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

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

 

 

USMNT Future Roster: Continuity Plus Change

August 15th, 2014

 

Clint Dempsey (left) and Jozy Altidore (right). (Photo: AP)

Clint Dempsey (left) and Jozy Altidore (right). (Photo: AP)

 

By: COLIN REESE

 

COMMENT:

 

As Jürgen Klinsmann seeks to improve the United States Men’s National Team, it’s important that Klinsmann doesn’t scrap too many players that are just under 30 years old or over 30 years old.

 

Forcing players at or above 30 years old into virtual retirement isn’t a wise policy to apply blindly in world soccer, as age isn’t as important as form and fitness.

 

All that matters is whether or not a player is fit enough and talented enough to play against the level of the competition whether it be club competition or international competition.

 

There are always too many players in their mid-30s that excel in the World Cup and/or the Champions League to believe that dropping players above 30 years old is a sound coaching policy.

 

By all accounts, Clint Dempsey at 31 looks like the type of player that will be very fit and in form well into his mid-30s, and it’s way too soon to even consider beginning to phase him out. This would be a huge mistake.

 

As one of the goals of U.S. Soccer is to bring in younger and more technical players, this goal can be achieved by putting the players that are ready to compete internationally on the roster while evaluating how they compare to other more experienced players.

 

Specifically, DeAndre Yedlin, John Brooks, and Julian Green have demonstrated that they are already ready to contribute to the national team in a big way, and Yedlin and Brooks have earned starting spots at right back and left center back respectively.

 

Green can either be used as a starter or as a substitute, but he’s ready to be used as a wing on either side for at least 20 to 30 minutes per game depending on the formation and tactics.

 

Despite Benny Feilhaber’s excellent form and fitness as a playmaker or central midfielder that is under 30, Klinsmann appears to have forced Feilhaber into a virtual international retirement.

 

Feilhaber is likely out of the picture for Klinsmann, which makes it high time that the German coach actually start Mix Diskerud or Joe Corona or both, as Corona can play centrally or out wide.

 

The USA is in desperate need of some additional link-up play in the midfield besides just Dempsey, and this is exactly what Corona and Diskerud bring to the team.

 

It remains a mystery why Klinsmann put Diskerud on the World Cup roster only to never use him even when Dempsey was forced to play out of position at striker. Dempsey needed a playmaker like Diskerud behind him to give him more service and an attacking player to combine with.

 

Jermaine Jones also looks like the type of player that has the sort of fitness and durability to play into his mid-30s, but the USA still needs to reincorporate Maurice Edu back into the national side because the United States needs at least three defensive midfielders: Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, and Maurice Edu.

 

Having Bradley, Jones, and Edu on the roster is important to being able to use one or two defensive midfielders that have the sort of defending, physicality, work rate, and technical ability that allows the more attack-minded players to flourish.

 

Using Corona, Diskerud, and Dempsey in front of Bradley and Jones/Edu is a way to bring more technical ability, creativity, and attacking skill to the American midfield, and Bradley needs to be able to play the more stay-at-home defensive midfielder role and the box-to-box midfielder role, depending on whether Jones or Edu start.

 

If Edu starts, then Bradley is more free to attack, but if Jones starts, then Bradley needs to play deeper and cover the Back Four.

 

Whatever Klinsmann’s reason was for excluding Juan Agudelo from the 2014 World Cup roster, Agudelo needs to be put back on the roster immediately. Agudelo deserves to be a roster lock with or without a healthy Terrence Boyd; Agudelo is simply too good and too effective to exclude.

 

Keeping the discussion on young players, Yedlin not only proved to be completely ready for World Cup play, but he was good enough to stand out at right back as a exciting attacking threat and strong defensive force.

 

Fabian Johnson is the obvious starter to play at left back, but Chris Klute has shown too much skill and athleticism in MLS for Klinsmann to continue to exclude from the national team.

 

Johnson is certainly the obvious starter in most observers’ minds, but Klute stands out among American left backs as a player that can improve the national team and give it more depth at a position where the USMNT is weak.

 

Robbie Rogers has also recently been converted to play as a left back as a right-footed player, so Rogers too deserves a roster spot whether as a midfielder or as a defender because of his ability to play left back or right back and left wing or right wing.

