U.S. Men's Soccer: What to Watch in Qualifier vs. Guatemala
Both the United States and Guatemala advance with a tie, so viewers should not expect many attacks with numbers up. In short, this could be the kind of game casual fans won't like. Both teams will play it safe on Tuesday.
Both teams have attackers who can find the net without supporting numbers. MLS fans know full well what Guatemala's Carlos Ruiz can do. Ruiz is not Guatemala's only weapon, but he is their primary one.
The U.S. had made its living for years with numbers-back counterattacks. While still kept in their bag of tricks, playing out of a counter-attacking shell is not a tactic the Americans have used much lately against CONCACAF opponents.
Watch for more deliberate attempts to control the midfield, and, from that, creation of built-up but relatively unsupported attacks. Clint Dempsey will be fed or create his own looks at goal. Eddie Johnson (who presumably earned a start) will get more chances to demonstrate his ability converting high crosses. We probably will not see center middies like Michael Bradley pushing forward to unbalance Guatemalan defenses unless the Americans are down a goal.
That brings up an important question.
Who will be paired with Bradley? It cannot be Jermaine Jones because of a yellow card he received Friday. Danny Williams got the start on Friday and was ineffective. Sacha Kljestan is a possibility. He is versatile in the midfield and can play in the center.
On Friday, coach Jurgen Klinsmann fielded a 4-1-3-2, with Bradley as the front center-mid and Williams as the defensive mid. To be fair to Williams, Bradley threw him off by dropping deep. A possibility for Klinsmann, if wanting to go with the same structure, would be to hand defensive mid responsibilities to Bradley and position Kljestan as his forward partner.
Another possibility is Dempsey. As the strongest attacking American on a roster that is thin in quality midfielders, most coaches would be tempted to play him as an attacking midfielder. Outside midfielders could be Kljestan and Graham Zusi. Will Klinsmann see it the same way? That is anyone's guess.
Perhaps the more important question is how Klinsmann will set his back line. Watch for Carlos Bocanegra to move back to the center. Fabian Johnson was expected to be over the flu, but more recent reporting indicates he will not be ready to go. As stated, perhaps a more important question but also one that seems easier to answer. Michael Parkhurst can be expected to start on the left.
Herculez Gomez and Johnson are likely forwards.
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