The Casemiro Effect at Real Madrid

In Casemiro, Real Madrid has a true defensive midfielder that distributes the ball well with either foot.

Toni Kroos, despite being more of a box-to-box midfielder or playmaker, has been used as the anchor of Real Madrid’s midfield three the past few years, and since he is a complete midfielder, he was able to excel in the more defensive role that he was ask to play.

Like Kroos, Luka Modrić has also been freed up to play a more attacking role by the emergence of Casemiro who has risen from promising young defensive midfielder to first-choice defensive midfielder for Real Madrid.

When everyone is healthy in the Real Madrid midfield, the true Number 10s will find themselves in even more of battle for the Number 10 role, especially since both Kroos and Modrić are themselves really Number 10s.

Five out of the six players in Real Madrid’s Front Six must be thought of as locks in the starting lineup, and these five players are: Casemiro, Modrić, Kroos, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Karim Benzema. As this is the case, James Rodriguez, Isco, and Mateo Kovačić will now be battling Gareth Bale for the final spot in Real Madrid’s Front Six.

Given both Modrić’s and Kroos’ excellent playmaking abilities and particularly their ability to feed Benzema and Ronaldo, there is less of a need for James, Isco, or Kovačić in the lineup, and this will make Rafa Benítez’s job of keeping his superstars happy even harder.

How do you put Isco on the bench, and how do you put a healthy James on the bench?

Kovačić has also showed his ability to orchestrate an attack and keep the passes moving around the field quickly for Real Madrid, and his ability to tackle and play defense makes him a strong option off the bench or to replace Casemiro, Modrić, or Kroos if they are injured.

Casemiro might not necessarily be a starting lock yet, but given the fact that Real Madrid now have a real defensive midfielder to deploy in front of the defense, we might see both Modrić and Kroos display their true playmaking skills, which will push Ronaldo and Benzema even closer to goal.

The Casemiro effect might be one where the insertion of a midfield destroyer with excellent ball-playing abilities makes Real Madrid’s attack even more dangerous, as Modrić and Kroos will be able to just play a non-stop stream of through balls and balls play over the top to Benzema and Ronaldo.

What will happen with Isco, James, and Kovačić now?

Midfield and Attacking Dilemmas for Juventus

Despite the poor start for Juventus in Serie A and without Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal, and Carlos Tevez, Juventus has a deep and talented squad. In fact, Juventus has more quality midfield and attacking options than starting spots.

Newcomers like Sami Khedira and Mario Lemina have given Juventus two strong defensive midfielder options in front of the defense, and Roberto Pereyra and Hernanes are vying for the playmaker role, even if coach Max Allegri has preferred to play Hernanes in more of a regista role.

In the attack, Juventus can start Álvaro Morata or Simone Zaza at center forward, or Allegri can start both players with Morata playing as the withdrawn or second striker. With Paulo Dybala also playing for Juve, there aren’t enough spots to start both Zaza and Morata. Dybala is too dynamic and talented to leave on the bench, so even with all of Zaza’s qualities as a center forward, Morata and Dybala are thus the best two forward options.

On paper and with Juan Cuadrado starting on the right wing in the attack, the best Juventus midfield would likely be Khedira, Paul Pogba, and Claudio Marchisio, and this even excludes both Hernanes and Pereyra.

The lineup dilemma for Juventus is one of Juventus being two players deep for every midfield starting spot, and this is a good problem to have for Allegri. Although Khedira is widely-considered the best defensive midfield option, it must be said that Lemina has looked much more athletic while still displaying great technical ability and distribution.

How controversial is it to argue that Lemina might be a better option for a Juventus squad that seeks to win Serie A again and go deep in the Champions League again? Will Khedira be wrong-footed and burned by the elite and speedy attackers?

More questions abound. Should Dybala’s starting spot be thrown on the sacrificial pyre to make room for a fourth midfielder like Pereyra or Hernanes (when Marchisio is back fit)?

Juventus really has the squad to use all of these players mentioned, plus who can forget about Stefano Sturaro, the Italian center midfielder that has proven to be a strong option and a big-game player as he proved last season in the Champions League?

Allegri will have to be careful to not just start the most famous of two options as the strong argument can be made that Lemina is more effective than Khedira and Pereyra is more effective than Hernanes.

