After rallying against Bosnia & Herzegovina, USMNT learn valuable lesson about team character

Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, USMNT

By FRANCO PANIZO

The U.S. Men’s National Team not only capped off a dream summer by picking up an impressive road win against Bosnia & Herzegovina on Wednesday. They also gained confidence in knowing they have the ability to rally when the chips are down, something the Americans believe could come in handy down the road.

Following their 4-3 victory in Sarajevo on Wednesday, the U.S. discussed how much they learned about their character as a team after rallying against a talented opponent. The Americans trailed Bosnia, 2-0, at halftime, before scoring four unanswered goals in a dominant second half and will now carry that knowledge of being able to respond and momentum into September’s World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica and Mexico.

“It definitely prepares us confidence-wise,” U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann told ussoccer.com of the win. “If something goes wrong and we’re down a goal or two goals, we know how to react the right way. We know to keep playing at our rhythm and our pace and our passing game.

“Going into Costa Rica it will be very dramatic and we’ll need to have a calm element in our game to say, even if something goes wrong, we’ll still make it through, score and even win the game.”

While the Americans benefited from Bosnia making a number of substitutions, they also kept an aggressive mindset that worked out in their favor. The United States, which also switched from a 4-2-3-1 formation to a 4-4-2, immediately began creating more chances on goal and the final result was a historic comeback that extended the U.S.’s winning streak to 12 games.

“It’s exciting and I think it shows how far the program has come. At the same time we understand we still have to raise the bar,” Jozy Altidore told ussoccer.com. “We can’t afford to make mistakes (like the ones tonight) because in group stages of the World Cup you can’t come back from them. We have to learn to iron those out but we take the positives from tonight and move forward with our head held high.”

Now, the U.S. players will disperse back to their clubs around the world before regrouping for next month’s pair of World Cup qualifiers. It is likely that those games provide difficult moments, just as the one in Bosnia did on Wednesday, but the U.S. now know they can respond even when things look bleak.

“We conceded the two goals and we knew that (Edin) Dzeko and (Vedad) Ibisevic are such a threat, especially from set pieces,” said Klinsmann. “But we already had chances to score and I said to the guys at halftime, ‘There’s a game to play and we can come back in this game.’

“It was wonderful to see the energy and dynamic of the whole group. We pushed and pushed, kept the tempo higher than Bosnia did and absolutely deserved the win.”

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What do you think of the lesson learned by the U.S. in the win over Bosnia? How valuable will it prove to be going forward? Do you see it coming in handy in September?

Share your thoughts below.

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45 Responses to After rallying against Bosnia & Herzegovina, USMNT learn valuable lesson about team character

  1. slowleftarm says:

    It seems fashionable to write off 4-4-2 as old fashioned, tactially naive etc. but I still think it has an important place in today’s game, depending on the personnel of a particular side. Not sure it’s the best formation for the USMNT all the time but it certainly paid dividends yesterday.

    • Ben says:

      Well, I think it depends on how the other team is setting up as well. I just don’t think the first half, other than the score, which is all some people see, despite wtching every second of a game, was as dire as some people make it. We had what I thought was a clear penalty denied, and we controlled the ball for significant portions. We definitely lacked something in the final third, but Jozy and EJ also inexplicably spurned a chance each. Jozy was still menacing in the first, I though Mix showed well, in addition to why he isn’t quite there yet, and we gifted them a goal with a mistake by EJ, and in no ways were we just getting shredded and opened up. And the couple of times we did, well not exactly everyone on d was used to one another.

      • dibo says:

        Yes. 4 4 2 was better for lineup tonight, but 4 2 3 1 a better choice if the line of 3 can score goals and take players on. E.J. can do it, Landon, Fabian Johnson, Dempsey, Johansson, maybe Zusi, but everyone else ( mix, bedoya, corona sasha etc) is better in a 4 4 2.

        Then again maybe I’m overrating our firepower. In that case, two forwards and a lot of hard work in midfield.

      • the unmistakeable Ronaldinho says:

        I agree the first half really wasn’t that bad. The difference was efficiency. Bosnia created a few chances and had 2 goals. We created a few chances and blew them in addition to having a penalty denied. Efficiency at the front and back are needed at the top level.

      • ATX_Colin says:

        I saw the same thing, have not seen the stats but it seemed even in the first half we owned the possession battle and moved the ball around nice save for the final third. In recent memory teams of this caliber dominated us from the get go and we have had tough times strining together offensive sequences. But last night even down 2-0 in first half we stayed confident on the ball and looked to plsayed through the back and with patience. Very un-USA.

    • HoboMike says:

      I agree, as long as you can show some fluidity, which they showed. It can’t be like England’s – 2 banks of 4, no creativity.

