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

Does Brazilian Football Require an Overhaul?

July 23rd, 2014

 

Neymar, Brazil's brightest star. (Photo: Getty Images)

Neymar, Brazil’s brightest star. (Photo: Getty Images)

 

By: COLIN REESE

 

Does Brazilian football really need an overhaul?

 

Yes and no.

 

Brazil continues to have an abundance of world-class players at every position, but many former and current players, journalists, pundits, and the like have all gone on record lamenting the problems with the running of the Confederação Brasileira de Futebol (CBF) and the problem with young Brazilian players in Europe being made less creative and dynamic by their European coaches.

 

Domestically, the CBF needs to listen to the advice of all of the great Brazilian soccer minds, coaches, players, and ex-players that have specific ideas of what they want changed and how to do it, and these ideas need to be put into action.

 

Abroad, European teams want to get Brazilians while they are young, but they often want to take the Brazilian characteristics out of the players. Europeans want Brazilians because of their skill on the ball, but they want Brazilians to adapt to the European way of playing.

 

The problem with this approach is that many of the very best and most successful European players like Zinedine Zidane played like Brazilians – or even better. The elements that have made Brazilian players the most highly sought after are what European teams are paying for, so they need to be careful to not ruin their Brazilian players.

 

Since Brazilian players develop fantastic technical skill on their own outside of any organization as young children, there’s no real problem with Brazil’s development of players, minus the absence of a better striker on the 2014 World Cup team.

 

The reason for this particular absence was because the striker phenom, Pato, was supposed to be the striker on the 2010 and the 2014 Brazil World Cup squads. In theory, Brazil had been grooming Pato to be the Number 9 since he was a teenager. Injuries and some inconsistent club form because of the injuries have derailed this plan until now, but Pato is only 24 going on 25 years old.

 

If Brazil’s World Cup squad had used a stronger and more creative attack consisting of Lucas, Oscar, Neymar, and Pato, the attack might have been much effective and exciting, which likely would have pressured Germany too much in the back to allow Germany to score seven goals in a World Cup semifinal.

 

There might have never been the 7-1 loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup semifinal, and the subsequent crisis might have never been.

 

Hulk and Fred in particular were like dead weight for the Seleção in the World Cup, and the failure to include better options on the roster or to drop Hulk and Fred when they were underperforming were major problems.

 

From a purely soccer standpoint, there is no shortage of technical, creative, and athletic Brazilian players at every position, and the non-structured manner in which many Brazilians learn to play is in fact the reason that they are so good.

 

Therefore, any changes to Brazil’s academies and youth development need to be done in such a way as to not eliminate the unique way in which Brazilian kids learn how to play soccer with such skill and creativity with the ball.

 

There are problems with the management of the CBF, but these problems don’t affect the early development of world-class Brazilian players that learn to play by playing pick-up soccer, juggling, and just practicing with the ball.

 

It’s important to remember that Brazil did just reach the semifinals with an impressive group of world-class players, so many of the arguments about Brazilian football being in a state of complete crisis are just mass hysteria and exaggeration.

 

The two big takeaways from Brazil’s performance in the 2014 World Cup are: 1.) the Seleção needed to give Neymar and Oscar better attacking partners; and 2.) Brazil needed to recollect themselves after conceding an early first goal to Thomas Müller of Germany in the semifinal game.

 

Brazilian football isn’t going to drop out of elite status because of one embarrassing goleada, and Brazil did use a tactically sound 4-2-3-1 formation where there was a defensive midfielder, a box-to-box midfielder, a playmaker, two wide attacking midfielders that looked to cut inside, and a striker. Plus, the Brazilian defense featured four defenders that almost anyone would consider world-class.

 

In the wake of the 2014 World Cup, Neymar and many others have said that Brazil needs to catch up with Germany in how they train and prepare, but the thing that Brazil has that no one else has is still there: a bottomless pit of world-class players with a unique and creative way of mastering control over a soccer ball.

 

The Seleção needs to continue to use creative and technical players at every position, and it needs to combine the somewhat recently improved caliber of its center backs and defensive midfielders with the types of outside backs, creative midfielders, and attackers that can score, keep possession, and display creativity like no other national team.

 

Going forward, Dunga needs to make sure that he uses players that look to quickly pass and combine with one another, so that Brazil can exploit its greatest asset: creative and highly technical players.

 

One thing to keep repeating is that Brazil did in fact reach the semifinals, which it lost terribly without two of its best players: Neymar and Thiago Silva, the most important attacker and the most important defender.

 

Brazil is a soccer crazed country of over 200 million people that consistently produces the best players, so maybe, just maybe, all this talk of jogo bonito being dead is just the overreaction of a country with unrealistically high expectations of its players and huge overreactions to its losses – even really embarrassing losses.

 

Hulk and Fred didn’t work out, so it’s time to give their spots to different players that can help Neymar and Oscar to put the opposition on its heels.

 

Dunga needs to take stock of the talent pool and use the best players at each position in the 4-2-3-1 formation, or perhaps the Brazilian 4-2-2-2 formation.

 

Brazilian football is still alive and well, and Neymar is its king.

 

The USMNT Depth Chart By Position

July 21st, 2014

 

Benji Joya (left). (Photo: ISIPhotos.com)

Benji Joya (left). (Photo: ISIPhotos.com)

 

 By: COLIN REESE

 

Looking at the depth chart for the United States Men’s National Team by position in a 4-2-3-1 formation is an organized and logical way to go about evaluating the depth chart of the United States.

 

Below is an examination of a first and second choice option for each of the 11 positions in the 4-2-3-1 formation (and some of these players can play multiple positions or on more than one side of the field):

 

GOALKEEPERS:

 

1. Tim HOWARD

- Tim Howard proved that he is still the best current American goalkeeper with his performance in the World Cup, but Brad Guzan is arguably just as good.