Juventus has many starting options in the midfield and the attack, but perhaps the best options aren’t necessarily the most famous ones.

Is this Front Six the best option: Marchisio, Khedira, Pogba; Cuadrado, Morata, Dybala?

Or is it this one: Marchisio, Lemina, Pogba; Cuadrado, Morata, Pereyra?

Maybe it’s neither.

Juventus has started off badly in Serie A this season, but Juventus will soon be a different team with more continuity in the lineup. Form and injuries will affect the Juve lineup throughout the season, so some of the lesser lights may become first-choice options for Allegri.

Pirlo, Vidal, and Tevez are gone, but Juventus is still deep and formidable.

Doentes Por Futebol Translation: The Moment of Truth For Neymar

Doentes Por Futebol recently published a fascinating opinion piece by Victor Mendes Xavier on the impact Lionel Messi’s injury will have on Neymar and Barcelona’s tactical setup without Messi. The article is entitled “A hora da verdade para Neymar.” The English translation of the title is, “The Moment of Truth For Neymar.” You may notice that “the hour (or time) of truth” is translated into English as “the moment of truth,” which is a common figure of speech.

The piece highlights how Neymar will be expected to take up the main offensive role at the club, and the article also highlights the greater freedom Neymar will have on the field in general and in the attack. Victor Mendes Xavier also points out how Neymar will be able to drop into the midfield to combine and link up with the midfielders without giving up his role as a forward.

Here is a link to the article on the outstanding site and excellent social media follow, Doentes Por Futebol, which of course means “Crazy About Soccer.”

Here is a translation of the opinion piece with the original text below:

The Moment of Truth for Neymar

“The injury to Messi fell on Barcelona’s world like a bomb. Without his main star, Luís Enrique will need now more than ever one name in particular: Neymar. More so than Suárez, the Brazilian has the air of the lead man, decisiveness and skill, that in the end, made the club rip him away from Santos looking for a “Second Messi” on the roster. Obviously, the Argentine is irreplaceable and unique. But Neymar has the qualities to be a provisional leader for Barça.

Luís Enrique knows this. Two weeks ago, in the matchup against Átletico de Madrid, when Messi started on the bench, the Spaniard put the Number 11 in charge of leading the attack. Neymar, in theory, started out left, but, without the Number 10, gained even more freedom of movement. His movements down the middle, just like Messi’s, were greater, the partnership with Iniesta was more evident, and the interplay between the lines left the Atlético de Madrid center back pairing uncomfortable.

In the coming weeks without the Number 10, Lucho will study changing the formation, right away. Based on a piece in Mundo Deportivo, the Asturian plans to discard the 4-3-3 in favor of a (diamond) 4-4-2 with a more populated midfield: Busquets and Mascherano as a double pivot; Iniesta and Rakitic out wide on the flanks. In this formation, Neymar and Suárez would move all over the attack. Better for Neymar, who would have the option of interacting with the midfielders without necessarily having to compromise his role as a forward. Closer to goal, it’s almost certain that he will shine.

Neymar will have two months to display his true footballing range, which is greater than he has enjoyed thus far at Barcelona. Keep an eye on him.”

Original Brazilian Portuguese text:

“A lesão de Messi caiu como uma bomba no ambiente barcelonista. Sem seu principal astro, Luis Enrique irá necessitar mais do que nunca de um nome em especial: Neymar. Mais do que Suárez, o brasileiro tem uma aura de protagonista, decisão e técnica que, no fundo, fez o clube tirá-lo do Santos buscando um “segundo Messi” no elenco. Obviamente, o argentino é insubstituível e único. Mas Ney tem condições de ser um líder provisório do Barça.

Luis Enrique sabe disso. Há duas semanas, no duelo contra o Atlético de Madrid, quando Messi começou no banco, o espanhol encarregou o camisa 11 de liderar o sistema ofensivo. Ney, teoricamente, partiu da ponta esquerda, mas, sem o dez, ganhou ainda mais liberdade de movimentação. Seus movimentos à medular, tal qual Messi, foram maiores, a parceria com Iniesta ficou mais evidente e o jogo entre linhas deixou a dupla de zaga colchonera desconfortável.

