It was clear quite early that Jurgen Klinsmann's tactical tinkering wasn't going to work for the US men's national team. It took a Mexico goal and a defacto time-out for Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones to seemingly ask their coach to switch back to a 4-4-2. This sense of desperation on the part of the USMNT voided the training hours the team used preparing for El Tri with Klinsmann's 3-4-3.
"I think ultimately, among us all, it was clear, it made sense to change," Bradley explained after the match.
Bradley is typically a measured speaker when asked tough questions. In this instance, it was clear he was struggling to find the right words, and ultimately, settled with describing the tactics Mexico used that prompted the change.
"Specifically, they (Mexico) overloaded our right side, which meant that Timmy Chandler could never step out because Corona was staying very high and very wide. So it wasn't easy for Timmy Chandler to ever step out to Layun. The other one that was floating over there was Dos Santos a lot, and then still Chicharito coming over," he said.
"They had a clear idea in terms of how they wanted to overload that side. It meant that Timmy Chandler got pinned back and ideally, we wanted him to be able to step out and press Layun. He was never able to do that," Bradley added.
Jones tried explaining after the match as well.
"We tried something, I think we tried with a different formation, we tried with three in the back. With all respect to Mexico, they figured it out in the first half and they played really good. So we changed it," he said.
Many on social media couldn't even figure out what formation Klinsmann was trotting out to begin with. Was it a 3-5-2? 4-3-3? Maybe a 4-4-2? Changing formations prior to a game this big when their traditional 4-4-2 seemed to work well in the Copa America did seem strange.
"For me, it's not my decision. This is a good question for the coach," Jones said to the media.
"We switched back to a 4-4-2 after a little bit to correct some things because most of the beginning our midfielders didn't get into the one-against-one battles we expected them to get into," Klinsmann told the media in his post-game press conference.
"The key in that system (3-4-3) is that your center midfielders need to get into these one against one battles. That's something that was not happening the first 25-30 minutes."
Klinsmann went on to explain that his lineup against Mexico was "absolutely not" about adjusting to El Tri's system, but instead, was a good option for the players they already had on the roster. It looked good in practice, but didn't look good against actual competition. It looked so bad, the decision was made to revert back to a familiar formation just 25 minutes into the match. In that 4-4-2 formation, the USMNT tied Mexico 1-1. We can only imagine what might've been had the USMNT used the time preparing for Mexico in 3-4-3, preparing in the more comfortable 4-4-2.
On to Costa Rica where the USMNT hasn’t won...ever.