By Shane Stay, author of Why American Soccer Isn’t There Yet

7-25-15 – US vs. Panama – Third Place

2-3 Penalty Kicks

During a reported 110 degree day in Philadelphia, the US lost in penalty kicks to a bitter and determined Panama, led by their number eleven, Cooper, who plays second division in Germany, who was the star of the day. How did the US lose the last match to Jamaica, and this one to Panama? Lineup is the key word. “Back four” to be more specific… Chandler-Gonzalez-Brooks-Ream.

There are a million things that can be analyzed, and should, but at this moment, the lineup stands above anything. To this point, Klinsmann, with all his wisdom, passion, and IQ, has made great efforts to successfully instill a swagger in the team (despite outright predicting there was no chance the US team could win World Cup Brazil).

This was an odd choice for the back four, to say the least.

The US loses with new faces, a new look. This back lineup won’t win a World Cup, much less get into the Second Round. The outside backs are too gawky, the inside backs aren’t skilled enough to lead the attack. My ideas go out of fashion – five minutes ago, if you ask me – when we win the World Cup; at that point I’ll quietly take credit or get shunned. Either way, I hope we can aggressively change things with a new look that will work. We’ve won every other competition in the world, literally. Soccer is our last athletic frontier. We’re not going to branch out and expand successfully – Manifest Destiny – with a back line like this. Defeat is inevitable. Klinsmann has taken this team to new heights, utilizing many arguments I’ve made in my book. He’s used Shea and Yedlin – two pure attackers – as outside backs, yet it oscillates back and forth. Shea-Bradley-Ream-Yedlin

This is a “World Cup winning” back four. This skillful back four would, could and should win it all. (Soccer fans need to wake up and see that Bradley is the best center defender the US has never had. Implement him.) With one important condition: They must be encouraged to attack, particularly with Bradley acting as the Beckenbauer role, moving up and down as the Queen in chess, presenting a passing and dribbling option for his teammates, getting shots on goal for his teammates and for himself. Likewise, Shea and Yedlin would attack ala Cafu, Jorginho, Alves. Ream is imperative. He is, without question, the most skilled center back we have, outside of Bradley (our soon to be center back). His skill, touch, anticipation, technique, vision is by far superior to any other. Ream is an outright keeper; do not bench him. He, Bradley, Yedlin and Shea will take possession from the back four to the highest standard the US has ever known, raising everyone else to the highest level possible. Whoever’s in front of this back four is practically superfluous. Klinsmann, of all people, should embrace this. Bradley/Beckenbauer, Zusi/Breitner, Dempsey/Voller, Diskerud/Hessler-ish. I think Zusi has some Breitner in him; let it loose. So does Zardes; unleash the dribble. They’ll get it done. With Yedlin and Shea coasting down their flank it will be a lot of fun trying. At this point, losing the Gold Cup, showing the same result in World Cup competition for three tries, it’s all we’ve got…a little fun. And, bring back Freddy Adu. Just mentioning it has become a joke. I, for one, don’t think it’s very funny. Sure, he was just playing in Finland and Serbia. And hey, that’s cool. No problem here. We’re the underdog. Embrace the role.

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