MATHEW WAGNER - Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Just when you think you begin to understand what's going on in Klinsi's mind, he manages to completely surprise you again.
After not needing to make any changes in three straight matches to begin the Copa América Centenario, the United States' coach Jürgen Klinsmann faced a dilemma with the suspension of DeAndre Yedlin, needing to come up with a new right back for the quarterfinal match against Ecuador. Everyone believed it was going to be Michael Orozco, considering he came onto the field once Yedlin picked up the red card against Paraguay and did well enough.
Then Klinsmann threw yet another curveball as he's like to do, flipping sides with Fabian Johnson to put him at right back and bringing in center back Matt Besler on the left side of the back line.
This proves Klinsmann's a mad scientist, and there's no reason to the madness.
That's what makes it so difficult to predict what players he will select when the U.S. faces the No. 1 team in the FIFA rankings in Argentina Tuesday in Houston. Sure, Yedlin returns, but Klinsmann has more than a few headaches with which to deal in order to try and stop Lionel Messi and co.
The Yanks will be missing three key players in Jermaine Jones, Alejandro Bedoya and Bobby Wood with card suspensions. Jones and Bedoya will be missed in the midfield because of their two-way work rate, while Wood's ability to stretch out opposing backlines will hurt especially when the U.S. tries to counterattack.
Everyone seems to agree Kyle Beckerman should start in Jones' place, and it makes sense. Beckerman can bring the grit needed in the central midfield and provide much more cover than Bradley could by himself against the strong attacking options of La Albiceleste.
The other two positions are much trickier to figure out. Sure, Klinsmann could choose to be defensive, sitting in the 4-4-2 with both central midfielders in Bradley and Beckerman plays a double No. 6s. He could leave Besler or bring in Edgar Castillo at left back, move Johnson to the left side of the midfield, put Gyasi Zardes alongside Clint Dempsey up top and slot in Graham Zusi on the right side of the midfield.
Nobody could fault Klinsmann for going this route against Argentina, as it might be the best option to steal the game in the no end (even though it's extremely unlikely the U.S. will win no matter the lineup).
Still, you can't help but consider the possibility the U.S. coach will once again surprise everyone with his selection.
That could mean going with a 4-3-3 formation, slotting another, more creative presence in the center of the park. In this instance, Darlington Nagbe could easily fill that role by relieving the pressure and leading the counterattack. This could allow the back six to worry purely stopping Messi, Gonzalo Higuain and possibly Sergio Aguero. Meanwhile the front four in Nagbe, Zardes on the right wing, youngster Christian Pulisic on the left wing and Dempsey can go after the Argentinian backline.
It may seem not likely for Klinsmann to throw on Pulisic and Nagbe into such a high-profile match like the Copa America semifinal against Argentina, but Klinsmann isn't afraid to throw players into the deep end. So, it isn't out of the realm for possibility for Pulisic and Nagbe, despite just making one appearance for 25 minutes each in this tournament so far.
The fact of the matter is these are but two options up for Klinsmann. Odds are somehow he will come up with something completely different. Nobody knows what the coach will do - and that's just the way it always is with him.
Predicted Lineup (4-3-3):
GK: Brad Guzan
RB: DeAndre Yedlin; RCB: Geoff Cameron; LCB: John Anthony Brooks; LB: Fabian Johnson
DM: Michael Bradley; AM: Darlington Nagbe; DM: Kyler Beckerman
RW: Gyasi Zardes; FWD: Clint Dempsey; LW: Christian Pulisic