To Rest or Not To Rest? That is the question for Dempsey, Jones

USMNT Klinsmann

by PATRICK MacDONALD

OP-ED: Dare to dream with me. The United States can win the Copa America.

Yes I wrote “win the Copa America” and “the United States” in the same sentence.

It’s a longshot. Some might even call it a pipe dream. But in a tournament where Venezuela advances and Uruguay is out before the third group stage, and Brazil looks like a shell of itself…is it that far off? If the U.S. can continue to play like it did in it’s Tuesday night thumping of Costa Rica, there’s no reason fans can’t dare to dream.

Of course two things need to happen for this to become a reality. First, the U.S. needs a result against Paraguay this Saturday. That is a given. They also need a healthy squad. That means Jermaine Jones and Clint Dempsey need to remain in top form.

When talking about two over-30 workhorses in midseason form, the best way to assure top quality is awarding them with some much deserved rest.

And therein lies the predicament. How can Klinsmann afford to rest either player? In a tournament of this magnitude? And would doing so signal an over-confidence against a strong Paraguay side?

Now, many may scoff at the suggestion, but several countries have preserved their best players in times of need. Injured or not.

Leo Messi anyone? James Rodriguez?

It’s a high risk/high reward scenario for a manager who appeared to be teflon under the Sunil Galati reign — until his comments this past week; comments that suggest the Gulati security blanket may be wearing thin.

Should Klinsmann decide to rest his veterans, surprisingly, Dempsey would be the easier player to replace. Moving Wood or Zardes centrally while deploying Graham Zusi out wide is a very safe bet. The Sporting KC winger is a World Cup vet who’s no stranger to high pressure international matches.

And of course there’s the 17-year-old wunderkind, Christian Pulisic, who’s featured in many Bundesliga matches, but no one seems to want throw him into the fire. Fans will have to wait until another time to see what the kid can do on a stage this big – at least as a starter.

Jones is much harder to replace. It would make sense to move Bradley into his role and either slide Beckerman or Kitchen in as the 6. However, the defense has been the team’s strength in recent weeks and should not — under any circumstances — be tinkered with. Synergy is most crucial on the defensive side of the ball and Klinsmann has finally fostered that, settling on the five in the back. Moving Bradley at this stage of the game could have tournament-threatening consequences.

So Klinsmann’s in a tough spot. Could he make the risky call and save Jones and Dempsey for the knockout round? Displaying confidence and hubris ahead of a pivotal match? Or does he play it safe, which would be better for his job security, but not the USMNT’s chances in the long term?

The USMNT’s forgiving advancement scenarios give them the leeway to experiment. Whether Klinsmann takes that opening is another argument entirely.


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