Italy v USMNT: 8 Keys to American Success

February 27, 2012

Wednesday, in Genoa, Italy, Jurgen Klinsmann’s United States Men’s National Team will take on four-time World Cup winner Italy in what should be a stern test for the American team.

With the game against Italy less than 48 hours away, let’s take a look at eight keys to American success.

Picking the Right Formation

Under Jurgen Klinsmann, the U.S. is 3-0 when deploying a 4-4-2, but only 1-4-1 when playing Klinsmann’s preferred 4-3-3.

In addition, under the 4-4-2, the U.S. averages a goal every 36 minutes. In the 4-3-3, the U.S. averages a goal every 315 minutes.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out which formation the U.S. is more effective in.

Plug the Injury Holes

Since announcing his roster, Klinsmann has lost Jermaine Jones, Timothy Chandler and Jose Torres to injury and, due to illness, Landon Donovan will also miss the match.

In addition, only days before announcing his roster, the U.S. lost an in-form Oguchi Onyewu for eight weeks due to another knee injury.

To replace the four rostered players who will not be available, Klinsmann has brought in Sacha Kljestan, who many U.S. fans believed had been unfairly snubbed in the initial roster, and Brek Shea who had been training with the U-23 team.

Play 2 Defensive Midfielders

Against the Italians, the U.S. will struggle to hold possession, and really shouldn’t try to dominate that aspect of the game.

Klinsmann should concede possession to the Italians, keep a tight defensive shape shielding the backline with two ball-winning midfielders like Michael Bradley and Maurice Edu, and look to counter.

Give Geoff Cameron a Proper Run-Out

With many of the first-choice Americans out of the lineup, Klinsmann will have to go with some relatively inexperienced players.

To replace Gooch, Klinsmann should give Geoff Cameron his first shot against top-notch competition instead of Clarence Goodson.

Goodson’s strengths and weaknesses are already a known quantity.

On the other hand, there is little risk in starting Cameron.

If he fails, Klinsmann will know he will have to look elsewhere to add depth to the center back position. If he succeeds, Klinsmann will have found a possible heir to the Bocanegra/Onyewu combination.

Use Michael Parkhurst as an Outside Back and Fabian Johnson as a Wide Midfielder

With the injury problems the U.S. is suffering, especially with the absence of Timothy Chandler, it will be very tempting to play Fabian Johnson at left back, a position he occasionally plays with his club.

Instead, Klinsmann should give Michael Parkhurst an opportunity at outside back and push Johnson up to play wide on the left hand side of the midfield.

Let Sacha Kljestan Show He Belongs

After being left off the roster for the November friendlies, Kljestan tweeted “12/12 points in Europa League and qualification for the knockout stages. Well done boys! Are you even watching???”

The phrase “Are you even watching???” was presumably aimed towards USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

Now, after leaving Kljestan off the initial roster, Klinsmann has been forced to bring him in after several injuries.

With a game against top-notch competition, Klinsmann should give Kljestan his opportunity, playing him out wide on the right hand side.

Play Clint Dempsey Up Top

Dempsey, who is usually used in a wide role with the U.S. and his club, has demonstrated time and time again, that he is the U.S.’s most consistent scoring threat and more than capable to play as an out-and-out forward.

Pairing Dempsey with Jozy Altidore, who scored two goals of his own this weekend in the Eredivisie, gives the U.S. the best chance to score against the Azzurri.

Managing the Game Early

If the U.S. gets behind early on foreign soil, especially with plenty of inexperience in the side, it could get ugly.

However, if the U.S. can maintain a compact defense, especially early on, their confidence will grow, and, as the Italians push forward, more opportunities to expose them on the counter-attack will open up.

John D. Halloran

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