Three keys to USA-Belgium

[BRAZIL 2014] The USA heads into the round of 16 against Belgium with a lot going against it. It was worn down entering the final group game and rarely threatened against Germany, losing, 1-0, to extend its winless streak against European teams at the World Cup to eight games. But it can look to the example of the 2002 U.S. team that also barely survived the first round but made major lineup changes and went out and beat Mexico in the round of 16.

1. Get help for Dempsey. Since the World Cup has started, the USA has been outshot, 55-27. You're not going to survive long if you're getting outshot by a 2-1 margin. Jozy Altidore has been declared healthy and available for Tuesday's game, but how much he plays remains to seen. It would be a shock if he started.

So far Jurgen Klinsmann has shown no confidence in Aron Johannsson and Chris Wondolowski to get the USA a goal. The only times he's used them was when the USA had the lead -- Johannsson for Altidore midway through the first half of the Ghana game and Wondo for Clint Dempsey in the dying minutes of the Portugal game. Klinsmann didn't even use a third sub at the end of the Germany game -- though the only thing the USA had to avoid in Recife was not getting clobbered once Portugal went ahead.

Dempsey needs someone to play off and be able to use his great instincts to find seams in the opposition backline. As the fifth and most advanced midfielder, Michael Bradley should fill that role, but he has been so stretched with his defensive responsibilities that he hasn't been a big help.

Other options? The player who mostly closely fits the role of a second forward Klinsmann needs is Eddie Johnson of 2013, but Klinsmann showed no confidence in him, not even including him in the short list of 30 players.

Photo: John Todd/

2. Get around Belgian backline. The Fabian Johnson we saw storming down the right wing in the send-off series and in the first two World Cup games disappeared against Germany. There were multiple reasons for his quiet game, including fatigue. But the deep line the USA played and its inability to hold any possession in midfield created few opportunities for Johnson to attack.

On the theory that the best defense is a good offense, the response to Portugal's threat down the wings with Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani was to have Johnson bomb down the wings and bring on DeAndre Yedlin for the last 20 minutes.

That could be the same against Belgium with Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Dries Mertens. One of the options Klinsmann will probably be considering seriously is to start Yedlin. Johnson and Yedlin together would pose the greatest threat to attack Belgium's weak link, left back Jan Vertonghen.

3. Somehow find a second wind. The USA was gassed against Germany, and a team like the USA, not very technical, will inevitably fall apart if it can't take the game to its opponent.

In 2002, the single most important reason for the USA's success was its depth -- and Bruce Arena's willingness to use it. Very similar to the 2014 team, the 2002 U.S. team ran out of gas in its third game, losing to Poland, 3-1, and advancing through the back door when it got help in the other match on the final day of group play.

Instead of sticking with the same team for the round of 16, Arena made four changes in the starting lineup -- two players, Gregg Berhalter and Josh Wolff, had not even played in the group stage -- and threw in a new formation -- replacing the 4-4-2 with a 3-5-2 -- for the game against Mexico in Jeonju.

Is there a Berhalter or Wolff on the 2014 roster? Three field players have yet to play in 2014: Timmy Chandler, Julian Green and Mix Diskerud.
12 comments about "Three keys to USA-Belgium".
  1. Mark Hardt, June 30, 2014 at 9:11 p.m.

    Yes start Yedlin for sure. I would bring in mix for the other side Zusi at 65 and bring in Green for Yedlin at 75

  2. Tim Gibson, July 1, 2014 at 8:18 a.m.

    I say go 4 it from the start & play our most potent attack to try to get the 1st goal, And I agree with the thought of going Johnson & Yedlin from the 1st whistle, GO USA!
    On the otherhand, the comment about Johnson above is a really Bush attempt to further undermine the Coach & is low hanging fruit since Jozy went lame. When will you give it up on your distrust of JK? It would be more constructive & less lazy to support this unexpected run into the knockout round. Instead Paul, you take the easy route & continue to throw hand grenades because he's German & you don't agree he should be our coach. It's time to show YOUR colors, remember the company you write for here (Soccer America) & simply be proud of our boys AND THE COACH for where they are now. Let go of your frustrations, you never will Coach this team so support ours even if he speaks with an accent. GO USA!

