Central midfield shines as Klinsmann gives 4-4-2 a rare look

Michael Bradley

Photo by Michael Janosz/ISIphotos.com


The U.S. Men’s National Team didn’t win on Wednesday night against Mexico, but they did give head coach Jurgen Klinsmann plenty of things to ponder as he puts together his World Cup squad, and overall plans for the tournament.

At the center of Klinsmann’s thoughts could be the team’s formation going forward. On Wednesday, Klinsmann surprised everyone by starting with a 4-4-2 diamond formation as opposed to his preferred 4-2-3-1 system, and the tactical change proved effective early on.

With Michael Bradley playing the point of the midfield diamond, Kyle Beckerman sitting as a holding midfielder, and Brad Davis and Graham Zusi along the wings, the USMNT moving forward looked dangerous and scored twice in the opening 30 minutes of the match.

Bradley played a key role in both U.S. goals, the first coming off a corner and the second providing a flicked-header assist after making a late run into the box. But while Bradley took the credit, the tactical setup of the team allowed Bradley the freedom to roam forward with Beckerman watching his back.

“Every coach obviously tries to see where the strengths of each one of those guys and I think Michael has tremendous strength getting in the box and joining the attack,” Klinsmann said after the match. “Purposely, we moved him out of the double-six or the six and the eight role into a 10 role. That means for Kyle in that moment – or if it’s a Jermaine Jones or whoever you put in or Maurice Edu that came in in that same role – a lot of work, a lot of work. I think it has a lot of good sides on it.”

By playing in the 4-4-2, the U.S. were able to out-number Mexico in midfield, especially as Davis and Zusi pinched in and played more narrowly. At times, with right back Tony Beltran and left back Michael Parkhurst bombing forward, the USMNT had three to four central midfielders, giving them a numbers advantage ahead of the Mexican trio in Miguel Herrera’s 5-3-2 system.

El Tri’s midfield group of Julian Zavala, Carlos Peña, and Isaac Brizuela didn’t do themselves any favors even when they did have the ball, succumbing to the high pressure defense of the Americans and giving the ball right back. Peña in particular lost possession ten times during the match and finished with a passing completion percentage of 60 percent, according to Opta.

On the other side, Bradley finished with an 85 percent completion rate and Beckerman finished at 93 percent. All together, the four U.S. midfield starters had a passing completion percentage of 86 percent, recorded one goal and two assists, and won the ball back 28 times.

The formation change helped bring out the best in Bradley for the USMNT.

“The hope was that (Bradley would) get into the box,” Klinsmann said when asked about his decision to play a diamond in midfield. “The hope was that he’s also dangerous to score and gives Clint (Dempsey) and (Chris) Wondolowski help.

“Often (in the past), we had situations where we didn’t give enough support to our forwards, especially if you look at Jozy. Often we he had kind of him disconnected and moving in another striker up front (helps), so purposely I told Clint there was no need to do kind of dropping back all the time, which he still does because it’s in his game. If we have two guys to play into up front and Michael joins it, and then obviously in the half-positions guys like Brad Davis or Graham that can actually then go forward as well, I think it’s going to be more difficult for opponents to read us.”

Bradley and Beckerman worked extremely well together in the diamond formation, which suits Beckerman’s strengths. Their success as a tandem will almost certainly put pressure on established starter Jermaine Jones.

“I think one of our strengths is that we have the ability to play in a lot of different ways,” Bradley said. “I didn’t necessarily look at it so differently tonight other than now you’re playing with a guy in Kyle who does a good job of taking care of things and kind of being disciplined, so it gives me more freedom to be mobile, to be on the move, to get forward, to be up and down, to be more two-way. There’s no doubt I enjoy it.

“To kind of play off my instincts in those ways, depending on the game, depending on the opponent, it’s certainly something I enjoy.”

Bradley’s comments about Beckerman being disciplined could be seen as a hint at the biggest criticism that Jones faces, which is that he is too undisciplined when partnered with Bradley, which limits what Bradley can do getting forward.

The move to a 4-4-2 formation wasn’t the only rarity of the night. The last time that both Beckerman and Bradley had started together was on Nov. 15, 2011, when the USA defeated Slovenia on the road, 3-2. Interestingly enough, as Beckerman pointed out after the match, the U.S. used a 4-4-2 in that game as well and they were able to score three times.

Beckerman, who is usually a replacement for Bradley off the bench or when Bradley is injured, said that he really enjoyed the opportunity to alongside the Toronto FC midfielder.

“It was a lot of fun,” Beckerman said. “I thought he was able to get into the attack, be effective, get close to goal, and it was just fun. We really had a lot of fun in that first half. I think the momentum changed a little bit (in the second half) but it’s something we can work on. I think we had a little foundation today to build on today and we’ll see if we can get better.”

— Franco Panizo contributed to this report

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159 Responses to Central midfield shines as Klinsmann gives 4-4-2 a rare look

  1. BC says:

    It is concerning that there is very little acknowledgment of Beckerman’s stellar play by analysts and fans. Particularly in the first half. His possession and quick thinking and technical ability, to go along with his edge, make him a fantastic option for not only releasing Bradley to go attack, but to get him the ball in favorable spots.

    • Jawaad says:

      I think he did a tremendous job, but he lacks the pace and talent to match up with the group we’re in. I think that’s why most people like the idea of Beckerman, but not exactly Beckerman himself. He plays that role to perfection, but what happens when Mesut Ozil is breathing down his neck… can he keep up?

      It’s so far in the back of the pitch that if you don’t know the answer to that question, you’ll give up a goal (Ricardo Clark style in South Africa style). Would you risk it?

      • Neruda says:

        I agree that KB isn’t the fastest but disagree that it’s he lacks overall athleticism to play the destroyer role. He has quick feet and is just so intuitively smart when it comes to distribution, ball possession, when to tackle and most importantly where to position himself. The fastest player on the pitch will get burned by Ozil if they are out of position.

        Both Jones and Beckerman will not make the Ricardo Clark mistake of dribbling aimlessly into attacking players (i’m sure that’s what you’re referring to). These guys are much smarter and more experienced than Clark was in 2010. However I can see Jones making a bad pass in the US half but not KB.

        Beckerman loves being undervalued by the opposition and detractors. He thrives off of it. It’s crazy that he keeps getting better for club and country at his age.

