The USMNT squeezed out an impressive 1-1 draw against Switzerland on Monday despite being reduced to 10 men midway through the second half. Jozy Altidore's foolish red card threatened to derail the progress made following Brek Shea's opener, but the visitors escaped with a creditable tie after eventually conceding to Valentin Stocker late on.
Formations and XIs
Switzerland were a mess in the first half, and it's difficult to define what formation they played. It was loosely a diamond, but it was, genuinely, all over the place.
The USMNT also played a diamond (a proper one) out of a 4-4-2, with Gyasi Zardes and Jozy Altidore up front ahead of No. 10 Michael Bradley. Alejandro Bedoya and Alfredo Morales played as shuttlers on the outside.
1. Switzerland's "Midfield"
Switzerland, famous for their tactical discipline, shape and organisation under legendary coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, appear to be experiencing something of a hangover without him at the helm. Vladimir Petkovic, the new man installed post-World Cup, got it all wrong in the first 45 minutes.
We'd like to think they played a 4-4-2 diamond, but it really is very difficult to say what it is the Swiss served up. Xherdan Shaqiri enjoyed a free role just behind the strikers and Gokhan Inler was the deepest midfielder, but the rest, as aforementioned, was a mess.
The chaotic lack of organisation played a big part in the USA's strong first half; despite matching up four vs. four on paper in the centre, the visitors easily overpowered them simply due to the fact their players had defined roles.
Shaqiri left the formation unbalanced by drifting far too wide in the absence of genuine wingers, and neither of the strikers dropped in to help the cause.
2. Right-Sided Assault
The lack of a Swiss midfield soon presented a path for the U.S. to move forward, with the strong (attacking) right side of Bedoya and Timothy Chandler making ground early and proving a potent weapon.
Switzerland's left-back, Francois Moubandje, who was stepping in for regular Ricardo Rodriguez, had an absolute nightmare dealing with quick balls out to his side. Midfield diamonds provide no basic protection to full-backs (there's no winger to cover ahead), but when a formation is this unorganised it makes it even tougher.
Quick switches out of defence and into the roaming Bedoya were key to the creation of clear-cut chances; his first cross picked out Zardes unmarked only for him to completely fluff his shot, and his second, after great work from Altidore, was wasted by Michael Bradley whose shot practically went into orbit.
In the end, a free-kick won just outside the box provided Shea the opportunity to find the top corner and reward the dominance, but it could have been two or three thanks to the exploits of Bedoya.
3. Petkovic's Adjustment
Switzerland made a host of changes and switched to a 4-3-3 from the start of the second half, with Petkovic effectively recognising that the first period had been a disaster. The move pushed Shaqiri to a permanent role on the right, substitute Stocker to the left and brought Granit Xhaka in to the deepest midfield spot.
The difference was evident after just five minutes; structure in central midfield (Patjim Kasami and Gelson Fernandes just ahead of an anchor) and consistent wide outlets allowed them to start playing football.
Xhaka soon emerged as a key player, playing a regista-like role from just in front of the defence. It was his turn to start playing raking passes out to the right flank quickly, allowing Shaqiri to run head-on at Shea on the flank.
Shaqiri, a world-class player when he fancies it, soon began to make immense ground and utilise the overlaps of Silvan Widmer from right-back. Only some committed headers and some excellent near-post crosses prevented two or three goals flying in, and goalkeeper William Yarbrough was called into immediate action twice.
4. Down to 10
Eventually, inevitably, the breakthrough came and Switzerland equalised—although, like with the U.S., it did not come from their dominant right side.
A corner swung in from the opposite flank was poked home by Stocker in stuffy fashion, marking his first international goal since October 12, 2010. It was a just reward for a strong second half, but the fightback was heavily aided by a moment of madness from Altidore.
He tripped a runner to prevent a counter-attack and then swore at the referee upon realising he'd been yellow carded. The red swiftly followed. It left USA in a position where all they could do was flatten out to a 4-4-1, with Zardes up front alone, and Switzerland smelt blood, switching to something close to a 4-4-2 themselves.
Breel Embolo and Haris Seferovic came on up front, with Stocker and Shaqiri continuing from the flanks. Embolo, one to watch considering his age, had already slipped by his markers three times and into the box to threaten a cross/shot before Stocker poked home in the 82nd minute.
It was only then that Klinsmann began making defensive substitutions—a curious talking point, in truth—to seal a draw; to lose both international games on the slate after taking the lead in each would have been a true disaster.