With USA facing Belgium on Tuesday at 4pm ET/1pm PT, here’s how Klinsmann should go about setting his team up to progress to the quarter-final stage:
1. Pressure In Midfield – The Belgium midfield isn’t anywhere near as technically adept as the German one, which means the men in the middle for the United States can put the press on a little more. Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones must get tight to their opposite numbers; if they can do so, they will nick the ball back in dangerous areas and set up regular counter attacking chances.
2. Counter Attack With Better Incisiveness – There were chances against Germany for the United States to spring quickly and get in behind the defense, but they were uncharacteristically profligate with their opportunities. They’ll get similar chances against Belgium, but they must be considerably more shrewd and composed when they arise.
3. Starve Hazard Of The Ball – It’d be difficult to do a man marking job on a player like Hazard given the manner in which he drifts about the pitch, but some astute positioning in midfield can help starve him of possession. That can come from hassling his teammates passing into him, or shutting off the angles for passes into feet. If Hazard is on the periphery, the United States have a chance.
4. Target The Full-Backs – The big weakness in this Belgium team is at full-back and the United States must go at them. So whether it’s Brad Davis, Graham Zusi or Alejandro Bedoya who occupy the wide berths, they need to be very direct and unyieldingly relentless. Test them enough with sufficient quality and Vertonghen and Alderweireld are both privy to making errors.
5. Be Patient – Belgium have scored late goals in all their games, showcasing a patience in their player and intelligent utilization of substitutes. The United States must follow suit. If the match is 0-0 with ten minutes to go, Belgium will be under pressure to push forward and get the winner; that’s when the best chances could come for Klinsmann’s men.