Tactical formation switch changes USMNT’s fortunes against Argentina

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Photo by Howard C. Smith/ISIphotos.com

By AVI CREDITOR

Ever since the World Cup, the script for Bob Bradley has been relatively the same.

Experiment with a five-man midfield. Revert to the more customary 4-4-2 formation for the second half. Watch the team's fortunes improve.

After starting with Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones in holding roles and Maurice Edu in an advanced attacking role, Bob Bradley subbed off Jones at halftime for Juan Agudelo, pairing the New York Red Bull with Jozy Altidore up top.

The result was a more balanced second half in which the Americans maintained more possession, managed an equalizer and fought off Argentina's waves of attacks in a more efficient manner.

"When you look at the way they play, they don't only have four or five guys in the midfield," said Landon Donovan, who put in a bunch of time providing defensive cover throughout the night. "Sometimes they have six or seven. Sometimes a centerback comes into the midfield and plays. Their forwards are rarely up high, so they've got guys running all over the midfield. The idea was to make sure we had enough numbers in there to counter that."

The United States had plenty of numbers in the midfield and in the back, often having as many as eight players in the box, with Donovan acting as a makeshift fullback at times.

It didn't seem to matter. 

Lionel Messi, Angel di Maria and Ezequiel Lavezzi had their way in getting forward, picking apart the U.S. defense while the hosts looked to steal and dump as opposed to securing possession. 

Michael Bradley, Jones and Edu struggled to maintain shape in the center while feeling out their roles. Despite Jones having relative success and being the catalyst for the most dangerous counterattack the team had in the first half, the coaching staff recognized the need for a second forward to help bail out the defenders who were playing long balls to empty space scores of yards down the field.

"We didn't have enough going forward in the first half," Donovan said. "The change to bring Juan on was very good, and it gave us an opportunity to finally get out of our defensive end when we did have to play some balls forward."

With the four-man midfield, spacing was more even, midfielders and defenders had a better idea of where to position themselves on the field, and a more productive 45 minutes was the end result.

Even so, Bob Bradley didn't seem to hint that a permanent change to a 4-4-2 was in the cards, and he suggest that he's still into seeing the Bradley-Edu-Jones triumvirate through for a bit longer.

"Sometimes we're going to need to go in between both of those (formations)," left back and captain Carlos Bocanegra said. 'We started with a 4-5-1, a version of it anyway, then we went back to little bit more of a 4-4-2 in the second half, and it seemed like we had a few more outlets up front. We need to have the ability to bounce between both of those."

Added Altidore: "I think just for our team in general, whoever is playing up front, I think 4-4-2 we work better, but we've got to try different things, because I think we have a lot of very talented midfielders, so you've got to try and get everybody on the field."

——————

Which formation would you rather see for the USMNT, 4-4-2 or 4-5-1? Do you think Bradley should stick with one or continue to experiment?

Share your thoughts below.

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120 Responses to Tactical formation switch changes USMNT’s fortunes against Argentina

  1. Paul says:

    with stuart holden a 4-5-1 without holden 4-4-2

  2. Dk says:

    4-4-2…unless you replace Jozy with Juan. Jozy simply doesn’t have the skill to make his own opportunities.

  3. BradAR says:

    I will admit I thought that based on the number of midfielders and lack of strikers, the 4-2-3-1 should be our best formation. But the USMNT for whatever reason are just not very comfortable using it. Altidore cannot play very well by himself up top, and the midfield seemed confused about whether they were attacking or defending. I think Bob should stick with the 4-4-2 for the Gold Cup at least. The team just seems to play better.

  4. bottlcaps says:

    Bradley should try playing ANOTHER forward instead of Altidore. Most of the failure in that formation has to rest with Altidore who does not have the experience or “chops” to play a lone forward. He does play adequatly with another forward, but I think Agudelo would play well with any forward Bradley coud name. Still I would like to see a Buddle or a Connor Casey in Altidores role.

  5. Jack says:

    I’ve spent the past couple of months praying that Bradley would come to his senses and do a 4-2-3-1. But that was before Holden was injured, when the benefits of having a Donovan/Holden/Dempsey attacking midfield could possibly outweigh Altidore alone up top (or the search for his replacement).

    However, after seeing the way the game shifted once we went with 4-4-2, it’s hard for me to argue for five in the midfield–at least as long as Holden, a true attacking midfielder and gifted playmaker, is out. Neither Bradley, Edu, nor Jones was able to take up that role. Michael Bradley and Edu worked very well together in the second half (I realize that basically every commenter on here will hate on this, but I thought that MB had a very good game–he was the destructive defensive midfielder that the team needed, especially in the second half). Plus, Agudelo’s workrate seemed to spark Altidore, and I thought that they played quite well together.

  6. SoccerInATL says:

    Good post Ives. Without a great holding forward the 4-5-1 never really works out since our three defensive mids just don’t have the ability to switch fast enough from play d to getting in positions to combo with each other to break up the field. Plus its always tough when you try to combo in the middle and it doesn’t work out sparking a quick counter attack from your own half. I wish we could deploy a different formation but these guys don’t have enough time together to gel enough or Bob is failing at coaching them to pull anything else off but the standard 4-4-2. However, at least when they do a 4-4-2 we do it well for the most part.

  7. Jack says:

    If they US were to play 5 across in midfield, the idea is that they’d have 2 CDMS and 1 CAM, not three defensive midfielders.

    I think that the issue we had in the first half was that neither Edu, Bradley, nor Jones is an an attacking midfielder, and they kind of jumbled up in the center. On top of that, Altidore wasn’t doing so well as the only forward.

  8. BradAR says:

    I agree with you that Altidore does not seem to be able to play the lone forward role very well. But did you really just say you wanted to see Conor Casey?

  9. Devin says:

    Altidore was not the problem as the lone striker. The problem was that his “support” did not support him at all. Landycakes and Demps were pinned back in their defensive duties, and Edu was lost playing in the hole. Not to mention the backline’s distribution was horrible. If they actually tried to pass it out of the back instead of just booting it, then maybe Altidore would be more effective.

