For only the third time the USMNT started Kyle Beckerman, Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley together in midfield. In their two previous warmup games against Azerbaijan and Turkey, the US started with a diamond 4-4-2 with Jones as the deepest midfielder just in front of the back four. Jones performed well in both of those contests but was given too much to do defensively as the US defended with a midfield bank of just 3 and left Bradley, Clint Dempsey and Altidore high up the pitch. As the deepest midfielder, Jones was also forced to sit deep in possession rather than choosing spots to drive forward from midfield and join the attack.
Yesterday's lineup was listed as a 4-2-3-1 with Jones and Beckerman operating in a double pivot, Michael Bradley playing in the #10 role behind Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey tucking inside from starting positions on the left. As it turned out however, it was basically the same diamond 4-4-2 we've been playing with the key addition of Beckerman giving the shape more defensive solidity than had been seen against Turkey. Although Beckerman hit one or two wayward passes he was typically solid in his defensive positioning and his presence at the base of midfield allowed Jones to play on the left of the midfield diamond and play the box-to-box role he is best suited for. Jones's powerful dribbling through midfield sprung a number of dangerous US attacks, including the one that led to Altidore's opener. He burst through the center and played the initial ball wide to Alejandro Bedoya. Without Beckerman in the side he isn't given the license to push into attacking areas. Jones had a sensational performance and it was due largely to the platform Beckerman provided him to get forward. Beckerman's own performance was unspectacular but it's no surprise Jones and Bradley were both at their most influential in the attacking half in a game he was in the side.
Beckerman certainly has his limitations that went mostly unnoticed against a surprisingly poor Nigeria side. He's not an especially mobile and athletic player and at times his distribution leaves something to be desired. However, his inclusion clearly gives the US a more solid defensive structure and allows the players in front of him more freedom to express themselves in the attacking half. The US looked as sharp as we've seen them in some time and this is a lineup I'm sure Klinsmann will seriously consider.