Despite Advancing, USMNT Need to Have a Better Attack in Knockout Round

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJune 26, 2014

AP Images

Blame it on heavy legs. Blame it on the German dominance of possession. Or you could even blame it on the absence of the injured Jozy Altidore. 

Regardless of what the reasons were, the attack of the United States men's national team was limp at best in the 1-0 defeat to Germany. 

The result did put the Americans into the round of 16, which is a massive accomplishment in itself, but Thursday's match was missing something, especially in the attacking third. 

The one major concern that everyone had going in, the defense, had a decent game against Germany, except for the lone German goal where Thomas Muller hit his shot between a bit of space left by Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler.

Other than that, what was seen as the biggest liability came through when the Yanks needed it the most, but the one strength of the team before the World Cup did not. 

The effort put up against Portugal was a valiant one, with plenty of possession held against Cristiano Ronaldo and company. But even in that game, there were some red flags about the attack. 

Alejandro Bedoya and Graham Zusi have not delivered many chances, but since replacements for the duo are young and inexperienced, manager Jurgen Klinsmann must trust them. 

The one player who has disappointed the most at this World Cup is Zusi, whose deliverance on set pieces has been nothing short of dreadful—if you count out the corner that led to John Brooks' game-winning goal against Ghana. 

RECIFE, BRAZIL - JUNE 26: Lukas Podolski of Germany is challenged by Graham Zusi of the United States during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil group G match between the United States and Germany at Arena Pernambuco on June 26, 2014 in Recife, Brazil.  (Photo
Martin Rose/Getty Images

Bedoya, who is thought to bring some defensive work to the side, cost the Americans one of their best chances of the game when he collided with Jermaine Jones right outside the box. 

Klinsmann did make the correct decision of omitting Bedoya from the starting 11, with the player later coming on as a substitute, in favor of Brad Davis, but the Houston Dynamo winger failed to provide any positive impact for a team that was searching for some type of threat on Manuel Neuer's goal. 

The chance finally arrived, albeit in the final minute of the match, as Bedoya's shot was blocked by Philipp Lahm and Clint Dempsey's header went right over the bar. 

Although it was a positive note to end on, it just wasn't good enough for the Yanks to be satisfied with heading into the knockout phase, where every game will present a larger challenge. 

To be honest, the combination of Michael Bradley and Dempsey up front did not work well. Once again, Bradley's first touch escaped him on numerous occasions, which is why he could not link up with Dempsey, who did not impress one bit in the lone forward role. 

With four days to recover from the loss and prepare for the round of 16 match in Salvador against the top team from Group H, Klinsmann needs to make an adjustment to his lineup, whether he likes the idea or not. 

Since the Altidore injury, Chris Wondolowski have not been given much of a chance to show Klinsmann what they are worth. Wondolowski did enter late in the Portugal match, but he was put into the game just to hold up play and waste time, not to create chances. 

Having a poacher like Wondolowski playing up front with Dempsey may be the best option for Klinsmann—that way Dempsey can drop back and receive possession from Bradley and others in the midfield. 

Jun 22, 2014; Manaus, Amazonas, BRAZIL; USA forward Chris Wondolowski moves the ball 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

In his time on the pitch against Ghana, Aron Johannsson failed to do anything alongside Dempsey in place of Altidore, and has since remained on the bench. 

With Wondolowski in the fold, Klinsmann would be smart to take out one of the wingers and let Jermaine Jones drift out to left. 

This is the only realistic option because of how well Jones and Kyle Beckerman have played in the defensive part of the midfield. 

Jones is capable of moving forward on occasion, and he tried to do that in the second half against Germany, but he could not be supplied with a strong pass. 

If Klinsmann wanted to make an extreme shift to his setup, he could select DeAndre Yedlin, who has done well in two substitute appearances, on the right wing in front of Fabian Johnson.

Despite how well he has played in the past two games, Yedlin is still better suited to come off the bench and provide a spark. 

Then, there is the glimmer of hope that somehow Altidore's hamstring is healed enough for Tuesday's match. That is a long shot, given how severely the powerful forward pulled up against Ghana. 

Whatever the solution is to the issue in the American attack, Klinsmann has to find some way to work his magic once again so that the Yanks can have a legitimate chance to advance on to the quarterfinals. 

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90. 


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