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

Center Back- THIAGO SILVA

Center Back- MARQUINHOS

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

 

Time For a USMNT Lineup Overhaul

The U.S. Men’s National Team’s lineup needs an overhaul immediately.

It’s unlikely that Jürgen Klinsmann will admit to unjustly snubbing players from his rosters or picking misguided starting lineups, but he is certainly capable of taking corrective action without admitting to doing so.

You have to assume that an ex-player of Klinsmann’s pedigree can easily look at the American player pool and say, “I need to simplify my lineup and play a three-man midfield with a center midfielder, a defensive midfielder, and an attacking midfielder, plus I need a Front Three with outside forwards on the right and left off a center forward.”

The problem with Klinsmann is that for some reason he thinks reinventing the wheel is just what the doctor ordered for American soccer.

Klinsmann probably holds American soccer in too low esteem.

Instead of just thinking that the United States doesn’t have enough players of Clint Dempsey’s level, Klinsmann thinks that the good players are just awful. The quality players are dismissed as not as good as elite world soccer stars, so therefore they have zero value for Klinsmann. Nothing else explains the exclusion of players like Benny Feilhaber, Maurice Edu, or Eric Lichaj.

The main problem with the U.S. National Team is a lack of a logical lineup made up of players deployed in their natural positions.

The United States is way below soccer’s giants in terms of the overall technical ability of the squad, but the United States does have international class players for every position.

Let us look over a possible lineup briefly to explore just how simple it is to form a capable, cohesive group.

The defense. There is no reason that Eric Lichaj, Maurice Edu, Geoff Cameron, and Fabian Johnson cannot perform well as the American Back Four. All of those players are being deployed in a position where they have tons of experience, and all of these players are both technically and defensively up to snuff and athletically impressive.

Edu and Cameron have experience together in the center of the defense, and both Lichaj and Johnson know their responsibilities as outside backs very well.

One of the biggest problems with the American midfield is Michael Bradley being forced to play as an attacking midfielder instead of as a defensive midfielder where he is world-class.

Bradley should anchor the midfield with Benny Feilhaber playing as a center midfielder where he has been playing in MLS for several seasons. Feilhaber, known for his creativity and attacking play, is now a much more industrious player, and he and Bradley can provide plenty of defending in the midfield.

The third player I would add to the midfield is Sebastian Lletget, who has done more than enough to prove himself for international play. Lletget is an exciting and creative attacking player that is more than happy to run non-stop and defend when the United States loses possession. Lletget also has a knack for scoring goals and setting them up.

Starting Lletget, Bradley, and Feilhaber in the midfield would be an enormous upgrade for the United States.

As for an attacking trident, Ethan Finlay, Juan Agudelo, and Clint Dempsey from right to left immediately come to mind. Finlay has been excellent in MLS assisting goals and scoring them, and he has tons of speed and skill to use attacking down the wing. Finlay is versatile enough to cut inside and also switch places with Dempsey and Agudelo in a fluid attack.

Why Agudelo hasn’t been a reference point for the team’s attack since he has been back in MLS after work visa limbo in England and Europe is a mystery, especially since Agudelo is a more dangerous and effective center forward than Jozy Altidore.

An attack with these three would also be a major upgrade for the United States compared to past incarnations.

With Brad Guzan in goal, the lineup proposed above is entirely made up of skilled and athletic players deployed in their natural positions.

There is no reason that the United States cannot start a lineup similar to this in the next two friendlies before the competitive match with Mexico for the 2017 Confederations Cup spot.

It’s unclear what the reason is for Klinsmann’s refusal to form anything resembling a logical or effective lineup, and it’s unclear why Sunil Gulati has made it clear that it doesn’t matter how Klinsmann performs as coach of the National Team.

Both Gulati and Klinsmann have to know that the media and fan base are not satisfied with the direction of the National Team, and if the same type of puzzling and bizarre lineups are used against Peru and Brazil, both men will likely witness a new level of criticism and complaints.

Proposed Starting Lineup (4-3-3): Guzan; Lichaj, Edu, Cameron, Johnson; Lletget, Bradley, Feilhaber; Finlay, Agudelo, Dempsey.

Why Javier Pastore Should Remain an Indispensable PSG Starter

Javier Pastore is not only the key playmaker for Paris Saint-Germain, but he is also the player that connects PSG’s midfield to its attack. No matter what formation PSG uses, the Argentine virtuoso should remain a reference point in the squad.

All of the passing, industry, and defending of PSG’s central midfielders is fruitless if Pastore isn’t included in the starting lineup to be the key linking player to create scoring opportunities.

Paris Saint-Germain under Laurent Blanc has regularly used a 4-3-3 formation with Javier Pastore often lining up out left in the Front Three, but with the arrival of Ángel Di María, it’s key that Pastore keeps his starting spot.

