Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The way Klinsi cuts his cake

USMNT legend.
Put it this way. It's not in neat slices.

You've no doubt by now turned over every corner of Klinsmann's latest roster and inspected it for blemishes. I suppose you've found one or two, or perhaps found a corner of the thing missing entirely. Or maybe not. The beauty (or terror) of the whole thing is that Klinsmann's roster is viewed threw a billion different prisms that yield an infinite number of outcomes. So what were they?

You, most likely, fall into one of these three camps.

Outcome #1: You liked it. You are a Sacha Kljestan fan. You believe Jozy Altidore has largely wasted his last few opportunities. You were undeniably excited by Graham Zusi's Lazarus job in Jamaica #2 and feel as though he could be Klinsi's next great find. Eddie Johnson once gifted you a signed, bedazzled "GAM" t-shirt. Alan Gordon is your brother.

Outcome #2: You feel okay — not great. There were some obvious choices Klinsmann got right (Cameron&Boca, Danny Williams, Zusi, Bradley) but some others on which you are undecided. You're still not sure Mo Edu's inclusion as a defender is a good idea in the long haul. You want to believe in Brek Shea but he has not given you enough reasons to do so. The inclusions of Alan Gordon and Eddie Johnson strikes you as a strange allocation of resources. You are willing to let Klinsmann's comments on aerial strategy play themselves out, but there is a natural wariness embedded in your nature.

Outcome #3: Pure aggro. Klinsmann is an idiot. Alan Gordon is Florence Nightingale with cleats. Brek Shea is an automaton with stupid hair. Clarence Goodson still thinks he's the prima ballerina in the Moscow Ballet's fall rendition of Swan Lake. Kyle Beckerman literally can't read. Jozy Altidore is David Villa if David Villa was better. And Graham Zusi has a stupid face.

My hope is that most people are straddling the fence and find themselves in camp #2 (if you identified with anything in #3, God help you. Also, email me, we need to write an article together). But I've seen enough vacillation between the three to know that Klinsmann recent roster call-up hit on points all over the map. Anger, excitement, mollification and all waypoints in between.

My take includes some of #1 and #2 with a hint, a rumor of #3 thrown in for good measure (it's the one about reading). We'll start with Jozy.

I wrote this about Jozy after the USMNT triumphed over Italy back in February.

I've already said a lot about Jozy that I don't need to rehash (see Slovenia link), but something I noticed: In the 20th minute, Jozy dropped back in the early architecture of the build-up and fed Bradley, who was diving toward the end line on the right side. Bradley, looking up, saw two players in the box: Dempsey short and Shea long. Jozy, having fallen back to facilitate, was nowhere to be seen. The play fizzles. About five minutes later, Dempsey led a promising break and fed Jozy, who was calmly bumped off possession near the edge of the box to kill it, something that shouldn't necessarily be happening when you've got the frame to hold it up. Illustrative moments, these, but not wholly comprehensive. The troublesome thing about analyzing Jozy is that he picks his moments carefully. He won't look great on every touch, or even most of them, but every now and then he'll rip off the shirt to reveal a Superman S, and you're left wondering why it wasn't there all along (Dempsey assist). But that's just it with Jozy. Until he becomes more dominant, this is the guy we'll go to war with, so it's better to understand his makeup than belittle him for something he's not and has never been. I'll leave that up to the advancement of time. If he never gets there, he never gets there. But it makes me feel better to assume he will, so there it is.

It feels good, feels right to believe in your heart of hearts that somewhere inside Jozy's bulky frame is a breakout star ready to unleash hell. He has the body to hold it up, the skill to take you on and the athleticism to fly past you. And yet he so rarely does any of this consistently on the national level. Mind you, the Club Jozy has few of these problems, but then there has never really been a correlation between the Club Jozy and the USMNT Jozy. They've always been two very distinct men. So like I said, it feels natural to pump his age (he's still... something I suspect we'll be saying until he's 26) and his athletic bona fides and just sit back and wait. The troublesome bit for Klinsmann is that he can't afford to wait when World Cup qualification failure is so close at hand. If Jozy is an ongoing project, fine. But projects don't win points, and Jozy certainly hasn't.

I put this on Twitter yesterday and I'll put it to you here: When was the last time you watched Jozy over a full 90 and went, "Wow," or even felt wholly encouraged? His Trinidad & Tobago hat trick in 2009? His performance against Spain that same year? Maybe in spurts in the World Cup? I can't think of a single game in the last two years where Jozy looked truly dangerous. And Klinsmann did something about it. I can fault a lot of things about Klinsmann's selection, but I cannot begrudge him this.

