For much of his two years in charge of the US national team, Jurgen Klinsmann has shown a penchant for defensive midfielders, routinely calling up handfuls of them at a time and for one particularly disenchanting stretch last year, even trying to shoehorn three of them into the starting lineup at once.
Those days are a distant memory, for the Gold Cup at least.
On Thursday morning Klinsmann unveiled a roster for the tournament which features just one out-and-out midfield anchor (Kyle Beckerman), a telling feature of an overall squad which might just be the most attacking-minded group of the German-American's USMNT reign.
After assuming his post amid a flood of expansive rhetoric about forward-leaning footy, Klinsmann has evolved in a decidedly practical direction over the course of World Cup qualifying.
But the selection of skilful creators like Jose Torres, Joe Corona, Mix Diskerud and Stuart Holden, in addition to classic, chalk-on-their-heels wingers Alejandro Bedoya and Josh Gatt, suggests that the Yanks will “go for it” when their quest for the North American region's top trophy kicks off against Belize in Portland on July 9.
And that corps should have no shortage of targets up top, with the coaching staff having named an intriguing mix of five strikers (though Landon Donovan, at right, can play almost anywhere in midfield as well) who all have something to prove in varying ways.
“We are excited about a roster for the Gold Cup that really has a shot of winning it,” Klinsmann said in a Q&A with ussoccer.com timed to coincide with the roster release. “This tournament gives us a huge opportunity to see where a lot of the players are. Even though we don’t have the European-based players that were part of our World Cup Qualifying process, we put together the strongest team possible for this huge opportunity at the Gold Cup.”
Even his choices for the back line suggest a more adventurous approach than we've seen from the Yanks in months.
In Corey Ashe, DaMarcus Beasley and Edgar Castillo, Klinsmann has three left back options who often appear more comfortable going forward than they do actually defending. Tony Beltran – perhaps an early favorite for the starting right back spot – showed the type of range he is capable of with a well-taken opening goal in Real Salt Lake's US Open Cup victory on Wednesday night, and Michael Parkhurst, his likely rival for the job, displayed impressive enterprise in previous outings for the USMNT, including a key role in the Yanks' goal in the qualifying loss at Jamaica last September.
But in central defense, the US brain trust have opened themselves up for some potentially troubling questions.
Clarence Goodson has long been admired by Klinsmann for his passing out of the back despite revealing some nagging flaws in other important aspects of his game, while veteran Oguchi Onyewu (right) carries a nearly diametrical skills set – strong, imposing, physical, yet not always apt in terms of pinpoint distribution.
That situation may open the door for Michael Orozco Fiscal, who has spent much of his club career at right back but remains a solid option in the middle.
A natural question that follows on from the roster reveal: Is Klinsmann pondering another wave of formation experiments, or will he stick with the workman-like 4-4-2 that has helped his team steady the ship and chart a smooth course to Brazil 2014?
He's given himself the personnel to try out a 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 again, and with two likely overmatched opponents in the first two Gold Cup group round games, he'll probably have the freedom to put it into practice.
That's a topic the USMNT press pack will surely be chewing on when training camp opens in San Diego on Monday.