Blanc and PSG have many ways to accommodate Pastore’s unique genius, and one controversial but wise way is to pick either Edinson Cavani or Zlatan Ibrahimovic but not both for the starting lineup. This is assuming Ibrahimovic doesn’t switch clubs.

Rather than forcing Cavani out to the right or left wing in the attacking trident, Cavani should be deployed in his natural position as a center forward with Pastore either lining up as a trequartista or as a right or left wing.

Keeping three center midfielders is crucial to PSG winning the battle for the midfield against top opponents, so Pastore must be used either as a forward or as a Number 10.

Di María can play as a wing on either side or as a second striker. Playing out left gives PSG a left-footed attacker on the left side of the field, but starting out right allows Di María to cut inside onto his stronger left foot. Either way, Di María is a deadly and decisive attacker.

Pastore plays like a Number 10 no matter where his position is on paper, so it makes little difference if Pastore is listed as part of an attacking trident or as an attacking midfielder sitting just behind the two strikers.

Blanc will have a problem deciding whether to start Lucas Moura or Di María or both, but no matter what he decides, Pastore shouldn’t be sacrificed.

Both Cavani and Ibrahimovic can score with the best of them, and if both players are still playing for PSG, then starting Pastore is more important than starting both Cavani and Ibrahimovic. The argument can even be made that PSG played its best soccer when Ibrahimovic wasn’t in the lineup.

Instead of starting Pastore in a thee-man midfield, a strong PSG midfield could consist of Marco Verratti, David Luiz, and Blaise Matuidi with Pastore as a Number 10 or part of an attacking trident.

If PSG wants to have a 50/50 balance between ball recovery and attacking play, then Pastore should be deployed in a more advanced position than those three midfielders.

In fact, despite the tactical point made previously, a strong argument can be made that just Verratti and Matuidi without a third central midfielder is enough defensive firepower for PSG’s midfield to boss the battle of the midfield, as Pastore has become a two-way midfielder in his own right that provides lots of running and even defending.

During this summer’s Copa America, the Argentine attacking midfielder was even dropping back deep into the midfield to influence the game.

El Flaco can play in front of Verratti and Matuidi as an attacking midfielder in a three-man midfield, and this formation allows both Lucas Moura and Di María to start. Assuming both provide plenty of high pressing, PSG’s lineup shouldn’t be too heavily tilted toward the offensive.

In order for PSG to go even deeper in the Champions League in 2015-2016, Pastore needs to not be viewed as something of a luxury player that is not key to PSG’s success.

Pastore proved his worth last season for PSG, and he was arguably the best player at the 2015 Copa America.

Looking over all of the lineup options available to Blanc, perhaps a 4-2-3-1 or 4-2-1-3 formation would better utilize PSG’s cluster of stars. In those formations, Pastore would play as the center attacking midfielder with Verratti and Matudi behind him and Di María and Lucas to his left and right.

Blanc will have plenty of 50/50 lineup decisions to make this campaign, but Pastore shouldn’t be one of them.

 

The Best American Soccer Players (August 2015)

Clint Dempsey (Photo: AP)
Clint Dempsey (Photo: AP)

With the conclusion of the 2015 Gold Cup, World Soccer Source is releasing its rankings of The Best American Soccer Players, a feature also called The Best American Footballers.

World Soccer Source believes that favoring Jürgen Klinsmann’s picks for the U.S. Men’s National Team paints an incomplete picture of the talent in the American player pool. Many of the best American soccer players have seen few to no call-ups under Klinsmann.

This list contains some new additions to MLS plus several young players who are too talented and performing too well to ignore. Another important thing to remember about American soccer players is some of the best ones are relatively new to professional soccer or underrated by their clubs.

Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley stand head and shoulders above all other American players. Benny Feilhaber is also finally receiving almost universal recognition for his outstanding form in MLS as a center midfielder and attacking midfielder.

After these three players, Fabian Johnson stands out, but the rest is debatable.

Below is World Soccer Source’s subjective rankings of The Best American Soccer players for August 2015:

1. Clint Dempsey (Forward); 2. Michael Bradley (Midfielder); 3. Benny Feilhaber (Midfielder); 4. Fabian Johnson (Defender/Midfielder); 5. Geoff Cameron (Defender/Midfielder)

6.  Brad Guzan (Goalkeeper); 7. Juan Agudelo (Forward);  8. Sebastian Lletget (Midfielder); 9. Ethan Finlay (Midfielder); 10. Dillon Powers (Midfielder)

11. Tim Howard (Goalkeeper); 12. Jozy Altidore (Forward); 13. DeAndre Yedlin (Defender/Wing); 14. Charlie Davies (Forward); 15. Mix Diskerud (Midfielder)

