Jurgen Klinsmann has been widely criticized for two things: his decision not to include Landon Donovan, and his constant tinkering with the USMNT formations. But what if Donovan’s omission was a statement about team flexibility not being based on the biggest star galloping to the rescue like the 7th Cavalry? One of the least known stars galloped to the USA’s rescue against Ghana in the form of John Brooks. What if Klinsmann’s tinkering was simply exploring and adding winning team combinations as dictated by conditions, opponents, injuries, and individual performance levels?
So the tinkering will continue; Graham Zusi had this to say on what specifically needs to be worked on for the Portugal game:
" I think we need to play a little bit of a field possession game, or steal some of the field at times, if we try so much to play out of our back, I think at times we can put the ball on their end and go up and pressure them as well. I think that we can improve on, but also just protecting the ball more. I think we give it away a bit too easily. "
The injuries to Jozy Altidore and Clint “Slugger” Dempsey are going to test the depth of the US squad in the Portugal game, a game with tactically different challenges and at a higher performance level than that required against Ghana.
Looking a game further down the line still, one of the things Jurgen Klinsmann knows very well and has commented on a number of times, is the depth and flexibility of Jogi Löw’s German squad.
On the importance of squad depth and team flexibility Tim Howard said:
“You see him (Jozy Altidore) go down, then Clint go down, Matty has to come off at half time. That’s why you build a team; you hope that the next guy can come in. I thought Aron did fantastic, and Brooks defensively was rock-solid and to get his goal, I’m just proud of him.
One of the basic refinements in the game against Portugal will be for the midfield to gain and hold possession for longer periods of time. It’s likely Michael Bradley will look at his game against Ghana and make his own adjustments to how he’ll play against Portugal, how the rest of the chess pieces move is up to head coach Klinsmann.