        • Joamiq says:

          Beckerman’s positioning is so good that he doesn’t really need recovery speed. I think he would actually be more of a handful than our group opponents would anticipate.

      • Eurosnob says:

        Ozil does not have blazing speed, I would be more concerned about keeping up the likes of Reus or Ronaldo.

        • Fredo says:

          Yep. And, once Piojo put in his better central midfielders at half, they passed right around Bradley too. That’s gonna be par for the course in Brazil. The question is do we play with a true destroyer and creative mids in front, 2 box to box midfielders, a double pivot, or go balls out with 2 true wingers? JK and just about everybody knows we have to stay compact to have a chance. And, given the pool, I think we have to be conservative, as defeatist as that is. ‘Tis was it is.

      • Chodilicus says:

        Of course he lacks pace, but so do most good destroyers. When you are in the middle in front of the back 4 cleaning up and in charge of distribution, you using don’t need to get in any foot races. Yes, Beckerman would be in real trouble out wide. But, that is not where he plays.

        When I think of the best pure D-mids, even at the international level, very few of them are great athletes. It is about tremendous positioning, great understanding of the game and a physical attitude. What people always underestimate is how good Beckerman is at passing. He rarely provides the final pass or assist, but his vision is tremendous for both club and country.

    • Josh D says:

      I was really impressed with Beckerman. Not only did he stop plays, but his distribution was fantastic. He played well in small spaces and was fast with his decision making. If he was a bit faster, I would start him over JJ.

      Unfortunately for him, JJ is more dynamic so I’d start him at the World Cup. But Beckerman isn’t a bad guy to bring in with 10 minutes to go and you’re trying to hold onto a result.

      • Josh D says:

        It’s also worth noting that while the diamond 4-4-2 worked well in the first half, it’s weaknesses were massively exploited in the second leading to our little implosion.

        A diamond 4-4-2 is inflexible and it puts a huge weight on your sidebacks because everyone is so tucked in. Both of those were exploited in the second half and the team wasn’t flexible enough to fix it.

        A 4-4-2 formation is so tried and true that every manager worth his weight knows how to exploit it, especially with only one holding/defending midfielder.

        As the commentators said last night, if you gave that much wing room to any of our three group opponents, they’d exploit it all night. A 4-5-1 is still our best bet, just not with Dempsey in the hole.

        • MikeG says:

          Davis and Parkhurst got ate up all night on the left side. It would not happen with Beasley or Fabian Johnson on the left side. So, we have personnel weakness in the formation, but not the formation itself. Beltran got worked on the RB position by Mexico until Yedlin came in to provide some speed and he put a body on the Mex players to show some muscle. Mexico did not attack very much on the left side with Yedlin in . Bring Yedlin back for another game. Again, personnel in the formation and not the formation was the issue. Omar…well, he got burned by the post..cannot fault for that, but he got burned on the pick..bad read by Omar. More of a test game that had good results. Build off of it the right way. Two forward system gets more players in the box..we do not have the personnel options Germany has to run a 4-5-1.

          • Jesse D says:

            Not sure if Beasley would play any better defensively than Parkhurst.

          • SJ says:

            Beltran had zero help from Zusi on defense. And Mexico seemed to work down the Parkhurst side for most of their success

            • bryan says:

              Lol he had a ton of help! Look at Opta for Zusi. He tracked back a lot and his defensive stats are solid.

              • Bomb Pop says:

                Zusi was terrible

              • bryan says:

                Yeah his assist was awful. Look at his stats and watch his first half. He did well. He was off early in the second. He wasn’t as dominant as Bradley or Beckerman, but he was solid. Saying otherwise is foolish. And I have no obsession with him. He deserves credit though.

          • Louis Z says:

            according to reports Omar told Beckerman that if he gets picked that he needed to switch, Beckerman remained with his man and Marque made us pay for it.

            • KingGoogleyEye says:

              Louis Z: where are you getting this info? I’ll admit that I’m skeptical— in part because: who deals with picks that way?

              • beachbum says:

                lots of teams!!! come on

                and it is on the guy whose man is SETTING the pick to communicate what is happening.

              • KingGoogleyEye says:

                beachbum: from the replay, you can quite easily see that Beckerman did exactly that: he even steps back to let Omar through. Omar just fumbled once he got to the screen.

                Switching marks because of a pick leads to serious mismatches. Omar is a great header—so you want him, not Beckerman—to stay with the guy who is about to head in a goal!

              • beachbum says:

                if he can. from the replay it’s clear to me that Beckerman needed to shift off his man…obviously Marquez was the target!

              • Dan murph says:

                Anybody that has ever played a sport before!

              • Joamiq says:

                Switching on picks is not something you’re generally supposed to do in the box in soccer.

              • KingGoogleyEye says:

                The problem with switching marks in this case is that Marquez was sprinting—as was Omar—but Kyle was stationary (marking his man). I doubt that Kyle could have accelerated quick enough to catch Marquez, but if Omar had taken the route Kyle opened up for him then he’d have beaten Marquez to the ball.

              • Fredo says:

                Thought switch was standard operating procedure on a pick, no? Seemed like that’s what Omar expected.

            • Chodilicus says:

              The problem wasn’t the pick. The problem is that Gonzalez was clearly on the wrong side from the beginning and then made very little effort to get through the pick. I don’t know what he was thinking being on the outside of Marquez, but any defender should know to always be goal side.

              It had nothing to do with Beckerman. That is just a nice excuse for a guy like Omar who routinely makes a few of these mental errors per game.

        • The Garrincha says:

          Well Josh D, so there we have it,
          the answer to the 442,
          it’s only good for a half, does not matter which, pick one?.
          After any half of football, a good team, which all WC teams are will adjust and it will no longer be affective.

        • beachbum says:

          that ‘exposure’ is on the coaching staff for not adjusting to what Herrera did! Squarely on the coaches is this responsibility

      • bechbum says:

        great first half, second half a bit of a different story

    • bryan says:

      i haven’t noticed that. everything i have seen is praise for Beckerman in the first half. unfortunately he fell apart in the second half. but he was fantastic in the first half.

      • Neruda says:

        I don’t remember beckerman falling apart. The US offensive players started losing possession to quickly but I remember KB getting the ball and quickly getting off his foot. He stayed pretty calm but couldn’t make up for almost everybody just standing around.