16. Lee Nguyen (Midfielder);  17. Alejandro Bedoya (Midfielder); 18. Bradford Jamieson IV (Forward/Midfielder); 19. Rubio Rubin (Forward); 20. Dax McCarty (Midfielder)

21.  Maurice Edu (Defender/Midfielder); 22. José Villarreal (Midfielder/Forward); 23. Kellyn Acosta (Midfielder/Defender); 24. Andrew Farrell (Defender); 25. Matt Miazga (Defender)

Honorable Mention: Joe Corona (Midfielder); Gyasi Zardes (Forward); Ventura Alvarado (Defender); Greg Garza (Defender)

 

23 For the U.S. National Team (August 2015)

Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey (Photo: Julio Cortez/Associated Press)
Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey (Photo: Julio Cortez/Associated Press)

After a very poor 2015 Gold Cup showing by the U.S. Men’s National Team, World Soccer Source proposes a new 23-man roster for the United States.

This current version of the roster proposal is based on a 4-3-1-2 or 4-3-3 formation, so there is a first choice and a second-choice option listed for all 11 starting spots, plus a third goalkeeper.

Ethan Finlay and José Villarreal are listed as wings, but neither is proposed as a starter because of World Soccer Source’s support of a midfield composed of Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, Benny Feilhaber, and Sebastian Lletget in a 4-3-1-2 formation.

The general tactical scheme for this 23-man roster is a Back Four with four midfielders and two forwards or a Front Six with a three-man midfield and an attacking trident.

Notes about the positions in the proposed roster and lineup options:

• Benny Feilhaber can be thought of as an attacking midfielder or as a center midfielder, and Sebastian Lletget can be thought of as an attacking midfielder or even something of a forward in certain formations.

• Ethan Finlay and José Villarreal are wings listed in the general category of attacking midfielders. Both players can play as forwards as well.

• The four forwards are essentially comprised of two second strikers and two first strikers. These positions are also referred to as withdrawn forwards or False 9s and center forwards.

• Juan Agudelo is both a second striker and first striker.

• Clint Dempsey is a second striker that also excels as a wing or attacking midfielder.

Here is World Soccer Source’s current 23-man roster for August 2015, and the center backs were hard to pick (a asterisk denotes the starter):

Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan*, William Yarbrough, Clint Irwin

Center Backs: Maurice Edu*, Ventura Alvarado*, Andrew Farrell, Tim Ream

-Alvarado is likely ready to start after being tossed in the deep end during the Gold Cup.

Right Backs: DeAndre Yedlin*, Eric Lichaj

-Lichaj can play left back as well

Left Backs: Fabian Johnson*, Greg Garza

– Johnson also plays right back or as a wing.

Center Midfielders: Geoff Cameron*, Michael Bradley*, Kellyn Acosta, Dillon Powers

Attacking Midfielders: Benny Feilhaber*, Sebastian Lletget*, Ethan Finlay, José Villarreal

Forwards: Juan Agudelo*, Clint Dempsey*, Jozy Altidore, Bradford Jamieson IV

-Honorable Mention: Rubio Rubin

 

NT XI Proposal (4-3-1-2 or 4-3-3): Guzan; Yedlin, Edu, Alvarado, Johnson; Bradley, Cameron, Feilhaber; Lletget; Agudelo, Dempsey.

Tactical Formation:

Guzan

Yedlin-Edu-Alvarado-Johnson

Bradley-Cameron-Feilhaber

Lletget

Agudelo-Dempsey

 

Here is World Soccer Source’s 23 in a concise list:

NT 23: Guzan, Yarbrough, Irwin; Edu, Ream, Farrell, Alvarado; Yedlin, Lichaj, F. Johnson, Garza; Cameron, Bradley, Acosta, Powers; Feilhaber, Lletget, Finlay, Villarreal; Dempsey, Altidore, Agudelo, Jamieson IV.

 

The USMNT Must Improve its Midfield

Dillon Powers (Photo: Colorado Rapids)
Dillon Powers (Photo: Colorado Rapids)

 

After the United States’ poor play in the 2015 Gold Cup, improving the midfield should be the first thing to address.

With the exception of Michael Bradley, the U.S. Men’s National Team needs a total overhaul.

The American midfield must have some logical balance of center midfielders and attacking midfielders. There’s no possession or clinical and elegant passing in the American midfield, and there’s no collective defense being played.

The real problem with the midfield is the personnel. The right players aren’t starting, and the right combination of players are not being played together.

Under various national team coaches, the United States has not fielded a midfield with the right balance of possession and ball recovery.

In a time when the best club and national teams are mostly using a three-man midfield made up of a defensive midfielder, a center midfielder (box-to-box midfielder), and an attacking midfielder, the United States refuses to field something similar.

The American player pool has all of these types of midfielders, even if they aren’t famous, world-class players.

