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

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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.”

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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.

PL roundup: Liverpool runs rampant; Brighton, Huddersfield victorious

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Get caught up on all seven of Saturday’s Premier League fixtures…

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Liverpool 4-1 West Ham — FULL RECAP

When Philippe Coutinho departed for Barcelona there was a question as to how Liverpool would perform without the Brazilian. Now, it’s safe to say the Reds are going to be just fine without him. Another dominating effort at home on Saturday has pulled the Reds up to second place in the PL, courtesy of goals from Emre Can, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah. Jurgen Klopp‘s side has now totaled 65 league goals in 28 matches.

Leicester City 1-1 Stoke City — FULL RECAP

Xherdan Shaqiri‘s brilliant finish before halftime looked like it would be enough to give the Potters a much-needed three points, however, Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland cost his side dearly with a howler in the second stanza. A powerful cross from Marc Albrighton, coupled by a darting run from Jamie Vardy, gave the keeper troubles, before he spilled the ball into his own net.

West Bromwich Albion 1-2 Huddersfield Town  — FULL RECAP

Second-half finishes from Rajiv Van la Parra and Steve Mounie helped go three points clear of the bottom three on the day, while West Brom looks very much buried in the relegation race. The Baggies pulled a goal back through Craig Dawson‘s finish, however, it was too late to provide a comeback for the last-place side.

Burnley 1-1 Southampton FULL RECAP

The Clarets sit seventh in England’s top flight, however, Sean Dyche and Co. have not won a PL match since early December. Southampton’s form hasn’t been much better though, with the Saints winless in their last 15 matches. Manolo Gabbiadini‘s finish was vital for Southampton, who are one of 10 teams separated by a mere six points.

Bournemouth 2-2 Newcastle — FULL RECAP

A victory would have been massive for the Magpies, who are muddled in the heap of relegation sides, but a strong second-half effort from Bournemouth helped secure a point for the hosts.

Brighton 4-1 Swansea City — FULL RECAP

The promotion side has opened up a four-point cushion in the relegation race after a brilliant home showing on Saturday. A brace from Glenn Murray, combined with Anthony Knockaert and Jurgen Locadia goals, helped the Seagulls move into 11th place, while Swansea’s offensive woes continue to prove critical in their attempt to stay afloat in the PL. The Swans have score a league-l0w 21 goals in 28 matches, nearly 0.75 goals per game.

Watford 1-0 Everton — FULL RECAP

Troy Deeney‘s strike with 10 minutes to play was the difference for the Hornets, closing the gap between the two sides to just one point. Everton struggled mightily on the day to muster up any quality chances, although to be fair, both clubs didn’t look like they were in the finest of form up front. The Toffees have been dreadful away from home this campaign, with just one victory away from Goodison Park.

Bundesliga wrap: USMNTs Johannsson the hero for Bremen, Bayern draws

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Goals were not abundant as the Bundesliga staged five Saturday matches without a single squad finding the back of the net on multiple occasions.

[ MORE: Projecting PL relegation ]

And there’s a shake-up at the bottom of the table after American striker Aron Johannsson’s substitute heroics moved Werder Bremen 14th.

Werder Bremen 1-0 Hamburg

USMNT strikers Johansson and Bobby Wood started on the bench for the hosts and visitors, respectively, as Werder Bremen and Hamburg dueled for critical points in the race to avoid relegation to 2.Bundesliga.

Wood entered the game in the 77th minute, but was upstaged when Johannsson again played super sub for Werder Bremen. The Icelandic-Alabamian’s shot pushed through the keeper and onto the doorstep for Johannes Eggestein to slide over the line.

It looked offside, but withstood all protests and reviews. Werder is now 3-1 in its last four matches, all featuring significant contributions from the previously rarely used Johannsson.

Hoffenheim 1-1 Freiburg

Andrej Kramaric scored for the fifth time in four matches to give the hosts a lead just after halftime, but Freiburg star Nils Petersen scored in the 66th minute to give the visitors a point and him 12 league goals on the season.

Hannover 96 0-1 Borussia Monchengladbach

Defensive midfielder Christoph Kramer scored his second goal of the season to give the visitors a 72nd minute lead, a 90-minute win, and positioning to potentially negotiate European qualification with a strong finish to the season.

Elsewhere
Mainz 1-1 Wolfsburg — Friday
Bayern Munich 0-0 Hertha Berlin
Stuttgart 1-0 Eintracht Frankfurt
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Schalke — 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday
RB Leipzig vs. Koln — Noon ET Sunday
Borussia Dortmund vs. Augsburg — 2:30 p.m. ET Monday

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Bayern Munich 24 19 3 2 55 18 37 10-2-0 9-1-2 60
 Borussia Dortmund 23 11 7 5 48 29 19 5-3-3 6-4-2 40
 Eintracht Frankfurt 24 11 6 7 32 27 5 5-3-4 6-3-3 39
 Bayer Leverkusen 23 10 8 5 43 30 13 5-4-2 5-4-3 38
 RB Leipzig 23 11 5 7 36 31 5 7-3-1 4-2-6 38
 FC Schalke 04 23 10 7 6 36 30 6 6-4-2 4-3-4 37
 Mönchengladbach 24 10 4 10 31 35 -4 6-2-4 4-2-6 34
 1899 Hoffenheim 24 8 8 8 38 38 0 6-4-2 2-4-6 32
 Hannover 96 24 8 8 8 32 34 -2 6-3-3 2-5-5 32
 FC Augsburg 23 8 7 8 32 29 3 5-4-3 3-3-5 31
 Hertha BSC Berlin 24 7 10 7 30 30 0 4-4-4 3-6-3 31
 VfB Stuttgart 24 9 3 12 20 27 -7 8-1-3 1-2-9 30
 SC Freiburg 24 6 11 7 25 38 -13 5-6-1 1-5-6 29
 Werder Bremen 24 6 8 10 22 28 -6 4-4-4 2-4-6 26
 VfL Wolfsburg 24 4 13 7 27 31 -4 2-7-3 2-6-4 25
 FSV Mainz 05 24 6 6 12 29 42 -13 5-2-5 1-4-7 24
 Hamburger SV 24 4 5 15 18 35 -17 3-3-6 1-2-9 17
 1. FC Köln 23 3 5 15 20 42 -22 2-3-7 1-2-8 14

