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Finding the Right Mix

Super-subs.

Jürgen Klinsmann does not always put out the best starting 11, but he is quite deft at rotating the right players in at the right times for maximum returns late in games.

Example?

Just take last night’s stand-out second-half substitutions during the Americans’  World Cup send-off match against Azerbaijan (their head coach is now literally on Klinsmann’s United States Men’s National Team staff for Brazil and is a long-time friend) at the ill-fated (yet energetic) Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California.

Mix Diskerud and Aron Johannsson.

These names have been mentioned in this blog before as being key players for the USMNT and for Brazil in particular. Each player added positive evidence to this hypothesis last night. Granted, it was a home match against the 85th-ranked team in the world, but there was virtually no flow from the middle-to-final third before they entered.

Johannsson subbed for Chris Wondolowski in the 61′ and Diskerud came on for the flat Alejandro Bedoya in the 71′, noticeably sporting #10, Donovan’s old number. And by old, I mean four days or so.

Speedster DeAndre Yedlin also came off the bench for Fabian Johnson in the 61′ and played a fair game.

The game was nil-nil in the 61′. What was the final score? 2-nil USMNT with goals from Diskerud and Johannsson.

Making a statement? Yes.

The match opened-up immediately after Johannsson started running around up top with some much needed purpose towards scoring goals and the flow looked as nice as Diskerud’s waving brown mane following his entrance. Just four minutes after Mix was added to the mix (c’mon, it’s right there), he scored off a rebound just outside the six-yard box that originated from a Michael Bradley half-volley at goal.

#10 to the rescue.

Regarding the #10 shirt, Diskerud had the ideal response in his post-match interview with ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap.

“For me it is just a number. I am playing for what is in front of the jersey, not what is in the back or my name.”

Classy answer.

Aside from the fact that Clint Dempsey had minor groin pain and didn’t play, the quick takeaways are that the central defense is still shaky, the outside defense is shaky, the outside midfielders need to be more creative and daring on the flanks, starting forward Jozy Altidore has apparently adopted the Jairo Arrieta theory of playing up top without scoring goals and that the young 23-year old players in Mix Diskerud and Aron Johannsson need to be subs and/or starters in every group game this summer.

While Diskerud and Johannsson are both relatively new to the national team universe, they clearly play with an energetic and inventive chip on their shoulders that results in positive contributions and results. Johannsson wants to score whenever he plays, which is always a good thing to have in a forward. Just saying.

And Mix Diskerud and Michael Bradley are the perfect complement to each other. Diskerud is right-brained and Bradley is left-brained and together they can create a dangerous dynamic for the USMNT in the middle of the pitch. This team needs leadership and this coupling could very well be the stable and imaginative core this squad needs for pulling off any last-minute heroics or improbable upsets in Brazil.

Diskerud and Johannsson as super-subs? Yes.

However, if match-ups on the field permit it, super-starter also has a nice little ring to it. I’m looking at you, Mix.

Either way, Klinsmann finalizes the lineup. It rests with him in deciding if the summer of 2014 will be a memorable World Cup experience for the Americans.

Will Klinsmann be a super coach in Brazil?

USMNT fans hope so.

Picking a Lineup of 23

Jürgen Klinsmann, head coach of the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT), has named his 30-man preliminary roster for the 2014 World Cup this summer. The final print-out of tickets to Brazil will be handed-out June 2nd for 23 lucky gentlemen men who will receive the honor to don the Red, White & Blue on the biggest soccer/footballing stage in the world.

The list is a dynamic collection of past World Cup stand-outs, familiar MLS veterans and a small group of European-based youngsters who will surely guide the USMNT the next several years. Here is the breakdown of the roster, courtesy of Yahoo! Sports:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS (11): DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Nürnberg), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Michael Parkhurst (Columbus Crew), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders)

MIDFIELDERS (10):
Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Maurice Edu (Philadelphia Union), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Jermaine Jones (Besiktas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

FORWARDS (6):
Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

There are an infinite number of variables that will play out in Brazil with an infinite number of potential results, actions and reactions. Is this roster perfect? Depends on who is answering. Were there a couple players I wished were given a shot at training with the USMNT for the past couple years? Yes, but it’s too late now.

At this point, the most critical question that should be asked is whether there is a combination of 11-16 players who will start and/or serve as super-subs for those moments when playing Ghana, Portugal and Germany when the U.S will have their backs against the wall with multiple goals needed in a 22-minute span after going down 2-nil in the 68′. Or maybe a star player will go down with a surprise injury. Can someone make a name for himself and for the team in a situation of desperation? Fortunately for American fans, Coach Klinsmann has shown his proficiency and an expertise for “the super-sub” during several games the past couple years with surprisingly fast, fantastic results.

But how will these super-subs fare against super competition?

Without knowing the final 23-man roster, it’s difficult to begin examining on-field formations. There will a post with this analysis after the final roster is named in early June.

For now, it’s appropriate to analyze this roster. First off, was it a good idea to leave off Eddie Johnson? Yes. And yes again. In fact, thank you Jürgen Klinsmann.

Looking at the names above, it’s a legitimate inquiry to wonder what kind of team Klinsmann wants in Brazil. Filled with predictable, safe and known entities? Open and unpredictable with a bevy of next-generation USMNT leaders? Or a combination in-between? He’s got a few World Cup freshman in Mix Diskerud (23), Aron Johannsson (23), Terrence Boyd (23) and Julian Green (18) who could really shake the USMNT’s cherry tree of founding principles with dynamic, fearless play. Are either of them in or near their prime? No. But there is something about talented freshman, regardless of sport, where they play just because they want to have fun without backing down to anybody. They’ll try things. They’ll experiment with a move here and there, a clever combination play here and there or with shots that get past the goalkeeper here and there.

When you’re competing against world-class talent and world-class coaching, the element of surprise cannot be underestimated.

Even if you don’t see it coming.