By: COLIN REESE
The poor technical play of most of the American players for MLS sides (minus Landon Donovan and Benny Feilhaber) in the CONCACAF Champions League as well as the quality play of several Americans playing for Tijuana taught us a lot of lessons about which players had the capacity to play against technical and quick opponents in high-level games.
From a United States Men’s National Team perspective, Joe Corona (Tijuana), Greg Garza (Tijuana), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), and Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy) came out as clear winners as far as international-caliber skill goes.
On the other hand, Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Matt Besler (Sporting KC), and Graham Zusi (Sporting KC) were exposed as pedestrian in comparison to the skill and quickness of Mexican club sides.
If you can’t demonstrate quality play against top Liga MX clubs (that are much better than Americans give them credit for), then demonstrating international-caliber skill against Ghana, Portugal, and Germany is unlikely.
World Soccer Source recently looked at the benefits of the United States Men’s National Team switching from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-1-3-2, and the possession and attacking benefits of this formation changed caused this writer to come to the conclusion that Geoff Cameron is needed more as a center back than as a defensive midfielder because the United States needs more agile and more skilled center backs than Gonzalez and Besler.
World Soccer Source has backed the use of Michael Orozco and Geoff Cameron as starting USA center backs, but World Soccer Source has also backed the use of Cameron as a defensive midfielder to allow Michael Bradley to play a more box-to-box central midfielder role.
Watching Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler being victimized by Liga MX’s attackers in the CONCACAF Champions League prompted this writer’s belief than Cameron should be moved from the defensive midfielder spot (where this writer preferred him) to one of the center back spots. Besler was basically made to look like a stationary object around which attackers could simply jog past.
Additionally, seeing how well Joe Corona played once again and seeing how Benny Feilhaber was almost the only member of Sporting Kansas City that had the skill to be effective against technical opposition prompted this writer to think that both Corona and Feilhaber would be needed in the line of three attacking midfielders in the World Cup with Clint Dempsey being moved closer to goal as the second striker to partner with Jozy Altidore.
The outside backs have been a weakness for the USMNT, and DeAndre Yedlin and Chris Klute or Greg Garza are looking more and more like the outside backs that absolutely have to be used in the 2014 World Cup. Pretending that the USA national team doesn’t need Yedlin and Garza (or Chris Klute who’s injured) is just refusing to ignore the obvious.
As World Soccer Source proposed Geoff Cameron as one of the center backs, then the other logical center back is Michael Orozco who is a defender capable of marking and tackling quality attackers plus he’s fast, agile, and very technical.
Using Orozco and Cameron as center backs has to be considered a more capable center back duo to face off against the USA’s Group of Death opponents.
Given the poor quality of play of several USMNT regulars in the CONCACAF Champions League and the continued quality play of several Americans who have shown well on numerous occasions in high-level games, the following USMNT XI might be the best option for the 4-1-3-2 formation:
GOALKEEPER: Tim HOWARD (Everton)
RIGHT BACK: DeAndre YEDLIN (Seattle Sounders)
CENTER BACK: Michael OROZCO (Puebla)
CENTER BACK: Geoff CAMERON (Stoke City)
LEFT BACK: Greg GARZA (Tijuana)/Chris KLUTE (injured) (Colorado Rapids)
DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER: Michael BRADLEY (Toronto FC)
RIGHT MIDFIELDER: Landon DONOVAN (LA Galaxy)
NUMBER 10: Benny FEILHABER (Sporting Kansas City)
LEFT MIDFIELDER: Joe CORONA (Tijuana)
STRIKER: Jozy ALTIDORE (Sunderland)
SECOND STRIKER: Clint DEMPSEY (Seattle Sounders)
The rationale behind this USA XI was explained in World Soccer Source’s previous article, but this XI gives the United States a better defense along with technical and creative midfielders that can keep possession and create scoring chances for a striker partnership of Altidore and Dempsey.
Team USA needs to rectify that criticism that it receives from audiences outside of the United States and domestically, and that criticism is that the United States has very few technical players playing at the same time on the national team and that the United States is a team that is only hard to beat because of its world-class fitness levels.
The way to recitify this criticism is to start a higher number of technically-skilled players at the same time, in addition to using players that can create and score goals.