Three questions still unanswered as USMNT builds toward 2015 Gold Cup


PST’s Kyle Lynch already told us about the three things we learned from the U.S. national team’s 2-0 victory over Panama on Sunday, so how about a few minutes to discuss the three things we still don’t know as the USMNT heads into the bulk of the 2015 calendar year?

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After all, that’s what an “educated” soccer society would do, isn’t it?

What’s the long-term tactical system going to be?

3-5-2? 4-4-2? 4-2-3-1? Over the last two games alone (Chile and Panama), we’ve seen all three, which is all well and good considering we’re 41 months away from the next World Cup. What’s not OK, though, is that the 2015 Gold Cup is less than four months away, and there’s no telling what formation Klinsmann might choose the next time his team steps on the field.

Furthermore, it’s not just about a formation — because formations are ever fluid and changing between offense and defense — but it’s a matter of an identity as a team, something Klinsmann promised when accepting the USMNT head coaching job 42 months ago.

Reverting back to reactive, defend-for-our-lives soccer worked fairly well at the 2014 World Cup, but it was ultimately that team’s undoing in the tournament, just as it has been every other USMNT World Cup team in recent memory. If Klinsmann doesn’t feel he has the players to play the progressive, possession-based style of soccer he wants, then he’d be better off working on the type of soccer his team is actually going to play once the games start to count again.

[ PLAYER RATINGS: Bradley, Dempsey star vs. Panama, but who else improved their stock? ]

Is Jermaine Jones really going to be a starting center back?

I sent out an extremely tongue-in-cheek tweet prior to kickoff of Sunday’s game regarding the Jermaine Jones Center Back Experience™. I don’t particularly understand the allure of changing the position of — not to mention the team’s entire tactical setup to extend the career of — a 33-year-old life-long central midfielder as a center back. Jones is really, really good at what he does — and that’s, among other things, provide energy in the midfield, win the ball back quickly and make dangerous forward passes.

As a center back, he’s asked to do very little of that. Instead, he’s asked to watch the midfield action from afar, read the game closely and very carefully pick and choose his moments to pounce. Those are three things, with all due respect to what Jones does well, that Jones does not do well. He’s good enough to start in the USMNT midfield today, this summer, next summer and perhaps even in Russia in 2018.

However, as a center back who bring a sense of urgency to the defense and likes to play adventurous passes out of the back, Jones is the dream candidate for such a role. But that really only works as the middle man in a three-man backline.

In short, if Klinsmann continues to run Jones out in a four-man backline, expecting him to play a disciplined center back, my head is going to explode.

[ FULL RECAP: USA 2-0 Panama as the winless streak comes to an end ]

Is it wise for Klinsmann to give preferential/hypocritical treatment to certain players?

He loves Jones. I mean, absolutely loves him. We know this. As stated above, he’s changed the team’s entire tactical setup to prolong his international career — there’s not many American players worth doing that for, and Jones is maybe one of them.

But when he makes statements like the following — according to ESPN’s Adrian Healey and Taylor Twellman during Sunday’s game against Panama — after pointing to Geoff Cameron’s failure to appear in the same position week in, week out with Stoke City as the reason he can’t lock down a regular spot the national team, I have to wonder, “Does Klinsmann believe a single word coming out of his own mouth?”

“Not at all.” — Klinsmann’s response when asked whether Jones playing in midfield for the New England Revolution is a problem, given his recent switch to center back for the USMNT

Surely playing different positions for club and country only a coincidence that it’s not an issue at all for Jones, a player Klinsmann appears to lean upon heavily, while it’s the very thing that has kept Cameron from getting what many would argue is a due run of regular games in the USMNT lineup.