What Is Bruce Arena’s Best United States 23 Right Now?

What Is Bruce Arena’s Best United States Men’s National Team 23 Right Now?

Bruce Arena has stated on multiple occasions that he already has a good idea of who will be on his roster in World Cup qualifying in March of 2017 and that there will only be a few changes.

Let’s look at who could be on his roster, and let’s look at it position by position. World Soccer Source would select Rubio Rubin over Jozy Altidore, even though Altidore has been scoring regularly. Andrew Farrell is another player that this writer would find a place for either as a center back or as a right back, but who knows how high Arena rates Farrell right now?

For the breakdown, look below, but here is a more detailed explanation of the players at each position. Each of the 11 positions has a starter and back-up listed, but there are three goalkeepers listed and three strikers or center forwards listed. There are three center forwards listed because having only two is one too many. There must be more than one back-up for this position because this is obviously where most of the team’s scoring comes from. In order to account for three strikers, there are only three wings listed, but Fabian Johnson is really a wing who can play on either side of the wing despite being listed as an outside back.

This roster made sure to include two attacking midfielders: Benny Feilhaber and Lee Nguyen. Nguyen has also excelled out wide in a line of three attacking midfielders in front of two holding midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Keep in mind that both Sebastian Lletget and Kelyn Rowe are attacking midfielders by trade who are frequently used as wings, and an argument can be made that Lletget and Rowe are good enough right now to play that position over Feilhaber and Nguyen. Also remember that Juan Agudelo, Rubio Rubin, and Bobby Wood can all play as wide attackers or forwards as well.

Here is one opinion of the best United States 23-man roster possible under Bruce Arena right now:

Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan, Ethan Horvath, William Yarbrough

Right Back: DeAndre Yedlin, Eric Lichaj

Right Center Back: Geoff Cameron, Andrew Farrell

Left Center Back: John Brooks, Steve Birnbaum

Left Back: Jorge Villafaña, Fabian Johnson

Defensive Midfielder: Michael Bradley, Dax McCarty

Center Midfielder: Darlington Nagbe, Kellyn Acosta

Right Wing: Sebastian Lletget, Kelyn Rowe

Attacking Midfielder: Benny Feilhaber, Lee Nguyen

Left Wing: Christian Pulisic, (Kelyn Rowe)

Striker: Bobby Wood, Juan Agudelo, Rubio Rubin

 

Who Should Bruce Arena Play as the USMNT Number 10?

Who Should Bruce Arena Play as the USMNT Number 10?

Just the fact that the United States’ coach, Bruce Arena, wants to use a Number 10 type player is an improvement over Jürgen Klinsmann, and Arena has multiple playmaker options.

The coach of the United States can choose to use Benny Feilhaber, Lee Nguyen, or Sacha Kljestan, and he has the luxury of using another Number 10, Sebastian Lletget, on the wing opposite Christian Pulisic. This gives the United States more skill and creativity in the midfield, and it makes the United States a better passing team.

Arena highlighted poor passing as one of the things that he’s looking to improve right away. He also specifically stated that he wants to find a Number 10 style player.

So, Arena will likely decide between Feilhaber, Nguyen, and Kljestan, and Arena told Extratime Radio that he thought Kljestan was perhaps the best player in MLS this season. Nevertheless, both Nguyen and Feilhaber are better playmakers than Kljestan. Both are more creative and more technical than Kljestan, and both are quicker and harder to stay in front of. Looking at all three playmakers, Nguyen is the best 1v1, but Feilhaber is perhaps the most gifted passer. Feilhaber has proven to be a better tackler and worker than he was earlier in his career, but of all three options, Nguyen is the youngest and quickest.

An argument can be made that if Arena is going to use Michael Bradley and Darlington Nagbe as the defensive midfielder and box-to-box midfielder, then Arena has the luxury of going with the most electric of the options: Nguyen. While Nguyen has been playing faster and more creatively than either Feilhaber or Kljestan, Feilhaber is undoubtedly the most deserving option. Feilhaber is the most proven on the international level, and Feilhaber has the best passing ability of all three.

Nevertheless, Nguyen is in his prime right now, and recent games with the United States have shown him to be someone that can facilitate quicker and better one-to-two touch passing for the United States. The team needs quicker, smoother, and better passing, and Nguyen plays with the style and energy to play at Christian Pulisic’s and Bobby Wood’s speed.

