International Football

Jermaine Jones' Injury Complicates USMNT Options Heading into the Azteca

COMMERCE CITY, CO - MARCH 22:  Midfielder Jermaine Jones #13 and defender Cristian Gamboa #2 of Costa Rica battle for possession  during a FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier match between Costa Rica and United States at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on March 22, 2013 in Commerce City, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images
John D. HalloranContributor IIMarch 25, 2013

Coming off a vital three-point effort from their win over Costa Rica in Colorado on Friday night, the United States Men’s National team now heads to Mexico City to take on Mexico in the famed Estadio Azteca on Tuesday night.

With the success of many of his lineup choices from Friday night, USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann is unlikely to make any major changes to his lineup. However, Jermaine Jones’ Twitter announcement on Sunday night that he is injured and heading home to Germany leaves Klinsmann with two big questions to answer.

Here are the big decisions Klinsmann will have to make as the U.S. takes its next major step in World Cup qualifying.

 

Who Does Klinsmann Start on the Back Line?

Against Costa Rica, the back-line combination of Geoff Cameron, Clarence Goodson, Omar Gonzalez and DaMarcus Beasley did quite well.

Heading into the match with Mexico, USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann will have to decide whether or not he wants to tinker with that combination.

While Beasley and Goodson were surprisingly strong, the blizzard-like conditions in Colorado, no doubt, helped both of them. Neither Beasley nor Goodson are particularly adept one vs. one defenders, but against Costa Rica, Beasley and Goodson didn’t have to worry about getting beat on the dribble because it was impossible to carry the ball for more than 10 yards in the snow.

Beasley was able to use his speed to catch and then clatter into the Costa Rican defenders, while Goodson was able to use his height and strength to overpower and outmuscle the Costa Ricans for much of the match.

Against Mexico, it will be a whole different story. The pitch at Estadio Azteca will favor the speedy and skilled attackers of Mexico, as will the famed altitude and air-quality challenges the Azteca offers.

So, what should Klinsmann do?

Beasley will probably keep his spot in the starting XI simply due to the lack of options at left-back. But Maurice Edu, who played at center-back in the U.S.’ win over Mexico at the Estadio Azteca in August, might replace Goodson.

Complicating the decision at center-back, however, is the news that Jones will be unavailable for the Mexico match.

Because Edu is the most obvious choice to replace Jones in the midfield, Klinsmann may be hesitant to move Edu into the back line for Goodson.

Goodson could keep his spot, or Klinsmann could move Cameron into the middle and slot Edu or Beltran in at right-back.

The second big question that Klinsmann faces for Tuesday night is…

 

Who Does Klinsmann Start with Michael Bradley at Center Midfield?

With Jones out, Klinsmann must make at least one change to the starting lineup, deciding who to slot into the center-midfield position alongside USMNT stalwart Michael Bradley.

Assuming Klinsmann has finally learned the folly of the three-defensive-midfielders setup that he tried unsuccessfully against both Jamaica and Honduras, Klinsmann essentially has four choices.

The first—and easiest—solution is to slot Edu into the lineup. Edu is a natural holding midfielder, and since his move to Bursaspor, he has been playing regularly.

The second option would be to use Sacha Kljestan. Kljestan has been playing regularly, and well, for Anderlecht in Belgium, and like Bradley, he plays well as a deep-lying midfielder. While not a traditional holding midfield in terms of his physicality or tackling, Kljestan does well holding possession and recycling the attack.

The third option would be to use Kyle Beckerman. Beckerman did play 90 minutes in the August win over Mexico, but Beckerman has often looked overmatched at the international level. Still, he is one of Klinsmann most favored players having played in 12 of Klinsmann’s 24 matches in charge.

The last—and most radical—option would be to use Joe Corona. Corona has been playing regularly as an attacking midfielder for Liga MX champions Tijuana. This option, however, remains the most unlikely because it is doubtful that Klinsmann would use such an aggressive attacking midfield combination facing Mexico in their own house.

 

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