Nas próximas semanas sem o 10, Lucho estuda mudar o sistema, pelo menos momentaneamente. De acordo com uma publicação do Mundo Deportivo, o asturiano pretende deixar o 4-3-3 de lado para formar um 4-4-2 com um meio-campo mais povoado: Mascherano e Busquets no doble-pivote; Iniesta e Rakitic abertos pelos flancos. Dessa forma, Neymar e Suárez se moveriam por todas as partes do ataque. Melhor para Ney, que teria a opção de dialogar com os meias sem necessariamente ter que cumprir funções de ponta. Mais próximo do gol, é quase certo que ele irá brilhar.

Neymar terá dois meses para mostrar sua verdadeira dimensão futebolística, que é maior do que a desfrutada até agora no Barcelona. Olho nele.”


Juventus Find a Regista and Holding Midfielder in Mario Lemina

In their recent player ratings for the Juventus-Frosinone match, Tuttosport described Mario Lemina as playing the role of a regista di contenimento, which would be a deep-lying playmaker and holding midfielder at the same time.

Since Andrea Pirlo’s departure for MLS, Juventus has been looking for a midfielder to play in front of the defense, and they purchased German defensive midfielder, Sami Khedira, for this very purpose.

With Khedira injured, the versatile central midfielder Claudio Marchisio was going to be played in this role in front of the defense, but now Marchisio himself is injured.

Given Marchisio’s engine and facility as a box-to-box midfielder, it would be a shame to park Marchisio in front of the defense, but now Lemina (himself a box-to-box midfielder) has proven to be an effective holding midfielder with the ability to boss a midfield.

So the center midfielder can give Juventus a player to win back possession in the center of the midfield, and a central midfielder to act as a pivot to direct Juventus’ passing game from just in front of the defense.

With a player like Lemina in this role, Paul Pogba is set free to roam all over the midfield and attack where he sees fit, and Lemina opens up the possibility to start the electric Roberto Pereyra who brings so much dynamism, running, creativity, and attacking prowess.

Once thought of as an afterthought to Juventus’ summer signings, Lemina might now be a key player in the Juventus squad and midfield. Even when Khedira returns from injury, can he match the athleticism and skill of Lemina who might be better equipped to defend elite attackers and quickly open up the game for other Juventus players to attack?

Lemina brings an impressive array of skills and qualities plus an ease with having the ball on either foot.

Sometimes the less-heralded players surprise you, and Juventus might have a commanding midfielder on their hands in Lemina whose completeness as a center midfielder allows him to bring technical skill, strong defending, and standout athleticism to the holding midfielder and deep-lying playmaker role.

Massimiliano Allegri certainly has many lineup decisions to make in his midfield and elsewhere, and now Lemina’s play might cause him to have to think about his best lineup even more.

The New French Defense: Raphaël Varane and Kurt Zouma

After the emergence of Raphaël Varane onto the world stage as a prodigy of a central defender with lightning pace, effortless technical skill, and strong defensive instincts and fundamentals, there was a question about whom would partner Varane in the center of the French defense.

Kurt Zouma is the answer to that question. Zouma is a monster of a central defender not only in his physique and athleticism, but also in his technical skill and ability as a man-marker and tackler.

Zouma has also proved to be a big threat offensively on set pieces. Let’s see what else the central defender (and defensive midfielder) shows in the attack.

The French National Team released some videos of Varane and Zouma juggling (along with Paul Pogba) and frankly they were scary good.

While most professional players playing for top clubs all display impressive technical skill as a given, the type of juggling that Zouma and Varane were doing looked worthy of a Ronaldinho or Neymar freestyle performance.

Even right now, the Zouma and Varane pairing has to be considered arguably the best center back pairing on the international level – and maybe the club level as well. It’s hard to think of a better pairing, especially since Brazil has been changing up their center backs and snubbing Thiago Silva (the best defender in the world).

Why is Zouma and Varane the best center back pairing in the world? Because Varane was already considered one of the top three or five center backs in the world, and now Zouma has been a standout for Chelsea. So what you have now is central defenders that are considered prodigies and both of them are very hard to beat for pace. They are also very comfortable with the ball at their feet.

With UEFA Euro 2016 coming up next year and the 2018 World Cup a few years away, it’s hard to see a better center back pairing in all of world football. Those two young defenders could be France’s central defense for the next decade.

