Klinsmann’s Reliance on DMids Stifles BeautyKlinsmann’s use of three defensive midfielders is counterproductive to his promise of beautiful soccer
by Chris Enger | Tuesday, June 12, 2012
One of my favorite Nike Soccer commercials features Eric Cantona discussing different formations. “Why not 1-2-7 or 1-1-8?” he asks. And while I’m not naive enough to think that every, single formation would actually work the point is clear: “Joga bonito” and play offensively.
US Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has promised to change the culture of American Soccer. He played the game beautifully, coached a German team that played marvelously and wants to instill that into the US Soccer Federation.
I believe he is the man that can do it. I’ve partaken of the Kool-Aid. I’m a believer!
After a year of tinkering and preparations, Friday night finally arrived, the first match in World Cup Qualifying for the United States, a time to finally see what the US could do. I cozied on up with my new red and white striped kit, turned to ESPN and with much anticipation I saw the US starting lineup against Antigua and Barbuda: three defensive midfielders. Wait, what?
This is the same Antigua and Barbuda that is home to less than 90,000 citizens, right? Let’s put that in perspective. The budding metropolis I call home, Salt Lake City has 186,000 people, and that’s just the downtown area, including the suburbs and cities around it that number is over 2 million. The smallest MLS market, is about 20 times the size of Antigua.
Wouldn’t facing a squad that makes up most of the Antigua Barracuda FC of the USL PRO (3rd division in US pyramid), with a few English Championship and lower division players sprinkled it, be just the occasion to play with a more offensive mindset?
In other words. We came to a schoolyard scrap, dressed in a full suit of armor.
Antigua and Barbuda does have a couple of players playing in larger, better leagues, but the USMNT is primarily made up of athletes playing in top leagues in Europe and America. There is no one on the US team that plays his club soccer in the third division of the United States as a good percentage of the Antiguan and Barbudans do.
The reason you typically play one defensive midfielder is to help keep those offensive options from the other team in check, but three defensive midfielders? Were we that worried going into the match?
Does anyone on planet Earth use three defensive midfielders starting, and the lone creative midfielder playing left back on their starting lineup against Antigua and Barbuda? Anyone?
Even Bob Bradley, a coach known for using overly pragmatic (see defensive) tactics, limited himself to just two defensive midfielders on most occasions and that was usually against the likes of Brazil, Spain, Argentina as well as the minnows in CONCACAF.
I understand that right now the defensive midfield position is our deepest position in the US pool and that you want to try and get the best players on the field, but what happened Friday night was a missed opportunity. This was a home match, against Antigua and Barbuda! But instead of playing an offensive style with offensive players we play defensively and looked very average while doing it.
Arguably, unless you’re playing five midfielders you shouldn’t even have two defensive midfielders on the pitch. So to play three defensive midfielders in three midfield positions, against the likely bottom dweller of a group, in a meaningful competition, simply defies logic. Especially when racking up goals against said minnow might become important down the road as a group decider.
Klinsmann wants the US to pressure and get the ball back once the ball is turned over, and yes with the abundance of defensive midfielders playing we are able to pressure, but he is taking out the creativity of what to do after the ball is repossessed by the USMNT. One need only look at the goals that the USMNT scored to notice we were lacking creatively: a corner kick, a penalty and a chaotic sequence in the box leading to another.
Nothing breathtaking. Nothing exciting. They were lacking the beautiful play that US supporters had been promised in the Klinsmann Era.
What the USMNT needs are players who can create. We may not have a large amount in the pool to draw from but the creative players we do have need to be on the field and in the right position to matter. Be it Torres, Feilhaber, Diskerud or Adu … we need to get them time and cut back on the DMids.
It was certainly a lack of creativity and ingenuity that was on full display Friday night and it will lead to failure as the USMNT advance from group play into the hexagonal. And down the road if the USA qualifies for Brazil in 2014, is that what we’ll bring to the international table, a clogged DMid midfield?
That’s if they advance out of group play.