Klinsmann on USA's formations and growing confidence

Jurgen Klinsmann isn't ready to commit to the 4-3-3 formation that the USA used the last four games -- or any formation, for that matter -- but he admits the new personnel that has come into the team in the last year makes it  "definitely interesting." And he credits the progress of young players with the heightened confidence within the team ahead of Friday's Copa Centenario opener against Colombia.

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Klinsmann isn't ready to tip his hand to the Cafeteros, simply calling the 4-3-3 he's used in wins over Guatemala, Puerto Rico, Ecuador and Bolivia "a huge option that we take advantage of here and there."

But he said to the media before training on Tuesday at San Jose's Avaya Stadium that formations and shapes don't matter -- he's previously called the talk about formations "useless" -- all that much in modern soccer, which he described as "a fluid type of game where everybody defends and everybody joins the attack."

"With a 4-3-3, and based on the players that we have," he said, "this is definitely interesting to see because we have now wingers that we maybe a couple of years ago didn’t have. So we can try to bring their strengths out in that formation."

Klinsmann sees the formation, which he occasionally used in the past, as something that works both ways.

"The advantage of a 4-3-3 in that way, is it goes into a 4-5-1 defensively," he said. "That makes us a little bit more compact, and makes it easier to press the ball. So you can put it together the way you prefer. It’s definitely an option that we enjoy.”

He says his team has come a long way from the Gold Cup last summer when it finished fourth. He said it's been more than just a learning curve his players had to experience.

"You see some youngsters now coming through, getting stronger, physically more developed, the DeAndre Yedlins, the Bobby Woods," he said. "Obviously, a year ago, we didn't have Christian Pulisic on the radar. We knew him obviously, but we didn't think he'd come through so quickly."

Klinsmann says the progress of younger players has changed the dynamic within the team.

"I think there's a lot more confidence in these younger players," he said. "I think the older guys, they know that. There are not many opportunities any more like this Copa America, so they are fighting, and that's what you want. You want the established players to understand, 'Listen, if I'm not attentive now, somebody steals my spot.' It gives it a good drive right now in the camp, but a very respectful drive."
20 comments about "Klinsmann on USA's formations and growing confidence".
  1. Joe Linzner, June 1, 2016 at 8:24 a.m.

    Formations are great to look neat and tidy for kick offs. Looks good on the charts but immediate 'morphs into all sorts of patterns during a game. Then it becomes a chess game as to exploit space. The team that does that more efficiently usually wins. That of course also depends on every single player being capable of completing the basics of the game technically, positionally, with vision on the ball and off the ball. That is what differentiates soocer from Am. Football etc... no time outs to fiddle with the play board, no time for oxygen masks and on and on...... it just plain is a different game....

  2. Wooden Ships replied, June 1, 2016 at 9:05 a.m.

    Agreed Joe, and the fluidity is what confounds so many US sports people. With that frustration comes rejection. Like many things, what we don't understand, we poo poo. We also find this within our own soccer circles. On the one hand its a simple game and on the other it has levels of sophistication. JK referenced in his interview the younger players getting stronger and how the team is changing. I believe what's happening is not that the players are maturing physically at a quicker rate, its that they play a more sophisticated game than most of the players he used since arriving.

  3. Bob Ashpole replied, June 1, 2016 at 1:23 p.m.

    Soccer tactics are very similar to basketball, hockey and lacrosse. Pointy football tactics has similarities too especially in the passing game, but its more subtle. I like to say that in soccer everyone is a quarterback.

  4. Scott Johnson, June 1, 2016 at 10:16 a.m.

    How long before the consensus opinion here at socceramerica switches from "Jurgen Klinsmann stinks" to "all those old MLSers we took to Brazil, stink". (Both, of course, may be true). But the tactical skill of the younguns is night-and-day different than the skill of the old guys. Athleticism and speed and strength will suffice when you don't have the ball; you can build a competent defense based on these things. But a skilled attack requires technique that the 2016 team largely didn't possess, but Nagbe and Pulisic and others have got.

  5. Wooden Ships replied, June 1, 2016 at 12:53 p.m.

    Yes sir.

  6. Bob Ashpole replied, June 1, 2016 at 1:56 p.m.

    With respect you are oversimplifying the selection process. Speed and especially quickness are important to the attack too. Some coaches consider those more important than other aspects. Technical skill is fine but the question is can the player perform effectively at the international level at the higher speed of play and under the higher pressure. Who is selected largely determines the styles of play the team is capable of. The tipping point often is the central positions. Are the DMs, strikers, and CBs good passers? JK has consistently selected backs with sufficient skill to maintain possession under pressure. A possession style of play requires that skill in the DMs and strikers too. The questions in my mind are: Does JK still think Bradley's passing skill is wasted at holding midfield and will he still use one-dimensional forwards who can counterattack but don't have the tools to play possession style? Counterattacking style has won a lot of matches, but to take the US MNT to the next level they need to play both styles.

