International Friendly - USA vs. Austria Preview - Revamping the American Attack

Jeff J Mitchell

The United States Men's National Team 2013 campaign ends today in Austria, and after a lackluster 0-0 draw against Scotland, they need to bolster their attack. And I have really bad suggestions on how to do it.

Okay, so I'm ready to put that Scotland game behind me. I was at work, DVR'ed the game, glanced at the TBM Live Thread and Twitter, got home and deleted the game from said DVR.

The recap of that game can best be described with this tweet from SBN's Stars and Stripes FC:

It's not a good sign for the United States that they can't generate chances without regular starters like Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Graham Zusi, etc. Jurgen Klinsmann seems committed to his preferred 4-2-3-1, which is fine, unless it's not working. The inability to adjust formations is one of the only real criticisms I'm starting to have with Klinsmann. The USMNT player pool boasts a lot of players that can play multiple positions and styles, yet Klinsmann refuses to adjust his formation to the players he has, particularly during the game with substitutes.

The reason why you practice or play from a 4-4-2 or 3-4-3 formation, is because at some point, like maybe during the World Cup, you might have to employ that formation. So why not during a friendly the year before, try to change a 0-0 borefest by doing something proactive about it? From what I can see in the game summary, Klinsmann used his allotment of subs, bringing in players like Chris Wondolowski and Terrence Boyd, but all as straight subs in the same formation and much too late to change the outcome of the game.

So the USMNT needs a little offense. No problem. Here are two incredible dumb and crazy ideas that are so outlandish I can't even say that they are realistic. This is essentially me putting the best 11 players on the field for the USA in FIFA 13 (still playing and loving it) because I can. And I'm going to give Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid each 45 minutes because they made the trip. Defense stays the same with Lichaj getting the start at RB since he replaced an injured Brad Evans against Scotland.

POSSIBLE LINEUP: 4-2-3-1

Sean Johnson / Bill Hamid; DaMarcus Beasley, Geoff Cameron, Omar Gonzalez, Eric Lichaj; Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley; Eddie Johnson, Mix Diskerud, Jozy Altidore; Aron Johannsson

Since the US is a little short on wide/wing players at the moment, let's just add more strikers. We've already seen EJ play on the left side enough to say he's a viable option there and I think perhaps Altidore on the wing is an intriguing idea, especially with targets like EJ and Iceman in the box to cross too. Let's see if Mix can handle being the guy in the middle, creating and distributing in that "Dempsey" like attacking mid spot. And if this idea doesn't work you can always pick move two guys up front and play a more traditional 4-4-2.

Something like...

POSSIBLE LINEUP: 4-4-2

Johnson/Hamid; Beasley, Cameron, Gonzalez, Lichaj; Brek Shea, Sacha Kljestan, Bradley, Diskerud; Johannsson, Altidore

Probable Subs: Brooks at CB, Boyd at ST, Jones for Kljestan, Bedoya for Diskerud.

Okay, this lineup actually isn't all that far out of the realm of possibility, assuming Klinsmann can move out of his usual formation. And I think it's something he should be experimenting with because there will be situations where the USMNT's 4-2-3-1 just isn't effective and they need to be prepared to play out of different tactical lineups.

In this case, I think Shea is a better box-to-box midfielder to have in the lineup rather than EJ in a more advanced winger role. I think this setup will allow Bradley to get forward more, something that is vital to US success in my opinion, and it gives two fringe players in Kljestan and Diskerud a chance to shine. Plus Jozy and Iceman up top is a partnership that needs as much time as possible to see how effective it can be.

Regardless, assuming Lichaj is getting the start, he needs to impact both sides of the game. If the US is in their standard formation, he'll need to get forward and support the attack, particularly if Klinsmann actually thinks my 4-2-3-1 formation isn't crazy because Jozy will spend a lot of time cutting in. This could be one of the few opportunities for Johnson and Hamid and they need to take advantage of it as well assuming Klinsmann decides to give Howard some time off.

Let's not forget that Austria is actually pretty good. They lost 2-1 on a late goal at Sweden in the second to last game of UEFA group play, just barely missing out on the UEFA playoffs. They finished in third place, three points behind Sweden, meaning if they had held on for a draw, it's possible they could've advanced on goal differential based on the results of the final games. Austria won 3-0 against the Faroe Islands while Sweden lost to Germany 5-3. Austria boast some solid attacking options, including Marko Arnautovic, or as few know him, they guy who's starting in front of Brek Shea at Stoke.

Also of note, USMNT assistant coach Andreas Herzog is an Austrian footballing legend, with over 100 goals in his club career and is the most capped player in Austria football history with 103 appearances with his national side.

Overall, I expect there will be something to recap from today's game. Or at least I hope so because that Scotland game was dreadful and I don't want to end 2013, such a great calender year for the USMNT, on such a low note.

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