  10. StevenG says:

    Holden? A gifted play maker? Holden is an excellent player, but the guy isn’t a playmaker. He seems to be more of a link up guy. Edu, MB, and JJ all play a similar game. One of those three needs to be benched.

  11. Hesei says:

    Argentina made usa defense look like preschoolers. Actually messi did that not the other players. Messi has an amazing possesion of the ball I see why barca it’s hard to beat. Argentina just lacked goal. Only if tevez, higuain or Andres d Alessandro were there. But good job USA. Argentina has quality players all over the world it’s hard to pick the right ones.

  12. Eugene says:

    4-4-2 It’s high time our team starts playing with a more offensive mentality. The more we pack the midfield, the less we’re able to stretch the field. Our players are good enough now that we can play with the big boys in a similar way — moving defenders forward into the midfield, dropping forwards back and having them surge forward from the midfield — without needing the fifth dedicated player in the mid.

    When we start off with 5 in the middle, we’re starting off inside our shell, trying to repel our opponents attacks — which encourages them to attack because we’re not putting them under pressure. When we play with 4 in the middle and 2 up front, our opponents are less able to put us on the back foot from the beginning of the game, and the field gets stretched forward, giving us more opportunities.

    It’s time that our strategic mentality evolve to not think about defense first, but think of all parts of the game right from the beginning.

  13. jrig5 says:

    In fairness, I don’t think Agudelo has demonstrated any more ability than Jozy to play as a lone striker. The US just doesn’t have that. Jozy has shown the ability to turn defenders, and run at them, and score, he just doesn’t do it often as a lone striker.

    And he’s the only striker they’ve tried alone up top. I did like Agudelo’s game tonight, he was in the right spots, and he finished. But it’s not like he made a ton of things happen on his own, or held it up that much better than Jozy.

  14. Grayson says:

    You were okay until your last sentence. Agudelo DID hold the ball up and retain possession much better than Jozy.

  15. Smacking says:

    Absolutely agree. LD and CD needed to push up the field more to make the 4-2-3-1 work. No one was making penetrating runs. Once the second forward came on, one would check to the ball and one would make a run to open up space.

  16. Grayson says:

    Agreed. We need to try Diskerud in the AM role on Tuesday. He IS a playmaker.

  17. Peter says:

    We cannot play 4-5-1! We do not have a lone striker who can play that role effectively and no creative attacking mid. We would need someone in the mold of Drogba for striker and a mid like Luka Modric. Unfortunately we do not posses these type of players yet. Until then stick with 4-4-2.

  18. Barrett says:

    I’m not sure I see why BOTH Landon and Clint are pinned back at the same time. Part of making a 4-5-1 work, it seems to me, is having more than just the lone forward to outlet to. If the ball’s on the left with Landon, Clint should be cheating up field, ready to drop back if the ball is switched. And vice versa. One of them should be cheating forward to give Altidore a layoff man when the ball does come out.

    I thought Altidore did a decent job of getting onto the end of outlet passes, but he didn’t have any success winning the ball and laying it off. When you watch forwards hold up the ball, they don’t usually have the ball for more than a couple of seconds. Receive the ball, shield, layoff. Without Clint, Landon, and Edu giving Altidore an outlet, the whole thing’s not going to work.

  19. Jack says:

    You’re right. Coming down from post-live game high and got a little carried away with descriptors.

    And I agree that the Edu/MB/JJ triangle isn’t working. Three of the same makes for a very crowded midfield.

  20. RallyMonkey says:

    We tried Diskerud in the hole in a recent friendly. It didn’t work. Our midfielders aren’t good enough to play a 4-5-1. We can’t hold possession long enough to build forward.

    And that includes if Holden is available.

    Just stick w/ the 442.

  21. enginblue says:

    Aside from the formation change, which did open things up, the defense played with a lot more poise and physicality in the 2nd half. Onyewu in particular was huffing it every time after that awkward giveaway early on. The reason we were defending so much was partly because we gave up possession so cheaply.. we didn’t have time to move the run of play out of our half.

  22. Jose says:

    We dont have. The creative midfielders to play 4-5-1 or 4-2-3-1 however you want to call it. 4-4-2 is what work for us.

  23. wichin says:

    You know…I for once am tired of us being happy with a tie. We have so much talent and then we always have to use it to come back from behind. Enough of this…Strong teams take control and from the first minute..it seems that we always have to come from behind and let them set the pace. These are friendlies for crying out loud…let’s for once, set the pace, play to our attacking talent and stop hiding behind the “other teams are better than us” so we are going to play the counter. Let’s attack and go down swinging and adjust accordingly. So much talent and yet we never use it. All I kept thinking was what our German Americans were thinking. The German national team attacks any team not play it safe. They trust their players to make the plays. This was all Bob Bradley’s Fault from the start…bad game plan…lets keep them from scoring in the first half mentality and forget attacking. We have shown that we can play with anyone…now lets play and take control instead of letting others do their thing. Chandler impressed with crosses and was not afraid to take a chance, Jermaine Jones was subbed out not because he did not do well but because Bob needed those who were familiar with the 442 system instead. So much talent and what a waste…Bob…you sir need to take chances. A true US Soccer fan is not happy with a tie when we could have done so much more, we have so much talent that we need to start winning!

  24. Since 82 says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  25. Since 82 says:

    This shouldn’t be a question anymore.

    Generally speaking (aside from Dolo), we don’t have defenders that link up well. Our MF, sans Holden, is not creative nor offensive minded. Beyond that, Altidore, Davies, and Agudelo are talented.

    Even when Holden comes back, I want to see two forwards up front. The US has more space when we have to forwards up front as well and it gives Donovan and Dempsey more space to operate.

    I don’t even see how this is a question anymore. Holden comes back, either Edu or Bradley should sit and for my money it is Edu.

  26. MiamiAl says:

    Edson Buddle!

  27. matt says:

    I would agree with you if we were playing almost any other team in the world right now. Argentina is on another level. This is the same team that beat Spain after they won the world cup 4-1 (then beat Brazil, then beat Portugal). Not to open up a can of worms here, but they had Messi who could be THE all time great when all is said and done pulling the strings of their attack and they held an amazing team to a 1-1. I’ll take this draw and look back on it happily. Now if we have the same result vs Paraguay on Tuesday I’mma be PIIIIIIIIIIIIIIISSED… haha.

