Several of the players discussed in this article such as Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones were also discussed in World Soccer Source’s article entitled “Depth Chart: USMNT Defensive Midfielders.”
Both players can play either role, but Benji Joya is the one player in the American player pool, to the best of this writer’s knowledge, who is truly a box-to-box midfielder in the traditional understanding of the role.
While Bradley participates in the attack and goes forward quite a bit, his game is heavily characterized by collecting the ball from the defenders deep in the midfield and starting the attack. Joya appears to be more of a true box-to-box midfielder than Bradley is.
Depth Chart: USMNT Box-to-Box Midfielders
1.) Michael Bradley (AS Roma)
Michael Bradley was discussed in World Soccer Source’s article about the depth chart of the United States Men’s National Team at the defensive midfielder position, but Michael Bradley is also a box-to-box midfielder who advances forward with the attack and drops back to play defense when the United States loses the ball.
Due to his club play with Heerenveen in the Eredivisie, Borussia Mönchengladbach in the Bundesliga, and his play with AS Roma in Serie A, Bradley’s technical ability and passing has progressively improved over time from what was already a solid foundation when he turned pro at 16.
The combination of playing lots of soccer as a child combined with a steady improvement in his technical ability with non-EPL clubs has made Bradley a player whose attacking and technical skills are equaled by his defensive skills and his workrate.
It’s worth mentioning that Michael Bradley is still not at the same level technically as Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan, but he is a highly-skilled midfielder with excellent, touch, vision, passing, shooting, and dribbling skills.
Bradley is by far the best box-to-box midfielder and defensive midfielder in the entire American player pool.
2.) Jermaine Jones (Schalke)
Jermaine Jones was also included in World Soccer Source’s recent depth chart of American defensive midfielders, but Jones is also capable of playing a box-to-box role due to his skill on the ball, his running endurance, and his athleticism.
Jones is a formidable defender, and he has refined technical ability with both feet.
While Jones may not be as smooth of a passer as Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones is a Bundesliga and Champions League veteran who is a complete midfielder with proven technical ability, defensive skills, and athleticism against the highest competition in the world.
3.) Benji Joya (Santos Laguna)
Benji Joya is a 19-year-old Santos Laguna player who skipped college soccer and MLS to go play professionally in La Liga MX. Joya was used by Tab Ramos as a holding midfielder with the U-20 United States national team, but Joya is a very creative player with great vision, excellent ball control, and a big-game mentality.
While Joya’s natural position is hard to classify, Joya is a complete midfielder who brings excellent passing and movement off the ball with good defending. The young American can best be described as an attacking midfielder with far better defensive qualities than players like Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Benny Feilhaber, Joe Corona, Mix Diskerud, and Freddy Adu.
Joya brings an array of skills in one player that almost no one else in the pool has. Using Joya would give the United States Men’s National Team a player who plays one-to-two touch soccer, but who also provides a lot of defensive coverage in the midfield. Joya doesn’t see a lot of playing time for Santos Laguna, but that doesn’t mean that his skill-set isn’t needed by the United States.
4.) Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg)
Mix Diskerud has recently been used by Jürgen Klinsmann has either a playmaker to play right behind a striker like Jozy Altidore or as a box-to-box midfielder to bring more of an attacking threat and linking ability to a two-man defensive midfield set-up.
Mix Diskerud is not really a box-to-box midfielder as Diskerud doesn’t quite have the level of defensive qualities needed in a true box-to-box midfielder but he is an excellent passer and shooter who is one of the only playmakers in the entire American player pool.
Diskerud can play as the box-to-box midfielder in a two-man defensive midfield, but playing the number 8 role is not really his natural position, as Diskerud excels at passing, orchestrating play, setting up goals, and scoring goals.
There is some overlap between defensive midfielders of the midfield destroyer variety and those of the box-to-box midfielder variety. When selecting a roster, Jürgen Klinsmann might consider calling up Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Geoff Cameron, and Benji Joya as the more-defensive midfielders, even if the term is a misnomer for players like Joya.
Choosing these four players leaves Klinsmann four more midfield roster spots for players like Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Joe Corona, Mix Diskerud, Benny Feilhaber, and Freddy Adu.