Potential solutions at winger for U.S. 

October, 29, 2012
10/29/12
12:09
PM ET

During the Jurgen Klinsmann regime, there's been plenty of head scratching about an apparent conflict between the German's words and opinions on style of play, and the actual teams that he's put on the field. Klinsmann, some have said, talks a good game in terms of playing an attractive style, but the teams he runs out have much more in common with, say, Bob Bradley's squads than Pep Guardiola's.

The argument holds water. But the debate about whether the U.S. should be playing in a 4-3-3 or a 4-4-2 seems to have been resolved, at least for now, by the relative success the Yanks have enjoyed in the more typical American two-forward alignment.

Because U.S. youth systems, colleges and pro developmental teams have traditionally played a 4-4-2, the great American winger is still a rare breed. When Klinsmann has wanted to play with true-to-life wingers, he has little to choose from.

The best options out wide have been attacking midfielder hybrids such as Landon Donovan, Graham Zusi or Brek Shea. Those choices have sometimes worked well enough, when they're healthy and -- in Donovan's and Shea's cases -- mentally on board. But there's still a significant difference between the type of player who can do well at outside midfield in a 4-4-2 and the attack-minded, end-line-seeking mentality of the true winger.


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Brent Latham is a soccer commentator who covers the youth national teams for ESPN.com. Based in Guatemala, he has attended youth World Cups from Peru to Egypt, and places in between.

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