 

Staying with the defense, young defenders like Shane O’Neill, Kellyn Acosta, and Andrew Farrell are also too talented to continue to exclude.

 

As it’s the start of a new World Cup cycle, having quicker and more technical center backs like O’Neill and Farrell are more crucial to the USA’s improvement in the center of the defense than a less agile Omar Gonzalez who doesn’t bring the same amount of lateral quickness and technical ability that the younger center backs bring.

 

Gonzalez is only in his mid-20s, but O’Neill and Farrell are better.

 

Cameron and Brooks is the best center back partnership, and Farrell and O’Neill are the next two best center back options.

 

For all of the praise that Matt Besler has received as a center back, both Farrell and O’Neill are more technical, more athletic, and better defensively.

 

Neither of these center backs settle on hitting as many long balls as Besler, as both Farrell and O’Neill work the ball out of the ball better and only hit a long ball if it is the only option or best passing option.

 

Farrell and O’Neill are also capable of dribbling forward out of trouble in order to play the ball out of the back, and Besler doesn’t have this weapon in his arsenal.

 

It bears mentioning that for about a month O’Neill has been suffering from an unknown knee injury that the Colorado Rapids are still trying to diagnose. Pablo Mastroeni has told MLSsoccer.com that each scan of O’Neill’s knee has failed to isolate the exact problem with the knee.

 

At the outside back positions, Acosta like Klute plays as a right back or left back, and the USA can’t continue to keep outside backs with their defending, speed, size, skill, and versatility off the national team.

 

Veteran players like Geoff Cameron are a vital portion of the core of the USMNT, so American rosters need to include these types of more experienced players with the likes of Agudelo, Corona, and Diskerud.

 

The United States isn’t in need of a total overhaul of its roster, but it does require the incorporation of younger players that can better play positions where the United States is weakest.

 

Starting Guzan, Yedlin, Cameron, Brooks, Johnson, Edu, Bradley, Corona, Diskerud, Dempsey, and Agudelo allows the USMNT to keep its most talented and athletic experienced players in the XI while adding in the younger talents that can improve the overall skill level of the team.

 

With 11 players starting, there are 12 more roster spots for a combination of experienced and less experienced players with skill and athleticism being the most important criteria for roster inclusion.

 

Many USMNT observers and fans either want a total roster overhaul or the use of only players with a sizeable amount of international experience, but the United States needs to use its best players rather than either giving all of the older players the boot or making talented young players wait for years for no good reason.

 

 

Predicting the 2015 USA Gold Cup XI

August 12th, 2014

 

Joe Corona. (Photo: MexSport)

Joe Corona. (Photo: MexSport)

 

By: COLIN REESE

 

In addition to continuing to improve the overall play of the United States Men’s National Team, the next goal for the United States Men’s National Team is to win next summer’s 2015 Gold Cup.

 

Jürgen Klinsmann will want to use the best players available to him in addition to including a few of the somewhat younger players – many of whom already have quality experience with the senior side.

 

Here is World Soccer Source’s best guess of Klinsmann’s USMNT XI for the 2015 Gold Cup, and there’s nothing to suggest that Klinsmann doesn’t continue to view Clint Dempsey as the Number 10:

 

 

GOALKEEPER: Brad GUZAN

 

RIGHT BACK: DeAndre YEDLIN

CENTER BACK: Geoff CAMERON

CENTER BACK: John BROOKS

LEFT BACK: Fabian JOHNSON

 

DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER: Maurice EDU

CENTRAL MIDFIELDER: Michael BRADLEY

 

RIGHT ATTACKER: Joe CORONA

NUMBER 10: Clint DEMPSEY

LEFT ATTACKER: Julian GREEN

 

STRIKER: Juan AGUDELO

 

 

Tactical Formation (4-2-3-1)

 

GUZAN

YEDLIN CAMERON BROOKS JOHNSON

EDU BRADLEY

CORONA DEMPSEY GREEN

AGUDELO

 

World XI (August 2014)

August 10th, 2014

 

Paul Pogba (Photo: Claude Paris/Associated Press)

Paul Pogba (Photo: Claude Paris/Associated Press)

