Bruce Arena and the United States Have the Skill Players to Abandon Hustle Soccer
For far too long the United States prided itself on its hustle soccer and fighting spirit, and even Clint Dempsey was unfairly characterized as more of a toughness player than a skill player, which must have really bothered him.
Bruce Arena has a direct, fast, creative, and clinical center forward in Bobby Wood, and he has an electric young winger in Christian Pulisic, who is playing as an attacking player for one of the best club teams in the world. Being skillful and creative is a given for anyone starting or seeing playing time as a winger for Borussia Dortmund.
The United States also has Sebastian Lletget who is another skillful, creative attacking player who can play as an attacking midfielder, wing, or even as a box-to-box midfielder.
Benny Feilhaber has also returned to the national team as a playmaker, and the addition of him and the other players mentioned means that the United States has the critical mass of technical and active players needed to actually keep possession and attack the opposition.
Michael Bradley is the clear first-choice defensive midfielder, and his overall skill level and technical ability is high despite experiencing something of a slump over the past year. Bradley excels at distributing from the back, covering lots of territory, and recovering possession, so he is another important piece of the lineup that helps with the team’s passing and tempo.
While Darlington Nagbe proved himself to be another excellent wing option or center midfielder, Lletget is arguably the more dynamic and talented player, which isn’t to say that Nagbe isn’t a dangerous and creative player with plenty of exciting skills.
Going into March, Arena can deploy a 4-1-3-2 where the Front Six is Bradley, Lletget, Feilhaber, Pulisic, Dempsey, and Wood, and that group of six is easily a more talented and technical group than anything the United States has used before.
With several new players and some veterans, Arena and the United States have the personnel to no longer deploy tactics where the game plan is to out-hustle and out-tough more skillful opponents. Now is a clear turning point in American soccer when the United States can look to use skill and creativity plus the obvious requisite athleticism to outplay most opponents save the likes of soccer’s true giants.