CARSON, Calif. – U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has made no secret of his desire to see his side become more positive and attacking in its play and mentality.
That mentality was manifested in the Americans' deployment of five attacking players in their starting lineup in Friday's friendly against Costa Rica. Landon Donovan and Jose Torres held down the middle of the park, with Brek Shea and Robbie Rogers manning the flanks and Jozy Altidore in an advanced striker role.
However, this philosophy has proven to extend to the entire squad, and the 1-0 loss to Costa Rica was another example, as outside backs Edgar Castillo and Timothy Chandler flew up and down the flanks, looking to get involved in the attack.
“Our goal is to give up as few goals and as few chances as possible, but on the flip side, we try to be a little more expansive, get our outside backs moving forward. We put pressure on the other team by doing that,” U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard said.
Howard mentioned CONCACAF rival Mexico as a team the U.S. would like to model in terms of the way it gets its defenders involved in the attack.
“You look at Mexico, by spreading their two center backs wide and pushing their wing-backs up, they just add more players into the attack, and the more players in the attack, the harder it is to defend,” the Everton goalkeeper said.
Of course, spreading center backs wide to cover for attacking outside backs leaves a hole in the middle of the field and to counter, Klinsmann has employed a strictly holding midfielder to fill that space. Friday night, that player was Maurice Edu.
“The role that they want me to play is just to break up plays in there, and start the attack,” Edu said.
The Rangers man explained how he played a more defensive midfield role with the U.S. side in comparison to his central midfield role in a traditional 4-4-2 with his club team.
“With Rangers, we play a straight 4-4-2 and I'm one of the two in the middle, so I roll back and break up plays and at the same time get forward, whereas today I was more just sitting and protecting the back four, allowing Jose (Torres) and Landon (Donovan) to be more attacking,” Edu said.
“Under Jurgen, we're trying to have a true number six, that just sits in front of the back four, kind of like a Makelele,” added defender Carlos Bocanegra, referring to former Real Madrid, Chelsea and France holding midfielder Claude Makelele.
Edu is a candidate to hold down that 'Makelele role', as is Jermaine Jones, and newly-signed Chievo Verona man Michael Bradley.
Chandler was solid again at right back, though Steve Cherundolo is still the likely starter for a first-choice team. Castillo, however, struggled to complete passes in his second-straight start at left back.
There seems to be a fantastic opportunity for new U.S. recruit Fabian Johnson to step in and fill the left back position when his official one-time switch of allegiance paperwork clears.
The 23-year-old German-born player has enjoyed a great start to the Bundesliga season with Hoffenheim, and appears to be a perfect fit for the attacking wing-back role that Klinsmann prefers.
Tuesday's match will Belgium will be too soon for Johnson, but Klinsmann will likely get another look at Cherundolo at right back. On the opposite flank, Jonathan Spector could get a shot to prove he deserves consideration in the Americans' attacking back-line.
Nick Rosano contributed additional reporting.
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