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Jurgen Klinsmann sees positives in formation change despite fitness concerns

JurgenKlinsmannUSMNT2-RepublicofIreland (Getty)


New years bring new opportunities, and U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann took Wednesday’s friendly with Chile as an opportunity to experiment.

In the USMNT’s first friendly of the 2015 campaign, Klinsmann deployed his side in the newly configured 3-5-2 formation, giving the squad a potential new look heading into a busy campaign.

While the change in formation could prove a useful tool in outwitting opponents, Klinsmann insists that the main reason behind the new look is the available personnel. The German-born head coach says that his choice of formation came based on his current roster, as Klinsmann believes his squad is currently best outfitted to play with three at the back.

“It’s a little bit based on what we have in this camp and what players do you have that you, hopefully, see down the road as part of the senior group,” Klinsmann said following Thursday’s game. “That kind of guides you into a certain system where you think, ‘you know what, with these players, we might be better off in a 3-5-2 than a 4-4-2 or in a 4-3-3.’ Often it’s just looking at your roster and saying, ‘okay, what is our best solution now.’

“With a 3-5-2, we have a chance to bring Clint (Dempsey) a little bit further behind and have him feed into two strikers. We then have a role for Jermaine (Jones) as a centerback with a back three line and Michael (Bradley) being the connector in the midfield.”

Klinsmann pointed to the play of his wing backs, DeAndre Yedlin and Brek Shea, as positives from Wednesday’s friendly. As the outside backs, Yedlin and Shea are tasked with covering vast amounts of ground on both the attacking and defensive end.

Attack-wise, the two shined, as Shea contributed the U.S.’s first goal early with one his first forays forward. Meanwhile,  Yedlin provided a secondary assist while proving to be a constant menace down the sideline with his pace.

“You see DeAndre going forward connecting well,” Klinsmann said. “Brek coming through is intimidating. He can go at people. He has pace, he has a physical presence and he can score. I think he was great. We try to break in the younger players step-by-step but it’s not going to happen over night. They need to have more time on the field. ”

Putting forth extra time on the field is something Klinsmann wants from everybody, not just Yedlin and Shea. The team as a whole struggled with stamina as the game moved deeper and deeper into the second half.

Following a change to a more flat back four, the U.S. conceded twice in the game’s closing minutes. Klinsmann says that the defensive lapses were due more to fitness concerns rather that defensive missteps, although the head coach understands there are still improvements to be made.

“The formation had nothing to do with that we then conceded two goals in the second half,” he said. “We wanted to play a simple back four and have Jermaine in the midfield and push it higher up through his midfield role. Maybe there was a little bit more space on the outsides then, especially on DeAndre’s side. He kind of got caught a couple of times, but you just clearly could see after minute 60-65 that it’s getting tough for the guys.

“Some are in good shape already and some just need to catch up. It will take another couple of weeks to get to match fitness. When you have maybe three or four guys not having match fitness at all, you just struggle.”

Overall, Klinsmann is hoping to see more consistency, on both the mental and physical level. As players become more and more match fit, Klinsmann is looking to see performances that look more like the energetic first half of Thursday’s friendly rather than that weariness of the second.

“There was good stuff out there,” Klinsmann said. “For 60 minutes, it looked promising that we would almost get a win here, but obviously if you can’t keep the tempo anymore, sooner or later, you give them opportunities and they put two in. If Michael Bradley’s shot goes in upper-90, we might go home as the winning team. It was a close game. I think it was exciting and it was a good test at the beginning of the season.”


  1. The talent he has right now at his disposal is not what it will be in three years. He cant make bob bradleys team all of a sudden elite . It takes a few years and we got young talent coming through. This friendly is just showing how mls is a third class league. I love mls and want it to grow but lets be real we have 8 world cups vets and cant beat this Chile team, and all arein mls.

  2. jk started the Germany turnaround, it was his ideas that he passed on that got them to where they are today. the US cant be fixed overnight, it takes time and with our younger generation coming up with green, zelahem,gyua, hyndmen, Brooks, Garza, Rubin, Flores, yedlin, gall and Zack steffin I think we look pretty good for 2018. Theres a few more out there just naming off the too of my head

    • “jk started the Germany turnaround, it was his ideas that he passed on that got them to where they are today.”

      uh huh. did he tell you that?

