Klinsmann's Silver Lining Playbook

So, the U.S. got its clock cleaned against Brazil last night, while Mexico, its opponent in the Confederations Cup playoff in Pasadena on Oct 10, was unlucky not to beat World No. 1 Argentina.

Where are the silver linings?

Well, to be clear, there aren’t many -- this was definitely a poor performance. Whether it was tiredness from camp, a lack of motivation from the coaching staff or general confusion caused by so many U.S. players playing out of position, it doesn’t matter: the preparation for this game was not good enough, so the U.S. got the result it deserved.

Before we get to the silver linings, let’s hear coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s assessment of this game:

"Their tempo, their speed of play, speed of thought and speed of execution, all those elements were very impressive," the USA’s German coach said. "For us, it was a huge learning curve. It was a completely different tempo they set, and we couldn't go that tempo. It's a tempo that is played in the [UEFA] Champions League. They're always two thoughts ahead. That's a level we're trying to catch as fast as we can."

Indeed, even Brazil coach Dunga was impressed with the “rapid pace” of his team’s attack.

Yep, Off The Post spends a lot of time watching the likes of Neymar, Willian and Douglas Costa, and they are pretty darn quick. So, how do you stop a forward line containing some of the world’s quickest players?

Well, here’s how you don’t do it: by playing four taller and slower center-backs across your backline. No offense to Tim Ream and Geoff Cameron: even if both players can reliably put in the odd performance at fullback, you don’t line up against one of the world’s fastest forward lines with two six-foot-plus central defenders playing right and left-back. Those are glaringly odd mismatches for the likes of Douglas Costa, Willian, Neymar and Lucas Moura to exploit in any counter-attack or one-on-one situation.

Sure, you could argue that Klinsmann was forced into these changes by injuries to Fabian Johnson, Timothy Chandler and DaMarcus Beasley, but OTP would argue back that the likes of Greg Garza and DeAndre Yedlin would have had a better chance in one-on-ones against players of similar size and speed.

But then again, as’s Grant Wahl points out, Klinsmann really likes to play his players out of their natural positions, and he especially likes to gamble during friendlies against top opposition. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it does not. Has Alejandro Bedoya ever played a holding midfielder role before? He said he had not, hence the introduction of Danny Williams after 36 minutes.

And what about Michael Bradley’s performance? Sure, he looked tired following his weekend exertions with Toronto FC, but is that center attacking midfield role really his best position?

OTP, for one, has never thought so. Bradley can be an old-fashioned box-to-box center midfielder, a role typically more suited to a 4-4-2, but he is also a ball-winner with an eye for a long pass, which means he could easily play a more defensive role in Klinsmann’s 4-2-3-1. However, instead of changing his tactics based on the players he has, Klinsmann persists with playing Bradley, and others, out of position. As OTP’s Soccer America colleague Paul Kennedy points out, Klinsmann’s recent comments seem to suggest, ominously, that he’s done everything he can with this group and could not possibly have done anything different.


So, with the Brazil thrashing behind us and the Confederations Cup playoff next on the horizon, OTP can think of three silver linings Klinsmann & Co. can take with them to Pasadena:

One: hopefully, Johnson and Beasley will be back and available for selection for the game at the Rose Bowl on Oct 10. The USA will need real fullbacks against Mexico, which likes to attack down the wings.

Two: Equally hopefully, Klinsmann will have finally learned his lesson at center-back and choose the best pairing the USA has available right now in Cameron and LA Galaxy’s Omar Gonzalez.

Three: Mexico is not Brazil. This may seem obvious, but Mexico does not have players with the same technical quality or speed of play as the Brazilians, so it will be a very different game. Ricardo “Tuca” Ferreti is also a more defense-minded coach than Miguel Herrera was, even if he did use the same 5-3-2 formation against Argentina that Herrera used at the World Cup last summer. Because of this, it should be a tighter contest. 

35 comments about "Klinsmann's Silver Lining Playbook".
  1. Philip Friedman, September 9, 2015 at 7:35 p.m.

    Once again, I have to ask: If we need a left back, who is playing full time in Liga MX, who has played for the USMNT in Confed Cup and World Cup, what's wrong with calling up Bornstein? Who knows the Mexican team players better?
    Why is he not even on the radar?

