Clint Dempsey had perhaps his best showing ever for the U.S. Men's National Team against Guatemala last week.
The Tottenham Spurs midfielder was alert and constantly in the right place at the right time. His end-to-end performance saw him provide an assist to team captain Carlos Bocanegra and eventually two goals of his own in a 3-1 victory.
The Guatemalan defense simply didn't have an answer for him as he glided into the penalty area at will.
It wasn't until the final 10 minutes of the game, when it became all too apparent that the team was trying everything under the sun to get Dempsey a hat trick, that the Guatemalan defense were forced to focus on him.
It was a great stat line for Dempsey, and an even better result for the national squad, as it sent them through to the final stage of World Cup qualifying.
More and more, Jurgen Klinsmann's team seems to go as far as Dempsey goes on any given day. If that is the case, then Klinsmann has to tailor his attack to suit.
That was on full display against Guatemala. At Tottenham, the pace of Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon on the wings is enough to pull defenders away from the penalty area, but the same result is achievable with the technical and creative play the U.S. employed last Tuesday.
Klinsmann lined the men up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Dempsey playing just behind forward Herculez Gomez. To the right and left of Dempsey were new regular starter Graham Zusi and a resurgent Eddie Johnson.
Zusi was standing in for an injured Landon Donovan, but has proven that he's worthy of a first-team spot. While he doesn't possess the same pace as Donovan, he looked very effective at holding up play and providing a killer service into the box.
Eddie Johnson, while he may not be as fast as he has been in the past, still possesses exceptional speed and dribbling ability. He's no Gareth Bale, but he fits just fine into Klinsmann's plans.
That pace and creativity on the wings forces the issue for defenders who have to come out of the penalty area and meet them. That allows Dempsey to do what he does best—simply drift into the box.
Having a speedy forward like Gomez to chase balls forward also creates separation from Dempsey and the defense. He has the uncanny ability to perfectly time his movements forward, and it oftentimes leaves him unmarked.
Dempsey isn't a typical central attacking midfielder in that running the play through him isn't always the most effective means of getting forward.
He doesn't hold the ball enough and is much more comfortable letting Michael Bradley have that role. He gets a quick touch or two in the middle before getting into position.
Tailoring the midfield play to allow Dempsey to play in this way will be crucial for the U.S. men's success on their road to the World Cup.
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