Jurgen Klinsmann hears your talk of formations, and wants none of it

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Much has been made of how the United States is going to line up in Brazil with the players Jurgen Klinsmann has selected.

Will they play a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-4-2? Will he use a diamond or a flat midfield? How far will the outside backs venture? Will there be cover?

Jurgen hears plenty of this noise in the background, and to him, it’s all just that – noise.

“All these discussions about the systems are actually not up to speed anymore,” Klinsmann told reporters at a press conference at EverBank Field Friday. “The systems are not the key like they were 10 or 15 years ago.”

Parading Spain’s charge to Euro success two years ago as an example, Klinsmann argued that every system on the field now-a-days is meant not only to have strengths and weaknesses, but to cover up said weaknesses by being flexible enough to adapt minute by minute during a match, and the players must now have the ability to play in multiple areas.

“It changed with the best teams in the world, led by Spain,” Klinsmann said. “They made every system look stupid because they came up with a 4-6-0 and everybody said ‘how can you do that? Not even Torres is out there!’ Well, they beat everybody because three or four midfielders became strikers, and then they go back and the other ones became strikers, and it confused everybody.  So I think the trend is definitely going to go away from the system discussion, and you have a whole team that knows how to support each other and how to create going forward.”

Focusing back on the United States, there has been plenty of speculation about which players will start in Brazil, and much of the discussion for or against individuals has been backed by how well they play in certain formations.  But as Klinsmann puts it, the formation isn’t as important as the teamwork the players display.

“There are pro and cons [to the diamond midfield] like with every system.  It doesn’t really matter what shape we have or what system we have, it matters how we connect with each other on the field.”

And in that department, the team has a long way to go, despite how close we’ve come to the start of the World Cup.

“We’re still in the building phase.  We still have 10 days to go [until the US opens with Ghana], so we’re not done now with all the work we have to put into their legs, and into their minds…and it will still go on until after our little Belgium scrimmage in São Paolo.  And the players know that, and they know we still have to work work work until they are ready to go.”

source: AP
Jurgen Klinsmann would rather have his United States squad play well together than fit into a particular formation.

Part of that teamwork Klinsmann wants to see involves defending.  The back line was suspect against Turkey a week ago, and had the Turks taken advantage (which they didn’t), the scoreline could have been a lot worse.

But instead of saying the defensive unit must improve, or the center backs need to communicate more, he pointed the finger at everyone – literally – saying the communication and the coordination must be there, not just on the attacking end.

“We are still in the middle of the process to defend as a whole team. That’s the whole team, starting with Jozy up front, and then the next one in line, and that’s what we’re trying to do tomorrow.”

Midfielder Kyle Beckerman echoed that sentiment without being prompted, saying a formation is more for what happens at the back than working forward.

“When you’re in a formation, it’s mainly a defensive starting point,” Beckerman said. “It’s just a point of reference for when you need to get back into a shape and back on the ball.  But obviously you have to be able to adapt on the field.”

So whether you prefer Beckerman or Jermaine Jones in the midfield, whether you prefer Alejandro Bedoya or Brad Davis on the wing, whether you prefer Fabian Johnson in the midfield or defense…all of these are based on formation. And if you take what the US coach said to heart, throw all that out the window, because he’ll take on-the-field chemistry over a good formation any day.

And while that’s definitely an over-simplification of the journey the US faces in Brazil, there’s certainly something to be made of that. With a mountain ahead of the Stars and Stripes, a mountain fraught with danger in the shape of Ghana, Portugal, and Germany, chemistry is something we’ve seen over the last two weeks as something that without a doubt needs improvement.

Let’s hope all the tinkering Klinsmann has done with the squad just weeks ahead of the big dance won’t prove him a hypocrite.

RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly

Aguero left off Argentina starting XI to face Bolivia

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Sao Paolo striker Lucas Pratto will receive a fantastic opportunity on Tuesday when Argentina faces Bolivia in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying.

[ PREVIEW: USMNT travels to Panama in CONCACAF WCQ ]

It just so happens that Pratto’s gain is a major letdown for one of the Premier League’s top strikers. The 28-year-old is tied for second this qualifying campaign for Argentina with two goals.

La Albiceleste have announced their starting lineup ahead of tomorrow’s clash in Bolivia, which features mainstays Lionel Messi, Angel di Maria and goalkeeper Sergio Romero.

Meanwhile, Aguero — who started in Argentina’s 1-0 win over Chile on Thursday — is the lone change from manager Edgardo Bauza.

The Copa America runners’ up are currently depleted with a combination of injuries and suspensions. Four players will miss Tuesday’s meeting in La Paz due to suspension, including Gonzalo Higuain, Nicolas Otamendi, Javier Mascherano and Lucas Biglia.

Elsewhere, Gabriel Mercado and Emmanuel Mas will each miss the match after sustaining respective hamstring and knee injuries.

Argentina currently sits third in the CONMEBOL table while Bolivia is in danger of elimination with a loss on Tuesday. La Verde have managed just seven points in the first 13 rounds of World Cup qualifying.

Three keys for USMNT against Panama

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Coming off of Friday night’s dominating effort against Honduras, the U.S. Men’s National Team looks for their second win in five nights when Bruce Arena and co. head to Panama.

[ PREVIEW: USMNT goes for second win in Hex on Tuesday ]

Strong performances from players like Clint Dempsey and Christian Pulisic have USMNT fans buzzing ahead of Tuesday’s clash in Panama City, but there are several questions that lie ahead for Arena as the U.S. goes for its second win in the Hexagonal.