  3. Looks like MLS, their teams and staff have found an agenda for the off season.
    Post comments to try to discredit JK.
    Put your league, your team and your money first, its the MLS and american business model!
    Frank Orf!!

  4. Are you serious BellusLudas? Being a good player doesn’t often translate to good managerial skills. JK was a good player but sucks as a coach. He has been experimenting since he was hired and continues to do so. He is clueless and over rated. He gets out coached each time he fields a Team. There is no established system or role on that Team. Whatever he has been teaching these guys during practice it has not translated to the field. The USA needs to count it’s loss and move on from Klinsmann. Shea and Woods should not be on this Team.

  5. All this passion…beautiful! JK has my support whatever that’s worth. This is a guy who has accomplished things we can only dream about. I believe he has full understanding of what is required per player, team and tactics to be champion.

    • Everyone has their own opinion. I started as a JK supporter but not anymore. I think the reason that people like you admire JK is because you look at what he did as a player (which you should, he was a great player), and automatically assume that translates to being a coach. If only i had a dollar for every time I read somebody write, “Klinsmann has won a World Cup! He knows what he is doing”, I’d be wealthy! Yes he did but as a player. Magic Johnson was bad as a basketball coach. It’s possible that a great player can be a great coach, but it is not guaranteed and shouldn’t be assumed.

      I simply judge JK from what I am seeing from him as a coach with the USMNT. He’s also been a coach for Germany and Bayern Munich, but I didn’t follow him back then. Anyways, most of the reports on his coaching were negative back then. He was run out of Bayern in less than a year; and for Germany everyone said that Low was the actual coach and JK was just the manager that oversaw things.

      • I’m not a jurgen guy because I don’t like his double speak. However, if you low statement is true then don’t complain about jurgen complain about the assistant coaches.

      • You are a moron Bellus Ludas.

        What Jurgen did for the Germany National Team structure is his qualification for being the USMNT coach. That Germany team he took to the world cup in 2006 and the team that lost to Spain in 2010… those were his creations. And the victory in 2014 is down to Jurgen’s changes in Germany’s development program.

  6. Well … I was behind this 3-5-2 until he said he was forced to it by the roster call ups … I thought this was our new formation and was excited that we might have solved the Geoff Cameron and fabian johnson position situation I see it as a good compromise … Just thinking of them slotting in to the wing back roles had me excited about the new year … But its just a one off 🙁

  7. People seem way too upset about losing friendlies. At this stage the main point of friendlies is to test people, formations and tactics. Mission accomplished.

    • “At this stage the main point of friendlies is to test people, formations and tactics. Mission accomplished.”

      that seems like a really low standard. hell, if that’s all you want, you could make me the manager.

      • So many people here are so narrow minded. If you don’t experiment in the first friendly in a year, on a non-FIFA date with only some of your players available, then when do you experiment? People seem to be ignoring another important aspect. The US wants to win the Gold Cup this year so as to sew up the Confed Cup in 2017, which means using some of your older players. But the US also needs to be testing and grooming younger players to take over for 2018 for guys like Dempsey, JJ, Beckerman, Wondo, and other players who will be too old for 2018. So, you end up with the roster that the US had for this game; a mixture of veterans and newbies. This does not make for an integrated team for this friendly. So, klinsmann has to work toward these two goals which requires different sets of players, none of whom are match fit. If there was ever a game in which the results were meaningless, this would be it. There were things that concerned me about this game, but they are not the things being mentioned most here.

      • to clarify: i think it’s good and necessary to do those things at this point in the cycle. but it obviously shouldn’t just be random, and you should be able to point out results in each of those areas.

        i don’t care that we lost; but then, i’m also not one of those people crowing about klinsmann’s ‘record’ year. it just seemed like there were too many variables with what he did this game to determine much of anything.

  8. JK lost me when he said he thought Shea and Yedlin did good. I thought Shea stunk for the last 82 minutes. Yedlin is great on attack and weak on defense.

    I wish he had commented on more though

    • I totally agree about Yedlin’s current defensive skill, but that’s a big part of why 3-5-2 can be ideal for him. He’s not exceptional offensively or defensively, but he is exceptionally fast. 3-5-2 lets him use his amazing speed to be an extra (decent) player on attack and an extra (decent) player on defense, with more numbers in both areas so he doesn’t have to excel at either. Who knows if this ends up gelling, but to me this is basically the Yedlin Formation and makes sense until he gets great at one or the other.