 

2. Brad GUZAN

- Whether or not Brad Guzan is better than Tim Howard won’t be known until Guzan sees more minutes with the USMNT, but Guzan has certainly shown that there is no drop-off when he starts over Howard.

 

RIGHT BACKS:

 

1. DeAndre YEDLIN

- Given his consistently high level of play at such a young age in MLS, DeAndre Yedlin should not have been a controversial pick for the USA’s World Cup squad, but he was. Yedlin showed his two-way threat in the World Cup where his attacking and technical ability were equally as influential as his ability to keep pace with and slow down fast and creative attackers on the big stage.

 

2. Kofi SARKODIE

- Anyone who follows MLS has seen how Kofi Sarkodie is one of the best American right backs around, and he also fits into the mold of the two-way outside backs that the United States wants playing for its national team.

 

 

RIGHT CENTER BACKS:

 

1. Geoff CAMERON

- Of all the American center backs, Geoff Cameron is the one that brings the most complete package of skills and physical gifts, and he represents the type of higher-caliber center back that the United States wants.

 

2. Shane O’NEILL

- Shane O’Neill is better than Omar Gonzalez because he’s a center back along the lines of Cameron in that his skill and defending is more nuanced and complete than being strong in the air and making clearances. O’Neill is also a better athlete than Gonzalez.

 

 

LEFT CENTER BACKS:

 

1. John BROOKS

- John Brooks is a better center back than Matt Besler. Brooks plays in a better league. He’s younger and more two-footed, and his 1v1 defending and passing are better than Besler’s.

 

2. Michael OROZCO

-Michael Orozco probably would have been on the 2014 World Cup roster had he not had a hamstring injury right before the World Cup. Orozco has years of experience playing in Mexico, and he is a complete package of defending, technical skill, athleticism, and competitive intensity. Orozco is exactly the type of center back that the USA needs.

 

 

LEFT BACKS:

 

1. Chris KLUTE

- Chris Klute is likely the best American left back (and he’s just as good at right back), but Klute’s lack of international experience continues to be the justification for not giving him any international experience. Unlike other MLS players like Brad Davis or Chris Wondolowski who used to have very little international experience, Klute’s game looks like it translates much better to the international level than other MLS players without any U.S. caps.

 

2. Kellyn ACOSTA

- Kellyn Acosta is one of the very young, technical, and athletic MLS players that the United States needs to just put on the national team. These kinds of very talented and athletic young players simply need to be allowed to play for the U.S. and get acclimated to international play because the USMNT will need them to get to the next level.

 

 

DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDERS:

 

1. Michael BRADLEY

-Michael Bradley’s best position is as a defensive midfielder or Number 6, and he is world-class at this position. If the goal is to play very technical and athletic players at each position, then Bradley is the player that the United States needs to start as the defensive midfielder, instead of trying to push him into a more attacking role where frankly other players are better.

 

2. Maurice EDU

-With Jermaine Jones’ tendency to attack, Maurice Edu is the defensive midfielder that the United States should use when Bradley is unavailable. Edu is more technical and two-footed than he gets credit for, and his defending, speed, and athleticism are ideally suited to protecting the center backs and keeping track of opposing attackers. Edu also boasts legitimate European experience and success.

 

 

CENTRAL MIDFIELDERS:

 

1. Jermaine JONES

- Jermaine Jones’ ability to be a two-way threat and score was on display in the 2014 World Cup, and if Bradley is tasked with playing the stay-at-home defensive midfielder role, then Jones is the player to bring the bulk of the two-way play to the American midfield.

 

2. Dillon POWERS

-Dillon Powers can play as a central attacking midfielder or as a central midfielder, but Powers brings much better defending than one generally sees in playmakers. Powers’ engine and defending make him just the type of player that can bring quality passing and defending to the center of the American midfield.

 

 

RIGHT WINGS:

 

1. Fabian JOHNSON

- Fabian Johnson is a real weapon with either foot on the wings where he can attack wide or cut in toward the goal to score or to set up his teammates. Given the power and control than Johnson has with his left foot compared to other American players, Johnson is the best right wing in the American pool, plus he can play equally well as a left wing.

 

2. Benji JOYA

-Benji Joya can play any position in the midfield well against high-level competition because he’s a complete and creative midfielder that plays with a lot of intensity, but listing Joya as a wing frees up a roster spot for a player like Dillon Powers that mostly thrives in the middle. Joya is a more creative and explosive player than Powers, so it makes sense to let Joya use his technical ability and trickery as a wing that can cut inside or play wide.

 

CENTRAL ATTACKING MIDFIELDERS:

 

1. Benny FEILHABER

- Benny Feilhaber has been the best American playmaker since right after the 2006 World Cup, and it’s a shame that he was left off the 2014 World Cup roster. Feilhaber’s international play along with his play the last two seasons with Sporting Kansas City should have finally silenced his critics. The USA needs this type of player to really compete against top national teams.

 

2. Joe CORONA

- Joe Corona is a little more skilled and athletic than Mix Diskerud but not quite as good yet as Feilhaber. Corona is a better 1v1 dribbler than Diskerud and Feilhaber, and Corona has a better knack for getting into scoring positions in the penalty box. Corona can play as a Number 10 or on either wing where he can play final balls and open up defenses, and he’s shown enough skill and creativity against top competition in Mexico and in the Copa Libertadores to earn this spot as the second best American playmaker.

 

 

LEFT WINGS:

 

1. Clint DEMPSEY

- Clint Dempsey is the best American player, and playing Dempsey out left where he’s arguably done the best through his career allows a natural Number 10 to line-up more centrally while Dempsey is free to roam where he sees fit. A Number 10 playing with Dempsey maximizes his skill-set and goal-scoring ability.