      I think it’s the best formation against lesser teams. Against teams that will control the ball, we probably need another midfielder.

    • Adam says:

      I think that in many ways the 4-4-2 is antiquated but the US is using it effectively and MUFC has never left it for any length of time (we will see what Moyes does). I do think that only having 2 CMs can be a problem depending on how the opposition lines up, like Ben said. Maybe a hybrid in the form of a tight 4-1-3-2 that would allow the 2 up front but still have a compact shape in the middle that would allow players to find space moving forward but stay compact in defense.

      No matter what, it seems obvious that 2 strikers is the ideal, so how can that happen? Maybe even a 4-3-3 could work but I dont think we have the players in the middle to run that effectively.

      • the unmistakeable Ronaldinho says:

        The 4-2-3-1 is a completely fluid formation though. At times its 4-5-1, 4-3-3 or 4-4-2. Its a dynamic formation that allows our players to pop up in different areas depending on the flow of the game and spaces that open up. This is especially true with Donovan and Dempsey who will likely be given license to roam a bit.

      • Indeed says:

        4-2-3-1 is the best option, provided that the “1” is a player with intelligence and tactical nous. In our case, we use Dempsey, so both of those requirements are filled.

        If you watch how he (or even Donovan) play the role, they pick their moments when to drop back into midfield and when to push up to striker. Its this fluidity thats important.

  2. Isaac says:

    “We can’t afford to make mistakes like the one tonight because in the World Cup you can’t come back from them…”

    Oh Jozy, if in your World Cup experience has taught you anything, it’s that the above is most certainly not true ;)

    But for real though. Let’s try and keep it tighter at the back.

  3. The Imperative Voice says:

    The second half struck me as more to do with moving the left side players from liability spots to productive positions, than about the 442 or fighting spirit or anything else. He fixed the EJ/FJ mistake and the team was suddenly more competitive. Coaching mistake, coaching solution.

    I had the same thought Jozy did, which is that in the wrong game without friendly subbing rules and momentum swings, spotting a team a goal or two can be all she wrote. One Clark error was the Ghana result, 2010 South Africa. Burn subs fixing coaching mistakes in that environment and you may limit your fightback options as the game progresses. We do have some fightback history but in other circumstances the opposing team just closes out the win. If we think back to May 29 in the Pre-Streak Year of Our Lord 2013, we spotted Belgium 1-0. Russia 1-0 down. Two goals in 30 minutes to Brazil.

    • Nate Dollars says:

      agreed. the coaching fix was more about eddie johnson than anything else. against a top team, eddie should either be up front with jozy, or not on the field at all; he’s just not good enough anywhere else.

      • the unmistakeable Ronaldinho says:

        When the full roster is finally together EJ will be that energy guy off the bench. I think it suits him perfectly, and he has played that role very well for us. He has been less effective as a starter but has been great coming on in the 2nd half to run at defenders.

        • Fan Futbol says:

          Bingo on EJ, unmistakeable Ronaldinho.

        • chris thebassplayer says:

          I agree, against quality WC competition, he will be very lucky to get late minutes. No way we see him at mid, and with Johannsson emerging, he’ll probably be a late speed threat.

    • Terkyjerky says:

      I also thought the change of personnel had more to do then the formation. Even though we label it as a 442, EJ was running deep back into midfield making it look more like a 4231. The difference was EJ would push forward much more when we had the ball then mixx, who really shouldn’t be playing that position. FJ on the wing also made better decision then EJ. He made better runs and played it like a LW should play it instead endlessly driving the ball to the end line like EJ.

    • Scott says:

      You don’t fix the EJ problem without going to the 442. Semantics. I agree that the numerous subs allowed JK to fix his starting lineup error. With only 3 subs, however, you can still sub Johansen for EJ, Sacha for JJ and Castillo for Mix and still go to the 442, with the same eventual lineup that did so well. Same result, coaching solution for coaching error.

  4. Nick says:

    4-4-2 works great if you have 2 CM’s that can defend, be heavily involved in the attack, and run non-stop box to box… basically you need 2 Michael Bradley’s.

    • chris says:

      No not really but Cameron can cover almost as much ground as Bradley. The CM Cameron is very underrated

      • Nick says:

        No not really to what? With one less centralized Mid, the 2 mids need to do lots of extra work on D and in the attacking 3rd.

        I’d need to see more of Cameron at CM. Jones has been shaky lately. Mix has potential and really needs a better league to play in. There’s a reason D Williams moved from Bundesliga to Championship..

        Wonder if FJ ever plays central for his club. I think he is mostly used as LW.

    • bottlcaps says:

      I’ve said this many times; even though Jozy Altidore has all the physical attributes to be a lone post-up forward in a 4-5-1 offense, he somehow doesn’t do well. He is really more effective to have another forward close for lay-offs and give and go’s. and a 4-4-2 fits that bill

      It seems every time JK uses JA up top alone, the attack bogs down and only gets better when another forward moves up top.

