Skip to content

Defining and explaining the successful – and new – US formation against Nigeria

Jun 8, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

Beckerman AP

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Before kickoff against Nigeria, Jurgen Klinsmann made three changes to the side that played decent against Turkey, and the country tried to figure out exactly how the players fit together.

90 minutes later, after a 2-1 win over Nigeria that felt a bit more complete than the scoreline showed, there was a shower of praise for how the players fit together tactically.

Except still, nobody could figure out exactly what to call it or how to define it.

On the heels of Klinsmann’s rant slamming the discussion of formations altogether, there was a guilty feeling that accompanied any attempts to label how the individual US players pieced together on the pitch.

It was like a piece of IKEA furniture – confusing at first, requiring a lot of work to put together, and without a comprehensive set of instructions, but once it does come together right, it serves its purpose well.

“We started off a little bit lethargic,” said Alejandro Bedoya. “It took a little bit of getting used to, but we did what was asked of us.”

It took time to sink in because the tactic was brand new to the entire squad, implemented by Klinsmann just in the past few days.

“We felt in the Turkey game that they were able to get into some dangerous spots on us,” Beckerman said. “We worked on it this week, it was new to us, but we felt like if we’re all working for each other and backing each other up, that we can be successful.”

Bedoya labeled the formation a 4-3-2-1.  Beckerman anchored the epicenter of the midfield, with Jones to his left and Bedoya on his right.  There was an expectation for both Bedoya and Jones that they would advance further outside on attacks to expand the advance, and pinch in when the team moved back towards their own goal.

“Our focus this week was to get everybody behind the ball, because we’re playing against good teams and they’re going to have possession,” Beckerman said. “But if we can keep them from being dangerous then their possession doesn’t mean anything. We felt if we could win the ball then we could expose them with some numbers, so we defended together, we had each other’s backs, and when we won the ball we got into some dangerous spots.”

source: Getty Images

Jurgen Klinsmann taught the team a brand new formation just a week before the World Cup, but it worked to perfection against Nigeria, and could be used in Brazil.

With the midfield secure, the two above them in Dempsey and Bradley also weren’t defined into any particular locations, but flowed freely between the central midfield and the front line.

It fit perfectly with how Klinsmann described Spain’s 4-6-0 in Euro 2012, using random midfielders pushing forward to throw off the opposition. While it wasn’t nearly that radical, it employed the same general concept.

It wasn’t always Altidore up top who was the most dangerous man.  Dempsey and Bradley flowed freely and made runs, leaving Nigeria guessing as to who would come at them next.

The catch with this build is that it involves lots of running, but the US proved they were in excellent physical condition, and had the stamina to make it happen.

“In this position, you have to run more,” said Jermaine Jones. “Kyle played the “six” with Bedoya on the right and me on the left. In front was Michael and Clint, and Jozy on top. But the game shows there are differences, I have to be more inside with Kyle or out on the left side.  This is why I say I have to run a lot.”

The 32-year-old then said with a chuckle, “sometimes for the old guys that is not so good.”  It drew a laugh from the scrum of reporters, but the point was there – if the US is to deploy this tactic against Ghana, they will need to be at full fitness levels to run the formation to completion.

All that running comes from the polarizing difference in the formation between the compact defense and wide-open offense, like a hollow-point bullet expanding on impact for maximum damage.  With the tactic so new to just about everyone, it took some time in the beginning to settle in, but once they figured it out, the team became deadly.

“It took us a while to get into the game because we couldn’t keep the ball the first 20-25 minutes long enough to play out of the situation and switch sides and make it open,” Klinsmann said. “Once we understood to make the field more wide, to stretch it – almost cost me my voice – we looked better, and we started to have more flow and better combinations.  We started to play more simple, one-two touches from the back into the midfield, and finding Jozy.”

And ultimately, that’s the key – finding Jozy. With the service he got from this wide-open attack, he flourished, bagging first a sitter and then a ripper, the perfect combination for him going into Brazil.

But the formation is built on compact defense first, and from the get-go that was never an issue for the players.  “It involves a lot of running between me, Kyle, and Jermaine,” said Bedoya. “We shift into one side, making sure to stay compact, and then if they switch it to get back over.  With the connections between me and Fabian, and Jermaine, and Beasley at left-back, it’s a work in progress but defensively I think we did well.”

The dichotomy of the new 4-3-2-1 worked, throwing Nigeria not only into confusion at the back but a spider web at the front, entangling their link-up play in the US midfield thicket.

Whether you agree with teaching the team a brand new formation a week before the World Cup or not, the results on the pitch in Jacksonville are undeniable. If Klinsmann can teach a completely new tactic in just a few days, then it seems logical he could work the kinks out between now and June 16 when the US opens with Ghana.

Who knows if Klinsmann will choose to build upon this for the World Cup, but he would be wise to give it serious consideration, because he seems to have found the launch button that could potentially bring this United States squad success at Brazil that seemed out of reach just two matches ago.

Latest Posts
  1. VIDEO: Brazilian team concedes 5th goal, starts throwing haymakers at each other

    Apr 27, 2015, 10:45 PM EDT

    Placido de Castro players fight

    Sometimes words can’t be used to express emotions, so this team resorted to throwing wild haymakers instead.

