I know the Editors' Notes yesterday was fairly short, and that is because I wanted to break off some of the US Men's National Team discussion into its own article. This isn't intended to be a breakdown, as much as just what I've seen and my own observations, but as such there will be counterpoints and I'd love to see those in the comments.
In my opinion, Altidore will start against Germany. He was practically ready to play against Portugal. He's also coming off extra rest, even with the injury, while the rest of the team are probably nearing their exhaustion point between travel and playing in Manaus on Sunday. But if he does start, who pairs with him?
Really? Is that even a question right now?
Editor's Note: Jozy Altidore has since been ruled out by Jurgen Klinsmann for the Germany match. Do we see the 4-5-1 again or does Klinsmann go back to the 4-4-2 diamond?
Ever since the captain's armband was handed to Clint Dempsey all he has done is elevated his play. The quality he is playing with right now is on-par with many of the international greats. A goal in the first two matches, and also being pivotal in each of the two other goals. This is his World Cup, and he is showing it. Pair him with Jozy and he looks even better, which is scary for opposition.
Look, we have problems along the back, and they all seem to revolve around defenders either falling asleep or just not staying mentally in the game until the final whistle. These issues are only exacerbated the moment Omar Gonzalez hits the pitch. We are going to give up at minimum one goal versus Germany, and at least one against most opponent's. The difference is unlike previous US squads, this one can score and can do so in a flash.
Can we please keep him off the pitch, Jurgen? In the friendly versus Nigeria, he was subbed on and unsurprisingly, Nigeria drew a penalty when Victor Moses made a simple dribble move and Gonzalez's tackle whiffed leaving Matt Besler on an island to defend in the box, ultimately bringing Moses down. In the next match Omar saw this pitch, he was higher up the pitch than the center backs, and didn't even make an effort to close down Nani or Cristiano Ronaldo which led directly to the headed goal in the dying moments of stoppage time. The injury has obviously affected him more than just physically, as mentally he isn't even 100%. Let him ride the pine for the remainder of the World Cup because the liability is just too much with him on the pitch.
Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler
Slowly, these two are forming the center back pairing for the next few years at a minimum, and I like it. They make mistakes, but there hasn't been a single centerback pairing in the World Cup this year that hasn't made a mistake or two. It could be a whole lot worse, and the longer the two go side by side, the more comfortable they become and the more sound the defense becomes.
John Brooks Jr.
As much as I dislike Omar Gonzalez, I absolutely love Brooks. Where Gonzalez seems to be mentally incapable of finding the game, Brooks is simply delighting in his form. Put Brooks in when we need an extra defender, and close out the match the way it is meant to be closed out. I love the prospect of him developing into a premier, long-term starting centerback for the US, and can't wait to see what else he does in this World Cup that makes us all go "U-S-A. U-S-A. U-S-A."
Fabian Johnson and DeAndre Yedlin
Super star in the making. His runs, his spacing, his timing, his passes into the box, his vision all equate to a guy who is making good left backs look silly. Once this World Cup is over, I want to see him run the left side in favor of bringing in DeAndre Yedlin on the right to gain some experience defending international players. The two of them on the outside would bring electricity and pace, and it was evident in the Portugal match on the second US goal. It all began with Yedlin, and it was a thing of beauty.
Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones
He hasn't had the best World Cup, nor was the lead up to the World Cup particularly good for him. The shift to CM from CDM has hurt him mentally, and you can see it in how he plays on the pitch. I'd like to see what moving Jermaine Jones to CM and moving Bradley to LM would do in allowing him to make use of his vision better. Also, with the way Jones is playing right now, it wouldn't hurt to move him centrally and let him be that swivel point for the offense.
I wasn't a Beckerman fan. In my mind he was on okay defensive midfielder who had a pretty mediocre ceiling. Then the World Cup hit and he was injected into the starting lineup, and he has proven his ceiling hasn't been reached yet. The dreads make me weep, but the tackles and ability to hold possession as needed along the back have been superb. I'm willing to give the dreaded one a pass, but if he begins to show badly, I'll be calling for a change pretty quick.
Alejandro Bedoya and Graham Zusi
Zusi has one decent game and one abysmal game to his name. Bedoya was effective in the first match, abusing the right side of the pitch when pairing with Fabian Johnson on overlapping runs. He was not nearly as effective in the second match against Portugal and from my perspective he couldn't ever really settle into a single position. It's harder to find the game when you're moving around consistently from position to position and back again. I'd rather see Bedoya start on the right and Brad Davis start on the left, but with Davis still nursing an injury and only today getting back to practice with the team I don't expect that to happen against Germany.
One of the best goalkeepers at this World Cup, and his saves are solidifying his place as one of the best United States goalkeepers ever. If he can get help in front of him and not be left on an island four or five times a match, I believe he could have two shut-outs and in a World Cup where teams are scoring at a pace unseen before that is a big statement to make.
His substitutions minus one have been absolutely golden. Against Ghana, he brings on John Brooks and magic happens. Against Portugal, he brings on DeAndre Yedlin and magic happens. I'm not sure how he's done it, but Klinsmann has found the right pieces on his bench, and he has turned a US team that reacted to the opponents strengths into one who pounces on an opponents weaknesses. Simply put, what Klinsmann has done in a couple of years in remarkable, and I am game to see him have another four years with the US development pool.
So, what do you think? Did I miss the mark on a player? Did I get it right? Leave your thoughts in the comments!