November 13, 2016
The Master Tinkerer tinkers at the worst time
By Michael Lewis
Jurgen Klinsmann must be held accountable for the U.S. defeat to Mexico over his strategy, lineup decisions.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Well, the Master Tinkerer was back in full bloom during the United States' World Cup qualifying loss to Mexico, 2-1, Friday night.
Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann decided to deploy a 3-5-2 formation instead of something like or close to a traditional 4-4-2.
The result was a disastrous first half in which the U.S. was outplayed and wound up chasing the game and 1-0 deficit.
Restoring to a 4-4-2 at halftime, the Americans improved in the second half and knotted things up until surrendering a devastating 11th-hour goal to former Red Bulls' defender and bad boy Rafa Marquez.
As it turned out, it was too little and too late.
Klinsmann must be praised for starting 18-year-old Christian Pulisic.
And, he must be questioned and chastised for keeping Sacha Kljestan on the bench. Kljestan has been an important part of the team's attack in the past four matches -- two qualifiers and two friendlies.
Way back in March, I wrote about that Klinsmann needed to be replaced as U.S. coach.
That he was outcoached by Juan Carlos Osorio, who pushed all of the right buttons for Mexico, only adds fuels to my contention even further.
Let's peer into a possible near future for the team.
If the red, white and blue winds up feeling blue after the opening two matches of the CONCACAF hexagonal -- translated: two defeats -- the Americans will be chasing a qualifying berth (one of three automatic ones; the fourth-place team will meet Asia's fifth-place side in a special home-and-home playoff). Depending on Tuesday's results, it is possible they will be with the rest of the pack instead of leading it, at least for the time being.
And if the USA doesn't accrue any points in these two November confrontations, it will make the WCQ home match against Honduras on March 24 (no venue decided yet) a must-win scenario. Four days later, the Americans will visit Panana in another qualifier.
There still are eight games remaining so there is plenty of time to catch-up. But every time the USA loses or drops points, any room for error will have closed just a little more.