Taking into account the World Cup qualifying games before the Gold Cup in addition to the Gold Cup itself, a new so-called “Front Six” has emerged that can have the USMNT playing better and more balanced soccer that provides effective defense, better possession of the ball, and a more potent attack.
In addition to the players discussed below as a better Front Six than what Jürgen Klinsmann had been using before the 2013 Gold Cup, there are additional players in the pool who are already proven or who have shown real promise to be effective alternates or different options in the USMNT’s Front Six.
In light of the last few months, the Front Six proposed below would likely have the United States playing better in World Cup qualifying and in general, despite sitting at the top of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying table:
Geoff CAMERON, Michael BRADLEY; Landon DONOVAN, Joe Benny CORONA, Clint DEMPSEY; Jozy ALTIDORE
This group of five midfielders and a striker is stronger than previous line-ups that Klinsmann has used, and it’s likely stronger than any Front Six the United States Men’s National Team has ever used.
Although Michael Bradley is a defensive midfielder, he has developed into more than a midfield destroyer who patrols directly in front of the defensive back four. Bradley plays this role very well, but as Geoff Cameron is so willing and able to play that role, the United States has two defensive midfielders who are strong defensively and comfortable with the ball at their feet.
Bradley has steadily evolved into a central midfielder who likes to be more involved in the attack going forward, and using him with Cameron allows the overall passing and defensive strength behind the attacking midfielders to be much more effective than in the past.
Turning now to Jermaine Jones, it should be made very clear that Jermaine Jones is an elite professional soccer player who is a Champions League and Bundesliga starter, and his technical skill-level is world-class, despite being associated with strong tackles and picking up cards.
Jermaine Jones is an elite athlete who is a product of the German youth system, which is far superior to the United States’ developmental system. Any honest discussion of Jermaine Jones must acknowledge the reality that he is a product of being born and raised in Germany in a superior soccer environment to that which most of the other American players grew up in. Jones is both German and American at the same time, and to some extent he has suffered from not being considered German enough or American enough by Americans and Germans.
Certainly Jones and Bradley can learn to have a better understanding of which player is going up and when and which player is hanging back and when. When Cameron partnered with Bradley as a defensive midfield tandem, the roles looked to be more defined by a clearer understanding that Cameron would play the more defensive role while still participating heavily in the passing of the American midfield.
In fact, this exact style of using one more defensive, defensive midfielder and one box-to-box defensive midfielder is exactly what the Brazilian national team does. The Brazilian system of using a number five as a midfield destroyer and a number eight as a box-to-box midfielder is one of the standard tactics the Seleção employs, and in the recent Confederations Cup, Luiz Gustavo was playing as the cabeça de área (midfield destroyer) while Paulinho was playing as the volante (box-to-box midfielder; also a general term for a defensive midfielder).
It wouldn’t be a bad idea for the United States Men’s National Team to model its midfield formation on some of Brazil’s standard tactics.
Focusing on the attacking midfielders, starting Clint Dempsey on one side of the field with the freedom to roam and starting Landon Donovan on the only side of the field with the freedom to roam is a tried and proven tactical approach for the USMNT. But, when the United States just used four midfielders with two defensive midfielders in addition to Dempsey and Donovan out wide, the United States never achieved real success or quality passing.
The absence of a playmaker has hurt Bradley, Dempsey, Donovan, and Altidore because there was a vital creative force missing from the middle of the attack. Like it or not, the United States achieved its real success in major tournaments when Benny Feilhaber was subbed in to fulfill a sort of floating playmaker role.
Given Joe Benny Corona’s recent display of his qualities as a goal-scoring playmaker, starting Corona in between Dempsey and Bradley with Altidore as the lone striker offers the USMNT the ability to really have a midfield and attack that produces more effective and more attractive soccer, which should lead to better and more consistent wins.
Joe Benny Corona has marked his territory on this United States Men’s National Team like a lizard doing push-ups.
Despite the fact that Corona has finally won over the majority of the American soccer media and the American fan base, the United States does have other playmakers like Mix Diskerud, Freddy Adu, and Benny Feilhaber who are qualified to fill this role.
After the Gold Cup is over, the United States Men’s National Team and Jürgen Klinsmann would be wise to start a Front Six made up of Cameron, Bradley, Donovan, Corona, Dempsey, and Altidore.
This formation and group of starters is the next step for the United States, and it allows the United States to maintain possession, defend well in the midfield, create more scoring chances, and score more goals. Using this Front Six should be a no-brainer, and it should produce the highest caliber of soccer ever seen from the United States.