  2. Santiago 1314 replied, September 10, 2015 at 1:48 a.m.

    Did I miss something.???.. I thought Bornstein Retired...

  3. Santiago 1314 replied, September 10, 2015 at 9:43 p.m.

    I did some Research...You are Correct..Santiago admits a MISTAKE.!!!...Seems he is on a Rebirth...He sounds like the 1st Option to Beasley...Great Job on the info..

  4. Dan Phillips, September 9, 2015 at 7:36 p.m.

    And hopefully JK will NOT play lazy/Jozy Altidore! Let's put this guy to rest once and for all. His play is inconsistent from game to game and sometimes downright lazy and lethargic. Let's try and develop new and better strikers like Aron Johansson. And give them more playing time. Altidore should be relegated to the bench!or off MNT entirely.

  5. Santiago 1314 replied, September 10, 2015 at 1:47 a.m.

    Morris, Wood or Zardes would be the better Alternative to Jozy... Johansson too Slow for Hi-Forward...Johansson can fill the Dempsey role very Nicely...But Bradley CAN NOT.!!!... JK Get "EDUCATED"

  6. cisco martinez, September 9, 2015 at 7:38 p.m.

    Klinsmann playing players out of position, Never. Bedoya as a centre midfielder, Cameron as holding midfielder during the World Cup, Bradley a attacking midfielder, playing a back four that never played together, playing Donovan as a midfielder the entire time before the World Cup and then droppinh him as a forward, etc.

  7. Santiago 1314 replied, September 10, 2015 at 2:07 a.m.

    Hola Cisco.. Did you see where JK said "We missed a player like Zardes at Last years World Cup"...Of course Zardes was actually playing better for LA Last Year than this year... and Landon was playing even better for LA than Zardes...I wonder how that made Bedoya feel.??? Real inspiring and Motivating Coaching technique...NOT.!!!

  8. Allan Lindh, September 9, 2015 at 7:52 p.m.

    Something profoundly wrong when your defense sucks like that of the USMNT, and the group that most needs to work together -- the back line -- changes every single match. Right up to the last prep match before Mexico. JK is a clown, doesn't the brains for the job, too much ego to boot.
    He screwed up the WC, he screwed up the GC, and when we get our clock cleaned by Mexico in Oct, time to bite the bullet, take the financial loss, and get rid of his smiling, charismatic, useless a**. No glamour boys next time, pick someone with a track record who has brains and calm good judgement. Dom Kinnear would be my choice, but there are other possibilities. Get someone who will pick his best back four, and play them every match until the next WC, and only change when one of them plays himself out of the lineup.
    And as to whining about Geoff Cameron, he shut down Douglas Costa in the 1st 45, so much so that they moved him to the opposite side in 2nd 45. That was when things went to hell.

  9. R2 Dad replied, September 9, 2015 at 10 p.m.

    That was the Bob Bradley recipe--thought we had moved on from that. Dom Kinnear--no offense--has a Scotland/MLS background, not exactly world class. The USMNT coaching gig is not about glamor, it's about experience and passing along world-class habits and processes.

  10. Santiago 1314 replied, September 10, 2015 at 1:53 a.m.

    Dom has got more ACTUAL Coaching experience and Results than JK... And he Bleeds RED, WHITE and BLUE even when he wears his KILT.!!!...I'd take him anyday over this Crap..

  11. Vince Leone, September 9, 2015 at 8:21 p.m.

    OTP: You must be kidding. Your remedy is to play Omar Gonzalez-the slowest (mentally and physically) defender we have? And when exactly have you noticed Yedlin play well in defense except, perhaps, in MLS? Yes, Cameron can play well at CB, but he is also skilled in attack, so moving him to CB costs us an offensive weapon.

  12. Santiago 1314 replied, September 10, 2015 at 2:01 a.m.

    Hopefully Johnson will be back for Right Defense...Cameron over Gonzo??? I don't see it for Oct 10...Gonzo has the Mexicans Number...I think it would be very interesting to see Cameron and Brooks, Taking turns Dribbling the ball out of Defense (ala Beckenbauer)... They could really Destabilize the Opponent...And then Jones could fill in the Hole behind them...Humm, you could be on to something...Do you think our German Coach could figure out this Tactical Adaption.??? Doubt it..