The Zouma and Varane pairing should come to be considered the most formidable in soccer, and after France made a deep World Cup run in 2014, maybe France is an early favorite for the 2018 World Cup.

How Mario Balotelli Can Reach Elite Status

There is so much attention, criticism, and excitement around Mario Balotelli when he plays that it’s hard to treat him like any other soccer player.

The inconsistency with which Balotelli displays his amazing technical skill, athleticism, and physique infuriates spectators, teammates, and coaches alike. The ability and athleticism he showcases cause people to expect a world-beating performance from Balotelli every game, and this is why he is so criticized.

As an attacking player, Balotelli has everything that you could ask for. He has a velcro first-touch, and he’s basically technically-perfect with both feet. His passing and dribbling are world-class, and his shot is almost second to none in power and placement.

But, Balotelli doesn’t maximize and capitalize on his talent, which is good enough to dribble past anyone, unlock defenses with passes, and score on any goalkeeper. Too often Balotelli isn’t totally committed and focused on being 100% involved in games.

If Balotelli were always or almost always fully engaged in games, then his statistics and influence would be much better than they currently are.

It’s important to remember that people’s expectations are almost higher than they are for any other player. People see a phenomenal talent and athlete inside of an imposing physique, and they expect the world.

The best thing Balotelli can do for his play and his career is to solely focus on always making himself very involved in games, and he should impose his will on games.

One of the most impressive things about Balotelli is how his talent and physical gifts always make him a threat that opposing players immediately recognize. If you watch Balotelli in a game, then basically all you see is Balotelli. He is the killer shark in the water that everyone immediately notices.

For Balotelli, actively focusing on not becoming irritated and rattled by opposing players and fans should be his first priority. If he does this, then he can be totally focused on the game.

The type of focus and the level of restraint needed from Balotelli is somewhat unfair as almost no other player has to try so hard to not be reactive.

Nevertheless, Balotelli is an amazing talent that hopefully all soccer fans can come to enjoy, and if he is able to just be very involved in every game while blocking out all of the provocations, then he can reach the level where is acknowledged as a world-class player, instead of just a world-class talent.

As everyone knows, the talent is definitely there. Most professionals will never be able to do the stuff that Balotelli can do. For soccer’s sake, let’s hope that he can tune out and ignore all of the things that rattle him and take his focus off his play.

Say what you want about Balotelli, but he is a force of nature that all soccer fans can’t take their eyes off.

The Best USMNT XI (August 2015)

Jürgen Klinsmann keeps starting players out of position for the U.S. Men’s National Team, and he won’t stop doing it. Players are started out of position every game for the United States.

As much as there is a need to start all 11 players at one of their natural positions, there is also a need to incorporate several new players into the starting lineup.

The American Midfield Three and Attacking Trident

Starting a more dynamic center forward like Juan Agudelo is a must for the USA, but so is starting Ethan Finlay out on the right wing. Finlay brings a real wide threat as much as he brings an overall ability to set up goals and score them.

Using Finlay out right allows Dempsey to play left of the center forward, and this creates a more dynamic and versatile American attack.

Benny Feilhaber and Sebastian Lletget would be excellent choices to start to the left and right of Michael Bradley, who should play in the center of the midfield as the anchor, metronome, and defensive stopgap in front of the Back Four.

The quality of the passing and the amount of possession is not good enough for the USMNT, and starting Lletget, Bradley, and Feilhaber improves these midfield problems of passing and low technical ability.

Currently, the United States’ tactics seem to be just Bradley getting the ball and blazing forward into the attack on solo dribbling forays and hoping that Clint Dempsey scores. Bradley’s engine and ability to push the ball upfield are great qualities, but having a central midfield advance solo upfield is predictable and easy to stop.

Bradley’s qualities are better maximized when combined with Feilhaber and Lletget who are better in the final third than Bradley. Both Feilhaber and Lletget are exciting midfielders in their own right who aren’t just support for Bradley. The U.S. would be better served with Bradley sitting in front of the defense and orchestrating the midfield’s play from a slightly deeper position.

The American Back Four 

The center of the American defense continues to be a weak spot, and Maurice Edu and Geoff Cameron have proven to be a strong center back pairing in the past against Mexico. The USMNT needs to right the ship, and at least Edu and Cameron are experienced, talented, and athletic – plus they are in their prime.

