Bruce Arena’s Forward Options for the U.S. National Team

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too many forwards since all are center forwards, but Agudelo, Wood, and Altidore all also play like second strikers or withdrawn forwards.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?

We’ll see.


Five Players the United States Should Include on its March World Cup Qualifying Roster

Five Players the United States Should Include on its March World Cup Qualifying Roster

Going into the March World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Panama, the United States must place a premium on selecting enough skill players to not get outplayed and embarrassed. Here are five players that Bruce Arena would be wise to call up again.

Sebastian Lletget

Sebastian Lletget is an essential inclusion on the United States’ roster because he improves the team’s passing ability, creativity, and overall technical ability. Lletget is an active player that constantly passes and moves, and he offers a proactive and refined playing style that the United States lacks. With Christian Pulisic certain to start, Lletget is a player that complements Pulisic’s quick, creative, and skilled play. Whether Lletget is used as a wing, playmaker, or central midfielder, the LA Galaxy midfielder has a skill-set worthy of a starter for the United States.

Benny Feilhaber

Benny Feilhaber is still the best playmaker in the American player pool, and in the recent international friendlies, he showed why he is a more creative and dangerous option than Sacha Kljestan, who is a level below Feilhaber in terms of skill and efficacy against better teams. Feilhaber facilitates quick combination play and scoring opportunities, which the United States sorely needs. The Sporting Kansas City midfielder is still at the top of his game, and he’s the United States’ best option as the Number 10 or attacking midfielder beneath the strikers.

Kellyn Acosta

Kellyn Acosta has really come into his own over the last year, and he’s the type of box-to-box midfielder that the United States has been lacking. Acosta brings excellent two-footed skill on the ball plus tons of athleticism and ball-winning ability. Acosta is also a very aggressive and direct midfielder who opens up space for the attacking players with his spirited runs into the attack. The FC Dallas midfielder is also a scoring threat from the midfield, and his tendency to rip shots on target from outside of the box unsettles the opposing defense and draws defenders away from American attackers.

Juan Agudelo

Juan Agudelo is arguably the best center forward in the American player pool after Bobby Wood, and he might offer some more flair and creativity than Wood, who appears to have only displayed part of his creativity so far. Agudelo can play either as the Number 9 or as a second striker, and he offers a complete forward skill-set of two-footed finishing, individual dribbling ability, heading ability, speed, and the needed physicality. Agudelo is needed on the roster for his aggressive, proactive play that helps the team more than Jozy Altidore’s deeper, more subdued play.

Jordan Morris

Like Agudelo and Wood, Jordan Morris is just more aggressive and direct than Altidore. Morris’ creates multiple scoring opportunities every game, and he goes straight to goal. Morris has a tendency to never use his left foot, but he still consistently beats defenders and scores.  Morris also has a huge, game-changing weapon in his phenomenal speed that allows him to torch almost any defender in a foot race. The Seattle Sounders forward excels at getting behind the defense and attacking the goal, and even with less experience than Altidore, Morris is a more difficult center forward for opposing defenders to contain. The physicality that Altidore brings is also present in Morris who doesn’t let himself get pushed around either.

Four USMNT Strikers For the World Cup



Terrence Boyd. (Photo: MexSport)
Terrence Boyd. (Photo: MexSport)

Jürgen Klinsmann and the United States Men’s National Team have four complete first strikers going into the 2014 World Cup.

Jozy Altidore is the number one striker option right now, but Aron Jóhannsson is equally as skilled from a technical standpoint, if not more so. Additionally, Juan Agudelo and Terrence Boyd are very technically-gifted, fast, tall, and aggressive first strikers who are ready to face high-caliber international competition at the World Cup.

While Eddie Johnson and Herculez Gomez are quality options who are also international-quality strikers, Altidore, Jóhannsson, Agudelo, and Boyd are the best four American first strikers according to World Soccer Source.

The competition at the World Cup is daunting. Teams like Brazil, Spain, Italy, Germany, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, France (if they qualify), and others are stocked full of world-class players, but the United States can take comfort in the fact that Altidore, Jóhannsson, Agudelo, and Boyd are capable first strikers who can score on elite national teams. Every one of those American strikers is technically-advanced and fast, and every one stands above 6 feet.

The Best USMNT XI has yet to be determined, but taking the four strikers listed above to the World Cup gives the United States the firepower to score, if those strikers receive quality service and final balls.

