Translation: Neymar debuts in a Messi role, playmaking and farther from goal


Julio Gomes has a blog for the Brazilian site, UOL Esporte, where he recently wrote the following article about Neymar:

“Neymar estreia “à la Messi”, armando jogo e mais longe do gol”

Translation: Neymar debuts in a Messi role, playmaking and farther from goal

Here is the link for the article, and the translation from Brazilian Portuguese is below:

“Neymar had a good debut in a Paris Saint-Germain jersey. He scored the third goal in the 3-0 victory over tiny Guingamp, off a pass from Cavani – the Uruguayan had scored the second, off the first assist of Neymar for PSG. The floodgates (lit. can) had been opened on Guingamp’s pathetic own goal at the start of the second half.

A goal, an assist, a nutmeg, a good cross that Marquinhos headed into the crossbar. Nothing to complain about.

I am a voice out of order from the majority in the analysis of the soccer of Neymar. The guy is a baller, of this there is no doubt. But, from my point of view, his principal quality is finishing.

With this, I don’t mean that he isn’t a good dribbler or that he doesn’t know how to be the playmaker. I’m just saying that the best version of Neymar is that in which he plays really close to goal, receiving clean balls and with few adversaries in front of him. Preferably, at speed. He has a finishing rate on the level of Cristiano Ronaldo and other finishers around the world.

In four seasons at Barcelona, Neymar scored 88 goals from open play. 40 of those with just one touch on the ball, 39 with a controlling touch and finish and only 9 where he created his own goal.

In his debut, the goal came with one touch on the ball. It’s logical that that proportion is going to change at PSG. He played as a 10. The change of a jersey number never was too loyal to a tactical change. He played Messi’s position at various times with Barcelona, receiving balls in the middle of various adversaries (as the photo below shows). It’s fine. The comparisons will become even easier.

Last season, the first one of coach Unai Emery, Paris almost always played with two players quite wide – including Draexler, Di Maria, and Lucas. This Sunday, Neymar and Di Maria played centrally, opening up the channels for the outside backs. It’s just that it practically ripped the game away from the Italian Verratti, who was originally the principal playmaker of the team.

Daniel Alves had few surges down the right side, with time he will acquire more linkup with the Argentinean. Kurzawa advanced a lot into the space that would have been Neymar’s down the left. From him came the cross that later ended up as a goal for Neymar.

That wasn’t what happened in his debut. He was an attacking midfielder in fact, a playmaker, the principal builder of all the plays. He was more an Isco or Rodriguinho or an Inesta than a Neymar. He was more Verratti than Verratti. This didn’t work out that well on the Seleção in a few moments of slim pickin’s pre-Tite,

He occupied a part of the field where there was more people, more congestion. And he stayed too far from goal.

In the first half, PSG, despite having the ball all the time, created very few chances of real danger. In the second half, they won a present from Ikoko, one of the most bizarre own goals that everyone had seen in our lives.

And then, yes, the game changed. It became easy. PSG came to have more openings. On one occasion, in a counter attack, Neymar played a marvelous pass for Cavani to score a second goal. His first assist with the new jersey.

The number of assists will inevitably increase. But it’s good to jump back to the fact that Neymar already provided many assists at Barcelona. This didn’t necessarily happen by having the position of playmaker.

Honestly, I don’t think that he’ll keep this position, and it’s fair that the coach tries it in a game against a weak adversary like Guingamp.

In the nick of time, I believe that Emery is going to prefer Neymar playing more to the left, closer to goal, where he is much more productive.

If the plan for leaving Barcelona and going to PSG was to be the protagonist and play like Messi, it seems that he will really be in his position. He’s going to be lacking… playing like Messi.”


Neymar Plays Number 10 Role in Paris Saint-Germain Debut

Neymar Plays Number 10 Role in PSG Debut

Embed from Getty Images

Neymar made his Paris Saint-Germain debut last Sunday against Guingamp, and the $263 million Brazilian provided a goal, an assist, and a nutmeg for good measure. There was also a cross to Marquinhos, which the defender hit off the crossbar.

Neymar was lining up out left on paper, but the Brazil and PSG Number 10 was playing in a playmaking position as an attacking midfielder, more central than he would be at Barcelona, his former club.

Neymar had the ball constantly for PSG on Sunday, and his teammates had no problem handing over the keys to the team to him and letting him run the show, as was his due.

Every other touch for PSG seemed to be a Neymar touch. Neymar would play the ball to a teammate who would play it back to Neymar, and the Brazilian would then play the ball to someone else. No doubt PSG improved immediately with the addition of Neymar, but with Neymar PSG got an unselfish teammate.

Despite the 3-0 scoreline, Guingamp wasn’t that bad. A Guingamp own goal opened up the game in the second half, but Neymar’s excellent debut can’t be attributed to a poor opponent.

Jonathan Johnson of ESPN gave Ángel Di Maria a poor rating of 3 for the game, and the Argentinean’s so-so performance could open up a spot for Javier Pastore to start. Julio Gomes of UOL in Brazil wrote that Neymar’s best position is closer to goal, but a player like Neymar has a bigger impact on the game the more he has the ball. If Pastore does start the next game, Neymar will probably be closer to goal, or at least he might receive more passes in scoring positions.

Neymar was lively and impressive in his PSG debut, and the more we see Neymar playing without Lionel Messi, the more everyone will be able to gauge how Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Neymar really compare to one another.

Playing for PSG could be Neymar’s first step in improving his chances to win the Ballon d’Or over Messi and Ronaldo.


Who Should the United States Call Up for the September World Cup Qualifiers?

Who Should the United States Call Up for the September World Cup Qualifiers?

U.S. coach Bruce Arena and the United States will need to get as many points as possible from the upcoming World Cup qualifiers in September against Panama and Honduras, and the U.S. will need the strongest squad possible. The United States is currently sitting in third place in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying with 8 points while Mexico is in first with 14 points and Costa Rica is in second with 11 points.

During the 2017 Gold Cup, Arena used less than a full strength squad that needed all six roster additions after the group stage to win the tournament full of countries’ B Teams. In September, the United States will need Christian Pulisic and Clint Dempsey starting to field anything close to an A Team. Without Pulisic or Dempsey, the United States has no playmaker, which has proved to be a problem for a team that struggles to score without them. Dempsey and Pulisic playing together gives the Arena his best squad.

Besides Pulisic and Dempsey, Arena will also need Geoff Cameron and John Brooks starting in the center of the defense as both Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler are a level below the European based center backs. Cameron and Brooks are better defensively, technically, an athletically than Besler and Brooks. The United States was also missing its best center forward Bobby Wood in the Gold Cup.

The United States’ passing and creativity was poor during the Gold Cup, but a full-strength team for World Cup qualifying should fix these two problems.

Here’s who Arena could or should call up for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica and Honduras in September:


Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, William Yarbrough

Tim Howard and Brad Guzan are obvious locks for two of the three goalkeeper spots, but the third spot is a hard choice. Ethan Horvath and David Bingham have been recent picks for the third goalkeeping spot, but William Yarbrough has shown well for the U.S. before. The U.S has plenty of goalkeepers to chose from, but Yarbrough is the most proven and most ready if a third goalkeeper is needed in the event that both Howard and Guzan are injured or suspended in two games.

Right Backs

DeAndre Yedlin, Eric Lichaj

Right back is an interesting position for the U.S. In many ways, the U.S. still needs a better right back. After Steve Cherundolo retired, none of the U.S. right backs have looked anywhere close to as good. DeAndre Yedlin is of course the top option, and Eric Lichaj looked a lot less smooth than he did for the United States years ago. Graham Zusi has looked ok for the U.S. His overall skill level is good for a defender, and he can cut onto his left foot, which is a useful skill. In international soccer, the United States really needs a right back with speed, technical ability, and good defending. Yedlin has the speed, but he doesn’t really have the polished technical ability of a top class right back. Arena likes using Zusi, but Lichaj has more experience.

Center Backs

Geoff Cameron, John Brooks, Omar Gonzalez, Walker Zimmerman

Geoff Cameron and John Brooks are the first-choice starters for the U.S. Despite Arena’s using Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler in the Gold Cup, Steve Birnbaum and Walker Zimmerman have all looked better, even if the former two have more caps. Arena will probably select Gonzalez and Besler as the backups – or at least Gonzalez- but World Soccer Source supports Birnbaum and Zimmerman. Birnbaum is faster and more technical than Gonzalez, and Zimmerman is a better marker and tackler than Besler. Zimmerman is also good technically and athletic enough for international play, even if Besler is known for his speed.

Left Backs

Jorge Villafaña, DaMarcus Beasley

Jorge Villafaña as solidified his spot as the starting left back for the United States. He’s both solid defensively and dynamic and lively going forward. Villafaña also has the skill to cut onto his weaker right foot to play passes or crosses, and he’s become one of the primary attacking pieces despite playing as a defender. After Villafaña either DaMarcus Beasley or Greg Garza have to be the second-choice left back. Garza at times looks slow, and Beasley is in his mid-thirties. Beasley always performs well for the U.S., plus he still has his speed. Beasley is the likely back-up between the two.

Defensive Midfielders and Central Midfielders

Michael Bradley, Dax McCarty, Kellyn Acosta, Cristian Roldan

No big surprises in this group. Michael Bradley is the obvious starting defensive midfielder in what will likely be a 4-1-3-2 formation. Dax McCarty is Bradley’s substitute, and Kellyn Acosta is a box-to-box or Number 8 midfielder who offers plenty of creativity and quality, including free kick and scoring quality. Unlike Bradley and McCarty, Acosta offers more playmaking and attacking flair and skill.

Attacking Midfielders and Wings

Christian Pulisic, Darlington Nagbe, Paul Arriola, Kelyn Rowe

Look for Paul Arriola, Christian Pulisic, and Darlington Nagbe to start from right to left in the line of three attacking midfielders in front of Bradley. Kelyn Rowe will likely be the first substitute for those three positions. Rowe has long been an MLS standout, and he stood out for the U.S. as well in the Gold Cup group stage. It would be surprising if Arena left Rowe off the roster, especially with Sebastian Lletget injured. A healthy Lletget is an immediate starter on the right over Arriola, and Lletget is probably the best substitute for Pulisic as the Number 10 as well.


Clint Dempsey, Bobby Wood, Jozy Altidore, Jordan Morris

For a long time, the U.S.’s forward options were poor, and the U.S. had a hard time scoring goals. Now with the emergence of Bobby Wood and Jozy Altidore’s improvement in form, the United States has a more dangerous attack that’s better at putting the ball in the goal. Wood is excellent at stretching the defense and beating defenders 1v1, and the Hawaiian is a clinical finisher with both feet. Another huge plus with Wood is his willingness to attack defenses directly and take shots even when he gets even a half chance or a glimpse of the goal. Jordan Morris attacks defenses in the same way that Wood does, and he’s qualified to start over Altidore and partner Wood. Clint Dempsey has to be a starter up top for this team, and there will be three full days between the two World Cup qualifiers. Three days aren’t a lot of rest, but it makes more sense to let Dempsey start both games and just sub him out if he runs out of steam, especially since this team has three Number 9s on the roster. You have to think that Arena not starting Dempsey in the semifinals and finals was because it was the Gold Cup and not World Cup qualifiers.


Why PSG is Good for Neymar


Neymar to Paris Saint Germain is a good move for Neymar. A great move. A smart move.

At PSG, Neymar can play the Number 10 role where he can showcase his playmaking and scoring skills, and Javier Pastore even handed over his Number 10 to Neymar.

PSG is a team worthy of Neymar. The French club is a storied club that even Ronaldinho played for. For all of the hype that the English Premier League receives, most of the EPL clubs never had the best player in the world playing for them. There’s talk of the Paris side not having the caliber of players that Barcelona has, but this isn’t really true.

Neymar Has Elite Teammates at PSG

Three world-class defenders all start for PSG: Daniel Alves, Thiago Silva, and Marquinhos. That’s a right back and two center backs which comprises three of the four members of the Paris backline.

The French side also have Marco Verratti, Blaise Matuidi, and Thiago Motta in the midfield, and Verratti is arguably the best center midfielder in the world along with Arturo Vidal of Chile and Bayern Munich.

PSG isn’t without creativity and magic already. Who can forget that Javier Pastore plays for PSG? Pastore is arguably the best playmaker in the world along with Andrés Iniesta and Dimitri Payet of France and Olympique Marseille. When healthy, Pastore is a regular starter for Argentina, and he has made a name for himself in Ligue 1 for embarrassing defenders with nutmegs. The Argentinean attacking midfielder and forward from Córdoba is exactly the type of player that Neymar likes to play with. Pastore has had some injury problems, but he’s nevertheless a player who plays the brand of soccer than Neymar plays, which is are indeed.

Paris’ starting striker Edinson Cavani is widely regarded as one of the best center forwards in the world, and so Neymar will have an elite striker to feed and play off. A Number 9 like Cavani draws defenders to him, and this frees up Neymar to score more goals.

The Brazilian also has Ángel Di Maria and Lucas Moura on his team, and while Lucas is still not at his peak, Di María is easily one of the best players in all of world football.

Neymar will not be lacking for quality and support when he plays for Paris, even if PSG isn’t as storied as Barcelona and Real Madrid. You could argue that PSG was simply lacking the type of player that Real Madrid and Barcelona had. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi were both the difference for those two teams which separated them from other teams in the Champions League.

Ligue 1 Is One of the Top Leagues in Europe

Besides PSG, Ligue 1 has Monaco, Marseille, Nice, and Lyon, and France has always produced a steady stream of world-class players. You can’t really argue that the technical quality or athleticism of Ligue 1 is poor. No one who has watched French football would ever say that. If anything, Ligue 1 has more technical quality and better passing than the EPL.

Neymar Can Play His Best Position at PSG

Many people view the left wing or at least the left side of the attack as Neymar’s best position, and while Neymar was playing there for Barcelona, Messi was the player who drifted centrally, which prevented Neymar from occupying that space.

There’s an argument to be made that Barcelona’s attack was very fluid with Messi, Suárez, and Neymar all moving all over the attack, but Messi was normally occupying the space right behind Suárez in the attack. A player likes Neymar wants to receive and release the ball constantly all over the field, so that he can control the team’s passing and attacking build up.

No matter how associated Neymar is with the left side of the attack, the Brazilian is more effective and influential in the middle where he has space to operate to the right and to the left, and Neymar has an outstanding weaker left foot, which he doesn’t hesitate to use more or less interchangeably with his right foot.

The Brazilian loses something when he doesn’t play with Messi, who creates non-stop scoring chances, but Neymar is at a level where he doesn’t need to be dependent on that type of service and windfall. Messi does produce a ton of assists, but you could argue that Messi’s primary concern is to collect the ball himself, dribble through everyone, and score.

When Neymar plays with Messi, Barcelona is all about Messi, so a move to PSG lets Neymar play the way that he wants to play, which ultimately gives him a better chance of winning the Ballon d’Or and the World Cup with Brazil.


Where Will Neymar Line Up with Paris Saint-Germain?

Where Will Neymar Line Up with Paris Saint-Germain?

Neymar has normally lined up out left in the attack for both Brazil and Barcelona, but he has always performed his best when he has the space to drift into the center of the attack behind the striker to orchestrate goals and score goals.

Neymar covers a lot of territory as a player. He likes to drop deep into the midfield to collect the ball, and he likes being able to play passes to the left or to the right.

At Barcelona, Messi would normally collect the ball out on the right and immediately cut into the center of the field to attack the defense and feed his teammates.

In recent years, one of the trademark plays of Messi was to play chips over the defense to his onrushing teammates. Messi played nonstop chips and through balls for his teammates to score while also playing passes and then bursting forward to receive the ball back again. All of this was great, but it prevented Neymar from occupying this playmaking role.

With PSG, Neymar will be the focal point of the team as he is with Brazil, and no matter where he lines up on paper, he’s going to be in the center of the attack behind Edinson Cavani or whoever is playing striker. Neymar’s playmaker role will affect how much Javier Pastore and Julian Draxler play.

In a perfect world, starting Neymar and Pastore together would be the best thing for PSG. Pastore is a Number 10, but he has less scoring tendencies than Neymar. The Argentinean wouldn’t get in Neymar’s way. The difference between playing with Pastore and playing with Messi is that Neymar was essentially forced to defer to Messi. Although Pastore is a world-class playmaker, you have the sense that he knows how to get out of Neymar’s way. If Neymar goes into the center, Pastore would just go wide, and vice versa.

Neymar and Pastore starting together is possible, but Angel Di Maria will most likely start over Pastore. Di Maria plays on the right wing where he can cut onto his left foot, and this would put Neymar in a similar system to the one he played in at Barcelona.

Many people view Neymar has an attacker that plays on the left side, but anyone who has watched Neymar play for Brazil knows that Neymar shifts into the middle where he can orchestrate the attack and control the team’s passing. The same thing will likely happen at Paris Saint-Germain.


Where Neymar Will Line up for PSG


Daniel Alves-Marquinhos-Thiago Silva-Kurzawa


Di Maria-Cavani-Neymar


Neymar Should Go to Paris Saint-Germain and Leave Messi’s Shadow

Neymar Should Go to Paris Saint-Germain and Leave Messi’s Shadow

Lionel Messi is holding Neymar back at Barcelona. Despite all the benefits of playing with Messi, Neymar doesn’t have the freedom to really play his game while playing alongside the world’s best player.

Messi likes to cut inside from the right and occupy the center of the attack behind Luis Suárez, and this prevents Neymar from occupying this same zone where he can orchestrate the attack and score more goals. The counter argument to this is that Neymar and Messi display a free-flowing style of combination play that creates lots of goals, but Neymar always has to defer to Messi.

When Neymar plays with Brazil, he’s a team player just like he is with Barcelona, but Neymar doesn’t have to limit his involvement and impact like he does with Barcelona. As long as Neymar plays with Messi, he’ll have to mostly stay on the left side of the field and stay out of Messi’s way.The Brazilian has shown that he can play with another superstar and that he keeps a good attitude while deferring to another player, but now is the time to lead his own European club team. Anyone of Neymar’s ability would look to play for a big team where he can be the primary attacking weapon and lead the team. This doesn’t make Neymar selfish or greedy. Messi just turned 30 years old, and he will likely be playing at a world-class and elite level until he is 35. This would be five more years of Neymar toning down his impact and flair to defer to Messi.

Going to Paris Saint-Germain would be an excellent move for Neymar because he would be able to be the Number 10 for a team full of other elite talents. PSG has an outstanding group of defenders and great midfielders would be provide Neymar with a complete team, and this sort of switch would be great for European football. It would distribute more of the truly elite talent away from just two teams: Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Neymar should transfer to PSG for his own interests. At PSG, Neymar has a better chance of winning the Ballon d’Or and continuing to improve his game. As long as Neymar plays with Messi, Neymar can’t play the Number 10 role, and he has less touches on the ball. Neymar is a Number 10, and he can’t truly play this role while being married to the left side of the field at Barcelona.

Leaving Messi was inevitable for the Brazilian. Messi is still in his prime, and staying at Barcelona for five more years as Messi’s second in command would be a bad choice for Neymar. Neymar is much better than he gets credit for, but no one is really going to know that as long as he has to only show 70% of his ability while playing with Messi.

Clint Dempsey: Still a United States Starting Forward

Clint Dempsey: Still a United States Starting Forward

Clint Dempsey should still be a starter for the United States, and his starting allows the United States to have the all-important Dempsey-Christian Pulisic partnership. Although Bruce Arena recently used Dempsey as a super sub due to the quick turnaround in between Gold Cup games, nothing about Dempsey’s play suggest that his fitness level or skill has dropped at all.

In the American player pool, Christian Pulisic is the only other player with the same type of individual skill and ability to win games. There are other American players who can score impressive and important goals, but Dempsey’s creativity and individual skill is still needed; it’s not just nice to have.

Until there is some indication that Dempsey shouldn’t be starting anymore, there’s no reason to even consider it. Bruce Arena has liked starting only one defensive midfielder in Michael Bradley so that Arena can start two forwards, and this means that one of those two forwards should be Dempsey. While Jozy Altidore continues to improve as a player as evidenced by his fabulous freekick goal in the 2017 Gold Cup Final, he probably shouldn’t be starting over Bobby Wood who is more dangerous, more clinical, and more aggressive.

One of the keys for the United States playing at a higher level under Arena is Pulisic and Dempsey playing together, and not starting Dempsey gets rid of this potent combination. For years Dempsey has been playing for the United States with players who are way below his skill level, with the exception of Landon Donovan, and now that Pulisic has arrived, it would be foolish to not use the combination that has seen the United States playing a better brand of soccer. The U.S. is more likely to win with Pulisic and Dempsey playing together, and this partnership is especially needed against elite combination like the competition that U.S. will likely face in the 2018 World Cup.


Takeaways from the United States’ 2017 Gold Cup Victory

Takeaways from the United States’ 2017 Gold Cup Victory

It felt like the United States eked out its 2017 Gold Cup victory, rather than truly outplaying its competition. There were plenty of positives to take away from the tournament and the championship, even if the rotation of players led to a lack of excellent team passing and creativity most of the time.

Jordan Morris, Kellyn Acosta, and Paul Arriola all either reaffirmed their talent or they showed more of what they were capable of. Acosta and Arriola oddly received some criticism for not showcasing enough talent and special qualities, but Acosta looked smooth, skillful, and involved, while Arriola looked fast and dangerous.

Without Christian Pulisic acting as a Number 10 behind the forwards, there definitely was a lack of playmaking and creativity in the attack that saw Jozy Altidore dropping back into the midfield to receive the ball and playmake. Luckily, Clint Dempsey was around to win the semifinal and break the deadlock in the final, but Bruce Arena deserves some criticism for cutting Kelyn Rowe after the group stage and not always starting someone to operate as the team’s playmaker. Arena has several quality playmakers to choose from in the field, and he arguably didn’t have any of them on the roster for the group stage or knockout rounds.

Against a weak CONCACAF field of B Teams, the United States should have been more dominate and impressive. Arena did what was necessary to win the tournament, but the U.S. barely won most of its games. The only rotating of players that made sense was not starting Dempsey in the semifinal when he had just played 90 minutes a few days before. Other than that, there was too much meddling with the starting lineup, which affected the team’s performances negatively. Not starting Dempsey in the final didn’t make much sense either since Dempsey only played some 20 minutes in the semifinal.

After so many years of Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones not pairing well as the team’s holding midfielders, Acosta proved himself to be a box-to-box midfielder who partners well with Bradley. Acosta plays with graceful skill and easy athleticism, and he passes well. Arena now has the option of either using two holding midfielders or two forwards, and this allows him to field a more attack-minded or slightly less attack-minded lineup whenever he wants. Morris continues to be a direct and aggressive striker who scores goals and unsettles opponents with his speed, so the United States has another striker like Bobby Wood who can get behind the defense and score.

Without the first-choice center backs, right back, striker, and playmaker, the United States’ Gold Cup squad wasn’t it’s A Team, so this wasn’t a chance to see if the United States has built on its progression under Arena. Nevertheless, at least the United States won the tournament, which should have been much easier to win. The real lesson is that the United States should always be starting its very best lineup until they are more dominant.


Bruce Arena Taking United States 2017 Gold Cup Competition Too Lightly

Bruce Arena has been a better national team coach than Jürgen Klinsmann in terms of his player selection and tactics, but Arena has taken the Gold Cup competition too lightly. In the 2017 Gold Cup, the United States has been drawing or barely winning, and in the semifinals, it took Clint Dempsey coming on in the 69th minute to break the deadlock with an artistic assist and a masterful free kick goal to finally beat Costa Rica.

Arena’s coaching decisions in this Gold Cup haven’t been poor, but they haven’t been excellent either. Arena has been taking opposing teams too lightly by shuffling lineups and auditioning players too much while also failing to start a playmaker behind the strikers to fill Christian Pulisic’s Number 10 role. Pulisic is already back with his club team Borussia Dortmund, and the United States’ passing, creativity, and attack has been subpar compared to previous recent U.S. National Team games.

The second-time U.S. coach was close to fielding a strong lineup against Costa Rica in the semifinal, but again there was no real attacking midfielder or playmaker until Dempsey came on late in the game. Pairing Kellyn Acosta and Michael Bradley as the holding midfielders behind the more attacking players was an improvement for the squad as Bradley could sit deeper in front of the defense and Acosta was free to go forward more. On the other hand, starting Graham Zusi once again at right back was suspect at best. Arena is apparently going to insist on having Zusi as a right back option, and Arena has really dug his heels in on this questionable decision.

Against Jamaica on Wednesday in the 2017 Gold Cup Final, Arena will likely start Dempsey rather than saving him for the end like last game which was done on purpose to account for Dempsey’s 90 minute performance just a few days prior to the semifinal against Costa Rica. Look for Dempsey to play alongside Jozy Altidore up top in the attack or to play as the center attacking midfielder behind Altidore and possibly Jordan Morris. We could see the United States drop Acosta in order to go with the more attack-minded 4-1-3-2 formation, but maybe not.

Arena has been taking the United States’ Gold Cup competition way too lightly in the 2017 Gold Cup, but against Jamaica in the final, Arena would be wise to not start the likes of Zusi or Gyasi Zardes. It will be interesting to see if Paul Arriola or Joe Corona starts in the final, but with many first-choice attacking players like Pulisic, Sebastian Lletget, and Kelyn Rowe not on this roster, one of Corona or Arriola should start.


The United States Must Build All Lineups around Christian Pulisic

The United States Must Build All Lineups around Christian Pulisic

Christian Pulisic should be the first name on the United States’ team sheet, and he should be on the team sheet in the Number 10 role.

When Bruce Arena first deployed Pulisic as a Number 10 beneath Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore, what Arena did was set the United States up to showcase its best passing and best attacking play ever.

Recently, when the United States tied Mexico 1-1 in Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, Arena was somewhat forced to not use his first-choice players because they were operating on only a few days rest from a previous World Cup qualifier, but Pulisic nevertheless started. In the 3-4-3 formation used by Arena, Pulisic was operating out on the left wing in an attacking triangle, and this lessened his impact to attack Mexico and facilitate the American attack. Pulisic didn’t have as many touches on the ball out left, and he wasn’t in a position to feed Bobby Wood up top at striker as much as Pulisic could have in the middle.

Rotating players was excusable, but there was no need to use Pulisic out left or to use one less midfielder. Arena made the wise decision to start Kellyn Acosta in the center of the midfielder with Michael Bradley, and with Acosta helping out Bradley, there was no need to use three center backs instead of two. With the set-up used, there was a big gap between where Acosta and Bradley were and where Wood was up top.

This game against Mexico, while a good draw for the U.S., nevertheless showed how much the U.S.’s passing and attacking ability weakened with Pulisic out wide instead of behind the striker or strikers, and the team’s passing was certainly worse with Darlington Nagbe on the bench as one of the rotated out players.

Given Pulisic’s abilities and importance for the U.S., some minor criticism of Arena’s tactics against Mexico is warranted. The U.S. did earn an important point for the draw, but that point likely mostly came from an incredible and sensational golazo from Bradley.

Starting Pulisic as the center attacking midfielder should take precedence in an Arena lineup for the United States, and the real decision for Arena going forward will be whether or not he starts Acosta again with Bradley in more of a 4-2-3-1 or if starting two forwards is key for Arena. Whatever Arena goes with, Pulisic must be used centrally to orchestrate the American attack and to score and create goals.