Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Klinsmann needs to develop a plan

A 2-0 defeat to Ukraine in a friendly 3 months before the World Cup in Brazil isn’t an awful result. A loss is never great, but at this stage Jurgen Klinsmann should be looking to develop more of a game plan.

The US are solid at the back (as long as John Brooks doesn't play again), but lack a natural ball player. But they’re not alone in that respect – central defenders who can bring the ball out and pick a pass are few and far between.

Tim Howard is a very good goalkeeper, he's prone to the occasional error, but it's his kicking leaves a lot to be desired and that’s partly where the problem lies. 

Because the full-backs are not getting the ball quickly, Howard and his defenders are forced into playing long balls up to Jozy Altidore, who really doesn’t have much support even if he wins the initial header. Clint Dempsey looked rusty, and that’s ok, but there need to be other options other than Deuce.

Jermaine Jones and Sacha Kljestan don’t offer even half of what Michael Bradley does – but the lack of alternatives right now is a little concerning. There is good energy and commitment in the midfield engine room, but not a lot else.  

This leads to lots of short passes in meaningless areas, and a dependence on the long ball and break downs in play rather than having a solid strategy to create chances.

There was no one on the bench that Klinsmann could convincingly turn to if a goal was needed. It took 87 minutes before the US managed a shot on target - that says a lot. 

Yes, Landon Donovan is out and Aron Johannsson isn’t quite up to speed with the team yet, but the US needs some pace and creativity. These players don’t grow on trees and every team, club or national, is desperate for them. But the weak CONCACAF qualifying group, and friendly games like this are a chance to experiment.

Klinsy will get a chance to look at his domestic-based players in next month's friendly against Mexico in Arizona and perhaps a few more friendlies, including one scheduled for Red Bull Arena sometime shortly before the tournament.

Unfortunately, a subdued loss to an average Ukraine team won’t tell Jurgen very much. He might know more about what (and who) not to go with, but it’s highly unlikely he knows his best XI, let alone what XI will start against Ghana in Natal on June 16.