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.


Who Should the United States Start Against Mexico in World Cup qualifying?

Who Should the United States Start Against Mexico in World Cup qualifying?

Except for starting Jozy Altidore over Bobby Wood at center forward, coach Bruce Arena got his United States lineup right in the World Cup qualifying win over Trinidad and Tobago in Denver. The United States beat Trinidad and Tobago 2-0 as they should have, and the U.S. should obviously be playing for the win against Mexico in Mexico City.

Altidore played well for the United States in the last game where he even set up a goal, but Wood is the more dangerous player and the more difficult player to defend and contain. Arena also has the option of altering his formation, but he seems content with his 4-1-3-2 formation which has worked very well for the U.S. It’s even an attacking lineup, which the United States and Arena never used to use.

Wood over Altidore may be the only lineup change for the United States, and having Wood and Pulisic running at the Mexican defense in Azteca should be a more electric attack than the U.S. has ever fielded in Mexico’s enormous Azteca stadium in Mexico City. There is a possibility that Kellyn Acosta will start against Mexico with the logic being that the United States will need another center midfielder to keep possession and recovery possession, and both Bradley and Acosta cover a lot of territory.

Fabian Johnson didn’t play particularly well in either of the last two U.S. games, but nobody doubts his talent, speed, or experience. Nevertheless, Arena should play somebody over Johnson, and that somebody should be Acosta.

Using Acosta would alter the Americans’ formation, and just maybe Dempsey plays tucked in on the left rather than playing as a second striker. Pulisic moves all over the attack and all over the field for that matter, and rigidly confining Dempsey or Pulisic to wide or central roles on the field is a misunderstanding of how they play and how the sport is played.

A strong option for Arena against Mexico therefore is to insert Acosta into the lineup and not use a three-man defense with three center back, which is something the U.S. is comfortable enough with to really use against Mexico. Even though the U.S. just played Thursday, switching up the center backs or the defense at all feels risky. If a player or players get tired, then that’s what substitutes are for. Going with the 4-3-3 formation would help with the fatigue from the recent game since the 4-3-3 would have Nagbe, Bradley, and Acosta as a three-man midfield with three center midfielders to keep possession and recover possession, which would make for an attacking three of Pulisic, Wood, and Dempsey who are all fluid and versatile attackers who know how to move into space and show for the ball. Rather than trotting out some unproven and new defense, Arena should play a three-man midfield of Nagbe, Bradley, and Acosta

Here’s who World Soccer Source believes the United States should start against Mexico:

Goalkeeper: Tim Howard

Right Back: DeAndre Yedlin

Center Back: Geoff Cameron

Center Back: John Brooks

Left Back: Jorge Villafaña

Right Center Midfielder: Kellyn Acosta

Defensive Midfielder: Michael Bradley

Left Center Midfielder: Darlington Nagbe

Right Wing: Christian Pulisic

Center Forward: Bobby Wood

Left Wing: Clint Dempsey


Takeaways from the United States’ World Cup Qualifiers against Honduras and Panama

Takeaways from the United States’ World Cup Qualifiers against Honduras and Panama

The United States beat Honduras and drew with Panama for an important four points in World Cup qualifying, but the United States should have taken the full six points from these two games. Bruce Arena reverted to an overly conservative lineup against Panama with both Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones in the center of the midfield, and Arena’s center back choices, Omar Gonzalez and Tim Ream, looked bad against Panama. With Jones in the midfield, the U.S. lost the passing skill and attacking flair they showed with Christian Pulisic as the Number 10 behind Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore.

Here are some of the big takeaways from the United States’ two World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Panama:

Bruce Arena Is a Bigger Proponent of Skill Soccer than Jürgen Klinsmann

Bruce Arena is a bigger proponent of skill soccer than Jürgen Klinsmann, which is strange. Klinsmann is one of the all-time leaders in World Cup goals as a striker, but he never fielded the players and formations needed to really attack opponents. In every game that Arena has coached for the United States in his second coaching stint, he has fielded proactive lineups with as many technical and creative players as he could fit into the lineup. Arena had multiple injuries to deal with against Panama, so that lineup was not as technical, creative, and attack-minded as his Honduras lineup. Nevertheless, Klinsmann’s lineups were never as bold and attack-minded as Arena’s, who used to be known for always using the 4-4-2 formation with two defensive midfielders, except for his use of Sebastian Lletget as the other central midfielder for the LA Galaxy in 2016. With the U.S., Arena’s preference has been to use two forwards with three attacking midfielders and only one defensive midfielder, and Arena was even bold enough to let Christian Pulisic be the team’s Number 10 over both Benny Feilhaber and Sacha Kljestan.

