American soccer fans have been in the last week obsessing over Jürgen Klinsmann’s decision to scrap the 4-2-3-1 formation for recent friendlies and play with a midfield diamond. The developed narrative has claimed that the United States lacks adequate defensive cover from midfield in this formation.
Klinsmann however has been anxious to diversify the United States ability to play different styles and formations. Last week Klinsmann told reporters:
“We will approach different teams in different ways, We have at least two or three systems. The system right now suits a lot of our players because it is also based on their strengths. Every system requires different characteristics. It is good for us that we work on different ones and hopefully use different ones at different moments in Brazil.”
In the diamond, Jermaine Jones operates at the tip. Despite his largely undeserved reputation for lapses and being a “red card waiting to happen” Jones is probably the best ball-winner the United States has had in the holding midfield role in years. Alejandro Bedoya’s work-rate and willingness to track back for defensive duties makes him an ideal candidate to start in this formation and help Jones with his defensive work.
Ultimately the diamond is about getting more touches on the ball for Michael Bradley, who is the United States top field player. Bradley is the only American player with the ability to control the flow of the match and dictate tempo. The diamond also ensures that the United States will not simply bunker for 90 minutes in each match as we have seen at times in past international competitions.
Klinsmann still has the option of playing a 4-2-3-1 as I believe he will at times in this World Cup. For this formation, Kyle Beckerman should be the option to flank Jermaine Jones, giving the United States a deep-lying playmaker to link up with Bradley in a central attacking role. Clint Dempsey should be pushed wide or deployed perhaps as the lone striker which would make the formation resemble in some ways the setup by Spain’s Vincent Del Bosque in Euro 2012. The Spanish won that competition without playing a recognized striker for the majority of the tournament. Much like he did with Germany in 2006, Klinsmann is still experimenting and freshening things up as the World Cup approaches.
Whichever direction Klinsmann goes with his tactics, it can be almost guaranteed that the United States will not be playing its usual defend and counter or rely on set pieces game against better opposition. Certainly counter-attacking and set-pieces with be part of the game plan but not the only way the USA can compete.