  3. beautiful game, July 1, 2014 at 9:22 a.m.

    Too much analysis here. Team shape, patience, and decision-making are the keys to beat any game.

  4. Andy Wagner, July 1, 2014 at 9:23 a.m.

    There is only one key to this equation...the one that starts the bus. GO USA!!!! JK picked this team for 2018. I cannot blame him. As for his pre-tournament comments about this team, he has made himself a winner. The fruits will be in the next WC.

  5. Gus Keri, July 1, 2014 at 9:44 a.m.

    I didn't read any anti-German sentiment here. And I am sure Paul support the USA all the way. People should accept criticism no matter when or where or who. With every passing minute, I see the fallacy of Klinsmann's statement that every one on this team is "little better" than Donovan. There are only two players in the whole continent of the USA who can play in the position behind Altidore and they are Dempsey and Donovan. After Altidore got injured, Klinsmann moved Dempsey to his spot and was hoping that Bradley can do the job behind him. But Bradley is not pure attacking midfielder. Therefore, We saw Jones sharing that responsibility with him. But Jones also has never played as attacking midfielder and it showed when he collided with the referee and one of his teammate. Nobody can convince me that Donovan, in spite of his attitude or physical conditioning, couldn't help this team in this situation. I think the best option for Klinsmann right now is to take risk and start with Altidore with Dempsey behind him. Altidore should be careful not to go all the way with speed which might lead to the recurrence of his injury. He can help the team by holding the ball up top. Starting Altidore make more sense than bringing him on late in the game. If he gets injured, there will be a lot of time to rectify the problem.

  6. Gus Keri, July 1, 2014 at 9:49 a.m.

    And by the way, GO USA! Just in case.

  7. Cory Leonard, July 1, 2014 at 10:46 a.m.

    I love how Gus says "in spite of his attitude or physical condition". Like those two things don't matter. All the technical ability in the world won't do anyone any good without a decent attitude and it certainly won't help without being in shape to deal with the Brazilian weather. Let Donovan go. It's over. Donovan seems to have moved on, why can't you?

  8. Santiago 1314, July 1, 2014 at 11:31 a.m.

    Problem is Jozy is not 2nd Forward, he is 1st/High Forward.. JK mistake was not Donavan, but Eddie or Boyd.. We have had to shift Dempsey and Beasley UP one Slot to make up for this Glaring Mistake.. Only person we have that can fit the Original Shape is Cameron, Up Front.. If it doesn't work you can always slide him back to Midfield or Bunker up in the back and play for PKs,,, start Brooks instead of Besler... Besler can't make 120mintues, and Brooks, Gonzo on FKs /Corners will be unstoppable...

  9. Gus Keri, July 1, 2014 at noon

    Cory, what I meant is this: With his less than desired attitude toward training and his apparent lack of physical conditioning, Donovan is still much better than many of the players that went to Brazil, and definitely would have been a valuable help in this situation. And by the way, just the fact that we talk about Donovan, doesn't mean we didn't let it go. It just a natural thing to remember him when you see where the team is deficient. So, please, you and others here, stop telling us what to say or not to say.

  10. Gus Keri, July 1, 2014 at 12:02 p.m.

    Santiago, you are right. Klinsmann didn't take a proper replacement for Altidore. But also, apparently, he didn't take a proper replacement for Dempsey in midfield when he uses him in Altidore's position.

  11. Cory Leonard, July 1, 2014 at 2:53 p.m.

    This is letting it go? Bringing it up again after we made it out of the group? Still second guessing our coach when we have a clear chance to make it to te round of 8? Yeah, you've def moved on. Good job.

  12. Santiago 1314, July 1, 2014 at 3:31 p.m.

    According to FIFA website I got the Cameron Starting, Correct.. Let's see where Klinsi uses him..Would have Preferred PeckerHair over Bedoya... But it looks like Klinsi is going for it.. Way to go!!!

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