Christian Pulisic Should Be the United States’ Permanent Number 10

As soon as Christian Pulisic was allowed to play the Number 10 role, he attacked opponents directly with speed, skill, and vision, and he created four goals for Clint Dempsey in two games. To be fair, one of Dempsey’s goals was a free kick, but Pulisic directly set up three of Dempsey’s four goals. Pulisic has already displayed a full array of passing and attacking skills in the Bundesliga, and as one media member put it, the fact that Panama instantly chose to hack and push Pulisic around was the ultimate sign of respect for his abilities.

Bruce Arena must focus on improving his defense

The United States was without three of its four defenders against Panama, but nevertheless, both Omar Gonzalez and Tim Ream just looked not good enough to be playing for the U.S. Perhaps Ream was just a little nervy at times, but Gonzalez is not quick enough and fast enough to be starting. Arena will have to commit to using Walker Zimmerman and Steve Birnbaum when Geoff Cameron and John Brooks are out, and Arena must also look for some more center backs. Andrew Farrell is one option because his combines the defending, speed, and skill on the ball to play at the international level. Surely, the U.S. has some other center backs as well.

Clint Dempsey Looks Like He’s Still in His Prime

Fresh off of recovering from an irregular heartbeat, Clint Dempsey played like a monster against Honduras and Panama. Deuce benefited from playing with Pulisic, but all of Dempsey’s goals except the fourth one required a ton of skill; the fourth goals required coolness in front of the goal more than anything as the goal was all Pulisic’s work. Not only is Dempsey’s touch and finishing looking sharp, but physically he looked light on his feet and fast. Dempsey has never been lightning fast, but his overly all athletic ability has been underrated as many mischaracterized him as mostly a toughness player. Dempsey has stood out as an American for his skill on the ball, trickery, and clinical finishing, but his continued ability to run all game and beat people in a foot race are also important.


The United States Lineup Was Too Conservative in Draw Against Panama

The United States Lineup Was Too Conservative in Draw Against Panama

Bruce Arena fielded an overly conservative United States lineup featuring Jermaine Jones against Panama, and the team showed less passing and attacking prowess in a 1-1 tie. The United States could have used the full three points against a Panama squad that is frankly not good enough to warrant an overly defensive lineup. Not attacking the opponent might be the best way to let the opponent attack you.

In the previous win against Honduras, Arena used only one defensive midfielder behind a line of three attacking midfielders and two forwards, and this setup allowed Christian Pulisic to pull the attacking strings behind Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore. Using a 4-4-2 formation with Jones next to Michael Bradley in the middle of the midfield, the United States didn’t open up the Panamanian defense enough or create enough scoring chances.

Jozy Altidore, who was involved and impressive in his playmaking as a center forward was largely invisible against Panama in a formation that didn’t get him enough touches as it had against Honduras.

Panama was all over Pulisic pushing him around and trying to take him out of the game with physicality, but the Borussia Dortmund attacking midfielder powered through the physicality and was largely unfazed. On the U.S.’ only goal which Dempsey scored, Pulisic shook off and danced around two Panamanian defenders to set up Dempsey from point blank range, and Dempsey didn’t miss. Pulisic continued to display tons of skill and impressive speed, and there can be little doubt now that Pulisic is the best U.S. player along with Dempsey. Pulisic looks to be better than both Landon Donovan and Dempsey, and compared to Dempsey, Pulisic is much quicker and faster, and a better passer.

The American defense was bad with Graham Zusi, Omar Gonzalez, Tim Ream, and Jorge Villafaña from right to left, but Villafaña continues to impress. Zusi, Gonzalez, and Ream shouldn’t be starting when there are better options, which there weren’t.

