3-5-2 system shows life, but plenty of work is needed

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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.

Premier League Club Power Rankings: Week 5

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We’re a full month into the 2018-19 Premier League season, which means we can begin — yes, only just now — to make more definitive statements about where everyone is headed for the season.

Not much change at the top of the power rankings this week, but plenty of movement in the middle and bottom thirds…

[ MORE: UCL preview: Real, Ronaldo debut apart; Man City, United, too ]

20. Burnley — Bottom of the table after four straight losses, Sean Dyche worked an unthinkable miracle last season but he might not survive another month of results like the one just completed.
Last week: 16
Season high: 15
Season low: 20

19. Cardiff City — Nailed-on favorites to be relegated before the season started, the Bluebirds haven’t shown anything to suggest they’ve got a trick up their sleeves. Their stay in the PL will, however, be lucrative, if brief.
Last week: 19
Season high: 19
Season low: 20

18. Huddersfield Town — Teams wishing to avoid relegation must beat other sides in the relegation battle — Cardiff, for example. The Terriers couldn’t do it a couple weeks ago, followed by five more points dropped against Everton and Crystal Palace.
Last week: 18
Season high: 18
Season low: 20

17. Newcastle United — Three straight losses is better than four, but not by much. The Magpies get something of a free pass for facing Chelsea, Man City and Arsenal in consecutive games. The fact they lost each game by one goal (all 2-1)? Encouraging.
Last week: 17
Season high: 13
Season low: 18

16. West Ham United — The four teams below them in these rankings — and the real-life table — have been so bad that all the Hammers needed was one win to move from last place (with zero points) to outside the relegation zone.
Last week: 20
Season high: 16
Season low: 20

15. Fulham — Lost 3-0 to Man City this weekend. They’re supposed to lose 3-0 to Man City.
Last week: 14
Season high: 11
Season low: 17

14. Southampton — Only six goals conceded in five games is a top-six defensive record that could keep Saints up on its own. Only six goals scored, however, is firmly in the bottom half — dull and painful to watch, at best; a half-dozen defensive mistakes from relegation, at worst.
Last week: 13
Season high: 13
Season low: 17

13. Leicester City — Hammered by Bournemouth at the weekend, the Foxes undid any goodwill they might have accumulated in a narrow defeat to Liverpool pre-international break. Plus side: games against the Reds and Man United out of the way.
Last week: 10
Season high: 8
Season low: 13

12. Brighton and Hove Albion — Back-to-back draws, against Fulham and Southampton, in games Chris Hughton would have targeted as winnable fixtures.
Last week: 11
Season high: 9
Season low: 19

11. Crystal Palace — Snapped a three-game losing skid by beating Huddersfield, now the Eagles need to avoid being the lesser side against which Newcastle breaks out of its early-season slumber.
Last week: 15
Season high: 6
Season low: 13

10. Everton — Sure, half the team was out due to injuries or suspension, but losing 3-1 to the last remaining team without a point remains an unavoidably bad look.
Last week: 6
Season high: 5
Season low: 11

9. Wolves — After spending wildly in the summer, Wolves took just two points from their first two games in the PL. Back-to-back wins, against West Ham and Burnley, have shown they’re perhaps a cut above the relegation battle.
Last week: 8
Season high: 8
Season low: 13

8. Spurs — Back-to-back defeats, against Watford and Liverpool, and Mauricio Pochettino‘s side is outside the top-four (and -five) just like that. Harry Kane isn’t scoring (just two goals this season — zero in the defeats), and no one else has stepped up to fill the void.
Last week: 5
Season high: 3
Season low: 8

7. Manchester United — Wins over Burnley and Watford are nice, but let us know when they’re ready to handle a giant like Brighton.
Last week: 9
Season high: 4
Season low: 14

6. Bournemouth — Pop quiz: Who’s the fifth-place side in the PL table right now, ahead of both Spurs and Arsenal? ‘Tis the Cherries.
Last week: 12
Season high: 7
Season low: 12

5. Watford — No longer perfect, no longer unbeaten. The hard work begins now, with a winnable trip to Fulham. The fall from fourth — where the Hornets currently reside — could be quick.
Last week: 4
Season high: 4
Season low: 7

4. Arsenal — The only non-top-two team with three straight wins. The problem is, of course, the season-opening losses to Man City and Chelsea have them sitting seventh nonetheless.
Last week: 7
Season high: 4
Season low: 9

