The United States is a 4-4-2 team. Again.
Jurgen Klinsmann promised change when he took over the U.S. men’s national team. It was going to be more proactive, play out of the back and rely on skill instead of defaulting to a game dependent on speed and strength. And yet here we are, back in a 4-4-2 formation.
Once more, the U.S. is back to its tried and true, uninventive formation. This time it is against Denmark, with four at the back, a pair of outright, speedy wingers in Gyasi Zardes and Fabian Johnson, then two stereotypical strikers in Jozy Altidore and Aron Johannsson. It is entirely lacking imagination and something we have seen from the Americans for the last 25 years.
Where is the change? Where is the inventiveness? Where is the skill? Where is the interchange and creativity?
It’s not as if this is new either. This has been a trend ever since the World Cup, with the Americans playing a 4-4-2 in all but one match since. The 4-4-2 is the new norm for the U.S. The old norm. The same ol’, same ol’, and nothing like Klinsmann promised.
The team will be strong at the back and use their wingers’ pace to get wide for crosses. The fullbacks will push forward and overlap with the wingers, creating mismatches out wide to dominate the flanks. Two big, strong strikers will roam the box looking to get on the end of crosse,s and late runners from the central midfield will hope to find some loose balls to bury. When that doesn’t work, the team will get the ball over the top to its strikers, who will look to win the ball, lay it off and then get into the box. That is if it can’t just out-run defenders to long balls.
Ho hum, boring as can be. Where is the skill and where is the progression?
This is more of the same from a U.S. team that was supposed to be different. Klinsmann said the team would grow, but it hasn’t. After the World Cup, he emphasized that this was a long-term project and that his second cycle would be the true mark of the team’s progression. But the second cycle has been 4-4-2 after 4-4-2. It’s been predictable after predictable. It’s been big and strong. It’s been fast and quick. And it’s been absent of skill and inventiveness.
This is the U.S. This is a 4-4-2. This is what we’ve always been.
Or, it is entirely possible that formations are stupid. And maybe, just maybe, starting Michael Bradley and Alejandro Bedoya together in the center of midfield isn’t quite the same as a young Bradley and Jermaine Jones. Or a young Bradley and Ricardo Clark. Or even a Kyle Beckerman and Mix Diskerud. Or that the team could just as easily try to cutoff service to a brilliant playmaker like Christian Eriksen as opposed to corralling him deep. Or that Johnson isn’t a typical 4-4-2 winger, capable of overloading the center or hugging the touchline. Or that John Brooks and Michael Orozco will have different responbilities than Oguchi Onyewu and Carlos Bocanegra. Or that all 4-4-2s are not made equal and each one can be different, just like one can function similarly to a 4-2-3-1 or several other formations.
The U.S. is a 4-4-2 team again. Whatever the hell that means.