  28. The Dude says:

    Obviously it makes no sense playing with only one striker. End of conversation. The thing that drives me INSANE is that Bob refuses to sit his own son under any circumstances. Jones was having the better game, and yet he gets yanked at halftime? Total BS. His favoritism for his son becomes more obvious with every game.
    P.s. Agudelo rules.

  29. Waterlewd says:

    Holy sh^t! Mascherano is down with arms in air. Leg cramp, muscle strain? Nope, he just wanted to yell at the referee again. He’s learning something there in Barcelona.

  30. Since 82 says:

    A lot of flopping in the second half.

  31. Ben says:

    I want to see a 4-4-2 with Holden and Jones in the midfield, the usual outside, and Jozy and Agudelo up top. Unfortunately, that is six months away, but regardless, i want that lineup. Besides the goal, which was taken nicely, showing some sangfroid to adjust that poke it in, Agudelo is a big kid. He showed good strength several times tonight.

  32. mike says:

    It’s easy to just put the blame on Altidore cause well that’s what most of the people on this board does. If they watch the game every time he got the ball there was 3 defender on him with no outlet pass what do you expect him to do either try to run at them or hold the ball for 5 second or more and get stripped. There was nothing he could do. People saying Agaudelo held the ball up better were just delusional cause he score a goal. Juan looked lost and uncomfortable on the ball most of the time. I like Agaudelo but I’ll admit Jozy is the best forward we have at the moment.

  33. mike says:

    The problem with playing a 4-5-1 is that the U.S just doesn’t have the 1 touch passing require to make it work well against world class team. Although it might work against the the weaker comp in the concacaf region who might not be be able to hold possession the way Argentina did today.

  34. Jerome says:

    I dont think Jones was having the better game. To me Jones did have the best play of the first half, but i think all 3 CM’s were pretty close the same AT HALF-TIME. With that said, I Agree its amazes how Bob will have a set standard for everybody except his son. jONES IS playing with his club and so is Edu, Michael bradley is not. That was a simple fact that even Ives would back-up in the past for Bradley always playing and going 90. I don’t see how its possible to ignore this after this game. Add in Edu to CB, Holden to RM even though Edu,Holden’s club don’t even try that. Somethings going on.

  35. Neruda says:

    There is an alarming trend with BB that Sunil Gulati has to see too. He starts a squad he thinks is best and then realizes at halftime (or before) that he needs to sub off one or two to go with a very different look. I do give BB credit for at least admitting the tactical mistakes and making the changes but he needs to start the right squad with the right tactics to avoid the first half beat down and the come back nail biters.

    It doesn’t matter how young Agudelo is, he needs to start the next friendly. He’s a menace to opposing defenses and has a nose for goal. Chandler was also a big upgrade.

  36. Devin says:

    Just throwing this out there since Landycakes’s talents aren’t being utilized right if he has to play so much defense….would this work since Agudelo can play this role too:
    Altidore
    Agudelo–Landycakes–Dempsey
    Bradley–Jones
    Boca–Ream–Gooch–Chandler

    Lots of responsibility on Boca, but I would think it would help with Jozy being isolated up top. Or any combination of that attacking line of 3?

  37. Eric says:

    Back to the 4-4-2. And i think that the center midfield pairing has to be Bradley-Edu. I just think they have the most familiarity. If you look back to the World Cup games the best was when they were playing together. I hate to look past Jones’s talents but we should know that the most functional formation for this squad is the 4-4-2 and at this point the Bradley-Edu pairing is the best we have. Also does anyone else get the feeling that Alitdore is always the bridesmaid and never the bride. I mean the guy works his tail off the whole game. Creates chances but just cant seem to be in the right place at the right time. Also Macherano was annoying as hell tonight. Flopping all over the place, you could tell Clint didnt appreciate it.

  38. Since 82 says:

    Nice comments. In regard to Altidore, he seems to me that he is progressing and putting the facets of his game together. If he keeps moving forward, the goals will come.

    The funny thing is, with out talent at forward now, we have come a long way. It was pretty frustrating to watch long balls to Wynalda not too long ago.

    No matter who the forwards are, we need more possession, and need to link up better as well. The NATS are putting together the pieces incrementally. 2014 looks promising in my eyes. The biggest issue I believe will be the transition on the backline. I think the MF and F will be there.

  39. SBI Troll says:

    I don’t blame Bob implementing a 4-5-1, since CM is the strength of our pool. However, it is evident that this team works better with a straight dumbed down 4-4-2 which sometimes leads into the 4-2-2-2 with Dempsey and Donovan pinched inside. At this point its obvious Agudelo can change a game and has speed with tactical ability that we have been missing since Davies, but lets temper our expectation on him a bit. Chandler was really impressive and I think when Cherundolo comes back we should try him on the right side of midfield, move Deuce up to second striker and bring Agudelo off the bench for that second half spark where his pace will mix things up. I like this 4-2-2-1-1 look even though we probably won’t see it.

    ——-Jozy——-

    ——Dempsey—–

    Donovan—–Chandler

    —-Edu—Bradley–

  40. Ken says:

    We can’t play 4-5-1 when we don’t have defenders that can pass out the back. Just booting the ball upfield will only results in lost possession. This game was similar to the Spain and Brazil games. We played 4-4-2 and with 2 strikers, at least 1 can get the ball and hold it up for Landon or Deuce to make their run and start the attack. If there is just 1 striker, the chance that he will receive the ball and hold it up is much diminish compare to 2.

  41. Gabedorosz says:

    My comments — first, tired of seeing us come out with a complete lack of an attacking tactical gameplan (read CONFIDENT COACHING) in any situation where we’re up against a perceived superior opponent. Yes, Argentina has a far superior history and general national intellect for the game, but I’m sorry, we HAVE THE PLAYERS at this point to beat them.