Using these two with Bradley sitting in front of them as a center midfielder can shore up the United States’ poor defense, which really might be less to blame for the poor performances  for the USA than the weak midfield.

It’s common to scapegoat central defenders and goalkeepers, but many defensive problems stem from a midfield that gets bossed around and taken to task by the opposition.

With the midfield and the attack already discussed, the outside backs have been glossed over. Eric Lichaj at right back and Greg Garza at left back are strong choices for now, and it’s difficult to argue that there are better options at these positions right now.

DeAndre Yedlin is a much better right back than he gets credit for, and having a right back with electric pace like Yedlin’s makes for a harder right flank to get behind and stay behind. Yedlin has shown that he can defend well 1v1, and he can quickly recover to dispossess or tackle attackers if he’s initially beaten.

Even though many people want to see Tim Howard return as the starting goalkeeper, Brad Guzan is an excellent, experienced, and proven goalkeeper, and it’s his time. The time has come to pass the torch to Guzan, who has been ready for years to start for the National Team. Guzan isn’t a step down from Howard, and it’s time to make this change.

Game Tactics

Compared to previous USMNT lineups, this lineup uses proven players in their natural positions, and it includes newcomers like Finlay and Lletget whose qualities the National Team needs now. Delaying their inclusion is unwise and pointless.

A midfield three with Lletget, Bradley, and Feilhaber has a balance of ball recovery and ball possession, and the overall technical quality of this trio is higher than most midfields the National Team has used in the past. This trio will be able to provide enough service and link-up play for an attacking trident of Finlay, Agudelo, and Dempsey.

If Dempsey is still injured or if the USMNT wants to try out an attack for the future, then Lletget can be started in the attack with Dillon Powers taking his midfield spot.

Below is the USA lineup discussed above:

Goalkeeper- Brad GUZAN (Aston Villa)

Right Back- Eric LICHAJ (Nottingham Forest)

Center Back- Maurice EDU (Philadelphia Union)

Center Back- Geoff CAMERON (Stoke City)

Left Back- Greg GARZA (Atlas)

Right Midfielder- Benny FEILHABER (Sporting Kansas City)

Center Midfielder- Michael BRADLEY (Toronto FC)

Left Midfielder- Sebastian LLETGET (Los Angeles Galaxy)

Right Wing- Ethan FINLAY (Columbus Crew)

Center Forward- Juan AGUDELO (New England Revolution)

Left Wing- Clint DEMPSEY (Seattle Sounders)


Who Should the USMNT Call Up for the September Friendlies?

Under Jürgen Klinsmann, the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) rosters continue to be puzzling and bizarre, and there has been a pattern of omitting too many of the best American players.

This will not be a prediction of Klinsmann’s 23-man roster.

Midfielders Sebastian Lletget and Ethan Finlay should be newcomers to the National Team on the upcoming roster, and American fans will see if Klinsmann snubs these players when the roster is announced.

Klinsmann needs to select a core group of experienced players to prepare for the Confederations Cup playoff game against Mexico in October, but these experienced players aren’t necessarily players Klinsmann has regularly selected.

In goal, Klinsmann must choose three goalkeepers, and Brad Guzan and William Yarbrough should be two of them. The third goalkeeper is anyone’s guess. Clint Irwin, Bill Hamid, Luis Robles, Tally Hall, and Nick Rimando are all worthy of this third spot.

Center back continues to be a problem for the United States. Ventura Alvarado and John Brooks were scapegoated for the Americans’ poor performance in the Gold Cup, but maybe this experience created some chemistry between the young center backs.

There are calls for Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler to return as the starters, but these two probably aren’t the answer to truly improve the center of the American defense.

Maurice Edu and Geoff Cameron would be a stronger pairing as these two are more experienced, more talented, and more athletic.

The likelihood of being wrong-footed and burned by Peru and Brazil is lower with these two.

To back these two up, Andrew Farrell and Matt Miazga from MLS are two of the best young American center backs around. Edu, Cameron, Miazga, and Farrell would be a nice combination of experienced center backs and new options. Farrell in particular has all the tools to make the center of the American defense harder to beat with speed, skill, or both.

