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Klinsmann's three attacking options against Portugal
by Paul Kennedy, June 19th, 2014 12:49AM

TAGS:  clint dempsey, jozy altidore, men's national team, world cup 2014


[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?), allowing Jermaine Jones to play deeper and concentrate on Cristiano 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.

  1. steve foster
    commented on: June 19, 2014 at 1:02 a.m.
    Wondo has worked his way into the team and Klinsmann needs to use him up front against Portugal. He is the Gerd Mueller of the USA. He is the man who needs only half a chance. Let's give him one.
  1. john max
    commented on: June 19, 2014 at 3:45 a.m.
    Dempsey and mix diskerud behind Clint.
  1. Terry Ellis
    commented on: June 19, 2014 at 9:03 a.m.
    I agree with Steve--Give Wondo a chance. He may surprise and if not then sub at the half
  1. Errol Young
    commented on: June 19, 2014 at 9:14 a.m.
    Yes. Wondo should be in there but I believe that he would be better in the 2nd half. Use Aron first to see what he can do and then bring in Wondo as fresh legs and finisher! Either one - bring on Portugal - We believe!
  1. Kent James
    commented on: June 19, 2014 at 9:19 a.m.
    Diskerud should start, with Wondo coming off the bench (probably for Dempsey). I think Wondo does better off the bench than as a starter. Dempsey should not try to play a lone forward up top (since he can't really play that role), but more of an additional midfielder, and have the attacks come from different combinations of midfielders going forward (Dempsey and Diskerud consistently, with Bedoya and Bradley as often as possible).
  1. Randy McKee
    commented on: June 19, 2014 at 9:43 a.m.
    What matters more than Wondo or Johannsson or anyone else up top is what we get done in the middle of the park. I really like what almost any of these guys can do once they get the ball, but we struggled to do that. Of those available, I think Johannsson is more clinical in his finishing, but Wondo probably puts himself in better positions more consistently. I would focus on getting Bradley as much help as possible.
  1. Mark Hardt
    commented on: June 19, 2014 at 9:48 a.m.
    Klinsman was blasted for leaving Landon Donovan off the roster. LD is not a perfect fit for Altidore. What went unnoticed was Boyd being left of the roster. Boyd is a perfect carbon copy of Altidore playing and scoring goals in the Europa league. Landon was punished for the sabbatical and Boyd was punished for mouthing off about his goal in a closed door game against LAX II. KLinsman wants a 24 hour player and will cut players for non field infractions. Now Field Marshal Buzz kill is left in pickle with no proper forward to replace Altidore. I say go with the five Midfielders with Jones mirroring Ronaldo. A draw will do in this one. If we are one down with 70 to go roll the dice and bring in Green whose speed may break an exhausted Portuguese team.
  1. Mark Hardt
    commented on: June 19, 2014 at 9:50 a.m.
    I mean 70 elapsed.
  1. Mark Konty
    commented on: June 19, 2014 at 10:28 a.m.
    I believe JK will start Dempsey up top as the #9 with two true wingers from Bedoya, Zusi and Davis, in a standard 4-2-3-1 (not the unbalanced version we've seen in the last two games). Dempsey will tire and the subs will be determined by the game, but I think Wondo will be part of the equation no matter what, either replacing Deuce outright or paired with Johannsson if we need a goal. Wondo is a great nuisance forward that can be used as a kind of false 9, but Deuce will get the start as the 9.
  1. Dan Phillips
    commented on: June 19, 2014 at 11:25 a.m.
    Aron Johannsson is still the best forward option. Give him a chance.
  1. David Mozeshtam
    commented on: June 19, 2014 at 11:44 a.m.
    Mark Hardt: remind me, what has Green done to make anyone think that he's ready to play at that level?
  1. Chris Sapien
    commented on: June 19, 2014 at 1:03 p.m.
    Really??? You don't bring off a warrior captain, Clint will play the 90, unless we have a two goal lead with 10 to play. Rediculous. Anything short of the above, and Klin's opens himself up for more criticism, especially if we don't get a result after leading.
  1. Brooks Cochrum
    commented on: June 19, 2014 at 2:30 p.m.
    Wonder if he might put Wondo alone up front and leave Dempsey recessed alongside Bradley. Rather have Dempsey running at goal then trying to head flick ons with a broken nose
  1. cisco martinez
    commented on: June 19, 2014 at 2:46 p.m.
    Did anyone else notice when Altidore got hurt what Klinsmann's reaction was? It was "s&*(!" It would be nice to have had Terrence Boyd or even Eddie Johnson as a holding forward. I wouldn't be surprised if we played a 4-2-3-1 against Portugal with Dempsey up top, however I think it may also be likely that we play a 4-4-2 diamond with Dempsey and Wondo up top. It would also be interesting to see the 1 v. 1 battles with Jones and Ronaldo, and Nani v. Beasley or Johnson.
  1. BJ Genovese
    commented on: June 20, 2014 at 9:59 p.m.
    Put Jones up top. He's big strong and physical and played a forward.

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