      There has been a smattering of success when JK uses a 4-3-1-1, but a lot of that is who plays underneath. Donovan a while ago and Demsey more recently have been somewhat effective, but it looks like the formation that is most effective for JA right now is the good ol’ 4-4-2..

      Someone needs to tell this to Di Canio as he plans on using a 1-3-4-1-1 using a libero and a withdrawn forward.

      • the unmistakeable Ronaldinho says:

        I think Jozy will get that support with LD and Dempsey playing near him. EJ and Bedoya just aren’t on that level.

      • Horsewhistle says:

        I like the 442 attack, but I also feel Bradley is more effective when Jermain isn’t sucking all the air out of the middle.

    • Bitman says:

      I fear we will miss Stuart Holden before it’s all over in 2014. This team is going too well to lament the loss now, but just imagine the possibilities had he stayed healthy and returned to form.

  5. Justin says:

    While I am sure everyone, team and supporters alike, got a thrill from the brief European adventure, I hope the squad settles back down into “CONCACAF” mode for the next four games. It’s great to know we can come back from 2-0 and play wide-open against a very good European team, but that’s not the kind of game we get from anyone in our qualifying region, save Mexico on some occasions. Costa Rica thumped their chests and talked about how they were going to attack us in the Gold Cup, but in the end they played the same game all of our Central American opponents tend to play against us – extreme caution and and excess of players in the defensive third.

    Bosnia didn’t exactly shut things down after 2-0 – but there is no doubt in my mind that CR, Mexico (on the road), and Panama will do just that after even 1 goal, and the CONCACAF refs/crowd/quality of play will not help things. If the MLS-based squad showed anything, it’s that they were adept at grinding out wins against teams like that. The more Europe-based A-squad has to get back to the mentality that got them to this point in the Hex and not put themselves in a position to be frustrated if they can’t generate goals in bunches before the 70 minute mark.

    I think this game is most useful as a lesson for when we play the more open teams from Europe, Asia, etc., but I’d stick to the formula we have to see out the Hex.

    • the unmistakeable Ronaldinho says:

      Better believe Costa Rica will come at us when they are at home. We’ve never fared well there and last time we visited they swept us aside pretty easily. These next two games will be the true measuring stick for our team right now. Friendlies vs good competition, Gold Cup success and wins vs lesser teams in the region have been great to see but the competitive nature of these September qualifiers will say more about our team than anything else that has happened this summer.

  6. Indeed says:

    Does anyone fear that we are peaking too early?

    • Bac says:

      I think the answer to that question can only be answered by the number of, and quality of, the opponents we can schedule after we’ve qualified.

      Remember in the lead up to the 1980 Olympics, Herb Brooks scheduled as many tough games as possible

      One could easily say our full strength A squad hasn’t played the majority of matches during this run, so the amount of competition at roster spots has never been higher.
      Barring injuries, you could make the argument that right now there are 5 guaranteed starters and maybe 10-12 guaranteed roster spots…. I think that’s enough motivation to keep the hunger

    • Shaggie96 says:

      I don’t believe the entire starting XI for the world cup have even played together yet. How could we be peaking? In my opinion it’s not that we’re peaking, the talent and level of play of the entire program are elevating. I expect it to continue to elevate over the next ten months.

    • Kevin_H says:

      Who says we’ve even begun to peak? Let’s go boys! Keep that winning mentality!

    • Lost in Space says:

      Once we have the full compliment of players together, I think it will be very difficult for our opponents to defend the fluidity and flexibility that this team has developed. No longer does it appear as if we are 1 or 2 dimensional.
      In attack….Jozy, Donovan & Dempsey are all threats to score at any time. Johannsson looked like he’ll be dangerous as well.
      Midfield…..Bradly, FJ, Zusi, Bedoya, Corona, and Diskerud have done a very good job of crossing into the attack, as well as spreading things around quickly.
      Defensively in Midfield teams will have to get by MB, Jones, and Cameron who have been breaking up opposition attacks, limiting their chances.
      Defense I’ve not been too impressed with. The talent/depth is there, but needs more time to develop the chemistry they’ll need to clean up some of the mistakes. Really hoping that Dolo, Chandler, and Lichaj can get back into consideration.
      Keeper is still solid. Howard and Guzan are both great shot stoppers, who can bail out a defensive mistake or 2. As the defense improves they’ll be even better.

    • Goalscorer24 says:

      Of course we could be peaking too early. We hope not. On the other hand our defense needs to improve.

