Despite producing its best performance of the 2015 Gold Cup to brush Cuba aside 6-0 in the quarterfinals, there remain no guarantees that coach Jürgen Klinsmann won’t again make changes to his lineup for Wednesday’s semifinal against Jamaica. Klinsmann has rotated his personnel significantly through the group stage and in Saturday’s emphatic win, and more alterations could be in store when the U.S. aims to seal a place in the final.
“We approach every opponent in our own specific way,” Klinsmann said after the win over Cuba, via the U.S. Soccer website. “We were fortunate to go through the group stage with two wins right away that allowed us to rotate some players and find more elements that we wanted to see. We’re in a good spot right now, going into Atlanta, we’re well prepared and our goal is as simple as that -- to win this Gold Cup.”
There do look to be at least a few players secured of their place, however. Clint Dempsey has been the leading figure for the U.S. so far, scoring a tournament-high six goals and, along with the man who replaced him as captain, Michael Bradley, is a certain starter. Indeed, Bradley and goalkeeper Brad Guzan have been the only ever-presents for the U.S. through its four matches. Experienced holding midfielder Kyle Beckerman may similarly feel confident of his place in the side, along with the impressive Alejandro Bedoya. Following their eye-catching goal-scoring displays against Cuba and encouraging work previously in the competition, young forwards Aron Johannsson and Gyasi Zardes could also start consecutive matches.
Unquestionably, the biggest doubts over team selection rest in the defense. It is that area of the team which was least convincing as the Americans underwhelmed in the group stage against Honduras, Haiti and Jamaica. Against Cuba, a back four of Timmy Chandler, Omar Gonzalez, Ventura Alvarado and Fabian Johnson had little trouble, but Klinsmann far from ruled out changing up the formula against a Jamaica side that beat Haiti 1-0 in the quarterfinals.
“I think the back line wasn’t really challenged today,” he said. “Everything was totally fine, but there’s not enough there to go into a ton of details. I have my thoughts. I’ll keep them to myself until Wednesday night.”
If there are alterations, it could well involve John Brooks returning to the team. The German-born center-back was suspended against Cuba and replaced by Gonzalez, who took advantage by getting his first international goal. Klinsmann has shown a clear desire to mold a partnership between Brooks and Alvarado thus far and could reunite the pair, despite both having decidedly shaky moments both at this Gold Cup and previously for the U.S.
Klinsmann appears to have a similar fondness for Chandler. The Eintracht Frankfurt right-back has continued to display a propensity for errors at the Gold Cup, but has retained the support of his national team coach. The 25-year-old was taken off at halftime against Cuba with a slight injury, but Klinsmann was confident that it wouldn’t take him out of the running to face Jamaica.
“It shouldn’t be a big deal,” he said. “He said during the water break at the half hour that it bothered him and I said for him to go until halftime and we’d make a switch. It shouldn’t be a big problem.”
Yet Chandler may still lose his place. Klinsmann revealed that DaMarcus Beasley, called out of international retirement and into the squad after the group stage, would have featured against Cuba had it not been for a knock suffered in training. And his experience, not least in dealing with Jamaica forward and Houston Dynamo teammate Giles Barnes, could be sought. If that was to happen Beasley would slot in at left-back, with Johnson moving over to right-back, where he excelled at last year’s World Cup.
The Americans’ opponents could also make changes. In its victory over Haiti coach Winfried Schäfer was without striker Darren Mattocks and midfielder Je-Vaughn Watson through suspension, but both could return to replace Simon Dawkins and Joel Grant. After being sent off in Jamaica’s final group game against El Salvador, Mattocks stressed he was eager to get back into the starting lineup for what will be Jamaica’s first Gold Cup semifinal since 1998.
“I think this is a game I would like to start in as I definitely have something to prove,” the Vancouver Whitecaps player said, reports the Jamaica Observer.
USA (4-4-2 diamond)
D: Johnson, Brooks, Alvarado, Beasley
M: Zardes, Beckerman, Bradley, Bedoya
F: Johannsson, Dempsey
D: Mariappa, Morgan, Hector, Lawrence
M: McCleary, Watson, Austin, McAnuff
F: Barnes, Mattocks