Darlington Nagbe was excellent again with his passing, slashing runs, and speed, which he uses to bring the ball into dangerous areas in the attack. In the next U.S. game, Arena would be wise to continue to use Nagbe on the left wing with Pulisic in the center and Paul Arriola on the right wing, since Sebastian Lletget is now injured.

Arena made a roster mistake in not bringing Juan Agudelo. Once Altidore was ineffective against Panama, the U.S. needed a sub for Altidore, and there wasn’t one. This should have been Agudelo. Altidore needs a lineup that feeds him the ball more, and his passing and dribbling was impressive against Honduras. Still, it’s hard to start Altidore over a healthy Bobby Wood, who was injured for these two World Cup qualifiers. Even though Altidore impresses, Wood is better at stretching the defense than Altidore, and the Pulisic will be an even bigger weapon with a striker of Wood’s smoothness, directness, and speed.

The big takeaways from this game were several: Altidore continues to improve, Pulisic is outstanding as the playmaker, Dempsey and Pulisic are the best players on the team, and an attack-minded lineup is the best U.S. formation.

There’s no way around the fact that being satisfied with a tie against Panama is a little weak and small-minded. The United States is too good at soccer now to be ok with a tie against Panama when the U.S. could have really used the full three points for the win.

The United States Routs Honduras with Attack-Heavy Lineup

The United States Routs Honduras with Attack-Heavy Lineup

Bruce Arena fielded an attack-heavy U.S. Men’s National Team lineup with only one defensive midfielder, and it allowed the U.S. to destroy Honduras 6-0. Previous coaches of the United States, including Arena, were always reluctant to field lineups with multiple creative attacking players who could facilitate possession and proactive play, but Arena’s lineup allowed for lots of combination play and goals. He started Sebastian Lletget, Christian Pulisic, Darlington Nagbe, Clint Dempsey, and Jozy Altidore all at the same time. American soccer fans have been waiting for the United States to beat a decent opponent with skill instead of just hustle and heart for a long time.

Max Bretos of ESPN commented on social media during the game that Clint Dempsey had been waiting for five years for a player like Christian Pulisic who could feed him passes and combine with him, and how true this is. Dempsey and Pulisic were also combining with Lletget, Nagbe, and Altidore, who displayed a massive improvement in his ball control and deftness in tight spaces with little time to think and react.

Even without Bobby Wood starting, the United States was stretching the Honduran defense as Pulisic, Dempsey, Altidore, and Lletget all took turns making runs. Arena deserves lots of credit for fielding such an attack-minded lineup, and the decision to use Pulisic as a Number 10 or attacking midfielder rather than using Sacha Kljestan was key to opening up the Honduran defense and getting the most out of Altidore and Dempsey.

Arena was also fairly bold in his decision to let Jorge Villafaña start at left back where he displayed attacking skill going forward along with the endurance, speed, and defending to mark Honduras’ attackers. Villafaña always slowed up his attacking counterpart either by getting in front of him or dispossessing him. Even when Villafaña was beaten or out of position, he recovered enough ground to prevent any dangerous advances on the USA goal.

The United States will be without Lletget for the next World Cup qualifier against Panama, but Arena should be praised again for calling up Paul Arriola to replace him, as Arriola brings many of the same attacking and technical qualities that Lletget brought to the right wing. Alejandro Bedoya did a fine job of subbing in for Lletget after Lletget was hacked and injured, and using Bedoya against Panama would be acceptable since he showed more impact and effectiveness than in recent previous appearances.

Whether the coach of the United States uses Kellyn Acosta in the midfield with Bradley or goes with Bedoya or Arriola in a line of three attacking midfielders, the U.S. should have more than enough quality, speed, and verve to beat Panama on Tuesday in Panama. Look for Arena to field a similar type of proactive lineup again, even if that means using Acosta as a central midfielder to be Bradley’s deputy because Acosta brings aggressive, direct, and skillful play to the team.

Big Bruce overloaded the USA lineup with technical and creative attacking players against Honduras. Will he do it again against Panama, and will it signal a change in the United States’ playing style?