        • bryan says:

          he most certainly did and i haven’t read one report that hasn’t mentioned his poor second half. he was partially responsible on both goals. him and Omar.

          on the first, i’ll still put more of that on Omar for sure but Beckerman didn’t open his mouth either to communicate. he should be screaming at Omar on that play.

          on the second, if you watch the replay, Beckerman was caught out of position in the box which left Aguilar wide open inside the 18. then him and Goodson lunged at Aguilar instead of remaining calm like he did in the first half to make a smooth tackle or at least block the shot. it was just a lack of concentration in the box. he was more concerned with a potential cross than the guy standing inside the 18 in the middle of the box unmarked.

          it’s pretty interesting really, both him and Omar had a dominant first half but both culpable on the goals in the second.

          • SJ says:

            Huh? Beckerman should be yelling at Omar on the first goal?!?! Methinks you have it backwards.

            Omar should have been screaming to switch off, or he should have fought throught the pick.

            • bryan says:

              Read the entire comment. I said that goal is absolutely on Omar more than Beckerman, but NEITHER of them communicated to each other. That’s not good. Period.

              • beachbum says:

                disagree…you are off base here. The guy whose man SETS the pick is responsible for communicating that the pick is coming. That’s the deal bryan

              • KingGoogleyEye says:

                bryan: it looks pretty obvious to me that Beckerman steps back off the screen to let Omar through. I can only assume that was accompanied with something verbal (but I’m stuck listening to vuvuzelas instead of mics pointed at the field!).

                After the goal, you can even see Beckerman pointing to the gap he left for Omar with a “why didn’t you drive your bus through this gaping hole I made for you?” look on his face.

              • bryan says:

                King – this is exactly how i saw it too. i certainly understand where beachbum is coming from, and i put blame on both, but i saw the play the same as you.

              • KingGoogleyEye says:

                bryan: I guess I misunderstood, because you wrote, “but NEITHER of them communicated to each other.” It just seemed to me that Kyle communicated but Omar got himself tangled up (maybe due to indecision: “Do I chase following the same path as my mark, or do I take the gap Kyle just left for me?” Uh…uh…crash!).

    • ThaDeuce says:

      Ives, no commentary on Vasquez yet?

    • Aram says:

      It looked like Beckerman lost Marquez on his goal and drifted toward goal and not the man on the 2nd Mexican goal.

  2. EBL says:

    Could this all have been the work of Berni Vogts, the new special advisor to the USMNT? If it was, then he is already doing an excellent job of ensuring that Michael Bradley is played in the best possible role for him.

    • Vic says:

      Think it had more to do with Euro players not being called, therefore Jones wasn’t available. Don’t forget, in the past when Euro players were called, Bradley was in Europe so Bradley and Jones always played together.

      • MN Footie says:

        Yeah, but there have been times when Jones was injured/unavailable, and they still went with the 4-2-3-1 with Beckerman and Bradley as the “2”.

        Whatever the reason, I liked the diamond 4. It was dynamic.

        • Fredo says:

          Really? I don’t recall Beckerman & Bradley playing together during qualifying or recent friendlies.

    • Ali Dia says:

      I think we should consider the possibility that JK may be doing some of this himself before we start crediting Vogts. For whatever reason Vasquez did not want to play 4-4-2 ever. On the rare occasions we did, we actually looked ok, if not very good (Bonsia second half comes to mind). To me it’s starting to seem that JK was noticing that on the rare occasions he wrestled the tactical gameplan away from Vasquez, the team performed closer to their capabilities. Maybe Vasquez felt obligated by his privileged position to recommend something more sophisticated. Who knows, but it’s done and most people think it’s probably overdue.

      It is commonly accepted for whatever reason that tactics are not JK’s strength. But really… could he be that awful? He was a very clever and complete player, and he had exposure and success under many coached and systems, and in multiple countries. He is a smart and articulate guy. He flies helicopters. While he might prefer to focus his energies on man-management and player development, I’m not sure how he could be incompetent here. And I would think it’s just a better system to have tactics under the primary purview of the manager. Maybe he realized he needed ownership of tactics to really have the credibility he wants. Maybe a good thing.

      I could be wrong, but I don’t think Vogts (or Ramos) is really replacing Vasquez. Vogts is almost certainly here on a short-term arrangement and with a title like “special advisor” it’s not even clear he will be on the sideline staff in Brazil. He has been a mentor for JK and will provide more formal support and probably suggestions/feedback for tactics thinking is probably going to play a significant role in planning and strategy. But it’s JK’s show and I think that’s a better thing.

      One man’s thoughts, anyway.

      • Josh D says:

        In my opinon, Klinsi’s job is to set the plan (strategy) then it’s up to his assistant to execute it (tactics). Vasquez wasn’t up to it, given the players we have available.

        • Ali Dia says:

          Your model is good– a little bit different but it still works for me. I would call the Vasquez job “implementation” rather than “execution” (this would be the players, ultimately) but it’s just nomenclature.

          In this sense, I believe the move is a reflection of JK expanding his role into the implementation function, with Vogts providing guidance and feedback. Ramos will shoulder the training and matchday responsibilities of ensuring implementation is translated at the individual level, which becomes execution.

        • beachbum says:

          I agree to a point, but ultimately Klinnsman makes the call.

          Using last night as an example, the coaches get an ‘A’ for setting the team up in the first half, and an ‘F’ for failing to adjust to what Herrera did at halftime.

          who disagrees? le’s talk :)

          • Ali Dia says:

            beachbum… where you been dude?

          • Fredo says:

            Agree. Mex pressured higher up and we kinda wilted. But, I did like our fight after Mex equalized. And, GAM did put it in the back of the net.

            • bechbum says:

              True. That disallowed go ahead goal is good practice for us for the World Cup as I expect more BS like that and we’ll need to overcome it

          • GW says:

            I looked to me like the USMNT staff were not as interested in winning the game as in seeing how the starters would hold up to whatever changes the Mexicans were obviously going to make.

            It was all a test after all.

            They wanted to see how Gonzo held up otherwise why sub out Besler? They wanted to see how Green and Yedlin would do and how LD did as a sub.

            Besides that, the offsides goal was perfectly legitimate and I would argue that the US did enough to win that match regardless.

