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Match analysis

Jurgen Klinsmann's Starting Formation Was a Mistake

The United States men's national team began the match against Mexico in an unusual way, and it backfired. Brian Sciaretta has that story and three other thoughts from Friday night's defeat.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
November 11, 2016
5:00 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio—A cold night in Columbus for a World Cup qualifier between the United States and Mexico in front of a pro-American crowd is a familiar setting. A 2-1 result in favor of the Mexican team, however, was an unfamiliar result.

Mexico dominated the beginning of the game and snuck a set piece goal at the very end to seal the victory and put Jurgen Klinsmann’s team in a dangerous spot to start the Hexagonal as a road trip to San Jose awaits.

The 3-4-3 formation backfired
In a move that will be sharply criticized for a long time, Jurgen Klinsmann opened the game with a 3-4-3 formation. In a crucial opening game to the Hexagonal, Klinsmann took a gambleand it backfired.

The team was out of synch from the start, and Mexico took a 1-0 lead and hit the post two other times before Klinsmann decided to change to the standard 4-4-2.

The second half had promising moments but the margin for error was too small. After the game, Klinsmann explained why it fell apart signaling Bradley and Jones.

“We started the game in a 3-4-3 with Christian Pulisic having all the freedom with two strikers up front,” Klinsmann said. "It went really well in training but the key to that formation is your central midfielders need to get into these 1v1 battles. That is something that was not happening.”

“Then the second half was outstanding,” he added. “The only thing that was missing was a couple of goals.”

So while Jones and Bradley struggled in the formation, it was the wrong decision to go with the 3-4-3 to start. Jones said afterward the formation was “not my decision” but credited Mexico with its preparation.

“We tried with a different formation,” Jones said. “But all the respect to Mexico. They figured it out and played really good. In the second half, we played way better.”

“I thought it was maybe a good formation for us three up front but maybe not the whole team in the back,” Jozy Altidore added. “In the second half we went with something we were more familiar with and we dominated the game.”

Villian Rafa Marquez sinks the U.S.
Rafa Marquez might be the biggest villain in the history of American soccer. He’s embarrassed himself with red cards against the United States and was a laughingstock in Major League Soccer.

But tonight, Marquez is having the last laugh as he headed home the winning goal minutes from the final whistle.

“We lost him,” Klinsmann said. “We made a mistake. We had all kinds of designs you do nicely on a white board but a player loses his man for a split second and that is when these goals happen.”

“I think it was John Brooks’ [player],” Klinsmann added in a follow up.

Altidore was near Marquez on the goal and he was frustrated after the game.

“Marking, marking in the box,” Altidore said. “It’s growing pains. We have a young team with a lot of young guys who will learn from tonight and move forward. We have talent but these are some of the growing pains you have. You switch off for one minute and we give up that soft goal.”

Chandler and Jones still important moving forward
Two of the most interesting inclusions in the starting lineup were Jermaine Jones and Timothy Chandler. Jones has recently returned from a leg injury and Chandler has never really established himself in the team.

Following the game, Klinsmann defended both players and even said Jones can go 90 minutes with “not a problem.”

“I think they confirmed why we made that decision,” Klinsmann said. “They both had good games. Jermaine is obviously just coming back but his experience, his drive, and play is very important to us.”

“Timothy Chandler is probably having the best season of his career in the Bundesliga. DeAndre Yedlin, especially with us the last couple of camps, especially with him moving down to the second level in England, he’s been struggling in recent camps. If you saw every training session, which you can’t, you would get confirmation that Timmy is ahead of DeAndre at the moment.”

Costa Rica now high stakes
The United States national team is now starting at the real possibility of getting zero points from his first two games of the Hexagonal. That would usher in a modern-era “Winter of Discontent” among American soccer fans and put enormous pressure on the next series of games in 2017.

The U.S. team has never won in Costa Rica and the Ticos defeated Trinidad & Tobago on the road in his Hexagonal opener. Klinsmann admitted that there is urgency because “you don’t want to be behind,” but he is encouraged by the performance in the second half.

“The message is very simple: We have to go down there and get a result,” Klinsmann said. “It’s part of the qualifying process… It’s not a problem but obviously it’s disappointing to lose this game.”

“All these qualifying games are difficult. That’s what the players are prepared for. I think if you pick-up that second half and play that second half, I am not worried.”

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