Jurgen Klinsmann said before the match against Chile that if he hadn’t had DeAndre Yedlin at his disposal, he wouldn’t have tried a three-at-the-back system.
Take that as you will, but with the Spurs purchase released for international duty, the German manager decided to try his hand at a new system. There were rumblings that he had been toying with soccer’s current fad during January camp, and today we saw the fruits of his labor.
For as bad as I thought it would turn out, it wasn’t as horrible as originally anticipated. However, there’s still a ton of work that needs to be done if Klinsmann decided he wants to go this route long-term, and a few essential pieces are needed.
The first half against showed the creativity the lineup can provide. Matt Besler pumped the ball forward for Brek Shea, who used his pace to cut inside the right side of Chile’s defense and fire home the opening goal. The width the 3-5-2 formation provides showed its value on multiple occasions.
Yedlin himself played very well, and there’s no question a three-at-the-back system was made for players like him. The 21-year-old has the pace necessary to push forward, but has also developed an uncanny sense of what’s around him (yes, I say this even though he lost Mark Gonzalez on Chile’s 2nd goal), a rare combination for defenders these days.
Unfortunately, there’s still plenty to work on, and a few pieces needed that currently don’t exist.
Jermaine Jones is solid on the ball, a requirement for CB’s in this system, but he is totally unaware of his surroundings on set pieces, a key drawback in a formation with few true defenders. This reared its ugly head on numerous occasions, and Chile should have had a couple of goals in the first half as a result, but failed to punish the United States.
There was acres of space between the central defenders, particularly between Jones in the middle and Matt Besler on the left because Brek Shea flat out can’t defend. Which is a problem in this system. Someone like Fabian Johnson would be much more suited to that side, and that could be something we see when Klinsmann has his full arsenal of players available to him.
The pairing of Mix Diskerud and Michael Bradley is great for a midfield pivot, but not for a system that relies on holding possession and covering the back line. This formation is not built to withstand heavy pressure, and yet the United States allowed Chile to hold the majority of the possession with 55%, and should have been more had they not looked truly awful wasteful at times. Klinsmann recognized this, and knew it wouldn’t last, hence the introduction of both Lee Nguyen and Perry Kitchen, and eventually discarding the 3-5-2 altogether.
And finally, related to that, the elephant in the room is the lack of a true defensive midfielder. The United States has long relied on Jermaine Jones to cover the back line, but with him now in a center-back position to save his 33-year-old legs, there’s nobody truly suited for that spot. It’s a position that the formation desperately needs, especially with Jones still learning how to man-mark and follow runs.
Ultimately, while it performed better than expected for 45 minutes, the 3 CB formation seems to be a serious reach for Jurgen Klinsmann, and had Chile not played its B, we may have seen that come to fruition.
Also, if Jurgen Klinsmann feels the need to build a formation entirely around a wing-back (Yedlin), then he seriously needs to rethink his priorities, because while Yedlin surely fits the system, it’s still an asinine suggestion to structure a serious formational change simply to fit a young, pacey full-back.
If this is truly his plan, he should stick to it. But Jurgen Klinsmann has plenty of work to do if he continues along this path.