  3. Dane96 says:

    Not a huge Beckerman fan at the international level however, if we plan to play any of the games with the same formation run-out last night I’d be glad to see him on the plane to Brazil.

    He pretty much did a stellar job last night and played physical when it was needed.

    • Darwin says:

      enjoys contradicting self

      • Adam says:

        He is not being contradictory. He is qualifying his statement and I, for one, completely agree. Beckerman is not quite an international level quality player, but that role is perfectly tailored to his strenghts and he fills it better than the other American midfielders.

        • MikeG says:

          In that #6 role we have Jones, Edu, and Beckerman. Between those three let’s look at overall skills and yellow card threats..between those three only one will stay home in my opinion.

          • JakeFromStateFarm says:

            Would put Williams over Edu, IMHO. He just seems to provide more going forward in the limited flashes we’ve seen him.

        • Darwin says:

          Implies not up to international speed, but is international speed (‘excellent’) in certain formation.

          So, formation is the issue – not Beckerman’s quality.

          • Jovins says:

            No the issue is that Beckerman looks great when he’s the free man in the midfield. In the first half, the outermost midfielders in the diamond were tucking very far in, so we outnumbered Mexico 4 against 3 in the center. Beckerman, as the free man, is very good. He reads the game well to pick up interceptions, and his distribution is simple and decisive.

            When outnumbered or evenly numbered in the midfield though, Beckerman’s strengths aren’t as pronounced and his weaknesses are magnified. It was his man who scored the second goal, and he didn’t track the runner. He isn’t mobile enough to be responsible for shielding the defense and closing down other midfielders, and he struggles a little bit to pick out penetrating passes.

  4. JayAre says:

    It wasn’t really a 4-4-2 more like a 4-1-4-1.

  5. Jawaad says:

    The calls for a new partner for Bradley in the Central Midfield will be as deafening as they were when Geoff Cameron partnered with him in qualifying and produced similar results. Bradley is at his best when he does not have to cover defensively for his mate… kind of showing a lack of trust in Jermaine Jones without supervision.

    I’m not necessarily calling for Kyle Beckerman, but he actually understands that “base of the diamond” 6 role. Ideally, Cameron could play that spot and provide cover for the backline and allow Bradley the free reign that makes the US attack go.

    Something like this would be my preferred 11 in the 4-4-2 model:
    —Fabian—–Besler——–Anyone but OG—–Yedlin—

    Yes, Yedlin. The kid impressed the hell out of me yesterday with his pace. We aren’t going to shut down Cristiano or Thomas Mueller, but if the kid improves and keeps getting better, his speed alone will at least be somewhat of a nuisance to the Portugal and German attack. It’s worth a shot, because this would either free up Cameron to slot in at CB or the 6 role… gives us the wiggle room for what I think is our best 11 if Chandler can’t make it.

    Some may say Beasley should be the LB and move Fabian to RB, but his game during qualifying was predicated on the notion that if he gets beat (which he did repeatedly), he has the speed to make up for it against the CONCACAF teams, but that’s not gonna fly in the World Cup against this group.

    • Dlev45 says:

      You have contradicted yourself very much here.

      Yedlin has no experience and is often out of position, but at least he has te recovery speed to make up for it, so he should start at RB.

      But Beasley, he is is often out of position due to lack of experience, but has the recovery speed to make up for it, and yet that’s not good enough.

      This is the opinion of so many, and it doesn’t make any sense.

      • Jawaad says:

        Not really sure I said Yedlin was often out of position. Do I think he’s going to stonewall CR7 or Mueller? No. But those guys are not CONCACAF wingers that are flying by him either. Most of this is hypothetical also because we have about 30 min of national team tape on him, but he was impressive in a way Beasley has not been throughout qualifying in both getting forward and getting backward.

        I think this opinion (I apparently share with so many) deals with the fact we’d rather see the unknown behind Door 2 than the predictable play of Beasley behind Door 1. Fair or unfair, it’s an opinion obviously.

    • Kodi says:

      I don’t hate it thats for sure, i just wonder if Aron has the defensive work rate to play that role.

      • Jawaad says:

        One way or another I’d like to see him in the starting 11. The only other place would be the CAM in 4-2-3-1 or as a striker in the 4-4-2… both spots occupied by Dempsey it appears.

      • dewey says:

        I totally agree about Yedlin, and would prefer for him to start at the WC now. He’s strong, he’s fast, and he’s an unknown. All 3 things would work against teams playing us, and as long as we have Besler providing support w/ a capable partner (Cameron?) in the middle, he’d certainly be the best offensive RB option available.

        I wouldn’t have Johannson on the wing though, and I’d have either sub for Jozy or start in place of him up front, with Donovan on the wing, who looked sharp enough, and has been steady enough for so long, that he should start at the WC. If he doesn’t, we stand no chance, as he needs to be someone the rest of the team can look up to at this WC. I’d give Jones the start if he’s in form, and bring in Beckerman in the 2nd half alongside him (or Bradley dropped back) if we have leads.

        ————————J. Jones————————-

      • Jesse D says:

        I agree I don’t think he is defensive minded enough to play that role. Green had the same issue last night. He was asked to play some defensive and that was clearly out of his comfort zone. LM in this formation would have to be a guy who is willing to track back there are still several options. I actually would like to see Dempsey there again. That was his role in the 2010 world cup. I’d like to see a striker with real pace matched up with Jozy. Maybe I’m falling into the same trap as Bob Bradley though.

  6. Steve says:

    I don’t really understand this consistent beating of drums that Beckerman is not up to the task against more difficult opposition. I did not love Beckerman a year ago, but I would be hard pressed to name a more consistent performer over the last year. Beckerman is playing the best ball of his career right now. His discipline compliments Bradley. I am a Jermaine Jones fanboy, but this guy is taking the job from him, and doing so by simply outperforming everyone else on the pitch. This guy deserves cred and as of right now, I think I prefer the look of Bradley/Beckerman to Bradley/Jones.

  7. Dan says:

    Say what you want. But this is the midfield I’d like to see in Brazil.