Arena can’t go wrong with either Nguyen or Feilhaber, but Kljestan is the least talented of the three options. Will Arena go with Feilhaber or Nguyen, or will he go with the more inspired option of letting Lletget play as the Number 10?

Calling up both Feilhaber and Nguyen is Arena’s best course of action. That way he has both playmakers to choose from and use. The only way either playmaker can distinguish themselves from each other is in games, so their play in meaningful games for the United States will show more than just speculating based on their strengths and weaknesses.

 

Can the United States Play Attacking Soccer Under Bruce Arena?

Can the United States Play Attacking Soccer Under Bruce Arena?

Talking on Sirius XM Radio, Bruce Arena said, “There’s enough young attacking talent to be aggressive going forward. That young energy will help our pressing game as well.”

So, who are those attacking players? Bobby Wood and Christian Pulisic top that list, and the third name on the list has to be Sebastian Lletget who played for Bruce Arena on the LA Galaxy.

Lletget is the attacking midfielder or Number 10 that the United States needs, and having both Pulisic and Lletget playing behind Wood can only help the United States to be a more dangerous attacking team. Benny Feilhaber and Lee Nguyen are also on that list. Those two attacking midfielders are widely considered the best playmakers in the American player pool along with Sacha Kljestan, who is slightly below those two in terms of skill and creativity.

Both Wood and Pulisic are dangerous enough to allow the United States to attack opposing defenses, rather than bunkering in and trying not to lose. The fact that the United States also has playmakers to feed Pulisic and Wood only makes those two more of a scoring threat. What the U.S. was really missing was link-up play between the midfield and the attack, and that connection was missing when Jürgen Klinsmann would start both Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley in the center of the midfield with no attacking midfielder.

With the LA Galaxy, Arena favored the 4-4-2 formation, and he used his outside midfielders to provide more of the creativity and playmaker. This formation isn’t much in the way of attacking soccer, but Arena could use the 4-2-3-1 formation to have more of an attacking lineup.

There can be no excuse for Arena not playing attacking soccer against CONCACAF opponents in the next World Cup qualifying games. Arena has the personnel to provide enough defending in the midfield while also having a midfield that can keep possession and create scoring opportunities.

It’s hard to see Feilhaber or Nguyen and Lletget not playing under Arena. He’ll have to figure who he wants to start with Bradley in the holding midfield roles, and maybe this is the spot for Darlington Nagbe to play his preferred Number 8 role. Almost anything would be more attack-minded than Klinsmann’s overly defensive and illogical tactics.

Looking at the available players right now, a Front Six of Bradley and Nagbe behind Lletget, Feilhaber, and Pulisic, who would be behind Wood would certainly be more of an attacking lineup. There is definitely hope for a more exciting and effective brand of soccer under Arena, who at the very least knows the player pool better than Klinsmann.

To be very specific, both Feilhaber and Nguyen are qualified to orchestrate the United States’ attack and control the team’s passing, and both Lletget and Pulisic and technical, creative, and quick wing options who can beat people 1v1, create for their teammates, and score. The United States has found an exciting and dangerous striker in Wood, and he has scored and can score against top opponents.

 

What Formation Should Bruce Arena Use With the United States?

What Formation Should Bruce Arena Use With the United States?

As the coach of the Los Angeles Galaxy, Bruce Arena was known to always trot out the 4-4-2 formation, but Arena is a more advanced and versatile tactician than that.

For what it’s worth Brazil, Argentina, Chile, France, and The Netherlands all use the 4-3-3 formation, so there’s something to be said for the soundness of that formation choice. It’s worth noting that the 4-3-3 and the 4-2-3-1 are really the same lineup more or less, unless no attacking midfielder is used in the Midfield Three.

The United States could use the 4-3-3 formation, but the 4-2-3-1 formation might be as good of a place to start as any. With that set-up, the United States can have enough ball-winning in the midfield with two defensive or holding or central midfielders, and the squad would also have plenty of attacking firepower with a line of three attacking midfielders plus a striker.

