52814_isi_diskerudmix_usmnt052714115 John Todd/isiphotos.com
Send-Off Series

American Attack Struggles to Produce vs. Azerbaijan

ASN's man in San Francisco spoke with Michael Bradley and Mix Diskerud about the United States less-than-convincing win over the 85th ranked team in the world and how the 4-4-2 diamond ended up playing out.
BY Jon Arnold Posted
May 28, 2014
3:00 AM
SAN FRANCISCO-When Jurgen Klinsmann put his team into a 4-4-2 formation with a diamond midfield in an April friendly against Mexico, it came as a surprise and ended up being a pretty pleasant one.

The second time around it was less surprising - and less successful.

While the U.S. ultimately gave its lead back and settled for a draw against El Tri, Michael Bradley and Co. ran riot with the formation, continually besting central midfielder Jesus Zavala and running out to a 2-0 halftime lead.

There was no riot in Tuesday’s 2-0 win against Azerbaijan. There wasn’t even much running. Bradley put in a solid performance, but it wasn’t quite up to his normal standard and he wasn’t able to replicate the attacking success he found earlier, though a shot from him which was saved off the line turned into the United States’ first goal.

Bradley credited the visitors’ stern showing with taking some of the luster off the diamond.

“Look this is a team that’s difficult to play against. You watch them play qualifiers in Europe against good teams and they make it hard,” he said. “They close space down, they’re organized. So, the challenge, the training exercise for us tonight was now trying to find space, trying to find ways to break them down, and I think at times that part was good, at times it could’ve been a little better.

“But it’s normal that after ten days, two weeks of hard work that now that part can still, in stretches was good but can still be even better.”

Tuesday’s showing belied the fact that the team is still progressing. There were long stretches during which the United States gave the ball away too easily and struggled to find cohesion. Bradley gave the ball away more often than usual - which is to say he gave the ball away a crooked number of times - but also wasn’t able to operate in space like he did against Mexico. The injury-related absence of Clint Dempsey, who should be available for the team’s next friendly, also was a blow.

Things started to improve once some substitutions were made in the second half and the opposite number began to tire.

“We played good with the diamond,” said Mix Diskerud, who came on and slotted home the first goal. “I think you could ask Jurgen but I think the team, we have a group of players that like playing the diamond because we have a lot of midfield-based players on the team.”

While midfielder is the deepest outfield location for the Stars and Stripes, a return to the 4-2-3-1 might be in the cards for the next matches of the send-off series. At the very least, Klinsmann will hope for an attack that’s a bit more vibrant than the one he saw Tuesday.

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