 

2. Julian GREEN

- Julian Green looks fast, skilled, creative, and ready to go. The United States tossed Green into the deep end during extra time of a Round of 16 World Cup game against Belgium, and he scored quickly. Green’s performance in the World Cup in addition to being on the books for Bayern Munich makes him someone that fully deserves to be on the USA roster and see lots of playing time giving Dempsey’s positional flexibility.

 

 

STRIKERS:

 

1. Jozy ALTIDORE

- For now, Jozy Altidore should get the benefit of the doubt as the best American striker not named Giuseppe Rossi, but Juan Agudelo looks more talented while still boasting the size and athleticism of Altidore.

 

2. Juan AGUDELO

- Juan Agudelo has a strong argument as the best American striker, and despite his relative lack of national team minutes, Agudelo always looks much more talented and dangerous than Altidore.

 

 

What would this USA XI look like?

 

HOWARD; YEDLIN, CAMERON, BROOKS, KLUTE; BRADLEY, JONES; JOHNSON, FEILHABER, DEMPSEY; ALTIDORE.

 

 

What would a second-choice USA XI look like?

 

GUZAN; SARKODIE, O’NEILL, OROZCO, ACOSTA; EDU, POWERS; JOYA, CORONA, GREEN; AGUDELO.

 

 

What is Jürgen Klinsmann’s Possible First-Choice USA XI?

 

HOWARD; YEDLIN, CAMERON, BROOKS, BEASLEY; BRADLEY, JONES; JOHNSON, DEMPSEY, GREEN; ALTIDORE.

 

 

The Best USMNT XI (July 2014)

July 16th, 2014

 

Michael Bradley (Photo: Garrett Ellwood / Colorado Rapids)

Michael Bradley (Photo: Garrett Ellwood / Colorado Rapids)

 

By: COLIN REESE

 

The starting point for this version of World Soccer Source’s Best USMNT XI (beyond giving Brad Guzan the starting goalkeeper spot) is the decision to deploy Michael Bradley as the stay-at-home defensive midfielder or Number 6 with Jermaine Jones as the box-to-box midfielder or Number 8.

 

With Bradley anchoring the midfield as the defensive midfielder, the United States is starting the right defensive midfielder that can not only protect the center backs the best but that can also orchestrate the team’s passing and possession, albeit not in an advanced playmaker role.

 

By designating Bradley as the Number 6, the United States could finally solve the problem of how best to deploy Bradley and Jones together without both players looking to advance forward with the attack as much as possible, which caused holes in front of the defense before the World Cup where Kyle Beckerman or Geoff Cameron were played in the stay-at-home defensive midfielder role.

 

If Jones and Bradley are playing clearly defined roles, then the United States can focus on bolstering the attacking midfield portion of the midfield, which (along with the absence of a back-up striker) was arguably the weakest point for the United States in the 2014 World Cup.

 

Fabian Johnson, Benny Feilhaber, and Clint Dempsey is a very strong option for the line of three attacking midfielders, and at least this group offers a skilled playmaker flanked by two-footed attacking midfielders that can play wide but that also excel the most at cutting inside into more dangerous positions where they can score and create scoring opportunities.

 

Bradley and Jones providing much of the defensive protection in the midfield with Johnson, Feilhaber, and Dempsey behind the United States’ most qualified, dynamic, and complete striker, Juan Agudelo, is certainly better than using Kyle Beckerman, Alejandro Bedoya, Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, Graham Zusi, and Clint Dempsey as the Front Six.

 

DeAndre Yedlin emerged arguably as the United States’ best right back, especially given the fact that Fabian Johnson is more effective and useful to the United States as a winger.

 

With Yedlin and Johnson on the right side, the United States has the ability to have two wide players that can drop back to provide defensive cover when one player overlaps the other.

 

Geoff Cameron is a much more complete center back than Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler who both did themselves proud in the 2014 World Cup, but Cameron is the best American center back.

 

Although Besler was widely and rightly praised for his performances in the World Cup, John Brooks certainly looks to be the better 1v1 defender with more skill on the ball and more athleticism, in addition to being stronger in the air and more of a scoring threat on set pieces.

 

Cameron and Brooks as a center back pairing looks to be the strongest option for the USMNT at this point, and the use of both players together moves the United States away from using center backs whose defense too often consists of hitting clearances out of bounds or downfield.

 

Cameron and Brooks not only provide better defense than Gonzalez and Besler, but they also provide more technical skill and better athleticism – the latter of which is critical to not being vulnerable to being victimized by skill and quickness thrown at the center of the defense.

 

The final element to this USA XI is Chris Klute at left back. Klute has been establishing himself as the best left back in MLS for over a year, and the fact that he’s two-footed, defensively-strong, lightning fast, attack-minded, and technically-skilled makes him the logical left back choice for the United States.

 

DaMarcus Beasley was excellent in the 2014 World Cup, but Klute is a natural outside back that can play on either side, in addition to providing even more speed, better defending, and more technical skill than Beasley.

 

Looking at this USA XI,  there are two complete center backs, two modern two-way outside backs, a defensive midfielder partnered with a central midfielder, a creative and proven playmaker flanked by dynamic and two-footed wings, and an exciting young striker that brings skill, flair, size, speed, strength, and a nose for goal.

 

The USA XI below is a good starting point for the United States after the World Cup, but it’s important to test and incorporate new or younger talents.

 

GOALKEEPER: Brad GUZAN

 

RIGHT BACK: DeAndre YEDLIN

 

CENTER BACK: Geoff CAMERON

 

CENTER BACK: John BROOKS

 

LEFT BACK: Chris KLUTE

 

DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER: Michael BRADLEY

 

CENTRAL MIDFIELDER: Jermaine JONES

 

RIGHT WING: Fabian JOHNSON

 

PLAYMAKER: Benny FEILHABER

 

LEFT WING: Clint DEMPSEY

 

STRIKER: Juan AGUDELO

 

 

 

TACTICAL FORMATION (4-2-3-1):

 

GUZAN

 

YEDLIN CAMERON BROOKS KLUTE

 

BRADLEY JONES

 

JOHNSON FEILHABER DEMPSEY

 

AGUDELO

 

 

The Best American Footballers (July 2014)

July 16th, 2014

 

Clint Dempsey (Photo: AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

Clint Dempsey (Photo: AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

 

By: COLIN REESE

 

These rankings are a subjective ranking of American soccer players, and there is no way to equally weigh skill, experience, club form, international form, and the like into the ranking of players.

