CARSON, Calif. — In the US' friendly with Mexico last month, the game changed around the 60th minute when new head coach Jurgen Klinsmann subbed on Brek Shea and Robbie Rogers. The pair of MLS wingers provided an attacking spark, using their speed to get behind the Mexican defense and providing more width to the team.
It’s not necessarily in keeping with the modern game’s push for compactness in the midfield, which in turn allows the outside backs to get into the attack more. But in light of Klinsmann’s desire for his players to express themselves, these “old-time wingers” might be the key to the US national team’s success.
“It’s interesting: We kind of get players right now who have the capabilities to stay on the line out there,” Klinsmann said on Thursday evening. “Robbie Rogers can stay on the line. Brek Shea can keep the line.”
On Friday night against Costa Rica (11 pm ET, ESPN2, Galavisión), both Rogers and Shea are expected to play major roles, perhaps getting starting nods. In Klinsmann’s multi-pronged attack, true wide play — that is, getting the ball to the flank, getting to the endline, serving crosses in — has not been a focus.
But in the middle of his second camp with the USMNT, Klinsmann seems to be recognizing where the strengths of his players lies, not only at the senior level, but also at the youth level. It might have a profound effect on how the manager decides the team should play.
“We have also some younger kids coming through that we have an eye already on who play like old-time wingers,” he said. “We try to adapt piece by piece to their strengths. … The Under-20 team feeds into the national team, the Under-18 feeds into the Under-20.”
Which means, in short, that some of those “younger kids” will certainly be in the conversation when the Olympic team begins to convene sometime this fall, in preparation for next spring’s qualification tournament. Shea, for one, hopes he’ll be a part of that squad.
“I’m excited for the Olympics,” Shea said. “That’s one of the coolest things you can do. I’m looking forward to that and hopefully I can be a part of that.”
“The Olympic team is very, very important because it’s a very prestigious tournament,” Klinsmann said. “If you look at [the current US roster] and how many of these kids could play in in London next summer, it’s quite exciting. And I want them to have that experience.”