World Cup: Jurgen Klinsmann and US national team players acknowledge tactical struggles vs. Turkey
HARRISON, N.J. – The US national team may have defeated Turkey 2-1 in their second warm-up match, but there was no celebratory rhetoric in the post-game.
That may have something to do with the fact that the USA were outshot 23-8 and were out-possessed 57-43 percent.
Welcome to the diamond midfield formation. Against Turkey's 4-3-3, the USA's tactical set-up which was employed for the third straight exhibition, was cut open and exposed.
"Overall what we expected – a Turkish side that can create problems for you any time," Klinsmann began his post-game press conference, highlighting the opponent's play instead of his own team's. "Already in the first half, they exploited us here and there. But overall I think it was a good game. It was quite an open game."
And the US played a big part in that.
The Turks exploited the flanks as the USA's wide midfielders and fullbacks pushed up into the attack. But the main issue came in the middle of the field, where lone defensive midfielder Jermaine Jones was outnumbered 2-to-1. And with no defensive pressure on the Turkish midfielders, the visitors easily played their way through to the US penalty area.
After the USA's opening goal in the 26th minute, Jones says he took advantage of the break in the game to talk to Klinsmann about making some tactical changes.
"I was telling him that we have to drop one back and that [forward] Clint [Dempsey] had to go on [Turkey's deep playmaker Nuri Sahin] and that [US attacking midfielder] Michael [Bradley] had to come back a little bit. If we didn’t do it, I would always be two against one.”
But the changes suggested by Jones didn't take effect until the team went into the halftime locker to talk it over.
"What we needed to do earlier there is to drop Michael Bradley beside [Jones] to make it defensively a flat four and use the diamond going forward," acknowledged Klinsmann, echoing Jones's thoughts. "And so we corrected that at halftime and it then looked better. Even Clint [Dempsey] dropped a little bit more to look after Sahin, the No. 10, and it looked better."
Although an argument can be made that it's a coaching staff's responsibility to shift tactics, the players pointed the fingers at themselves and their inability to make the adjustments and react to the events of the first half.
"We were just narrow defensively and [Turkey] obviously sensed that right away and they used the flanks," said US veteran goalkeeper Tim Howard. "We also have to be able to adapt on the fly because not every game looks the same. And you study the opponent and you think it’s going to happen one way and it doesn’t. Having that adaptability is important. We’re going to need that in the next couple of weeks [at the World Cup]."
“The hope would be that now, depending on how the other team plays and depending on the game, for the guys on the field to understand what’s going on and to be able to tweak little things on the fly," Bradley said. “In the first half, we were not as organized as much as we would like. They [Turkey] were able to use some of their skill and technical ability to play through us at times. In the second half, with Kyle and I next to each other, that gave us a little more of a solid foundation.”
Does the experience against Turkey compel Klinsmann and the USA to move away from the diamond midfield? Or is the USA now at a point of no return with the attack-minded formation, designed to result in more possession and better attacking plays?
Klinsmann wasn't panicking … just yet.
"We need to close the gaps a bit better," Klinsmann noted about the team's defensive issues. "We still have some work ahead of us to be more compact and more connected between the players and make it more through difficult for opponents to come through there."
At least Klinsmann has one thing working his his favor: There are a full two weeks left until the opening match against Ghana on June 16.