With the 2014 World Cup fast approaching, there’s a lot left to be determined with regards to the starting 11 Jurgen Klinsmann puts on the field for the USMNT’s critical opening match against Ghana. When it comes to the four attacking positions, Klinsmann has a wide-array of options, and so it’s feasible that he will intentionally rotate his four attacking players from one game to the next as part of the team’s strategy to advance to the knockout stage.
If Klinsmann continues to play the same formation he has for quite some time, the Americans will have three attacking midfielders and one striker. However, with a roster that includes Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Graham Zusi, Fabian Johnson, Aron Johanssonn, Brad Davis, Alejandro Bedoya, and Julian Green, there obviously won’t be room for everybody in the starting 11. Klinsmann won’t necessarily be going out of his way to get everybody equal playing time, but this collection of talent gives him the option of making changes from one game to the next without a significant drop off in ability.
The depth the U.S. has at the attacking positions could allow Klinsmann to create lineups with favorable matchups based upon the opponent. It also gives the U.S. a chance to keep fresh bodies on the field, helping the team stay energized during the second and third matches of the group stage, which could prove to be vital considering the weather in Brazil and the high amount of traveling the Americans will be doing between matches.
In its second group match, the U.S. will play in the Amazonian city of Manaus, where heat and humidity could play a factor. They’ll face a Portuguese team that could enter the game worn down from having to defend a skilled and attacking German side in its first match, and the U.S. having two, three, or even four new starters among the attacking players could make things difficult for Portugal, giving the Americans the kind of edge they may need to get three points. It’s a scenario that’s not all that farfetched, and one made possible by the depth the Americans have up top.
Klinsmann utilized a similar strategy during last summer’s Gold Cup, making several lineup changes from game to game. Obviously, that was done with a different set of players and against a different level of competition, but putting fresh players on the field helped the U.S. play the tempo and style that Klinsmann demands they play, which helped them to an incredible 12-game winning streak last year.
If he wishes to do so, Klinsmann has the personnel to rotate his starting lineups in a similar fashion at the World Cup, at least with regard to the four attack-oriented players. Whether he’ll end up employing that strategy remains to be seen, but it’s an option he does have, and it could become an advantage that helps the U.S. reach the knockout stage of the 2014 World Cup.
Bryan Zarpentine is a New York Mets writer at RantSports.com. He also writes frequently about the NFL, College Football, College Basketball, and International Soccer. Like him on Facebook, follow him on twitter @BZarp and add him on Google.