USMNT vs. Mexico: 3 things we learned

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 11: Matt Besler /

Here’s what we learned from the disappointing USMNT loss to Mexico on Friday night.

RIP Dos a Cero. The longtime rallying cry for the USMNT against Mexico came to an abrupt end in the 20th minute tonight when Miguel Layun squibbed a deflected shot past Tim Howard.

The USMNT started the final round of World Cup qualifying in just about the worst way possible. Hosting Mexico in the used-to-be fortress of Columbus, the US and their fans were geared up for another victory: The USMNT does not lose home games in qualifying. An 89th minute header from their arch-nemesis, Rafa Marquez, put an end to all that.

The US came out flat, seemingly unsure of how to play in a 3-5-2 formation. Errant passes and poor positioning abounded and Mexico took advantage. Oh, and Tim Howard had to be subbed off in the first half. Here’s three main things we learned:

1. Jurgen Klinsmann set his team up for failure

The aforementioned 3-5-2 formation is all the craze at the moment, as It can be very effective with the right personnel and the right preparation. The USMNT had neither. Klinsmann has favored either a standard 4-4-2 or a 4-2-3-1 formation with his US lineups. Most of his players play in such formations with their clubs.

So what does he do in a huge match up against Mexico – the US’s fiercest rival – in the first game of the Hexagonal? He employs a formation he never uses with players who never play in it.

On top of that, he elects to start Jermaine Jones, who had just returned to the lineup for the Colorado Rapids after a long absence, alongside Michael Bradley. The two defensive-minded midfielders were obviously confused regarding their positioning, tripping over each other and leaving whole swaths of the field exposed for Mexican players to exploit.

Klinsmann also started Christian Pulisic in a true No. 10 role, sitting behind the forwards in the center of the field. Pulisic, who may eventually grow into that role, has had all of his success playing out wide where he can take on defenders and surge into the box or send in dangerous crosses. There was no connection between he and his strikers and numerous attacks stalled as a result.

Klinsmann finally switched to a 4-4-2 soon after the goal, and the US started to look more like a team that should beat Mexico. It ended up not being enough. For the USMNT to be successful they need their manager to put them in the best position to do so through an established formation and competent player selection. Unfortunately, those two things have not been happening with any regularity under Klinsmann.

2. Christian Pulisic was nervous in his first huge USMNT match

This shouldn’t come as a surprise and much of his initial struggles can be attributed to the poor game plan of his manager, but he seemed to lack the confidence and calm on the ball, and in his passing, that he has shown in his recent fantastic play.

He settled into the game once he was moved out to the left wing after the formation change (Klinsmann!). Pulisic began pushing the attack, combining with teammates and getting in dangerous positions. His ability to glide past defenders and put pressure on the opposing back line is a sight to behold. Imagining his level of play by the time Russia 2018 rolls around is mouth-watering for USMNT fans.

3. Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood can be something special together

Ending on a more positive note, Altidore and Wood have formed an effective partnership up top for the US. Again, once Klinsmann gave up on the 3-5-2, things opened up and the two forwards found time on the ball.

Just after the restart, we saw what we all expected to see: Wood running off of Altidore to score a goal. Defenses have a hard time dealing with the Altidore’s strength and ability to play with his back to goal while Wood uses his speed and seemingly endless endurance to get in on goal. They both are capable of creating their own shot and are strong finishers.

Next: Best Soccer Rivalries of All-Time

If the USMNT are to right the ship, it will be through these two forwards providing fire power along with Pulisic blowing by defenders on the wing. Of course that’s assuming Klinsmann doesn’t hamstringing his own dang team.

Fortunately, the US get the chance to immediately turn things around as they travel to Costa Rica for another World Cup qualifier on Tuesday (9 PM ET, beIN Sports).