  13. John Soares, September 9, 2015 at 8:31 p.m.

    1) JK (for good or bad) is NOT going to change. He has made it very clear that, he is smarter than any is the US soccer world, if not the whole world.
    ...2) Give Altidore, at least a bit of a break. He scored twice against Peru in a 4-4-2. Not much he, or anyone else can do when you are the only forward and the other 9 are to busy defending, be it poorly, to ever send you a decent ball.

  14. Santiago 1314 replied, September 10, 2015 at 2:09 a.m.

    You Nailed it..

  15. William Wang, September 9, 2015 at 9:21 p.m.

    OTP: Bradley a "ball winner"? He has many great qualities, but this isn't one of them. He positions himself well and tracks well, but is just not quick enough to dispossess good players one-on-one. Maybe you're thinking of contested headers. Haven't noticed anything special in that department, either.

  16. Santiago 1314 replied, September 10, 2015 at 2:11 a.m.

    Hard to be a "Ball Winner" when you are played Out Of Position as a Lo-Forward(Dempsey Role)

  17. Stuart d. Warner, September 9, 2015 at 9:39 p.m.

    Things I don't understand:
    1. Playing Altidore on top alone when he has trouble holding onto the ball and has little pace to bother the center backs. Yes, he scored twice against Peru--once on a lucky bounce after being stopped on a PK; once on a bunny.
    2. Playing Jermaine Jones. Good heavens. He's tough, yes; he provides spirit to the team, yes; he's terrible on combination play, he runs around like a chicken without a head, he helps destroy whatever continuity we might have, yes.
    3. Not playing Mix more. I don't get it. If we are to play with the best teams, we need to possess the ball. So why do we play so many who cannot do that, and not play someone who can?

  18. R2 Dad replied, September 9, 2015 at 10:34 p.m.

    3. Because you end up with a bunch of smaller skill players and no one, not Sunil, not JK, nor anyone outside of maybe Tab, seems to want a team half-full of them. This is the Hispanic Option and at every turn USSoccer has refused to embrace that. "We want Messi, but only if he's 6'0" tall". "Can we find an Aguero, but the size of Dzeko?" "I don't want a bunch of dwarfy Mexicans--they get pushed off the ball too easily." "Yes, they can pass, dribble and score, but they're useless on set pieces". Imagine a bunch of banjos playing in the background as our NT coaches chew the fat around the campfire in Carson. derp.

  19. Santiago 1314 replied, September 10, 2015 at 2:16 a.m.

    Mix is too Soft for Midfield...Can play Nicely as Sub for Dempsey...Jones can ONLY BE HOLDING MIDFIELDER...Hello JK...Get "Educated"... Put a Leash on him, and MAKE HIM STAY as Sweeper infront of Back 4... (Like PeckerHair)

  20. Santiago 1314 replied, September 10, 2015 at 2:32 a.m.

    R2... I have yet to see where the 2 styles (Tiki-Taka) and (German) can Coexist...Pep is trying it at Bayern...Mixed Results so far...That would be the ideal solution...Maybe USA Could be that Future Mix...We certainly have the Diversity...u20 under Tab, showed some of it this last u20 WC

  21. Kent James, September 9, 2015 at 10:50 p.m.

    This column makes many excellent points. I'm glad OTP is seeing the same thing I am. Bradley needs to be in the Jones role, and Jones needs to retire. Cameron & Ream did as well as players of their size could be expected to, and while I like them coming forward, they were always overmatched against the quickness of the Brazilians. Yedlin has the speed, but I'm not sure his defense would've been up to the task (Garza might have been a choice). There is a fine line between madness and genius; JK likes to think he's a genius, but I'm not sure he doesn't cross the line. I like creativity (and trying unusual positioning/formations) in coaching, but at some point you need to build cohesion, confidence and continuity. And the game before an crucial qualifying match should've been that point.

