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 Posted by Doug McIntyre
Jun 1, 2014

Change of plans to U.S. diamond

HARRISON, N.J. -- Long live the diamond midfield? Not so fast.

Following a first half in which his back line was exploited -- if not breached -- by a dangerous, opportunistic Turkish side in what ended up as a 2-1 Yanks win at Red Bull Arena, U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann made a subtle tactical adjustment at halftime that could foreshadow what we might see when the Americans begin their World Cup campaign two weeks from now in Brazil.

"Our problem in the first half was our defensive understanding in defensive midfield," Klinsmann said of the aggressive, three-game-old diamond formation in front of his back line, the spaces in which were repeatedly exposed by the Turks.

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"Jermaine Jones I thought played a brilliant first half," said the coach, referring to his take-no-prisoners defensive midfielder. "But what we needed to do earlier there was drop Michael Bradley there next to him in a flat four and not a diamond."

The adjustment worked, as the Americans were able to limit the visitors' chances after the break. It also took the pressure of the defense, which has been under scrutiny because of its lack of World Cup experience.

"For us that's not really an issue -- it's more an issue in the media, really," center-back Matt Besler said, noting that the U.S. has yet to allow a goal from the run of play -- Turkey's tally came on a late second-half penalty -- in its two pre-Cup tuneups so far.

"We don't feel like there's a major issue in the back," Besler added.

And to be fair, neither did Turkey coach Fatih Terim.

As the sole defensive midfielder, Jermaine Jones was stretched too thin in the diamond formation.

"We were able to create a lot of chances, but that was not because of individual mistakes of U.S. defenders," Terim said afterward. "If you like to play attacking football, which the United States team tried to do, then it's normal, it's obvious, that you take risks in defense."

Still, Klinsmann conceded that his back four has to get better between now and the Yanks' June 16 opener against Ghana, no matter who is actually manning the spots.

"We still have a lot of work ahead of us to become more compact, more connected between the players to make it more difficult for opponents to come though there," he said.

The coach came into the three-game send-off series -- the U.S. will meet Nigeria in Jacksonville, Florida, on Saturday -- saying that he would "experiment" with personnel, and he has.

Against Turkey, Timmy Chandler spelled DaMarcus Beasley at left-back and was beaten on the play that led to Geoff Cameron's spot kick-conceding handball in the box. Besler was replaced after the opening 45 minutes by 20-year-old John Brooks, who acquitted himself well.

So did striker Jozy Altidore, despite another game without a goal, to the point that Terim said he was one of the three most impressive U.S. players, along with Fabian Johnson and Michael Bradley -- the duo that combined on the Yanks' beautiful first-half opener against the run of play.

"He's a very powerful striker, the type of striker that center-backs don't like much," Terim said of Altidore, who spent part of 2011 with Turkish Super Lig club Bursaspor. "He likes to hold up the ball, and therefore his teammates can also join the attack. He's a very important player."

And as Klinsmann pointed out, what matters is that Altidore scores at the World Cup, not before it.

"I wouldn't mind," Klinsmann joked, "If that goal comes against Ghana."

Especially if a flat four in midfield can help make it stand up.

Notes

-- Klinsmann stressed that though he's happy with the progress his central defenders are making, he wants to see them up their communication. "The next step is to become more vocal -- louder -- so I don't need to scream that much," he said. Besler, for one, seemed to take the message to heart. "Sorry, I lost my voice," he said to reporters before struggling through interviews in the post-match mixed zone.

-- Youngster Julian Green made his first appearance since making the final roster but seemed to struggle physically after replacing left winger Brad Davis in the second half. "For him, that workload we did the first two weeks was a lot for an 18-year-old boy," Klinsmann said. "But in every session now he gets fresher and fresher, and his body language gets stronger. He drew a clear penalty again, like he did against Mexico," Klinsmann said of a play that, like a similar one against El Tri in April, went uncalled by the referee. "That's two goals, theoretically, if they give that. So he's coming along."

-- Terim, for one, likes the Yanks' chances of surviving the Group of Death in Brazil. "I believe that they can do a very good job because they are a solid team with talented players," said the veteran coach, who has also managed Galatasaray and Italian clubs Fiorentina and Milan. "And I'm confident in Jurgen Klinsmann, too."