 

Furthermore, ranking players of various positions makes placing a numerical rank on a player even harder as each position brings with it its own importance and skill-set.

 

While attacking midfielders and strikers are usually more technically-skilled, every position requires important unique skill-sets and overall technical skill.

 

Below are the rankings of The Best American Footballers (July 2014):

 

1. Clint DEMPSEY (Seattle Sounders)

2. Fabian JOHNSON (Borussia Mönchengladbach)

3. Jermaine JONES (Besiktas)

4. Michael BRADLEY (Toronto FC)

5. Landon DONOVAN (LA Galaxy)

 

6. Tim HOWARD (Everton)

7. Geoff CAMERON (Stoke City)

8. Benny FEILHABER (Sporting KC)

9. Joe CORONA (Tijuana)

10. Juan AGUDELO 

 

11. Brad GUZAN (Aston Villa)

12. Mix DISKERUD (Rosenborg)

13. Jozy ALTIDORE (Sunderland)

14. Maurice EDU (Philadelphia Union)

15. DeAndre YEDLIN (Seattle Sounders)

 

16. John Anthony BROOKS (Hertha Berlin)

17. DaMarcus BEASLEY (Puebla)

18. Alejandro BEDOYA (Nantes)

19. Michael OROZCO (Puebla)

20. Matt BESLER (Sporting KC)

 

21. Julian GREEN (Bayern Munich)

22. Benji JOYA (Chicago Fire)

23. Eddie JOHNSON (DC United)

24. Terrence BOYD (RB Leipzig)

25. Greg GARZA (Tijuana)

 

26. Dillon POWERS (Colorado Rapids)

27. Chris KLUTE (Colorado Rapids)

28. Andrew FARRELL (New England Revolution)

29. Joe GYAU (Borussia Dortmund II)

30. Kofi SARKODIE (Houston Dynamo)

 

31. Paul ARRIOLA (Tijuana)

32. Luis GIL (Real Salt Lake)

33. Mario RODRIGUEZ (Borussia Mönchengladbach)

34. Kellyn ACOSTA (FC Dallas)

35. Dillon SERNA (Colorado Rapids)

 

36. Alonso HERNANDEZ (Monterrey)

37. Caleb STANKO (SC Freiburg)

38. Chris SCHULER (Real Salt Lake)

39. José VILLARREAL (LA Galaxy/Cruz Azul)

40. Edgar CASTILLO (Atlas)

 

 

USMNT: 23 For The 2018 World Cup

July 16th, 2014

 

Joe Corona. (Photo: AP Photo)

Joe Corona. (Photo: AP Photo)

 

By: COLIN REESE

 

New American players will emerge seemingly out of nowhere, and some older players will prove themselves too worthy and too fit to be counted out for the 2018 World Cup; other older players might prove to be not as equipped for the speed of international play as other options. Time will tell.

Nevertheless, here is World Soccer Source’s first take on who the United States could possibly call up to the 2018 World Cup roster, assuming the United States qualifies.

 

 

GOALKEEPERS: Brad GUZAN, Cody CROPPER, Clint IRWIN

 

CENTER BACKS: John Anthony BROOKS, Shane O’NEILL, Andrew FARRELL, Erik PALMER-BROWN

 

OUTSIDE BACKS: DeAndre YEDLIN, Chris KLUTE, Kofi SARKODIE, Kellyn ACOSTA

 

DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDERS: Michael BRADLEY, Geoff CAMERON, Maurice EDU

 

ATTACKING MIDFIELDERS: Joe CORONA, Fabian JOHNSON, Julian GREEN, Benji JOYA, Dillon POWERS

 

FORWARDS: Jozy ALTIDORE, Juan AGUDELO, Mario RODRIGUEZ, Paul ARRIOLA/Joe GYAU

 

 

*NOTE: Darlington NAGBE isn’t officially a U.S. citizen yet.

 

2014 World Cup Best XI

July 16th, 2014

 

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Thomas Müller of Germany deserved the Golden Ball at the 2014 World Cup.

 

By: COLIN REESE

 

Picking a 2014 World Cup Best XI was difficult with too many names for too many positions. In one of the best World Cups ever and with so many great players, there are no clear best choices for any position. Some players were fantastic but featured in less games because their teams were eliminated. Other players put in their best performances in only a few games when the stakes were the highest.

 

To look at one specific example, Neymar scored four goals and carried Brazil by being the only Brazilian player that could put the opposing defenses on their heels, break their defensive shape, and defeat teams from the run of play. By attacking so well, Neymar was Brazil’s best defender because he neutralized Brazil’s opponents’ ability to be able to build out of the back and take control of games.

 

Neymar only got to the quarterfinals before having his back literally broken, but he was better than Lionel Messi who bizarrely earned the Golden Ball, presumably for taking a team with no real playmakers or a balanced midfield to extra time of the World Cup Final.

 

Below is World Soccer Source’s 2014 World Cup Best XI:

 

GOALKEEPER: Manuel NEUER (Germany)

 

RIGHT BACK: Philipp LAHM (Germany)

 

CENTER BACK: Jérôme BOATENG (Germany)

 

CENTER BACK: Mats HUMMELS (Germany)

 

LEFT BACK: Marcos ROJO (Argentina)

 

DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER: Javier MASCHERANO (Argentina)

 

CENTRAL MIDFIELDER: Toni KROOS (Germany)

 

RIGHT WING: Arjen ROBBEN (The Netherlands)

 

PLAYMAKER: JAMES RODRIGUEZ (Colombia)

 

LEFT WING: NEYMAR (Brazil)

 

FORWARD: Thomas MÜLLER (Germany)

 

 

USMNT: Lessons from the 2014 World Cup

July 8th, 2014

 

Joe Corona. (Photo: MexSport)

Cutting Joe Corona from the 2014 USA World Cup roster was a big mistake.          (Photo: MexSport)

 

 

By: COLIN REESE

 

As many pundits, writers, commentators, and ex-players have pointed out, the quality of the soccer played by the United States and the success of the United States in the World Cup hasn’t improved from either the 2002 or the 2010 World Cups.

 

Certainly, the United States now has better soccer players and more of them, but the roster and the line-ups that Jürgen Klinsmann used in the 2014 World Cup did not reflect these improvements with the exception of DeAndre Yedlin.

 

While Jermaine Jones, Fabian Johnson, John Brooks, and Julian Green all played well in the 2014 World Cup, these players are a product of German soccer.

 

Some of the players from the 30-man preliminary roster such as Joe Corona, Terrence Boyd, and Maurice Edu that Klinsmann cut from the final 23-man USA World Cup roster could have added to the improvement in the overall skill of the team that players like Yedlin and Brooks brought to the squad.

 

Klinsmann did select the central attacking midfielder Mix Diskerud, but he didn’t use him at all in the World Cup. And, this one specific example showcases the coach of the United States’ inability to make adjustments to his tactics of deploying three defensive midfielders and two wings behind Clint Dempsey as the lone striker once Jozy Altidore injured his hamstring in the first match against Ghana.

 

The USA could have made the best of an unfortunate injury by using Diskerud as a central attacking midfielder to help the United States to improve its passing and improve the link-up play between the defensive midfielders and Dempsey.

 

Fabian Johnson, DaMarcus Beasley, and DeAndre Yedlin were already providing attacking width to the USA in their roles as outside backs, so starting Alejandro Bedoya and Graham Zusi was not as important as starting Diskerud.

 

The use of Diskerud was the one change that Klinsmann had available to him to improve the USA’s biggest weaknesses: possession and attacking strength.

 

Going forward, there are several things that Klinsmann and the USA need to do to improve the quality and effectiveness of the United States Men’s National Team and close the gap with better national teams.

 

1. Call Up and Field More Attacking Midfielders with Real Quality

 

Kyle Beckerman, Jermaine Jones, and Michael Bradley comprised the center of the American midfield, and all three of these players are defensive midfielders.

 

While Bradley and Jones are also box-to-box midfielders, they fall under the umbrella category of defensive midfielders compared to players like Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Benny Feilhaber, Mix Diskerud, and Joe Corona who are attacking midfielders.

 

At the very least, a line of three attacking midfielders made up of Donovan, Dempsey, and Corona wasn’t too much to expect from Klinsmann, and all three were on the preliminary 30-man roster.

 

Klinsmann can’t make the same mistake of passing over too many of these attacking midfielders in the future.

 

Instead of just including Dempsey and Diskerud only to never even play Diskerud, the United States could have used Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Benny Feilhaber, Joe Corona, and Mix Diskerud all on the World Cup roster.

 

Luckily, the USA also has young, talented, and complete midfielders such as Benji Joya and Dillon Powers ready to play international soccer right now, and these two players are great two-way central attacking midfielders that also excel as box-to-box midfielders. Joya is also effective and dangerous on either wing.

 

Starting Beckerman/Cameron, Jones, and Bradley in the World Cup made sense for Klinsmann if he wanted to protect the center of the park and of the defense, but the moment that he was using Bradley as a central attacking midfielder and Jones as another attacking midfielder he was hurting the the USA’s ability to pass and attack.

 

Either Bradley or Jones needed to play the role of the stay-at-home defensive midfielder. Adding another defensive midfielder was playing too defensively, and it was also playing too small to speak metaphorically. Klinsmann needed to give either Bradley or Jones strict orders to play the role of the stay-at-home defensive midfielder.

 

The USA needs three or four defensive midfielders on the roster along with four or five more attack-minded midfielders on the roster. Nine midfielders comprised of defensive midfielders, box-to-box midfielders, and attacking midfielders (either wings or playmakers or both) is the way to go, and this leaves roster space for three out-and-out strikers or Number 9s.

 

2. Call Up Two to Three Quality Number 9s

 

Jozy Altidore, Aron Jóhannsson, Juan Agudelo, and Terrence Boyd would have been great selections to the World Cup roster, but there was no excuse for Chris Wondolowski being selected as a striker.

 

The United States cannot continue to have no back-up target striker and not enough attacking midfield options off the bench.

 

 

3. Use More of America’s Talented Young Players Like DeAndre Yedlin

 

DeAndre Yedlin was mocked by many professional pundits and writers for being inexperienced and too young, but once he took the field in the World Cup this turned out to be totally wrong. Klinsmann promised more proactive and better soccer, and he didn’t keep his promise when he cut Joe Corona from the 30-man roster. Corona is older and more experienced than Yedlin, and if Yedlin was deemed ready then Corona should have been deemed ready as well, especially since he was a proven attacking midfielder that could play wide or centrally.

 

Shane O’Neill, Chris Klute, Benji Joya, Joe Corona, Andrew Farrell, and Juan Agudelo are all young American players that are ready to play now, and Klinsmann owes them a fair shot. Since Yedlin impressed at the World Cup, then it’s time to showcase the improvement in the overall quality of American players such as O’Neill, Klute, Corona, Joya, Farrell, and Agudelo.

 

Since the 2006 World Cup only Dempsey, Donovan, Bradley, and Feilhaber have really shown a consistent ability to showcase noteworthy technical skill against top national teams, and young players like Corona, Joya, and Agudelo in particular are definitely ready to give the USMNT additional technical players that can improve the collective skill level of the national team.

 

 

4. Start Balanced Line-Ups

 

Starting Tim Howard, DeAndre Yedlin, Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler/John Brooks, Fabian Johnson, Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan, Joe Corona, Clint Dempsey, and Jozy Altidore would have made sense before the World Cup, and starting this XI would not have been risky nor would it have required much soccer acumen.

 

Klinsmann has been overcomplicating his line-ups. He likes the 4-2-3-1, so he should start four defenders, two defensive midfielders, three attacking midfielders, and one striker.

 

Using the 4-2-3-1 correctly requires better scouting of players and using the best players at their natural positions, and the other consideration that needs to be taken into account is making sure that the 10 field players play well together; merely using the very best player at each position might not yield the best collective performance.

 

Going forward, starting Howard, Yedlin, Cameron, Brooks, Klute, Edu, Bradley, Corona, Feilhaber, Dempsey, and Agudelo seems like a good Starting XI to try out, and at least this line-up uses two two-way outside backs, two complete center backs, a defensive and box-to-box midfielder, two technical and dynamic wings, a creative playmaker, and a complete striker.

 

This sort of balance between defensive-minded and attack-minded midfielders to improve the possession and passing of the USA is certainly better than starting the types of unbalanced or overly-defensive Front Sixes used in the World Cup, which were devoid of any link-up play.

 

Since he coaches a country of 315 million people, Klinsmann should be expected to field a line-up that is balanced, talented, and capable of scoring and keeping a decent amount of possession against top national teams. The United States certainly has the players to do that.

 

The Best USMNT 23 (July 2014)

July 7th, 2014

 

Clint Dempsey. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Clint Dempsey. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

 

By: COLIN REESE

 

In my previous post, I proposed a 23-man USMNT roster made up of lots of players that the United States should call up to take stock of the talent pool, but this different roster seeks to include the best and most proven players along with the new talents that appear ready right now.

 

Fabian Johnson is listed as an attacking midfielder even though he is also a right and left back, and Geoff Cameron is listed as a center back even though he is also a defensive midfielder and an outside back. Maurice Edu is listed as a defensive midfielder, but he has certainly shown that he is a capable and effective center back.

 

Mix Diskerud is not included for now, despite being the victim of seeing no minutes in the 2014 World Cup for no logical reason. I consider Diskerud to be a gifted and experienced playmaker that has proven himself on multiple occasions on the international level against strong competition. Diskerud was unjustly the victim of not enough roster space.

 

Likewise, Aron Jóhannsson isn’t included despite not getting a fair shot at the 2014 World Cup, but now it appears that he might have been injured during the United States’ run in the tournament.

 

Jóhannsson has shown his ability and effectiveness on the club and international level, but this writer placed a higher premium on Juan Agudelo’s combination of skill, size, and speed as well as Terrence Boyd’s ability to play as a target striker like Altidore.

 

Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley aren’t included either although a strong argument can be made that both should be on this list. They deserve to be on the list, but I leaned toward the potential upside of letting younger players like Joe Corona, Shane O’Neill, Benji Joya, Chris Klute, and Kellyn Acosta use their youth and skill to hopefully bring the type of proactive soccer that Jürgen Klinsmann claims that he is looking to bring to the United States Men’s National Team.

 

The roster below contains four center backs and four outside backs, and the roster also contains defensive midfielders of the stay-at-home variety and those of the box-to-box variety. Most of the defensive midfielders can play either role. The roster also contains both wings and central attacking midfielders along with players that play both positions. Finally, this roster contains three Number 9s along with players like Clint Dempsey and Julian Green that can play a variety of forward and attacking midfielder roles.

 

Below is this writer’s opinion of the Best Current USA 23 as of July 2014, and the players are divided into their relevant categories in what this writer feels is a balanced line-up:

 

GOALKEEPERS: Tim HOWARD, Brad GUZAN, Cody CROPPER

 

CENTER BACKS: Geoff CAMERON, Matt BESLER, John Anthony BROOKS, Shane O’NEILL

 

OUTSIDE BACKS: DeAndre YEDLIN, Chris KLUTE, Kellyn ACOSTA, Andrew FARRELL

-Fabian Johnson is listed below as an attacking midfielder despite excelling as a right and left back.

 

DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDERS: Michael BRADLEY, Jermaine JONES, Maurice EDU

 

ATTACKING MIDFIELDERS: Joe CORONA, Fabian JOHNSON, Benny FEILHABER, Julian GREEN, Benji JOYA

 

FORWARDS: Clint DEMPSEY, Jozy ALTIDORE, Juan AGUDELO, Terrence BOYD

 

 

 

What is the Best USA XI from this roster?

HOWARD; YEDLIN, BROOKS, BESLER, KLUTE; CAMERON, BRADLEY; CORONA, FEILHABER, DEMPSEY; AGUDELO.

-Both Brooks and Besler are left-footed, but if a starting line-up can have two right-footed center backs, then why can’t it have two left-footed center backs? Brooks has proven to be very two-footed, and starting Brooks and Besler at center back allows Cameron to play as the stay-at-home defensive midfielder.

-Jones isn’t listed as a starter despite his superior play to Bradley in the World Cup because the Cameron-Bradley partnership gives the two-man defensive midfield more defined roles. Futhermore, the often attacking role that Jones played in the World Cup can be taken up by Corona, Feilhaber, Dempsey, and Agudelo.

 

 

USMNT: The Next 23-man Roster

July 4th, 2014

 

The USMNT needs Joe Corona as a Number 10 and as a winger. (Photo: George Frey/Getty Images)

The USMNT needs Joe Corona as a Number 10 and as a winger. (Photo: George Frey/Getty Images )

 

By: COLIN REESE

 

Now that the USA is out of the 2014 World Cup, criticism has been circulating about Jürgen Klinsmann’s defensive tactics and his poor decision to deploy Michael Bradley as a central attacking midfielder.