  7. sushant says:

    I was wondering how strong the team we had against BH

    By my reckoning, we have 2 tiers:
    Guaranteed spots as starters, 1st tier (6): Jozy, Clint, Landon, Michael, Besler and Timmy
    Possible starters / subs, 2nd tier (10): E.Johnson, F.Johnson, J.Jones, G.Zusi, DMB, C.Goodson, O.Gonzalez, B.Evans, G.Cameron, B.Guzan

    From this group, we had Jozy, M.Bradley, E.Johnson, F.Johnson, J.Jones, B.Evans, G.Cameron and B.Guzan. So, 8 (really 7, because Guzan didn’t play). Not an A squad, but definitely an A- squad, though you could argue the omissions of Clint, Landon, Besler and Omar/Clarence are significant.

    It’s definitely a squad that’s better than the GC squad, but not as good as the WCQ squad. For them to come back from 2 goals down, score 4 unanswered in the 2nd half is pretty impressive. I don’t envy JK having to pick a starting XI.

    I think he going to go with a 4-4-1-1:
    —————– Jozy ———-
    —————-Clint ————
    1 —————————————– 2
    —-M.Bradely — Jones/Cameron ——–
    3 —- Besler —– Omar/Clarence —- B.Evans
    ——– Timmy ———–

    The big questions are the wide mids (1, 2) and LB (3). Does JK go with:
    Landon – LM / Zusi – RM / F.Johnson – LB
    or
    F.Johnson – LM / Landon – RM / DMB – LB

    Tough call there.

    Plus he has to pick between Jones/Cameron and Omar/Clarence

    Personally, I would go with F.Johnson, Landon, DMB, Cameron and Omar, though I can’t fault anyone picking the others.

    • paulwp says:

      Agree with analysis…. not sure what I would pick for your 1,2,3… I would probably go exactly opposite on the back line though with Jones and Goodsen.

      • futbolisimo says:

        Oh, blah, blah, blah to the heading of this piece… character is playing two consistent halves, in terms of fight and imagination. That’s how the big boys do it…

        • jon says:

          and we just beat one of those big boys, on their own soil, when they hadn’t lost in something like a year… way to find something negative about something so awesome

    • Mueller says:

      I think, when it is all said and done, AJ and JA are going to be together up top with Clint on the left.

      • Fast Cheese says:

        Agreed. The more I think about it, the more it looks like JK is going to have to compromise on positioning to get his 11 best players on the pitch.

        And Johannsson may be the real deal.

        That would put Dempsey out wide and put FJ back at fullback. Unless JK put Johannsson out wide, with Dempsey up top. But that would, again, relegate FJ to fullback.

        But, as impressive as FJ is at halfback, assuming Johannsson is as good as his brief stint Wednesday suggests, I can’t see JK sitting him in favor of DMB at left back.

  8. TomG says:

    I found this article to be a little odd, Franco. If there’s one characteristic USA has always possessed in spades is the ability to rally when they are down. Just look at the last World Cup. This is not only an established trait of our soccer team but f our national identity. I was actually just talking to a couple last night. He was Scottish and she was Spanish. They told me that they are amazed by Americans can do spirit. That is apparently something we take for granted but is very rare in the rest of the world.

    • paul says:

      Indeed. +lots

      For the many years going down early and rallying from via a “blue collar” work ethic and solid athleticism defined the American game.

      I personally feared that the Kinsman era had lost its connection to these roots. If anything these lads, and perhaps primarily through Michael Bradley, are remembering “where they come from”.

  9. ThE eLmO says:

    Why does EJ keep getting call ups?….it baffles me, during the games he tries to juke, but come on the guy is not a technical player, he lacks the vision and passing skills needed for the international stage, the guy is in his late twenties too, the spot on the roster and playing time could better be allocated to a young prospect….

    • Big Red says:

      Don’t like his jukes either but you can’t deny that he scores goals. Who cares how it looks?

    • Gnarls says:

      Hasn’t EJ scored some clutch goals in the last year? He isn’t the most technically gifted (his step-overs look like they’re happening in slow motion), but he’s productive when it counts. I think that’s why JK keeps calling him up.

  10. DevinRigg says:

    I’m liking the idea of a 4-4-2. The 4-2-3-1 truly is my favorite formation, but if the US can replicate what we saw in the second half vs Bosnia, I’d go with any formation at that point. If I were to choose, at this point, this would be my 11:

    ———–AJ——-JA———–
    -Deuce-MB–Jones—-LD–
    -FJ–Besler-Gonzo-Evans-

    ————–Timmy————-

    I put AJ in there because I think that he and Altidore already work really well together, and with the scoring tear his is on in the Netherlands, plus the impact that having Dempsey and Donovan/Zusi back in the squad will have, I can’t see him not being in the squad.

    Having Jones in there is dependent on his level of boneheadedness in the time leading up to the match. We all know that good Jones is good and everything else is awful.