Five matches, one win. That's the scoreboard for the United States under Jurgen Klinsmann so far and this despite playing four of those matches at home against some underwhelming competition. The excitement surrounding his hire has been subdued and now questions about whether or not he can cut it as a manager are being asked. While the results don't matter until World Cup qualifying starts in June, Klinsmann can built up a lot more goodwill with a win on Friday when the Yanks take on France in Paris at the Stade de France and thanks to a host of absences from Les Blues, the Americans just might have a chance.
The French were already short-handed when their roster was announced as Yohan Gourcuff, Bacary Sagna and Philip Mexes were all left off the team because of injuries. Then Patrice Evra asked off the team following the death of his brother, Samir Nasri injured his hamstring and Eric Abidal stayed with Barcelona to play in a Copa Del Rey match. Well look at that. France are without six of their top players, or as it can be called on this side of the pond, the door just creaked open for the U.S.
If the Yanks are to have any success in France, they'll need to give Clint Dempsey some support. While the U.S. has done a better job of maintaining possession under Klinsmann, it has largely been wasteful and unimportant possession that don't lead to any sort of dangerous attack. The only source of creativity in the U.S. attack has been Dempsey, but he cannot do it alone. Too often he has gotten the ball within 30 yards of goal and looked around for help, only to see his teammates standing still. If they are not going to make themselves available and look to combine then it will become a lot of Dempsey operating on an island while the team continues to struggle to create chances.
That will be especially true against France since Dempsey will have a hard time doing much on his own. Yann M'Vila will be charged with closing the Fulham man down and it's unlikely that Dempsey will be able to get much time with M'Vila on top of him all match. Brek Shea has made an impact in spurts, but he too has been working alone too often. If Klinsmann opts for Maurice Edu in an advanced midfield role again things could get ugly for the Yanks.
Meanwhile, the defense will be tested by a good France attack. Steve Cherundolo is beginning to look his age for Hannover and he hasn't been particularly impressive for the U.S. either in the fall. He'll have Franck Ribery running at him for most of the match, a tough mark for anyone, but a useful match-up that will allow for an evaluation of Cherundolo and whether he is still an international quality right back.
The center backs, whatever combination of Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu and Michael Orozco Fiscal, will be tested too with Karim Benzema and Kevin Gameiro coming at them. The French might be weakened by absences, but it's still a team much better than those that have put the U.S. to the sword of late. Klinsmann supporters can point to the seven months before World Cup qualifying starts, but after Friday there will be just two matches before qualifying begins. Time to prepare is running out and Friday is less preparation and more of a test. Will the U.S. be ready to answer the test the get from Les Blues, weakened or not?