How does Arena cope with injuries?

The only downside of the team’s 6-0 win over Panama on Friday was the aftereffects if the match. John Brooks, Sebastian Lletget, Michael Orozco and Jordan Morris are no longer with the USMNT after sustaining injuries/illnesses, leaving Arena shorthanded as the Stars and Stripes head into the Estadio Rommel Fernández.

While Clint Dempsey’s emphatic national team return will provide Arena with some assurances up front, along with the emergence of Borussia Dortmund star Christian Pulisic, there are some questions in the midfield and defense for the U.S.

Jermaine Jones is available to return from his one-match suspension and could potentially fill the void left by Sebastian Lletget after his injury on Friday. While, Alejandro Bedoya — who replaced Lletget in the Honduras match — will also be in line for a starting spot.

Defensively is where it gets a bit tricky though, as Arena has to make up for an already-depleted backline. There was no DeAndre Yedlin or Fabian Johnson coming into this round of qualifiers, and John Brooks’ release from camp leaves the defense even thinner. Tim Ream appears to be Arena’s next choice to start at centerback with Brooks unavailable, but will he stick with Omar Gonzalez in the center or slide Geoff Cameron back into the middle?

It seems like the latter choice, especially given Cameron’s experience in the central defense, but that would mean Arena has to slot somebody else into the right back position. Graham Zusi has had slight experience in that role as of late, but it could be a bit of a gamble for Arena in another high-stakes match.

Bradley must control the middle once again

Forget Michael Bradley’s superb goal, which lifted the U.S. lead to 2-0 on Friday, it was the captain’s overall performance that is exactly what should be expected from the center midfielder.

Bradley completions/MLSSoccer

In 90 minutes of play against Los Catrachos, Bradley only missed on six passes while also making several successful tackles and recoveries to limit the Honduras attack.

The loss of Lletget is definitely a significant one for the Americans, given his lively movement going both ways. However, LA Galaxy teammate will likely be in line to replace the vibrant midfielder on Tuesday as he returns from a one-match suspension.

In regards to Bradley though, the U.S. veteran is at his best when he is able to move freely throughout the midfield, but Jones’ inclusion could present more of a burden for the Toronto FC player.

Jones is still a very capable midfielder, but he simply doesn’t have the pace to match that of a Lletget, which leaves Bradley more liable for covering ground defensively in front of the backline.

On top of that, the back four will see more changes on Tuesday after Brooks’ exit from the USMNT, making Bradley’s role all the more critical when facing players like Luis Tejada and Gabriel Torres.

[ MORE: CONCACAF qualifiers resume Tuesday afternoon ]

Dempsey/Pulisic bond continues to evolve

It couldn’t have gone much better for the pair on Friday night as Clint Dempsey and Christian Pulisic were directly involved in five of the game’s six goals.

The budding relationship between the two key attackers though is an intriguing one, and will likely determine just how successful this USMNT can be down the road. At 34, Dempsey is certainly on the back end of his career, however, his effort against Honduras shows just how dangerous the Seattle Sounders man can be, even after missing significant time due to a heart problem.

Meanwhile, Pulisic continues to shine in European with giants Dortmund, appearing both in the Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League. The two likely won’t be together on the international scene for long, perhaps only until the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but the partnership is something to monitor over the next year-plus.

Not only does the duo represent a dangerous one-two punch in the attack but also a changing of the guard. Dempsey has been one of the most talented USMNT players in the nation’s history, and many believe Pulisic has the talent to match or even surpass that of the 55-time goalscorer.

We’ve seen it before when Landon Donovan was phased out of the U.S. squad and Dempsey was essentially handed the reigns of the attack, and this time Pulisic will be doing so with much more time to make an impact. The 18-year-old already has four international goals in 12 appearances, and if he improves on that goalscoring pace the U.S. will be enjoying his presence for many years to come.

At long last, Butland returns to full training with Stoke

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Stoke City’s long-coming goalkeeping dilemma will come to a head soon, as Jack Butland is back in training.

A year ago today, the Potters confirmed that star backstop Butland would miss EURO 2016 with a broken ankle. He’d need multiple surgeries as recovery dragged on and on.

[ MORE: Complete Panama-USMNT preview ]

That was more palatable thanks to the play of Lee Grant, who arrived on loan from Derby County but became a permanent Potter in January. Grant has been a key part of Stoke’s season.

Butland is contracted to Stoke through 2021, and he’ll ascend to the starting gig sooner rather than later. But Grant is in the catbird seat for now, and at least will have made himself attractive to other clubs seeking a keeper.

Report: Everton linked with $4 million swoop for Canada’s Larin

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The Sun only hits on a few of the many transfer rumors it tosses around, but this one bears a second look for fans of Everton, MLS, and Canada.

Everton is already eyeing replacements for Romelu Lukaku, according to the report, and is hunting for a bargain in Canadian national teamer Cyle Larin.

Larin, 21, was the first overall pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft by Orlando City SC after an electric career at UConn.

[ MORE: Complete Panama-USMNT preview ]

He’s since scored 35 goals in 63 matches for the Lions, picking up three in his first two matches of the 2017 season. The 6-foot-1 Ontario native has five goals for Canada in 19 caps.

The Sun says Larin would cost close to $4 million, a fraction of what the Toffees will get if they sell Lukaku.