61113_isi_midfield_usmntjd060913103 John Dorton/isiphotos.com
Direct from Seattle

Klinsmann's Conundrum: Meddling with the Midfield

Eddie Johnson is ready to fill in for Graham Zusi in the midfield. But will the United States national team manager call the Seattle Sounders attacker? And who will take Jermaine Jones' spot?
BY Jon Arnold Posted
June 11, 2013
2:14 PM
SEATTLE—It was all too perfect.

The United States found success with a lineup in a surprising 4-3 victory in a friendly against Germany and Jurgen Klinsmann put the same XI out for Friday’s qualifier in Jamaica.

But as has happened so often for the manager, playing that same group won’t be an option when his club takes on Panama on Tuesday at CenturyLink Field. Midfielder Graham Zusi, who put in a Man-of-the-Match-worthy shift at The Office, committed a savvy, professional foul on a Reggae Boyz breakaway. He was booked for the second time during qualifying and is forced to sit out the subsequent match as a result.

Also absent for Klinsmann is Jermaine Jones. The central midfielder was knocked out in Kingston and will miss this match.

“Jermaine is fine. He’s doing great,” Klinsmann said at a news conference Monday. “Obviously, we take things seriously. We don’t want to do anything risky, even if he’s ready to go already today, so we’ll just be cautious. We’ll keep him out of tomorrow night’s game. He will be definitely back for the game in Salt Lake City.”

Those two absences mandate changes in the midfield, but luckily there are plenty of choices for the manager.

There’s never a lack of depth at central midfield with the U.S. Geoff Cameron, Brad Evans, or Sacha Kjlestan could fill the spot manned by Jones. Several U.S. players mentioned they’d feel comfortable with any of the candidates in that spot.

“I think we’ve got a few other guys who can play the position like Jermaine,” said midfielder Fabian Johnson. “I think the quality is high in our group. Of course we’re going to miss him, he’s a good player, aggressive and stuff, but I think the coach is going to make the right decision for the game tomorrow.”

Klinsmann has also been crafting a plan to fill Zusi’s spot since the booking. “Obviously since the moment it happened in Jamaica after the game we started to discuss it, and I think we have several options,” he said. “We can shift people around a little bit, we can bring in Eddie Johnson right away on the left side if we want to, we can shift over Fabian Johnson on the right, bring in Brad Davis on the left for example, even Edgar Castillo like we did in Jamaica so going through all of those pieces we have a pretty good idea of how we want to start tomorrow, which I won’t tell you right now.”

That was the closest Klinsmann came to revealing anything about the latest line-up mutation. The head man lamented the frequent injuries and suspensions that have forced him to tinker but also said those things are the nature of the business when you’re a national team manager.

When he arrived, he’d preached on finding depth in the team, with replacements ready to slot in when absences occur. There’s always more depth to be built, he said, but many players are growing in their understanding the back-up roles they’re being asked to fill.

One player who could make such change, as Klinsmann alluded, is Fabian Johnson. The Hoffenheim player was utilized at left back but pushed up to left midfield during this camp. He may take over Zusi’s spot on the right. Johnson said he hadn’t played on the right in a while and is now used to the left, but didn’t think the differences would create problems should he be asked to switch sides.

Jon Arnold (@ArnoldcommaJon) is a writer based in Arizona and is ASN's CONCACAF correspondent.

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