The decision for Jurgen Klinsmann to bring Graham Zusi and Christian Pulisic to the USMNT for the crucial CONCACAF World Cup Qualifier on Tuesday at MAPFIRE Stadium against Guatemala is a bit of mixed bag.
Both the offense and defense were terrible at the Estadio Mateo Flores, and new blood for the next match is more than welcomed. However, due to the depth of the defense shrinking on the roster and the horrendous performance against the Chapines on Friday, it is clear that the back line needs help.
The defense on Friday was overwhelmed by the energy of Guatemala’s offense. The American back line looked slow and lost. In result, they were burned twice and allowed the Central American team to beat them 2-0. The Chapines celebrated their first victory over the Yanks since 1988.
To add on to the embarrassing defeat, center backs Matt Besler and Fabian Johnson have recently been sent home. Besler suffered a concussion in practice the day before the match and is now heading back to Kansas City. Johnson, on the other hand, suffered a groin injury playing for his club in the Bundesliga. However, Klinsmann still called him regardless of his injury. It was clear that the full back/winger was nowhere near ready to compete and was sent home after failing to even sit on the bench on Friday.
The list of players that have been sent home from this camp is now at three. The first to be sent back was center back John Brooks before the match at Guatemala. Now Besler and Johnson join that list and the defense is beginning to fall apart.
Klinsmann is left with seven defenders left on the roster. Out of the seven, there are only five who entered camp in game shape. Edgar Castillo, Steve Birnbaum, Geoff Cameron, DeAndre Yedlin and Omar Gonzalez have been playing regularly for their respective clubs before reporting to the national team. Out of those five players, a starting lineup can easily be formed. However, Klinsmann decided to start Gonzalez with Michael Orozco as the center backs on Friday. It is safe to say that the tandem did not work.
Bringing in the likes of Matt Hedges, Jorge Villafaña, Brek Shea or Robbie Rogers can bolster the defense. Two of those four can easily be brought to the squad without changing the addition of Pulisic and Zusi. And let's face it, bringing four goalkeepers is a bit excessive. Klinsmann can send two of them home and add some more defensive help to the team in order to help solve the problem.
Smart Choices With Zusi And Pulisic
Now, the addition of Pulisic and Zusi will bring some more flare and creativity to the squad. The offense on Friday was not dangerous at all. They were able to create 12 chances in the match, but most of their shots were directly placed into the hands of the Guatemalan goalkeeper Paulo Motta. The keeper ended the match with five saves.
The rest of the Americans shots were off target or blocked by the defense. The offense had no width in their attack, and in result they were forced to go down the congested middle. Their performance on Friday was similar to their semifinal defeat to Jamaica in the 2015 Gold Cup.
Pulisic is not a winger, but he can move the ball around the field - forcing the Central Americans to spread out. Pulisic is only 17-years old and is just starting to get some playing time for Bundesliga giants, Borussia Dortmund. However, Klinsmann will most likely give him some minutes in the game to cap tie him. How many minutes he will be able to play and in what position he will be playing in on Tuesday is unclear.
Zusi is a player that can help prevent the offense from getting stuck in the middle. His ability to cross the ball and set up the forwards will force the Chapines to open up the back line. That was something that never occurred on Friday. The simple and lackluster approach of the Americans offense in the 2-0 loss in Guatemala City helped the Chapines accomplish the historical victory.
How these additions will pan out or if they are even used Tuesday still needs to be seen. Yet as in typical Klinsmann style, he will make some decisions correctly and others will surely leave many confused.