World Soccer Source

Soccer and Football News and Commentary on World Soccer, the United States Men's National Team (USMNT), Major League Soccer (MLS), World Football, and American Soccer. All articles, opinions, and commentary by Colin Reese. Twitter: @COLINREESE. Facebook: WorldSoccerSource

A New USMNT Attacking Trident

October 22nd, 2014

 

Clint Dempsey remains the face and undisputed leader of American soccer and the U.S. national team. (Photo: AP)

Clint Dempsey remains the face and undisputed leader of American soccer and the U.S. national team. (Photo: AP)

 

 

By: COLIN REESE

 

An attacking trident of Fabian Johnson, Jozy Altidore, and Clint Dempsey gives the USMNT an attack that has a second striker or withdrawn forward in Dempsey, a Number 9 in Altidore, and a winger in Johnson who can float around with Dempsey all over the attacking third.

 

 

Right Attacker: Fabian JOHNSON

 

If Greg Garza continues to play well at left back, then a two-footed player with Fabian Johnson’s skill and speed is a weapon that needs to be used in the attack. Johnson is a quality finisher and creative player who isn’t just a player whose game is based on speed. Johnson is a very fast player, but he’s also a player that knows how to put the ball in the back of the net with both feet. Playing with the two players listed below, Johnson’s skill-set and athleticism should be even more influential.

 

 

Striker: Jozy ALTIDORE

 

Sunderland slump aside, Jozy Altidore combines skill with power and athleticism. Altidore has shown that he can score with either foot or his head. When given a strike partner or just better service Altidore can and has scored against elite competition. Clint Dempsey and Altidore play well together, and Altidore is a talented and effective striker when he isn’t stranded up top. With the emergence of Mix Diskerud as a midfield force, Altidore should be seeing more service and better final balls. Unlike in the past, Altidore looks more capable of attacking from wide positions as well, which makes the attacking trident very fluid and potentially dangerous to opposition defenses.

 

 

Left Attacker: Clint DEMPSEY

 

Pater familias of the USMNT and resident expert in showing no respect for his opponents, Clint Dempsey is the main protagonist in the American attack. He combines trickery, skill, and creativity with his famous toughness and durability. He attacks with skill, pace, and calmness in front of goal, and he can display more of his skill when given talented teammates to combine with. At 31 years old, Deuce needs 18 more goals to reach Landon Donovan’s record of 57 USMNT goals. Donovan was a regular for the United States a few years before Dempsey, and it will be exciting to see if Dempsey can equal Donovan’s scoring record in the coming years.

 

 

A New USMNT Midfield Three

October 22nd, 2014

 

Michael Bradley (Photo: Garrett Ellwood / Colorado Rapids)

Michael Bradley (Photo: Garrett Ellwood / Colorado Rapids)

 

 

By: COLIN REESE

 

 

Jürgen Klinsmann would be wise to form a midfield trio with a defensive midfielder, a central midfielder, and an attacking midfielder. The attacking midfielder that has been the missing piece in the American midfield is Mix Diskerud, and even as an “attacking midfielder” he provides a lot of defending and running in what is something of a combination between a regista role, a central midfielder role, and a Number 10 role. Geoff Cameron as a defensive midfielder gives Michael Bradley a more defined role than when Bradley was paired with Jermaine Jones and both players battled to be the player with the freedom to attack.

 

 

Central Midfielder: Michael BRADLEY (Toronto FC)

 

With Geoff Cameron also starting in the midfield triumvirate, Michael Bradley can play as a Number 8 with more freedom to go forward. Unlike his partnership with Jermaine Jones, which looked to be two central midfielders both wanting the Number 8 role, Bradley’s partnership with Cameron has Cameron playing the clearly defined role of the Number 6 extraordinaire. Bradley is effective going forward, but nothing close to Mix Diskerud’s attacking and creative artistry. No comparison.

 

 

Attacking Midfielder: Mix DISKERUD (Rosenborg)

 

Mix Diskerud has become some combination of a regista and Number 10, and his evolution into a regista was due to his improved defending and work rate in the midfield. Diskerud is inventive and adventurous in his passing, which is usually on target, but now Diskerud covers more territory and enjoys playing defense. Comparing Diskerud to Marco Verratti or Andrea Pirlo is a felony, but this is more the type of role that he is playing for the USMNT.

 

 

Defensive Midfielder: Geoff CAMERON (Stoke City)

 

While Geoff Cameron and Michael Bradley both provide more of the defensive bite in the midfield trio than Diskerud, Cameron plays the role of the stay-at-home defensive midfielder to Bradley’s Number 8 role. Despite being labeled a defensive midfielder in this midfield trio, Cameron lives to stretch his legs, hit outside of the foot passes with both feet, and spray passes all over the field. Since Bradley is also in the midfield, Cameron can pick and choose his spots to go on kamikaze attacking runs with the assurance that Bradley will cover for him deeper in the midfield. Bradley is famous for his tireless running, but Cameron is the more impressive athlete and faster player.

 

A New USMNT Back Four

October 22nd, 2014

 

Jermaine Jones is now being used as a center back for the USMNT. (Photo: Hans Punz/Associated Press)

Jermaine Jones is now being used as a center back for the USMNT. (Photo: Hans Punz/Associated Press)

 

 

By: COLIN REESE

 

Jürgen Klinsmann has converted Jermaine Jones to a center back, and the United States now has a still developing Back Four. Here is one possible Back Four with the potential to be very effective. It has two modern outside backs who are two-way threats, and it contains two complete center backs with the skill and athleticism to do much more than just boot long balls down field.

