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USMNT continues Gold Cup preparations with test vs. Denmark

Michael Bradley USMNT 79

Photo by Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports

By FRANCO PANIZO

It seemed like the time for experimenting had ended last month for the U.S. Men’s National Team and that preparations for this summer were bound to ramp up.

Not quite.

Though the opponents and environments this month should provide stiff tests for a U.S. side still in the process of coming together ahead of its CONCACAF Gold Cup title defense, Jurgen Klinsmann is going with a squad devoid of several regular contributors. Mix Diskerud, Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler were just some of the players left off Klinsmann’s roster for a pair of European friendlies, and summoned instead were players like uncapped William Yarbrough and Ventura Alvarado and the out-of-form duo of DeAndre Yedlin and Julian Green.

Klinsmann did bring in several of his top players, including Toronto FC’s Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley, and they will be counted on to help tackle Denmark in Aarhus on Wednesday in the first of the Americans’ two March exhibitions. While Klinsmann is keen on them getting a result at NRGi Park, he will also be looking for his team to continue to develop chemistry after seeing it struggle to consistently perform in recent matches.

Doing all that will not be easy for the Americans. With Denmark boasting a squad that includes Wolfsburg striker Nicklas Bendtner and midfielder Christian Eriksen of Tottenham, the U.S. will have its hands full. Throw in the fact that Clint Dempsey is now unavailable because of a hamstring injury sustained on Monday and things get a bit tricky for Klinsmann and his side.

The loss of Dempsey means the U.S. no longer has the only proven creative player on the current squad. There is no like-for-like replacement to keep Danish defenders such as AZ Alkmaar’s Simon Poulsen on their toes, which means Klinsmann will have to think outside the box to find a way to make up for the absence of his savvy and skillful captain.

One possibility for Klinsmann is Aron Johannsson, who previously called NRGi Park home during a stint with Danish club AGF Aarhus. Johannsson is back in the mix with his U.S. teammates for the first time since last summer’s World Cup, finally recovered from the nagging and untimely injuries that have plagued him for much of the past year, and he should be plenty hungry to state his case as a result.

The 24-year-old forward enter this match having been seeing the field for AZ Alkmaar as of late. He’s also scored a few goals in recent club outings, so his form could warrant inclusion next to former club teammate Altidore. How the two fare alongside one another has long been on the wish list of many U.S. fans, and they could get their wish if Klinsmann goes with a two-striker set-up.

If that’s the case, the midfield will change substantially from how it has looked in recent games. No Diskerud means that Bradley will likely serve higher up the field, and who pairs with the Toronto FC ace in the middle will both be trying to learn how to play with him and impress Klinsmann at the same time.

Indeed, this is an opportunity for fringe players to really show Klinsmann up close and personal that they are ready to contribute when the Gold Cup kicks off in July. Danny Williams and Alfredo Morales, the two leading candidates to play alongside Bradley, both fall under that umbrella. Williams has not suited up for the U.S. since last March, and Morales is trying to make the jump from prospect to regular. It seems likely that both will see some minutes, but making the most of their time on the field will be key.

The same goes for whoever starts in the center of the defense. A crowded but seemingly open position, centerback is one of the more interesting spots to keep an eye on given the omissions of regulars Jermaine Jones, Geoff Cameron, Besler, and Gonzalez.

John Brooks figures to be in one of the two spots – assuming Klinsmann does not revert to the 3-5-2 look he used to start the year – and one of Tim Ream, Michael Orozco, and first-timer Alvarado will be next to the Hertha Berlin defender. It’s a chance for whoever plays to really prove their worth, to demonstrate to Klinsmann that they have what it takes to push one of the regulars out of the picture.

Alvarado has the toughest hill to climb in this competition, as he is new to the international game. In fact, it’s unclear if Klinsmann will even cap the newcomer given his lack of familiarity with his new teammates and the speed of play at this level.

Still, Klinsmann has made no secret he wants to introduce new and young players into the fold to challenge the status quo and make for a better U.S. Men’s National Team. That’s why Miguel Ibarra has been recalled despite still being in preseason with NASL’s Minnesota United, and why Green and Yedlin have been included in this round of games despite a lack of playing time at the club level in recent months.

For Klinsmann, these next few months are as much about continuing to identify talent as they are about preparing as a group for the looming Gold Cup. Wednesday’s game against Denmark simply serves as another method to do both simultaneously.

Comments

  1. USMNT starting line up vs. Denmark
    GK – Rimando
    RB – Chandler
    RCB – Orozco
    LCB – Brooks
    LB – Garza
    CM – Bradley
    CM – Bedoya
    LM – Fabian J
    RM – Zardes
    CF – Johannson
    ST – Altidore

    I’m personally really happy with this lineup. I think it’s dynamic and will be attacking from the start so let’s see what comes of it! However, I’m not sure if Bedoya will play under both Jozy and Aron in a 4-1-3-2 or whether it’s a straight up 4-4-2 with Bedoya and Bradleyin the middle?!

    Reply
    • Klinsmann flipped the script today: 4-4-2 from the outset
      #USAvDEN: Rimando // Chandler, Orozco, Brooks, Garza // Zardes, Bedoya, Bradley (c), Johnson // Altidore, Johannsson

      Reply
  2. Ironically, the best soccer this team has ever played under Klinsmann was that spell of Gold Cup and WC qualifying when Landon Donovan played regularly.

    Reply
    • Not sure why you say ironically, he was the best US player ever.

      How is LA doing without him ?

      Reply
    • El C,

      “the best soccer this team has ever played under Klinsmann”

      Meaning what?

      Costa Rica, Cuba, Belize,El Salvador, Honduras, Panama. That is who they played in the 2013 Gold Cup. I’m not sure if they sent their A teams.

      All things being equal you would expect the US to always beat those teams, especially being at home, Costa Rica being the only exception to that.

      Reply
    • The best soccer team that has ever played under Klinsmann was the team that finished 3rd in the 2006 World Cup. The team you’ve mentioned was a B-team + Donovan playing against other Concacaf B teams.

      Reply
  3. Playing without Dempsey is a great opportunity to try some new things as I don’t see a like for like replacement on this roster. Zardes or Johannsson may come in to replace him but likely after a formation tweak. I’m not sure how likely a 2 forward lineup is but if so we may see this to incorporate Johannsson:
    ……………..Altidore……………Johannsson……………
    Johnson………………Bradley…………………..Bedoya
    ………………………….Williams………………………….
    Garza………..Brooks…………Orozco………..Chandler
    ………………………….Rimando……………………………

    Jozy and Aron would have to work hard on defense to make up not playing with 5 in midfield. Johnson and Bedoya would also likely tuck inside to help defensively and allow the fullbacks to provide the width in attack. Williams will also have a great test in containing Erikson. However, a 4-3-3 with Johnson, Jozy, and Zardes as the forwards and Bradley, Williams, and Bedoya in midfield is my preferred lineup.

    Reply

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