Jurgen Klinsmann faced a lot of criticism after the US had lost their opening match against Colombia in Copa America 2016. They deserved all the flak from the press and the fans alike. The USA were lacklustre on that day and serious doubts had surfaced whether they would at all qualify from a strong group that also feature strong opponents in Paraguay and Costa Rica.
Back to the walls, the fightback began. The US regained control of the group with a thumping 4-0 win over Costa Rica on Match Day 2. And with Colombia securing a passage to the quarterfinals with a 2-1 win over Paraguay, the task became clearer: get a win over Paraguay and the job is done.
The hopes and expectations were there but very few had thought the US would go on to top the group. A dramatic turnaround in Matchday 3 saw Colombia succumbing to a shock 3-2 defeat to Costa Rica and USA’s hard-fought 1-0 victory over Paraguay now leaves Jose Pekerman’s side facing blue. They will face the topper of Group B in the quarterfinals and in all probability, a mouthwatering clash with Brazil is on the cards.
Klinsmann deserves huge credit for USA’s dramatic comeback with one gets the feel that he has overperformed with a plucky squad.
A tactical switch from the opening day defeat saw a huge change in USMNT’s approach. Dempsey played up top on his own as a false nine in a 4-3-3 system in earlier matches. At his prime, the former Fulham forward used to marvel at that role but with age stripping him of his natural ability, he longer has that energy and legs to play it effectively.
A switch to a more traditional 4-4-2 saw Bobby Wood coming from the left to partner him. With Wood creating space for Dempsey (who scored his 51st international goal today), it became easier for the veteran star to find space to work and create chances, something he has been very good at throughout his career.
Another notable aspect in USA’s approach has been their improvement in defence. Klinsmann has retained faith in his reliable back four of Fabian Johnson, John Brooks, Geoff Cameron and DeAndre Yedlin. Not only are they top individual players but they have a good understanding of themselves.
It remains to be seen how the US cope up in the absence of Yedlin who picked up two bookings within a space of a minute and will be suspended for the next match.
Against Paraguay, Klinsmann had to take Dempsey off to bring on Michael Orozco to complete the back line which seriously affected their attacking set up.
But most importantly, Yedlin’s absence will hurt the US in their next match. He is such a good player going forward, his overlapping runs will be sorely missed. The USA will have to make a major adjustment, may be in terms of shape and structure, with Yedlin and the first XI won’t be stronger without him.