 

 

Right Back: DeAndre YEDLIN (Seattle Sounders/Tottenham)

 

DeAndre Yedlin should really be the undisputed starting right back for the USA. His defending isn’t just decent but close to excellent. Yedlin is known more for his speed and attacking, but given the fact that Fabian Johnson can play left back or either wing very well, Yedlin is the best American right back. As a right back, he can be very involved in the attack and the team’s wide play. He doesn’t need to be used as a wing or outside forward to heavily contribute to the attack. Equally as important as his speed and skill going forward is his ability to outpace and dispossess even attackers with world-class speed. Even in a sport loaded with electric speedsters, Yedlin is strikingly fast.

 

 

Center Back: Jermaine JONES (New England Revolution)

 

Using Jermaine Jones at center back gives the center of the American defense skill on the ball, quality defending, impressive athleticism, experience, strength, and toughness. Jones is comfortable passing in tight spaces in the back, and he doesn’t get nervous when he has little time to work the ball out of trouble. He can also chase down fast attackers and either tackle them or muscle them off the ball. Jones looks to have curbed his tendency to commit dirty and almost criminal tackles. Now, Jones plays cleaner defense without the reckless and frankly dangerous tackles of the past. The ex-Bundesliga player is a durable player and an excellent athlete who looks far from past his prime even at 33 years old.

 

 

Center Back: John BROOKS (Hertha Berlin)

 

John Brooks’ height stands out to people, but his overall technical ability, athleticism, and sound defending are more impressive. Brooks is a smooth athlete that despite being left-footed is very good with his right foot and able to play the right center back or left center back spots. The young center back also reads the game well and has good positional sense. Brooks excels at 1v1 defending and playing the ball out of the back, and he has shown that he is a big scoring threat on set pieces as well; Brooks can also score with his feet when the opportunity presents itself. Brooks looks to be something of a lock at left center back for the United States for years to come. With Jones and Brooks in the center of the defense, Geoff Cameron can play as a defensive midfielder where he can have a bigger positive impact on the game.

 

 

Left Back: Greg GARZA (Club Tijuana)

 

Greg Garza has been ready and more than qualified to start at left back for the United States for over a year, but many American soccer fans don’t follow La Liga MX. Garza was a known name to them, but not someone that a majority of USMNT fans had watched play full games. Jürgen Klinsmann probably didn’t call him up until recently because Garza was the back-up for Edgar Castillo who lags way behind Garza in terms of defensive skill and instincts. Garza is also a very technical and creative player that has a tendency to not use his right foot enough – much like Castillo.

 

 

Post-World Cup USMNT Tactics

October 20th, 2014

 

Jürgen Klinsmann has given Mix Diskerud the playmaker role for the United States. (Photo: Getty Images)

Jürgen Klinsmann has given Mix Diskerud the playmaker role for the United States.  (Photo: Getty Images)

 

 

By: COLIN REESE

 

Clint Dempsey is still the undisputed alpha dog of the United States Men’s National Team and the best American footballer, but Mix Diskerud now looks to be one of the very best players on the national team.

 

Diskerud isn’t a newfound revelation, and it’s a mystery why he saw no minutes at the 2014 World Cup.

 

The fact that Jürgen Klinsmann is playing Diskerud means that the USA has more creativity and link-up play between the midfield and the attack.

 

Klinsmann’s decision to make Diskerud a focal point of the team was also followed by another smart decision: to switch Jermaine Jones from his long-time defensive midfielder or central midfielder role to that of a center back.

 

Using Jones as a center back with John Brooks allows Geoff Cameron to start as a defensive midfielder which frees up Michael Bradley to play a box-to-box role with Mix Diskerud playing as something in between a regista and a Number 10.

 

Cameron’s talents are better maximized as a defensive midfielder or central midfielder because Cameron is a complete player whose skills go well beyond being an athletic player with good skill on the ball and good defensive instincts and fundamentals. Cameron is an inventive and industrious player that can impact the game more as a midfielder where he sees more action and more of the ball.

 

A technical and athletic center back pairing with Cameron providing defensive coverage in front of them in the midfield allows the United States to play out of the back with Diskerud playing the role of creator and orchestrator in the midfield.

 

Greg Garza’s play with Tijuana at left back along with his two strong performances at left back for the United States allow Fabian Johnson to be deployed as a right attacker or winger in Klinsmann’s newly preferred 4-3-3 formation. Johnson is a truly two-footed player that can cut inside onto either foot to score with placement, power, or both.

 

With Joe Corona out for a few months with a broken bone in his foot, the USMNT XI  in the 4-3-3 formation may now be comprised of the following players: Brad Guzan; DeAndre Yedlin, Jermaine Jones, John Brooks, Greg Garza; Michael Bradley, Mix Diskerud, Geoff Cameron; Fabian Johnson, Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey.

 

While the role of the players in the Back Four is clear, the Front Six is a more fluid formation. It’s a mistake to think of Bradley, Diskerud, Cameron, Johnson, Altidore, and Dempsey as players forming two lines of three players occupying the right, left, or center of the field, but Cameron and Altidore do have slightly more defined roles as the defensive midfielder and striker.

