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Klinsmann confronts roster issues and tactics ahead of Mexico showdown

Jurgen Klinsmann, seen here at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, hopes to celebrate against Mexico at the CONCACAF Cup Oct. 10 at the Rose Bowl. (Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

On most Mondays, Page 2 of the Sports print section features a soccer centerpiece and several notebook items geared toward a broader audience than the blog does. Some material has appeared on the Insider previously. Here are this week’s contents:

Jurgen Klinsmann has fewer than four weeks to prepare for the U.S. men’s national team showdown with Mexico at the Rose Bowl, a match that will determine regional supremacy, a 2017 Confederations Cup berth and the coach’s standing with fans and perhaps his employer.

But as the leader of a squad that gathers only a handful of times during the year and for a few days ahead of a match, Klinsmann is, in large part, powerless until the players are freed by their clubs. So over the next month, while he strategizes for the CONCACAF Cup in Pasadena, Calif., he’ll monitor his roster candidates in MLS and abroad.

“We have a clear picture about the Mexico game,” Klinsmann said after a 4-1 defeat to Brazil on Tuesday in Foxborough, Mass.

Maybe, but several issues are unsettled:

*Injuries. Fabian Johnson, a versatile World Cup veteran, is Klinsmann’s preferred right back, but a calf injury in mid-August ruled him out for the recent friendlies against Peru and Brazil. He has resumed training with his Bundesliga club, Moenchengladbach, which has lost all four league matches and will begin UEFA Champions League group play at Sevilla on Tuesday.

For Mexico consideration, Johnson will need to not only regain fitness, but playing time in Germany. Without regular minutes in the next three weeks, it’s hard to see him starting against Mexico.

In Johnson’s absence, Klinsmann started Michael Orozco and Geoff Cameron on the right corner, although both are more adept in the middle.

DaMarcus Beasley, 33, is Klinsmann’s first choice at left back, but the Houston Dynamo player was scratched from the recent camp because of a calf ailment. He did not play Saturday against Real Salt Lake. Tim Ream, a natural center back, started against Peru and Brazil.

*Fitness. Midfielder Jermaine Jones and forward Jozy Alitdore started in the friendlies, but Klinsmann said neither was in peak shape after recovering from summer injuries. Klinsmann will need both to build endurance with their respective MLS clubs before reporting to camp.

The other key player working back from ailments is forward Clint Dempsey, who was initially scheduled to join the U.S. squad for the Brazil game but then allowed to remain with the Seattle Sounders and concentrate on his recovery.

German-based forward Aron Johannsson was a minor figure in the friendlies after arriving to camp “a bit beaten up.” Defensive midfielder Kyle Beckerman is expected to return after staying home as a precaution.

*Center backs. Who will start against Mexico? The friendlies did not provide answers. Omar Gonzalez partnered with John Brooks against Peru, but with Brooks picking up a minor hamstring injury, Klinsmann selected Orozco and Ventura Alvarado for Brazil.

World Cup starter Matt Besler returned to the squad after a long absence and played the last 27 minutes in the first game before being allowed to return to Sporting Kansas City.

If Johnson and Beasley are on the corners, will Cameron and Ream receive central consideration?

Given all the interchange and inconsistency, can Klinsmann identify the right combination and mold cohesion in the days of training ahead of Mexico?

*Tactics. Wisely, Klinsmann implemented a defensive formation against technically superior Brazil. Unwisely, he stuck attack-minded Alejandro Bedoya in a deep midfield role. Embarrassingly, Klinsmann replaced Bedoya before halftime.

The tactical misstep did not decide the outcome – Brazil could’ve won by five goals – but it did rekindle questions about Klinsmann’s decision-making.

If personnel falls into place in the coming weeks, Klinsmann will weigh a more aggressive and proven formation: 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2. In either one, Jones and Michael Bradley would form the midfield backbone. In the friendlies, DeAndre Yedlin and Gyasi Zardes started on the wings, but Bedoya could move back to the flank.

With Dempsey at full speed, Klinsmann would partner him with Altidore on the frontline or play him in the center of a three-man attacking line behind the striker.

“We have an entire week to prepare for that Mexico game,” Klinsmann said. “We will be sharp.”

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Crystal Dunn was among three Washington Spirit players – and the only non-World Cup member — named to the U.S. women’s national team for friendlies against Haiti on Thursday at Detroit’s Ford Field and Sunday at Birmingham’s Legion Field.

All 23 players from the world championship squad were summoned, including Spirit goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris and defender Ali Krieger. Dunn, 23, was the last player cut from the World Cup team.

Haiti replaced Australia, which withdrew because of a labor dispute with the players. About 31,000 tickets have been sold for each match.

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The UEFA Champions League group stage will commence this week, headlined by 2014-15 runner-up Juventus visiting Manchester City (Fox Sports 2) and Manchester United at PSV Eindhoven (Fox Sports 1) on Tuesday, and title-holder Barcelona playing at Roma on Wednesday (Fox Sports 1). All matches kick off at 2:45 p.m. …

CONCACAF, the governing body for North and Central America and the Caribbean, remains engaged in talks concerning the 2016 Copa America taking place in the United States. The FIFA scandal has threatened to force cancellation or a new venue for the revered South American competition. A meeting Thursday in Mexico City promises to shed light on the tournament’s status. …

Cody Cropper, an MK Dons goalkeeper expected to start for the U.S. under-23 squad in the Olympic qualifying tournament next month, is sidelined four to six weeks after undergoing knee surgery. Norwegian-based Ethan Horvath or German-based Zack Steffen (University of Maryland) will fill the void. …

Following a 0-0 home draw with Michigan on Friday, the fourth-ranked Maryland Terrapins (2-1-2) will host Navy (2-2-1) at 7 p.m. Monday at Ludwig Field. Last year, the Midshipmen recorded a 2-1 upset in Annapolis.

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By the Numbers

5

Goals by Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo in 6-0 romp at Espanyol

Quotable

“I don’t think there is better man who could come and do my job”

Chelsea Manager Jose Mourinho, under pressure after 1-3-1 start

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