As the euphoria in U.S. camp begins to fade over Friday’s big three points, the reality will take hold that Jurgen Klinsmann’s team quietly paid a high price for the result in Kingston.
As the team charters into Seattle today – quite a long flight from the Caribbean to the Pacific Northwest – manager Jurgen Klinsmann and his staff must begin to sort out what might happen in a midfield and along the flank, areas that are suddenly much shorter on options.
Graham Zusi picked up a yellow card Friday, so he is out for Tuesday’s contest against Panama. And Jermaine Jones’ status looks iffy at very best; if he did suffer a concussion against Jamaica as feared, he is almost certainly out for the match at CenturyLink Field.
Jones’ toughness will be missed against a gritty bunch from Panama, one led by physical striker Blas Perez. Danny Williams seems like the most likely replacement; the holding midfield role was his position for a while last year while Jones was stationed slightly higher up the field.
But it could also be Sacha Kljestan, who has performed a screening role at times for Anderlecht in Belgian league play. There is also the chance that Michael Bradley could be re-aligned more defensively rather than his customary role, which is slightly more two-way in design under the Klinsmann system.
Then there is a flank midfield issue to deal with. Zusi has grown into his role out wide, slowly adding the elements that make him more effective near the touchlines. (What a sharp serve it was on Altidore’s goal, eh?) So his contributions will surely be missed.
Someone like Kljestan could play there, or even Geoff Cameron. But they are likely to lean inside a little more, which means Brad Evans (or whoever plays right back) will be pressed into getting forward even more. Otherwise, the United States’ attack will lack the needed width to stretch a Panamanian bunch that will probably hunker and bunker and require some stretching.
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Eddie Johnson or Herculez Gomez are also options for wide positioning, as the 4-3-3 is likely to look like a 4-3-3 for this one, rather than the 4-5-1 to which is sometimes seems to devolve. Same deal though; the right back must diligently, faithfully supply the width.
Johnson played wide left (with varying effectiveness) in the semifinal qualifying round, and Gomez has played out wide on the left as recently as those March qualifiers. So, both have logged time at the spot, although along the other side.