    The second half especially showed that it’s not a talent deficiency — it’s absolutely a matter of tactics, vision, and coaching. Our entire gameplan against high-level opponents repeatedly seems to be to sit back, watch what happens, make adjustments and counterattack and I’m sorry but, this is NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

    Argentina has Messi, but apart from that, the best players I saw on the field tonight (and I was at the game), were Howard, Agudelo, Dempsey, Donovan, Demerit and the 2nd half version of Onyewu. As the game went on, we had more heart and more desire to win than Argentina did, despite the absolutely terrible gameplan that we started out with. It’s becoming more clear that Bradley’s best attribute as a coach is his ability to ADJUST to adversity as a match goes on, but his absolute inability to start properly with the best lineup and the best gameplan is comically obvious and we deserve better.

    Dempsey and Howard were absolutely Gods tonight. Anyone who knows anything about sports would recognize that Dempsey should be the heart and soul of this team. His fire and refusal to back down are the kind of things you build great teams around. And I’m sorry, but it’s clear that Agudelo should be unequivocally the #1 striker. His first touch and the intangibles he brought to the attack the second he came on the field were invaluable and he made clear that Jozy’s role should be the secondary option in a 4-4-2. Agudelo’s goal was almost an accident, but he affected so many other attacking situations positively that it almost makes no sense why he didn’t start in the first place.

    Despite an absolutely embarrassing first half, I was so proud of the boys in the second — the toughness and, dare I say, balls they brought to the last 45 were inspiring. I’m tired of hearing how we don’t have the players — WE ABSOLUTELY DO — quite honestly, we just don’t have the tactics, the preparation, or the gameplanning that’s necessary to compete at the highest levels of the sport.

  42. FulhamNick says:

    Thank you…its good to know that some people on these boards actually know what they are talking about

  43. Smits says:

    have to agree

  44. Smits says:

    Without Holden Bob had to try 3 Defensive CM. it’s obvious Edu is NOT a playmaker. Not to say he’s not worth a start but he’s no Num 10.

    Worth a try but it obviously did not work. at least not with that line up.

    Biggest question to that was where was a Torres-like playmaker?

    I think 4-5-1 could have worked but the subs matter.

    Agudelo was great but 4-5-1 could have been better with a true #10.

  45. mike says:

    I would put Dempsey in the middle he seems to do well with the ball at his feet his problem is he doesn’t look for the ball all the time. Being in the middle he’ll touch the ball more which will allow him to make more plays.

  46. Get Real says:

    This comment is almost never contradicted but is actually totally wrong. Ok, not totally, because Landon and Dempsey were very much pinned back by their defensive responsibilities, which did leave Altidore to be the one lone man in our attacking third (or even our attacking half), trying to make magic out of 1 v 3s in the first half (not his specialty).

    But these ideas that everyone criticizes the back line for, just “booting it up” and “if they only tried to play a possession game out of the back” are so stupid it’s comical. Do you realize what would have happened in tonight’s game if Gooch, Jay, Carlos, and Spector had tried to play possession out of the back? 4-1 that’s what. Sorry, these guys aren’t masters of the tiki taka possession game. They are what they are. Players who are much better than average at breaking up plays, but who lack the deftness of foot/touch/vision to feel comfortable enough to pick out the one precise correct move/pass with an opposing player(s) closing down on them at top speed.

    Their game is built around disruption, and closing off of lanes, to protect the US’s goal. Once that mission has been accomplished, if there is enough time they will look for opportunities in which to consider the most advantageous offensive play, but if there is not enough time they will do that which is number one on their list of responsibilities, and that is… get the ball out of a dangerous position! And you know what, for the best defenders that we have (and make no mistake, they are the best we have) that is absolutely the right move.

    Sorry we don’t have four Piques, or Lahms, or Alves’s (whose disruption abilities are suspect anyway) back there. We just don’t. We have a group that defends very well, but doesn’t create from their defensive positions very well. That’s it and that’s all. Pretending like they just should have played a better ball control game out of the back, or that their potential replacements would have, is just pie in the sky wishful thinking.

    And sure, for every new prospect that shows a bit of talent going forward (Chandler, Lloyd, to a certain extent Lichaj), or in possession (Ream), it’s tempting to hope/want/wish/ that they are finally the ones who combine all the assets we want in a defender. But the hard truth is, that none of those young guys yet possess the tactical awareness, hard-edged “breaking up plays to get us out of danger” skill that the more veteran options do. Putting them out there for 90 minutes against an Argentina or Spain would result in a few extra forays forward generated by the defenders, but would also result in an even greater upswing in moments where the high quality opposition would burn/out-maneuver the first defender, and then find themselves free of anyone providing adequate cover on the second or third level.

    I know this line of thinking will most likely fall on deaf ears. And I also know that there were plenty of moments where the Argentinean playmakers made our best disrupters look out of place or inadeqaute (which to some gives credence to this attacking of the defenders, or calling for their replacements), but it just always annoys me when that leads to people calling for replacements who almost certainly would have fared even worse under these circumstances.

    I mean, really, for all those bemoaning Gooch’s performance – do you really think Tim Ream (or Omar Gonzalez, or Gale Agbossumande) would have been stopping Messi’s attacks with ease, or breaking up aerial balls half as well? I would agree that perhaps Ream and Boss have more natural composure on the ball, when they have time for it, but Argentina wasn’t volunteering a lot of time.

    So in games like these you have to make the best of the cards you’ve been dealt. If you have been dealt a bunch of defenders who possess strong abilities to make it more difficult for Argentina to waltz into the box and create clear “sitter” type goal scoring chances, but who won’t necessarily be the best catalysts for sparking your counterattack you take those cards and you play them. You don’t throw out those players that are slightly more useful for counterattack football but at the expense of true defensive responsibilities.

  47. Brett says:

    As of now, Agudelo and Dempsey are my two forwards until Altidore gets his game up.

    The supposed strength of our pool is in the middle of midfield, but of the three we saw tonight in that cluster**** of a triangle, none of them looked composed. Bradley is the only one I half-trust, and he’s out of form because he’s riding the cushioned seat at Aston Villa. I actually think our best pairing is Edu as the “defensive minded holding midfielder” and Feilhaber as the link-up. That won’t happen because Coach Dad won’t drop his boy. He actually needs the minutes besides, because he’s not seeing the pitch at AV any time soon.

  48. Rob says:

    Common what are you really trying to say?

