USA-Bolivia: Will youth movement continue?

Christian Pulisic has made only two brief appearances for the USA -- 10 minutes against Guatemala in March and 28 minutes against Ecuador on Wednesday -- but already the 17-year-old Pennsylvanian has impressed his coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, enough that he's in contention to start at the Copa Centenario.

Saturday's match against Bolivia in Kansas City should give the pride of Hershey a chance to make the case that he should start against Colombia in next Friday's tournament opener.

Here are three storylines for the Bolivia game.

1. Pulisic gets a look from the get-go?

Pulisic came off the bench and had an immediate impact on the left wing against Ecuador, one of several subs who brought life to an otherwise dreary friendly.

"Everybody's in contention," Klinsmann said after the 1-0 win of Pulisic's chances to start at the Copa Centenario. "It's nice to see a youngster like Christian having no fear, having confidence. It's also a confidence given by his teammates. He can make mistakes but he also has that change of pace. He has the technique. He's not overthinking the situation."

2. Are youngsters ready to push veterans out?

All the field players on the field when Pulisic entered the game in the second half and they took the game to Ecuador were under 30 and included only four players who started at the 2014 World Cup: Alejandro Bedoya, Michael Bradley, Fabian Johnson and Graham Zusi.

Besides Pulisic, players like Darlington Nagbe and Bobby Wood, who teamed up for the winning goal against Ecuador, are making a case to start, but Klinsmann said all 23 players he picked are fighting now for spots.

"Yes, we have established players and they deserve a certain kind of [respect]," he said. "But we always tell the younger ones to come in and sooner or later push them out. It's their job."

3. A new role for Michael Bradley?

Klinsmann's changes at the break against Ecuador pushed captain Michael Bradley into a more defensive midfield role with Jermaine Jones (then Alejandro Bedoya) and Nagbe (who came on for Kyle Beckerman) in front of him.

It isn't a new role for Bradley, who started there for the national team at the 2010 World Cup and plays there for Toronto FC, but Klinsmann has been heretofore reluctant to use Bradley as a No. 6. Bradley completed 39 of 41 passes in the second half and looked comfortable as a holding midfielder sweeping in front of the backline.

Klinsmann wasn't about the anoint Bradley as the new No. 6, but he did seem to have a preference for the 4-3-3 employed in the last three games.

“The [4-3-3] gives us a lot more compactness throughout the midfield,” he said on Friday. “It depends a lot on the opponents. Michael, obviously he has the technique, he has the vision to play calmly out of the back. Do they play with a pure No. 10, for example, the opponents? You wish to have a Kyle there to clean things up. It really kind of depends on what the opponent is doing.”

8 comments about "USA-Bolivia: Will youth movement continue?".
  1. Miguel Aviles, May 27, 2016 at 3:24 p.m.

    Pulisic is just 17, keep the pressure off him by using him as a sub for now. That is how Landon Donovan was first brought into the US team and is I think the right approach.

    Adding Edgar Castillo is a good move and could allow Fabian Johnson to play left midfield {his best position) in the Copa America with Castillo behind him. Pulisic then would be available off the bench.

    Against Bolivia, however, Castillo won't be available as he is trying to help Monterrey win the LigaMX title on Sunday.

  2. Wooden Ships replied, May 27, 2016 at 4:54 p.m.

    Hey Miguel. I'm not desperate for Pulisic to start, but age is a relative thing. He already has the best skills on the team along with Nagbe and Johnson. I don't think CP is going to get rubbery legs and develop chronic anxiety if he starts for the USMNT. He's already competing at BD in the Bundesliga. Besides, he wants to start. I'm on board with Castillo or a couple others at LB, fact is Fabian is needed where HE is most effective. I'd like to see CP start in Deuces place. We need our most skilled players playing where their most effective and by golly let's just out score our opponents.

  3. Bob Ashpole replied, May 28, 2016 at 4:39 a.m.

    I have never understood why left and right fullback are considered different positions. If a player is two-footed--and they all should be, the player should be able to play on either side. Coaches switch wingers around, why not fullbacks? Serious question. I considered myself a right half, but I played more left winger than anything.

  4. Bob Ashpole, May 28, 2016 at 4:14 a.m.

    I hope by now the experimenting is done and the coaching staff understands that Zardes should not be starting, Dempsey is more effective as a second striker or winger, and Zusi is more effective as one of the CM trio in a 433 than a winger. At least as effective as Bedoya and Jones I suspect. More skilled than Beckerman. We had other winger choices besides Zardes and Zusi on the field. Dempsey and Johnson both started, but were playing positions that were not a good match for them.

  5. Wooden Ships replied, May 28, 2016 at 9:44 a.m.

    I'm afraid the experimenting will continue, JK just seems rudderless to me overall. If Jozy wasn't hurt he'd be up top, Deuce doesn't have the work rate, he continues his reluctance with our more skilled players because he claims they need to earn their time like adult teeth pushing the baby teeth out of the way. Is it loyalty or just poor judgement? I have my answer. His consistency with inconsistency and his insistence on using players where he thinks their best are all judgements. For me Zardes doesn't have a quality touch and shouldn't be on the roster, Zuzi at best a reserve, same with JJ and Deuce. As for the Keepers, Horvath is clearly, to me, better than Tim and Brad but he's still stuck under Jurgens gum line. This stage isn't to big for him.

  6. Bob Ashpole replied, May 28, 2016 at 4:09 p.m.

    My suspicion is that Dempsey is just frustrated. I think he would move just fine in a 433 with Woods in the center, and Johnson, Pulisic, Nagbe, Bradley, etc. around him. Benny Feilhaber is still only 31, but that is too much to hope for. The USA has skilled players going to waste.

  7. Wooden Ships replied, May 28, 2016 at 4:52 p.m.

    I agree that we have some talent going to waste, which does include Benny. The only thing with Deuce, is that for so long, since returning from England, he has been too accustomed to not covering enough ground. I think at this point he can be effective for a half. And, yes I too think he is more suited left with Wood central. But, if JK would start what you suggest and I like as well, I prefer Clint coming in at 60 if needed or starting and playing half. He can damn sure finish though. Tonight should be fun and Copa too.

  8. Bob Ashpole replied, May 28, 2016 at 11:37 p.m.

    W.S, I watched Dempsey tonight. I see what you are saying now. He doesn't look to be "covering enough ground" for a winger.

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