  9. “‘you know what, with these players, we might be better off in a 3-5-2 than a 4-4-2 or in a 4-3-3.’ Often it’s just looking at your roster and saying, ‘okay, what is our best solution now.’”

    oh now, what the hell. i was okay with the 3-5-2 experiment if klinsmann wanted to try it no matter who we had. but no, the roster he called up did not scream 3-5-2.

    if he wanted jones to stay back and play conservatively (good luck with that), then yeah, maybe the CBs would be alright. but a libero requires the other two CBs to be both very good defenders on their own *and* familiar with each other so they can coordinate how they cover the empty space the middle CB leaves behind.

    if he wanted to play either brek at LB and yedlin at RB, fine. but to require two players who haven’t played a competitive game in months to cover an entire wing by themselves (for the whole goddamn game), against another 3-5-2 team known for its high energy, is crazy.

    and yes, i know klinsmann knows more than anyone here, especially me, and obviously he’d considered all that, but wtfasdlf;ajf;

    • The name of the game is putting these guys in positions that will test them. You don’t go out and beat the Germanys and Brazils of this world by playing cupcake games. If you want your guys to learn and to grow you put them in a situation where the odds are stacked against them, then tell them to perform. Lord knows the US gets no breaks when it comes to international tournaments, so testing the likes of Shea and Yedlin like this is commendable. It’s early in the cycle, I’m excited to see the growth of the team after a full year of friendlies and Gold Cup. We should have our tactical acumen down by the time qualifying comes around. Also can’t wait to see this style of play throughout the youth teams as well.

      • that’s all good in principle, but for the most part, players aren’t going to “learn and grow” when they’re with the national team, but with their clubs. national team managers shouldn’t be wasting time trying to improve their players, and instead should be taking the players they have and forming a system around them.

        and to be clear, i’m okay with trying a 3-5-2 *if* the full squad was available–or even just a tested RCB and match-fit LWB–, but this was an odd roster to try it with, and to say that a 3-5-2 was the ‘best solution’ for this roster is just weird.

      • So with a full team who do you go with? Bedoya/Fabian? Besides those 2 players, who gets 1st team reps in a #1 league in their position?

      • if i were set on playing 3-5-2 w/libero (and didn’t just think the roster necessitated it), i would go besler-jones-cameron, with fabian and yedlin as wingbacks. cameron is quick enough to cover more for yedlin, and fabian is probably game-fit enough to swing it.

      • Interesting observation.

        Deuce, Altidore
        Johnson Yedlin
        Besler, Jones, Cameron

        Looks pretty solid.

    • JK tries new experimental formation that may suit player pool join friendly at start of new cycle when developing teams are all trying new ideas; it works quite well. After many subs and changing from controversial formation with lead in hand, team tires while playing their first preseason game against in-season team, away, in heat. Eventually loses by one. Coach says they played well for first half, showed promise, and then got tired, and says team needs to get into mid-season physical shape. Is completely non-controversial and obviously true statement. Select fans who always criticize coach criticize coach.

  10. The second half could have been much better if the midfield had been able to get the ball. I thought the midfield and the defense were not in shape. They lost the game. The goalie was fine, but Birnbaum could not be expected to do it all.

  11. Klinnsmann makes alot of mistake, but he learns from them. Hopefully he will learn from the current mistakes sooner rather than later.

    • you got a point, 2 more subs were available right. if Yedlin, Birnbaum or Besler were so gassed he could have brought on O’Neill, Hedges or Kitchen.

      all 4 subs used were offensive, and helpful at keeping the attack going. i guess that’s what you get from a coaching staff made up of a striker (Jurgen) and two attacking mids (Tab and Hertzog).

      when the results start to matter this kinda stuff will be heavily scrutinized, until then its something to keep an eye on.

    • I think they prefer to maximize the defense’s time together as a unit, even if they’re tired. These are friendlies, after all, so its much more important to grow from them, than it is to win them. Not making excuses, but at this point, the 3 (5) person defense needs all the time they can get together, more than getting a win


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