In the past, World Soccer Source has backed Dillon Powers, Michael Bradley, and Sebastian Lletget, and there’s no reason that these three midfielders cannot start for the United States now.

Many observers seem to want guarantees and years of experience from American players before even a single national team call-up for a friendly comes, but the United States isn’t at the level yet where qualified midfielders like Powers and Lletget can be left off the National Team, especially when they fulfill a specific need.

For a national team that needs to improve, inserting the impressive two-way play and engine of Powers with the skill, creativity, and activity off the ball of Lletget can improve the American midfield.

Bradley thrives in the center of the midfield, so he should start the deepest and in the middle of a three-man midfield. Powers provides enough running and defending to allow Bradley to go forward, but the midfield should really be a unit of three players working together with and without the ball.

Based on all of the available information, there is nothing to suggest that Powers and Lletget lack the talent, the confidence, the mentality, the work rate, or the athleticism to play for the National Team.

If the goal is to improve the National Team with quality players that can represent the team long-term in order to raise the level and respect of American soccer, then Powers and Lletget are the two players right now that can partner with Bradley for years to come.

Time will tell what other players make their case or how the careers of Powers and Lletget go, but these two midfielders are exactly what Bradley and the United States need to be more successful.

If for no other reason, Lletget and Powers can play with Bradley and produce quality and effective soccer, and this is so important for the midfield of a soccer nation on the rise.

The United States needs better coaching decisions to improve the midfield, and it shouldn’t be acceptable for various players that aren’t midfielders to be forced to play out of position in the midfield.

Powers and Bradley in slightly deeper midfield roles than Lletget is a sound formula to fielding a quality three-man midfield for the United States.

This trio gives the National Team technical skill, a high work rate, effective defending, and quality midfield passing.

 

Who Should the USMNT Start vs. Jamaica?

 

No one knows who Jürgen Klinsmann will start in the 2015 Gold Cup semifinal against Jamaica. Not even Klinsmann himself knows this. No point in guessing.

What about who should start and why? That’s easier to discuss.

Up to this point, Klinsmann has frequently forced Gyasi Zardes to play as a midfielder, and Alejandro Bedoya even played some 20 plus minutes at left back.

Let’s start with the center of the defense. Omar Gonzalez and Ventura Alvarado started together the last game and went the full 90, so starting them again makes sense for chemistry and consistency reasons.

Alvarado with John Brooks in the center of the defense gives the National Team more speed, but why throw the defensive chemistry into flux again?

Fabian Johnson has done well at left back, and starting DeAndre Yedlin at right back – his real position – gives the American defense more speed to chase down Jamaican attackers on the left side of Jamaica’s attack.

Yedlin is better than Timothy Chandler at chasing down and tackling attackers, so why continue to use Yedlin in the attack when the United States has Gyasi Zardes and Aron Jóhannsson to occupy the center to right side of the American attack?

In the midfield, Kyle Beckerman is a solid option anchoring the midfield as the defensive midfielder, but playing a three-man midfield of Mix Diskerud, Michael Bradley, and Joe Corona makes more sense. This gives the United States more skill, creativity, and possession, and Bradley can anchor the midfield in this tactical scheme.

Diskerud is not only a creative player that sets up goals and gets close to and into the penalty box to score them, but he’s also a center midfielder with a great engine and strong defensive skills. Corona is underrated in this area as well.

With Bradley and Diskerud carrying most of the burden of winning back possession in the midfield with Corona chipping in, as he did against Cuba in the second half of the previous game, the United States should have a nice balance of ball-recovery and possession.

This midfield isn’t perhaps up to the standards needed for a stronger opponent, but the United States could very well lose to Jamaica, so it’s important to give the midfield the pieces needed to keep possession and create goals.

It’s important to note that Alejandro Bedoya deserves to start in place of Corona or Diskerud, and most observers would say that he should.

Diskerud played well against the Netherlands and Germany before the World Cup, so it’s hard to say that his abilities wouldn’t be beneficial to the squad despite being relegated to the bench in recent games.

The USMNT would be wise to use a fluid attacking set-up against Jamaica to get Aron Johannsson, Gyasi Zardes, and Clint Dempsey all into the lineup, so an attacking trident would be a good option. Zardes has really been playing as a third forward anyway, and he is the ideal player to lead the line with Dempsey and Jóhannsson floating around him.

 

Below is the lineup discussed above, and it’s not the lineup the USMNT will likely use:

GK: BRAD GUZAN

RB: DeANDRE YEDLIN

CB: OMAR GONZALEZ

CB: VENTURA ALVARADO

LB: FABIAN JOHNSON

CM: MIX DISKERUD

DM: MICHAEL BRADLEY

AM: JOE CORONA

RW: ARON JOHANNSSON

CF: GYASI ZARDES

LW: CLINT DEMPSEY