As for the outside backs, Eric Lichaj and DeAndre Yedlin stand out at right back. Lichaj is proven at the international level and in the English Premier League, and Yedlin has shown himself to be a young right back that is hard to get past, even if he has been virtually unused by Tottenham Hotspur.

At left back, Greg Garza and Chris Tierney are the two standouts. Garza has performed well for the United States and in Liga MX, whereas Tierney is widely-considered one of the best left backs in MLS. Veteran DaMarcus Beasley would be another strong option for the two friendlies and the playoff with Mexico.

There are better American midfielders now than in the past, and along with veteran Benny Feilhaber, Sebastian Lletget, Ethan Finlay, Dillon Powers, Perry Kitchen, and Kellyn Acosta stand out amongst the current player pool.

Kitchen and Acosta are defensive midfielders, while Powers is more of a box-to-box midfielder than attacking midfielders like Lletget and Finlay.

Feilhaber, an attacking midfielder by trade, has become something of a box-to-box midfielder, but Lletget is really just an attacking midfielder that excels centrally or out wide.

Finlay’s combination of speed and skill has been impressive in MLS, and he fits in nicely with the National Team out wide either as a midfielder or forward. Both Lletget and Finlay are arguably starters for the National Team, and a strong argument can be made that both are more technically-skilled and smoother than Alejandro Bedoya.

Michael Bradley is an obvious inclusion on the roster, and hopefully Klinsmann stops deploying him out of position as an attacking midfielder.

The U.S. has better forward options than Klinsmann’s previous rosters have indicated, and Juan Agudelo, Rubio Rubin, and Charlie Davies deserve to be called up.

Picking Bradford Jamieson IV would be an inspired pick by Klinsmann for the 23rd spot, and Jamieson should be incorporated into the National Team sooner rather than later.

Jamieson brings real 1v1 skill and electric speed and quickness, and he offers the National Team the chance to actually attack teams like Peru and Brazil with real unpredictability and speed.

Many will dismiss Jamieson as too young and inexperienced, but he’s both the real deal and the most exciting young American player in the entire talent pool.

Rubin, Jamieson, and Finlay are likely the future American attacking trident. They’re all ready to be on the roster right now.

For the upcoming September friendlies, World Soccer Source backs the following 23-man USA roster:

Goalkeepers (3)- Brad Guzan, William Yarbrough, Clint Irwin

Defenders (8)- Geoff Cameron, Maurice Edu, Andrew Farrell, Matt Miazga, DeAndre Yedlin, Eric Lichaj, Greg Garza, Chris Tierney

Midfielders (7)- Michael Bradley, Dillon Powers, Kellyn Acosta, Perry Kitchen, Benny Feilhaber, Sebastian Lletget, Ethan Finlay

Forwards (5)- Clint Dempsey, Charlie Davies, Juan Agudelo, Rubio Rubin, Bradford Jamieson IV


The U.S. Men’s National Team Calls For Ethan Finlay

The U.S. Men’s National Team is in desperate need of skillful and fast attacking players that can create more scoring chances and score goals. Ethan Finlay of the Columbus Crew is such a player, and it’s not a stretch to view him as a deserving starter for the National Team.

Although he plays as a wing in MLS, Finlay can play any attacking role other than as a traditional No. 9. He brings the ability to play the final ball, the ability to take defenders off the dribble, and the ability to put the ball in the back of the net. Finlay’s skill with both feet makes him even more deserving of a call-up.

Both Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey came onto the U.S. Men’s National Team more or less as wide attacking midfielders, but they were much more versatile players than this. In the same way, Finlay isn’t just a wing to stick into a certain formation, but he is the type of versatile attacking player that the National Team has had too few of.

In addition to the technical and physical requirements required to play international soccer, Finlay has also shown the mentality of a player always looking to win and take the game to the opposition. This is the omnipresent buzzword “proactive.”

When Finlay and the MLS All-Stars played Tottenham this summer, MLS actually had more famous players, but Tottenham was a strong English Premier League side looking to not lose to an American club team. Finlay treated this game as an opportunity to impress when a bigger international audience was watching.

