Any friendly result always brings some caveats, and the U.S.’s 3-2 loss to Chile on Wednesday night was no different. Yes, this was close to a U.S. A-team playing a Chile B-team in Rancagua, Chile. And yes, the Chileans are already into their league season and have more fitness, which showed in their second-half comeback from a 2-1 disadvantage.
But there were some lessons to take from this game, which featured the debut of the USA’s 3-5-2 formation and two terrific U.S. goals by Brek Shea and Jozy Altidore before Mark González (the best player on the field) turned the tide with two second-half strikes.
Here are my three thoughts on the game:
• The 3-5-2 and wingbacks: Worth more looks
The experiment was never going to go perfectly, and it didn’t: There was too much space at times between Jermaine Jones and Matt Besler in the back three, which led to Chile’s first goal, and Jones’ forays up the field led to two occasions in which the ball was stripped off his foot to create scoring chances.
But Shea and DeAndre Yedlin were effective from an attacking perspective: Shea pushed high and scored off a terrific ball from Besler early, and Yedlin showed he can be smart as well as fast with his part on Altidore’s goal along with Mix Diskerud. Shea and Yedlin gave up some space behind them defensively, but this was largely a promising formation debut.
Keep in mind, Chile’s last two goals came only after the U.S. had switched to a 4-4-2 diamond in the second half.
• Be prepared for some friendly losses this year
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said last month that 2015 would be a year of experimentation, not just with players but with formations as well. The U.S. has a difficult friendly schedule lined up, and Klinsmann went so far as to say that the only time he’s really going with his best possible roster to win until July will be during the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
That’s the kind of risk you can take if you’re Klinsmann and you know a run of friendly losses won’t get you fired. (Bob Bradley, for example, didn’t have that luxury during his tenure.) But it also means that U.S. fans and the team itself may have to endure some painful stats. You will see in plenty of places that the U.S. has now won just one game in its last nine since the World Cup victory over Ghana. But Klinsmann is banking that in the big picture that really won’t matter much as long as the U.S. performs when it counts.
• Lightning round:
Klinsmann certainly sees something in Bobby Wood, who got the start up top next to Altidore and played 45 minutes. But considering Wood’s club woes at 1860 Munich and the U.S.’s other options, Klinsmann’s faith in him is a bit of a head-scratcher … Steve Birnbaum got a surprise start ahead of Matt Hedges on the right side of the back three and did well until a couple hiccups late … Altidore’s goal was a terrific finish after good work from Yedlin and Diskerud and should restore some confidence to the big forward … the González-Yedlin battle was the best one on the field, and Yedlin showed he still has some work to do defensively … It was also encouraging in the 3-5-2 to see Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley playing in positions better suited for their strengths than the more advanced spots they played in during the World Cup.