Attack Key for the United States against Honduras

Attack Key for the United States against Honduras

The attack will be the key for the United States to beat Honduras in the upcoming World Cup qualifier in San Jose, California. The American defense will be in disarray without any of the normal starting right backs available to Bruce Arena, and the United States must use a creative and fast attack to beat Honduras.

The U.S. will be without its best center forward, Bobby Wood, but Jordan Morris can offer more speed and more aggressive direct play than Jozy Altidore who plays with less urgency. Because Wood is unavailable, using Morris allows the United States to get behind the Honduran defense and create scoring chances.

Clint Dempsey, Christian Pulisic, and Sebastian Lletget are all available to play as the line of three attacking midfielders behind Morris (if he starts over Altidore), and among those three, look for Dempsey to play as the playmaker in the middle with Pulisic and Lletget possibly flanking Dempsey.

Darlington Nagbe is another wing option, but so far, Nagbe has only played left wing which is where Pulisic, the better player, usually starts.

The United States cannot claim that they are forced to field a weakened attack with those players because those players are by and large better than what the United States has been able to field over the last couple of decades. Sure, the United States had Landon Donovan and Dempsey as wings, but the overall skill and speed of the attack wasn’t as good as the four players the United States has available against Honduras.

Arena has Michael Bradley and Kellyn Acosta to play as the defensive midfielder and box-to-box midfielder behind the line of three attacking midfielders, and that’s too much overall skill and athleticism to reasonably complain about. The United States do have some shuffling to do in the defense, but the attack should be able to compensate for it.

It will be interesting to see just how courageous Arena will be with his lineup. Will he trot out the likes of Alejandro Bedoya, Sacha Kljestan, and Altidore, or will be really look to field an aggressive and technical midfield and attack?


Who Should the United States Select for the March World Cup Qualifying Roster?

Who Should the United States Select for the March World Cup Qualifying Roster?

Bruce Arena’s has a big decision to make when he selects the U.S. Men’s National Team for the March World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Panama: how many of the new and impressive players will he give roster spots to?

There’s a possibility that all of the deserving new or newer players won’t all get a roster spot, if Arena feels more comfortable going with familiar regulars. Looking at the U.S.’ midfield, Arena needs Benny Feilhaber, Sebastian Lletget, Dax McCarty, Darlington Nagbe, and Kellyn Acosta all on the roster, but the American coach might insist on including the mediocre Alejandro Bedoya, who is something of a burning who offers little passing or quick combination play. There are also defenders like Walker Zimmerman, Steve Birnbaum, Eric Lichaj, and Jorge Villafaña who all offer qualities and skill-sets that the team needs, but several ineffective regular veterans could prevent them from receiving a roster spot.

Whatever starting lineup Arena plans on using dictates the rest of the roster because after planning on a certain lineup, the rest of the roster spots are substitutes for each of the 11 starters. Some of the roster spots are quite predictable – if Michael Bradley is the starting defensive midfielder, then Dax McCarty is the backup defensive midfielder, but other roster spots aren’t as clear-cut. If Christian Pulisic is the starting left wing, then is Darlington Nagbe or Sebastian Lletget the back-up, or is Lletget the starting right wing or box-to-box midfielder? Is Feilhaber or Sacha Kljestan going to play as the team’s Number 10, and if it’s Kljestan, which would be the wrong call, then will Arena include Feilhaber, Lletget, and Nagbe all on the roster?

In the defense, there are questions about who will be the backup center backs for Geoff Cameron and John Brooks. Will it be Gonzalez and Birnbaum, or will it be Birnbaum and Zimmerman? Will Matt Besler be called up?

There are tough decisions to be made in the attack as well. Should Arena call up Jordan Morris and Juan Agudelo, or is Jozy Altidore too experienced and still too young not to call up? Clint Dempsey and Bobby Wood have to be the starting forward pair, but Arena could insist on using Altidore and Dempsey and maybe crazily omit Wood from the lineup.