3. Chelsea — Pop quiz no. 2: Who’s the current PL leaders? ‘Tis the Blues, so why aren’t they no. 1 (or 2) on this list? Does Arsenal count as a signature win in their second week under a new manager? Probably not, so we are in a holding pattern until they take on Liverpool in 10 days.
Last week: 3
Season high: 3
Season low: 4

2. Man City — It still feels blasphemous to not have them no. 1, but Pep Guardiola knows it’s not necessary to blow the doors off everyone in August and September in order to win the title; that it’s more important to pace yourself for the whole of 10 months, if you want to win the Champions League.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 2

1. Liverpool — Speaking of signature wins, going away to Spurs and completely controlling and dominating the game was a surefire signal of intent from Jurgen Klopp‘s men. What they did against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday doesn’t necessarily count for these rankings, but it shows they’ve got staying power.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 2

Juve’s Douglas Costa banned 4 games for spitting

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TURIN, Italy (AP) Juventus winger Douglas Costa has been banned for four Serie A matches after a spitting incident on Sunday.

[ MORE: UCL roundup: USMNT’s Pulisic, McKennie shine ]

The Brazil international was sent off near the end of Juventus’ 2-1 win over Sassuolo after he spat at midfielder Federico Di Francesco. Costa had also raised an elbow at the same player and attempted a head-butt.

The Italian soccer federation announced his ban Tuesday, with the winger set to miss matches against Frosinone, Bologna, Napoli and Udinese.

[ MORE: UCL preview: Real, Ronaldo debut apart; Man City, United, too ]

Costa has already apologized for the incident on social media — via Google Translate:

“I would like to apologize to all of Juventus fans for this misleading reaction in today’s game. I also apologize to my teammates, who are always with me in good times and bad. I was ugly, I am aware and I apologize to everyone for it. I make it clear that this isolated attitude does not match what I have always shown in my career.”

Zlatan gets Thor treatment for game day giveaway (video)

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There’s something about Zlatan Ibrahimovic saying, “This is the new Greek god. This is Zlatan,” that leads you to believe it’s not the first time he’s had this thought.

[ RECAP: Liverpool 3-2 PSG ]

Ibrahimovic is the subject of a classic Costacos Brothers poster to be given away at the LA Galaxy’s Sept. 29 match against Vancouver.

If you’re not familiar with the Costacos Brothers, well, your bedroom growing up really missed out.

From “Kelly’s Heroes” to “Czechmate,” the Costacos were trusted with plenty of creative license in a bygone era.

Bygone for everyone besides Zlatan. Bit jealous we can’t get our hands on one.

Pulisic “a bit lucky” on 20th birthday match-winning goal

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BRUGES, Belgium (AP) Christian Pulisic celebrated his 20th birthday by scoring on his return from injury to give Borussia Dortmund a late 1-0 win at Club Brugge in the Champions League on Tuesday.

“It was great to come back after injury to and to be back with the team,” said Pulisic, who also made his 100th appearance for the club.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

The American, who hadn’t played since Aug. 26 due to muscular problems, came on with around 20 minutes remaining and scored in the 85th when Matej Mitrovic’s attempted clearance rebounded off his shin and looped in over Brugge goalkeeper Karlo Letica.

“It was a bit lucky but I’ll take it on my birthday,” said Pulisic, who had missed two Bundesliga games for Dortmund and the U.S. friendlies against Brazil and Mexico.

“I just saw the ball getting played through. I think the defender tried clearing it but I was in the right spot at the right time,” Pulisic said. “I think we deserved the goal at the time.”

Pulisic, who also netted against Benfica in March last year, is only the third American to score multiple Champions League goals after Fabian Johnson – who had two for Borussia Moenchengladbach – and DaMarcus Beasley, who scored six in stints at PSV Eindhoven and Rangers.

“I’m just going to enjoy the rest of the night with the team,” Pulisic said of his birthday celebrations.

Mario Goetze made a rare start for Dortmund but was unable to provide much of a spark against the spirited hosts. Leticia saved his effort in the first half. It was Dortmund’s only shot on target apart from Pulisic’s goal.

“It was a lucky win, a dirty win,” Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc said.

The win means Dortmund has already bettered its Champions League campaign from last season, when it earned just two points in six group games.

Brugge was back in the Champions League group stage after a one-year absence and created the better chances.

In the other Group A game, Atletico Madrid beat Monaco 2-1.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports