The United States National Team still lags behind soccer’s giants in terms of its technical ability and passing. Starting a qualified playmaker would improve those problems. Both Benny Feilhaber and Lee Nguyen fit the bill to pull the strings for the United States, and don’t forget how well Christian Pulisic has done as a playmaker.
If Bruce Arena wants to use the Dortmund forward more as a Number 7 or Number 11, then one of those other two playmakers are strong options. Among the two, Feilhaber is the more proven playmaker at the international level.
Poor passing was easily the biggest problem in the last two World Cup qualifiers, but the U.S. passed much better earlier in the year when Pulisic was in a central role.
Benny Feilhaber Has Been a Proven Playmaker for Years
It’s a wonder that the Sporting Kansas City attacking midfielder hasn’t been a starter for the U.S. National Team for a decade. 2007 was when he scored his famous volley to beat Mexico in the Gold Cup Final, and he’s been the U.S.’s best Number 10 since then.
For years now, Feilhaber has displayed the ability to split the defense and play final balls that other American players couldn’t or wouldn’t play. He has reaffirmed this ability in his last appearances for the United States. Whether they be soft chips over the defense or a pass that slices through the defense, Feilhaber has shown that he has a full arsenal of passes to find openings in the backline. The weight and accuracy of his final passes is unique among Americans, and his are still a notch above Nguyen and Kljestan’s.
When Feilhaber plays, his movement and passing dictate that the team play through him. The attacking midfielder is particularly adept at turning the U.S.’s passing into one-to-two touch passing, which makes the United States more dangerous. Since 2013, Feilhaber has been more of a two-way player than he used to be, and he puts in loads of running. The U.S. doesn’t have a good excuse not to play him.
Lee Nguyen Has Also Been a Proven Playmaker for Several Years
On the other hand, you have Nguyen, who’s younger and probably quicker than Feilhaber. Whether he’s a starter or Feilhaber’s back-up, the New England Revolution midfielder deserves a roster spot. Nguyen like Feilhaber has 1v1 ability and scoring ability. He has 10 goals already this season as a midfielder. His quickness makes him a bigger 1v1 threat than Feilhaber.
Having a quick midfielder like Nguyen as a back-up to Feilhaber can help facilitate quick combination play with Pulisic and Dempsey. Compared to Sacha Kljestan, Nguyen’s skill-set and quickness makes him more effective at the international level. Like Feilhaber, Nguyen should have been a national team fixture for years now, at least the last three or four years.
Bruce Arena Must Rethink Not Using a Playmaker
Arena hasn’t put the United States in the best position to succeed in the last two games. When he started Pulisic out wide with no attacking midfielder, he didn’t start someone who was capable of orchestrating the attack from a central position,.
The United States needs the maximum six points in the next two World Cup qualifiers to put themselves in a position to automatically qualify. Starting Feilhaber or Nguyen and putting them both on the roster would be an active attempt to improve the U.S.’s play.
Using one of these two playmakers would allow the U.S. to get the ball to Pulisic, Clint Dempsey, and Bobby Wood in scoring positions. Without a playmaker with the vision and ability to play final balls to these players their movement and skill is pointless. Arena like many American coaches appears to have a real aversion to starting a true playmaker, even if he promised to do so when he was hired.