USMNT Need Improved Wing Play vs. Germany in World Cup Group G Finale

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJune 24, 2014

MANAUS, BRAZIL - JUNE 22:  Graham Zusi of the United States controls the ball  during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group G match between the United States and Portugal at Arena Amazonia on June 22, 2014 in Manaus, Brazil.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
Warren Little/Getty Images

Underwhelming is a word that has not been used to described the United States as a whole in Brazil, but it is a worthy description of the wing play for the Yanks.

Thanks to a shift in formation by manager Jurgen Klinsmann and a few other factors, Alejandro Bedoya and Graham Zusi have not provided the team with the consistency it needs going forward in the tournament.

Bedoya has started both games in Brazil, and his name has rarely been mentioned by the commentators because he has been that inefficient on the right wing.

The player, from Nantes in Ligue 1, did show some bright spots early in the first half against Ghana, but his influence on the game went away faster than the fitness of Jozy Altidore.

Part of the poor play by the 27-year-old was caused by the defensive mindset that the Yanks adapted after the early strike by Clint Dempsey and Altidore's injury.

Bedoya was the only true winger out on the pitch for the first 77 minutes before he was replaced by Graham Zusi in a like-for-like substitution.

NATAL, BRAZIL - JUNE 16:  John Boye of Ghana and Alejandro Bedoya of the United States battle for the ball during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group G match between Ghana and the United States at Estadio das Dunas on June 16, 2014 in Natal, Brazil.  (Ph
Michael Steele/Getty Images

Zusi's involvement in the final 13 minutes of the 2-1 win over the Black Stars has been the only positive about the play of the pair of wingers.

The Sporting Kansas City player delivered the corner kick that found the head of John Brooks for the game-winning goal in the 86th minute, a moment that helped him earn a spot in the starting 11 against Portugal.

A shift in formation was required for the Portugal game because of Altidore's injury, which meant instead of having Jermaine Jones drift out to the left flank on occasion, the Yanks had a true winger in Zusi to help out Bedoya, who once again lined up on the right in front of Fabian Johnson.

The United States did create a ton of pressure on the right wing in the first half against Portugal's Andre Almeida, but it was Johnson who caused the biggest threat time after time instead of Bedoya.

Johnson was the star on the right against Portugal.
Johnson was the star on the right against Portugal.Christopher Lee/Getty Images

Zusi was handed the responsibility of taking corners in the first half, and he did not do a good job at all as his team looked for a chance to get back in the game after going down early.

It wasn't until Bedoya left the pitch that an American winger had an impact on the match's final outcome.

DeAndre Yedlin, who is a full-back by trade, came on for Bedoya and delivered a valiant shift in a game that was calling for his speed to exploit the tired Portuguese defense.

Yedlin was the one who sprinted down the pitch, kept the ball in play and fired in a cross into the box in the 81st minute, an effort that resulted in Dempsey's second goal of the tournament.

Jun 22, 2014; Manaus, Amazonas, BRAZIL; USA defender DeAndre Yedlin in the second half against Portugal during the 2014 World Cup at Arena Amazonia. The game ended in a 2-2 draw. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Zusi did play a part in the goal by knocking the ball over to Dempsey in the box, but other than that touch, he was off his game, which is a rare thing for a player who has been a model of consistency for both club and country over the last 12 months.

There is a clear issue beginning to grow with the American wingers, but the options off the bench seem like they wouldn't work against a Germany side that will bring a ton of class to the pitch.

Brad Davis does boast a lethal left foot, and he will be fresh since he hasn't played in the first two games, but he may not provide the speed that Klinsmann will be looking for in his wingers.

Yedlin and Julian Green are the other options to put on the wing, but both players are raw and could easily be stopped by the experienced German back line.

However, Yedlin did prove in the second half against Portugal that youth is not an issue for him, and that he is able to play in an advanced role on the right so that Johnson can stay back and defend.

That is an enticing option for Klinsmann, and a full 90 minutes of Yedlin and Johnson running rampant down the right wing would strike fear into any opposing defense.

While unleashing Yedlin on Germany is a possibility, it may be something Klinsmann only opts to do in the second half if the Americans are in need of a goal, which brings us back to square one with Zusi and Bedoya starting on the flanks.

Neither player has provided a consistent impetus on the wing, which may make fans bring up a certain player who used to wear the No. 10 shirt, who is stuck watching the United States play from a television studio in Los Angeles.

The absolute worst-case scenario for the Yanks in Recife on Thursday is that neither player shows up yet again, but they do deserve the chance to start because they also bring a defensive work rate to the table that will be needed against the other team with four points in Group G.

While it may not be time to panic yet about the play of the two best wingers in the squad, we are getting close to that point, which is something no American fan wants to experience given the enormity of Thursday's match.

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.


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