Taylor Twellman had an interesting take on Clint Dempsey (a.k.a. the top U.S. attacker) and his muted night in Jamaica.
Overall, Twellman did not think things were too bad. Remember, he noted, the U.S. lost on two free kicks – including one blue ribbon, YouTube special from Luton Shelton. And he said nothing has really changes in the big picture; the United States always needed to win Tuesday’s home match. So, in that regard, same deal today as Friday.
But the ESPN analyst did have questions about Jurgen Klinsmann’s strategic usage of his top offensive man. Twellman, like most, has seen better versions of Dempsey. As he noted, not one of us expected Tottenham’s new arrival to be at his best Friday. How could he be? As we’ve talked about time and again, the former Fulham man had not kicked a ball competitively since June.
Twellman (once a teammate of the U.S. international with New England) wonders why Dempsey started? And Twellman double dog wonders why Dempsey started and went the full 90?
Even conceding the U.S. manager’s limited options, Twellman wondered if a better Dempsey doctrine for Friday might have involved a 65th- of 70th-minute entrance, when the night’s tempo was slightly more tame, when Dempsey could perhaps help pin down a tiring bunch of Reggae Boyz?
Even more than that, the ESPN analyst (who will be on the TV call Tuesday in Columbus) wonders about how Dempsey, essentially in pre-season, mini-camp mode, might recover before Tuesday?
“I’m nervous about what we’re going to get out of him Tuesday night now,” Twellman told us this morning on the Soccer Today radio show and podcast (which I co-host with Marc Stein.) Here’s more:
“Going down to Jamaica, where the [opposition] team is faster, the team is quicker, why not go the other way? Why not go 4-4-2? Why not play Terrence Boyd and Jozy Altidore up front? Then say, for the first 20 minutes of this game, we are going to play ugly. We’re going to play in Jamaica’s end. We’re going to try to make them build out of the back, which isn’t their strength. … and then, going in last 20 minutes, bring in our X factor, which is Clint Dempsey?”
Now the game has slowed down. The players are tired. Now that gives him a chance to be at his best. Nothing against Clint Demspey. But any player in the world, if they don’t have their game fitness, it’s hard to have an impact over 45 minutes, let alone 90. He played 90 minutes! That changes things for Tuesday night. That completely changes Tuesday night now.”
Oh, how does he feel about Tuesday as a potential “must win?”
Well, of course it is, Twellman said. But they all are. “In qualifying, every home game is a must win.”