As for Gordon and Johnson, I have softened my stance on the two until I see the progeny of their toils on Friday. Klinsmann believes he has hit upon a tactical ideal that will provide some traction for a squad that has not scored with any regularity lately. If Gordon, who has been arguably the most productive striker in MLS the last two years, can fix this, who am I to hold that process back? Jozy certainly hasn't. And as for Johnson, his disease sounds a lot like young Jozy's, though his has now metastasized beyond repair. World of potential, much of it unrealized. That's the trouble with players like that. So hard to cut the cord when the time comes to do it. Sometimes it's necessary. We'll see.

Defense and midfield are fine, not much to speak of here. What most excites me is the ability to see how Bradley and new boy Danny Williams play off one another. Williams, we've recently discovered, is Beckerman 2.0, a steady presence with ability with his feet and speed to burn. And a cracker of a shot. Bradley has been running the channels with Roma, unshackled a bit by the deep-lying sensibilities of Daniele de Rossi. Which should make for an interesting result if Klinsmann sees fit to throw the two onto the field at the same time.

So gnash your teeth, wait in rapt anticipation or beat an innocent animal. Either way, Klinsmann knows how to stir the pot.

- Will Parchman


dikranovich said...

now this article makes a fair amount of sense. although, im not going to be shocked if junior starts on the bench friday night. he is on a yellow and probably needed more for the guatemala game.

this a and b game is where sacha kljestan needs to step in and show how much he has matured in the past three years, and of course, ej needs to bring his best ever game, which really should not be that hard. ej would have been called in last time if he didnt miss that pk in the us open finals, in my opinion.

Jay said...

To be fair, Goodson does a damn fine imitation of a porcelain doll.

Really, though, I've got a serious beef with Gordon. The dude is 30 years old and has, for only the second time ever, rolled over 1200 minutes in a single season. The way that USMNT has tried to play since Jurgen took over has been possession-based, short passing, crisp movement -- which sounds nothing at all like the way San Jose plays. Calling Gordon up and sounding the klaxxon call for Route 1 seems like it might be more problematic for the rest of the squad simply by the tactical change.

I pointed out some while back that Steven Lenhart, playing in the same system, has lost a lot possession for SJ via fouls from an attacking position. Well, I'm not going to give you a full number crunch, but if you look at the stats you'll see that Gordon has racked up 8 more fouls in 170 fewer minutes and 3 fewer games started. That sort of unhappy return bodes horribly for a competition that's well known for whistle-happy refs, foul-hungry defenders, and the gratuitous issuing of cards.

I continue to think that the ultimate bane of the USMNT is the fan-frenzy that comes with promising young talent. We saw it with EJ, we saw it with Jozy, we saw it with Juan Agudelo, we saw it with Teal Bunbury, we saw it with Freddy Adu, we saw it with Jose Torres, hell, we even saw it with Edgar Castillo. There's a fan demand to see the player get capped and when they show well in their first game suddenly the expectation -- whether earned or not -- is that they should be a superstar now. It just doesn't work that way. We set ourselves up for a huge letdown because we aren't willing to see that the end game is distant.

Side note, Will: do you and Greg ever get into the debate with each other? I swear I never see the two of you interacting in the comments at all.

Mike said...

@dikranovich- No way that Bradley sits vs Antigua if he is healthy. That is a must win game.

I also hope that you dont really believe that EJ was not called in because of a missed penalty!

Anonymous said...

tis a goal drought for the lad. I'm eager to see him get passed, as you stated.

I read an article about his productivity that I found a little shocking. It stated that Donovan is THE ONLY USMNT player to score more goals for the Nats than Jozy before the age of 23.

Now the article did not offer the same data normalized by the number of minutes played. But even in just terms of number of goals scored, his past certainly seems to out perform is present.

Anonymous said...

* his present

Mike said...

No shea or Donovan for these WCQ's. There is not much width in this team. I wonder who will get called in

dikranovich said...

mike, i most certainly do think ej missed a call up when he missed a pk. that is just the kind of pressure situation coach klinsmann wants to see his players in, and he wants positive results from those situations. it might have been justifiable, because that jimmy nelson is a wing nut between the post.

with regards to junior, maybe it comes down to which game is really going to be more crucial, and unless usa win along with a jamaica win against guatemala, then the usa guatemala game should be the crucial one of the pair. plus, junior does not have to start to make an impact. he could clearly be a second half sub and help get the job done, if needed.

dikranovich said...

mike, it looks like no replacements are being called in. that does not sound very promising. scratch my reason for bradley not to start.

Mike said...

I find it weird that he doesn't call in anyone. Why have a stand by list than?

dikranovich said...

well it should be easier to figure the starting lineup now.


Will Parchman said...

Jay, I guess we keep it to the Facebooks.

Mike J. said...

What do you have against Florence Nightingale?

Will Parchman said...

She's a charlatan of a soccer player.

Jay said...

She's got bunions, dude. Totally tweaks out your shooting form.