[BRAZIL 2014] Jozy Altidore is out on Sunday because of his strained hamstring. U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann says he wants to leave Portugal guessing about how he'll replace his striker against Portugal on Sunday. None of the three options, though, comes close to replacing Altidore and the problems he poses to opposing defenses.
Klinsmann admitted Tuesday Altidore's absence would change things as he sets about finding a partner for Clint Dempsey up front.
"Absolutely it does," he said. "Jozy is a very strong, key player in our group, so we’ll think about the right way to handle that situation. We’ll still field 11, you know, we’re not a man down. We still have somebody coming in and we’ll make it very, very difficult for Portugal in Manaus. We’ll find solutions.”
Klinsmann's three options:
1. Aron Johannsson alongside Dempsey.The Icelandic-American was brought in to replace Altidore midway through the first half. It was Johannsson's first action since scoring against Azerbaijan in a brief appearance off the bench a month ago. He is not the targetman that Altidore is, nor does he like to set up on the wing like Altidore does, holding up to allow runners coming through the middle. For long stretches of Monday night's game, Johannsson was invisible. He attempted 13 passes all game, completing 11. One of two incomplete passes proved to the turning point of the game, though, as his through ball to Fabian Johnson appeared to be rolling over the endline until Jonathan Mensah touched it, giving the USA the corner kick John Brooks converted for the winning goal.
2. Chris Wondolowski alongside Dempsey. Wondo earned a spot on the U.S. World Cup team thanks to his goalscoring. The five goals against Belize and Cuba at last year's Gold Cup got him a foot in the door, but his three goals against South Korea and Mexico in friendlies played this year got him on the final 23. But the biggest difference between Wondo of last year and this year is his support work. Remember, he played the first three and a half games at the Gold Cup before giving way to Eddie Johnson, who was clearly the better all-around player. But between the Gold Cup and the Mexico friendly in April, Wondo had moved ahead of Johnson -- and impressed with his work off the ball in support of Dempsey and Michael Bradley in addition to his opportunistic goal against El Tri in Arizona.
3. Dempsey alone up front.It has been suggested that the Klinsmann might play Dempsey alone up front and add a fifth midfielder, perhaps Graham Zusi or Brad Davis or a secret weapon (DeAndre Yedlin?), allowingJermaine Jones to play deeper and concentrate onCristiano Ronaldo. In a perfect world, the move makes a lot of sense. There is, though, one small problem: Dempsey broke his nose against Ghana. It is hard to imagine Klinsmann risking putting Dempsey up alone against the Portuguese backline given the heat and humidity in which Dempsey will have to operate in Manaus. There is no way Klinsmann will take Dempsey out of the lineup, but there is no way he plays Dempsey without giving him support up front.