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.
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.”
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.