For better or for worse, faithful Gringos were obliged to follow Friday’s USMNT qualifier as a series of stat updates on their favorite app or website, without any visuals or context. Early exhilaration (Dempsey’s alarmingly quick goal) was eventually followed by disappointment (Jamaica’s equalizer, 23′) and outright worry and frustration (Jamaica’s go-ahead, 61′). Highlights do help fill in the blanks a bit, and if you haven’t yet, we encourage you to watch the US Soccer official highlight reel.
But FFG has never been a highlight-driven commentator, which makes our normal level of analysis difficult. Instead, we’ve mined the stats and chalkboards and put together a series of data-based observations.
- Klinsmann went with a 4-3-1-2 formation, with Dempsey sitting behind Gomez/Altidore as the strIking duo. We’ve seen this alignment before (more on it later) and it has some interesting connections to its popular cousin, the 4-2-3-1.
- USMNT center mids conceded 6 more fouls than they won (see chalkboard – 11 conceded 5 won; Jones, Edu, and Beckerman were swamped defensively and unable to goad defenders into fouls going forward). This is an important statistic because all 4 Jamaica shots on target were from set pieces as a result of said conceded fouls.
- Our center midfielders did complete a decent percentage of passes (76%) but only 4 were completed in the final third; as a whole the US only created 2 scoring chances from the run of play.
- Klinsmann’s choice of center midfielders meant US would have less possession. We ended up with slightly higher overall percentage over the course of the game, but up to the point Jamaica scored their 2nd goa, thel US had attempted 15 fewer passes.
- Jamaica broke up USA play very high. This compounded USA’s build-up issues by fouling early and preventing the Americans from finding a rhythm. This added to the US problems in attack because it stagnated whatever middling fluency the center midfielders could generate.
- Surprisingly, despite the general struggles of Edu/Jones/Beckerman, the defense didn’t allow penetration into the box. All of Jamaica’s shots were from some distance. They weren’t intercepting passes on the edge of the final third, so the backline’s positioning must have been good.
- More on the 4-3-1-2: USMNT has used it before–to win against Slovenia–but there were issues even in that match. In a 4-3-1-2, the center midfielders can get stretched because they don’t have a lot of outside defensive help. In contrast to the Jamaica match, against Slovenia only one true defensive mid was involved – Beckerman. The other two were Michael Bradley and Fabian Johnson, which gave the attack bite. Going forward in winger-less formations like the 4-3-1-2, the fullbacks have to provide the team’s width almost exclusively, and while the highlights show both Fabian Johnson and Michael Parkhurst put in decent crosses, it obviously didn’t occur with regularity, mostly due to the limited nature of the balls being played to their feet. And, speaking of Parkhurst, no offense to the solid defender, but where is Eric Lichaj? If you have to use fullbacks to produce offense, pick attacking fullbacks.
And a final word for Jurgen…
The choices for our 3 center midfielders were wrong. Someone more offensive and creative needed to link to the front three (against Slovenia it was Johnson). An attacking right back could have helped – instead we had a solid but conservative Parkhurst. Ironically, in our most recent post we gave you high marks for the state of our midfield. After impressive away wins vs. Italy and Mexico, we expected, and hoped, for something bigger and better in a game when it “really counts.”