USMNT: 10 Things to Address on the Road to World Cup 2014
There’s still time. There’s still time. There’s still time.
Those are the words uttered by many followers who believe that the USMNT still needs to be patient in its development—there is still plenty of time until the World Cup 2014.
What those followers fail to realize is that the time from now till 2014 is as deceptive as a 2-0 lead. Any lack of attention will come back and bite you in the rear end.
Also, the U.S. needs to first qualify even before setting sights on Brazil 2014.
And qualification doesn’t start in 2014—it starts in six months.
With all that said, there isn’t really that much time left, and there's a lot to address for the USMNT on the road to the coveted 2014 World Cup.
The United States showed how important and helpful it was to play at the Confederations Cup.
It allows the team to assimilate to the playing conditions of a country one year before the World Cup.
It also gives the teams a chance to play against international competition.
Unfortunately for the U.S., playing at the 2013 Confederations Cup is out of the question after losing the 2011 Gold Cup final.
The next best thing to play against top world talent would have been to hope for an invite to Copa America, but the next South American tournament won’t be played until after the 2014 World Cup, so no luck there.
The only competition—outside of qualifiers—the U.S. will have in preparation for 2014 will be the 2013 Gold Cup.
However, the tournament only involves teams already in the qualifiers, so there wouldn’t much to be gained in experience by the USMNT.
Jurgen Klinsmann will have to prepare the Americans for 2014—if they qualify—through heavy series of friendlies when time permits. That's something difficult to do that doesn’t guarantee any results.
Klinsmann and the Media
This may be criticized, and for good reason, but Jurgen Klinsmann should be a bit more open to the media about team decisions than other USMNT coaches have been in the past.
The reason is because Klinsmann has been the most anticipated and will be the most scrutinized head coach in the history of the U.S.
His resume, both as a player and a coach, is unprecedented for the USMNT head coaching position, yet many will look for the smallest questionable judgment in order to criticize him.
After four years of vague Bob Bradley answers, it would be great to have a coach who understands how the media works—Klinsmann being in front of the camera as an analyst several times—and be able to get information that fans want to know about: why certain decisions were made and what the objectives were of such decisions.
Full team disclosure isn’t necessary, either, but no one likes the head coach to hide behind the “I know what I’m doing” badge and never explain any decisions.
This is more applicable once the qualifiers have started, but Klinsmann needs to identify his core for the USMNT.
There will be certain players who will come and go during the long qualification process, but there has a to be a group of players that should always be called on.
The USMNT needs a spine, some leadership. And with what seems like a big transitional cycle for the national team, the sooner Klinsmann finds his core, the better the team will be.
Narrowing the Pool
Along with finding the team’s core, Klinsmann needs to dispatch those who are just not working.
Fans have seen a couple of players called up who haven’t proven their value for the USMNT.
Immediately, Michael Orozco Fiscal and Kyle Beckerman come to mind. But this sentiment also goes for Robbie Rogers and Jermaine Jones.
Again, we all know this is like a “trial period.” But Klinsmann needs to decide when this trial period is over and start developing the pool that will bring out the best of the USMNT.
USMNT U-23 Olympic Squad
The USMNT will need to create depth on the bench not just for 2014, but also for when qualifiers start.
The most straight-forward method of getting such talent will be from the U-23 USMNT trying to qualify for the 2014 Olympic games in London.
There are already a few players who have full national team experience (Bill Hamid, Freddy Adu, Teal Bunbury), but there are just as many who can prove to Jurgen Klinsmann that they deserve a shot for the USMNT once qualifiers begin or down the line in preparation for the World Cup.
There will be no better opportunity for young players to be fast-tracked to the national team than having a great showing at the Olympics.
Carlos Bocanegra and Steve Cherundolo have been a class act for the USMNT for many years.
But the American center-back position has been a topic of hot debate among fans.
Clarence Goodson and Tim Ream look like the current successors of Cherundolo and Bocanegra at the moment, but they haven’t looked convincing enough to name them the sole heirs of the throne.
The recent good form of Oguchi Onweyu has added a bit a depth to the position and moved him up front for the starting role.
However, the cries still come from fans: Where is Omar Gonzalez?!
There really isn’t much depth at the forward position for the U.S.
Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey will probably be the go-to starters, but behind them, the depth chart is shaky.
Edson Buddle calmed some critics with his play against Slovenia, but at 30, it’s unlikely he will be counted on after qualifiers.
Others call for Herculez Gomez. He’s been consistently playing well in Mexico and just signed Santos Laguna.
What makes his presence even more demanding is that the majority of his success has come from being a substitute, which is what the UMSNT needs at the moment and going into 2014.
Other forwards that should be in the mix for the upcoming years are Juan Agudelo, Teal Bunbury and Terrence Boyd.
We know Klinsmann was experimenting and most likely still plans on doing so.
But the inefficiency of the U.S. offense has been directly correlated to the formation that Klinsmann was using with the USMNT.
Leaving one player alone has not and will never work for the Americans. Even with a secondary forward underneath, it still doesn’t work.
It was clear after Game 2 of Klinsmann’s reign as head coach, but it wasn’t till the last game against Slovenia where the Germans finally decided to play a more traditional 4-4-2, resulting in a three-goal output.
However, Klinsmann cannot risk time tinkering with the formation once again for January.
Ideally he should take the 4-4-2 he used against Slovenia and further improve it by trying to find the best players in each position.
Among the experimentation that Jurgen Klinsmann has been doing the last part of 2011, one has been to find the playmakers who can make a difference in tight games.
To this point, the name that people think of is Landon Donovan.
The 29-year-old has on several occasions single-handedly brought back the U.S. from turmoil victory.
But if the USMNT qualifies to Brazil 2014, Donovan will be 32, and he’ll need to be more cerebral than athletic.
Michael Bradley, Brek Shea and Danny Williams are almost a lock under Klinsmann. All three are still young have bring a different element to the midfield.
Others in the talk of being given a shot at the USMNT are Mixx Diskerud, Joe Corona and Sebastian Lletget.
USMNT's Playing Style
It’s as hard to define as faith or love. What is the USMNT’s playing style?
It is the single-most important topic that Klinsmann must tackle in order to develop the USMNT into a cohesive unit.
It’s not clear what kind of team he wants the Americans to be, but if the last several games are any indication (lets remove the game against France from the equation), it seems Klinsmann wants the Americans to dictate the pace.
It’s a god start and an enormous difference from the teams that would bunker down and play the counter-attack.