The minority viewpoint among United States Men’s National Team observers that Michael Bradley shouldn’t be starting is crazy talk. The filling of the starting two defensive or central midfield roles starts with Bradley and then moves on to selecting Darlington Nagbe, Kellyn Acosta, or Dax McCarty. The latter would make Bradley the Number 8 or box-to-box midfielder, but going with Nagbe or Acosta would definitely be the more inspired choice with the intention of making a real effort to move forward with American tactics and improve the skill of the national team.

The next midfield issue is the question of who should start as the playmaker or central attacking midfielder or Number 10. The United States has to start one. It’s not going to work to just keep fielding a lineup without a playmaker, so Arena should pick one to start. Benny Feilhaber or Lee Nguyen are the obvious choices as both are simply better than Sacha Kljestan, but using Sebastian Lletget is perhaps a better option. If Arena were to start Feilhaber, then Lletget and Christian Pulisic could flank Feilhaber on the right and left behind Bobby Wood as the striker. It’s hard to argue that Feilhaber isn’t the best American playmaker, and his skillset and style of play is sorely needed on this dull United States Men’s National Team.

The United States’ defense is arguably solid right now. DeAndre Yedlin at right back with Geoff Cameron and John Brooks as the center backs with Fabian Johnson as the left back is a suitable Back Four. Maybe using Eric Lichaj instead of Johnson is a better option since Lichaj defends better. Lichaj could also start over Yedlin. Another inspired choice would be to start Andrew Farrell at right back with Lichaj at left back since the United States needs outside backs who can defend better while still being able to bomb down the sideline in the attack.

Arena couldn’t go wrong with using the 4-2-3-1 with the United States, and it’s as sound as any formation. This formation was the traditional formation of Brazil, and you could argue that the 4-2-3-1 and the 4-3-3 are really the same thing.

 

Who Should Bruce Arena Call into the United States’ January Camp?

Who Should Bruce Arena Call into the United States Men’s National Team’s January Camp?

Although the United States Men’s National Team’s January camp is over a month away, Bruce Arena has likely already made a list of domestic players that he plans to call up, and certainly he is still working on expanding and evaluating that list.

While it’s difficult to predict Arena’s list, it is possible to think of who deserves to make the list, and of course this list wouldn’t necessarily be comprehensive.

Let’s start from the goalkeepers and move on down to the forwards, and let’s consider just some of Arena’s best option. Here are 30 names instead of 23 names as several additional midfielders and an extra forward were included.

Goalkeepers- Clint Irwin, Brian Rowe, Zack Steffan, Bill Hamid

The American player pool features many excellent goalkeepers. Zack Steffen stood out with the youth national teams, and Clint Irwin and Brian Rowe have been excellent in MLS along with Bill Hamid. Tim Howard should still be injured in January.

Center Backs- Andrew Farrell, Maurice Edu, Steve Birnbaum, Matt Besler

Andrew Farrell played right back this past season, but his best position is at center back. Nevertheless, he’s a quality right back that can help Arena at that position as well. If Maurice Edu is fit, then he is a center back and defensive midfielder who has proven ability. Edu is a more technical and athletic center back than most of the United States’ options.

Outside Backs- Kofi Sarkodie, Robbie Rogers, Chris Tierney, Chris Klute

Three of the best American outside backs (DeAndre Yedlin, Eric Lichaj, Fabian Johnson) play in Europe, so here are four domestic outside backs who stand out. Chris Klute has been seeing limited playing time since playing so well with the Colorado Rapids under Oscar Pareja. Chris Tierney and Robbie Rogers are two left backs worth looking at, and Kofi Sarkodie has impressed in MLS for several seasons when used.

Midfielders- Michael Bradley, Dax McCarty, Kellyn Acosta, Fatai Alashe, Victor Ulloa, Dillon Powers, Will Trapp, Darlington Nagbe, Benny Feilhaber, Lee Nguyen, Sebastian Lletget, Kelyn Rowe, Ethan Finlay, Benji Joya

This list includes several extra midfielders because the United States’ midfield has been weak, and it’s important to really test out more midfielders. This list also includes plenty of attacking midfielders and playmakers as the United States’ level of technical ability and creativity in the midfield is way too low. This list also features a log jam of central midfielders. May the best ones win.

Here we have multiple playmakers in Benny Feilhaber, Lee Nguyen, Sebastian Lletget, Darlington Nagbe, and Kelyn Rowe. Nagbe has really thrived as a box-to-box midfielder because he can use his running endurance and speed to have his skill be useful all over the field, and he has also proven to be a good tackler and ball-winner.