 

Once Corona is back, Klinsmann will have to decide whether he wants to use two defensive midfielders or whether he wants to start a midfield three made up of Diskerud, Bradley, and Corona, which allows for two creative playmakers playing in front of Bradley.

 

Before Corona’s injury suffered during club play, Corona was never used correctly. He was never used in a midfield set-up with a defensive midfielder.

 

In the future, the USA needs to see how Diskerud, Bradley, and Corona can perform with Johnson, Altidore, and Dempsey up top, which would likely move Cameron back into the center of the defense with Jones.

 

The use of Diskerud in a creative role behind Altidore and Dempsey means that Klinsmann is finally beginning to field the type of proactive line-ups that he promised back in 2011.

 

 

Who Should the USMNT Call Up in October?

September 22nd, 2014
It's time to call up Benji Joya to bring on the next generation. (Photo: Chicago Fire)

It’s time to call up Benji Joya to bring on the next generation. (Photo: Chicago Fire)

 

By: COLIN REESE

 

Picking a 23-man roster for the United States Men’s National Team or any national team begins with a vision for the Starting XI. From there, the rest of the roster is filled with back-up players or players the offer the team a different dimension, skill-set, or weapon.

 

Assuming the United States uses a 4-3-3 formation, four of the midfield roster spots should already be locked up: Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, Mix Diskerud, and Joe Corona.

 

The USA needs both Bradley and Edu to have two experienced and talented defensive midfielders, and the USA needs Diskerud and Corona to have technical and creative attacking midfielders.

 

These four midfielders allow the United States to start a midfield trio with one defensive midfielder and two attacking midfielders or a midfield trio with two defensive midfielders and one attacking midfielder.

 

This amounts to starting Corona, Bradley, Diskerud or to starting Edu, Diskerud/Corona, and Bradley.

 

Alejandro Bedoya is another midfielder/forward that is likely a lock for the time being, but Bedoya is more valuable as an outside forward than as a central midfielder. The competition for attacking spots is very tight, and while Jürgen Klinsmann likely considers Bedoya a roster lost, other players might be more useful.

 

Starting Bedoya as the right attacker in an attacking trident might very well be the strongest option for the time being, but both Diskerud and Corona offer better passing, more composure on the ball, and more creativity than Bedoya whose main weapon is attacking at pace – a valuable skill.

 

Four of the eight defender spots should be locks as well: DeAndre Yedlin, Geoff Cameron, John Brooks, and Fabian Johnson.

 

In the attack, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore are on the roster in permanent marker, and in goal, Brad Guzan is the clear Number 1.

 

This is 11 of 23 roster spots already filled, and if you add in Julian Green and Joe Gyau, then the roster numbers 13 players.

 

The United States will need another striker besides Altidore, and despite Gyasi Zardes’ excellent MLS form and scoring rate this season, Juan Agudelo has to be listed before Zardes. Agudelo is quite simply too talented, too fast, too quick, too tall and strong, and too experienced to leave off.

 

Agudelo might not have tons of international experience, but he has certainly proven in more than enough legit games that he can perform well against top national teams and that he isn’t fazed by big games.

 

Klinsmann has to realize that Agudelo is too explosive of a striker and too valuable of an attacking force to leave off the roster, and Zardes’ form and upside are too promising for Klinsmann to leave off the squad.

 

Zardes is an example of a great athlete with sound technical ability that continues to cultivate his technical ability by playing more games and playing with great players.

 

Now, we’re at 15 players, and we need four more defenders to be the back-ups for each of the spots in the Back Four.

 

Who should be the back-ups? Andrew Farrell, Shane O’Neill, Michael Orozco, and Chris Klute.

 

This makes 19 players, but we need two more goalkeepers. Klinsmann has guaranteed Nick Rimando a roster spot, but given Rimando’s age, World Soccer Source backs Cody Cropper and Clint Irwin to fill the other two goalkeeper spots.

 

With three roster spots left, it’s time to add some of the new midfielders that the USMNT needs, and this means calling up Dillon Powers and the young Benji Joya.

 

Powers is an MLS regular that is highly-rated by almost all observers of American soccer, and Joya is widely-regarded as one of the future keystones of the USMNT, even if he has found himself getting zero MLS minutes in the past month or so.

 

Joya has a certain intensity and completeness to his game that is apparent when he plays, and he looks very polished in all areas of his play. Joya is exactly the type of two-way midfielder that Klinsmann is trying to use on the USMNT.

 

Looking at the players discussed above, Guzan in goal with Yedlin, Cameron, Brooks, and Johnson forming the Back Four is the best defense the United States has at its disposal.

 

A midfield trio of Corona, Bradley, and Diskerud offers a combination of strong defending and creative playmaking, and Corona and Diskerud bring the type of link-up play that has been missing from the USA under Klinsmann’s entire tenure.

 

Bradley lining up in front of Cameron and Brooks should offer plenty of defensive strength, and if that it isn’t enough defensive coverage then either Corona or Diskerud will have to be replaced by Edu.

 

As the attacking trident, Gyau, Altidore, and Dempsey seems as good as any option for the time being, but there is also the interesting option of starting Agudelo, Altidore, and Dempsey.

