The United States Men’s National Team attack looked very mediocre, registering just two shots on target against the No. 35 ranked team in the world (Scotland) in the first 63 minutes of their international friendly on Friday afternoon. Then Jurgen Klinsmann decided to make a tactical change subbing off central attacking midfielder Sacha Kljestan of Anderlecht for striker Aron Jóhannsson of AZ Alkmaar, thus switching from Klinsmann’s old-reliable 4-2-3-1 to the more conventional 4-4-2. The switch did only result in one additional shot on target but the US attack was far stronger after the substitution; Does Jurgen Klinsmann need to think about switching to a two-forward system?
In the short term the answer to this question is yes. With Clint Dempsey’s injury, there is a massive hole in the space right behind the striker with which Klinsmann tried to fill with Sacha Kljestan. Kljestan plays more of a defensive role with his club even though he has scored seven times. The only other player who could be considered for that role would be Mix Diskerud but he is more of a defensive-minded player.
Looking at the list of available players for the squad, it looks like a temporary switch to a 4-4-2 could be a very real possibility for Klinsmann. This could also help out Jozy Altidore to find some more shooting opportunities by having the second forward up top with him. Center-backs will have to account for both of the attackers instead of just Altidore. Klinsmann will also get a chance to see how well Altidore and Jóhannsson can work together; the duo did play together at AZ during the first six months of 2013. This tactical change will give Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones more freedom to move forward with the attack, covering the area that will be left open with Dempsey out. The biggest key for them will be making sure to get back defensively after joining the attack, which makes me believe that Bradley will be the one to be more likely to press forward. If Klinsmann was looking for a good time to experiment with this tactical change, it is the friendly in Vienna on Tuesday.
Projected United States Lineup vs. Austria: 4-4-2
Brad Evans — Omar Gonzalez — Geoff Cameron — DaMarcus Beasley
Alejandro Bedoya — Michael Bradley — Jermaine Jones — Eddie Johnson
Aron Jóhannsson — Jozy Altidore
In the long term, the 4-2-3-1 formation is the one that utilizes all of the players in their strongest roles, and the numbers back it up. Klinsmann has started 16 matches using this tactic going back to Aug 10, 2011 against Mexico; in those matches the USMNT has a record of 13 wins, 3 draws and 0 losses while scoring 36 goals and allowing just 12. These tactics were used during the first win at the Azteca and the come-from-behind win in Bosnia & Herzegovina in August.
In comparison, Klinsmann has used the 4-4-2 formation in 10 matches since taking over the job with a success rate of eight wins, one draw and one loss while scoring 24 goals and allowing only eight. Granted, for six of the matches that this tactic was used it was against the likes of Cuba and Belize. If Klinsmann does use this tactic during this match it will be very interesting to see how it fares against better competition.