The United States defeated Ghana 2-1 on Monday night in Natal but the American midfield performance was anything but convincing. The midfield diamond that showed so much promise in three friendlies before the World Cup was largely dysfunctional. The formation was vetted by Jürgen Klinsmann largely with the hope of maximizing Michael Bradley’s touches and time on the ball. Klinsmann has long discussed the need for the US to maintain possession in order to dictate the flow of the match. On Monday though, the United States only controlled possession for 36.4% of the time.
Bradley had a poor match on Monday night and the fact that the formation was so dependent on his contribution made it difficult for the US to transition properly from defense to proper build-up play. The poor performance Bradley turned in forced Jermaine Jones to cover a lot more space than he was accustomed to and crowded Kyle Beckerman out of his normal space. Jones and Beckerman both had good games, but Bradley’s inability to hold the ball or control possession play scuttled the United States attack.
Klinsmann has a number of options to change the shape of the US team heading into a critical matchup on Sunday against Portugal. These options include:
1. Mix Diskerud.
Mix Diskerud is a midfielder that if inserted into a 4-2-3-1 formation flanking Bradley can be effective in helping the US maintain possession while avoiding a potential pitfall against Portugal’s high level central midfielders.
2. Graham Zusi.
Another option is to return to the use of traditional wingers with Graham Zusi inserted into the side providing some relief in the midfield by stretching play into the wide areas. This may also give some extra defensive cover against a Portuguese side that likes to attack down the flanks as Jones can focus more on shielding the back four.
The Ghanaian attack was unable to create separation between the American defenders except on one or two occasions during the match, which led to a number of shots from distance after the US midfield had been overrun. The expectation for Sunday’s game will be that Portugal will attempt to use its wingers to push inside to stimulate the attack. It will be imperative that the US find a way to maintain possession while also ensuring Portugal does not dominate the wide areas.
Some sort of tactical change is in order for the United States after being dominated in possession on Monday night. The injury to forward Jozy Altidore complicates matters for Klinsmann and thus it is possible that the US setup could look radically different on Sunday.