US Soccer: How the Approach Must Change to Compete With the Best in the World
US Soccer ended February on a very high note after the team's 1-0 win over Italy in Genoa.
As a whole, the USA team didn't play a very good game against a solid Italian side but got the win in the end.
Would the same type of statistics—39 percent possession and two shots on goal—work against a better team like Spain, Germany or Uruguay? It's highly unlikely.
With the resources within the country—population, infrastructure, and so forth—there should be no reason why the USA should not be able to compete with the major footballing countries.
There are two things the US must change in their approach to do so.
For the present, they must solidify the team's style of play and formation, and for the future they must concentrate on better youth development.
The hiring of Jurgen Klinsmann was a start in a positive direction for the national team and US soccer as a whole. Things haven't been stellar since his introduction but he has only been in charge less than a year
Klinsmann's managerial record stands at five wins, one draw and four losses right now.
It is certainly respectable considering the opposition during that time. Even so, the team still seems to have a defensive mindset which is a product of his predecessors.
Klinsmann has two years to do everything he wants with the team and it may very well be that the USA surprises everyone in the end.
So far, the team has varied its formation throughout the international friendlies but, while it is good to experiment, familiarity is a necessity.
It is more than likely that the team will have a constant lineup when the qualifiers come around but they may have been better served trying to get used to one setup.
The best teams in the world have a set tactical formation and style of play and it doesn't matter who is in the squad at the time.
One constant in Klinsmann's setup has been the use of two players in the defensive midfielder positions, with one being the more creative player.
With that in mind, 4-2-3-1 seems like the best option going forward.
Within that formation, Klinsmann can use his best players and perfect a style of play that can create good football and good results.
The USA are the straight to goal type of nation but that can only work so often. The team does have players that are capable of playing a more possession-style game that may reap more positive rewards.
With players like Landon Donovan and Brek Shea on the wings, and Clint Dempsey complementing either Juan Agudelo or Jozy Altidore up front, the team would have a pretty solid attacking lineup.
That is provided that the two older players hold up well as they age and the younger players reach their potential.
As far as the younger players are concerned, and indeed youth development, ESPN's Leander Schaerlaeckens provided this brilliant piece concerning where things may be headed for US soccer.
The USA produces some great athletes in all different sports and soccer is no different. What they needs to do is create good football players.
From a younger age and even through to the college level, the emphasis seems to be more on the physical side of the game. Excellent football intelligence and technical attributes are usually missing.
One former player that comes to mind who fills in both those categories is Claudio Reyna. His well-established career in Europe shows just how important those attributes are on the international level.
While current players like Clint Dempsey are near if not equal to that type of skill all major footballing nations have players who learn and focus on the game in that way from a young age. As such, we get teams like Spain or the Netherlands.
The USA hasn't done that yet.
The IMG academy in Bradenton has produced good players but even they are not of the same ilk as their European counterparts.
In some cases they end up going to college and though it's good for their life as a whole, it isn't necessarily good for their football. Again, other nations have no such impediments keeping their players from reaching their maximum potential.
There is no doubt that the US team has gained more respect over the years but respect is neither fear nor worry.
Overall, the US has improved in the international game but there is still work to be done. These two changes in approach will help the team in both the present and the future.
The Klinsmann era has just begun and it may be a key time in how the US ends up on the World Football stage. If they are serious about becoming an elite footballing country then these are some good places to start.
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