  8. JJ says:

    —————– Jozy ——————-
    Aron ———– Clint ————- Zusi
    ———– Bradley ———————
    —————— Jones —————-
    Fabian — Besler — Goodson — Cam

    —————– Wondo —————-
    Green ——— Lando ——– Bedoya
    ————– Mix ———————–
    —————— Beckerman ———-
    Beasley — Orozco — Gonzo — Yedlin

    • Max Shapiro says:

      How about throwing Cameron in the defensive midfield spot. Could be nice to have that extra defensive minded player in there against Portugal, shadowing Ranaldo. It would free up Bradley to move forward without having to worry about Jones going to far forward as he’s been known to do at a few inopportune times a game.

    • Jawaad says:

      I think realistically we see your starters in Brazil pretty much exactly like that… maybe some competition with Bedoya vs Zusi and Goodson vs Orozco and BIG MAYBE Jones vs Beckerman, but in the end, I think that is your starting 11.

      • Jesse D says:

        I think the biggest stretch is AJ at left wing. Maybe he an Jozy play up top in a 4-4-2 but I don’t see this defensive role for AJ working very well. Defense is just as important as offense. Midfielders need to play some of both.
        Chandler v Yedlin would be an interesting discussion if JK called him in.

  9. Since 82 says:

    If we learned anything last night it is that Bradley should be in advanced position so he may affect and impact the match at the highest level. I’ve seen enough of Jones and believe in Beckerman’s pure function as a 6. My 4-4-2.

    AJ, Altidore link up/slightly withdrawn
    Dempsey (out left where he should be), Bradley (top diamond), Beckerman, and Zusi (great work rate/service)
    FJ, Besler, Parkhurst (goodbye statue), and Cameron

    I will take my chances w that lineup.

    • Amru says:

      I want to see Dempsey on the left as well. Our left midfielder usually tucks inside anyway, so why not play him on the left but give him the freedom to join the attack as he sees fit

      • Chris H says:

        My issue with Clint on the left is that I don’t see him being any help on the defensive end. No matter who is back on defense, we need a LM who can genuinely track back and shut a player down.

  10. Chris says:

    Yep, all we need is a partner for Bradley who will STAY PUT and not force Bradley to drop back and cover for him.

    Right now Beckerman plays that position well. Jones is more talented, but hasn’t seemingly grasped what his best role is when Bradley is on the field with him.

  11. Vik says:

    If only Beckerman had the physical tools of Jones. Jones seems to like to dribble out of trouble and can be a little careless with the ball. Both Beckerman and Mix have shown a comfort level with quickly passing out of pressure and moving more intuitively with Bradley.

    • Wispy says:

      I have a theory that Beckerman with the physical tools of Jones is a lot like Edu. If Mo an keep getting into a rhythm in MLS over the next two months, I can see him jumping Beckerman for that 6 role (but I think both should go to Brasil).

      • Vik says:

        Beckerman seems a much more cultured player than Edu. And like Jones, Edu has his sloppy/careless moments each game.

        • The Garrincha says:

          I am willing to believe that Edu’s, WC experience, and a dozen or more Europa league, and Champions league, starts for Rangers, makes him at least as cultured as Beckerman?.
          I also believe they both should be on the plane.
          In addition Edu, has positional flex throughout the back line.

          • kevin o says:

            By cultured, he means technically adept. Just because you play in Europe doesn’t make you a tidy ball handler.

            • The Garrincha says:

              Hey Kevin o.
              Are you putting words in my mouth?.

              I was referring to his complete, and entire, world soccer experience.
              Edu, is a former MLS rookie of the year,
              so yes I do look at things quite globally.

              As for there on ball skills, that’s debatable?.
              But as I already said, I feel they both should be on the plane, so what’s the issue?.

              • mud says:

                man look at this euro snobbery. why is playing in europe a qualification of technical skill. graham zusi may have the best technical ability of any of our players an has never played in europe. spl isnt a great league anyway, prob not even mls level top to bottom. besides we shouldnt be looking at this when we consider what player is better at accomplishing a certain task. beckerman is a better passer and more forward thinking than edu. i still like mo but he doesnt have beckerman’s on the ball skills

  12. ZZTop says:

    If Jozy continues to struggle and loses a place in the Starting XI, the USMNT is actually a great fit for the Barca-style 4-3-3 false 9, with Dempsey in the Messi role and Bradley in the Iniesta role, playing in front of both a distributor (Zusi) and a holder (presumably Jones).

    I think the XI could look like this. This formation needs width going forward from fullbacks, so Yedlin’s spped becomes relatively more valuable. If he struggles to develop, F. Johnson could go to RB (where he plays for club lately) and Beasley could start at LB.

    – – – Donovan- – – – – – – – – – – -Ar Jo- – –
    – – – – – – – – – – -Dempsey- – – – – – – – – –
    – – – – – – Bradley- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Zusi- – – – – – – –
    – – – – – – – – – – – -Jones- – – – – – – – – – –
    F. Johnson – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -Yedlin
    – – – – – – – -Besler- – Cameron- – – – – – –
    – – – – – – – – – – -Howard- – – – – – – – – – –

    • Jesse D says:

      I don’t think JK will have time to learn and teach that formation. When you start going position by position and realizing how far behind we are in terms of quality.
      Bradley<Iniesta (but maybe closer than the other battles)
      Zusi< Xavi
      Cameron< Pique
      AJ< Sanchez

      On the positive Howard is better than Quintero!

  13. KingGoogleyEye says:

    Hey Ives,

    I’m looking forward to your (hopefully) upcoming article on “Who Increased/Decreased Their Stock?”

    My thoughts:
    Most increased: Wondo and EJ equally beat out Yedlin and Parkhurst (which is tough, since W and EJ are probably competing for the same spot).

    Most decreased: Davis and Omar—but Omar is still going because “who else?”

  14. bryan says:

    “That means for Kyle in that moment – or if it’s a Jermaine Jones or whoever you put in or Maurice Edu that came in in that same role”

    i wonder if this means he’ll actually try it with Bradley and Jones. Jones is more than comfortable as a #6 based on his career at Schalke but JK has referred to him as a #8 multiple times. i’d like to see JK do a u-turn and tell Jones to play a strict #6 in a 4-4-2. we haven’t seen that yet. Jones is a good player and if he is told to play that #6, he’ll know what to do and he’ll listen. JK just hasn’t made him yet and has asked him to play as a #8.

    hopefully this showing by Bradley forces JK to make that change. i’d like to see it at least once in one of the warm up games.

