Klinsmann needs an impressive showing

BY foxsports • November 14, 2011

As a player, Jurgen Klinsmann was regarded as an elite goal scorer, a special striker with a nose for goal. As manager of Germany, he was lauded for his team’s attacking style and ability to produce goals and chances.

It was with those things in mind that many US national team fans met his appointment with excitement and optimism for a potential future with a more attack-minded national team.

Instead of goals, The United States attack has endured some severe growing pains under Klinsmann, managing just two goals in his six matches in charge. That’s the type of scoring drought the US team hasn’t seen in more than a decade, and it is a big reason the Klinsmann era is off to a 1-4-1 start.

You can make the case that there have been a few calls that could have gone the United States’ way, and not having had Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan play together hasn’t helped matters, but there is no denying that, overall, the American attack just hasn’t been clicking.

Klinsmann will have one last chance this year to put together a squad that can generate goals when the United States takes on Slovenia Tuesday night. The World Cup rematch will offer the United States the chance to be tested in a European road game, but also give the Americans a vulnerable opponent to try and flex their attacking muscles against.

The United States is coming off a particularly toothless display against France, and while the Americans shouldn’t have been expected to beat a French team that hadn’t lost in 15 matches, they could have been expected to test the goalkeeper once or twice.

With that in mind, we should expect to see some lineup and positional changes to the squad that started against France. For one, playmaker Fabian Johnson seems like a good bet to earn his first national team start. He showed some glimpses in a 19-minute appearance vs. France, but slotting him into a playmaking role could allow Klinsmann to reconfigure some of his other attacking weapons.

If Klinsmann does go with Johnson as an attacking midfielder, then he will have to decide between deploying Clint Dempsey either as a strike partner for Jozy Altidore in a 4-4-2 (which we haven’t seen much of under Klinsmann) or moving him to the right flank, where he would have more defensive responsibility but could also have less traffic to navigate when he gets the ball.

If Johnson isn’t handed his first start, another option for Klinsmann could be to move Brek Shea to the right flank and give veteran winger DaMarcus Beasley a start on the left flank. Shea is coming off a France game where he failed to deliver one cross or shot on goal. Slotting Shea on the right would take him off his dominant foot, but would enable him to run at defenders and could also help provide some defensive support, while Beasley would maintain speed on the left.

The Slovenia match is another chance for Klinsmann to give Michael Orozco Fiscal a look, particularly if Oguchi Onyewu is still sidelined by a groin injury. Clarence Goodson was having a solid game alongside Carlos Bocanegra before being beaten by Loic Remy for the game-winning goal, but it doesn’t really make sense to start him for a second straight match and not give Orozco Fiscal a taste of non-CONCACAF competition.

That isn’t to say I’m convinced Orozco should even be on the roster. But if the theory behind Klinsmann calling him up is because of his speed and technical ability that are closer to his preferred system, then by all means it’s time to give Orozco a chance to sink or swim.

Perhaps the most interesting decisions for Klinsmann are in central midfield, where he once again trotted out the Maurice Edu-Kyle Beckerman tandem only to see it be dominated by France. Michael Bradley would make sense as a starter against Slovenia, the same team he played and scored against in the memorable 2010 World Cup match. Considering Klinsmann failed to start Bradley for either friendly in October however, we probably shouldn't assume Klinsmann will start the Chievo midfielder in the final national team match of the year.

Whatever lineup Klinsmann settles on, he needs to find one that can deliver some goals, and more importantly, a victory. As important as it is for Klinsmann to generate some offense for the squad, finishing the year on a winning note after a largely disappointing first four months would help ease some concerns about the direction the US national team is heading.

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