Bruce Arena’s Forward Options for the United States Men’s National Team
Bruce Arena has five good forwards for arguably only four forward roster spots. Some of these forwards are clearly better than the others.
For starters, Clint Dempsey is the best forward in the pool, and the best American soccer player ever.
Next, Bobby Wood is the best center forward in the pool, even better than Jozy Altidore. Wood is more technical, faster, more aggressive, and more clinical, and all of these reasons make him better than Altidore.
After Altidore, comes Juan Agudelo, who is more creative and more skilled than Altidore. Like Wood, Agudelo is a more aggressive and direct player than Altidore, who himself has undergone something of a Renaissance. Altidore has vastly improved his playmaking and passing, plus he has been attacking defenders more directly and beating them off the dribble.
Finally, we have Jordan Morris, who plays like Bobby Wood, but Morris still heavily favors his right foot; Morris has also not shown the type of clinical finishing that Wood has shown, but Morris can definitely put the ball in the back of the net. Morris offers speed like Wood, but Morris has to be faster than Wood, who himself is devastatingly fast.
So, we see that Arena has a good problem, and the way the Dempsey plays makes him something of a playmaker, which allows Arena to put all five of these players on the roster. Maybe it’s too many forwards since all are center forwards, but Agudelo, Wood, and Altidore all also play like second strikers or withdrawn forwards.
Because the United States historically has had problems scoring enough goals against elite competition, there is something to be said of just making a habit of calling up four to five forwards who have no problems scoring. Using two forwards at once is common enough and often wise, and a substitute for two forwards would give the roster four forwards, plus Dempsey who of course is also an attacking midfielder.
The major story line for the United States’ next game will be whether or not Arena will be wise enough to start Dempsey and Wood together without getting distracted by all the attention and buzz around Altidore’s much improved play. There is also the storyline of Agudelo’s more consistent club play where he’s starting and scoring as a Number 9 for the New England Revolution, and leaving him off the roster would be a big mistake. If one forward has to be left off, then it might have to be Morris, but not calling up a forward with world-class speed combined with aggressive and skillful play might be a big mistake too.
Is Altidore’s improved play more impressive than Agudelo or Morris’ abilities?