Lletget and Rowe also excel as wings, and Christian Pulisic will need someone to play on the opposite side of the field from him. Feilhaber and Nguyen were the playmakers that Jürgen Klinsmann should have been using every game, but now the question is whether or not Sebastian Lletget is better than both. Still, these players aren’t mutually exclusive, as having both Feilhaber and Nguyen on the roster makes sense because Lletget also plays as a wing or second striker.

Ethan Finlay is also too talented and quick to overlook. The Columbus Crew winger and second striker has performed well for the United States already, and his skillset is needed. Finlay is also aggressive and looks to score or play final balls.

Forwards- Landon Donovan, Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo, Jordan Morris, Bradford Jamieson IV

Bradford Jamieson IV was included because of his compelling combination of skill, creativity, directness, and athleticism. Among young American players, Jamieson’s talent has really stood out along with Christian Pulisic and Rubio Rubin. Assuming Landon Donovan choses to play, he can play wing or second striker. The other center forwards are almost instant inclusions.

 

Under Coach Tite Brazil Is Back

Tite Revives the Seleção with New Tactics

Brazil’s new boss, Tite, changed Brazil’s lineup and formation in a brilliant way. He used three central midfielders knowing that Brazil’s famous outside backs would provide plenty of width in the attack while Neymar and Coutinho up top gave the team plenty of creation and free-floating attackers to score and pass.

Let’s not forget that Brazil have found a new Number 9 in Gabriel Jesus. Brazilian soccer had been devoid of dangerous center forwards until Palmeiras’ and now Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus emerge as an excellent striker. Brazil hadn’t had an exciting center forward in years, but now the Seleção has one.

Tite separated himself from his predecessors by starting Coutinho as well, rather than starting Douglas Costa and Willian. Those are two great attacking midfielders or wingers, but Coutinho is a more creative attacking midfielder who is even harder to contain. Tite set both Neymar and Coutinho loose to play as Number 10s or wingers as they saw fit, and both know how to play free-flowing football.

With Casemiro injured,  Fernandinho, Paulinho, and Renato August proved to be a winning trio of central midfielders where Fernandinho played as the defensive midfielder, Paulinho played as the box-to-box midfielder, and Renato Augusto played as an attacking midfielder. Of course the team was really built around Neymar and Coutinho running the attack with Gabriel Jesus being a dream of a center forward. Without Gabriel Jesus, the team’s roles might have lacked enough definition, and he allowed Neymar and Coutinho to play in their preferred roles.

The most surprising thing about Tite as coach of the Seleção is that by going with a formation and a lineup that looked more defensive because it had three central midfielders he was actually taking Brazil back to free-flowing, attacking, and creative soccer. Tite must have decided than Coutinho was too good not to start in an attacking role with Neymar, and Coutinho brings more to the team than Willian and Douglas Costa.

Brazil is back to dominating South American soccer, and the Seleção also appear to be the best team in the world again. Germany, Italy, France, and Argentina will always be Brazil’s biggest competition, but Brazil is back to be the national team par excellence under Tite.

 

Players Bruce Arena Needs on the United States Men’s National Team

Players Bruce Arena Needs on the United States Men’s National Team

Sebastian Lletget (Attacking Midfielder/Wing/Forward)

World Soccer Source contends that Sebastian Lletget is the most important player that Bruce Arena can bring in. Why? Because Lletget is an attacking midfielder and a playmaker, and the United States has recently found an excellent new center forward in Bobby Wood, plus the United States already has two excellent central midfielders in Michael Bradley and Darlington Nagbe or Kellyn Acosta. Lletget offers the missing elements to the national team: creativity and playmaking. The United States has creativity in Christian Pulisic, but he needs another gifted attacking player to combine with. Based on what he’s shown in MLS, Lletget is better than Benny Feilhaber, Lee Nguyen, and Sacha Kljestan. More so than just a playmaker to play the final pass, Lletget is a midfielder who can  orchestrate the team’s passing and possession. The United States isn’t just lacking playmaking in the final third; it’s also lacking quality passing and possession farther away from the goal.

