The US played a fairly straightforward 4-4-2 against Azerbaijan who lined-up in a defensive 4-5-1. The US used a flat back four but in midfield, Bradley played infront of Jones, creating a diamond with Bedoya and Zusi wide. This was an odd game for the US to play in my opinion because Azerbaijan is miles off the competition they will see in a couple of weeks. Their back four surely would not be tested the same way a Germany or Portugal would test them. Having said that, this would be a great opportunity for players like Altidore and Dempsey to gain confidence and score some goals. Neither would be the case.
As the game progressed, it was clear that Azerbaijan would indeed not ask too many questions of the US back line but what was worrying was this: lack of creativity. Throughout the first half, and most of the second, the US only appeared to be truly dangerous from service out wide. Both of Wondolowski’s chances came from crosses in the first half. A lack of incision through the Azerbaijan back four and the ability for someone to effectively play in between the lines would be the concern for me if I were Klinsman. Bradley is a tremendous player no question, but in that starting lineup last night he showed that there should be another creative player in the number 10 role to take the US forward. Bradley is more effective as a linchpin, who can win tackles, keep the ball for the US and then start the attack. Creatively I thought the US shined through Zusi, but at times even he failed to effectively combine with Wondolowski and Altidore. The argument can be made that no matter who it is, on the international level it is hard to break down a team with 11 behind the ball. But even in the second half, the US could not seem to generate many chances through combining with one another or creating space between defenders. In the end, it was good to see that Aron Johannsson was able to make an opportunity count from the US serviced oriented style of play.
Going forward in the next two pre-World Cup games, a focus on the US back-four might be a high priority but the US fans should also be concerned with how the US will be creative in the final third and be able to unlock our forwards.