 

By: COLIN REESE

 

Below is World Soccer Source’s Best World XI in a 4-3-3 formation as of August 2014:

 

 

GOALKEEPER: Manuel NEUER

Country: Germany

Club: Bayern Munich

 

 

 

RIGHT BACK: Philipp LAHM

Country: Germany

Club: Bayern Munich

 

CENTER BACK: Raphaël VARANE

Country: France

Club: Real Madrid

 

CENTER BACK: THIAGO SILVA

Country: Brazil

Club: Paris Saint-Germain

 

LEFT BACK: David ALABA

Country: Austria

Club: Bayern Munich

 

 

 

CENTRAL MIDFIELDER: Paul POGBA

Country: France

Club: Juventus

 

PLAYMAKER: Andrés INIESTA

Country: Spain

Club: Barcelona

 

CENTRAL MIDFIELDER: Arturo VIDAL

Country: Chile

Club: Juventus

 

 

 

RIGHT ATTACKER: Thomas MÜLLER

Country: Germany

Club: Bayern Munich

 

STRIKER: Cristiano RONALDO

Country: Portugal

Club: Real Madrid

 

LEFT ATTACKER: NEYMAR

Country: Brazil

Club: Barcelona

 

 

The Best USMNT XI (August 2014)

August 10th, 2014

 

Geoff Cameron (Photo: ISIphotos.com)

Geoff Cameron (Photo: ISIphotos.com)

 

 

By: COLIN REESE

 

 

With the September friendlies coming up, here is World Soccer Source’s Best USA XI for August 2014:

 

 

GOALKEEPER: Brad GUZAN

 

Now seems like the time for Tim Howard to pass the torch to Brad Guzan. Guzan is arguably as good as Howard, and certain aspects of his game are better than Howard’s, such as his knowledge of when to come off his line and when to stay on it. Guzan’s club performances in the EPL and his performances for the United States prove his ability to be the USMNT Number 1 right now. Guzan has been as good and as consistent as Howard for years.

 

 

RIGHT BACK: DeAndre YEDLIN

 

DeAndre Yedlin is the undisputed starting right back for the United States. Yedlin can track down and tackle basically any attacker regardless of their speed, and Yedlin is excellent in his ability to get down the sideline in the attack, play crosses, and play quality passes to midfielders and attacker in and around the penalty box. Yedlin was tossed into the deep end at the World Cup and he not only held his own but his skill and excellence stood out. The interest from European clubs in Yedlin solidifies his spot as the starting USA right back.

 

 

CENTER BACK: Geoff CAMERON

 

Geoff Cameron is the best American center back in the pool, and his combination of defending, size, skill, and athleticism makes his inclusion as a starter over Omar Gonzalez undeniable. All defenders make mistakes and get beaten, but Cameron offers the United States the most capable and competitive center back to play the right center back spot. Cameron has a great weaker left foot, and he’s equally as skilled as a left center back.

 

 

CENTER BACK: John BROOKS

 

Matt Besler is the lock starter at the left center back spot for most observers, but Brooks is better than Besler almost in every defensive, technical, and athletic category – and Brooks is a better combination of all of these categories. Brooks is a better 1v1 defender with more technical ability than Besler. Brooks is also better in the air defensively and on set pieces in the attack. Brooks proved his worth at the 2014 World Cup, and despite Besler’s quality play at the World Cup, now is the time to give Brooks the job.

 

 

LEFT BACK: Chris KLUTE

 

Chris Klute needs to be more aggressive in his willingness to look to score and cut inside toward the penalty box, but Klute’s two-footed skill and ability to get forward with the attack and back on defense with world-class speed make him an outside back that the United States needs to use as a starter now. Klute needs to be allowed to make mistakes and get more experience as well. Klute is an investment that needs to be made now so that he can reach his full potential and become more complete soon. Making Klute wait longer doesn’t help the United States at all.

 

 

DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER: Maurice EDU

 

Starting Maurice Edu with Michael Bradley ensures that Bradley will have defensive coverage from a skilled and athletic midfielder and defender that can also get forward with the attack with Bradley drops deeper. Using Edu as a defensive midfielder allows Geoff Cameron to start at center back where he is needed the most.

