With Geoff Cameron out with an injury, United States men’s national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann opted to change formation rather than plug a different center back next to John Brooks.
It didn’t work.
The Yanks went down early against Mexico on the way to a 2-1 loss in Columbus, breaking the vaunted Dos a Cero Hex hex against their bitter rivals in an entertaining game on Friday.
That’s largely due to what Klinsmann called a 3-4-3 formation for the first 30 minutes of the game, one that allowed Mexico to dance down the right side of the American defense and saw Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley looking rather off their games.
Klinsmann didn’t mention Cameron’s absence in defending his use of the formation, and said they would try it again in the future. He though the 3-4-3 would free up Christian Pulisic, and would work if Bradley and Jones were aggressive in their 1v1 battles. That didn’t work out well, and Klinsmann thrice mentioned those players in his postgame press conference.
Jones said the formation looked good in training, but that Mexico sorted it out quickly. Bradley seemed to say it was an error in direction.
“Tactically, They do some interesting things, and they space themselves out in a really good way,” U.S. captain Michael Bradley said of Mexico. “So you have to have clear ideas about how you’re going to deal with that and how you’re going to close them down, because if you don’t, then it’s easy to get pulled around, and it’s easy to have guys who step out of one space trying to close something down, and that’s exactly the space they’re going to end up playing through.”
Regardless of who’s to blame — and it’s likely a bit of both — Bradley and Jones both had nights to forget. Jones was over aggressive and fortunate not to be sent off just before halftime, while Bradley struggled to carry over any semblance of his wonderful Toronto FC form to Mexico.
Next up is a chance to make history: the Yanks have never won a World Cup qualifier in Costa Rica, where they play on Tuesday. Win, and feel good. Draw, and feel okay. Lose, and stare down four months with no points and a place in the Hex cellar.