 

Unlike Altidore, Agudelo moves around a lot off the ball, and also unlike Altidore, Agudelo knows how to play wide and centrally. Two strikers of Altidore’s and Agudelo’s skill, size, and speed with Dempsey playing slightly deeper would be a handful for any defense.

 

In the 4-3-3 formation and only including players that Klinsmann is likely to use, the best USMNT XI is either Guzan, Yedlin, Cameron, Brooks, Johnson, Corona, Bradley, Diskerud, Gyau, Altidore, and Dempsey or Guzan, Yedlin, Cameron, Brooks, Johnson, Bradley, Diskerud, Edu, Corona, Altidore, and Dempsey.

 

With that USMNT XI as a starting point, here are the 23 players (plus Donovan) that the USMNT should call up:

 

GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad GUZAN, Cody CROPPER, Clint IRWIN

CENTER BACK (4): Geoff CAMERON, John BROOKS, Shane O’NEILL, Michael OROZCO

OUTSIDE BACKS (4): DeAndre YEDLIN, Fabian JOHNSON, Andrew FARRELL, Chris KLUTE

MIDFIELDERS (6): Michael BRADLEY, Maurice EDU, Mix DISKERUD, Joe CORONA, Dillon POWERS, Benji JOYA

ATTACKERS (7): Clint DEMPSEY, Landon DONOVAN, Jozy ALTIDORE, Juan AGUDELO, Joe GYAU, Julian GREEN, Gyasi ZARDES

 

*The roster includes 24 players because Landon Donovan is only playing against Ecuador for his farewell international match.

 

 

What Could the USMNT Midfield Look Like Now?

September 14th, 2014

 

Michael Bradley (Photo: Garrett Ellwood / Colorado Rapids)

Michael Bradley (Photo: Garrett Ellwood / Colorado Rapids)

 

By: COLIN REESE

 

Given the fact that Jürgen Klinsmann, as well as club teams and national teams all over the world, are continuing to switch over to a 4-3-3 formation, the USMNT’s midfield should be thought of as a three-man set-up.

 

There are about three tactical options with a three-man midfield.

 

First, there is the option of using two defensive midfielders or at least two box-to-box midfielders with an attacking midfielder playing in a more advanced role.

 

Second, there is the option of using a defensive midfielder deep in the middle protecting the Back Four with two attacking midfielders playing in more advanced roles that involve lots of movement all over the midfield.

 

Third, a midfield trio can consist of a box-to-box midfielder, a defensive midfielder, and an attacking midfielder.

 

Specifically for the USMNT, the first option would involve starting Jermaine Jones or Maurice Edu with Michael Bradley as the defensive midfielders with Mix Diskerud, Joe Corona, or Benny Feilhaber starting in the more advanced attacking midfielder role.

 

In this set-up, there is also the obvious option of starting Geoff Cameron with Bradley with one of the attacking midfielders playing the more advanced role.

 

This system gives the national team strong defending combined with quality passing from two defensive midfielders with a third attacking midfielder being free to create more and play a playmaking and link-up role.

 

The second option would entail using Diskerud and Corona in front of Bradley who would be playing the defensive midfielder role that was missing from the recent victory over the Czech Republic.

 

This midfield trio would be based on Diskerud and Corona passing and moving in a creative capacity in addition to high pressing with Bradley providing the defensive safety net and cultured passing behind them in front of the defense.

 

Diskerud and Corona would not only be a constant passing outlet for Bradley, but they would also be tasked with keeping possession, setting the tempo, linking up with the attack, and setting up goals.

 

The third option utilizes the common practice of starting a defensive midfielder, a box-to-box midfielder that provides lots of two way play, and an attacking midfielder/playmaker, so this option gives the midfield the three types of midfielders that allow for a midfield to neither be more defensive nor more attack-minded.

 

In this third option, someone like Cameron or Edu would play the defensive midfielder role with Bradley playing the box-to-box midfielder role with Corona or Diskerud playing the attacking midfielder or playmaker role.

 

What the United States needs is a roster capable of deploying either of the three options depending on the opposition, or the United States could chose to not alter its tactics based on its opposition, but rather look to set the pace of the game.

 

Looking at the American player pool, Bradley, Jones, and Edu are obviously the names that come to mind as roster locks as far as defensive midfielders and/or box-to-box midfielders go; Cameron is normally listed as a defender.

 

But now, Perry Kitchen is also making his case to be deserving of a roster spot as one of the USMNT defensive midfielders, and unlike the other three players, Kitchen plays strictly as a defensive midfielder or midfield destroyer; Kitchen can also play as a center back.

 

If Kitchen is listed as a defensive midfielder, it’s possible that Edu could be listed as a defender as Cameron is. Edu has been excelling as a center back, and Edu has performed well there for the United States in the past.

 

The main attacking midfielder options are Diskerud and Corona, and Klinsmann likely has no intention of calling up World Cup veteran and seasoned playmaker, Benny Feilhaber, who is an undeniable top option to play the playmaker role for the United States.

 

Even with Feilhaber’s vastly improved two-way play and level of fitness over the last two seasons, Klinsmann has given no indication that he plans on calling up or using the best American playmaker: Feilhaber.

