Another day, another game. Here’s your tactics, preview, and prediction for the US – Belgium match this afternoon:
1) Jozy Altidore
The American striker is fit, but how many good minutes does he have in him? I’d be willing to bet that even Altidore and Jurgen Klinsmann don’t know the answer to that.
This is a stretch, but I’d love to see Klinsmann use Altidore in the same way that Diego Simeone used Diego Costa in the Champions League Final this year: start him, get a good 10-15 minutes out of him, then sub him out. Yes, this wastes a sub. Yes, it means that we won’t have Altidore for the closing minutes. But a pre-planned tactical switch 15 minutes into the half could throw Belgium off (it certainly confused Real Madrid in that match).
It would also be a massive problem if Altidore came on late, then was unable to continue. Especially now that extra time is on the table.
2) Key Matchup: Fabian Johnson vs. Eden Hazard
Eden Hazard is a matchup nightmare for any coach. He’s lightning fast and unbelievably elusive on the ball. His movement is excellent, and he’s equally capable of cutting in and shooting, or driving baseline and crossing (full disclosure, he’s also my favorite player).
We were worried about Fabian Johnson matching up with Christiano Ronaldo against Portugal, and he responded with the best game of his life. Johnson was superb, defending his area well and choosing the right moments to bomb down the flank and wreak havoc in the Portuguese defense. CR7 was not at his full health, but the US will again need him to slow down one of the best in the world, while simultaneously cause problems for either an injured Thomas Vermaelen or an ineffective Jan Vertongen.
Ronaldo switched to the right side at times against the US (his assist was from the right), and it would not be surprising to see Hazard do the same – he often does so for Chelsea. Demarcus Beasley vs. Eden Hazard scares the living daylights out of me.
Belgium are the better team, but they just haven’t shown it to this point. I think this match is heading to extra time. The US has had the tougher travel schedule (and tougher matches) in this tournament, but it is the Belgians that seem to be hurting more at this point. If it comes down to who has the most bodies and the most in the tank with 15 minutes to go, I’m taking a Jurgen Klinsmann side every day of the week. 2-1 US in 120 minutes of action. Can’t wait.