Why the US Must Bring Back the 4-2-3-1 Against Portugal on Sunday
When the final whistle blew and the U.S. had beaten Ghana 2-1, there was great cause for celebration. The hope of escaping the group of death was still alive and the likes of John Books had cemented his status as a national hero.
However, it was also clear that there was a lot of work that needed to be done. America was far from convincing against Ghana and cannot afford to play so poorly on Sunday when they take on Portugal.
Looking back at the match, it is easy to see where things went wrong for America.
The U.S. started the match in their new diamond formation, but very quickly reverted into a tradition 4-4-2 for basically the entire match. Ghana quickly took advantage.
The two biggest issues that stood out for America was the fact that the wings were left unmarked and there was little to no control of midfield play. The Yanks simply cannot let that be the case again when they face Portugal and that means a return to the trusted 4-2-3-1 is on the cards.
The Defense and Midfield Will Be Better Protected With a Double Pivot
Against Ghana, America was not able to control the game. Their opponents went long stretches of the match with a lot of possession and the U.S. was forced against a wall as they looked to defend the attacks.
Utilizing the 4-2-3-1 will fix a lot of those particular issues.
With a double pivot of Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman, the defense will have much better coverage in front of them, while the midfield will also have more stability to keep possession and build up play.
In the win over Ghana, Jones was often playing as a left winger in the 4-4-2 which forced him out of position and didn't take advantage of his strengths.
Jones and Beckerman both have great quality playing in front of the defense. Their ability to win the ball back and use physicality is desperately needed against Portugal and Jurgen Klinsmann would be wise to let them do what they do best.
If the U.S. can take better control of the midfield, they can dictate the match their way and will stand a much better chance of seeing off Portugal. Playing another match with their backs against the wall could be a death wish for the Yanks, but the double pivot would fix that issue.
Michael Bradley Can Play Further Forward While Wingers Can Track Back
Another big problem in the match against Ghana was the fact that midfielder Michael Bradley dropped back very deep and rarely went forward in attack. That has to change against Portugal.
Bradley is the midfield general who links up play and creates chances, and because of that he must play a more offensive role for the Americans. In the 4-2-3-1, he could sit behind the lone striker and he would have the freedom to orchestrate with the double pivot protecting him from behind.
At the same time, playing with two true wingers would give the defense more coverage as well.
Playing against the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani is not going to be easy for the U.S. and they have to do a better job covering the flanks. Utilizing wingers in a 4-2-3-1 allows for them to track back to help out the full-backs which could be vital on Sunday.
Also, with the work rate of Alejandro Bedoya and Graham Zusi, Klinsmann could trust his wingers to be defenders at times, as well as create chances on the offensive side of the ball.
Clint Dempsey Must Start Alone with Jozy Altidore Out Injured
After picking up a hamstring injury against Ghana, Jozy Altidore has been officially ruled out of the match against Portugal, according to ESPNFC.com. Though Aron Johannsson and Chris Wondolowski are on the bench ready to take his place, that simply can't happen.
When Johannsson replaced Altidore in the opener, he did not play much of a factor. The 23-year-old failed to make runs and was often caught looking as he was a bit lost at times.
Starting Wondolowski is just as questionable at this stage as well. Though he has scored some big goals in his career, he struggles to create chances for himself and is often marked out of games for large stretches of time.
That leaves Captain Clint Dempsey as the only real choice to feature as America's striker. With him being the best option, playing a 4-2-3-1 just makes the most sense.
Dempsey would be free to drift in and out of the center of the pitch to pick up the ball in other areas, while he would also be able to target Portugal's weak point. Pepe and Fabio Coentrao will miss the match against the U.S. meaning Dempsey could also look to use that to his advantage.
Playing with one striker also means that the wingers will be relied upon more to give service and get involved in the attack. America has the perfect players to do just that so Dempsey won't be alone by any means.
The 4-2-3-1 has been trusted for so long by the Yanks.
It got them out of qualifiers and saw them play some of their best soccer in recent memory. It gets the best out of the players available utilizing their specific skill sets. And lastly, it covers for America's own weaknesses.
Using the 4-2-3-1 against Portugal is imperative for Jurgen Klinsmann. In fact, it now begs the question why the U.S. ever got away from it in the first place. America can get out of this group, but they have to make the right adjustments for that to happen and a return to their trusted formation would be the perfect move.
Should the U.S. use the 4-2-3-1 against Portugal? Will the Americans make it out of the group? Leave your thoughts and comments below!