Although the USMNT won their dramatic opener vs. Ghana, it wasn’t without consequence for the Yanks. They lost their line-leading forward, Jozy Altitore. The US failed to make much of an impact going forward without Altidore and had to be bailed out with a header from substitute centerback John Brooks. The US doesn’t have a replacement player that can match Altidore’s role, so they will have to adapt their formation and players. Let’s dive in to the potential options that Jurgen might roll out vs. Portugal.
Before we breakdown the options that Jurgen Klinnsman will have at his disposal, let’s talk about the question that everyone has been asking. Could Landon Donovan have helped fill the void left by Jozy’s absence? Should he have been brought for just such emergencies? The short answer is a resounding NO. Donovan would not have helped to replace Jozy up front as they play completely different roles. Donovan is a replacement for Zusi/Bedoya/etc. who have both played vital roles thus far. A bigger argument could be made for why Klinnsman didn’t include a more similar player to Altidore like Terrence Boyd or Eddie Johnson. Unfortunately, we’ll have to continue on with the players selected.
Note: These are just my personal opinions and thoughts. I obviously have no inside information and could be way off on every one of these. Take these with a grain of salt and don’t go betting your life away based on these opinions! That being said, enjoy.
Option #1: Jozy Substitute (4-4-2 Diamond)
The first choice is the most simple of the bunch, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be chosen. His replacement would fill his role up top with Dempsey. Although it is listed as a 4-4-2, it will likely look somewhat more like a 4-4-1-1, with Dempsey playing just behind the fill-in striker. So who will take Jozy’s place, Johannson or Wondolowski? Wondo makes a better choice for hold-up play given his larger frame. Johannson plays better with another forward joining him up front as his link-up play is excellent. Ultimately, I think Johannson gets the nod if this is the formation of choice.
- No positional changes are required other than Altidore’s replacement.
- Two forwards puts more pressure on the centerback pairing and doesn’t allow them to focus on one man.
- Wondolowsi or Johannson will be on the pitch, neither of whom strike fear into opponents.
- Puts pressure on Beckerman to play well as he is the only true holding midfielder in front of the back four.
Note: Zusi could also replace Bedoya after his strong showing off the bench.
Option #2: “False 9” (4-2-3-1)
This option is often called a “False 9” because it doesn’t deploy a traditional striker on the field. The “9” comes from the Number 9 that is usually associated with the primary striker, whose primarily objective is to score goals. Other teams like Spain and Germany have deployed this to great success, but it requires a talented group of attacking midfielders. If the US goes this route, Zusi would likely be the only change, coming in for the injured Altidore. He should play on the right side, likely moving Bedoya to the left. Dempsey will play the “False 9” role and will be the focal point in attack. This formation will generally change shape slightly in attack and defense, but offers plenty of options for the US team. It can easily look like the 4-5-1 option as shown in Option #3 and the primary differences are outlined there.
- Allows an experienced playmaker (Zusi) to get on the pitch.
- Could allow for some nice link-up play between Dempsey and Bradley, who excel is such situations
- Dempsey is not used to being the lone forward and doesn’t do well with hold-up play
- The midfield of Beckerman, Jones, and Bradley could be outnumbered when Zusi and Bedoya get forward