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Soccer and Football News and Commentary on World Soccer, the United States Men's National Team (USMNT), Major League Soccer (MLS), World Football, and American Soccer. All articles, opinions, and commentary by Colin Reese. Twitter: @COLINREESE. Facebook: WorldSoccerSource

What is Klinsmann’s Current Preferred USMNT XI?

August 18th, 2014

 

Clint Dempsey (Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Clint Dempsey (Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

 

By: COLIN REESE

 

What’s a realistic USMNT XI that Jürgen Klinsmann could use based on his coaching history and World Cup preferences?

 

In the defense, it seems likely that Jürgen Klinsmann will be looking to start making the transition to using Brad Guzan in goal, and DeAndre Yedlin, Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler/John Brooks, and Fabian Johnson is Klinsmann’s likely preferred Back Four.

 

Brooks proved that he was more than capable of playing as good or better than the older and less technical and less two-footed Besler, and Cameron is the best right center back (and center back) in the American player pool.

 

Forming the two-man defensive midfield, Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones or Maurice Edu are locks for Klinsmann. Jones appears to still have several years in the tank, and it was clear at the World Cup that Bradley doesn’t perform very well when playing as a central attacking midfielder.

 

Klinsmann will need to decide if Jones or Edu partners better with Bradley, and Edu is several years younger than Jones.

 

An Edu-Bradley partnership gives the American defensive midfield a clear designation of roles where Edu plays the stay-at-home defensive midfielder role and Bradley plays the box-to-box midfielder role.

 

To link the defensive midfielders to the attack, Klinsmann has demonstrated that Mix Diskerud and Joe Corona are certainly at the top of his list as central attacking midfielders with Corona also capable of thriving on either wing as a right or left attacker.

 

While Diskerud made the final World Cup roster and didn’t play, Corona made the preliminary 30-man roster only to be cut from the final 23-man roster, so it’s certainly likely that Diskerud could play the central attacking midfielder role with Corona playing as the right wing.

 

As wings, Graham Zusi and Brad Davis were poor and out of their element at the 2014 World Cup, but Alejandro Bedoya was notably better.

 

Nevertheless, Corona is the better winger; Corona is not only better than Bedoya in his passing and overall skill on the ball, but Corona is also better at getting into scoring positions and scoring.

 

Corona is a more composed and smoother player than Bedoya who plays somewhat out of control and with his head always down. Corona plays with his head up constantly looking to pass and move, set up goals, and get in scoring positions.

 

With all of that being said, it’s also very possible that Julian Green could be Klinsmann’s starting right wing with Diskerud and Corona competing for the central attacking midfielder spot, or Klinsmann could elect to play Dempsey at the Number 10 role with Corona at right wing and Green at left wing.

 

Like Corona but slightly different, Clint Dempsey has a more fluid role than Diskerud. Dempsey thrives out left or centrally, and Klinsmann’s best use of Dempsey is to play him at left wing where he can play wide, cut inside, and go where the game takes him.

 

It should be noted that Dempsey performed well as a right midfielder in the 2006 World Cup and at other times, and Dempsey’s showing against Italy in the 2006 World Cup as a right midfielder was very much his coming out party.

 

Dempsey’s tendency to go where he’s needed and his two-footedness makes him a player that can be used on either wing, centrally, or as a second striker.

 

A midfield consisting of Edu, Bradley, Corona, Diskerud, and Dempsey is certainly a solid, balanced, and talented group of U.S. internationals that shouldn’t be considered controversial starters as all of those players are experienced and have proven their skill and worth.

 

Spearheading the attack at striker, Jozy Altidore vs. Juan Agudelo should be the two players that Klinsmann is considering starting. Altidore is the incumbent starter, but Agudelo has always appeared to be more dangerous, more creative, more aggressive, and more capable of opening up the attack.

 

For all of Altidore’s power, skill, and athleticism, Agudelo is a tall, strong, and smooth striker that brings more skill on the ball and more audacity.

 

If the choice is between Altidore and Agudelo, then Agudelo is the more dynamic and dangerous player that is a more consistent attacking threat.

 

Whereas Altidore has great games and anonymous games, Agudelo is always a major protagonist that threatens the goal whenever he plays. On pure skill, Agudelo is clearly superior to Altidore.

 

A realistic USMNT XI for Klinsmann is Guzan, Yedlin, Cameron, Besler/Brooks, Johnson, Jones/Edu, Bradley, Corona, Diskerud, Dempsey, and Altidore/Agudelo, and looking at the positions that are 50/50, Brooks, Edu, and Agudelo are arguably the better options – but not necessarily Klinsmann’s preferences.

 

Jones is certainly a Klinsmann favorite – and with good reason- but the argument for Edu is that he and Bradley would form a unit with more defined roles.

 

Jones is a more talented player than Edu in terms of his overall skill, but Edu, in addition to being a younger player than Jones, stays back more on defense, which gives the defensive midfield partnership more defined roles. Edu’s technical ability is underrated and his experienced often is forgotten, but Jones is a more skilled and experienced player.

 

Klinsmann often used three defensive midfielders in the World Cup, but this is a way too defensive-minded midfield. Using Edu and Bradley behind Corona, Diskerud, and Dempsey is a strong midfield going forward, and that midfield improves the overall quality of the American midfield and national team.

 

Nevertheless, Klinsmann prefers to use Jones with Bradley and Dempsey as a withdrawn striker or second striker with Dempsey lining up where a central attacking midfielder would play.

 

Given Klinsmann’s high regard for Green, it’s likely that Klinsmann plans on making him a starter now as a left winger. Corona should be the starting right wing for the United States, especially given the poor play of Davis, Zusi, and Bedoya in the World Cup, but it’s difficult to predict the starting right wing. Corona is certainly the most qualified and the most deserving.

 

Jürgen Klinsmann’s Possible USMNT XI:

 

USA XI (4-2-3-1)

 

GUZAN

YEDLIN CAMERON BROOKS/BESLER JOHNSON

JONES/EDU  BRADLEY

CORONA DEMPSEY GREEN

ALTIDORE

 

OR

 

USA XI (4-2-3-1)

 

GUZAN

YEDLIN CAMERON BROOKS/BESLER JOHNSON

BRADLEY  JONES/EDU

CORONA DISKERUD DEMPSEY

ALTIDORE

 

 

USMNT Future Roster: Continuity Plus Change

August 15th, 2014

 

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

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

 

By: COLIN REESE

 

COMMENT:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Predicting the 2015 USA Gold Cup XI

August 12th, 2014

 

Joe Corona. (Photo: MexSport)

Joe Corona. (Photo: MexSport)

 

By: COLIN REESE

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

GOALKEEPER: Brad GUZAN

 

RIGHT BACK: DeAndre YEDLIN

CENTER BACK: Geoff CAMERON

CENTER BACK: John BROOKS

LEFT BACK: Fabian JOHNSON

 

DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER: Maurice EDU

CENTRAL MIDFIELDER: Michael BRADLEY

 

RIGHT ATTACKER: Joe CORONA

NUMBER 10: Clint DEMPSEY

LEFT ATTACKER: Julian GREEN

 

STRIKER: Juan AGUDELO

 

 

Tactical Formation (4-2-3-1)

 

GUZAN

YEDLIN CAMERON BROOKS JOHNSON

EDU BRADLEY

CORONA DEMPSEY GREEN

AGUDELO

 

World XI (August 2014)

August 10th, 2014

 

Paul Pogba (Photo: Claude Paris/Associated Press)

Paul Pogba (Photo: Claude Paris/Associated Press)

 

By: COLIN REESE

 

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

 

 

GOALKEEPER: Manuel NEUER

Country: Germany

Club: Bayern Munich

 

 

 

RIGHT BACK: Philipp LAHM

Country: Germany

Club: Bayern Munich

 

CENTER BACK: Raphaël VARANE

Country: France

Club: Real Madrid

 

CENTER BACK: THIAGO SILVA

Country: Brazil

Club: Paris Saint-Germain

 

LEFT BACK: David ALABA

Country: Austria

Club: Bayern Munich

 

 

 

CENTRAL MIDFIELDER: Paul POGBA

Country: France

Club: Juventus

 

PLAYMAKER: Andrés INIESTA

Country: Spain

Club: Barcelona

 

CENTRAL MIDFIELDER: Arturo VIDAL

Country: Chile

Club: Juventus

 

 

 

RIGHT ATTACKER: Thomas MÜLLER

Country: Germany

Club: Bayern Munich

 

STRIKER: Cristiano RONALDO

Country: Portugal

Club: Real Madrid

 

LEFT ATTACKER: NEYMAR

Country: Brazil

Club: Barcelona

 

 

The Best USMNT XI (August 2014)

August 10th, 2014

 

Geoff Cameron (Photo: ISIphotos.com)

Geoff Cameron (Photo: ISIphotos.com)

 

 

By: COLIN REESE

 

 

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

 

 

GOALKEEPER: Brad GUZAN

 

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

 

 

RIGHT BACK: DeAndre YEDLIN

 

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

 

 

CENTER BACK: Geoff CAMERON

 

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

 

 

CENTER BACK: John BROOKS

 

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

 

 

LEFT BACK: Chris KLUTE

 

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

 

 

DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER: Maurice EDU

 

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

 

 

DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER: Michael BRADLEY

 

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

 

 

RIGHT ATTACKER: Joe CORONA

 

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

 

 

NUMBER 10: Benny FEILHABER

 

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

 

 

LEFT ATTACKER: Clint DEMPSEY

 

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

 

 

STRIKER: Juan AGUDELO

 

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

 

 

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

 

GUZAN

YEDLIN CAMERON BROOKS KLUTE

BRADLEY EDU

CORONA FEILHABER DEMPSEY

AGUDELO

 

 

The Best American Footballers (August 2014)

August 9th, 2014

 

 

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

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

 

 

By: COLIN REESE

 

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

 

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

 

1. Clint DEMPSEY

2. Landon DONOVAN

3. Michael BRADLEY

4. Fabian JOHNSON

5. Tim HOWARD

 

6. Jermaine JONES

7. Benny FEILHABER

8. Geoff CAMERON

9. Juan AGUDELO

10. Joe CORONA

 

11. DeAndre YEDLIN

12. Mix DISKERUD

13. Jozy ALTIDORE

14. Brad GUZAN

15. Maurice EDU

 

16. Eddie JOHNSON

17. John BROOKS

18. Benji JOYA

19. Dillon POWERS

20. Shane O’NEILL

 

21. Robbie ROGERS

22. Chris KLUTE

23. Michael OROZCO 

24. Michael PARKHURST

25. Matt BESLER

 

26. Julian GREEN

27. Andrew FARRELL

28. Lee NGUYEN

29. Kellyn ACOSTA

30. Gyasi ZARDES

 

 

A New USMNT Attack

August 6th, 2014

 

Juan Agudelo. (Photo: Fred Kfoury/Icon SMI)

Juan Agudelo. (Photo: Fred Kfoury/Icon SMI)

 

By: COLIN REESE

 

 

Joe Corona and Clint Dempsey flanking Juan Agudelo on paper but really playing as attacking midfielders behind Agudelo is a big attacking upgrade for the United States Men’s National Team.

 

Those three players added to an American midfield comprised of Michael Bradley, Benny Feilhaber, and Benji Joya discussed in a previous article make for a formidable Front Six entirely made up of technically-skilled and athletic players with the ability to play high quality soccer.

 

On paper this is a 4-3-3 formation, but it’s really the same as the 4-2-3-1 formation.

 

Corona, Feilhaber, and Dempsey form the attacking midfield portion of the Front Six, and Bradley is the defensive midfielder lining up in front of the Back Four. Joya is a two-way central midfielder than defends and attacks in addition to helping to link Bradley to the likes of Corona, Feilhaber, and Dempsey.

 

In the same way, Corona, Feilhaber, and Dempsey help to make sure Agudelo sees plenty of the ball in the attacking third to maximize his effectiveness as a striker and goal-scorer.

 

This trident of Corona, Agudelo, and Dempsey is a departure from the formula Jürgen Klinsmann planned on using in the World Cup before Jozy Altidore was injured in the first game. Klinsmann appeared to be banking on Dempsey alone being the only real link between the midfield and the attack, but the trident as described above allows for a much more potent attack made up of more attackers that can combine with one another and create more scoring chances and hopefully finish them.

 

Corona, Agudelo, and Dempsey all passing and moving and swirling around in the attacking third makes for a much more fluid and dynamic combination of attackers who pass and move as opposed to just leaving Dempsey and Altidore isolated up top with no consistent service other than long balls.

 

The best choice of players is subjective but a midfield of Bradley, Feilhaber, and Joya behind an attack of Corona, Agudelo, and Dempsey is a big step in the right direction for the United States that is still considered a national team that lacks collective technical skill and inventive play by most of the world that admires the Americans’ determination, teamwork, and work rate but little else.

 

While many Americans love that their national team is known around the world for its mental toughness and running, this is another way of saying that Americans run a lot but lack the skill needed to consistently create scoring chances and beat top national teams from the run of play.

 

Using the Corona, Agudelo, and Dempsey trident is a way to immediately bolster the inventiveness, attacking skill, and dynamism of the American attack, and the United States would be wise to use these players who have all proven their worth either on the club level or internationally or both.

 

Another way to think of this trident is actually Corona, Feilhaber, and Dempsey forming the line of three attacking midfielders behind Agudelo, but Corona and Dempsey are both forward-midfield hybrids that look to score and get into the penalty box.

 

Below is the three-man USMNT attack that World Soccer Source backs for success.

 

Right Attacker: Joe CORONA 

*(Fabian JOHNSON)

 

Striker: Juan AGUDELO

 

Left Attacker: Clint DEMPSEY

 

 

A New USMNT Midfield

August 6th, 2014

 

Benji Joya. (Photo: Chicago Fire)

Benji Joya. (Photo: Chicago Fire)

 

 

By: COLIN REESE

 

The goal to improve the quality of American soccer and of the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) marches on, and the gap remains between the amount of quality possession and technical soccer that the USA plays and other national teams play.

 

While it’s vital to have a defense made up of quality defenders with good athleticism and skill on the ball and while it’s important to have attackers that can finish scoring chances and create scoring opportunities, the midfield is where the real battle is waged.

 

The need to have better link-up play between the defensive midfielders and the attack has been harped upon by observers of the USMNT, so there is no disagreement among observers that this element of the United States’ play needs to be improved.

 

If Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones both start for the United States, then there is still not enough of a link-up midfielder and attacking midfielder in the Starting XI to solve the problem of poor passing and little creativity in the midfield.

 

Out of all of the players in the American player pool, perhaps none other than Benny Feilhaber is more equipped right now to provide the type of link-up play and creativity that is missing from the national team.

 

Given all of the praise that Feilhaber has received for his improved defense and two-way play along with his drastically improved fitness levels, it is only logical for Feilhaber to be the first name that needs to be added to the American midfield with Bradley, since the only real criticism of Feilhaber in the past was that he didn’t play enough defense.

 

Maybe it’s also time to start thinking of a box-to-box midfielder or central midfielder to take Jones’ place, even if Jones is still going strong and looking very fit as he approaches 33.

 

Who should Jones’ replacement be? Benji Joya or Dillon Powers.

 

The USMNT roster needs both Joya and Powers, but Joya is the more technical, quick, and creative of the two for the Starting XI. Powers might be a better combination of defending and attacking than Joya, but Joya’s work rate and defending are still excellent. To be clear, Powers is a skilled passer and technical player that knows how to set up goals and score goals, and his gifts and skills look high-caliber.

 

Although Bradley has been marketed as more of an attacking and creative player than he really is, the USA needs Bradley lining up in front of the defense where he can protect the Back Four and help to orchestrate the passing. Bradley is the best American defensive midfielder.

 

His tireless running and intense but clean tackling are huge assets to the American midfield, and they are invaluable to the center backs and outside backs for whom he is providing defensive coverage.

 

Bradley’s two-footed passing can help the United States to work the ball out of the back with possession, and as a defensive midfielder he can be a passing outlet for the defense.

 

One complaint about Jones has been his sometimes dirty tackling and knack for getting cards, and although this wasn’t a problem in the World Cup, Bradley doesn’t have this same problem with dirty tackling.

 

 

An American midfield comprised of Bradley, Feilhaber, and Joya gives the USA defensive coverage, technical players, and skilled passers in the midfield, and players like Joe Corona and Clint Dempsey lining up out right and left as attackers that drift inside and sort of form part of the midfield gives the United States enough skilled passers and gifted players in between the defense and the striker to produce the sort of improved possession and overall play that Jürgen Klinsmann and the United States are looking for.

 

To progress with the times and improve, the United States should think of its midfield as a three-player system composed of a defensive midfielder, a box-to-box midfielder, and a playmaker, and these players are listed below.

 

Defensive Midfielder: Michael BRADLEY

 

Playmaker: Benny FEILHABER

 

Central Midfielder: Benji JOYA

 

The reason that Corona and Dempsey are not listed to make the midfield a five-man system is because they are forward-midfield hybrids that help to provide more support for the striker and more link-up play for the midfielders.

 

Since Feilhaber has become a much fitter and much more two-way midfielder, his creativity, vision, and technical skill can be bolstered by having players like Corona and Dempsey to combine with, and let’s not forget Joya who is a complete midfielder with the attacking skill, speed, and quickness to be used as an attacker.

 

Bradley, Feilhaber, Joya, Corona, and Dempsey behind either Jozy Altidore or Juan Agudelo is a strong and balanced American midfield and attack that improves the overall technical ability of the national team, which is what all American soccer fans want to see now and in future games and touraments.

 

 

A New USMNT Defense

August 6th, 2014

 

Chris Klute, the Best American Left Back. (Photo: Garrett Ellwood / Colorado Rapids)

Chris Klute, the Best American Left Back. (Photo: Garrett Ellwood / Colorado Rapids)

 

 

By: COLIN REESE

 

DeAndre Yedlin, Geoff Cameron, John Brooks, and Chris Klute. The new USMNT defense.

 

Before going any further, it’s important to point out immediately that Fabian Johnson has a really strong cases as a starter over Chris Klute.

 

Johnson has received rave reviews on the club and international level for his play as a left back and right back, and anyone that has seen him play knows his attacking quality, overall skill-level, two-footedness, and speed.

 

The Klute over Johnson opinion is based on the fact that Klute is more of a defender than Johnson and better at tracking back on defense sooner and not leaving open space behind him, and Klute is a lightning-fast player.

 

Johnson is a converted winger who is essentially world-class as a winger on either side who also does play the right and left back positions really well from an attacking standpoint, but Klute is a better defender who still excels at participating in the attack and playing crosses and passes from the flanks.

 

Johnson is a more technical attacker, but Klute is a better defender. Both players excel as left backs or as right backs.

 

Klute is a technical and two-footed player with underrated dribbling ability, but Johnson is a much more talented player in terms of his overall technical ability and attacking skills. Johnson can score goals, and Klute just doesn’t have the same ability to cut inside and score.

 

This is one of the the weapons that Klute needs to add to his game. His speed and ability to use both feet would be more dangerous if he looked to take shots and score more often than he does now.

 

But, if the USA wants a fast and modern two-way outside back, Klute provides much better defending while still bringing a constant attacking threat out wide. Klute’s speed is also something that is just an enormous weapon defensively and offensively.

 

Whatever gap there is between Klute’s technical ability and Johnson’s is made up for with the speed that Klute uses to track down attackers, to burst down the sideline in the attack, to cut off passes, to make tackles, and to dribble out of the back.

 

Perhaps the best use of Johnson is as a winger in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation, but this would take a starting spot from Corona who knows how to orchestrate an attack and score and Dempsey who brings so much scoring ability and trickery to the attack.

 

Going forward, Yedlin and Cameron are the clear starting right back and right center back, and Brooks is a more complete and younger center back than Matt Besler who has done well for the United States and Sporting Kansas City.

 

The ability of Yedlin and Klute to get forward in the attack with pace and their ability to catch and defend speedy attackers make them the outside backs that the United States needs the most in the USMNT XI.

 

With Cameron and Brooks as the center back pairing and Yedlin and Klute as the outside back pairing, the United States has the type of defense that it’s looking for: a fast and technical one with strong defending.

 

Although this Back Four is a strong one and the type that the United States needs, the USMNT still needs to give Maurice Edu more minutes as a center back with Geoff Cameron, and Fabian Johnson and Chris Klute need to be tested against one another.

 

The Yedlin, Cameron, Brooks, and Klute Back Four looks to be a strong one, but each of those positions need second-choice options, plus Johnson’s best role needs to be discovered.

 

As World Soccer Source will back a three-man midfield of Michael Bradley, Benny Feilhaber, and Benji Joya in a latter article, in addition to an attack of Joe Corona, Juan Agudelo, and Clint Dempsey, Fabian Johnson’s attacking skill as a two-footed winger who excels on either side makes him a starting winger for most observers.

 

Maybe having Feilhaber and Corona in the Starting XI would cause those players to get in each other’s way, or maybe it’s necessary to have two playmakers like that for the USA to see better possession and create more scoring chances. Either way, Johnson is a lock on the roster, but really ironing out the best USA XI will take some experimentation and time.

 

For now, a Back Four of Yedlin, Cameron, Brooks, and Klute is a good starting point for the American defense, and Klute is more of an outside back than Johnson who really plays his best as a winger on either side.

 

 

Here is the USA Back Four that World Soccer Source supports:

 

Right Back: DeAndre YEDLIN

 

Center Back: Geoff CAMERON

 

Center Back: John BROOKS

 

Left Back: Chris KLUTE

 

 

The Best USMNT 23 (August 2014)

August 6th, 2014

 

DeAndre Yedlin (Image via TopDrawerSoccer.com)

DeAndre Yedlin (Image via TopDrawerSoccer.com)

 

By: COLIN REESE

 

According to World Soccer Source, here is the Best USMNT 23 as of August 2014:

 

GOALKEEPER: Tim HOWARD, Brad GUZAN, Cody CROPPER

 

DEFENDERS: Geoff CAMERON, John BROOKS, Shane O’NEILL, Andrew FARRELL, DeAndre YEDLIN, Chris KLUTE, Kofi SARKODIE, Kellyn ACOSTA

 

MIDFIELDERS: Michael BRADLEY, Jermaine JONES, Benny FEILHABER, Maurice EDU, Fabian JOHNSON, Joe CORONA, Benji JOYA, Dillon POWERS

 

ATTACKERS: Clint DEMPSEY, Jozy ALTIDORE, Julian GREEN, Juan AGUDELO

 

 

Roster Notes:

 

- Center Back is a deep position on this roster. Cameron, Brooks, O’Neill, and Farrell are center backs, as is Edu. Brooks is naturally left-footed, so the United States has a clear left center back starter, not to mention Cameron and O’Neill who are perfectly comfortable and capable playing left center back or right center back. Cameron is the obvious right center back starter.

 

- Klute and Acosta play as right backs or left backs, and Yedlin and Sarkodie are really just right backs (although Yedlin can play left back). Farrell is also a right back.

 

- Bradley and Edu are listed as the defensive midfielders, but Cameron and O’Neill also excel in this role. Farrell is also known to do well as a midfield destroyer.

 

- Joya, Powers, Bradley, and Edu are all box-to-box midfielders in addition to other positions that they play whether those be defensive midfielders in Bradley’s and Edu’s case or playmakers in Joya’s and Powers’s case.

 

- Dempsey, Corona, F. Johnson, Green, and Joya can all play as wings on either side of the field.

 

- Dempsey and Green are midfield-forward hybrids that can play as second strikers or as wings.

 

- Altidore, and Agudelo are the Number 9s or first strikers on this roster, which gives the United States two out-and-out strikers in order to avoid the 2014 World Cup scenario where the roster only included one fully-healthy and quality striker, Altidore, who was injured in the first game. Aron Jóhannsson appears to have been playing injured even before the 2014 World Cup.

 

- Fabian Johnson listed as a midfielder because his best position is as a right or left winger, but Johnson is obviously a international-caliber right back or left back.

 

- Clear playmakers are present on this roster. Feilhaber and Corona are naturally central attacking midfielders, but Joya and Powers also excel in this role. Dempsey shines in this role as well where he’s really playing as a withdrawn striker, which is a variation of the central attacking midfielder.

 

- Each position of the 4-2-3-1 is at least two players deep on this roster, and the flexibility of so many of the players gives the United States plenty of tactical options and formation choices, including the fluid 4-3-3 formation.

 

 

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