The Columbus Crew attacking midfielder is an interesting prospect for the U.S. National Team because he fits into the starting lineup regardless of the formation. If a 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3, or 4-4-2 is used, then Finlay can be used out right or left as a midfielder or as a forward. He also seems to fit the billing for a second striker where he can use his combination of speed, playmaking ability, and scoring ability to partner with a No. 9. His 1v1 skills would be particularly maximized in this role, just as they would on the wing.

World Soccer Source has backed Dillon Powers and Sebastian Lletget for the U.S. National Team, and now Finlay is the next new talent that deserves National Team backing.

With Lletget and Finlay, the United States has two starters that can play out wide or in more central attacking roles, and these two players suggest that the overall talent level of the National Team is improving. More young players like Bradford Jamieson IV are making their case for the National Team, but Finlay has already made a convincing case.

In a country where the coaches and fans are hesitant about using new or young players even in friendlies, many of the best American talents are being told to wait their turn without a very good reason.

Excluding Finlay from the next friendlies cannot be justified based on talent or form, and his omission from the next USA roster would be another worrying sign from coach Jürgen Klinsmann.

If Clint Dempsey is started up top with Jozy Altidore, then Ethan Finlay and Sebastian Lletget can be started as the right and left midfielders. If the United States elects to use a 4-3-3 formation, then Finlay can start in the attacking trident as the right wing. Either way, Finlay’s current form and attacking qualities are simply too good to leave off the National Team.

The U.S. Men’s National Team is not good enough to omit players like Finlay. If there were two players that made him surplus to requirements, then that would be different.

On a final note, Finlay has a few x-factors like trickery and quickness that can lead to a more dangerous and unpredictable American attack, and one of the worst qualities that the National Team has is its boring, grind-out-a-draw predictability.

When people associate your National Team primarily with effort and not skill, then there is a real need to spice things up.

What’s the Best Paris Saint-Germain Lineup?

The keys to Paris Saint-Germain’s lineup for the 2015-2016 campaign will be starting Javier Pastore as a No.10, starting David Luiz as a defensive midfielder so that Marquinhos can start with Thiago Silva at center back, and starting the active Edinson Cavani as the center forward over Swedish legend Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Pastore along with Blaise Matuidi and Marco Verratti is the key to PSG’s Front Six, and the lineup should be built around him as there are so few playmakers in today’s game like him that can truly decide matches.

The toughest decision for Laurent Blanc will be deciding whether to start Lucas Moura or Ángel Di María with Cavani up top.

Moving David Luiz out of the defense and into the anchor role of the PSG midfield allows Marquinhos to start alongside Thiago Silva at center back, and make no mistake, Marquinhos is a better central defender than David Luiz.

With David Luiz in front of Thiago Silva and Marquinhos, PSG has arguably the toughest defense to break down in world football. If you factor in Verratti and Matuidi roaming around the midfield as well, PSG has a squad that will be very difficult for even the elite Champions League teams to penetrate.

With Pastore, Cavani, and Lucas or Di María in the attack, PSG has the best attacking trident in the world after Barcelona’s trio of Lionel Messi, Luís Suárez, and Neymar.

The level of passing and attacking creativity that PSG’s Front Six will be able to showcase this season will be a sight to behold. PSG will just have to come to terms with having more superstars than starting spots, and the group will have to buy into the team concept.

Lucas and Di María will need to accept sometimes starting and sometimes not, and at times PSG’s midfield will be rotated and tweaked. Even Pastore might have to occasionally play just part of games if that is needed, but Lucas or Di María should be sacrificed first as Pastore is the orchestrator of the attack and the creator of goals.

Rounding out the lineup, Serge Aurier looks like the go-to starting right back with Maxwell at left back. Kevin Trapp is the clear first-choice goalkeeper for Blanc, but Salvatore Sirigu shouldn’t be taken lightly.

With this lineup as well as with some of its variations, Paris Saint-Germain is clearly amongst the top four club sides in the world with Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Bayern Munich.

Below is the lineup discussed above (4-3-1-2 Formation):

Goalkeeper- Kevin TRAPP

Right Back- Serge AURIER



Left Back- MAXWELL

Right Midfielder- Marco VERRATTI

Center Midfielder- DAVID LUIZ

Left Midfielder- Blaise MATUIDI

Attacking Midfielder: Javier PASTORE

Forward- Edinson CAVANI

Forward- LUCAS Moura / Ángel DI MARÍA