MANAUS, Brazil -- Jurgen Klinsmann has made the move he needed to make to try and help the U.S. national team contain Cristiano Ronaldo and book a place in the World Cup Round of 16. He has turned to a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Clint Dempsey taking on Jozy Altidore’s role as target striker, while packing the midfield with players capable of making things difficult for the Portuguese.
Aron Johannsson and Chris Wondolowski had been expected to compete for the role left available by Altidore’s hamstring injury, but Klinsmann has instead turned to Dempsey to play in a role he hasn’t played much of for the U.S. team during his national team career.
Based on the lineup it is clear Klinsmann is focused on containing Ronaldo, with Alejandro Bedoya chosen to start and play on the right flank, where Ronaldo prefers to roam. Normally a lineup with Bedoya and Graham Zusi would see Zusi deployed in his natural right-wing role, but Bedoya’s superior work rate makes him a better option to try and keep tabs on Ronaldo and provide support for U.S. right back Fabian Johnson.
The 4-2-3-1 set-up will see Jermaine Jones returning to his more traditional defensive midfield role, playing alongside Kyle Beckerman. Jones had impressed playing in a wider role in recent matches, but his presence will be needed centrally to deal with Portuguese playmakers Joao Moutinho and Raul Meireles.
Michael Bradley will be deployed in an advanced midfield role, underneath Dempsey, where Klinsmann will be hoping he can be more effective than he was against Ghana. Bradley endured an uncharacteristically poor showing in the Group G opener, but with more options to combine with in midfield, Bradley could thrive.
Matt Besler has recovered from the hamstring injury that forced him out of the opening win against Ghana, while the rest of the defense remains the same, including DaMarcus Beasley, who will be a player Portugal is sure to target with the attacking speed of Manchester United winger Nani.
Starting XI: Howard; Johnson, Cameron, Besler, Beasley; Beckerman, Jones; Bedoya, Bradley, Zusi; Dempsey