USA 2 – Jamaica 0: Kljestan is Back

Bob Bradley has been reading FFG again. We complained about the tactical devolution of Team USA (moving back to a 4-4-2 from a 4-2-3-1) and following a disappointing group stage showing, Bradley returned to the 5-man midfield.

Jamaica’s 3-4-3 struggled to cope with the resurgent US 4-2-3-1. When the Reggae Boyz didn’t have possession – and that was most of the match – they dropped deep and played on the counter. At times, their formation seemed a 5-4-1.

Even without Landon Donovan, the USA swarmed Jamaica's defensive formation. Only winger Dane Richards seemed to have any attacking intent.

The United States patiently sprayed the ball around the pitch, looking for a way through. With striker Ryan Johnson dropping goalside of Jermaine Jones, Jamaica often had all 10 field players behind the ball. For all Jamaica’s defensive intent, the United States repeatedly came close to breaking the deadlock. Much of the threat came through the feet of Sacha Kljestan.

As the attacking midfielder in Bradley’s 4-2-3-1, Kljestan had license to roam, and he found pockets of space from flank to flank. He helped create a shot for Dempsey in the 13th. He combined with Dempsey to send Jermaine Jones into the box (37th). He swerved a perfect near post corner to Bradley in the 2nd. He set up Alejandro Bedoya for a headed shot in the 41st, and Kljestan even tested keeper Donovan Ricketts with a shot of his own (39th).

Kljestan was also one of USA’s key men defensively, as his work hounding Jason Morrison was instrumental in preventing Jamaica from finding any kind of offensive flow. And while Man of the Match honors certainly went to Kljestan, no one played poorly. The finishing could have been sharper (sensing a theme this tournament, are we?) but rarely did a US player set a foot wrong. The only 1st half downer was that an injured Jozy Altidore was subbed off for Juan Agudelo in the 12th.

Nothing changed tactically as the 2nd half opened. The United States, though, needed a bit of luck to open their account. In the 49th, Eric Lichaj’s cross was cleared by Shavar Thomas. Jones was in a perfect position to take advantage and he smashed a shot toward the near post. Ricketts looked to have it covered but Thomas stuck out a foot and deflected the ball into the net. The goal may have been lucky but the lead – based on the overall quality of play – was well-deserved.

From that point on, the game was about Jamaica’s puzzling lack of urgency. They did start to press immediately after the goal. But they only used the front 3 to apply pressure. At times, Ryan Johnson’s frustration with his teammates was reminiscent of Cristiano Ronaldo’s disgust with his against Barcelona (yeah, we’re using it as an excuse to embed our favorite clip).

Due to Jamaica’s pressing, the US conceded possession in their own half on a few occasions (Clarence Goodson was the main culprit). But Jamaica never had the numbers to capitalize. They didn’t even come out of their defensive shell until Jermaine Taylor was sent off in the 79th (Jones goaded the defender into committing a foul as the last man).

Despite Ricketts’ best efforts, the US eventually caused Jamaica to feel the agony of their own tactics, with Dempsey netting on a USA counter. The match had been lopsidedly in USA’s favor to that point, but it was truly over when the gassed Jamaicans couldn’t track Dempsey. The Americans will face Panama in the Wednesday semifinal.

Gringos, were you impressed by a renewed Team USA? What did you think of Landon Donovan’s benching? Were you as shocked by Kljestan’s outstanding form as we were?

5 Comments Post a Comment
  1. taylor says:

    one thing that i really took from the game and am a huge fan of was Dempsey’s license to roam. in the past few months Bradley has given him a role like this but he did it to perfection today, as he was all over the pitch and played creator as well as frontman. he is truly in the form of his life and is a delight to watch, in my opinion should be just as famous to the casual soccer fan as Landon Donovan

    • Blake Owen says:

      Dempsey was great, as always. The three attackers behind Agudelo/Altidore all interchanged at various points. We’ll cover their switching more tomorrow in our newest Tactics Tuesday.

      What has been fun to watch with Bob is how he’s let Dempsey play the same role for the National Team that he does for Fulham. We covered Fulham’s formation in depth here and here.

  2. robinoz0 says:

    it was really great to see Dempsey actually get that goal in this game that just wouldn’t land against Guadeloupe. this formation really works for so many of the US players, I’m surprised coach Bradley doesn’t use it more often

    • Blake Owen says:

      Bob began experimenting with 1-striker formations immediately after the World Cup. He toyed with a 4-2-3-1 during the end of 2010/beginning of 2011, but injuries to Stuart Holden and Benny Feilhaber may have put the experiment on hold. I’ll have some speculation on the reason for the change later today.

  3. Ben says:

    That was a gutsy move leaving Landy out, and if the US goes on it may be remembered of one of his great managerial decisions considering Kljestan’s fantastic game.

    I don’t see him sitting Landy again, but I do think he’ll stick with the 4-2-3-1, maybe starting Landy, Kljestan and Dempsey as the mids.

    Think Jones got a little direction from Bob to push up? He appeared in the Jamaica box several times prior to his goal. It was a bit of a role reversal with Michael Bradley but I liked it.

    Lichaj continues to impress!

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