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Arena enjoys successful return to Azteca

Goal.com logo Goal.com 12-06-2017

MEXICO CITY — The moment the U.S. national team's starting lineup came out on Sunday, the initial reaction from som fans was "what is Bruce Arena thinking?".

It was clear Arena thought thoroughly about the need for fresh legs, and the affect of playing on such short rest, while also knowing he would need to change his team's approach tactically to deal with a dangerous El Tri squad.

Arena's gameplan worked to perfection, as his 3-5-2 formation helped frustrated Mexico's dangerous attack, and the youngsters he called on to perform on a big stage all delivered, looking every bit like players who believe in their coach.

A quick look at the starting lineups before the match would have left most believing a big Mexico win was inevitable, but it was Arena's plan to clog the wings and force El Tri to either work centrally or deal with numbers mismatches on the flanks that ultimately kept Mexico at bay.

Arena deployed Crhstian Pulisic and Paul Arriola as wide forwards who went right at Mexico's fullbacks, forcing them to stay deep and also forcing Mexico's wingers to help defensively. This approach led Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio to make a tactical substitution in the 31st minute to better cope with Arriola's attacking pressure on the left back position. The moment generated flashbacks of the 2002 World Cup, when Arena famously deployed a similar approach of going at Mexico's left back, forcing a first-half substitiion by then-Mexico manager Javier Aguirre.

Osorio surely came away impressed with Arena's game plan, which was significantly more difficult to deal with than the one he faced against Jurgen Klinsmann last November. Klinsmann had a similar idea of going with a three-man back-line in the 2-1 loss to Mexico in Columbus, Ohio, but that U.S. team looked woefully unprepared for the strategy, leading to mistakes and

Paul Arriola and Kellyn Acosta, two players who were barely out of kindergarten when Bruce Arena was leading the U.S. national team to World Cup glory over Mexico

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