Four USMNT Strikers for the 2o14 World Cup in Brazil:

Jozy ALTIDORE (Sunderland)

Jozy Altidore is a beast of a first striker who has cultivated a more polished set of technical skills inside of a strong, tall, and athletic physique. Altidore brings two-footed skill, size, speed, and a growing ability to do real damage against better opponents.

Aron JÓHANNSSON (AZ Alkmaar)

Aron Jóhannsson is a textbook for footwork, touch, ball striking techniques, finishing, and movement off the ball. Quick, fast, and aggressive in his pursuit of the back of the net, Jóhannsson is a clinical striker who plays with elegance and imagination.

Juan AGUDELO (New England Revolution/Stoke City)

Of all the American strikers, Juan Agudelo is the most inventive risk taker who doesn’t hesitate to attempt to outfox and best defenders and goalkeepers. The United States cannot leave a striker with his invention and technical ability off the World Cup roster, especially given the fact that he also brings excellent speed and strength inside of a 6’2” frame. Agudelo is known for his creativity and refined technical-ability, but Agudelo is a big and athletic striker who will make World Cup defenders expend a ton of energy containing and marking him. Agudelo is a gifted goal-scorer who doesn’t need any extra motivation to aggressively attack the goal with skill, and Agudelo looks to create space for himself to score, which helps to open up games that have stalemated.

Terrence BOYD (Rapid Wien)

Of all the American strikers, Terrence Boyd is the most aggressive of the bunch, and he plays with no respect for his opponents. Agudelo and Jóhannsson may or may not be more technically-skilled than Boyd, but Boyd is a very technically-skilled striker who is the tallest and fastest of the bunch. Boyd plays with real fire, and the United States will need a complete striker like Boyd if it wants to have strikers who can really compete against top national teams and score on them. Boyd has everything: skill with both feet and his head, good finishing, speed, quickness, a tall frame, and excellent movement off the ball.


When the 2014 World Cup rolls around, Jürgen Klinsmann and the USMNT would be wise to put Altidore, Jóhannsson, Agudelo, and Boyd on the roster as the four strikers. Other names have been tossed around in the American media as the best American strikers, but all four of the strikers listed above are complete strikers who can score against even the best national teams. While none of these strikers is an unstoppable goal machine, each of them is unfazed by elite defenders for the most part.

Other American Strikers to Watch:


Herculez GOMEZ



José VILLARREAL (second striker)

Alonso HERNANDEZ (second striker or attacking midfielder)


Klinsmann’s USMNT Options For October Qualifiers


Joe Benny Corona. (Photo: MexSport)
Joe Benny Corona. (Photo: MexSport)


Despite the possibility of Michael Bradley and John Anthony Brooks still being injured, Jürgen Klinsmann still has a lot of new options for the United States Men’s National Team’s October World Cup qualifiers.

A prudent decision for the future success of the USMNT is for Klinsmann to start many of the proven players who he has chosen to snub in the past, but he should fill the rest of the roster with new players that need to be given experience.

The math on this is simple; Klinsmann has 11 starting line-ups spots that he can reserve for some of the more-experienced American players who he has chosen to not use, and he has 12 roster spots for the new talents in American soccer.

The other alternative is to use the same roster outlined above but start the new players.

If Klinsmann wants to start more-proven players, then this is a topic that can be discussed with specificity.

For example, Klinsmann could start Brad Guzan in goal with Jonathan Spector at right back, Shane O’Neill and Michael Orozco at center back, and Eric Lichaj at left back.

In front of them, Klinsmann can start Geoff Cameron as a defensive midfielder with Joe Benny Corona, Benny Feilhaber, and Mix Diskerud as a line of three attacking midfielders.

Up top, Klinsmann could start Juan Agudelo (if he’s healthy) or Terrence Boyd with Aron Jóhannsson.

The line-up proposed above leaves 11 or 12 roster spots open for Klinsmann, depending on the health of Agudelo.

Starting in the defense, the obvious names are DeAndre Yedlin, Chris Klute, and Andrew Farrell.

This leaves eight or nine roster spots (depending on whether or not Agudelo is healthy) for goalkeepers, midfielders, and forwards.

If there are eight roster spots, calling up Nick Rimando and some other goalkeeper like Clint Irwin, Dan Kennedy, Sean Johnson, Luis Robles, or Tally Hall leaves six more roster spots to fill.

For the final six roster spots, Perry Kitchen as a defensive midfielder, Amobi Okugo as a center back and defensive midfielder, Benji Joya as a midfielder who plays as an attacking midfielder or as a box-to-box midfielder, José Villarreal as a forward or attacking midfielder, Joe Gyau as a winger or forward, and Freddy Adu as midfielder or forward (it’s time for Klinsmann to check in with Adu).