  7. Scott Johnson replied, June 3, 2016 at 5:58 p.m.

    Perhaps... but as far as MB goes, he seems to play better at HM than at other more forward positions. He's a good passer out of the back, a poor man's Pirlo, but he's not the guy you want leading the attack. And he does have defensive deficiencies compared to a pure ball-stopper like Beckerman. But I'd rather see Bradley at #6 than anywhere else on the pitch.

  8. R2 Dad, June 1, 2016 at 11:22 a.m.

    Depends on the referees, unfortunately. The good news is there are south american referees here but I wouldn't rule out controversial calls against COMNEBOL teams from CONCACAF referees. Cultural programming from youth is difficult to ignore for 90 minutes, even for a FIFA ref. That's why CONCACAF matches can turn to carnage. We need good referees for this tournament, not important referees.

  9. Wooden Ships replied, June 1, 2016 at 12:53 p.m.

    And, yes sir.

  10. Kevin Leahy, June 1, 2016 at 12:55 p.m.

    Yet, Nagbe can't get a start. He plays in MLS and Yedlin started there. Yedlin's first touch has improved greatly! He wouldn't be able to get on the field in the Premier league without it.

  11. Bob Ashpole, June 1, 2016 at 1:13 p.m.

    Good interview. JK talks the talk, as expected.

  12. cisco martinez, June 1, 2016 at 7:41 p.m.

    I find it odd that coaches like Klinsmann say such absurd things like, formations are "useless," and then in the same breathe asserts,"The advantage of a 4-3-3 in that way, is it goes into a 4-5-1 defensively," he said. "That makes us a little bit more compact, and makes it easier to press the ball." Formations matter as much as the players you have and visaversa. Smart coaches know if a teams sets up in a certain way it is because it will amplify there teams strengths and limit their weaknesses against a opposition.

  13. Bob Ashpole replied, June 2, 2016 at 3:24 a.m.

    The article says JK said talking about formations was useless, not that he said formations were useless.

  14. cisco martinez, June 2, 2016 at 10:33 a.m.

    Bob, are we reading the same article?!

    Klinsmann said to the media before training on Tuesday at San Jose's Avaya Stadium that formations and shapes don't matter -- he's previously called the talk about formations "useless."

    Klinsmann appears to be saying not only talking about formations is useless, but also that formations and shapes don't matter. This is just one of many examples of why Klinsmann has been a failure so far with our national team and I am not the only one to criticize him for tactics. Lahm, Kroos, Donovan, Goodsen, etc.

  15. Bob Ashpole replied, June 2, 2016 at 8:20 p.m.

    The article is paraphrasing him, not quoting him. I think, however, I understand his point. I believe that "formations" don't really matter, it is the players that matter. Good players will combine and solve tactical problems regardless of "formation." Professionals are more than merely good. I have had the most experience coaching the 433. I can adjust it to play like any of the other systems. The system is just a tool to make it easier for the players to combine together. It doesn't exist without the players.

  16. beautiful game, June 2, 2016 at 4:01 p.m.

    Speculation...has no merit on the pitch.

  17. cisco martinez, June 3, 2016 at 10:01 a.m.

    Bob, I've played and coached at a high level as well, it's a coaches job to assess the opposition, it's formation, players, tactics on set pieces, etc. It's true some players must solve tactical problems, however that's the coaches main job is to solve these problems and in my opinion klinsmann is lacking in tactics. The only tactics I've seen where Klinsmann has got it right is against Mexico. Mexico generally plays a 3-5-2 and klinsmann to his credit played a 4-4-2 diamond and created overloads on the flanks creating a 2v1. when you analyze those games, those goals were creating on the wings. Playing this type of formation has given USA strong results against Mexico with the exception of the Gold Cup.

  18. Bob Ashpole replied, June 3, 2016 at 2:28 p.m.

    Cisco, that is an excellent example. But the key point is creating the overload on the flanks, not the formation. When a 442 uses a "second striker" it plays remarkable like a 433. Some people believe that a 433 systems defends with only 7 players behind the ball. The original Brazil 433 system withdrew the left winger into the midfield when out of possession defending as a 442. Withdrawing both wingers gives you 9 players behind the ball. I like to describe my coaching experience as at the lowest level. It is my age, however, that colors my view of the importance of coaches, formations, and game plans. When I played competitively, the Laws still prohibited coaching from the sidelines. Soccer was very much a players' game and the captain did the "coaching" during the matches. So my view today is that a coach of a senior team establishes a system and game plan that gives the players the tools they need to win and then empowers the players to solve the problems on the field, not bind them with a "game plan" straitjacket.

  19. Bob Ashpole replied, June 3, 2016 at 2:43 p.m.

    I wanted to add that the "coach in control" style is better suited for league play against known, fixed teams than international tournaments.

  20. Andrew Kear, June 5, 2016 at 9:31 a.m.

    Being soundly beaten by Columbia is not what I call growing confidence.

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