Who knows who the coach of the United States will select? But, here is a 23-man roster that is not exactly a prediction, but more of an opinion of which players should be selected:


Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, William Yarbrough


Geoff Cameron, John Brooks, Steve Birnbaum, Walker Zimmerman, DeAndre Yedlin, Eric Lichaj, Jorge Villafaña, Fabian Johnson


Michael Bradley, Dax McCarty, Kellyn Acosta, Benny Feilhaber, Sebastian Lletget, Darlington Nagbe, Christian Pulisic, Paul Arriola


Clint Dempsey, Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, Juan Agudelo


Who Will Bruce Arena Call Up to the United States January Camp?

Who Will Bruce Arena Call Up to the United States January Camp?

In a Facebook Live Question and Answer session, Bruce Arena revealed the names of many players who he will call into the United States Men’s National Team’s January camp. This distinguished Arena from Jürgen Klinsmann, who would conceal the names on his roster until the very last minute. Klinsmann’s preference differed greatly from the top national teams in the world.

Arena quickly revealed that Benny Feilhaber and Darlington Nagbe would be in camp, and that gives the United States a playmaker and a box-to-box midfielder of the more attacking variety respectively. The coach also listed Sacha Kljestan again, so Kljestan and Feilhaber make two playmakers or attacking midfielders specifically mentioned. Arena also listed Dax McCarty who is a defensive midfielder, so this gives the United States two defensive midfielders: Bradley and McCarty. It seems likely than Jermaine Jones will still play a part on the team on account of being too good to leave off, even if he does partner badly with Bradley.

Oddly, Arena has never mentioned Sebastian Lletget who stood out for Arena’s LA Galaxy team as both a wing and a central midfielder. Lletget is ideally suited to play as a playmaker, and perhaps Arena does not want to be accused of hyping up his former club players.

In the defense, Arena listed Walker Zimmerman and Matt Hedges, two center backs from FC Dallas. Keegan Rosenberry, the Philadelphia Union right back was also listed along with the Houston Dynamo left back, DaMarcus Beasley.

In the attack, the coach listed Juan Agudelo, who is arguably the most talented striker in the player pool after Bobby Wood, and Agudelo is likely more skilled and deadly. Chris Pontius, the DC United winger, was listed, but Arena said that Ethan Finlay was a good player, who would not be in camp. But, Kekuta Manneh, the electric winger from Gambia who is now a U.S. citizen was listed.

Here’s a list of 30 players who Bruce Arena may call into January camp:


Brad Guzan, David Bingham, Clint Irwin

Center Backs

Steve Birnbaum, Walker Zimmerman, Matt Hedges, Andrew Farrell

Outside Backs

DaMarcus Beasley, Keegan Rosenberry, Kofi Sarkodie, Robbie Rogers, Greg Garza

Defensive/Central Midfielders

Michael Bradley,  Dax McCarty, Jermaine Jones, Fatai Alashe, Kellyn Acosta

Attacking Midfielders/Wings

Benny Feilhaber, Sacha Kljestan, Darlington Nagbe, Lee Nguyen, Kekuta Manneh, Chris Pontius, Sebastian Lletget, Kelyn Rowe


Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo, Jordan Morris, Gyasi Zardes


What Is Bruce Arena’s Best United States 23 Right Now?

What Is Bruce Arena’s Best United States Men’s National Team 23 Right Now?

Bruce Arena has stated on multiple occasions that he already has a good idea of who will be on his roster in World Cup qualifying in March of 2017 and that there will only be a few changes.

Let’s look at who could be on his roster, and let’s look at it position by position. World Soccer Source would select Rubio Rubin over Jozy Altidore, even though Altidore has been scoring regularly. Andrew Farrell is another player that this writer would find a place for either as a center back or as a right back, but who knows how high Arena rates Farrell right now?

For the breakdown, look below, but here is a more detailed explanation of the players at each position. Each of the 11 positions has a starter and back-up listed, but there are three goalkeepers listed and three strikers or center forwards listed. There are three center forwards listed because having only two is one too many. There must be more than one back-up for this position because this is obviously where most of the team’s scoring comes from. In order to account for three strikers, there are only three wings listed, but Fabian Johnson is really a wing who can play on either side of the wing despite being listed as an outside back.