    I agree for the most part, but I don’t mind this so called “experiment” of players. I mean even Ives was gunning for that formation, or even the overly defensive Christmas tree.

    I said this on another post, but I would just once, want to see what 4-4-2 formation without bradley would be like. Again it could either shut the haters up, or prove to be the better situation. Do this with all the ‘normal’ starters, for fair comparison.

  49. JoeW says:

    This!

    The 5-man midfield had two basic problems:
    –Bradley, Jones and Edu is a trio you play ONLY if you’re seeking to be defensive and deny space, not a 2-way scheme.
    –Altidore is still mostly about potential and hasn’t shown he can flourish or be a significant threat at the international level against good teams (yet).
    So when we play that scheme against a decent team we’re going to struggle for possession and chances.

    I don’t think this game was much of a verdict of the scheme. Argentina tends to embarrass most of the teams it plays, they rarely get much of the ball.

    I”m not wedded to a 4-2-3-1 (or some version of a 5-man midfield) scheme. But here’s something for people to think about: for all of 2009 and 2010, the USNT was one that consistently (and against almost all types of competition on the road and at home) gave up early goals. We did it everywhere and we did it regardless of who was starting on the backline. That doesn’t seem to happen with the 4-5-1. I’d hate to think that the answer is for us to start by playing overly defensively. But at least accidently, clogging central midfield does seem to give us a chance to let the game play out rather than giving up a score (often a cheap one) in the first 10-15 minutes and then the game runs away from us.

  50. Eddie says:

    Yes.

  51. bizzy says:

    I think even though BB started with the 4-5-1 and we spent most of the time chasing the ball it did show one thing…..that our back line stood up to the best team in the world!!!! The second half doesnt really show the character of our D like the first half (when it was raining light blue and white) because the pressure wasn’t as one sided.

    The plays seemed sloppy and they appeared to be scrambling for the most part but after the first half the score was only ARG 1 and US 0.

    We all know for a fact our back 4 have been battle tested against a fiercesome attack lead by Messi(and only conceded a goal), we all know Chandler has the speed and ball control to play at the highest level(imagine the constant pressure if he didnt have to track all the way back to RB), we know now that the 4-4-2 formation is good, even against a power house like Argentina, we all know Jones had a relatively successful first half, like IVES said, when things were at there worst, we all saw Altidore become a better player with Agudelo playing up top and that attack was affective against Argentina.

    you put all that DATA together and it reads:

    ———–ALTIDORE———AGUDELO———

    –DONOVAN—-JONES——DEMPSEY—CHANDLER–

    —-BORA—GOOCH——-DEMERIT—-SPECTOR—

    —————–HOWARD———————

  52. Eddie says:

    I hear what you’re saying, Matt. But the US was just so much better when they changed formation and were able to attack. The first half was dreadful. It is a friendly, after all, so why not try to show the US can play?

    A few observations: Chandler was quite good and made a real difference on that wing. Gooch scares me anytime the ball is near his feet. Agudelo’s movement off the ball is as impressive as his other skills.

    And NJ transit is a joke. 2-1/2 hours to get to Brooklyn via their “more convenient and efficient” light rail system. All these years of big crowds going to the Meadowlands and they still don’t know what they’re doing.

  53. Chris says:

    I thought that, up to halftime, Michael Bradley and Edu had played better than Jones. So, based solely on performance in the first half, it made sense to pull Jones rather than Bradley.

    After halftime, Bradley made some very strange decisions which I attribute to fatigue–he isn’t getting club games, so his fitness isn’t what it should be.

  54. RS says:

    IF Bob Bradley wants to keep looking at a 4-2-3-1 vs. Paraguay:

    Jonathan Spector does pretty well for West Ham in the role Edu played in the first half. Maybe a Bradley-Jones or Edu-Spector midfield vs. Paraguay? Hell, I’d like to see a Jones-Edu-Spector midfield…not likely to happen, though.

  55. Mike says:

    4-4-2 with or without Holden.

  56. Engkzl says:

    Very insightful post. Something else nobody here has noted is that Dempsey was so totally gassed in the second half that he should have been subbed out. I was at the game, sitting 12 seats up from the midfield line. Dempsey was right in front of me most of the half, and he spent the majority of it walking around like a slug. Also, he really blew his one goal scoring chance in the first half…too many touches before shooting.

  57. Powderhorn Pops says:

    4-5-1 with Holden or more attacking midfielder paired with 2 of the three CMs from last night and (I can’t believe I’m saying this) Agudelo up top. Jozy, who I have no problem with by the way, is not a lone striker. Juan can be more dangerous using his speed to get all over the pitch as the lone runner.

    Jozy seems to thrive playing next to guys like Charlie and Juan. He turns into the player we all want to see – dynamic and confident. If we are going to commit to the 4-5-1 then Jozy’s role should be the guy off the bench to provide more offense by pairing him with another forward or subbing in for the other forward to play a more of a hold up possession type forward to kill of games.

    Really want to see more of Chandler. Sehr gut gemacht!!!

  58. Stephen says:

    I disagree. Bradley looked good in the second half. He did well to track Messi on several occasions. And, I thought Edu looked lost in the first half (I know he was playing out of position), and Jones looked solid and tried to keep shape and account for Bradley’s rovering style.

  59. Powderhorn Pops says:

    I’d like to see Benny or Sacha there. Or I move LD or Deuce there. Both have played the position before and move Chandler to the wing. He looked like his skill set would be better served in the midfield. But I wouldn’t be upset if Spector was used there – I agree with your thinking.

  60. Geoff says:

    Unless you mean having Dempsey as a withdrawn forward in the formation and Jones as a true DM, that won’t work. Dempsey is not a CM.

  61. Stephen says:

    I still want to know why Jones was the one subbed off. The article’s reasoning isn’t sound. Jones was the “catalyst” for the one attack we had in the first half and had “relative success”, but still gets subbed. While Edu looked lost in his more advanced position. Makes no sense. We did fine without him, but honestly, I’m not sold on Edu. Jones has bite, and we are going to need that in the Gold Cup.

  62. Phil says:

    I agree completely. Altidore is a marked man how just as much as Dempsey and Donovan

  63. Phil says:

    PREACH. IT.