The roster proposed above includes three goalkeepers, four outside backs, four center backs, four forwards, five attacking midfielders, three defensive or box-to-box midfielders (plus Shane O’Neill and Geoff Cameron).

To be clear, the USMNT could start the following fairly-experienced XI below:

Guzan; Spector, O’Neill, Orozco, Lichaj; Cameron; Corona, Feilhaber, Diskerud; Agudelo/Boyd, Jóhannsson.

On the bench, the USMNT would have the following players available:

Rimando, Irwin/Kennedy/Robles/S. Johnson/Hall, Yedlin, Klute, Farrell, Kitchen, Okugo, Joya, Villarreal, Gyau, Adu.

Starting Guzan in goal with Spector, O’Neill, Orozco, and Lichaj forming the Back Four should be a strong enough defense to win or at least they should be strong enough to win.

In front of them, Cameron as a defensive midfielder behind a line of three attacking midfielders (Corona, Feilhaber, Diskerud) should be a midfield with a strong defender and good passer patrolling the back with three creative midfielders helping the United States to maintain possession and set up goals.

Up top, Agudelo or Boyd with Jóhannsson is a potent young strike force who at the very least should cause problems for all but the very best of international defenders.

These forwards still have room to improve, but all three of them are real threats on the international level. There is no reason to think that they aren’t capable of easily scoring against CONCACAF opposition unless they simply don’t receive enough service.

Something similar to the roster and starting line-up proposed in this article combines the best of both worlds for the United States Men’s National Team: more-experienced players that Klinsmann hasn’t favored as starters with new talents who can gain experience and help to strengthen the national team.

On the other hand, if Klinsmann wanted to use mainly new and/or younger players, then he could start the following XI:

Guzan; Yedlin, Farrell, O’Neill, Klute; Cameron, Joya; Adu, Feilhaber, Corona; Agudelo/Boyd/Jóhannsson.

What Jürgen Klinsmann really needs to learn is whether or not he’s been using the best players and if the new talents or some of the out of favor talents can improve the ability of the USMNT to better compete or win at the highest level against better national teams.

The coach of the United States enjoys using the metaphor about tossing players into the cold water, and with the 2014 World Cup approaching next summer, it’s time to see who the best American soccer players are and prepare them for the big stage.



Depth Chart: USMNT First Strikers



Jozy Altidore scored the game's only goal. (Photo: Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports)
Jozy Altidore. (Photo: Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports)

Over the past two years, Jozy Altidore has dramatically improved his movement off the ball, and he has refined his technical ability and finishing skills.

Now, Jozy Altidore has blossomed into a first striker whose athleticism and physique are matched by his technical skill and movement off the ball. Altidore has two years playing club soccer in Holland to thank for these improvements, and now Jozy Altidore tops the list of World Soccer Source’s best American strikers.

After Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo and Aron Jóhannsson are tied for second due to the difficulty in trying to scientifically rank all of the various criteria like finishing, club form, the league played in, technical ability, scoring-rate, and athleticism.


1.) Jozy Altidore (Sunderland)

Easily the best American striker, Altidore showed just how far he’d come in polishing his technical ability, finishing, and movement off the ball when he scored an outstanding hat trick against Bosnia and Herzegovina after two years with a prolific scoring-rate with AZ Alkmaar in the Eredivisie. Two months shy of his 24th birthday, Altidore is a complete first striker, and he will continue to improve in all areas of his game as the years go by.


2.) Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution / Stoke City)

Juan Agudelo is one of the crown jewels of American soccer, and it will be interesting to see how he compares to Jozy Altidore in a few years or sooner.

It took Altidore several years and the right club situation to become a more finished product who had harnessed his physical gifts and honed his skills, so Agudelo should be allowed the same amount of time to become more polished and deadly.

Whereas Altidore was accused of needing to refine his technical ability several years ago, Agudelo was never criticized for his technical ability. Agudelo has been criticized for trying to do too many tricks, for overcomplicating things, and for taking too many touches, but Agudelo has become more efficient without eliminating the trickery and creativity from his game.

The young American striker has had multiple opportunities to showcase his talent against top national teams playing at full strength, and he has never looked overmatched or fazed by the opposition.

There are too many excellent goals with both feet and his head to not consistently have Juan Agudelo on the United States Men’s National Team, and despite a few injuries, there have been plenty of occasions when Agudelo has been unjustly snubbed by Jürgen Klinsmann and the national team.


