With a surplus of options in the midfield, the U.S. head coach is trying to find the right formula.
It is a dilemma that Bob Bradley faced during his tenure as head coach and now follows his successor Jurgen Klinsmann.
After having some success with a 4-3-3, Klinsmann switched to a 4-4-2 against Canada hoping that the system would take advantage of having Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan together on the pitch. The results were mixed at best.
The team drew 0-0 against Canada in Toronto on Sunday, with its offense at times looking out of sync. While some of the U.S. struggles could be attributed to fatigue as it played three games in eight days, it's clear that Klinsmann still needs to tinker his system as World Cup qualifying begins on Friday.
"We switched systems based on who was playing what role," Klinsmann explained.
The U.S. clearly has an advantage in midfield where it has several players that can operate in the center of the park or defensively. However, the U.S. doesn't have a forward that can score consistently often leading to missed opportunities. When Donovan or Dempsey missed games due to injury, the solution was simple. The midfield would feed the ball to whoever was starting at forward and either Dempsey or Donovan, with two players being able to focus solely on offense.
Now with both players back in the mix, things have become complicated.
The U.S. now features three players who are more effective focused on offense, forcing the rest of the outfield players to compensate for liabilities. With the Stars and Stripes still trying to determine their center back pairing, a 4-4-2 system forces Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley to primarily focus on cleaning up defensive mistakes. Both players had subdued performances after being largely responsible for the 5-1 blowout victory of Scotland. In a 4-3-3, the addition of Maurice Edu allowed Jones and Bradley to move forward and ignite attacks. Klinsmann acknowledged this after the scoreless result at BMO Field.
"I think we saw against Scotland that, having Michael and Jermaine in a more advanced role as central midfielders with Mo[Maurice] sitting there [in the defensive midfield role]," Klinsmann said. "So we're trying different ways of doing it."
While sticking to a 4-3-3 will definitely help alleviate pressure on the midfield and defense, it still leaves the U.S.'s biggest problem unsolved: Getting more goals for the forwards. In trying to find a solution, Klinsmann admitted that the Red, White and Blue will continue to experiment until an optimal formation is found.
"[We're] trying to see different ways of finding creativity," said Klinsmann, "Trying to find more determination in the final third."
Luckily for the former Bayern Munich boss, he hopefully has two years to sort things out.
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