The United States defied all of the odds and made it past the “Group Of Death”, amassing a total of four points in the process. A win, draw, and loss was good enough to see the stars and stripes go through on goal differential over Portugal, whom they tied 2-2.
The United States was able to succeed in conquering the group without one of their biggest names, striker Jozy Altidore. Altidore went off after just 23 minutes of the United States opening group game against Ghana with an apparent hamstring strain. He did not return for the remainder of group play, though his injury made progress and he was recovering well.
Now there are reports stating that Jozy Altidore can return for the Americans critical clash with European nation Belgium in the round of 16.
The United States was forced to adapt their strategy for their final two group games without Altidore. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann played without an out and out striker, and allowed Clint Dempsey to roam up front.
Dempsey remained high, as Altidore would, but did not play the same role that Altidore would play. He was more involved in the build up play and looked to combine with the midfield, particularly Michael Bradley, more then Altidore would, but was not the same presence when it came to being a target man, looking to hold the ball up to allow teammates to join.
Altidore and Dempsey are clearly different players, and the United States is best with both men on the field.
Jozy Altidore is not a lock to start against Belgium, but if he does, how should the United States line up? Who should be removed from the starting XI against either Portugal or Germany?
The answer should be Alejandro Bedoya/Brad Davis.
Graham Zusi has been the United States’ most dangerous winger, cutting in when playing on the left and providing excellent service from the right. He has also been an excellent set piece taker, just ask John Brooks, who converted Zusi’s corner kick against Ghana.
Dempsey should move to the other wing, and Altidore go up top. Then behind this of course would be the trio of Bradley, Jones, and Beckerman. This trio will be crucial in halting the attack of the Belgians and keeping the United States on the front foot. Whoever plays on the right wing, be it Dempsey, Zusi, or Bedoya will be critical defensively as they will need to provide cover for Fabian Johnson who will be up against Eden Hazard.
With Altidore up front against the Belgians, it gives the United States the best attacking threat and the ability to hold the ball up against the Belgian back line. The physical nature of Altidore will help combat the presence of Vincent Kompany (if declared fit to play) and Daniel Van Buyten, and will give the United States a more direct option.
The Americans will have a chance against the Belgians, but they must come out fighting and look to gain an early advantage, if he plays, Jozy Altidore will be crucial in grabbing the early lead.