Klinsmann needs more force up front against Belgium

[BELGIUM-USA] The atmosphere of optimism ushered in by Jurgen Klinsmann when he took charge of the USA a month ago dampened a bit when his team lost, 1-0, at home to Costa Rica on Friday. On Tuesday, Klinsmann aims to celebrate his first U.S. win -- in Brussels against Belgium, which last lost to the USA in 1930. Here's what to watch for in the game that airs at 2:30 pm ET on ESPN ...

* MORE MEN UP FRONT? On Friday at the Home Depot Center, in Klinsmann’s second game , the Americans impressively kept possession for long periods, but didn’t convert that dominance into scoring chances. The problem? The one-forward formation that kept Jozy Altidore significantly outnumbered when he received the ball.

Flank men Brek Shea and Robbie Rogers were supposed provide the support.

“This will also take time,” Klinsmann said after the game. “They definitely need to develop an instinct with Jozy, or Juan Agudelo – the No. 9 -- in order to cover those spaces better.”

Better yet, Klinsmann could line up two true forwards.

* THE A-TEAM. In Klinsmann’s first two games, he’s played Edson Buddle, then Altidore up front for an hour and then replaced them with Agudelo, who was especially lively in the 1-1 comeback tie with Mexico. Klinsmann could create a true forward line by starting both Altidore and Agudelo against the Belgians.

It’s more likely that Klinsmann will stick the same formation and hope that his midfielders move to the central frontline more frequently.

How will Klinsmann use Clint Demspey?

Landon Donovan
, who played in the central midfield alongside Jose Torres against Costa Rica, has not accompanied team to Belgium. (Donovan played 30 minutes for his Galaxy in Monday’s 2-2 tie with Kansas City.) But making his first appearance with the squad since the Klinsmann hiring is the USA’s second best attacking player: Dempsey.

Like Donovan – and sadly unique within the U.S. national team pool – Dempsey is a goal-hungry attacker with the unpredictable moves that unbalance foes and win games.

If Dempsey takes on the role that Donovan had against Costa Rica, it’s to attack from the central midfield.

Or Dempsey plays up front with Altidore or Agudelo.

Or Dempsey takes a wide midfield spot, and Klinsmann leaves either Rogers or Shea on the bench.

* THE EDU FACTOR. Klinsmann had high praise for defensive midfielder Maurice Edu after the Costa Rica game. The coach said he instructed Edu to focus solely on defense to cover for Donovan and Torres.

Michael Bradley, who played the “No. 6” position throughout his father’s tenure, was remarkably effective darting up front at the right time and scoring numerous key goals for the USA. Michael Bradley isn’t with the squad on this trip, but Edu has also shown, with club and country, the ability to cover his defensive responsibilities while contributing to the attack.

So why put the shackles on a midfielder?

* TORRES' PROGRESS. Torres was the key reason that the USA kept possession so well against the Costa Ricans and his accurate cross-field passes were particularly impressive. Missing from the Mexican-based midfielder's game were penetrating runs into the heart of the defense. Bottom line: he need not be so shy about taking on players one-on-one.

* THE BACKLINE BALANCE. In all likelihood, Michael Orozco Fiscal and captain Carlos Bocanegra will be back for their third straight game as central defense partners.

Edgar Castillo has played the full 90 in both of Klinsmann’s games at left back and although he looked vulnerable at times, he also showed enough spark in creating attacks that Klinsmann, who has been clear about being patient with players making mistakes, may give him another start.

Veteran right back Steve Cherundolo joins the squad in Brussels, which could leave Timothy Chandler on the bench, unless Chandler replaces Castillo on the left.

“I can play on the left,” said Chandler after the Costa Rica game.

Another scenario would have Chandler playing wide right in the midfield in place of Rogers, and in front of right back Cherundolo.

* THE OPPONENT. The USA’s game on Tuesday marks its fourth against Belgium, the last encounter coming in 1998 as a preparation friendly for the World Cup in France. The Belgians prevailed, 2-0, in Brussels.

Belgium beat the USA, 1-0, in 1995. The other matchup came in the opener of the 1930 World Cup, when the USA won, 3-0.

On Friday, Belgium tied, 1-1, at Azerbaijan in a qualifier for the 2012 European Championship. The result left the Belgians' in third place behind Turkey and Germany, which clinched qualification with a 6-2 win over Austria.

Azerbaijan is coached by Berti Vogts, who was Klinsmann’s coach on German team that won the 1996 European Championship.

“My old coach Berti Vogts already gave me all the insights [on Belgium] that he has,” said Klinsmann. “It is one of the rising teams of Europe with a lot of young talent coming through. For us, this is one of those games we need for the learning process that we’re in.”