    • Wispy says:

      I bet Jones has been told to play a 6 multiple times and is just not disciplined enough to do it.

      • bryan says:

        that’s such BS. the guy was the #6 for Schalke for how many years? only towards the end of his time there did he start playing more as a #8. JK has said multiple times that he has told Jones to play the #8. he has never been tasked as the #6 on a regular basis. we actually know that, it’s not up for debate.

    • KingGoogleyEye says:

      bryan: I’ve never been a huge fan of Jones only because I think he detracts from MB. That’s why I really like seeing Beckerman + MB—even though I recognize the limitations. But I fully agree with you that if Jones is told to play CDM then he will help the whole team, especially MB, to shine.

      • bryan says:

        Can’t argue with that. It think you are spot on. Would be interesting to see what happens.

  15. Tony in Quakeland says:

    This was not about the formation so much as it was the postive effect on Bradley of NOT having Jones. This has been the case for awhile. Jones goes up field and leaves Bradley to cover. It should be the other way round.

    Given the space and freedom, Bradley ran the show.

    As for beckerman, I have alwyas liked the guy and thought fans under rated him. But he was at least partly at fault on both goals. On the first, his job is to switch off on the pick. In the second he ran pointlessly into space and did not cover the guy entering the area behind him.

    Frankly, I would prefer Cameron at d-mid and Yedlin at RB.

    • bryan says:

      “Jones goes up field and leaves Bradley to cover. It should be the other way round.”

      it has a lot to do with formation, IMO. 4-2-3-1 will always have a #8/#6, #8/#8, or #6/#6. for whatever reason, as you pointed out, JK always has Jones playing as the #8 while Bradley tends to stay back. a change in tactics to swap the two roles would be awesome but JK never did that.

      but if he changed the formation to a 4-4-2 with those two, JK would force his own hand…tactically. Jones is fine as a #6 and a #8, but not a #10. Bradley clearly played that role just fine.

      point is, Bradley and Jones have both said they have good chemistry. i think the issue is JK’s desire to use Jones as the #8. in other words, it’s not so much Beckerman that has the positive effect, but rather the tactical switch.

      • KingGoogleyEye says:

        My only guess about JK’s insistence on playing Jones more forward is that he wants to bring Jones’ aggressive defense higher up the pitch.

    • rainORshine says:

      this. beckerman completely switched off on 2nd goal, leaving aguilar in acres of space

      find it really disappointing that US journalists often fail to make these relatively simple points.

      instead the blame is assigned to omar… there is no human being on the planet that could have reacted from the position OG was in to stop that goal

      as for best CM option. id vote for:


      people are suddenly forgetting that MB is a master class defender… something that might just come in handy in group of death

      • JJ says:

        Omar deserves the bulk of the blame on both goals. On the first one, he really needs to fight thru that screen. Beckerman even gave him some space to get thru. On the 2nd one, he was the closest defender, not marking anybody, and ball watching. He is the common denominator on WAY too many goals. Can’t be trusted.

        Goodson takes his spot for me.

        • bryan says:

          i thought the same until i watched that whole play from the moment Green made the bad header to the ball hitting the back of the net.

          Omar DID stop on the play, can’t deny that. but you can see why he did. both Goodson and Beckerman desperately close down Aguilar but they BOTH lunge and lunge to the same side of him. Aguilar was calm and just hit it to the other side. Omar was clearly expecting a blocked shot given Goodson and Beckerman were directly in front of him.

          i think that goal was 50/50 Beckerman and Omar.

          • KingGoogleyEye says:

            I dunno bryan, was aguilar Beckerman’s mark to begin with? I’ll have to watch it again. He should not have been allowed to get that shot off in the first place.

            That said, you can see Beckerman looking around during the buildup to note where each Mexican is— he tries to decide between marking Aguilar to prevent him receiving the pass versus staying closer to the goal line to block a cross—whereas Omar is simply mesmerized by the ball.

            I’ll still agree that the blame splits 50/50, but Kyle’s (or, whoever’s) was a mistake whereas Omar’s was a downright shame.

            • bryan says:

              Absolutely. Green and Beckerman close down Aguilar before he passes out wide. When that pass is made, Aguilar is Beckerman’s mark since Green moves out wide as he should. Aguilar is sitting in the middle of the box inside the 18 waiting for a cross. Problem is, everyone else had a mark already anyway. Any potential cross was covered. Beckerman realized it and that is when you see him and Goodson rush out. They both miss the tackle and the shot ends up finding it’s way through and hitting the post. Omar should have followed the entire play and he is at fault for losing his marker, but Aguilar’s shot should have never happened and he was Beckerman’s mark.

              • bryan says:

                Meant to say Aguilar is sitting in the middle of the box waiting for a pass. He stopped his run once he realized Beckerman was dropping deep into he box and the top of it was wide open. That’s when you see Beckerman and Goodson rush out and lunge at the ball.

          • bechbum says:

            good for you bryan…cheers or breaking out of the Group Think here on this one

      • KingGoogleyEye says:

        “people are suddenly forgetting that MB is a master class defender”

        Just to add a bit of nuance to what you may be hearing from many fans: hoping that Jones will stay back and MB will move forward is not necessarily due to ignoring MB’s quality defending, but rather to wanting to fully employ his attacking.

        In other words, if I could use my cloning machine and play two Bradleys alongside each other, then I would!

        • Mason says:

          If you have a cloning machine, make four Bradleys and play an all-Bradley midfield.

          • KingGoogleyEye says:

            Well, now you’re just being greedy—and reckless. Each time I use my machine I increase the chance that a fly will sneak in with the player and I’ll clone some grotesque chimera.

  16. Terrence Osbourne says:

    I was at the game last night. First row, upper level, just about at the half line. Actually, an excellent place to watch a match, it especially allows you to notice concepts such as ‘narrowness’ and ‘width’ and to view formations as a whole.

    During the first half, I was stunned at how narrow we were, especially when we didn’t have the ball. The Mexicans just simply refused to take advantage of it. I counted at least half a dozen times in the first half where a Mexican winger was close to even with our back line and had no one, including teammates, within 20 yards of him. If the Mexicans simply switched the point of attack with a long ball across the field it would have left us seriously in trouble. Of course it helps to have a Cuauhtémoc Blanco in your team to do that, not sure they had that and perhaps Klinsmann (or Vogts) knew this beforehand.

