The United States’ 4-4-2 system was predicated on having Jozy Altidore up top alongside Clint Dempsey, but his injury forced Manager Jurgen Klinsmann to revert back to his old 4-2-3-1 with Dempsey alone at striker.
Dempsey isn’t traditionally a guy who would be left alone, he’s more of a ‘false 9’ than a target striker. He’s been able to carry the load for the United States in the wake of Altidore’s injury, but his hold-up play isn’t that of Altidore’s — something the United States was sorely missing against Germany.
There’s not a like-for-like comparison here with another striker, but how did Altidore’s replacements perform?
Here was how Dempsey fared with 23 minutes of Altidore against Ghana:
Obviously Dempsey’s Squawka Performance Score is buoyed by his goal in the first minute, but he wasn’t any better once Altidore went off the field. Altidore was by no means bad, he got two shots on goal — and as we know the Americans struggled for shots after he went down.
After Altidore’s injury and the late-winner against Ghana that was provided from Graham Zusi, Zusi became a mainstay (hopefully) for Klinsmann. So let’s look at the two players that got playing time because of the injury: Alejandro Bedoya — who did start against Ghana, but was passed over by Zusi in the starting lineup against Germany — and Brad Davis, who made his World Cup debut in place of Bedoya.
It’s safe to say that Bedoya has struggled at the World Cup, and this graph illustrates that.
So not only was Bedoya not very good in the game, a miuns-29, Dempsey also struggled with him on the field.
Brad Davis was a surprise start against Germany considering Graham Zusi was already starting and both are known for their dangerous balls on set pieces. However, after the game in Manaus, Klinsmann needed to make a few changes and get fresh legs inserted in his starting lineup.
Davis wasn’t a hindrance, as he did complete 92 percent of his passed, but he didn’t add much in the attack. In a game in which the United States was on its heels all game, more speed from the start may have been the better idea to help whatever attack the Americans could have mustered. As such, Dempsey struggled mightily without much service.
So where does that leave Altidore? Belgium has bruising center backs and Dempsey has already taken enough punishment.
But the big question is, is Altidore healthy enough to play? Start? Go 90 minutes? All things to which we don’t quite know the answer, we just know he’ll be available. And the United States could use him.
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