(vs. Belgium, Tuesday, 2:30 pm, ESPN, ESPN3.com)
Bill Hamid (D.C. United)
Tim Howard (Everton/ENG)
Carlos Bocanegra (Rangers/SCO)
Edgar Castillo (Club America/MEX)
Timmy Chandler (FC Nuremberg/GER)
Steve Cherundolo (Hannover/GER)
Clarence Goodson (Brondby/DEN)
Michael Orozco Fiscal (San Luis/MEX)
Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls)
Jonathan Spector (Birmingham City/ENG)
Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake)
Clint Dempsey (Fulham/ENG)
Maurice Edu (Rangers/SCO)
Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht/BEL)
Jeff Larentowicz (Colorado Rapids)
Jose Torres (Pachuca/MEX)
Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls)
Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar/NED)
Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew)
Brek Shea (FC Dallas)

11 comments about "Klinsmann needs more force up front against Belgium".
  1. jasonbrus jasonbrus, September 6, 2011 at 5:04 a.m.

    we should really not be concerned about the win/loss column at least for the next 6 months. let the new coach develop his team, from player selection to play style. the Costa Rica game showed our players don't have the physical endurance to handle a fast pace, intense style for 90 minutes. this is why the first half we dominated the game but second half our players were tired and could not keep up. our players' need to up level their fitness to deliver Klinsmann's play style. look at Klinsmann himself, at 47, he is totally fit. how many american sports figure has this fitness at 47? so, give the guys some time, let the team improve. if by 2014, we did not go beyond Group of 16, then we get a new coach or may be Soccer is not America's game?

  2. David Mont, September 6, 2011 at 7:03 a.m.

    Bob Bradley certainly looks very fit at over 50.

  3. Philippe Fontanelli, September 6, 2011 at 8:42 a.m.

    Unfortunately our confidence level is not there to win the game against Belgium. Had we won securely against CR then it would have been different. The belief of winning is not there. While understand JK's rationality I don't necessarily agree with him. I have mentioned before that his attacking concept was on the right road but he needed at least two goal scorers up front. I also feel that the midfield is out of balance and out of sinc.

  4. Philippe Fontanelli, September 6, 2011 at 9:39 a.m.

    The sad side of this whole mess is that the USSFA was lacking genuine soccer brains and leaders. They have elected a bunch of non-soccer specialist and nor thinkers. So whole system is a mess. We need immediate changes there. The natural succession of players is not there. There are major gaps and no bridge between the older and/or has been players and the upcoming youth and/or possible talents. Assessment of the core of the team; Donovan is getting older, is he the future beyond the next WC? I doubt it. Even now he floats in and out of form and personalities. Dempsey ditto who is a good player but not great playing for a mediocre club team often mediocre performance. Howard, Bocanegra and Cherendulo all beyond their best years hile often play well but often detrumental with their performances. Bradley is no longer a factor and never was if not for his father's nepotism. Jones who knows with his up and down performances. So that leaves; Torres while I have cried for him in the past but yet proven, but hopefully he is a future. The two young A and A forwards worth working with. I would also give a shot to the third A (Adu). Hopefully Holden will come back as good shape as he was previously. I would also work with Orozco-Fiscal and give hime time to fit in. Rogers never was never will be a National Team level. Shea is OK Aand maybe with time he is still young, but right now needs to learn (a good sub). Chandler and Lichaj needs more tries. But we need to bring in and train the the scores of youth that are waiting at the door; Diskerud, Corona, Salgado, Gil, Gatt and many more. Did I forget some? Please help out! Thanks to all.

  5. John Roode, September 6, 2011 at 10:33 a.m.

    The problem with Shea and Rogers was not a lack of understanding with Altadore, as Kilinsmann implies. The problem was with having Edu as the lone defensive mid. This gave more defensive responsibilities to Shea and Rogers... whereas, has they had a second defensive mid instead of 2 attacking mids, both Shea and Rogers would have had more freedom to go forward without exposing our defense because of only 1 defensive mid. Beckerman needs to be i the lineup... and unfortunately, Donovan needs to sit down if he is so enamored with Torres. Otherwise, sit them both down and play Dempsey there. But 1 defensive mid is the problem.

  6. Luis Arreola, September 6, 2011 at 10:58 a.m.

    Klins is trying things out with different players. It is apparent that he will overhaul the style and lineup drastically and this should be applauded so far. He is taking risks for the better. While many players have been critisized by us there are few disputable better options. To figure out what style is best for this team he first has to try different things. So far so good.

  7. Mark Arnold, September 6, 2011 at 11:09 a.m.

    JK must build from the back forward. In the long term Goodson and Omar Gonzalez should be the central defending pair...with Ream as a back-up. I look for Goodson to start today.

  8. R2 Dad, September 6, 2011 at 1:58 p.m.

    Changing our style of play from counterattack to possession is a big hurdle and won't happen overnight. I was pleased to see the attractive possession we are capable of playing in that first half--what is missing is the creativity in the final 1/3rd. The Torres position must beat defenders on the dribble and crack open the defense w killer throughballs. Crossing to a target man at the 18 all game long is not going to be enough, even with support on the wings. Adu did well in the Mexico loss--I hope he gets more chances to contribute under JK. Also, Belgium is bouncing back from 7 years of mediocrity; they may prove equal to the task today.

  9. Barry Thomas, September 6, 2011 at 2:06 p.m.

    Antonio - - to state outright that Bradley would never have been a factor if not for his father's nepotism is not only harsh but inaccurate. he has score many timely goals for the USMNT over the years, and when WCQ games are on the line, I trust him far more than Edu, Clark, et al.

  10. beautiful game, September 6, 2011 at 5:17 p.m.

    So far Shea has shown promise, Rogers doesn't have it and Orozco is struggling, while Torres has plenty of potential...the biggest problem is LD, his disappearing acts make the team SUFFER.

  11. todd burkett, September 7, 2011 at 1:02 p.m.

    mike, as much wisdom as you share regarding youth soccer, i am blown away by your inability to see the forest for the trees here....klinsi has had may 7, 8 days of training with these guys, and is trying to introduce a new style of play and we are reviewing this as if it's some sort of finished product? 5 years bob bradley had with these guys....relax

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