    In the second half, the Mexicans got out wider and it didn’t necessarily lead directly to goals, but it did make them more difficult to defend.

  17. biff says:

    Speaking as a Beckerman fan who is happy that is finally getting some respect, I think it would be great if he shaved his head. He’d look really cool and it would improve his aerodynamics, maybe make him a half-step quicker.

    • Ali Dia says:

      This is a superb idea with a lot of potential. I would add that he could use it make a wig for Landon, who could use some extra cabbage at this point — would probably be a considerable one-up on the Mathis mohawk come Brazil.

      Critics might say Donovan already looked enough like donut-eating stoner out there on the pitch last night without adding a patchouli mop, but I’m thinking he just needs some inspiration.

      I’ll call JK.

  18. ZTom says:

    Talk about putting lipstick on a pig. This article has to be right up there with Ives comparing Mikey to Pirlo that one time lmfao.

    Look, SpongeMikeSquarePass ain’t fast enough to play the #10 role. He also ain’t fit enough to play any role imho.

    I wanted to write alot more, but I shudder to think what the BlackStars will do to this midfield. Mikey was invisible in the 2nd half, coughing the ball up and he was completely dominated by 2 midgets that I never heard of from El Tri.

    He didn’t mean to cross across the face of goal on his assist (he averages only one assist about every 8 national team games) and his lucky toe poke off a corner which bounced untouched in the 6 yard box in front of an unguarded back post had to be the all time greatest gift I’ve ever seen in an international match, friendly or otherwise.

    • Horsewhistle says:

      You completely missed it on your comment and are not understanding experiment used yesterday. However, I don’t defend the article in being a piece of journalistic excellence.
      The moves were a large improvement to the structure of our midfield over the past two years. A considerable tactical and position change for the US. Adjustments weren’t made for the second half to put other players in the same position to allow for an equal comparison. Many euro based players will be taking these starting positions. I bet we see the diamond in the pre Cup friendlies.

      • Horsewhistle says:

        Furthermore, in terms of the roster experimrnt, MB90 and Demps were used as the control and the pieces around them were shaken up. Obviously Mexico made halftime adjustments, but the US did not. That was not their goal. Seeing how the midfield functioned with new blood like Yedlin and Green, but also seeing someone like Zusi and Beckerman working with MB proved to provide positive results, as well as establishing 2 goals in the first half.

    • Ted Tran says:

      Completely agree, I don’t understand why the American media is so afraid to criticize the national team, in particular M. Bradley.

      • Curious Individual says:

        Hey Ted.,, Haven’t seen you much here before… You have a lot of great ideas!!!! I also am against “M. Bradley”. It is a frequently used term by people who actually exist. I have heard a lot about this guy Julian Green. He sounds really good but I’m looking for some better information. What do you have on him?

      • About Friggin TIME!!! says:

        Ah eff… Crazy stuff Ted Tran… for real … It’s all “M. Bradley” here.
        Leave it alone for a sec and what do you see… it gets WORSE
        It’s like these fools don’t know football for a thing

        Don’t get me wrong.. it’s a good crowd but it’s mostly it’s…jeez!!!
        I hate to be a hater but a little detailed analysis and it fails
        A good evening to you my man,,, please post more!

  19. Ali Dia says:

    Spoiling for a fight, are we?

  20. ZTom says:


    Here’s a pic of one of the flying midgets from El Tri that bossed Mikey in the 2nd half.

  21. little puppet says:

    I would like to see Edu play as a centerback, replacing OG. Its the only way I see Edu earn a ticket to Brazil and for our defense to get a slight improvement before the world cup.

    • IndyElevenFan says:


    • byrdman says:

      This has been my desire since 2009. He is fast, closes down extremely well, tenacious, good in the air, strong, but he passes poorly for a midfielder. He would be adequate to good as a cb passing. The problem is that it’s too late for Brazil. I usually back JK, but I think he missed the boat on this one. When he was at Stoke and riding pine, he could have brought him in anyway.

  22. John says:

    There seems to be a good number of people asking why doesn’t Jones just play deeper in that 6 role? The problem is in the US set up the 6 has to drop back and pick the ball up off the back line and connect possession. Jones is a nightmare when he’s asked to handle this task as we saw in his 19 turn over first half in Costa Rica. He has no sense of when he’s being pressed from behind, doesn’t connect the simple pass or get turned. Thats why Bradley always has to take care of this responsibility. I think Jones has his place in the team but he isn’t the answer if you want Bradley to get forward more. He turns it over far to often in dangerous places if you ask him to play deep.

    • KingGoogleyEye says:

      Good point—and perfectly illustrates the ways in which Beckerman is better than Jones.

    • byrdman says:

      This is a good point. But no matter what you say about Beckerman at the end of the day, he is too slow. When he plays against non Concacaf opponents he struggles with the athleticism. I love the underdog, work my butt off, die for the team kind of player. But at the next level, Brazil, most all the guys you face play that way, AND are athletic.

      • John says:

        I didn’t even say anything about Beckerman, my point was no should want to see Jones playing behind Bradley. He turns over far too often in dangerous places.

      • mud says:

        you know gareth barry played in the last world cup right? obviously that ozil moment happened but let’s not act like everyone playing in the wc is super athletic.

  23. Brett says:

    We only showed what energy and movement does for an attack. I still have no idea what our best 11 is because Klinsmann won’t put them out there together.

    Everyone was fawning over Bradley’s play going forward, but all he was doing was reading the play and moving. It’s precisely what Dempsey refuses to do. He just hangs around waiting for the ball to bounce to him. Beckerman might have done well against Mexico’s average squad, but he is not capable of playing the destroyer against elite teams.

    At this point, I think our best forward combination might be Aron and Wondo. No one else puts in the same work rate up top.

    • KingGoogleyEye says:

      Brett: “Beckerman might have done well against Mexico’s average squad, but he is not capable of playing the destroyer against elite teams.”

      Can we all please accept the obviousness of this statement: “________ might have done well against ________’s average squad, but he is not capable of playing the ________ against elite teams”?

      It’s in the very same vein as, “__(defender)__ was good against ___(average striker)___ but do you really want him defending against the likes of Ronaldo or Goetze?”

