The paramount in-game decisions by a soccer coach involve substitutions. Only three are permitted, and the same number of critical factors -- who, for whom and when -- come into play with each.
U.S. Coach Juergen Klinsmann busted on his first move but hit the bull's-eye on his next two in the Americans' riveting 2-1 World Cup win over Ghana.
It was a no-brainer to replace striker Jozy Altidore whenhe collapsed with an apparent strained hamstring. Klinsmann's options were limited. He inserted untested Aron Johannsson, who was nearly invisible during his 1 1/4 hours afield.
With the others, the coach could not have chosen more wisely had he been peering into a crystal ball.
Defender Matt Besler felt a twinge in his hamstring. Klinsmann, likely aware that Ghana would bring in some big guns off the bench for the second half, summoned John Brooks at the break even though Besler reportedly was not incapacitated.
Early in the second half, midfielder Alejandro Bedoya felt discomfort in his hip and began limping. He endured until the 77th minute, when Klinsmann swapped him out for Graham Zusi.
What are the odds of two reserves, when only three are allowed, collaborating on the winning goal?
Remarkably, in the 86th minute, it was Zusi who lofted a textbook corner kick into the box. And it was Brooks, in only his fifth national team match, who showed a veteran's proper form on the header -- driving it into the ground in front of the goalkeeper and past him on a wicked bounce.
Compared to team leaders in other sports, a coach in soccer has few substitution buttons to push. Klinsmann elected to press all of his. Two out of three ain't bad.