 

In the wake of the United States’ impressive victory over the Czech Republic in an international friendly, even without an American defensive midfielder in the Starting XI, Klinsmann will reinsert Bradley into the line-up with maybe Corona and Diskerud flanking him on paper.

 

Not to be lost in the shuffle is Alejandro Bedoya who offers more speed but less creativity than Diskerud or Corona. For now, Bedoya is likely needed on the roster as a back-up for either Diskerud or Corona, but players like Joe Gyau and Julian Green might make Bedoya surplus to requirements.

 

Nevertheless, Bedoya’s speed and wide play makes him a starting right attacker option for Klinsmann in the attacking three lining up in front of the midfield trio, but Green or Gyau on the right with Clint Dempsey on the left are likely Klinsmann’s first choice outside attacking options.

 

At this point, Gyau’s speed and dribbling is an important x-factor to open up space for the likes of Dempsey and Altidore to be more open in the final third to score.

 

 

Below are several USMNT midfield trios that Klinsmann has available to him (excluding Feilhaber whom Klinsmann has no intention of using):

 

ATTACK-MINDED: CORONA BRADLEY DISKERUD

 

DEFENSIVE-MINDED: JONES/EDU DISKERUD/CORONA BRADLEY

 

 

Also below are three USMNT Front Six options for Klinsmann:

 

Corona, Bradley, Diskerud; Gyau, Altidore/Agudelo, Dempsey.

 

Edu, Diskerud, Bradley; Corona*, Altidore/Agudelo, Dempsey.

* Corona is listed as a right attacker because of his ability to play in a more advanced pseudo-forward role with Dempsey behind Altidore. Fitting Corona into the Front Six to provide Diskerud with more creative support seems necessary given the defensive nature of this second Front Six.

 

Corona, Bradley, Diskerud; Agudelo, Altidore, Dempsey.

 

 

The Best USMNT XI (September 2014)

September 5th, 2014

 

Clint Dempsey remains the face and undisputed leader of American soccer and the U.S. national team. (Photo: AP)

Clint Dempsey remains the face and undisputed leader of American soccer and the U.S. national team. (Photo: AP)

 

By: COLIN REESE

 

The following United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) XI selected by World Soccer Source is novel and noteworthy in its backing of Juan Agudelo and Clint Dempsey flanking Jozy Altidore as an attacking trident. Much like France listed Mathieu Valbuena as a right attacker on paper despite the fact that he really played as something of a playmaker so too does this USMNT XI deploy Dempsey as a support striker behind Altidore and Agudelo in a fluid attacking trident.

 

To see the rest of World Soccer Source’s USA XI look below, but the use of Agudelo and Altidore allows the United States to capitalize on the types of strikers that should be a handful for even top national teams. Two strikers of Agudelo and Altidore’s skill, size, and athleticism is a real threat to opposing defenses.

 

The midfield is a trio comprised of two attacking midfielders with a defensive midfielder deployed in a deeper role protecting the Back Four and providing defensive coverage for the attacking midfielders while also orchestrating the passing from a deep-lying role.

 

Below is World Soccer Source’s Best USMNT XI for September 2014 in a fluid 4-3-3 formation:

 

GOALKEEPER: Brad GUZAN

 

Given the fact the Tim Howard is taking a year off from international soccer, Brad Guzan is the obvious starting goalkeeper for the United States Men’s National Team, and many felt that Guzan has been on par or better than Howard for several years.

 

RIGHT BACK: DeAndre YEDLIN

 

Despite Jürgen Klinsmann’s tendency to now use Fabian Johnson at right back, DeAndre Yedlin is the clear best right back in the American player pool with Johnson being the best left back. The best outside back combination for the USMNT is to put Yedlin at right back and Johnson at left back where he plays arguably better than he does at right back. Yedlin on the right and Johnson on the left is the proverbial no-brainer.

 

CENTER BACK: Geoff CAMERON

 

Geoff Cameron has a muscle injury right now, but all things being equal, he remains the first choice option to play the right center back spot unless there were a game tomorrow. Cameron combines ball-winning and ball-playing skills with size, strength, athleticism, and top notch experience.

 

CENTER BACK: John BROOKS

 

John Brooks is now the undisputed starting left center back over Matt Besler. Brooks is better on the ball, laterally quicker, better defending 1v1, and better with both feet. Brooks is a left-footed center back that can also play right center back with no problems. Additionally, Brooks is superior in the air to Besler. Besler has been a solid center back, but Brooks is better in basically every relevant category of measuring defenders.

 

LEFT BACK: Fabian JOHNSON

 

Fabian Johnson is one of the very best U.S. internationals along with Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley, and his skills as an outside back are sorely needed, especially on the left side of the defense. Johnson has gained global recognition for his play as a right back in the World Cup, but Johnson’s excellent left foot in addition to being totally two-footed makes him the USMNT left back par excellence.

 

 

CENTRAL MIDFIELDER: Benny FEILHABER

 

While Mix Diskerud or Joe Corona look poised to be the next American Number 10, Benny Feilhaber is still the playmaker that brings the most skill and the best track record of effective playmaking against truly top level international competition.  Feilhaber remains the American playmaker that can play against any opponent and be unfazed and effective in his passing and his ability to set up goals. Feilhaber is also an excellent dead ball specialist. Despite primarily being a creative and technical midfielder, Feilhaber has become a true two-way central midfielder that now plays with a new level of fitness and defending. The midfield trio of Benny Feilhaber, Michael Bradley, and Joe Corona described below is very much a free-flowing unit of three skilled midfielders with the exception of Bradley tasked with the defensive midfielder role.