      The USMNT does not have elite or world class players, so let’s all stop pretending that we can base squad selection on that. We pick the players who will form the best team that *we* can form, not the best team that we can *imagine* or that *other* teams could form.

      • byrdman says:

        Picking the best players for the position requires identifying weakness and strengths. BECKERMAN IS SLOW. Can’t get around it.

        • Dennis says:

          But, speed of thought and discipline are also essential components of being a good player. Beckerman does excel at those and he does not try to things he can’t pull off. The latter is something that makes Jones look bad at times.

          It was not an accident in the last game that Beckerman looked pretty solid when the game really did call for him to stay central and keep the play in front of him. In the 2nd half Mexico was largely avoiding the center and using the wings. That put Beckerman in the uncomfortable position of getting pulled out a bit so that he had to recover more quickly. I thought Edu dealt with that better, simply because as is suggested Beckerman did not have the speed to recover as well. It would have been interesting to see how Edu would have performed in the first half, would he have had the patience and self-discipline to stay home in center defense and let the other guys have all the fun?

      • Brett says:

        My point is that we have better options than Beckerman, not that we have a pool of elite players. Beckerman will not repeat a performance like this in the World Cup, so why bother?

        • KingGoogleyEye says:

          Brett: If that was your point then you should have said so. Instead, you just dismissed Beckerman without offering any alternative.

          My point is that your argument for dismissing him is impractical because you could make that argument about 95% of the USMNT pool: they will not look nearly as good against WC teams, so they might as well stay home. We’d be left with three goalies, a midfielder, and 2-3 forwards.

  24. USMNT says:

    I like Bradley / Beckerman. Allows Bradley to fill in the role of the number 10 and Beckerman is more reliable in the defensive midfielder role.

    • beachbum says:

      but they’ll need to be flexible n how they position themselves so as not to get static n their approach and allow halftime adjustments to kick their butt, like what Herrera did to us Wednesday nigth

  25. Chris says:

    I kinda think formations for the most part are overated, to be honest the only difference from a 4 4 2 to a 4 2 3 1, is one of the striker dropping into the #10 position. Unless we play like altidore and wondo up top together its not truly a 4 4 2.

    As for the match
    -Rimando was awesome, as usual
    -Good outing from Besler
    -I think its time to maybe give goodson a run next to besler and see how it works, the problem with replacing gonzo right now is the lack of option, however after the world cup i would like to see brooks, packwood, okugo, maybe even george john get a run.
    -Parkhurst was solid, did give away possession a bit tho
    -Beltran is not good enough internationally, 1st mexico goal was kinda his fault although i felt he was taken down, yedlin should have gotten the start
    -Beckerman was pretty good, could have done better on both mexico goals, but because he can sit in there in front of the back line, he allows bradley to consistantly go forward, which is where he is best.
    -Bradley-well that was probably the best 90 minutes ive seen from a usmnt player in a long time
    -Zusi Davis and Dempsey all had solid games
    -Wondo got his goal, might be a priceless one.
    -EJ was awful other than his “goal”
    -Edu looked great in the middle, going to be intresting what happens in the midfield as far as depth
    -Donovan was pretty good as well, should have started

  26. Raymon says:

    Whatever it was they were plugging into MB’s head through that port that was covered with a man-sized bandaid needs to be plugged into everyone else’s head.

  27. It’s not the midfield we should talk, but THE DEFENSE.

  28. Joamiq says:

    I just hope Jones watched the game and understands the role he needs to play when he plays with Bradley.

    • KingGoogleyEye says:

      Joamiq: I think you mean, “I just hope *Jurgen* watched the game and understands the role *Jones* needs to play when he plays with Bradley.”


      • John says:

        The problem is who is then going to clean up the mistakes when Jones turns it over if Bradley is further up the field.

  29. Colt says:

    Here’s where I see things right now:

    On the Plane: Howard, Guzan, Rimando
    On the Bubble: No one unless an injury occurs

    On the Plane: Besler, Fabian, Cameron, Beasley, Goodson
    On the Bubble: Parkhurst, Yedlin, Chandler, Gonzo, Brooks, Gooch

    On the Plane: Bradley, Jones, Donovan, Zusi, Bedoya, Mix
    On the Bubble: Beckerman, Edu, Williams, Green, Shea

    On the plane: Altidore, Dempsey, Aron
    On the bubble: EJ, Wondo, Boyd, Agudelo

    17 players have their tickets. 15 folks battling for 6 spots. It will be interesting to see how JK decides to use those last 6 spots.

    I think the defenders are battling for 2 seats, but can see 3 being a possibility.

    I think Beckerman is probably in, but he and Edu could be vying for the same seat, or they both could possibly go depending upon how many defenders JK brings. Williams could be an option for this seat based on his ability to play RB.

    I think Green and Shea are fighting for one spot.

    I think EJ, Wondo, Boyd and Agudelo are battling for one seat.

  30. little puppet says:

    The EJ step over play into out of bounds was priceless, surely we can do without him in Brazil. I would rather take a youngster in his place, a future prospect development > the EJ experiment that failed so many times already.

    • Ali Dia says:

      Oh stop. That was def funny and no I’m not gonna blow anything up or even care if EJ doesn’t make it… But how do do you really call EJ “an experiment that failed so many times already”. He has scored imprortant goals in competitive games numerous times. Who comprises our litany of amazing(ish) center forwards, besides Brian McBride, Eric Wynalda and Joe-Max Moore.. Chris Wondolowski? Brian Ching? Conor Casey? Roy Lassiter? Joe Gaetjens? Julian Green?

      Don’t look now but we havent actually won a World Cup and we should appreciate what we have — calling EJ a fail is maybe getting too big for our britches. EJ is our 8th all time leading scorer and will likely finish top 5. But yeah he has shortcomings… and the out of bounds stepover is prob not something CR7 will be impressed by, for sure. That really was sad….

  31. Joe says:

    Here’s my preliminary squad (who I think we’ll make it now who I’d prefer to)
    Howard Guzan Rimando
    Beasley F.Johnson Besler Goodson Gonzalez Orozco Ream Cameron Parkhurst Yedlin Evans
    Donovan Shea Green Bradley Jones Beckerman Diskerud Edu Gil Bedoya Zusi
    Dempsey Altidore Johannson E.Johnson Wondolowski