2.) Aron Jóhannsson (AZ Alkmaar)

Aron Jóhannsson is as good as or better than Juan Agudelo, and Jóhannsson plays for Jozy Altidore’s former club, AZ Alkmaar.

Altidore has backed Jóhannsson due to his time playing with Jóhannsson and seeing him in action, but Jóhannsson’s play last season and this season combined with his excellent play against Bosnia and Herzegovina prove Jóhannsson’s skill and ability to excel against top-level competition.

The AZ Alkmaar striker is fast and clinical with a nose for goal, and he never hesitates to go straight to goal or hit shots the instant the opportunity presents itself.

If started right now for the United States, there’s no reason to think that Jóhannsson couldn’t do as well or better than any other American striker who has played for the USMNT in the past.

He will continue to grow and get stronger, but Jóhannsson is already a tall striker with excellent speed and textbook technical ability.

Jóhannsson’s biggest strength is the combination of his technical ability with his instinct to attack the goal.


4.) Terrence Boyd (Rapid Wien)

A year ago, the young Terrence Boyd looked poised to make a run at Jozy Altidore’s starting spot, but with Altidore’s improved international form came less playing time for Boyd.

Nevertheless, Boyd is a direct-to-goal first striker who attacks the goal constantly with his skill and athleticism. Unlike Altidore who took some time to develop more of a ruthless streak, Boyd has always been very aggressive and his ability to score with both feet should serve the United States well.

Boyd has all of the tools to be a starting striker with the USMNT, and it’s time for Klinsmann to start seasoning more of his strikers besides Altidore.

Boyd is a faster and more athletic player than Altidore, Agudelo, and Jóhannsson, and his technical ability is equally good.

A striker with Boyd’s gifts and skills should prove to be a very valuable weapon for the United States. Once Boyd plays more with the United States, it will be easier to compare and contrast him with Jozy Altidore.

Of all the American strikers, Boyd is the most ruthless, and he attacks opponents with pure rage and no respect.



Jozy Altidore leads the pack as the best American striker, but Juan Agudelo, Aron Jóhannsson, and Terrence Boyd deserve more opportunities to gain international experience. Until the other three play more for the United States, it’s unclear how they compare to one another or if one of them partners particularly well with Altidore. There is also the real need to make sure that the United States has four first strikers who are ready to play well in the World Cup.


The USMNT Youth Movement


A strong argument can be made that the best Starting XI for the United States Men’s National Team would look nothing like the ones that Jürgen Klinsmann has been using with the exception of Tim Howard, Geoff Cameron, Fabian Johnson, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, and Jozy Altidore.

Those players along with Brad Guzan leave Jürgen Klinsmann and the USMNT 15 open roster spots to improve the U.S. national team.

There has been a fantastic youth movement over the last two years in the United States, and Juan Agudelo burst onto the scene a little before that time when he was only 17 years old.

The influx of new and better American players into Major League Soccer and other leagues is what the American soccer community has been waiting for. Making these new players wait to play for the national team is a poor long-term strategy and a poor strategy for the performance of the United States Men’s National Team now.

After the United States plays Mexico on Tuesday, Jürgen Klinsmann either needs to call in Jonathan Spector, Eric Lichaj, and Benny Feilhaber to play in the next World Cup qualifiers to give the United States experienced and proven players or he needs to start filling the roster with the better younger players. To be fair, Feilhaber, Spector, and Lichaj aren’t old players themselves.

The United States needs to shore up its national team all over the field, and the players to do this are currently in the American player pool. Players like Benji Joya, Chris Klute, DeAndre Yedlin, Andrew Farrell, John Anthony Brooks, and Shane O’Neill are the most pressing.

It shouldn’t be forgotten that Juan Agudelo, Joe Benny Corona, and Mix Diskerud are young players who have been included on some of the rosters, but they haven’t played as big of a role as they deserved.

There are also players like José Villarreal who are definitely national team material, but they aren’t as needed with both Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan on the national team.

Gyasi Zardes should be ready for national team play in several months, but he too isn’t as needed with strikers like Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo, Aron Jóhannsson, and Eddie Johnson on the roster. Zardes’ time will come, and the more refined his attacking skills become, the harder it will be to keep him off the national team

Nevertheless, there is a growing list of players who look more than capable of playing international soccer, and some of them are more ready than others.

Of all the players discussed, several fill urgent needs.

Chris Klute, DeAndre Yedlin, and Andrew Farrell are very talented and athletic outside backs, and the United States needs outside backs with the tools to play international soccer.