 

DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER: Michael BRADLEY

 

Michael Bradley is an industrious ball-winner that is also a skilled passer that excels at making marauding attacking forays when the opportunity presents itself. Despite his technical ability and passing ability, Bradley always makes sure that he protects the Back Four by being in the right place at the right time as a defensive midfielder that is primarily tasked with defending and directing the passing from deeper in the midfield.

 

CENTRAL MIDFIELDER: Joe CORONA

 

Joe Corona thrives as an attacking midfielder out wide or playing the Number 10 role, and in this fluid three-man midfield, Corona and Feilhaber are essentially playing more attacking roles with Bradley playing the deep-lying defensive midfield role. Both Corona and Feilhaber are attack-minded midfielders with Feilhaber possessing more defensive and two-way abilities. Corona gives Feilhaber and Bradley another technical midfielder that they can use to keep possession and link up with the attack, and Corona can float to the right or left side of the midfield to provide the width that Bradley and Feilhaber will need when they are looking for a passing outlet out wide. More so than Bradley and Feilhaber, Corona knows how to not only get into scoring positions in the box but also how to score goals.

 

RIGHT ATTACKER: Juan AGUDELO

 

Juan Agudelo is a striker that is equally as effective out wide where he can and does cut inside to put himself in more dangerous positions. An attack with Altidore and Agudelo as strikers with Dempsey as a withdrawn striker would present problems for almost any national team. When played together, Altidore and Agudelo can frequently stretch and disrupt even elite center back pairings. With the exception of Altidore who is really just a center forward, an attacking trident of Agudelo, Altidore, and Dempsey would be a fluid and interchangeable combination of attackers that can combine to break down defenses and score. Although it goes almost without saying for anyone that has watched him, Agudelo brings a nice combination of speed, quickness, trickery, and size that allows him to play in wide roles better than Altidore.

 

STRIKER: Jozy ALTIDORE

 

Since Juan Agudelo is without a club team, it seems only right to list Jozy Altidore as the best current striker option for the United States. The thing that is clear about Altidore is that he does excel when given service and attacking support, and players like Feilhaber, Corona, Agudelo, and Dempsey certainly give him this. There is no reason to think that Altidore can’t score and be effective with that sort of support from players that know how to combine with him and feed him the ball to his feet or find him for a header. A partnership with Agudelo and Dempsey would also certainly be to his benefit and theoretically result in a higher scoring rate for Altidore.

 

LEFT ATTACKER: Clint DEMPSEY

 

Clint Dempsey has no set position that is easy to fit into a specific category or name. He has traditionally played excellently out left where he can receive the ball out wide and cut inside or where he can just cut inside without the ball to look to receive service in the final third. Dempsey also thrives on the right or when played as a second striker with another out-and-out striker or even another second striker. Dempsey’s game is predicated on attacking and trickery with constant passing and moving, and he always has basically a free role on the USMNT. Given the fact that Johnson or some other outside back will be attacking out wide, there is no reason for Dempsey to have to be restricted to the left side of the field. A 4-3-3 system works well with Dempsey’s strengths and playing style, and arguments that a 4-3-3 alienates Dempsey are off base because a 4-3-3 is a fluid and amorphous tactical formation with the exception of the defensive midfielder and the defense.

 

 

Tactical Formation (4-3-3):

 

GUZAN

YEDLIN CAMERON BROOKS JOHNSON

CORONA BRADLEY FEILHABER

AGUDELO ALTIDORE DEMPSEY

 

 

The Best USMNT 23 (September 2014)

September 5th, 2014

 

Joe Benny Corona (Photo: Club Tijuana)

Joe Benny Corona (Photo: Club Tijuana)

 

 

By: COLIN REESE

 

 

GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad GUZAN, Nick RIMANDO, Copy CROPPER

 

CENTER BACKS (4): Geoff CAMERON, John BROOKS, Maurice EDU, Michael OROZCO

 

OUTSIDE BACKS (4): DeAndre YEDLIN, Fabian JOHNSON, Timothy CHANDLER, Chris KLUTE

 

MIDFIELDERS (7): Michael BRADLEY, Benny FEILHABER, Jermaine JONES, Mix DISKERUD, Joe CORONA, Dillon POWERS, Benji JOYA

 

ATTACKERS (5): Clint DEMPSEY, Jozy ALTIDORE, Juan AGUDELO, Julian GREEN, Joe GYAU

 

 

This group of 23 players allows Jürgen Klinsmann to trot out the United States Men’s National Team in several formations, most notably a 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3, or 4-1-4-1.

 

With the names above, a USMNT XI comprised of Guzan, Yedlin, Cameron, Brooks, Johnson, Edu, Feilhaber, Bradley, Corona, Altidore, and Dempsey is an XI with two defensive midfielders, but there are plenty of other slightly more attack-minded options, including only starting one defensive midfielder: Bradley.

 

At center back, Cameron and Brooks is the strongest center back pairing, but Orozco has certainly proved his ability to perform at a high level against strong opponents as either a right center back or left center back. Additionally, Edu has shown well and been effective when used as a center back for the United States and at the club level.

