Klinsmann shakes things up

[USA MEN] Jurgen Klinsmann wasn't afraid to shake things up nor try out players at different positions in the World Cup 2014 qualifying campaign that resulted in the USA clinching a berth in next year's finals on Tuesday night. Only one player, captain Clint Dempsey, played every game, and Alejandro Bedoya and Mix Diskerud, who made key contributions on Tuesday night, became the 37th and 38th players Klinsmann used in the 2014 World Cup qualifying. Some trends emerged over the last 15 months ...

SHORT-TERM TURNOVER. Klinsmann never started the same lineup two games in a row in qualifying and, not surprisingly, often shook up his lineup between games during double fixture weeks.

Klinsmann made seven positional changes for Tuesday's game against Mexico from the team that started Friday night at Costa Rica, and only two of them were dictated by yellow-card suspensions.

The closest thing to a consistent lineup Klinsmann had was for the three June qualifiers when only three one-game changes were made for suspensions to Graham Zusi and DaMarcus Beasley and a concussion to Jermaine Jones.

LONG-TERM TURNOVER. There has been huge turnover in the team between last year and this year. Only three players -- Tim Howard, Eddie Johnson and Dempsey -- who started the 3-1 win over Guatemala that clinched a berth in the Hexagonal were in Tuesday's starting XI that clinched a berth in the World Cup finals.

Players like Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo, Danny Williams, Maurice Edu and Herculez Gomez all were regulars during the semifinal round of qualifying but now find themselves out of the current national team picture because of injuries or form or age.

GOLD CUP EFFECT. One cannot emphasize enough how important the 2013 edition of the Gold Cup turned out to be. It was viewed beforehand as an inconvenience on the international calendar or a waste of time, given the number of first-team players the five Hexagonal teams in the tournament were resting, but it was the single most important factor in adding to the depth of U.S. squad.

Four of the players Klinsmann used Tuesday night had not even been called in for the June qualifiers, but his confidence in them grew or was renewed based on their play at the Gold Cup.

Landon Donovan
, who had played in qualifying since June 2012, was trying to play himself back into Klinsmann's good graces. Kyle Beckerman, a Klinsmann favorite, had nevertheless made just one cameo appearance -- in stoppage time of the Snow Bowl against Costa Rica -- in the Hexagonal. Bedoya and Diskerud, it is safe to say, wouldn't be in the picture but for what they showed Klinsmann at the Gold Cup.

PROBLEM POSITIONS. Lineup changes weren't just dictated by injuries, they were also made because of continuing instability at the four outside positions.

Klinsmann has started seven different players at right back in 14 qualifiers -- five in the eight Hexagonal matches -- and five different players at left back. Since going with wide midfielders in the second Jamaica game in 2012, Klinsmann has used four different right midfielders and five left midfielders.

With Donovan back in the picture, Klinsmann has plenty of options at the outside midfield positions. The big question marks remain the two outside back positions.

VERSATILITY. Klinsmann has used three players at three different positions.

Geoff Cameron broke in at center back in 2012, moved to right back for the March qualifiers and then played in midfield as an injury replacement for Jones and Michael Bradley.

Fabian Johnson started out at left back, seemingly found a home at left midfield when he returned from injury after DaMarcus Beasley slid into left back in March, but he started at right back Tuesday night before going off at the half with a hamstring injury.

Eddie Johnson started on the left side of midfield after earning recall in October 2012, played at right midfield and left midfield in the June qualifiers and was starting up front Tuesday when he scored his winning goal.

It is safe say that Cameron and the two Johnsons should be on the plane to Brazil next year.

U.S. Qualifying Appearances:
12 Tim Howard
2 Brad Guzan

Right Back
5 Steve Cherundolo
3 Brad Evans
2 Geoff Cameron
1+1 Michael Parkhurst
1 Timmy Chandler
1 Michael Orozco
1 Fabian Johnson

Center Back
8 Omar Gonzalez
6 Clarence Goodson
5+1 Geoff Cameron
5 Matt Besler
4 Carlos Bocanegra

Left Back
6 DaMarcus Beasley
5 Fabian Johnson
1 Jose Torres
1 Michael Parkhurst
1 Carlos Bocanegra
0+1 Oguchi Onyewu

Right Midfield
8+2 Graham Zusi
1+2 Eddie Johnson
1 Jermaine Jones
1 Alejandro Bedoya
0+1 Joe Corona
0+1 Brek Shea

Central Midfielders
10+1 Jermaine Jones
10 Michael Bradley
4+1 Danny Williams
3+4 Maurice Edu
2+2 Geoff Cameron
2+1 Kyle Beckerman

Left Midfield
4 Eddie Johnson
3 Fabian Johnson
2 Herculez Gomez
1 Jose Torres
1 Landon Donovan
0+3 Brad Davis
0+3 Sacha Kljestan
0+2 Edgar Castillo
0+2 Brek Shea
0+1 Joe Corona
0+1 Kyle Beckerman

14 Clint Dempsey
7+4 Jozy Altidore
6 Hercules Gomez
3 Landon Donovan
1+2 Eddie Johnson
0+2 Terrence Boyd
0+1 Alan Gordon
0+1 Stuart Holden
0+1 Mix Diskerud
0+1 Aron Johannsson
+appearances as substitutes.
12 comments about "Klinsmann shakes things up".
  1. Chris Sapien , September 12, 2013 at 2:48 a.m.