  22. Santiago 1314 replied, September 10, 2015 at 2:22 a.m.

    Bingo...Right on Target...Though I think a "Spine" of JONES (Holding Mid) BRADLEY (Ct. Mid) DEMPSEY (Lo-Forward) ALTIDORE (Hi-Forward) is Our Best Chance to Win on Oct 10..Zardes and Yedlin on the Wing Mids...

  23. Stuart d. Warner, September 9, 2015 at 10:58 p.m.

    Another thing I don't understand is why Guzan will start ahead of Howard against Mexico. Is there anyone at the world club level who would start Guzan over Howard? No. Guzan is a bit stiff, and it hurts him, and he doesn't appear to organize the troops with the vigor that Howard does. JK: "Timmy knew that when he took the year off he would come back as the #2." What? Has Howard not already shown an absolute commitment to the national team?

  24. Santiago 1314 replied, September 10, 2015 at 2:26 a.m.

    Guzan is a "Shot Stopper"...Howard is a "Game Saver"...You are correct in your assesment

  25. David V, September 10, 2015 at 1:35 a.m.

    Here's the answer: Hire Pep, give him a 5 year deal to overhaul everything from the bottom up... then when Pep can't handle it anymore, Bring in Xavi, and have him take us home to the promised land 5 years later...

  26. Raymond Weigand replied, September 10, 2015 at 3:53 p.m.

    You want surgeons and the tools are saws and hammers ... you may want to look at the bigger picture and wonder why the MLS doesn't even have one team with the comparable speed of the Serie A teams in Brazil.

  27. Santiago 1314, September 10, 2015 at 2:35 a.m.

    Vale.!!! Hecho.. When do we sign the Contracts??? Pep Loves NY...Spent his Sabatical there..

  28. Miguel Dedo, September 10, 2015 at 11:24 a.m.

    The quote from JK establishes that he is working with an inferior set of inputs; does he ever talk about how well he is using them? If JK is to build up US soccer, he must realize that MLS has to be an important part. Running it down -- and all of US soccer -- every chance is about covering over JK's weaknesses, not about building up US soccer.

  29. Raymond Weigand replied, September 10, 2015 at 4:01 p.m.

    Perhaps a look at the bigger picture and wonder why the MLS doesn't even have one team with the comparable speed of the Serie A teams in Brazil. I wonder what is more important to the ownership of the MLS ... money or players ... hint-hint 100 million being spent on old retired players that have name recognition and a minimum salary of $65K - which, by the way, more than half of the players earn ... hence, having the added benefit of young prospects finding greener pastures in Math, Engineering, I.T. and other Professional endeavors.

  30. Kent James replied, September 12, 2015 at 12:35 a.m.

    Exactly. It should be pretty obvious to JK that world powers (and those that want to be) have to have strong domestic leagues to build up their player pool.

  31. Dan Phillips, September 10, 2015 at 4:30 p.m.

    Let's dump Jozy Altidore once and for all. He is an inconsistent player. Aron Johansson is better.

  32. Santiago 1314 replied, September 10, 2015 at 9:51 p.m.

    Jozy is our only Hi-Forward, Because JK REFUSES to try anyone else there...Zardes, Morris, Wood are Better than Jozy...But it's too Late Now... This Play-Off was LOST at LAST Game of Gold Cup Bracket; When JK didn't play Subs and experiment with Hi-Forward Options and Left Guzan to Lose his Confidence...JK Repeated the Same Mistake in the "Gimmie" game versus CUBA in the Round of 16..

  33. Santiago 1314 replied, September 10, 2015 at 9:53 p.m.

    Aron is a Lo-Forward; ala Dempsey...Too Slow for Stretch Hi-Forward...

  34. aaron dutch, September 11, 2015 at 12:19 a.m.

    this is brutal, even i have nothing to say:) can we trade our team to Ukraine (oh wait they smoked us to:) Which brings up a crazy idea i had what if we partnered with Brazi/ Columbia and ran our national team out of brazil/columbia for a cycle to just force a new POV. teams in africa do this all the time (good & bad reasons) but it creates a new culture. also our best young players could get into teams in south america etc..expose us to new everything. Partnerships, teams,

  35. Dan Phillips, September 11, 2015 at 7:59 p.m.

    Aron Johannsson (or anybody is better) than lazy/Jozy!

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications