The Emergence of Bobby Wood

The Emergence of Bobby Wood

It’s no secret that the United States needs more skill and more goals, and now there is another dangerous attacking player other than Clint Dempsey: his name is Bobby Wood.

A dangerous center forward that combines skill with athleticism is what the United States really needed, and Wood has shown well for the United States on too many occasions to not consider him legit.

Wood’s play in competitive matches in the Copa America Centenario reaffirmed the skill he showed in international friendlies against Germany and The Netherlands. He has proven that he is a dangerous striker that the United States can count on for goals and assists.

Compared to all of the other strikers the United States has used since 1990, Wood displays much more movement and fluidity than the United States normally uses at center forward. It would be fair to say that the United States used to mostly just hit crosses or long balls to center forwards who were good in the air, but now the national team has a striker whose movement demands service and balls played to feet.

Jozy Altidore is a technical striker in his own right that wants the ball played to him on the ground, but Wood has displayed much better movement with and without the ball than Altidore has shown in the past. Maybe that’s unfair to Altidore who suffered from a lack of service due to multiple national team coaches who placed essentially zero value on playmakers or Number 10 players.

Expect to see Wood starting for the United States for the foreseeable future, and this should make the American attack more of a scoring threat. With Wood starting, the USA can look to start playing more final balls through and behind the defense because the Hawaiian makes excellent runs and runs the entire game.

Wood would benefit from a playmaker, but his style of play is one where he involves himself in the match and demands service.

Wood’s Playing Style

Wood is a technical center forward and a smooth athlete who plays with a high work rate on and off the ball.

Wood displays a huge increase in movement and activity compared to Altidore, the United States’ regular starting center forward when healthy.

It must be said that Wood is simply better and more aggressive than Altidore.

The Hawaiian center forward who will play in the Bundesliga beginning later this summer is a complete striker who can score with either foot or his head. Wood likes the ball played to his feet, but he is a strong striker who can shield the ball and outmuscle defenders.

Much of what has been lacking from the United States’ attack is technical skill, creativity, and quick combination play, and Wood can take defenders off the dribble, link up with his teammates, and score.

After the Copa America Centenario, Wood must be considered the USA’s best option at center forward in the Number 9 role. The use of Wood marks an evolution of sorts for the United States because previously the Stars and Stripes had normally preferred big, powerful strikers over skillful and fast ones, but Wood is powerful and tall while being skillful and quick.

The Hawaiian can stretch defenses and make them work, and these are not only fantastic in and of themselves, but they also suck defenders away from Clint Dempsey or whomever else the United States is using in the attack.

Wood is the type of technical, dynamic, and quick center forward that the United States has been waiting for.

How the USMNT Can Improve its Attack

How the USMNT Can Improve its Attack

By bringing Bobby Wood into the U.S. National Team, Jürgen Klinsmann has already improved the American attack. Wood is an excellent strike partner for Clint Dempsey, and both players are technical and creative players. With Wood starting, the attack is more dynamic. Wood plays with more skill and movement that Jozy Altidore, and this gives Dempsey more support in the attack.

Adding a true Number 10 like Sebastian Lletget would make the American attack even better because Lletget can be a playmaker for both forwards, and he can also score himself. With Lletget, Wood, and Dempsey in the attack, the United States would have a more dangerous and talented group of attackers.

The United States has been lacking enough talent in the attack to really threaten top national teams, and these three – or Rubio Rubin in place of Dempsey- have the qualities to improve the attack. This attack won’t magically make the United States as good as the likes of Chile, Argentina, or Germany, but it will signal a major improvement to the overall skill of the United States. This would be an attack that displayed skill soccer over just toughness and a high work rate.

Dempsey still has several years in the tank, but Rubin is also ready to start for the United States now. Rubin has already played well for the United States, and nothing about him or his play indicates that he needs more development before playing a major role.

Without Dempsey, an attack comprised of Lletget, Wood, and Rubin would also be a skillful and dynamic attack that plays proactively against top opponents rather than waiting to score off a set piece or benefit from a defensive mistake.

Klinsmann has already figured out that Wood and Dempsey are an effective strike partnership, and he has already brought Rubin into the national team and seen him perform well. Adding Lletget to the squad or even just using Darlington Nagbe as an attacking midfielder would improve the American attack even more.

The United States looks close to having an attack that can do real damage against elite opponents. Klinsmann doesn’t need to change his Wood-Dempsey combination, but he would be wise to better link up the midfield to the attack with Lletget and/or Nagbe.


Who Should Start for the USMNT in the Copa America?

Who Should Start for the USMNT in the Copa America?

Jürgen Klinsmann’s starting lineups continue to lack continuity, and there is always the feeling that one or two players are out of position. But, the squad has the personnel to field a balanced and talented lineup. There isn’t a lot of creativity or goal-scoring ability, but there aren’t likely to be any players who look at sea against Latin American competition.


Brad Guzan has been backed as the starting goalkeeper for the United States, and there is no reason to doubt him. Perhaps Tim Howard is better, but Guzan has never really been allowed to settle into the role and make it his own. Commentators and fans seem to always be looking to be able to say that any mistake Guzan made, Howard wouldn’t have made. We’ll see, but Guzan is a proven EPL goalkeeper that almost any national team would be proud to have.


DeAndre Yedlin and Fabian Johnson are the best choices for the right back and left back positions. Yedlin has vastly improved his defending in regards to his marking, tackling, and physicality, and Johnson is a skilled left back who plays better as a wing in the midfield or attack. Johnson is a more skilled and technical player than Yedlin, but Johnson sometimes doesn’t track back on defense well enough.

Center Backs

In the center of the defense, Geoff Cameron and John Brooks are likely the best options at center back. An argument can be made that Cameron could better serve the national team as a defensive midfielder to let Bradley have more freedom to go forward, but Bradley is an excellent defensive midfielder who excels at not only defending but passing from the back of the midfield. This allows Jermaine Jones the license to attack.


A three-man midfield of Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, and Darlington Nagbe is a strong option for the United States. Bradley can play the role of the defensive midfielder who plays in front of the defense, and this frees up both Jones and Nagbe to go forward and feed Clint Dempsey, Christian Pulisic, and Bobby Wood.


In the attack, Christian Pulisic, Bobby Wood, and Clint Dempsey form the best trio. Pulisic and Dempsey are “wings” on paper, but really their role is more as playmakers and goalscorers in their own right. Both can float out wide or play more centrally, and likewise Wood isn’t a stereotypical center forward. Nevertheless, Wood is a center forward. Just because he drops deep, drifts out wide, and looks to play final balls doesn’t mean that he isn’t a center forward. The belief of the Number 9 as only a big bruiser of a center forward playing with his back to goal and mostly looking to score headers is a fairly Stone Age concept of the center forward position. Wood can score with either foot, and he can stretch the defense and get behind them. Speed kills, and Wood is certainly fast and skilled.

Clint Dempsey

The belief that Dempsey has lost a step of lacks the stamina to run for 90 minutes lacks much proof. Dempsey’s play and fitness don’t suggest that he is slowing down or should be a bench player. The view that the United States somehow don’t need Dempsey starting is a vast overestimation of the technical ability of the United States’ other players.

Dempsey still stands apart from all other American soccer players in terms of technical ability and creativity. Even Nagbe so far has looked to be largely one-footed despite all of his many great attributes. Pulisic is an excellent young player that has proven his abilities in the Bundesliga, but he isn’t at Dempsey’s level yet, as Dempsey has the skill, mentality, and physicality to excel against world-class competition. The United States would be best served by Pulisic and Dempsey playing together.

Importance of the Midfield

Much of the success of this team will be dependent on the midfield, which is the same situation where any team finds itself. An American midfield of Bradley, Jones, and Nagbe is full of running, ball-winning ability, and technical skill, and if those three don’t offer enough defensive coverage then the United States has major problems.

Those three offer almost an excessive tendency toward the defensive, but all three are two-way threats. Jones, Bradley, and Nagbe is two holding midfielders and an attacking midfielder, and that is a tried and true midfield formula.

For example, Argentina  will likely be starting Javier Mascherano, Lucas Biglia, and Javier Pastore which is two defensive midfielders and an attacking midfielder.

My USA XI: Guzan; Yedlin, Cameron, Brooks, Johnson; Jones, Bradley, Nagbe; Pulisic, Wood, Dempsey.


Who Should France start at Euro 2016?

Who Should France start at Euro 2016?

Les Bleus have a stellar and deep roster. France produces the best footballers along with Brazil and Argentina, and this French generation is full of world-class players. From Raphaël Varane to Paul Pogba, France is an amazing squad, and Antoine Griezmann has gone from being elite in recent years to being a world-beater this season.

Didier Deschamps and France use a 4-3-3 formation, but and it’s possible the Front Three could be somewhat narrow on paper with Dimitri Payet and Antoine Griezmann deployed as playmakers behind a center forward.

At goalkeeper, Hugo Lloris is the regular starter for France, but Steven Mandanda is an impresser goalkeeper who was injured during the 2014 World Cup. Lloris has been the French goalkeeper since the 2014 World Cup, but Mandanda is fresh off winning Goalkeeper of the Year in Ligue 1.

At right back, Bacary Sagna has to be the starter. No younger right back has proven that they should start over the Manchester City right back, and Sagna is far from over the hill.

Raphaël Varane (the world’s best center back along with Thiago Silva) will be one of the starting center backs, and his center back partner was supposed to be Kurt Zouma who suffered a knee injury earlier in 2016. A Zouma-Varane pairing would have been a sight to see and arguably the best central defense pairing in the world. Now either Laurent Koscielny or Eliaquim Mangala will partner with Varane.

At left back, Patrice Evra is more than up to the task, and he enjoyed another great season with Juventus. Lucas Digne is the Roma left back, and he’s a younger player than Evra. Still, Evra doesn’t appear to be a liability due to his age. People tend to write off footballers once they reach 30, but there is a lot of evidence that age is really just a number.

The French Midfield Three should be Paul Pogba, Lassana Diarra, and Blaise Mautidi, but it’s possible that N’Golo Kante could possibly start over Big Bad Blaise. It’s also possible that Kante could start over Diarra, but both Diarra and Kante are defensive midfielders that all of the top European clubs want. Kante can play as a defensive midfielder or as a Number 8, but Matuidi deserves his due as a world-class Number 8.

The French attack should be Antoine Griezmann and Dimitri Payet play deeper and/or wide of some central forward. Karim Benzema was left off the squad for his behavior, so Anthony Martial could be the center forward unless Deschamps goes with the duller options of Olivier Giroud or André-Pierre Gignac who are both essentially big bruisers. Martial is actually a lot more muscular, taller, and more physical player than he gets credit for as a skill player. Make no mistake. Martial is a skill player whose technical ability is light-years beyond that of Giroud or Gignac who are capable strikers.


Below is the French lineup that we could see starting in the Euro Cup now called the dumb name of “UEFA Euro 2016”:

Goalkeeper: Hugo Lloris/Steven Mandanda

Right Back: Bacary Sagna

Center Back: Raphaël Varane

Center Back: Eliaquim Mangala

Left Back: Patrice Evra

Right Midfielder: Paul Pogba

Central Midfielder: Lassana Diarra

Left Midfielder: Blaise Matuidi

Right Forward: Antoine Griezmann

Center Forward: Anthony Martial

Left Forward: Dimitri Payet

Which 23 players should make the USMNT Copa America roster?

Which 23 players should make the USMNT Copa America roster?

Jürgen Klinsmann has selected a 40-man United States preliminary roster for the 2016 Copa America Centenário, and once again there are multiple players on the roster that do not deserve to be there given the other talent in the pool.

The following players likely didn’t deserve to make the 40-man roster: Brad Evans, Alfredo Morales, Chris Wondolowski, Edgar Castillo, Graham Zusi, Michael Orozco, Gyasi Zardes, Timmy Chandler, Danny Williams, and Ventura Alvarado.

That’s 10 important roster spots that could have gone to either more talented or more in-form players. The 10 players that would have been better picks are: Sebastian Lletget, Rubio Rubin, Dillon Powers, Juan Agudelo, Kelyn Rowe, Jorge Villafaña, Brek Shea,  Andrew Farrell, Paul Arriola, and Fatai Alashe.

Nevertheless, Klinsmann must cut down his 40-man roster to 23 names, and here are the names that World Soccer Source believes deserve to make it.

Goalkeepers (3)- Brad Guzan, David Bingham, Ethan Horvath

World Soccer Source went with two younger goalkeepers to back up Brad Guzan instead of backing Howard, but Howard is an excellent goalkeeper who still has several years of quality goalkeeping in the tank.

Defenders (8)- Geoff Cameron, Steve Birnbaum, Matt Miazga, John Brooks, DeAndre Yedlin, Eric Lichaj, Kellyn Acosta, Tim Ream

Cameron, Birnbaum, Miazga, and Brooks give the squad the requisite four center backs, and Yedlin, Lichaj, Acosta, and Ream give the squad four fullbacks or outside backs. Yedlin and Lichaj are the right backs on paper, and Acosta and Ream are the left backs. Acosta plays right back or left back, despite really being a center midfielder or defensive midfielder. Lichaj can play left back, but he is a right back. Ream is a left-footed center back that also plays left back well.

Midfielders (6)- Michael Bradley, Perry Kitchen, Jermaine Jones, Darlington Nagbe, Lee Nguyen, Fabian Johnson

Bradley, Kitchen, and Jones give the squad three defensive midfielders, and Bradley and Jones are also box-to-box midfielders. Bradley and Jones do not partner well together because they normally don’t have a clear designation of roles: either the stay-at-home defensive midfielder or the Number 8 central midfielder. Nagbe is an attacking midfielder that has become an excellent Number 8 midfielder, plus he can play wide or as a second striker. Johnson is a winger, and Nguyen is a true playmaker that is essentially a Number 10.

Forwards(6)- Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Christian Pulisic, Bobby Wood, Ethan Finlay, Jordan Morris

Altidore, Wood, and Morris are all center forwards, and Dempsey, Finlay, and Pulisic are all either attacking midfielders/second strikers or wings. All three can play well wide or centrally, and they give the center forwards a strike partner or wing support. Johnson listed as a midfielder can play as a wing or either side in a Front Three.

*Jozy Altidore is now out injured with a hamstring injury

Raphaël Varane Key for Real Madrid in Champions League Final

Raphaël Varane Key for Real Madrid in Champions League Final

While Sergio Ramos and Pepe are dirty, dirty butchers, Raphaël Varane is an artist and surgeon of a central defender. Comparing Varane to the classless hackers and divers that are Ramos and Pepe is insulting.

Varane defends better than Ramos and Pepe. Varane is a better ball-winning and ball-playing center back than Ramos and Pepe. Varane is more technically-skilled than Ramos and Pepe, and Varane is faster and quicker than Ramos and Pepe.

Varane is possibly the best defender in world football. He’s mabe even better than Thiago Silva, the gold standard for defenders. Zinedine Zidane was pivotal in Varane coming to Real Madrid as a teenager from France, so it’s suprising that Zidane has favored Pepe and Ramos in the center of the defense. Basically nobody that follows soccer believes that Ramos and Pepe are better than Varane, which makes it very strange that a soccer grandmaster like Zidane has made Varane sit on the bench.

For Real Madrid to win the Champions League Final over Atlético de Madrid, it will be crucial that Varane starts in the center of the defense, so that he will not be goaded into hacking Atlético’s attackers. Either Pepe or Ramos will have to start with Varane in the final, but only having one reduce the chance of a yellow or red card. Given how well fellow Frenchman Antoine Griezmann has been playing, a more graceful and athletic central defender like Varane is a smart decision for the final.

Looking toward the Champions League Final, Zidane must make the correct decision and start Casemiro as the defensive midfielder and Varane as one of the two center backs. Atlético de Madrid’s excitable coach Diego Simeone will be looking to make the Champions League Final an ugly affair full of hacking and diving, and Varane can reduce the likelihood of both Real Madrid center backs being carded in the Final.

With that being said, it bears mentioning that Varane does not like Simeone. Varane has spit plenty of verbals at Simeone during games, and he has also purposely kicked the ball into Simeone on the sideline.

Whereas Ramos and Pepe commit more cardworthy offenses, Varane seems to understand how to goad Simeone into crazier and crazier behavior.

Perhaps the 2016 Champions League Final will be the game where Varane cements his status as the world’s best center back with his electric speed, effortless skill, and graceful and dominating defending.

Seven Snubs from the Seleção Copa America Centenario Roster

Seven Snubs from the Seleção Copa America Centenario Roster

Dunga’s Brazil roster for the 2016 Copa America Centenario was good enough, but several players were criminally snubbed from the roster while other snubs were less criminal.

Coaches everyone in world soccer seem to be making bizarre roster and lineup decisions, and these range from Pep Guardiola’s nonsensical Bayern Munich lineups to Jürgen Klinsmann’s misguided coaching decisions for the United States.

Here are Dunga’s snubs from the Brazilian National Team (Seleção):

Thiago Silva (Center Back – Paris Saint-Germain)

Thiago Silva is still the best center back in the world, and he is also the best defender in general in the world. This snub is clearly personal. Any defender can become the scapegoat for a loss or goal, but the snubbing of Thiago Silva is unforgiveable. This is a clear case of a coach rating himself too highly, and it’s a clear case of a coach on a shameless power trip. There’s no universe where Gil or Rodrigo Caio are better than Thiago Silva.

Marcelo (Left Back – Real Madrid)

Marcelo and David Alaba are the best left backs in the world, and for however good Douglas Santos is, he isn’t more deserving than Marcelo and Alex Sandro. It would have made sense if Marcelo and Filipe Luís made the Seleção roster but not Alex Sandro, but it doesn’t make sense than both Marcelo and Alex Sandro were excluded. The Real Madrid left back is a force of nature that has a hugely positive impact on games.

Danilo (Right Back – Real Madrid)

The argument can be made that Dunga snubbed both the starting right back and the starting left back of Real Madrid from the Brazil roster, and that statement already calls into question Dunga’s coaching abilities. Dani Carvajal is sometimes the starting right back for Real Madrid over Danilo, but Danilo is an impressive right back full of non-stop running and excellent two-way play. As a right back, Danilo also has an excellent left foot, and he’s capable of cutting inside toward the penalty box in attack and scoring. Danilo’s speed and overal skill-set make him hard to get past, but Fabinho is an impressive and versatile right back in his own right. Both players are quality, but Danilo is above Fabinho right now.

Lucas (Forward/Wing- Paris Saint-Germain)

Snubbing Lucas wasn’t as bad as the Thiago Silva and Marcelo snubs. Lucas deserved to make the roster, but so did the other players that made the roster instead of him, except for Hulk. At his best, Lucas is unplayable, and he plays on both the right and left wings. Lucas’s 1v1 abilities are world-class, and he isn’t a consistent starter for Paris Saint-Germain only because of Laurent Blanc’s obsession with playing Edinson Cavani, a center forward, as a wing. Snubbing Lucas is understandable given the fact that Hulk can play as a center forward and the fact that Willian, Douglas Costa, and Coutinho are all playing better. Nevertheless, one has to wonder why Hulk and Ricardo Oliveira are on the roster over Roberto Firmino and Lucas. Even if he isn’t starting for Milan, it would make more sense to have Luiz Adriano on the roster over Hulk and to give Lucas a roster spot.

Roberto Firmino (Forward/Attacking Midfielder-Liverpool)

Roberto Firmino isn’t exclusively a center forward, but he has shown well there for Liverpool. He’s proven to be full of running in his off the ball movement and pressing of the defense, and Firmino can score with both feet and his head. Firmino can stretch the defense or combine with teammates, and he can score and create. While Firmino can play any attacking position, he isn’t a False Nine, but rather he can play as a legit Number 9. If Firmino had been on the roster with Gabigol, then Dunga could have been said to be making a real attempt to improve the Number 9 spot for Brazil.

Allan (Central Midfielder-Napoli)

Allan is the type of Number 8 or segundo volante that the Seleção traditionally try to start, but it makes sense to have Elias and Renato Augusto on the roster. The Napoli midfielder provides plenty of ball-winning and attacking forays in Serie A, but his exclusion is a case of two other capable players being selected instead of him. Still, Allan played too well for Napoli to not make the roster. A strong argument can be made that his play in Serie A was more deserving of a roster spot than Elias’ and Renato Augusto’s play domestically in Brazil. Nothing wrong with Elias and Renato Augusto, but Allan got a raw deal here.

Felipe Anderson (Attacking Midfielder/Forward-Lazio)

Felipe Anderson has been designated as an Olympic team player for this summer, but several other players will be selected for both the Copa America Centenario roster and the Olympic roster. The attacking midfielder and wing positions are the deepest for Brazil, but Felipe Anderson is an amazing attacking midfielder that plays in Serie A and plays wide or centrally. It’s fair to say that Felipe Anderson is better than Lucas Lima, who is widely praised in Brazil and a target for Europe’s top clubs. The argument can be made that Brazil’s six best attacking midfielders and/or wings are Neymar, Willian, Douglas Costa, Felipe Anderson, Lucas, and Coutinho. On this roster, Rafinha, Lucas Lima, and Hulk all made the roster while Felipe Anderson and Lucas did not. A questionable decision.


Paul Pogba, Technical Master

Paul Pogba, Technical Master

Paul Pogba should be praised more for his technique and creativity, but his physique and athleticism often receive more commentary from journalists and commentators.

The French midfielder is already a master with the ball, but he should use his left foot more. Pogba does have an excellent left foot, and using it more frequently would make him more effective and more unpredictable. Every year, Pogba has displayed more ability to beat multiple defenders off the dribble, and this is just one example of how his skill-set is much more advanced than he gets credit for.

A complete midfielder would be a better description of Pogba than an athletic and physically imposing midfielder. Pogba isn’t a player that can be categorized easily because he’s a Number 8 midfielder that also plays like a Number 10. At Juventus, Paulo Dybala is deployed as a second striker or trequartista, so this makes Pogba less of a Number 10 than his Number 10 jersey suggests. As a Number 8, Pogba is free to defend when he sees fit and attack and create when he sees fit. Raving about Pogba’s physical gifts is warranted, but his technique and skill are equally as praiseworthy.

The French midfielder will continue to improve his ability to control games, and that’s what Pogba brings to his teams: the ability to take over and win games. It would be a shame to see Pogba go to Barcelona and Real Madrid if that meant that his game was stifled or forced into some cookie cutter mold. With Barcelona or Real Madrid, Pogba would likely be forced to defer too much to other teammates. It’s important to defer or take charge as situations demand, but being forced to a deferential role over some South American player would be a waste of Pogba’s talent.

Pogba should be allowed to lead his team even if there were more than one leader, but Pogba’s skill shouldn’t be undervalued just to have a hardworking midfielder. Juventus values Pogba, and any description of Pogba where his physique and athleticism are mentioned without mentioning his masterful skill are incomplete and biased descriptions.

The French midfielder has a rubberband-like flexibility like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and that ability allows Pogba to deftly control the ball in almost any situation. In addition to being a master of controlling the ball, Pogba is also an expert shielder of the ball, and he often makes defenders look helpless as they try to take the ball off him.

To go along with the dribbling, control, physicality, and running, the French midfielder is also a world-class passer and dead ball specialist, and these qualities make him a player with no real weaknesses. He can beat you off the dribble or beat you with passes, and the goal is under threat when Pogba is within 45 meters of it.

Who knows why journalist Mina Rzouki makes a point of always highlighting Pogba’s physicality while taking subliminal shots at his footballing mind and technical skill? This characterization of Pogba is way off base and fails to accurately describe the player.

The Ballon d’Or is certainly a possibility for Pogba, and he is the best midfielder in world football.

A Better USMNT Midfield

A New United States Midfield Three

The American midfields under national team coach Jürgen Klinsmann have been ever changing, and the United States Men’s National Team would benefit from order and consistency.

A three-man midfield is as good as any, and one of the hallmarks of a three-man midfield is the inclusion of a defensive midfielder, a box-to-box midfielder, and an attacking midfielder.

Frequently, three-man midfields have one defensive midfielder and two box-to-box midfielders with the attacking midfielder or playmaker up with the Front Three.

Who should be in the American Midfield Three?

World Soccer Source backs the use of Michael Bradley as the defensive midfielder with Darlington Nagbe and Dillon Powers as box-to-box midfielders.

One bonus of using Nagbe and Powers is that both of these players have the endurance of Number 8 midfielders with the creativity and technical ability of attacking midfielders.

Nagbe has often been praised for his ability to roam all over the field and transport the ball from deep in the midfield into the attack, and this Number 8 role allows him to do that with the national team just like he does with his club team, the Portland Timbers.

Dillon Powers has to be high on the list of underrated American soccer players. After winning MLS Rookie of the Year several years back, Powers has continued to show why he is a much more talented and complete midfielder than the types of midfielders that the United States used to produce. Too many of these midfielders were simply hustle players that were hard tacklers, but they lacked the actual skill to be able to perform at the international level against better competition.

After years as coach of the United States, it’s unclear why Klinsmann has never once used Powers. There’s no justification or explanation for it. His competition was never Bradley and Jermaine Jones, as both of those players could mesh well with Powers.

With the Copa America Centenario coming up this summer, the United States needs to greatly improve the overall skill and tactical formation of its midfield or risk getting embarrassed by superior South American competition. A Midfield Three of Powers, Bradley, and Nagbe makes so much sense, and given how little thought it took to propose it, it’s a wonder that Klinsmann has never bothered to try it.

After Nagbe has shown well for the United States, he still doesn’t appear to be one of the first names on the lineup sheet for Klinsmann, and this is worrying. If deserving players can show well and impress their teammates and still not become starters, then how much hope can there be of Klinsmann using a better midfield this summer?

With both Powers and Nagbe in the Midfield Three, Sebastian Lletget is best used on the right in the Front Three as Clint Dempsey should be the first option to line up out left in that free attacking role.

The Return of Chris Klute

The Return of Chris Klute

With the return of Chris Klute of the Portland Timbers back to full fitness, he immediately moves into discussion for a roster spot on the United States Men’s National Team at left back because the United States still doesn’t have one. Of course, Brek Shea, Jorge Villafaña, Fabian Johnson, and Kellyn Acosta all come to mind for the two roster spots for left back, but Jürgen Klinsmann has refused to settle on or stick with a viable choice.

Although Johnson is the clear front runner in that group, Johnson has a tendency to not track back enough on defense and run out of stamina during games. If you also consider the fact that Johnson is really a winger, then Klute’s name must be considered a viable possibility for the national team’s left back (Klute also plays right back).

Klute has several qualities that make him an worthy option to be the United States’ left back. He’s lightning fast and truly a two-way outside back, and Klute is technically-sound with both feet and a solid defender. Unlike many of the other left back options, Klute is not only comfortable playing the position, but he’s also very comfortable with both feet. He doesn’t have a tendency to avoiding using one of his feet to control, win, or play the ball.

Speed kills, and probably no one in MLS is as fast as Klute. But, don’t dismiss Klute has a speed merchant without technical ability or defensive skill. Klute is a clean tackler that times his tackles well. Having a left back that can chase down attackers and attack himself down the sideline can only help the U.S. National Team.

One area where Klute needs to improve is his willingness to shoot on goal when he gets himself near the penalty box. Klute can burn defenders and cut inside with ease, but he frequently doesn’t take advantage of the prime position into which he has put himself. Klute needs to channel his inner-Marcelo and let those shots fly. Rather than stopping his attacking forays and looking to drop the ball off to someone behind him, Klute needs to keep surging forward and force the goalkeeper to make a save.

Playing for the United States would expose some areas where Klute must improve, but Klute is quality outside back with an amazing x-factor of world-class speed.