IRENE, South Africa – With striker Robbie Findley out of the US’ game against Algeria on Wednesday due to yellow-card accumulation, Bob Bradley has an interesting lineup choice to make. Who does he pair with Jozy Altidore in the crucial group-stage finale?
Bradley said on Saturday he likes his remaining options, and that both Edson Buddle and Herculez Gomez -- who have seen limited minutes as substitutes in this World Cup -- are good choices up top. But the US coach seemed to intimate that he may have more faith in midfielder Clint Dempsey, whom he has often pushed up to the second forward spot to provide some extra bite.
In Friday’s match against Slovenia, Bradley subbed in Benny Feilhaber for the ineffective Findley after halftime, moving Dempsey up next to Altidore as the US pushed to rally from a two-goal deficit. Bradley said he likes the Fulham star in that position because of the different dynamic he brings.
“I thought Clint did a good job there,” Bradley said. “When we talk about in the right moments coming underneath, finding seams, helping win some balls in the air, I think those are things Clint has shown he does well when he plays in that role, whether it’s for Fulham or for us.”
Dempsey has had some good performances for the US when he has been moved to the forward position. Against Egypt in last summer’s Confederations Cup, he scored three minutes after making the switch late in a 3-0 US win, then netted again after moving up top late in the semifinal upset of Spain.
For his part, Dempsey says he prefers to play the left midfielder position, where he’s able to attack inside with his right foot, but has no issues with being deployed wherever Bradley needs him.
“I feel comfortable playing left midfield, right midfield, playing up top or being a withdrawn forward or even being the player that’s behind the two forwards,” he said on Sunday. I feel confident [that] whatever position I’m put in, I have an understanding of what I need to do on the field."
Whether he scores or not, the US will need Dempsey's contributions in Wednesday's tilt with Algeria. The Americans must win the match to ensure they advance to the knockout rounds. A tie can also see them through, but they'll be at the mercy of the England-Slovenia result.