 

As for the outside backs, Yedlin and Johnson are the obvious starting right back and left back, and Chandler like Johnson excels at either right back or left back, which gives the USMNT an excellent back-up at either the right back or left back spot. Finally, Chris Klute has performed too well and too consistently in MLS to not be a very strong candidate for a national team spot, and Klute is an excellent left back, in addition to thriving at right back as well. Klinsmann’s persistent insistence on not letting Klute have a chance to show how he fares on the international level continues to be surprising.

 

In the midfield, Bradley and Jones provide the ball-winners the USA needs, and Klinsmann can either start both players or just Bradley. There is also the option of starting Edu and Bradley as the defensive midfielders where Edu would play the more stay-at-home defensive midfielder role with Bradley playing the box-to-box role.

 

At the more attacking midfielder roles, Feilhaber, Corona, and Diskerud give the United States plenty of creativity, technical quality, and options. The USMNT can start one of these players at once or start two of them with Bradley.

 

Additionally, players like Joya and Powers provide a combination of defensive strength, lots of running, and technical and attacking quality. Joya is not only a central midfielder but also a central attacking midfielder and winger. Powers too is a central midfielder that also plays as a central attacking midfielder that also has no problem playing in wider roles on the right or left.

 

These two players give the USMNT two complete and young midfielders that can contribute on both sides of the ball and give the national team important utility players to field a more balanced midfield. The thing that Powers and Joya offer is the combination of technical skill with a high work rate and two-way play, which is what Klinsmann wants from USMNT midfielders.

 

Up top, Altidore and Agudelo are the two clear best strikers in the American player pool according to World Soccer Source, and Dempsey isn’t a pure striker but rather a second striker (withdrawn forward) or attacking midfielder that can play in almost every attacking role.

 

At the other forward spots on the roster, Gyau and Green give the squad speedy and skilled forwards that can play out wide on either side and that look to cut inside toward the goal or attack along the flanks.

 

This group of 23 players allows the USA to start a different XI than the one listed at the beginning of the article. Another strong XI would be Guzan, Yedlin, Cameron, Brooks, Johnson, Edu, Bradley, Corona, Feilhaber/Diskerud, Dempsey, and Altidore/Agudelo in a 4-2-3-1 formation, and that Starting XI, while other permutations are plenty, offers skill and experience at every position plus the right balance of defending and attacking.

 

 

The Best American Footballers (September 2014)

September 5th, 2014

 

Clint Dempsey. (Photo: Getty Images)

Clint Dempsey. (Photo: Getty Images)

 

By: COLIN REESE

 

Any rankings are subjective and prone to personal biases, and many of the best American soccer players have only been given limited opportunities to show their ability on the international stage or even on the club stage, as many have been trying to break into first teams in Europe and elsewhere.

 

Some young American players have displayed their skill level against top competition only to then see limited club or national team minutes afterwards. Ranking American footballers is also difficult because some players’ technical ability has been undervalued by coaches in MLS that favor fielding players whose game is based more on physicality or less skillful play.

 

Below, World Soccer Source ranks the best American soccer players according to skill and form with some players being ranked higher based on their skill level and others ranked higher based on their current form either on the club or international level or both.

 

The Best American Footballers (September 2014)

 

1. Clint DEMPSEY

2. Landon DONOVAN

3. Fabian JOHNSON

4. Michael BRADLEY

5. Jermaine JONES

 

6. Tim HOWARD

7. Benny FEILHABER

8. Jozy ALTIDORE

9. Juan AGUDELO

10. Brad GUZAN 

 

11. Joe CORONA

12. Mix DISKERUD

13. DeAndre YEDLIN

14. Maurice EDU

15. John BROOKS

 

16.  Michael OROZCO

17. Timothy CHANDLER

18. Dillon POWERS

19. Lee NGUYEN

20. Alejandro BEDOYA

 

21. Gyasi ZARDES

22. Robbie ROGERS

23. Eddie JOHNSON

24. Joe GYAU

25. Julian GREEN

 

26. Kelyn ROWE

27. Chris KLUTE

28. Andrew FARRELL

29. Perry KITCHEN

30. Benji JOYA

 

 

What is Klinsmann’s Current Preferred USMNT XI?

August 18th, 2014

 

Clint Dempsey (Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Clint Dempsey (Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

 

By: COLIN REESE

 

What’s a realistic USMNT XI that Jürgen Klinsmann could use based on his coaching history and World Cup preferences?

 

In the defense, it seems likely that Jürgen Klinsmann will be looking to start making the transition to using Brad Guzan in goal, and DeAndre Yedlin, Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler/John Brooks, and Fabian Johnson is Klinsmann’s likely preferred Back Four.

 

Brooks proved that he was more than capable of playing as good or better than the older and less technical and less two-footed Besler, and Cameron is the best right center back (and center back) in the American player pool.

 

Forming the two-man defensive midfield, Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones or Maurice Edu are locks for Klinsmann. Jones appears to still have several years in the tank, and it was clear at the World Cup that Bradley doesn’t perform very well when playing as a central attacking midfielder.

 

Klinsmann will need to decide if Jones or Edu partners better with Bradley, and Edu is several years younger than Jones.

