Three thoughts from USA-Slovenia
Jurgen Klinsmann deployed two strikers and a 4-4-2 formation against Slovenia
Despite offensive improvement, the U.S. struggled defensively at times
U.S. needs to determine if it plays better with a two-forward system better
Three thoughts after the U.S.'s 3-2 win at Slovenia on Tuesday:
Klinsmann's changes sparked the U.S.'s offensive breakout. After scoring two goals in coach Jurgen Klinsmann's first six games, the U.S. poured in three goals in the first half against Slovenia, not least because Klinsmann's tinkering paid off. Michael Bradley started for the first time since August and brought precise passing and set-piece delivery, including on the U.S.' second goal. Fabian Johnson got his first cap and was active creating chances on the left flank, drawing a penalty for goal No. 3. And Edson Buddle gave Jozy Altidore a necessary running mate up top in a 4-4-2; it was Buddle who scored the U.S.' opener after Clint Dempsey's high pressure forced a turnover deep in Slovenian territory. The U.S. created a ton of chances in this game, and that should give the Yanks some confidence that they can attack with success under Klinsmann.
The defense still needs work. For a 10-minute period in the second half the U.S.' defense was a complete shambles, failing to clear the ball out of danger and allowing Slovenia back into the game. The blame was evenly distributed, but Kyle Beckerman did look particularly slow-footed as the U.S. gave up Slovenia's second goal. Does he have the speed necessary to play at this level? Aside from that, the U.S. is playing a much higher back line under Klinsmann, and while that caused Slovenia to be offside numerous times, it also put serious pressure on the U.S. defenders to keep that line. Timmy Chandler didn't do that on the passing sequence that led to Slovenia's first goal and kept scorer Tim Matavz onside.
Are two classic forwards the way to go? We've been asking this question for a few years now, mainly because 1) the U.S. has had more talent at the midfield position than at forward, and 2) Altidore has always seemed to play better with a second forward partner. This game was the first one in which Klinsmann has opted for two real forwards, and now it's the first one in which the U.S. has been an attacking force (in the first half, at least). It's only one game, of course, and we've learned in the past not to make too much of one game, even a win in Europe. The U.S. has plenty of things to work out as Klinsmann moves forward, but it was refreshing to see a Stars & Stripes team create scoring chances and experience a long-awaited win over a decent opponent on foreign soil. We'll see if it continues in 2012.