  64. Phil says:

    The reason we were defending so much was because it was ARGENTINA. Honestly, so many of these posts are written in a vacuum.

  65. Phil says:

    This is whiny twaddle that is completely ignorant of context. We were not out there scrimmaging our B team out there, we were playing a team that lives in the top 5 rankings of the world year in and year out, who also happens tobave the most potent attackingplayer since Pele in their starting lineup. Seriously, stop being so ignorant.

  66. Mike says:

    The formation should be 4-4-2 with or without Holden. I’m not sure where the notion of Holden being a fulcrum of the attack comes from. He goes from box to box winning balls and providing link-up play very well. He does that well at Bolton, but they traditionally play a 4-4-2 and recently it morphs into a 4-3-3 when they play Elmander out wide.
    Also, I don’t understand why BB feels it necessary to try to cram the “best” players into an alignment the players are clearly uncomfortable with. So what if 2 of Edu/Bradley/Jones end up on the bench. Furthermore, I don’t think Edu,Bradley, and Jones are all that good and playing them together just makes it all the more noticeable.

  67. Phil says:

    Does it not occur to anyone that this was a tactical choice. Absorb pressure get the other side complacent then add offense?

  68. jb says:

    Sorry but the 4-2-3-1 has been a disaster every time we try. Donovan and Dempsey are pushed back too far defensively trying to help cover the overrun fullbacks, and cannot transition to offense fast enough. But the biggest problem is we have no one on the roster capable of playing the attacking center mid. And honestly we are deluding ourselves if we think Holden can magically change this into a winning formation. Sorry, but has anyone watched him play with Bolton? He plays the DEFENSIVE centermid, and plays it damn well, better than our other options there really. But he is not a playmaking CAM or center forward! Furthermore we don’t have a striker capable of the hold-up role. It’s really tragic how Jozy is so misused in our system, he needs SOMEONE ELSE to be the hold-up man in order to be effective.

    If Bob keeps using these same players, then its back to the 4-4-2 or get embarrassed like the first half last night. To have a real chance with the 4-2-3-1, new players will have to be brought in the system, ones that are creative, attack-minded, and possession-oriented.

  69. Aaron says:

    Up until halftime, Bradley was playing better than both Edu and Jones. I completely understand the decision to substitute Jones, and he could just as easily subbed off Edu. But this wasn’t a case of nepotism. Bradley’s work rate exceeded that of his counterparts, even if his passing didn’t.

  70. vbxrtek says:

    If any of you bothered to watch the EPL games in which our mids featured, you would know that the obvious choice for attacking mid is SPECTOR. Yes he is a defensive liability and a poor choice for R back, but it’s quite obvious how much he enjoys going forward and how good his late runs are. Bradley, Edu, and Jones are very defensive and easily interchangeable. Watch his West Ham games this year.

  71. away goals says:

    A 451 is still worth experimenting with, especially once holden is fit. But realistically, our central midfield talent is redundant.

    Holden, jones, edu and bradley are excellent players, but they’re all at their best in a 442. A lot of folk on the board have annointed holden the “creative playmaker,” but he’s never played that role for club or country.

  72. Aaron says:

    I think Agudelo actually showed more discipline in his decision-making than Altidore. When Altidore received the service and was out-numbered, what did he do? Put his head down and try to out-run or run-over the opposition. Agudelo would pick up his head and knew when to hold the ball for support.

  73. Mike says:

    Jones will be suspended after the second match. He is a yellow/red card waiting to happen. He picks them up at an astounding rate.

  74. hogatroge says:

    Have to disagree again. Bradley Jr. made a few mistakes, but he was about the only U.S. midfielder who was winning the ball through tackles last night.

  75. hogatroge says:

    Maybe Davies will be ready for a call up come June.

  76. hogatroge says:

    I’ve been quick to criticize Altidore over the last several months too, but I have to agree with mike. Jozy’s options were severely limited each time he got the ball. Plus, he looked much better in the second half, and even set up a potential goal-scoring opportunity will a nice chip pass into the box.

  77. Benjamin says:

    People arguing for a midfield not containing Michael Bradley are wasting their breath. One, Bob is going to start him in the big matches. Two, he deserves to start, considering he was one of our best players at the World Cup. The only thing I would argue is that Bob runs the poor man into the ground; we have the depth and options to NOT have to start him every match and NOT have to play him the full 90 every time out, even without Holden.

    Another point about the 4-5-1 that Bob experiments with. I wonder if it sends the wrong message to the team. There is only one reason why you start three defensive midfielders and one forward: you seem to be praying that you can weather a storm. The only problem is, there is no outlet for the constant pressure, and the whole machine eventually falls apart. Also, when the passing out of the back four was as bad as it was for us in the first half, disaster is imminent.

    Finally, people talk mostly about Agudelo, but I think Chandler made a bigger impact on the game. Spector was not necessarily awful, but he did not bring the tools to the match that Chandler did; the entire attacking dynamic was changed in the second half because of him. Honestly, I would like to see Spector tried in the center of the park, either as a defensive mid or a central defender; otherwise, he is now obsolete.

  78. bizzy says:

    BB will sit MB when hell freezes over….with that at the back of your mind it’s easier to accept things and move on!!!!!

  79. bizzy says:

    +1,000,000

  80. Tom says:

    It makes no sense to say Agudelo would be better than Jozy in a 4-5-1. That’s pure insanity. You need a target player in that formation and Jozy is miles ahead of Juan in that regard. Juan is NOT a target forward. It isn’t the ideal role for Jozy either but he has the size, strength, turn moves and body control to vause problems for defenders in that role. Juan would be helpless as a lone target. That’s not his forte and a waste of his talents. I am not sure what you expect Jozy to do with 3 guys draped all over him and no support in sight. I thought he did as well as can be expected in the firsr half and was extremely danherous in the second. The only weaknesses in jozy’s game are workrate and finishing at pace.

  81. solles says:

    What a surprise, the “Bradley nepotism” knives are out in force. I don’t think the result would have changed that at all. The fact is Jones apart from one or two moments did NOT have a better first half than Bradley, and once the switch to the 4-4-2 was made Bradley looked better in the second half. I think we could beat Brail 4-0 with Bradley getting all the goals and there would still be whiny Bradley haters flapping their gums.

