Here's the important thing to remember when it comes to experiments in soccer, or anywhere else for that matter: sometimes the results are gonna stink.
Testing a different tactical arrangement was certainly worth a look-see. And who has enough imagination to say what Tuesday's new formation would have looked like with
But any talk about what the United States did well in the new look would be a fairly short conversation.
On the other hand, the night at PPL Park looked much brighter for the home side after the break. Bradley scrapped Plan A and slipped his men into something more comfortable, the true-blue 4-4-2. The result was still a 0-0 draw, but the night left plenty to talk about, good and bad.
Two players debuted internationally, one with good results (fullback
"In the first half, I think we were playing slow and couldn't move forward," Bradley told ESPN after the match. "So we were always sort of stuck back. The flow was better in the second half. We were more mobile, our passes moved forward and took us somewhere, and that didn't happen in the first half."
Bradley wanted his team in an attack-minded 4-3-3. Effectively, the coach wanted to invert the midfield triangle from Saturday, playing with one screener (
And it did appear to be a great way to get the best U.S. players on the field; an arrangement that can get Edu, Bradley and Jones into the mix holds promise.
But as we know, things drawn up on the board look different when the man in the middle blows his whistle for kickoff. Holden and the debuting Shea were anchored so far back along the outside that the United States was effectively in a 4-1-4-1. And not a good one, at that.
The midfield was a muddled mess, some of which should be expected given the newness of it all. Passing through the center third was sluggish at times and just plain poor at others. Some of the problem was Shea's youth. When the FC Dallas man stepped on the field he became the first U.S. player born in the 1990s to get into a match. He's had a breakout year for FC Dallas and he'll surely have better days, but he looked every bit of the youngest player in the pool at the moment, unsure and unable to do much at all to impact the game.
But his far more experienced teammates fared only a little better. Edu, Michael Bradley and Jones had no chemistry and had all the zip of a bowl of cold soup. There was certainly no one in a U.S. shirt to organize and settle the attack the way
Things looked night-and-day better after the break. Jones and Michael Bradley seemed far more comfortable in the more conventional middle, aided by
Tuesday's match and last Saturday's will provide important building blocks for next year's Gold Cup, which Bradley and the federation have made a priority.
"We want to keep building our pool, keep getting some different guys some experience," Bradley said. "And then as we get into next year, we'll have a chance to really narrow in on the group that we think will serve us best in the Gold Cup."