New U.S. formation was built around Christian Pulisic - Jurgen Klinsmann
The United States' unsuccessful attempt to switch to a new formation against Mexico last week was designed to showcase Christian Pulisic's playmaking ability, coach Jurgen Klinsmann said one day before he was fired as manager.
In the 2-1 World Cup qualifying defeat on Nov. 11, the U.S. began with three centre-backs, while the full-backs pushed forward on the wings and Pulisic played in an advanced midfielder role behind strike partners Bobby Wood and Jozy Altidore.
The move didn't pay off as Mexico scored early and limited the U.S.'s chances, and Klinsmann reverted to a 4-4-2 before halftime.
Klinsmann explained on Sunday in a Facebook Q&A that the 18-year-old Pulisic had starred in the new role in training.
"There was a reason we went to that formation, and that was simply Christian Pulisic," Klinsmann said. "With that formation, the four midfielders spread over the width of the field and then having Christian as the one behind Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood, we hope that gives him freedom to roam and hurt Mexico at specific times, similar to what he does at Borussia Dortmund.
"We trained it before, it went really well in training, but the problem was, after 10-12 minutes, we were not able to put pressure on their attacking midfielders.
"A formation is built on the strengths and weaknesses of your players, and when you have a player now like Christian Pulisic, who is a very, very special talent for us, you want to adjust things for him.
"You want to build a system around players to show strengths and help each other where they have weaknesses."
Although the 3-5-2 largely failed against Mexico, Klinsmann left open the possibility of returning to it in the future.
"When you go towards a World Cup, it's important to know you have different systems in your pocket," Klinsmann said. "You need to know you can go from a 3-5-2 into a 3-4-3 or a 3-4-1-2 or a 4-4-2.
"The system is not really important; it's the way the players are connected on the field doing their attacking movement and especially having their discipline defensively to take away the space for the opponents to break through.
"That was the reason for the formation against Mexico, and I have to give the team credit for how they played the second half. We had them right there and should have scored the second goal."
Klinsmann also said that Portland Timbers midfielder Darlington Nagbe is still in his plans after being left out of the squad in the past two months.
Nagbe cited personal reasons in declining a call-up in October, and Klinsmann refuted a Sports Illustrated report that said Nagbe had doubts about returning to the squad under the German coach.
"There are some statements out there that just are simply not true," Klinsmann said. "Darlington is always in our picture. We observe him. We watch him. He didn't make it into the October games for personal reasons and we accepted that, but then for the two games against Costa Rica and Mexico, we just thought that other players were ahead of him.
"But you will definitely see Darlington come back into our group and prove a point that he belongs there."