Kellyn Acosta (Center Midfielder)

The United States has used Kellyn Acosta before, but it was as an outside back. What Acosta really brings to the United States is another defensive or central midfielder to play with Bradley. Acosta is an excellent all-around player who brings technical skill, defending, lots of running, and speed. Acosta has even proven to be a threat on goal. For a national team that often gets beat in the midfield, Acosta offers everything you could want from a central midfielder, and he’s part of the younger generation of American players who offer more technical ability that many of the players in the previous generation. Whether Bradley needs a substitute or a partner, Acosta is that midfielder. It doesn’t hurt that he offers plenty of positional versatility.

Darlington Nagbe (Center Midfielder/Attacking Midfieder)

Darlington Nagbe brings skill to the national team just like Lletget, and that makes him valuable. Nagbe is a creative and skillful player who is effective all over the field due to his tireless running and speed. Whether Bruce Arena wants him to play as a Number 8 midfielder or an attacking midfielder, there has to be a roster spot for Nagbe who many people consider one of the very best players in the American player pool. If Nagbe partners with Bradley, then a central midfield combination where Bradley plays as the defensive midfielder or Number 6 and Nagbe plays as the box-to-box midfielder or Number 8 would be an improvement for the United States.

Kelyn Rowe (Attacking Midfielder/Wing)

The United States needs Kelyn Rowe because of his technical ability, creativity, and quickness. Rowe can play centrally or wide as an attacking midfielder or wing, and the United States would be wise to call up a player with his qualities. Christian Pulisic is arguably already better than everyone on the team, and he needs other technical and creative attacking midfielders and wings to play with. Rowe would offer Bruce Arena a playmaker or wing option, and he helps improve the United States’ biggest problem: low technical ability.

Rubio Rubin (Center Forward)

The United States is always looking for center forwards, and Rubio Rubin is a player to back up Bobby Wood or play as his strike partner. Rubin is considered by many to be the best young American player besides Christian Pulisic, and Rubin is an aggressive and skillful center forward like Wood. The United States has always needed center forwards who can stretch and beat opposing defenses, and this is how Rubin plays. When Wood and Rubin first played for the United States, it was evident that these two center forwards were more dangerous and direct than Jozy Altidore, who never has attacked like these two. Rubin is worthy of a call-up just to be Wood’s substitute, but Rubin is also ready to start right now against any opponent because he has the mentality and ability to start and perform well. Rubin already performed well against Colombia, so what other kind of proof is really needed?

Andrew Farrell (Center Back/Right Back)

Andrew Farrell is a center back or right back, and he’s the type of center back that the United States has only seen in Eddie Pope and Geoff Cameron. He has the technical ability to keep possession in the back and pass the ball out of danger instead of just clearing the ball or hitting long balls. As a defender, Farrell is an excellent ball-winner who is faster than most attackers, and he has fast feet unlike other center backs the United States has used. Defenders like Omar Gonzalez are prone to being thrown off balance and left for dead by opposing attackers, and Farrell has the athleticism and playing ability to stay in front of, catch up to, and dispossess fast and skillful attackers. Whether it by storming up and down the sideline to attack and defend or leading the defense as a center back, Farrell is a higher caliber of defender than the United States would be wise to select and field.

Eric Lichaj (Right Back/Left Back)

Eric Lichaj is better defensively than DeAndre Yedlin, and Lichaj is a veteran of the English Premier League and Championship. Lichaj also has a track record of playing well for the United States at both right back and left back. In addition to continuing to use Yedlin, Arena can select Lichaj to bolster or improve his defense. Lichaj is useful to the United States because he is a proven right back, but he is also a proven left back, which is a very weak position for the United States. Klinsmann’s refusal to use Lichaj was odd, but maybe his affinity for Timothy Chandler always put Lichaj lower down on Klinsmann’s depth chart at right back.

Jorge Villafaña and Robbie Rogers (Left Backs)

Many of the United States’ rosters under Jürgen Klinsmann simply had no players who played left back for their club teams. All things considered right now, Jorge Villafaña and Robbie Rogers are two left backs who have played or are playing well for their clubs right now.

 

 

Who Should U.S. Soccer Pick to Replace Jürgen Klinsmann?