 

 

DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER: Michael BRADLEY

 

Michael Bradley and Maurice Edu are both defensive midfielders that not only know how to participate in the attack but that also know to stay back deeper to provide defensive coverage so that the Back Four isn’t exposed. Bradley provides the needed defensive and constant running while also helping to control the team’s passing, in addition to setting up goals.

 

 

RIGHT ATTACKER: Joe CORONA

 

Using Joe Corona as the right attacker not only helps Benny Feilhaber to keep possession and create scoring chances but he also plays slightly deeper than Clint Dempsey who is really a forward in the form of a second striker. While Fabian Johnson could start here for his attacking skill and pace, Corona helps to link the defensive midfielders to Juan Agudelo and Clint Dempsey more so than Johnson does.

 

 

NUMBER 10: Benny FEILHABER

 

Benny Feilhaber is the best and most proven Number 10 or central attacking midfielder in the entire American player pool, and he has developed a strong two-way style of play full of running and defending. Feilhaber is a playmaker and skilled goal-scorer, but he has now also become a playmaker with the work rate and defender of a box-to-box midfielder.

 

 

LEFT ATTACKER: Clint DEMPSEY

 

As the best American player and attacker, Clint Dempsey lining up out left allows him to attack wide, cut inside, or sneak forward next to the striker. A free-flowing attacker like Dempsey has total freedom of movement for the United States, and starting him out left opens up a starting spot for Edu to start alongside Bradley in the defensive midfield to protect the back line and to help start the attack from the back. For most of his career, starting out left with the freedom to cut inside provided Dempsey with the most success because he could help provide link-up play with the striker and go forward to partner with the first striker.

 

 

STRIKER: Juan AGUDELO

 

Juan Agudelo is a more complete and more dangerous striker than Jozy Altidore. Agudelo’s touch, skill on the ball, creativity, and finishing are all superior to Altidore, and Agudelo has all of the athleticism and height of Altidore with good strength albeit not quite as much as the almost NFL strength of Altidore. Therefore, Agudelo brings Altidore’s athleticism and size with more skill, trickery, and better finishing. Agudelo is also much more active off the ball and more capable of attacking from wide positions and centrally. Finally, Agudelo is just as good or better than Altidore in the air. Altidore has been criticized at times for the inconsistency in the quality of his touch and skill on the ball, but no one has ever accused Agudelo of being technically lacking.

 

 

Tactical Formation (4-2-3-1):

 

GUZAN

YEDLIN CAMERON BROOKS KLUTE

BRADLEY EDU

CORONA FEILHABER DEMPSEY

AGUDELO

 

 

The Best American Footballers (August 2014)

August 9th, 2014

 

 

Clint Dempsey has been the best American soccer player since 2006.

Clint Dempsey has been the best American soccer player since 2006.

 

 

By: COLIN REESE

 

These rankings aren’t based on skill alone, but they are a subjective ranking of American footballers factoring in skill, club form, international form, and athleticism. It’s impossible to weigh the various criteria evenly, and trying to compare attackers to midfielders to defenders to goalkeepers is even more difficult, as each position has different but equally important skill-sets.

 

Here are World Soccer Source’s rankings of the Best American Footballers as of August 2014:

 

1. Clint DEMPSEY

2. Landon DONOVAN

3. Michael BRADLEY

4. Fabian JOHNSON

5. Tim HOWARD

 

6. Jermaine JONES

7. Benny FEILHABER

8. Geoff CAMERON

9. Juan AGUDELO

10. Joe CORONA

 

11. DeAndre YEDLIN

12. Mix DISKERUD

13. Jozy ALTIDORE

14. Brad GUZAN

15. Maurice EDU

 

16. Eddie JOHNSON

17. John BROOKS

18. Benji JOYA

19. Dillon POWERS

20. Shane O’NEILL

 

21. Robbie ROGERS

22. Chris KLUTE

23. Michael OROZCO 

24. Michael PARKHURST

25. Matt BESLER

 

26. Julian GREEN

27. Andrew FARRELL

28. Lee NGUYEN

29. Kellyn ACOSTA

30. Gyasi ZARDES

 

 

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