 

An Edu-Bradley partnership gives the American defensive midfield a clear designation of roles where Edu plays the stay-at-home defensive midfielder role and Bradley plays the box-to-box midfielder role.

 

To link the defensive midfielders to the attack, Klinsmann has demonstrated that Mix Diskerud and Joe Corona are certainly at the top of his list as central attacking midfielders with Corona also capable of thriving on either wing as a right or left attacker.

 

While Diskerud made the final World Cup roster and didn’t play, Corona made the preliminary 30-man roster only to be cut from the final 23-man roster, so it’s certainly likely that Diskerud could play the central attacking midfielder role with Corona playing as the right wing.

 

As wings, Graham Zusi and Brad Davis were poor and out of their element at the 2014 World Cup, but Alejandro Bedoya was notably better.

 

Nevertheless, Corona is the better winger; Corona is not only better than Bedoya in his passing and overall skill on the ball, but Corona is also better at getting into scoring positions and scoring.

 

Corona is a more composed and smoother player than Bedoya who plays somewhat out of control and with his head always down. Corona plays with his head up constantly looking to pass and move, set up goals, and get in scoring positions.

 

With all of that being said, it’s also very possible that Julian Green could be Klinsmann’s starting right wing with Diskerud and Corona competing for the central attacking midfielder spot, or Klinsmann could elect to play Dempsey at the Number 10 role with Corona at right wing and Green at left wing.

 

Like Corona but slightly different, Clint Dempsey has a more fluid role than Diskerud. Dempsey thrives out left or centrally, and Klinsmann’s best use of Dempsey is to play him at left wing where he can play wide, cut inside, and go where the game takes him.

 

It should be noted that Dempsey performed well as a right midfielder in the 2006 World Cup and at other times, and Dempsey’s showing against Italy in the 2006 World Cup as a right midfielder was very much his coming out party.

 

Dempsey’s tendency to go where he’s needed and his two-footedness makes him a player that can be used on either wing, centrally, or as a second striker.

 

A midfield consisting of Edu, Bradley, Corona, Diskerud, and Dempsey is certainly a solid, balanced, and talented group of U.S. internationals that shouldn’t be considered controversial starters as all of those players are experienced and have proven their skill and worth.

 

Spearheading the attack at striker, Jozy Altidore vs. Juan Agudelo should be the two players that Klinsmann is considering starting. Altidore is the incumbent starter, but Agudelo has always appeared to be more dangerous, more creative, more aggressive, and more capable of opening up the attack.

 

For all of Altidore’s power, skill, and athleticism, Agudelo is a tall, strong, and smooth striker that brings more skill on the ball and more audacity.

 

If the choice is between Altidore and Agudelo, then Agudelo is the more dynamic and dangerous player that is a more consistent attacking threat.

 

Whereas Altidore has great games and anonymous games, Agudelo is always a major protagonist that threatens the goal whenever he plays. On pure skill, Agudelo is clearly superior to Altidore.

 

A realistic USMNT XI for Klinsmann is Guzan, Yedlin, Cameron, Besler/Brooks, Johnson, Jones/Edu, Bradley, Corona, Diskerud, Dempsey, and Altidore/Agudelo, and looking at the positions that are 50/50, Brooks, Edu, and Agudelo are arguably the better options – but not necessarily Klinsmann’s preferences.

 

Jones is certainly a Klinsmann favorite – and with good reason- but the argument for Edu is that he and Bradley would form a unit with more defined roles.

 

Jones is a more talented player than Edu in terms of his overall skill, but Edu, in addition to being a younger player than Jones, stays back more on defense, which gives the defensive midfield partnership more defined roles. Edu’s technical ability is underrated and his experienced often is forgotten, but Jones is a more skilled and experienced player.

 

Klinsmann often used three defensive midfielders in the World Cup, but this is a way too defensive-minded midfield. Using Edu and Bradley behind Corona, Diskerud, and Dempsey is a strong midfield going forward, and that midfield improves the overall quality of the American midfield and national team.

 

Nevertheless, Klinsmann prefers to use Jones with Bradley and Dempsey as a withdrawn striker or second striker with Dempsey lining up where a central attacking midfielder would play.

 

Given Klinsmann’s high regard for Green, it’s likely that Klinsmann plans on making him a starter now as a left winger. Corona should be the starting right wing for the United States, especially given the poor play of Davis, Zusi, and Bedoya in the World Cup, but it’s difficult to predict the starting right wing. Corona is certainly the most qualified and the most deserving.

 

Jürgen Klinsmann’s Possible USMNT XI:

 

USA XI (4-2-3-1)

 

GUZAN

YEDLIN CAMERON BROOKS/BESLER JOHNSON

JONES/EDU  BRADLEY

CORONA DEMPSEY GREEN

ALTIDORE

 

OR

 

USA XI (4-2-3-1)

 

GUZAN

YEDLIN CAMERON BROOKS/BESLER JOHNSON

BRADLEY  JONES/EDU

CORONA DISKERUD DEMPSEY

ALTIDORE

 

 

World Soccer Source

Soccer and Football News and Commentary on World Soccer, the United States Men's National Team (USMNT), Major League Soccer (MLS), World Football, and American Soccer. All articles, opinions, and commentary by Colin Reese. Twitter: @COLINREESE. Facebook: WorldSoccerSource