New Coaching Options for the United States Men’s National Team

Oscar Pareja

The Oscar Pareja pick would arguably be the best choice because he is a great tactician and talent scout who plays young players when they are good enough to play. The younger talent in the United States is better than the talent of previous generations, and Pareja is a coach who will select those players for the national team and let them play, if they are ready. Pareja offers fresh perspective and new ideas without those ideas being bizarre. Pareja coaches skill soccer in the Latin American style, and this style of play is a more advanced and effective style of play than the overemphasis on hustle and physicality that the United States has too often played. Beyond all of these reasons, Pareja has a history of winning in MLS, and he has a history of knowing how to build strong lineups who play quality soccer in a more skilled and effective style. A big dose of Latin American style soccer is needed for the United States that only fields a couple players who play soccer the right way.

Bruce Arena

There have been reports and rumors that Bruce Arena might be the coach to replace Jürgen Klinsmann, and the positives of that switch would be that Arena plays a balance of attacking and defensive players and that he knows the American player pool very well. The real problem with Klinsmann as coach was his poor tactics that led to a lack of possession and creativity in the lineup, and Arena doesn’t normally omit skill players and playmakers from his lineups and rosters. Unlike other options, Arena has experience and success as a coach at the international level, but hiring Arena feels like the five years under Klinsmann served no purpose for the United States. Arena could have been the coach again back in 2011, so selecting him doesn’t really qualify as fresh ideas. Klinsmann overlooked a lot of qualified players from MLS, and Arena seems to better at identifying the standout MLS players, as he did when he signed Sebastian Lletget to the LA Galaxy when he was stuck in Purgatory with Wes Ham United.

Sigi Schmid

Sigi Schmid has been a successful soccer coach and scout in the United States for decades, and in a recent interview with Alexi Lalas for the Mutant Gene Podcast, he showcased his tactical acumen and ability to scout and evaluate players. Unlike Klinsmann, Schmid doesn’t have a history of poor tactics and bad player evaluation. Even now, Klinsmann continues to insists that Michael Bradley is a playmaker. Schmid has a track record of winning and scouting, and the biggest issue for American soccer right now at the national team level is fielding more technically-skilled players in their correct positions. One gets the sense with Schmid that he wouldn’t field a lineup without a combination of defensive midfielders and attacking midfielders, and this is the real area where the United States gets destroyed by elite national teams and not-so-elite national teams. The United States loses when the opposing team runs circles around them and keeps possession, and this is less likely to happen with a coach like Schmid who is tactically-sound. Schmid is responsible for scouting and finding many of the most talented American players, and this ability is needed to select rosters.

Tab Ramos

Hiring Tab Ramos to replace Klinsmann would involve simply promoting an assistant coach to head coach, and like the other coaching options, Ramos is a better tactician and scout than Klinsmann. Like Pareja, Ramos believes in coaching soccer played the right way, and he has shown that he balances attacking and creativity with the needed defensive play. As coach of the United States’ youth national teams, Ramos always selected the most skilled players that he had available, rather than going by other unclear criteria. Ramos showed that he made sure to field midfields that combined defending with technical skill and attacking play, and he also didn’t field players out of position in unsuitable formations.

Who Should U.S. Soccer Pick to Replace Jürgen Klinsmann?

With Pareja and Ramos, U.S. Soccer would be showing a commitment to selecting a coach who is looking to field a team that plays better soccer based on skill, and with Arena or Schmid, U.S. Soccer would be picking a coach who selects rosters and lineups better than Klinsmann. Arena and Schmid coach skill soccer, but Pareja and Ramos coach that style even more. Looking to play more Latin American style soccer rather than English or European soccer would be a bolder move by U.S. Soccer.

 

What Went Wrong in the 2-1 USA Loss to Mexico?

What Went Wrong in the 2-1 USA Loss to Mexico?

In the 2-1 loss to Mexico in the hexagonal of World Cup qualifying, the United States Men’s National Team had a few players out of position, and this hurt Jürgen Klinsmann’s team’s ability to keep and recover possession. With three center backs and really only Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones in the midfield, the United States struggled to link up the midfield with the attack.

Geoff Cameron was unavailable due to injury for this game, and that forced the United States to use a slower and less talented defender in Omar Gonzalez. With or without Cameron, starting Sacha Kljestan in the midfield with Bradley and Jones instead of using three center backs might have better defined Bradley’s and Jones’ role while also adding another midfielder to keep possession and serve as a playmaker for the two strikers.

