still think the 4-2-3-1 formation is going to work best against Germany/Portugal. Would love to see us play a 4-3-3 or 3-2-3-2 by 2022.

  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: June 6, 2014 at 7:44 a.m.
    R2 Dad, again the superlatives; Pirlo is a great MF, and although Bradley is a solid player, greatness lies only in the eyes of the beholder.

  1. cisco martinez
    commented on: June 6, 2014 at 9:58 a.m.
    Boy if we had Donovan instead of Davis, use bedoya on the right, and keep Beasley at left back,it would solve many problems. The problem I see is when you play a 4-4-2 diamond against a 4-2-3-1 or 4-1-4-1, the deep runs out of midfield and the wide wingers leave gaps in the defense. We saw that against turkey in the first half, Portugal and Germany will exploit these spaces. So jones will have to hold all game or switch to a 4-2-3-1 and give bradley freedom to roam and leave altidore by himself.

  1. Charles Stamos
    commented on: June 6, 2014 at 10:18 a.m.
    Kennedy has some good ideas here. I like FJohnson at left back and BDavis at left middie with Yedlin at right back. Try that for the first 45 and keep it or switch it out prn. I would experiment with Johannsson paired with Altidore today. Let Dempsey know he has to play 100% to kept his starting role. Give Bradley the captains armband and let him play the apex of the diamond, having JJones stay more at home; that's their best positions. Nigeria will bring more speed and test our defense with long balls and runs. TChandler reminds me of dos Santos, but not as fast! He never did run down any Turkish players and made unacceptable mental mistakes. Beasley may be a halftime sub at left back if more speed is needed, but I feel FJohnson is fast enough. It's hard to gauge pure speed on TV.mAgain, a 2-0 or 3-1 would be a great final score. Good luck USA!

  1. Charles Stamos
    commented on: June 6, 2014 at 11:01 a.m.
    There are 10 field players and they need to be creative on offense and inpenetrable on defense. The personel and how they move as a team is the system, not a formation number. Creating passing lanes, triangles, open spaces, overlaps, and finally scoring chances is the offensive goal. Anticipating, marking, support, and denying opponent scoring chances is the defensive goal. This is total soccer; it requires excellent player fitness and smart players. Don't know if we have all that.

  1. Greg Morris
    commented on: June 6, 2014 at 11:24 a.m.
    The best thing for all of us on here is that we are always right! Of course it also shows why the coach, any coach, is always wrong. Couple of thoughts. Very good chance that we will see 4-2-3-1 at times during this cup out of necessity. Just remember Cisco that every formation has its own weaknesses that can and will be exploited by teams like Germany and Portugal. I have grown tired of the "if only we had Donovan" commentary. Like it or not he is not on team. His inclusion would not have been the magic piece that would suddenly "solve so many problems." Landon cannot cover the ground required of an outside mid at this level any longer. He would either have to sit deep to defend, which would deny us of the creative things Landon still does well, or, more likely, he would fail to track back and would be more of a defensive liability than even Davis. I'd love to see him on the team but he is not and it is time for everyone to let it go and pull for the group we have.

  1. brett wyatt
    commented on: June 6, 2014 at 12:31 p.m.
    we could definitely use LD off the bench. he can't go 90 at 100%, but he could go 30 and that would help us. Don't be surprised when some random "training injury" happens and Donovan gets called up.

  1. Stuart d. Warner
    commented on: June 6, 2014 at 12:36 p.m.
    The chances are greater that Ghana, Portugal, and Germany will score against us than that they won't score. That means if we are to advance, we too must score! If we have Jones, Beckerman, and Bradley on the field at the same time, we will not score. A 4-2-3-1 formation (with a lone striker) is successful only when a team has speed on the outside. If our outside players are either Zusi, Davis, or Bedoya, we do not have speed. Indeed, the reason why Klinsmann chose both Yedlin and Green is because of their speed (and Green because he can make something wonderful happen off of the dribble). Also, in that formation, Dempsey more than usual tends to drop deep, which is more often than not useless for us, as his success comes from being way on top and deep inside of the box. Bradley is our best field player, but he is not great (he is no Pirlo or Modric, etc.). I think we will wind of playing some form of a 4-4-2, because without two on top, we will not get enough offensive pressure, and, again, we will need to score (at least five goals in the three games) to advance.

  1. cisco martinez
    commented on: June 6, 2014 at 1:05 p.m.
    Greg, I will put the Landon Donovan issue behind me when Klinsmann's team getS out of the first round, however if they do not I will be vindicated for his absurd decision not to include Donovan. When you have Michael Bradley, Tim Howard, and Bruce Arena, said it best, "if we have 23 players better than Donovan, we should win the World Cup."

  1. Kent James
    commented on: June 6, 2014 at 2:25 p.m.
    I agree that MB is better as a DCM than as an OCM, but he's best as a DCM who occasionally comes forward (and can therefore put the opponents off balance). So I'd say play MB and Beckerman side by side (w/MB venturing forward), and then have a creative player playing the OCM (I'd suggest someone like LD or Feilhaber, but since they're not available, maybe Diskerud? Can Zusi play in the middle?) Dempsey could drop back (allowing us to use Johannson and Altidore at once), but Dempsey's much more effective in the box, so he should probably stay up top. I do fear that if we play a completely defensive game, and leave Altidore up top by himself, we'll never score...

  1. Scott O'connor
    commented on: June 6, 2014 at 6:18 p.m.
    I watched the Nigeria-Greece game to try to get an idea of what Saturday is going to hold for the US. Nigeria was athletic and good technically. They really got wide and attcked down the wings a fair amount. Greece is not the US, however. They actually play defense very well. They stay compact and look to counter. They will get some points in Brazil. The US is going to get a serious test defensively especially down the wings. We'll see what the guys can do against a very Ghana-like side....

  1. Bruce Gowan
    commented on: June 6, 2014 at 7:25 p.m.
    Please stop it with the lane and line discussions of "formations". Formations are for the marching band. In soccer we have systems of play and the placements are a way to describe the spacial relationships of the players. That is the team shape. The important note is the tactical roles that are played within the system of play. With regard to MB I see the USMNT hoping that our best DMid is somehow an offensive player. Depending on Jones and/or Beckerman in front of the very weak central defense is a problem that will give up goals.

  1. Philippe Fontanelli
    commented on: June 7, 2014 at 10:38 a.m.
    What's the difference, what formation he uses. Klinsman is an egotistical maniac. He is detrumental to the US Soccer. I wonder if he is not paying us back for "D" DAY? Dropping Donovan is reflecting the above (major ego). Also he seem to have major prejudice against Latino Americans. There is no cohesion or comraderie in that formation and team. We have to write this World Cup down as a major fiasco.


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