    I feel Klinns will ultimately decide to put our best 11 on the pitch as starters. That could only mean IMO that Fabian has to start at LB, with Dempsey at LM, Bradley and Lando central mid. Gonzo, Goodson or Besler, (Brooks anyone?) battling it out for two starting spots is a healthy thing. If we graduate to an attacking 4-4-2, we could start EJ and Jozy up top. I still feel Evans has the RB spot to lose, and to a lesser degree, Zusi the same at RM. If Zusi can't deliver consistently, then Lando goes back to the right mid spot and we play the less formidable (imo) 4-2-3-1, with Dempsey central and EJ out wide left. Would love for Mix to play alongside Bradley in that alignment eventually!

  2. Albert Harris, September 12, 2013 at 9:51 a.m.

    As great a fan of Donovan as I am, I think he and Bradley would not provide sufficient cover for our back line which has its own share of weaknesses. To play LD in a 2-man central midfield would require pairing him w/ a defensive mid like Jones or Beckerman which would leave out Bradley which is not a good idea. I think Lando needs to be played wide or as a second striker w/ Bradley and a d-mid or a 2nd box to box mid to give us our strongest line-up

  3. JAY TEWS, September 12, 2013 at 10:27 a.m.

    To use Donovan in central midfield would cancel out his big advantage, his pace. I think he needs to be on the outside of midfield, and Jozy and Clint at forwards. I think Bradley and Mix would be our best bet in central Mid..I just love the fact that we have 6 or 7 bench sitter's that are all in the picture for starting jobs?

  4. Kent James, September 12, 2013 at 10:49 a.m.

    LD can play attacking mid, but I agree with Jay, his pace works better outside. He can cross, he can beat people with pace to the end line, and he can cut inside and shoot. He also tracks back (again, with pace). Zusi reminds me of Torres; excellent in tight spaces, decent crosser, not much of a shooter, not enough pace to beat people with speed, a little suspect defensively (in the air, desire/work rate defensively). I think they'd do better at offensive CM, but maybe in an offensively oriented line-up. I'd like to see EJ and Altidore up top, Dempsey withdrawn, LD on one side, Bradley as DCM, and F. Johnson, S Holden (when he gets healthy), Zusi, Torres or Corona on the other outside mid.

  5. Mark Konty, September 12, 2013 at 12:01 p.m.

    Every major soccer power on the planet plays the 4-2-3-1. It is the most versatile system in world football and it fits the USMNT personnel better than any other because of the 5 midfielders.

    Donovan will be outside, Dempsey will be attacking mid and Bradley will be one of the holding mids. Bet the farm on it.

  6. JAY TEWS, September 12, 2013 at 12:22 p.m.


  7. Chris Sapien , September 12, 2013 at 12:40 p.m.

    I don't disagree with the other opinions, but would still like to see Klinns try it with Bradley and Donovan set up offset stacked. IMO, what provides the room to operate in the channels (EJ excels at this), is outside mids who stay wide and vary their possession, that's why I prefer not having to send Lando out there, at least initially. He is a clinical finisher in the middle. @Jay, did you forget Evans??

  8. Allan Lindh, September 12, 2013 at 1:54 p.m.

    We have many attractive young players that might someday be central mid-fielders, but this discussion (IMHO) leaves out the fact that Jones had one hell of a solid game Tuesday against Mexico. Sure he is clumsy, but his strength is unmatched on this squad, and his soccer intelligence, and even moderation in tackling, are coming along. Given that the US will come up against some very big strong mids and forwards, I think it is dreaming to imagine a midfield without Jones in the center of it. I'd bet good whiskey that he and Klinns have had more than one serious talk about Jones cutting down on the reckless fouls, and it seems to be working. Besides that he is braver than any other three players the US has.

  9. Chris Hasbrouck, September 12, 2013 at 2:24 p.m.

    I agree Jones is strong, but his passes are horrible. He makes terrible decisions and loses the ball a lot. Considering we will need a possession game I would think he should be out. On the other hand, Klinns likes him so I'm sure he'll play to my ultimate frustration. At least I'll have someone to yell at. :D

  10. Cory Leonard, September 12, 2013 at 2:53 p.m.

    Since it seems to be the thing to do, here we go...

    Howard or Guzan- to me they're 1 and 1a.

    Cameron,gonzo, Besler(who is owed an apology by FIFA at the very least btw) and Fabian Johnson

    Bradley and Mix. (I don't really need to point out how good this cat is, do I? He was barely even on the pitch good and we scored thanks to a hell of a play by him).

    Zusi and Donovan out wide, Deuce and Jozy up top.

    That's just my fantasy USMNT.

  11. James Froehlich, September 12, 2013 at 7 p.m.

    While I would expect to see JK use the remaining WCQ's to work on the back line, I hope that he takes the opportunity to "blood" some of the younger players like Bedoya, Corona, Yedlin, Johanson -- especially in the away game with Panama. With all the excitement about getting to the WC, I think it's important to not lose sight of the fact that JK was brought in to do more than just get us to WC2014. IMO, his objectives were to develop a US style (attack, attack, attack and pass, pass pass) and also put us on the path to a broader and more skillful player pool. He has made a good START on both but 2018 will be the real test!! He can start now.

  12. Chris Sapien , September 12, 2013 at 8:43 p.m.

    @Cory, so r u still seeing a 4-2-3-1 then with Deuce withdrawn? Or are you saying Dempsey and Jozy truly up top?

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