 

Many names will be in the mix for the next USA roster, but now is a good time for Klinsmann to take stock of the young talent at his disposal before any must-win games. The United States should let its most promising young players play and see if they display any improvement over most of the players used in the World Cup.

 

Given Klinsmann’s radical changes to his USA World Cup roster from what seemed to be his preferred 23, Klinsmann’s player selections are hard to predict, but there are certainly young American players in MLS and elsewhere that have shown real skill and promise.

 

World Soccer Source has long backed the inclusion of DeAndre Yedlin on the United States Men’s National Team, and Yedlin proved that he was not only ready to play at the World Cup but that he was capable of excelling.

 

With this reality in mind, now is the time to really introduce more of the best young American talent into the national team and let them get experience and establish strong chemistry.

 

Many of the very best USA internationals should still be the core of the squad, but now is the time for more of the overhaul that should have come a year before the World Cup, even if it was just the inclusion of three or four more new players.

 

Looking back at the 2014 World Cup, roster spots for players like Brad Davis and Chris Wondolowski could have gone to Landon Donovan or new talents that would have at least offered the possibility of being effective.

 

Both Davis and Wondolowski have long been considered players that aren’t international-caliber, and it’s a mystery why Klinsmann included them when he showed that he was willing to select young talents such as DeAndre Yedlin, John Brooks, and Julian Green.

 

Credit to Klinsmann for including these players, but other selections made little sense. In addition to Davis and Wondolowski mentioned above, Klinsmann selected Mix Diskerud, which most people assumed was in place of Joe Corona and Landon Donovan, but then Klinsmann never even played Diskerud to try to better link the defensive midfielders with the attack.

 

After seeing the United States struggle to display enough skill in most of its World Cup games, it is fair to question Klinsmann’s tactics and roster selections, and it’s also fair to say that Klinsmann isn’t responsible for the fighting spirit that the Americans showed at the World Cup and for which they were praised.

 

American soccer should now be at the point where it’s reasonable to not approve of the coach of the national team’s decisions, especially when they are valid criticisms about players deployed out of position or roster spots used on players of limited talent by global standards.

 

An ex-player and coach of Klinsmann’s experience should be expected to do a better job of picking a 23-man roster where there are better first and second-choice options for each position, and the USA Starting XIs need to be more balanced where defensive midfielders aren’t separated from the attacking midfielders and forwards without any creative link-up players to improve the USA’s ability to pass the ball and possess the ball with purpose.

 

Klinsmann and fans of his coaching have a tendency to use Klinsmann’s playing resume as a way to dismiss any valid and specific criticism of his choices, but just because Klinsmann had an excellent playing career doesn’t mean that all of his decisions are correct.

 

The gap in the ability of the Americans to keep possession and create scoring chances compared to better national teams was on full display even to Americans that had never really watched soccer at all until the World Cup.

 

Klinsmann can claim that there isn’t enough talent in the United States or that his players lacked the mentality to take the game to the opposition, but the global praise the American players received for their desire to win and the exclusion of Donovan from the roster directly disprove Klinsmann’s claims.

 

Ruud Van Nistelrooy working for ESPN voiced his opinion that the Americans’ technical ability and possession needed to be improved starting with the center backs, and Michael Ballack, also working for ESPN, voiced his opinion that the USA lacked creative, technical, and quick players in the attacking midfield that could help to not leave Clint Dempsey stranded up top.

 

In order to address these problems and test out the talent out there, the following players should be included on the next USA roster, and these players should serve as a starting point to assess their talent, in addition to testing out or recalling other American players depending on the performances of the players selected:

 

GOALKEEPERS: Tim HOWARD, Brad GUZAN, Clint IRWIN

 

CENTER BACKS: John BROOKS, Shane O’NEILL, Erik PALMER-BROWN, Andrew FARRELL

 

OUTSIDE BACKS: DeAndre YEDLIN, Chris KLUTE, Kofi SARKODIE, Kellyn ACOSTA

 

DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDERS: Michael BRADLEY, Geoff CAMERON, Maurice EDU

 

ATTACKING MIDFIELDERS: Clint DEMPSEY, Joe CORONA, Fabian JOHNSON, Julian GREEN, Benji JOYA, Dillon POWERS

 

FORWARDS: Juan AGUDELO, Jozy ALTIDORE, Mario RODRIGUEZ

 

 

Who Should the USA Start in its next game when all of the players are available?

 

GUZAN; YEDLIN, O’NEILL, BROOKS, KLUTE; CAMERON, BRADLEY; JOYA, DEMPSEY, CORONA; AGUDELO.

 

This starting line-up makes sense because it not only uses Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey in their natural positions, but it uses everyone in their natural position. All of these players have shown that they have the athleticism and technical ability to play international soccer, but they have also shown that they offer more of both of these things than the players the United States normally uses. Given the effectiveness of Yedlin, players like O’Neill, Klute, Joya, Corona, and Agudelo deserve a real shot to prove that they can help to improve the overall skill of the United States.

 

 

 

Who Should the USA Start Against Belgium?

June 28th, 2014

 

Clint Dempsey (Photo: AP Photo)

Clint Dempsey (Photo: AP Photo)

 

By: COLIN REESE 

 

The United States was able to hold Germany to only one goal in the final game of the Group Stage at the 2014 World Cup, but in the upcoming Round of 16 match up with Belgium, Jürgen Klinsmann will be looking to improve the possession and attacking prowess of the USA.

 

Based on previous games and the performances of various players, the USA will likely start Tim Howard, Fabian Johnson, Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler, DaMarcus Beasley, Kyle Beckerman, Alejandro Bedoya, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Graham Zusi, and Clint Dempsey against Belgium.

 

The problem with this Starting XI is that it still doesn’t address the need for better passing in the midfield.

