Klinsmann's moves pay off as U.S. bounces back against Jamaica
All of Jurgen Klinsmann's moves worked
Klinsmann made five changes to the side that fell 2-1 to Jamaica in Kingston last Friday, responding to the team's lackluster performance by starting veteran defenders Carlos Bocanegra and Steve Cherundolo, adding Danny Williams to the center of the midfield and stationing Jose Torres and Graham Zusi on the wings. Klinsmann went five for five.
Cherundolo and Zusi combined early and often, and each had a first-half shot hit the woodwork. Torres, while not flashy, combined well with Clint Dempsey and did not commit the turnovers that marred his earlier appearances. Bocanegra was his typical steadying influence, and Williams will receive votes for Man of the Match. Klinsmann also elected to leave Herculez Gomez in as a striker and sit Jozy Altidore, no easy choice given Altidore's hot start with Eredivisie side AZ Alkmaar.
Gomez rewarded Klinsmann with a bending free kick in the 55th minute that was the difference. Klinsmann predicted a victory and his moves helped deliver one.
Danny Williams was a revelation
Playing his first meaningful game for the U.S. as a defensive midfielder after some mediocre showings as a winger, Williams had a near-perfect evening. For most of the night, he played the "1" in a 4-1-3-2 formation and was precise with his passes (he completed 95 percent), rarely got caught forward and even contributed a near-goal in the first half as his 30-yard shot banged off the crossbar.
Williams had said that he is most comfortable playing inside, and he looked it. His presence allowed Jermaine Jones to play higher up the field and roam freely, which aided the U.S. attack. It will be interesting to see how Klinsmann uses Williams in coming games. When Michael Bradley returns from injury, he is certain to play centrally. Might Bradley be paired with Williams and Jones sent to the bench?
Whatever happens, the U.S. has added yet another capable defensive midfielder to its rotation.
The U.S. is safe. . . for now
It is amazing how quickly the tide turns. Going into Tuesday night's game, the Americans' World Cup hopes were sitting on a precipice. Now, the U.S. is back on track, in a three-way tie with Jamaica and Guatemala for first in its group. Still, the U.S. must avoid another slip at Antigua and Barbuda on Oct. 12. The Americans do not want to go into an Oct. 16 game against Guatemala in Kansas City having to win and/or needing to raise their goal-differential significantly.
Tuesday's victory got the U.S. out of hot water, and it can't afford to jump back in with another inexcusable defeat.