Christian Pulisic was dangerous and active in the attack as a Number 10, but he needed another creative midfielder to combine with to help playmake for Bobby Wood and Jozy Altidore. Pulisic did his best, but the lineup was light on midfielders.

You could argue that dropping one of the center backs and starting DeAndre Yedlin over Timothy Chandler were the only things wrong with Klinsmann’s lineup and formation, but those two things had a devastating effect on the USA’s performance. Unfortunately, tactical mistakes like these have been the norm for Klinsmann as head coach of the United States. Referring to Klinsmann’s lack of accountability to Sunil Gulati and U.S. Soccer, the journalist, Kurtis Larson, tweeted that Klinsmann’s ‘leash is the circumference of the globe.’

Against a talented team like Mexico with players playing for better club teams, Klinsmann was wrong to use a new lineup that lacked balance or link up play between the midfield and the attack. This seems to be the mistake that Klinsmann makes over and over; he refuses to field a playmaker to help the United States to keep possession and play final balls to the forward or forwards. It’s unclear why Klinsmann continues to keep making the same mistake because he has several playmaker options at his disposal.

Klinsmann has coached the United States for five years now, and there’s nothing more to say about his tactics and personnel choices. They’re normally pretty poor. The coach has made a few excellent choices like consistently starting Bobby Wood because he is a talented striker full of skill, direct play, and creative play, and even more importantly, he consistently scores against good teams.

When the United States plays Costa Rica next, Klinsmann will need to field a formation that allows the players to keep possession better.

 

Italy Wrong to Omit Mario Balotelli Again

Italy Wrong to Omit Mario Balotelli Again

Mario Balotelli’s reputation for misbehavior and some lack of maturity is really more of a media construct than a reality. Italy’s coach Giampiero Ventura left Balotelli off its most recent World Cup qualifying roster, but Balotelli has performed excellently for Italy in the past when it really mattered.

Italy is of course always open to recalling Balotelli, but it seems that Balotelli’s excellent form for Nice in Ligue 1 is being minimized due to minor comical incidents in the past that don’t matter.

It makes sense to contend that only two months of consistent, excellent form isn’t that much, but Italy doesn’t really have any other center forwards of Balotelli’s quality and experience. It’s also important to remember that Balotelli is a big-game player who really delivers under pressure. While Zaza can lead the line and Ciro Immobile is a talented striker, the thing about Balotelli is that he’s a world-class talent who really can score on anyone at any time.

The striker’s current form and goal-scoring rate more than merit a national team call-up for at least a back-up striker position. With Balotelli, one gets the sense that harmless, funny anecdotes about Balotelli are blown way of proportion. It’s a shame that Balotelli constantly has his past held against him. Currently, Balotelli is scoring a game per game for an excellent team in Nice, and an Italy selection based on current form and performances is warranted.

Additionally, there’s a strong argument that any possibility of Balotelli picking up a silly card is far outweighed by his ability to win games and score for Italy. Like other Italy coaches, Ventura was quick to say that no one has ever doubted Balotelli’s technical ability and overall quality as a player, but Balotelli’s two-month run of excellent form is still deemed to be not long enough. Maybe not starting Balotelli for Italy is a justifiable position, but not even having him as a center forward option off the bench comes off as being too confident in Italy’s ability to easily qualify from their group.

Good reports about Balotelli’s behavior from Nice should shift the focus back to Balotelli’s actual abilities. As a player, the Italian striker is excellent stretching the defense, holding up play, finishing with both feet, beating players 1v1, and taking and scoring off set pieces. Balotelli is an amazing athlete with world-class technical skill who doesn’t need to be told to aggressively attack the goal. More than a goal-scorer, Balotelli is a complete player who can quickly combine with his teammates with short 1-2 touch passes, and he can pass over distance and unlock defense. Matteo Bonetti of beIN Sports has often pointed out how Balotelli’s passing ability and style of play perhaps makes him more of a second striker than a Number 9, and this is another example of Balotelli’s range of skills.

A return to international soccer for the Italian would be good for Italy and good for the sport, as Balotelli is the type of player who brings quality and magic to the game. No matter how soon Balotelli returns to the Italy squad, he needs to continue his great form with Nice so criticisms of his behavior and mentality are a thing of the past.