Perhaps a bowling tournament or a scavenger hunt. And team up Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones and Alejandro Bedoya. Because that was Klinsmann’s midfield against the Colombians and they played like they hadn’t been introduced to each other.
If your midfielders aren’t working well together -- what chance has your team got? This trio did not connect.
Bradley played very deep, like a sweeper in front of the backline, and there was usually lots of green between him and his midfield mates. Bedoya made runs forward, waving his arm in hopes of a through pass, instead of moving toward Bradley. If you blinked, you missed any combination play between Bradley and Jones.
The 4-3-3 formation is tough on midfielders and only succeeds when they’re in sync with each other. That’s why it’s advocated at the youth level -- because it’s so challenging and forces players to figure out how to read the game and share offensive and defensive responsibilities.
It must be said, when Colombia is on top of its game, Los Cafeteros are as good as any team in the world. Take the terrific right winger Juan Cuadrado, a pleasure to watch and a menace to any defense -- enough so that Jones attributed the USA’s midfield problems to him having to help out left back Fabian Johnson.
“I had to spend a lot of energy to help Fabi,” said Jones. “So I came away a little bit from my own game.”
I asked Jones if the lack of midfield cohesion stemmed from Colombia being such a good team:
“We have to be more focused on us,” he said. “We have a midfield with a good game plan where we can put a lot of pressure on other teams. Today was more focused on Colombia and the left side to help Fabi so we lost one guy in midfield.”
And on whether a formation with only three midfielders might not be the best approach, Jones said:
“We showed in other games we [could] play really well [with three midfielders]. Today was a little bit tougher.”
I asked Bradley whether he’s confident that U.S. midfield will find its rhythm against teams not as formidable as Colombia:
“It’s not just the midfield. It’s everybody being better. It’s everybody being sharper ... be more dangerous. Move a little bit better.”
Of course, but so much of the game is played in the midfield.
The 28-year-old Bradley has been the U.S. midfield chief for nearly a decade, because he marshals the defense and sparks the offense. He’s hailed when the USA succeeds and blamed when it doesn’t. But his great games and his good games have far outnumbered his bad games.
Enough so that whatever Klinsmann does to repair the midfield -- scrap the 4-3-3 and add a midfielder or finally give Darlington Nagbe (or even Christian Pulisic) a start -- most important is to line up the team in a way that best suits Bradley.