This roster made sure to include two attacking midfielders: Benny Feilhaber and Lee Nguyen. Nguyen has also excelled out wide in a line of three attacking midfielders in front of two holding midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Keep in mind that both Sebastian Lletget and Kelyn Rowe are attacking midfielders by trade who are frequently used as wings, and an argument can be made that Lletget and Rowe are good enough right now to play that position over Feilhaber and Nguyen. Also remember that Juan Agudelo, Rubio Rubin, and Bobby Wood can all play as wide attackers or forwards as well.

Here is one opinion of the best United States 23-man roster possible under Bruce Arena right now:

Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan, Ethan Horvath, William Yarbrough

Right Back: DeAndre Yedlin, Eric Lichaj

Right Center Back: Geoff Cameron, Andrew Farrell

Left Center Back: John Brooks, Steve Birnbaum

Left Back: Jorge Villafaña, Fabian Johnson

Defensive Midfielder: Michael Bradley, Dax McCarty

Center Midfielder: Darlington Nagbe, Kellyn Acosta

Right Wing: Sebastian Lletget, Kelyn Rowe

Attacking Midfielder: Benny Feilhaber, Lee Nguyen

Left Wing: Christian Pulisic, (Kelyn Rowe)

Striker: Bobby Wood, Juan Agudelo, Rubio Rubin

*Note: Clint Dempsey is still not medically cleared to play


Who Should Bruce Arena Play as the USMNT Number 10?

Who Should Bruce Arena Play as the USMNT Number 10?

“We need a better passer in the midfield than we have. We need to have a player in the attacking half of the field who can deliver the right ball at the right time. Who that is remains to be seen. There’s a couple of domestic players that are very good at that who we’ll look at in camp in January, and that to me is an area we’ve got to identify.”

That was Bruce Arena during an interview on the Extratime Radio Podcast for

Just the fact that United States’ coach,  Arena, wants to use a Number 10 type player is an improvement over Jürgen Klinsmann, and Arena has multiple playmaker options.

The coach of the United States can choose to use Benny Feilhaber, Lee Nguyen, or Sacha Kljestan, and he has the luxury of using another Number 10, Sebastian Lletget, on the wing opposite Christian Pulisic. This gives the United States more skill and creativity in the midfield, and it makes the United States a better passing team.

Arena highlighted poor passing as one of the things that he’s looking to improve right away. He also specifically stated that he wants to find a Number 10 style player.

So, Arena will likely decide between Feilhaber, Nguyen, and Kljestan, and Arena told Extratime Radio that he thought Kljestan was perhaps the best player in MLS this season. Nevertheless, both Nguyen and Feilhaber are better playmakers than Kljestan. Both are more creative and more technical than Kljestan, and both are quicker and harder to stay in front of. Looking at all three playmakers, Nguyen is the best 1v1, but Feilhaber is perhaps the most gifted passer. Feilhaber has proven to be a better tackler and worker than he was earlier in his career, but of all three options, Nguyen is the youngest and quickest.

An argument can be made that if Arena is going to use Michael Bradley and Darlington Nagbe as the defensive midfielder and box-to-box midfielder, then Arena has the luxury of going with the most electric of the options: Nguyen. While Nguyen has been playing faster and more creatively than either Feilhaber or Kljestan, Feilhaber is undoubtedly the most deserving option. Feilhaber is the most proven on the international level, and Feilhaber has the best passing ability of all three.

Nevertheless, Nguyen is in his prime right now, and recent games with the United States have shown him to be someone that can facilitate quicker and better one-to-two touch passing for the United States. The team needs quicker, smoother, and better passing, and Nguyen plays with the style and energy to play at Christian Pulisic’s and Bobby Wood’s speed.

Arena can’t go wrong with either Nguyen or Feilhaber, but Kljestan is the least talented of the three options. Will Arena go with Feilhaber or Nguyen, or will he go with the more inspired option of letting Lletget play as the Number 10?

Calling up both Feilhaber and Nguyen is Arena’s best course of action. That way he has both playmakers to choose from and use. The only way either playmaker can distinguish themselves from each other is in games, so their play in meaningful games for the United States will show more than just speculating based on their strengths and weaknesses.