SEATTLE – Against Jamaica on Friday, Jürgen Klinsmann started the exact same lineup as the game prior for the first time in his 28 games as U.S. national team head coach.
He won't have a chance to continue with the same starting XI against Panama on Tuesday, however. Jermaine Jones will miss out with a concussion and Graham Zusi is suspended for yellow-card accumulation (it only takes two in the Hexagonal).
“It is always what it is,” Klinsmann said. “You deal with it. It's definitely not a coincidence that we never really had the chance to consistently field the same 11 because they were never available at the same time.”
The latest absences mean Klinsmann must reshuffle his midfield.
Asked about replacing Zusi on the right, the German listed several options, including pushing forward Eddie Johnson to the right, or switching Fabian Johnson to the right and bringing Brad Davis into the lineup on the left. But he remained coy about his decision.
“Going through all these pieces we have a pretty good idea how we want to start tomorrow, which I won't tell you right now,” Klinsmann said.
Eddie Johnson performed well in an earlier round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, though usually against weaker squads than Panama. An option Klinsmann didn't mention is Joe Corona, a playmaker for Club Tijuana.
“In Tijuana I started playing that position [on the right], so I'm very familiar with it. I'm comfortable with it,” Corona said. “I kind of know [when to] move, move out or in.”
Sacha Kljestan could also play on the right, though he is more likely to replace Jones in central midfield. When Michael Bradley missed a friendly against Belgium, Kljestan lined up next to Jones in the midfield core.
Jones clonked his head when going up for a ball against Jamaica on Friday and was briefly unconscious on the field. Concussion protocol means the U.S. medical team can't clear the Schalke 04 midfielder in time for Tuesday with the quick turnaround between matches.
“We don't want to do anything risky, even if he's ready to go today,” Klinsmann said. “We're just precautious. We'll keep him out of tomorrow night's game.”
Klinsmann expects Jones to return for the match against Honduras on June 18. Despite a predilection for yellow cards, the German-born midfield has become a key midfield cog for the Yanks.
“It hurts, for sure,” Michael Bradley said. “He's been in good form.”
Options other than Kljestan include Corona or Geoff Cameron, who replaced Jones against Jamaica.
“I thought in a difficult situation he came on the other night he came on and did a good solid job,” Bradley said. “Let's be honest, coming into a game at that point isn't easy. He came on and understood the game and knew what it was going to be about and really did a good job for us.”
Cameron first broke into the U.S. team as a central defender, probably his best position. But he also played several seasons in midfield for the Houston Dynamo, and fills in at full back for current club Stoke City.
Bradley estimated that Cameron has played a half hour total in midfield internationally.
“We've all always said that this team has been about having guys who are ready on any day to step in and make sure that the team doesn't miss a beat,” Bradley said. “In the last four, five, six years on a lot of big days there's been guys missing. The next guy steps in and does a job and makes sure the team wins the game or gets the result no matter what.”
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