Watford 1-0 Everton: Deeney, Okaka get it done

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  • Deeney’s 80th minute goal was 3rd shot on target for either team
  • Yes, we’re serious
  • Everton just 1W-5D-8L away from Goodison Park

Troy Deeney‘s late goal moved Watford to within a point of woeful and ninth place Everton in a 1-0 win at Vicarage Road on Saturday.

The win avenged a 3-2 loss at Goodison Park earlier this season, and Everton is 2W-2D-4L since Dec. 30.

Watford now has 34 points, while Everton has 35.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

An early free kick from Gylfi Sigurdsson was sent to the back post, but did not find a receiver.

The better part of the first half hour was physical if haphazard, and an Idrissa Gana Gueye slide from behind gave Watford a free kick from 25 yards.

Gerard Deulofeu hit that into the wall.

Tom Davies was the next to just miss on a chance, unable to reach a searching back post ball for Everton in the 53rd minute.

Watford raced to the other end, and Troy Deeney’s looping header didn’t have enough gusto to beat Jordan Pickford at the back post.

Stefano Okaka’s introduction threatened the lively up the game, but it took some time as much as the Vicarage Road crowd tried to inject life into a sloppy affair.

Kiko Femenia saw a late chance provided and denied by Pickford, who then collected a low effort from Daryl Janmaat.

Deeney then found Watford’s moment, lashing a shot past Pickford when found by Okaka in the 80th minute.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Who will be relegated? Projecting the crazy situation

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With 10 games of the 2017-18 season to go, 11 of the Premier League’s 20 teams are in real danger of being relegated.

Eleven.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League table ]  

A busy Saturday saw three “relegation six pointers” take place and we expected the relegation situation to become a little clear. Wrong. So, so wrong.

The only team who legitmately look dead and buried is West Brom, who sit bottom of the table and seven points from safety. Bye, bye, Baggies.

But if you look at the table below, just five points separates Brighton in 11th place and Stoke City in 19th place. Bournemouth sit in 10th in the table and they have 32 points to their name.



The all important thing at this time of the season is momentum and teams like Huddersfield Town and Brighton have it with back-to-back wins in the PL, plus all of a sudden Southampton, Crystal Palace and West Ham are sweating.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Another important factor for the final months of the season is the schedule.

With that in mind, below is a look at the schedule for the 11 teams in the mire and a projected points tally for each.

Wow. This is going to be incredibly tight…


Bournemouth
Remaining games: Leicester (A), Tottenham (H), West Brom (H), Watford (A), Crystal Palace (H), Liverpool (A), Man United (H), Southampton (A), Swansea (H), Burnley (A)
Projected final points tally: 41 points

Watford
Remaining games: West Brom (H), Arsenal (A), Liverpool (A), Bournemouth (H), Burnley (H), Huddersfield (A), Crystal Palace (H), Tottenham (A), Newcastle (H), Man United (A)
Projected final points tally: 40 points

Brighton
Remaining games: Arsenal (H), Everton (A), Man City (A), Leicester (H), Huddersfield (H), Crystal Palace (A), Tottenham (H), Burnley (A), Man United (H), Liverpool (A)
Projected final points tally: 38 points

Swansea City
Remaining games: West Ham (H), Huddersfield (A), Southampton (H), Man United (A), West Brom (A), Everton (H), Man City (A), Chelsea (H), Bournemouth (A), Stoke (H)
Projected final points tally: 38 points

Southampton
Remaining games: Stoke (H), Newcastle (A), Swansea (A), West Ham (A), Arsenal (A), Chelsea (H), Leicester (A), Bournemouth (H), Everton (A), Man City (H)
Projected final points tally: 38 points

Crystal Palace (11 games left)
Remaining games: Tottenham (H), Man United (H), Chelsea (A), Huddersfield (A), Liverpool (H), Bournemouth (A), Brighton (H), Watford (A), Leicester (H), Stoke (A), West Brom (H)
Projected final points tally: 37 points

Huddersfield
Remaining games: Tottenham (A), Swansea (H), Crystal Palace (H), Newcastle (A), Brighton (A), Watford (H), Chelsea (A), Everton (H), Man City (A), Arsenal (H)
Projected final points tally: 36 points

West Ham
Remaining games: Swansea (A), Burnley (H), Man United (H), Southampton (H), Chelsea (A), Stoke (H), Arsenal (A), Man City (H), Leicester (A), Everton (H)
Projected final points tally: 36 points

Newcastle
Remaining games: Liverpool (A), Southampton (H), Tottenham (A), Huddersfield (H), Leicester (A), Arsenal (H), Everton (A), West Brom (H), Watford (A), Chelsea (H)
Projected final points tally: 35 points

Stoke City
Remaining games: Southampton (A), Manchester City (H), Everton (H), Arsenal (A), Tottenham (H), West Ham (A), Burnley (H), Liverpool (A), Crystal Palace (H), Swansea (A)
Projected final points tally: 33 points

West Brom
Remaining games: Watford (A), Leicester (H), Bournemouth (A), Burnley (H), Swansea (H), Man United (A), Liverpool (H), Newcastle (A), Tottenham (H), Crystal Palace (A)
Projected final points tally: 27 points