BRUSSELS, Belgium — The growing pains of instituting a new US national team system were well on display in a 1-0 defeat to Belgium at King Baudouin Stadium on Tuesday, but they weren't so bad as to discourage the squad from their new tactical direction.
It was a rather messy night for the Americans, and not just because of the rainy weather. The US were far less organized than in their eventual 1-0 loss to Costa Rica last Friday, but showed no signs of dampened excitement over adopting what is essentially a 4-3-3 formation under new boss Jurgen Klinsmann.
"We've just got to keep moving forward, keep working on things," Clint Dempsey told MLSsoccer.com after Tuesday's defeat. "It's my first game with the new coach and I'm looking forward to getting more time in training to work with him so I can help the team more."
Of course, more time in training is needed for everyone to break old habits and make new ones. Other than those with some experience in a 4-3-3, such as AZ Alkmaar forward Jozy Altidore, the team has basically had a week and two matches to adjust to the system Dutch players learn out of their cribs.
As it's all new to them, Klinsmann clearly has the players focusing on the positives.
"In the first 20 minutes, we moved the ball well, but just didn't create many chances," said Dempsey. "We played some good soccer at times. We responded well after the goal and we were always looking like we were maybe going to get the next one to equalize."
Added Brek Shea, "In the second half, we moved the ball well and it was unfortunate to lose the goal like that. We had good chances and possession. We created a lot and played pretty well. We didn't get the win, but it shows we're progressing in each game."
Netminder Tim Howard has had a good view of the system installation over the last week. Despite the pair of 1-0 losses, he likes the possibilities offered by the new style. Even with the team in sporadic defensive disarray against Belgium, Howard was in no mood to be sour.
"It was OK, in spots," said the Everton custodian. "In a big game in Europe, you're going to have your back against the wall. For the most part, I thought we were somewhat resilient."
The team understands there is always a bumpy road in learning a new and advanced tactic. Fortunately, they have nine months before entering 2014 World Cup qualifying to perfect success at the 4-3-3.
Timothy Chandler, who had the added educational responsibility of working his first game at left back against Belgium, believes they can come correct by then.
"It takes time," he stated. "We have another game next month and we can do better. Every time we play, we can do a little better."