Now it is probably safe to assume that most Americans are aware of the rather important game for the United States Men’s National Team today. While winning the World Cup may still seem like a distant dream for American soccer fans, a win today would put the team through to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2002.
In order to advance however, the US must defeat a Belgium side that many picked to win the World Cup this year. With all of the injuries suffered by Belgian players, there is no doubt that the US faces a depleted Belgian side ranked 11th in FIFA’s ‘not-so-accurate’ world rankings. (4 of the top 10 teams in the rankings did not advance beyond the group-stage.)
If the US wants to advance to the quarterfinals there are a few lineup changes that should be made.
Firstly, Klinsmann should start Jozy Altidore. Yes, you read that correctly. Altidore, who has not played since injuring his hamstring in the opening game against Ghana, should start today if his hamstring has healed. This is necessary because the US must have a greater share of the possession against Belgium if the US wants to advance. By my calculations the US has given its opponent nearly 60% of the possession on average through the first three games.
It would be unreasonable to ask Altidore to play for the entire game, but even 45+ minutes of Altidore helping the US control the ball will be very important. With Altidore on the field, the US will have a strong forward able to hold the ball up for the rest of the team to get forward.
By having Altidore back in the starting lineup, Klinsmann will be able to use the formation originally in his plans before Altidore’s injury. This 4-3-2-1 formation is what the US used in the team’s final World Cup tune-up game against Nigeria. It is no coincidence that this Nigeria game was the best that the US looked of their three tune-up games. Klinsmann’s 4-3-2-1 is a very fluid formation which will allow the US to have numbers getting forward, while also keeping good defensive shape for the Belgian counterattack.
Additionally, Klinsmann needs to reward certain players for their good play last game. As much as Gonzales makes most soccer-savvy fans cringe with some of his decisions, he did play a solid game against Germany and should be rewarded with a starting spot.
Zusi should also be rewarded for his hard work last game. By putting Zusi at right mid in the “3” of the so-called ‘Christmas tree’ formation, he will be able to provide his dangerous crosses from a wide position.
The fluidity of this formation will allow Bradley to drop into a more defensive midfield position should Jones look to get forward. Thus far Bradley has covered more ground than any player in the World Cup and the US will need him working on both sides of the ball to give the Americans a chance.
Here is how Klinsmann should set the US lineup today against Belgium:
Defense (4): Johnson, Besler, Gonzales, Beasley
Midfield (3): Jones, Beckerman, Zusi
Midfield (2): Bradley, Dempsey
Forward (1): Altidore