The USMNT tried something new tactically in Arizona against Mexico and it both was spectacularly successful and a dismal failure. It just depends on which half you were watching.
Oh and before I get to far into the discussion of the tactics, the new kits are terrible. Just terrible. The waldo hoops were cleverly reminiscent of the flag without being ridiculously patriotic. These just look like rocket pops.
Here’s the formation to start the game, which was a diamond 4-4-2. The diamond comes from the shape the midfielders make, with one defensive midfielder, two midfielders wide and one as the attacking midfielder.
Goalie: Nick Rimando,
Defense: Tony Beltran, Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler, Michael Parkhurst;
Defensive Midfielder: Kyle Beckerman
Midfielders:Graham Zusi, Brad Davis;
Attacking Midfielder: Michael Bradley
Forwards: Chris Wondolowski, Clint Dempsey.
Michael Bradley was a revelation in this formation. By moving away from his more traditional role of defensive midfielder or box to box midfielder, he was able to have complete freedom across the field, and it showed on his goal when he came in on a corner kick unmarked and scored.
However, this formation leaves the defensive midfielder and defense in a tough position, as most formations now include two defensive midfielders to help support the center backs. For the first half, it almost seemed like Mexico had no idea how to attack this formation, but the second half they were able to break it down much easier by going up the middle of the formation. They also were able to mark Bradley much more successfully and he didn’t seem to have the same ability to break free. Many observers feel that Bradley will work better as a center midfielder in a more traditional box to box role, as his defending is one of his strong suits.
Landon Donovan started on the bench, and one wonders if that was partially to give Bradley a much bigger role in the attack, as the attacking midfielder is often Donovan’s role on the USMNT. When Donovan came on in the second half, there was a definite cluttering of the attack, and players did not seem to have the same space and freedom of movement as before. If that was Donovan and Bradley stepping on each others toes or Mexico figuring out their attack, it was unclear.
The other big news was Julian Green‘s first cap for the USMNT. He has a German mother and an American father so had a choice between Germany and the US. He currently plays in Bayern Munich’s system, and has gotten high marks from observers over there. Bayern Munich is probably the best team in the world right now, although they did just lose to Augsburg. It was quite a coup for the US to get this player, as many thought he could star for Germany eventually. In the game against Mexico, he looked young, and raw, but there were definite flashes of brilliance. Don’t be surprised if he gets named to the initial USMNT World Cup roster, but it’s going to be tough for him to crack the squad that goes to Brazil.