 

At this point, starting Mix Diskerud as the central attacking midfielder is the single most important change that has to be made if the USA wants to improve its passing and increase its possession, and Michael Bradley would need to be deployed as a defensive midfielder, which would leave no room for Beckerman in the USA XI.

 

Despite Beasley’s consistent performances, perhaps DeAndre Yedlin and Fabian Johnson as the right and left back is the strongest option to play to win against Belgium, rather than playing overly defensive soccer with Beckerman, Jones, and Bradley all starting together.

 

Beasley doesn’t deserve to be dropped, but starting Yedlin and Johnson as the outside backs is a bold move to bring more attacking firepower to the line-up. Beasley has defended well, but playing Johnson at left back allows room for Yedlin to start.

 

In the attack, Klinsmann’s first-choice striker Jozy Altidore is likely still out for the Belgium game because of his serious hamstring injury, despite being able to jog for the last four days, and back-up striker Aron Jóhannsson hasn’t been used since the USA’s first game against Ghana.

 

This suggests a likely formation with Dempsey playing out of position as a lone striker, and whether or not Dempsey starts as a False 9 instead of starting Jóhannsson at striker affects the rest of the line-up.

 

If Altidore is healthy, then he will start, but this seems unlikely given the recovery time needed for a hamstring injury.

 

With all of this in mind, the USA has several line-up adjustments that it can make, but there are risks both to making too many adjustments and to making too few adjustments.

 

For example, Besler has had a strong World Cup at left center back, but in the USA’s sole victory, John Brooks replaced Besler at halftime of the first game against Ghana and provided a full package of defending, athleticism, skill on the ball, and goal-scoring ability against a technical and athletic Ghana side that tied Germany in an electrifying 2-2 draw.

 

Also in the center of the defense, Gonzalez did well against Germany making several vital tackles and clearances, but Cameron started and played all 90 minutes of the first two group stage matches. Cameron is also clearly the more talented player, the better 1v1 defender, and the more gifted athlete.

 

Against Portugal, Cameron shanked a clearance of a cross that was itself shanked, resulting in a goal by Nani, and Cameron was criticized for making a costly mistake, albeit on ball that Gonzalez could have likely shanked as well.

 

It bears mentioning that Gonzalez totally whiffed a dangerous square pass played across the six yard box. Mistakes are a reality for all defenders, and defenders are frequently the target of media and fan criticism.

 

Michael Ballack working for ESPN as a studio analyst stated that he thought the 6’5’ Gonzalez might have been given the start against Germany because of Miroslav Klose’s ability to score with his head, but Klose didn’t actually end up starting.

 

The coach of the United States has shown a willingness to make changes to his starting line-ups, some of them good changes, and some of them bad changes, as was the case with the misguided selection of Brad Davis to start as a left midfielder against Germany.

 

For the United States to advance against Belgium, Klinsmann likely needs to tweak his line-up again.

 

The United States needs to balance effective defending with the personnel needed to produce a higher quality of passing with more potent attacking play, so a few changes are in order for Klinsmann’s side.

 

Using Bradley as the team’s playmaker is not working because Bradley is a defensive midfielder that lacks the requisite vision, touch, creativity, and quick feet needed to play the central attacking midfielder role.

 

Diskerud was selected to the national team to play as a creative midfielder that plays as a central attacking midfielder, and it’s quite evident that his skill-set is sorely needed for Dempsey to see more service and for the USA to pose a greater attacking threat. With both Landon Donovan and Joe Corona cut from the 30-man preliminary roster, it’s somewhat surprising that Diskerud hasn’t seen any playing time.

 

Looking ahead to the Belgium game, at the very least, Cameron needs to replace Gonzalez, and Diskerud needs to replace Davis. This would change the USA XI to something of a 4-3-2-1 formation made up of: Howard; Johnson, Cameron, Besler, Beasley; Bradley, Beckerman, Jones; Bedoya, Diskerud; Dempsey.

 

This group of players gives the USA a playmaker to link Bradley, Beckerman, and Jones to Dempsey, so this is an improvement and a simple change to make to the line-up used in the majority of the United States’ three group stage games.

 

This minor adjustment seeks to correct the two major problems the USA has been having: lack of quality possession and little attacking strength.

 

 

The following USA XI offers the team continuity with some needed changes:

Howard; Johnson, Cameron, Besler, Beasley; Bradley, Beckerman, Jones; Bedoya, Diskerud; Dempsey.

 

CAVEAT: If Jozy Altidore is fit to play then Bedoya should be benched and Dempsey should move back to play as an attacking midfielder alongside Diskerud with Altidore as the lone striker.

 

 

 

This USA XI is a bolder option with some fairly radical changes:

Howard; Yedlin, Cameron, Brooks, Beasley; Bradley, Jones; Johnson, Diskerud, Dempsey; Jóhannsson.

 

CAVEAT: If Jozy Altidore is fit to play, then he should replace Jóhannsson in the line-up proposed above.

 

 

Final Note:

For all of the understandable excitement about the USA advancing out of the Group Stage for the second World Cup in a row, it should be pointed out that several players off the 30-man preliminary roster are sorely needed.

 

Maurice Edu would offer the United States another defensive midfielder and center back with lots of experience, and Kyle Beckerman has looked like a constant card risk. For all of the praise Beckerman deserves for solid showings, Edu is a much more athletic and disciplined player with years of European experience plus previous World Cup experience. A defensive midfielder that doesn’t need to purposely foul players that can outpace him would be helpful to continue to allow Jones and Bradley to play as box-to-box midfielders.

 

Landon Donovan and Joe Corona are certainly two attacking midfielders that the United States could use given the limited efficacy of Brad Davis, Alejandro Bedoya, and Graham Zusi – not to mention the fact that Julian Green hasn’t played at all.

 

Finally, Terrence Boyd is a first striker that the USA could have sorely used after Altidore injured his hamstring in the first half of the USA’s first game.

 

 

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