A year and-a-half into the Juergen Klinsmann experience and and we’re starting to have the same criticism of him as we often leveled on his predecessor, Bob Bradley. He’s over-reliant on certain of his guys. He gets the tactics wrong or can’t get the team to adjust. He plays too many friggin’ defensive midfielders!
Where we are now as a result: tied atop the standings of our World Cup Qualifying group with one round of two games to play. Tied with Jamaica and Guatemala, but not looking all that convincing, with lots of questions on the horizon.
Last Friday’s 2-1 loss in Kingston followed by Tuesday’s 1-0 win in Columbus split both the points and the goals evenly with the Jamaicans. As a pragmatist, this is just fine – especially when factoring in the lack of Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan due to injury. But when considering how the USA played and how Klinsmann coached, well… Next year’s hexagonal round of qualifying (assuming we handle tiny Antigua on the road and Guatemala at home next month) looks a whole lot rougher.
Five points in a double-Jamaican rum shot pentagram…
- Enough with the three defensive midfielders. Juergen trotted out the triumvirate of Beckerman, Edu, and Jones the first leg. We couldn’t possess the ball. Jones ran all over, getting frustrated with the crappy pitch and chippiness, seemingly competing with Edu to see who could turn it over more. Beckerman was solid but too slow. It was enough to make you pine for Coach Stoneface’s old Empty Bucket midfield and it surely showed how important Michael Bradley has become. The second leg gave us Danny Williams (finally) in his natural d-mid position, with Jones running box to box and two more attack-minded players. We looked so much better. At least until Edu came in later in the game, pushing Williams to the right… Yep – 3 d-mids again. Enough with this already.
- Depth chart needs more attackers. Of course the coach can only play who he calls in. Since there was no Sasha Klejistan or Benny Feilhaber on the roster to add some attack to the midfield, you get the 3 d-mids. We also saw the lack of wide midfielders, evidenced by pushing Jose Torres and Graham Zusi wide the second game. Liked what Zusi brought, but still feel Torres is out of place out wide. Klinsmann either needs to let Torres play in the middle (unlikely) or replace him (unlikelier). And I would strongly advocate dropping Beckerman and Edu off the 23 man depth chart and replacing them with a little more zazz – how about Josh Gatt (if he can ever get healthy) and Klejistan? Soccer by Ives has a pretty solid version of the current depth chart here. You guessed it – too many defensive midfielders.
- Backline solidifying. Clarence Goodson and Michael Parkhurst were pretty good at centerback and right back in Kingston. Carlos Bocanegra and Steve Cherundolo were better. ‘Los and Steve reminded us (again) why they’ve been first-choice for 6-8 years now. Can they last another two years? The emergence of Geoff Cameron and Fabian Johnson have made the defense less worrisome. If Timothy Chandler ever makes up his mind to do the right thing (as he hinted here), and if we can get one more solid centerback in the mix, you start to like this group a lot more.
- Dempsey and Herc. Yes, Clint wasn’t fully fit or fully sharp, but you have to have him in there. He’s Clint MF-ing Dempsey. He scores goals; he takes guys on; he doesn’t back down. If he can run, he starts. Ditto for Herculez Gomez, whose free-kick goal elicited a huge sigh of relief for everyone in Columbus. Herc is like the Rocky or B-Rabbit of American Soccer. Continuously overlooked, always seemingly having to prove it again to a new regime of coaches. And he does it. He scores. He makes intelligent runs, poaches like a champ, and never stops fighting. If Jozy Altidore had half Herc’s fight/attitude/field smarts, he’d be Champion’s League starter on his way to stardom.
- A different tune. Despite the unease that’s settled in with Klinsmann’s selections and tactics, we are inches away from feeling a whole lot better about this team. An inch maybe on Jamaica’s second free-kick goal. A couple of inches on any number of quality chances that hit the post in the first half of the second game. It could have been a tie on the road and a 3-0 at home, and suddenly we’re all enamored with the Klinsi genius. Soccer is funny that way.