Paul Sancya/Associated Press
Since U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann switched the USMNT to a 4-2-3-1 back in March, Clint Dempsey has been his preferred No. 10. However, in this summer’s Gold Cup, which Dempsey was not a part of, Landon Donovan filled the role.
When Dempsey plays as the team’s withdrawn forward, he typically drops very deep to receive the ball, often finding himself playing in the same line as the two defensive midfielders. When Donovan plays the same role, as he did on Saturday and in the Gold Cup, he tends to sit much higher, making the U.S. often appear to be playing in a 4-4-2.
When Donovan receives the ball as the No. 10, he does a better job of working the ball out wide once he receives it. By forcing the opponent’s defense into a more narrow shape, he creates space. As was evident on Saturday, when he is paired with someone like Graham Zusi, who knows how to take advantage of that space out wide, the U.S. can find repeated opportunities on the flank.
For Klinsmann, it will come down to two questions. One, what does he want out of his No. 10? If it is a clinical finisher who will arrive late into the box, often unmarked, then his choice is Dempsey.
If it is a more classic playmaker, he should go with Donovan.
The second, and probably more important, question is: What setup suits the team the best? If Donovan takes up the No. 10 role, where does Dempsey play? He can play out wide, but most fans and pundits agree he is more effective when playing centrally.