  82. bizzy says:

    Because MB was one of our best players at the world cup?? Like Adu was one of “THE” best players at the U-20 and U-23 world cup (first player to score a hat-trick in both competitions)?? Like CD9 proved to be one of our best no.9’s yet??? But I don’t see them on the pitch because of pass plays. The point is all that was passed glory and happened when….June 2010. So far he’s been benched by Gladbach and coming on as a second half sub when the club was trying to battle out of relegation….you are on loan to a club like Villa (that are in disarray) and you can’t even come on as a second half sub!! Adu had 11 appearances in the early stages for Benifica (2007-2008) and was told he needed more playing time and consistency. As the coach’s son without playing full 90 mins of a club for a while you are still a starter for the USMNT, going full 90 mins and are kept on the pitch over a player that, not only had a better first half with the failing 4-5-1 formation but is a major contributor and starter of a club in the EPL. Did I hear double standards?? I think so….

    Its not a matter of if Bradley played well because he had his moments, it is the fact that someone could have played his spot a lot better which jones prove he could but still got taken out.

  83. Mike says:

    Villa actually has a really talented roster that is generally heavy on midfield types, so it comes as no surprise he hasn’t been able to crack the starting line-up yet. He came in with Makoun, Reo-Coker, Pires, and Captain Petrov all ahead of him in the pecking order. They are struggling because of a porous defense, squad discontentment, and poor tactics. Personally, I think Edu/Jones/Bradley are interchangeable and could care less which one or two starts.

  84. enginblue says:

    It was the same Argentina team in both halves of the game. We defended better in the 2nd half. We also kept more possession out of the back.. in the 2nd half. I think they are related. How is that a vacuum?

  85. ThaDeuce says:

    Except to agree with you, this thread is dead. No more posts needed, paul said it all.

  86. Jack says:

    I agree that they’re wasting their breath, but not because he was one of our best players at the World Cup (which he was). I don’t know if I was watching a different game from some of the commenters on here, but I thought that Bradley was the best out of the center midfield. Both Edu and Jones looked lost in the first half. Edu got better one we reverted back to the 4-4-2. You can complain all he want about nepotism, but he had some good tackles and was we needed out of a CDM last night.

    I thought that starting the 3 CDMs was also a bit odd, unless he meant for one of them to take on a more attacking role–which they didn’t. Also agree with your comments about Spector. Between Cherundolo, Chandler, and Lichaj, I just can’t see him getting a starting spot at RB for much longer. Chandler injected a lot of energy (the kid has a good burst of speed–I remember being impressed by how he powered down the right flank a few times), and Lichaj also is good on the attack and a solid defender. I would like to see Specs tried out in some other position, even if it’s just as a sub.

  87. Ryan says:

    What game were you watching? Jones was terrible.

  88. Benjamin says:

    A couple of points in response. I agree with you, Jack, Bradley played really well last night in tough circumstances; Messi runs around and past a lot of defensive midfielders, but Bradley often tracked back and made some nice plays, particularly in the second half. And yes, him playing well in the last World Cup still matters: that shows he can step up in big international matches.

    Bob is going to be faced with some difficult decisions: a 4-4-2 seems to be our best formation, so two of our really talented defensive midfielders are going to have to sit. Also, Jones has yet to show me that he should just be slotted in to central midfield. If you argue that Bradley is having problems at the club level, you have to do the same with Jones; he was cast off from his German club, and Blackburn is not exactly ripping the EPL apart right now.

    In conclusion, Charlie Davies almost died in a car accident and suffered physical and, most likely, mental trauma that a lot of people would never recover from. That is why he is not playing for the National Team at the moment. If he continues to play well for D.C. United, trust me, he will get another chance in the future.

  89. hudson says:

    Bradley had a solid game defensively in the second half, helping contain Messi, but his passing is still rough. In any case, there’s little question he’ll be starting in the middle, especially with Holden injured. Bob Bradley has to give the team a better chance of winning the Paraguay game, though, by starting Agudelo up top with Jozy. He’s shown he has the skill, poise and knack for scoring at this level and obviously isn’t phased by the high-pressure environment.

    People keep invoking the specter of Freddy Adu as a reason for holding him back, but his play speaks for itself, two goals and a drawn PK in his first three caps on the sr. U.S. team. And scored an impressive goal in his first MLS game this season. Given the need the U.S. has a the striker position, keeping one of the team’s best talents on the bench doesn’t make sense any longer.

  90. bottlcaps says:

    Connor Casey at least had experience playing the lone forward at Mainz. I am not sure the US has ANY forwards who are now capable of that role now that Brian McBride is retired.

  91. bottlcaps says:

    Altidore was frequently “lost” on the field, always tracking back to “help” the midfield. You cannot do this in a lone forward position. He also didn’t move around or get behind the defenders and then move up to keep them guessing about his whereabouts. In short, Altidore doesn’t yet know how to play the lone forward role. He frequently outpaced his support by moving up the filed too quickly and not letting the play build from behind. Yes, Donovan and Duece were doing a lot of defensive work, but when they had the ball, there was no outlet to Altidore because he was all to often out of position for a link up.

  92. Rex says:

    Why are we always searching for a partner for Bradley in the center midfield? Did we ever think he might be the problem?

  93. Eric says:

    Jones would get sent off 4 times out of 10 in this formation.

  94. ManicMessiah says:

    Hopefully we can scrap the 4231 until we get Holden back. Bradley was supposedly the one with the attacking qualities of the three, which made playing Edu up farthest puzzling.

    That’s what makes the formation switch frustrating. When we didn’t have a second striking option it was 442, but now when we might have options up top we switch?

  95. Kenny_B says:

    Agree. Jones made a few passes that didn’t get through, but atleast he was there making them. Bradley was non-existent in first half.

  96. Kenny_B says:

    You’re recommending Connor Casey and you’re serious?

  97. Kenny_B says:

    Holden isn’t a playmaker. He is a destroyer, like Bradley, only much better at it. He does make himself available for constant link up play with the forwards and defensive, he does get forward during the game for an occasional shot,… but he’s no Xavi.