  2. Pablo Zabaleta says Pellegrini deserves more respect after last year’s trophies

    Apr 27, 2015, 9:10 PM EDT

    Pablo Zabaleta & Manuel Pellegrini, Manchester City FC Getty Images

    A friendly reminder that we’re all entirely too knee-jerk with our reactions these days.

  3. WATCH: USMNT’s Bobby Wood scores golazo after mazy run through midfield

    Apr 27, 2015, 7:15 PM EDT

    Bobby Wood, Erzgebirge Aue Getty Images

    This one is an absolute beauty from Bobby Wood, who’s doing his part to keep Erzgebirge Aue from being relegated out of 2. Bundesliga.

  4. How’s Freddy Adu doing in Finland? Watch this every-touch video to find out

    Apr 27, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT

    Freddy Adu, KuPS Freddy Adu, KuPS

    Freddy made his second appearance for KuPS last week, and dare we say it, he looked pretty good. See for yourself.

  5. Bournemouth beat Bolton, all but officially seal promotion to the Premier League

    Apr 27, 2015, 4:55 PM EDT

    Matt Richie, AFC Bournemouth Getty Images

    Only an all-time historic meltdown of epic proportions can keep Bournemouth out of the Premier League now.

  6. MLS Player of the Week — Week 8: Columbus Crew SC’s Ethan Finlay

    Apr 27, 2015, 4:15 PM EDT

    Ethan Finlay, Columbus Crew SC Getty Images

    Maybe the best player in MLS that you don’t know about, it’s time to recognize Ethan Finlay.

  7. MLS Team of the Week — Stars of Week 8

    Apr 27, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    Jozy Altidore, Toronto FC Jozy Altidore, Toronto FC

    28 goals in 9 games means choices aplenty for this week’s MLS Team of the Week.

  8. St. Mirren captain accidentally spears teammate in the thigh in “daft prank” gone awry

    Apr 27, 2015, 3:11 PM EDT

    St Mirren v Hearts - Scottish Communities League Cup Final Getty Images

    Now 21-year-old midfielder John McGinn is set for three weeks on the sidelines, though he also has a heck of a story.

  9. The stingiest squad gets stronger: Vermaelen returns to Barca’s top La Liga D

    Apr 27, 2015, 2:18 PM EDT

    Thomas Vermaelen AP

    The 29-year-old Belgian center back joins a unit which has conceded just 19 goals in La Liga play, the best total in the league by six goals.

  10. Eden Hazard joins “freestyle” video, calls rabona off crossbar, walks away in victory (video)

    Apr 27, 2015, 1:35 PM EDT

    Hazard AP

    Hazard is now the PFA’s reigning Player of the Year. We doubt very much this video will make his peers think they voted incorrectly.

  11. Not even allowed an appeal: CONCACAF confirms Bush suspension for Champions League final

    Apr 27, 2015, 1:16 PM EDT

    America v Montreal Impact - CONCACAF Champions League Getty Images

    Backup keeper Erik Kronberg is ineligible for the competition since he was a part of Sporting KC earlier in the tournament.

  12. Newcastle legend Shearer takes aim at players, Magpies “mess”; Carver asks for protection

    Apr 27, 2015, 12:07 PM EDT

    Newcastle United v Swansea City - Premier League Getty Images

    The headlines aren’t being kind to Newcastle on Monday morning, and it seems their manager is sick of his players’ performance and grief from supporters.

  13. MLS progress report: Checking in on the East-West supremacy battle

    Apr 27, 2015, 11:08 AM EDT

    Cristian Higuita, Diego Chara AP

    True to form, the West is leading. Perhaps not to expectations, but leading nonetheless.

  14. Premier League Playback: Chelsea brilliant, not boring, as title inches closer

    Apr 27, 2015, 10:35 AM EDT

    Mourinho Getty Images

    PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at Week 34 in the PL.

  15. VIDEO: Premier League Team of the Week — Stars of Round 34

    Apr 27, 2015, 10:10 AM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Find out which club put forth a performance that was second to none in Round 34 of the Premier League.

  16. MLS official squashes rumor of emergency intra-MLS goalkeeper loan for CONCACAF Champions League final

    Apr 27, 2015, 9:21 AM EDT

    Andrea Pisanu, Sean Johnson, AP

    A potential week-long loan of Chicago Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson to the Montreal Impact for this Wednesday’s second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final against Club America is not going to happen.

  17. VIDEO: Premier League Player of the Week — Round 34

    Apr 27, 2015, 8:35 AM EDT

    cD05ODdlNmNhY2MwMjRlZWQzNTJhM2ViYTQ1Y2VlY2YzOCZnPTViMDJlZDhlYjcxNDdmN2UxMmYxZTdlMDRmNjAxNzM1 Getty Images

    Find out whose star shone above the rest in the Premier League this weekend.

  18. 10 things you should know about Premier League new boys Watford

    Apr 27, 2015, 8:08 AM EDT

    Thumbs Up Thumbs Up

    Elton John. American skippers and Harry Potter. Get to know the Hornets ahead of their PL return.

  19. Rodgers unsure whether Sturridge will return for Liverpool this season

    Apr 27, 2015, 7:50 AM EDT

    Manchester City v Liverpool - Premier League Getty Images

    Sturridge and Luis Suarez registered 52 PL goals last season. Liverpool as a team has 47 this season.

Featured video

Should Chelsea be more entertaining?