clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Everything clicked for the US as they advanced to the Copa America semi-finals

The USMNT were on top of their game against Ecuador.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

I have been a starch opponent of Jurgen Klinsmann and his managerial style for some time now. I've written two articles on why he should be fired, after all.

I don't feel particularly smart right now.

Klinsmann has led the United States national team to the semi-final of the 2016 Copa America, and even if they lose to Argentina in the next round, it will be considered a magnificent performance made by a team that's just three months removed from coming within a game of dropping out of World Cup qualifying. They've used a sane lineup, played their best players in (mostly) their best spots and, perhaps most importantly, they have come out with energy and determination that hadn't been seen in years.

For too long, Klinsmann fed hateful USMNT pundits like your's truly with tons and tons of material for why he should be fired. Soccer Twitter would constantly buzz with Klinsmann criticism and fans spread hot takes in the comments section of every site around as the US would lose yet another crucial game because of bad decisions made by their German manager. Throwing players under the bus, putting stars like Fabian Johnson and Clint Dempsey in counter-productive positions and injuring player's hamstrings like they were Derrick Rose's ankles were among his many hot take-provoking offenses. And that's not even mentioning the obsessive tinkering.

Now, the US have found their winning formula after Klinsmann finally put together a serviceable starting XI. They've won three straight games against good opponents by a combined score of 7-1, not conceding a single goal from open play and advancing to the semi-final of the third-biggest soccer tournament in the world; this instant success directly correlated with a smart tactical decision made by Klinsmann.

I'm sure you know about the new 4-4-2 formation they've been playing. After all, it comes up pretty clearly on your television screen as long as someone hasn't been sent off yet. But it's not just the sheer presence of "4-4-2" instead of "4-3-3" on lineup graphics that made this change so successful. Instead, it's the inner workings of the formation and the personnel it put on the field.

The forward pairing was perhaps the greatest addition that came with this new look. Dempsey and Bobby Wood were placed together at the top of the formation, and they've quickly become the US's attacking bright spot.

Wood's movement has been absolutely incredible from his favored number-nine position, while Dempsey has excelled in the second striker role (who'd a thunk it?). The Hamburg forward is constantly moving off the ball, pushing the Ecuador defense deeper with incisive central runs and taking their attention off the poaching Dempsey, who sits in Zone 14 and takes advantage of the space vacated by Ecuador's center backs.

This is the perfect arrangement for these two players, and they were a huge reason for the US's offensive effectiveness in Seattle. It doesn't hurt when Gyasi Zardes is scoring incredible solo goals like the one he scored on Thursday and Alejandro Bedoya is running up and down the wings and messing with Ecuador's defense.

Michael Bradley has finally been put in his best position—defensive midfielder—and Jermaine Jones has been in top form as a midfield destroyer. And, of course, John Brooks has been an absolute monster at center back alongside Geoff Cameron.

Everyone was and has been at their best in this new formation. The team is more energized and determined and driven. They want to win this tournament, and it shows. Credit goes to Klinsmann for initiating this change in attitude.