61714_klinsmannjurgen_isi_usmnt061514124 John Todd/isiphotos.com
Deep thoughts

The Slow Evolution of the Klinsmann Revolution

Yes, the United States defeated Ghana on Monday night. But it came at a cost with Jozy Altidore going down and it's unclear as to whether the Americans can adjust. We've been here before.
BY Noah Davis Posted
June 17, 2014
7:44 PM
NATAL, Brazil—I keep thinking about 2010.

Four years ago, Bob Bradley had a strategy. He preferred playing with a fast forward, someone who could sprint and catch up to the over-the-top balls. That man was Charlie Davies. We were excited about his prospects, never more than after he scored a goal at Azetca Stadium that quieted the crowd of 100,000.

Then, of course, Davies got hurt. Instead of going to plan b, Bradley kept at it and searched for a player to replace Davies. He found Robbie Findley, who started three games at the 2010 World Cup, failing to make an impact.

When Jozy Altidore collapsed to the ground in the first half of Monday night's 2-1 victory, Jurgen Klinsmann replaced the forward with Aron Johannsson. The Mobile-born attacker is an excellent talent but he's not a target forward in the same mold as Altidore. He's neither strong enough nor physical enough to handle the punishment that comes from a backline at the World Cup.

And yet, there was Johannsson at the top of the formation against Ghana, battling, but battling in vain.

Which makes you wonder about Portugal. Klinsmann says Altidore will return at some point during the tournament (the same Klinsmann who said he has a flight booked the day after the final because "anything is possible in football") but he seems unlikely to figure in the American's next match. The question is whether the coach—and his team—can play a different style. (To me, the decision to bring on Johannsson instead of Chris Wondolowski means that the San Jose Earthquakes forward isn't in the running for a starting spot.) If they can't, we might see another 2010 redux.

It feels like four years ago in other ways, too.

For all the talk about going forward and attacking, the U.S. was happy to concede the ball and the wings to Ghana and let them cross. And cross they did, swinging in 30 on the night. It was an effective strategy, but not exactly the take it to your opponent Klinsmann espouses.

MLSSoccer.com's Matthew Doyle called it Bora Ball after the U.S. team in 1994, and he's not wrong. It's a slow evolution. Increments, not leaps and bounds.

Furthermore, the team struggled to keep the ball, another thing we've seen before.

"I didn't think we helped ourselves at time in terms of keeping possession," Clint Dempsey said in his man of the match press conference following the game.. "We didn't play our best game but we ground out a result and showed a lot of character."

"We had problems just to control it and keeping passes connected," his coach echoed moments later.

Then again, "they worked their asses off," Matt Besler said of his teammates. "Everyone did."

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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