  98. redbull says:

    With Chandler,Agudello,Donovan,Dempsey,Altidore,you had a much more offensive USA.All of these players working together were able to go forward more and create some chances.They balanced the game more.The first half they were on their heels,always defending.

  99. wichin says:

    Either we play the hunted or we become the hunter! Ignorance comes in all shapes and forms. Let’s play and take it to them. Only Messi messed with us really. Great player but not having our guys really play is ignorant. Playing it safe is not a great game plan and that is all we did in the first half. We win by scoring goals, which is an offensive skill helped upon our defensive qualities but if we don’t take risks, goals will never come.

  100. wichin says:

    As anyone will tell you, anyone can win a game. But if we play back all the time, how are we going to work on our skills that we need to improve on. IT’S A FRIENDLY!!!!! Take your chances, learn, explore and progress!!!!

  101. Benjamin says:

    Lots of people have considered this, actually. But since the last meaningful games the U.S. played were in the World Cup, and Bradley was one of the primary reasons the team advanced as far as it did, I am not ready to give up on him just yet. It would admittedly be nice if he started getting minutes with Villa, though.

  102. GW says:

    “But here’s something for people to think about: for all of 2009 and 2010, the USNT was one that consistently (and against almost all types of competition on the road and at home) gave up early goals. ”

    I guess that depends on how you look at it.

    In 2009, excluding the Gold Cup ( as B team excercise), the US played fifteen competitive matches ( WC qualifying and Confed Cup).

    The opposition scored in the first half in six of those games. The opposition

    (including teams such as Brazil,Spain,Italy, Mexico and Egypt) did not score in the first half in nine of those games.

    In 2010 the only competitive matches for the US were the World Cup where the US gave up goals in the first half in three of the four World Cup games.

    I’ll agree being overrun in midfield doen’t help but mostly in 2010 Demerit and Gooch did not recover sufficiently from their injuries and Howard had a poor World Cup.

    That is the core of the defense, not easily replaced.

  103. GW says:

    I’ll bet the guys who were covering Altidore weren’t draft choices out of Akron.

    Give Argentina’s defenders a little credit, they knew exactly what they were doing.

    And if you want a sporting American cliche, this is a 90 minute game not a 45 minute one, so Jozy figured it out in the end, which is what forwards are supposed to do.

  104. GW says:

    Last year guys like you were blasting Bradley for sticking with his tried and true 4-4-2.

    You were all calling for 4-2-3-1 because Stuart Holden had to be fit in and we had so many quality midfielders.

  105. GW says:

    We also don’t have Chelsea and Tottenham’s players to back them up.

  106. GW says:

    That’s what happens when everyone else is defending.

  107. GW says:

    Because you forget Argentina, like any team, can only sustain that kind of massive wave attack for so long, then they get tired. They only had one sub in the 73rd minute. We made two good ones who provided passing outlets. Bet you didn’t think BB could spell sub did you?

    Ever hear of rope a dope?

  108. GW says:

    You are a fan.

    Bradley is paid to be a cold hard eyed realist. A great attacking lineup that loses 5-2 probably doesn’t impress anyone, doen’t really move this program forward. Ever hear the expression 90 minute game? Ever hear of rope a dope?

    Have you ever heard of General Robert E.Lee?

    He had the same thoughts as you do leading up to Pickett’s charge at Gettyburg. Later on he thought better of it.

  109. GW says:

    Does it matter to you that it’s a 90 minute game and after 45 minutes the game changes a bit?

    Has it occurred to you the second half gains were won by the first half’s hard work? That maybe we actually wore those guys down and softened them up? US players are renowned for their fitness you know;it’s Holden’s strongest point.

    They made only one sub in the 73rd minute.

    Think about it.

  110. GW says:

    We didn’t play back all the time. It’s a 45 minute game.

  111. Stephen says:

    Fair enough, but I’m still not sold on Edu.

  112. Stephen says:

    I completely agree, although I think Edu looked more lost than Jones, mainly because he was playing out of position.

  113. AdamFromMich says:

    I call BS on this. The German national team played counter attacking football through much of the World Cup, especially against better teams. No team plays in a vacuum.

  114. King Clancy says:

    I think we should play a 4-3-4-2. We’re America goddamnit.

  115. Joe Patrick says:

    I think we need to continue with the transformation to a 4-2-3-1 for the following reasons:

    This is the first step towards the end goal which takes place in 3.5 years. That means we should use this time to prepare and mold our squad. While Edu may not be top quality right now, we will need him to play a large role in 2014. While Jozy might be struggling playing as the lone front man now, we need him to get comfortable in that role. Did anyone really expect us to come out and pass it around Argentina with our fancy new five-man midfield? Of course not. There will be kinks in the system, but if we are to progress as a country, We have to be able to play in different capacities.

    Obviously we miss Holden, but I actually think he would be better as one of the defensive mids in our system than the CAM. He would help us keep better possession and build better from the back. With him missing, I would’ve liked/would like to see Donovan in that role. He is creative enough to pick out other attacking options, and I thought he needed to be on the ball more in general than he was vs. Argentina.

    I think people are overreacting in general to this game. Stick the course with the more progressive formation. Like Garth says in Wayne’s World describing a new pair of underwear: “At first it’s constrictive, but after a while it becomes a part of you.”

  116. Eddie says:

    Yes, we wore them out. They were so tired from having to touch the ball so often during the first half.

  117. Eddie says:

    I’m sorry, did you watch the match? Landon looked like a wingback the whole first half. Argentina spent the whole first half parked in the US’ half of the field. Except for one, possible two counter attacks, the US couldn’t even get the ball anywhere near their 18 yard box.

    Rope a dope? That’s hilarious, because that was the exact phrase people in our section were making while trying to laugh off the US’ horrible first half.

    It’s a friendly. I wanted to see more positive soccer. I got that in the second half and went home happy with the draw.

  118. beachbum says:

    the game changed when both DeMerit and Chandler started to play calm balls out of the back…did not happen at all in the first half. Most surprised by this development? The Argentines, who almost took an L out of New Jersey at the end.

  119. Brent McD says:

    Should have used this photo for ‘You Write The Caption’