By Evan Ream

I’m still on vacation so this won’t be as long as I’d like under normal circumstances, but I HAD to weigh in on last night’s USA vs. Mexico game in which new coach Jürgen Klinsmann made his debut after five years of anticipation.

The Formation: USA played a 4-2-3-1 formation much like the one Bob Bradley had been trying out at the end of last year. Klinsmann’s version, though similar in tactics, featured many new players. When lined up at the start, it looked something like this (I actually struggled for about five minutes to remember who played with Kyle Beckerman last night, that’s how bad Jermaine Jones was):

Edson Buddle

Jose Torres                Michael Bradley          Landon Donovan

Kyle Beckerman          Jermaine Jones

Edgar Castillo          Carlos Bocanegra          Michael Orozco Fiscal          Steve Cherundolo

Tim Howard

Though the formation was probably fine, for at least the first half the personnel was bad. Edson Buddle was lost up top; Jose Torres and Michael Bradley looked uncomfortable in their positions; Edgar Castillo gave away the ball nearly every time he touched it; and Jermaine Jones was basically invisible. Still, USA went into the half down just one goal.

It was obvious at half time that USA needed to change something on the field in order to have a chance in the game, and while many coaches would have changed their formation, Klinsmann changed the personnel. Starting about 10 minutes into the second half and continuing for 10-20 more, USA took off Buddle, Bradley and Jones. On came Brek Shea, Juan Agudelo and the dreaded Robbie Rogers (more on him later). The result was a more fluid, faster, attacking formation in which players were moving the ball around quicker and moving off the ball quicker. It ended up looking something like this:

Juan Agudelo

Brek Shea                Landon Donovan          Robbie Rogers

Jose Torres

Kyle Beckerman

Edgar Castillo          Carlos Bocanegra          Michael Orozco Fiscal          Steve Cherundolo

Tim Howard

With this group, USA took the game to Mexico and was unlucky not to come away with a better result. Klinsmann did change the formation slightly in that Jose Torres was slightly more attacking in Jermaine Jones’ midfield role and as a result, USA had much more possession in the final third. Once Landon Donovan got into this role, he played the best he has played for USA since the World Cup. He looked like a free man on the field and he went wherever he wanted and did whatever he wanted. This formation (and variants of it) will likely be tried with Klinsmann in the future, and given USA’s dearth at forward, they don’t seem like bad options.

Robbie Rogers has been the bane of US soccer fans for pretty much his entire tenure on the national team. Fans have been wondering why this “track star” keeps getting called in after delivering sub-par game after sub-par game for both the Crew and the national team. I don’t know what Klinsmann said to him before he came in, but the Robbie Rogers I saw yesterday was not the one I have seen in the last few years, but the 2008 MLS Best XI midfielder. If this is a microcosm of what is to happen with attacking players in the system, I’m all for the Klinsmann hiring; he will get the most out of his attacking players. But while Rogers and the impressive Shea got most of the headlines there is something people really haven’t been talking about…

USA allowed ZERO clear chances to a Mexican team that had 9 out of 11 starters yesterday. Yes, Gio Dos Santos and Javier Hernandez weren’t there, but can anyone remember the last time in any game not to mention a Mexico game where Tim Howard or Kasey Keller or Brad Friedel DIDN’T have to bail out the USMNT one to three times? Yes, Mexico scored on an extraordinary effort, but those are the types of goals that are okay to allow, the kind that would happen to any team. People are going on and on about how bad the defense played aside from Bocanegra, and maybe they were bad, but the system that Klinsmann put in place allowed ZERO chances to one of the best attacking sides in the world. Obviously Castillo isn’t ready, but Beckerman showed that he can be an effective screen for the back four and snuff out chances before they happen.

USA plays Costa Rica in less than a month. I’m hearing that Klinsmann will call in the full team and play his best players. He still has decisions on the lineup that he needs to make, but here is what I want to see if we have our full team (I’m leaving out Stuart Holden because I don’t think he’ll be ready):

Jozy Altidore

Brek Shea                Landon Donovan          Clint Dempsey

Jose Torres

Kyle Beckerman

Eric Lichaj          Carlos Bocanegra          Michael Orozco Fiscal          Steve Cherundolo

Tim Howard

If Holden was healthy I’d probably want him in there instead of Torres, but overall I think this would be a good lineup.

Klinsmann isn’t going to change around the whole USMNT set-up in just a few weeks, but he is going to lay the groundwork for the future. We can only hope that he continues to get the most out of his players and introduces new players into the mix that will help as well. We must wait until September 2nd to see the team again, but now is an exciting time for US Soccer and as of right now Klinsmann looks like the right man to lead it.

  1. Goalscorer24 says:

    Agree, very excited about the possibilities with Klinsmann as coach!

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