Farrell is naturally a center back, and athletic and skilled center backs like Farrell who have strong tackling instincts and skills would be beneficial to the national team.

Despite the growing popularity of Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler among the American fan base, there are two younger center backs who are better in almost every area: John Anthony Brooks and Shane O’Neill.

O’Neill can play as a defensive midfielder, as an outside back, and as a center back, and nothing about Gonzalez’s and Besler’s physical gifts or skill-sets suggests that either player is anywhere close to Shane O’Neill in terms of defensive ability, overall skill on the ball, and athleticism.

Not only is O’Neill a superior 1v1 defender and ball-winner, O’Neill does Cruyffs in his own defensive third and can dribble out of the back and play passes on the ground through crowds of people, and Gonzalez and Besler simply can’t do that.

It’s not clear where many people in the American soccer media insist that a 20-year-old Bundesliga center back is somehow less qualified than Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler who have both never played abroad nor have they put in strong performances against elite attackers, but Gonzalez and Besler are certainly skilled defenders who are far better than defenders like Carlos Bocanegra, Clarence Goodson, or Oguchi Onyewu ever were.

Brooks is only 20 years old, but selection to the national team should be based on merit. Brooks is better than both Gonzalez and Besler who will both likely never play club soccer outside of the United States.

While MLS is producing very good players who are international-caliber players, there is no way to argue that Gonzalez’s and Besler’s experience in MLS make them anywhere close to as good as a 20-year-old center back like Brooks who starts for Hertha Berlin.

Brooks proved his abilities against Bosnia and Herzegovina where he was only guilty of losing sight of the ball on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s third goal when Geoff Cameron jumped up to try to get high enough to clear the cross, but the jump obstructed Brooks’ view of the ball.

Therefore, Brooks is a 20-year-old and skilled Bundesliga center back and Shane O’Neill is a 20 year old MLS center back who is more athletic and more skilled than both Gonzalez and Besler. Additionally, both Brooks and O’Neill are tall enough to not be liabilities on crosses or balls played in the air.

World Soccer Source has covered Chris Klute, DeAndre Yedlin, Andrew Farrell, and Benji Joya extensively, and all four of those players fulfill pressing needs for the United States Men’s National Team.

Joya is a technically-skilled central midfielder who can play out wide, and he offers outstanding technical-ability and passing vision with better defense than Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan provide. Joya offers the complete package of technical-ability, defensive skill, athleticism, and a big-game mentality.

While not a true playmaker, Joya brings skills that are different but compatible with Michael Bradley’s, Clint Dempsey’s, and Landon Donovan’s.

Klute, Yedlin, and Farrell are quite simply modern outside backs (and also center backs in Farrell’s case), and they represent an improvement in skill, athleticism, and international-caliber play. Klute and Yedlin pose an attacking threat up the sidelines that the USMNT has never seen before, and Klute has an equally strong defensive-skill set, which is above Yedlin’s steadily improving defensive skills.

When comparing Farrell to Yedlin at right back, Farrell is definitely the better defender without a drop-off in speed or athleticism compared to Yedlin. Farrell’s technical-ability is close to Yedlin’s.

Of all three outside backs, Klute appears to be the fastest, but the important thing is that all three players give the United States more speed and skill at the outside back positions; all three players can play as right backs or as left backs, which is another reason that they should be on the national team.

With the arrival of the three outside backs discussed above, Kofi Sarkodie has been flying under the radar, but Sarkodie continues to be more of an attacking threat, and he too is a legitimate option for the national team; Sarkodie deserves to be included in the national team set-up more, and he should be evaluated closely and monitored.

There are numerous other young American players who are international-caliber players such as strikers like Mario Rodriguez and Alonso Hernandez, and there are defensive midfielders such as Perry Kitchen, Jared Jeffrey, and Will Trapp who are players to monitor closely.

The key to improving the United States Men’s National Team is continuing to use better players, as opposed to using makeshift line-ups that can’t do real damage to better national teams.

It’s time to start incorporating and seasoning Agudelo, Corona, Diskerud, Joya, Klute, O’Neill, Brooks, Yedlin, Farrell, Villarreal, Sarkodie, Rodriguez, Hernandez, Kitchen, Trapp, Jeffrey, and Zardes.


Juan Agudelo, Refined and Ready


Juan Agudelo. (Photo: Paul Frederiksen-USA TODAY Sport)
Juan Agudelo. (Photo: Paul Frederiksen-USA TODAY Sport)


Many observers criticize soccer players who are willing to continue to attempt tricks or audacious plays even if many of those attempts are failed attempts.

People who criticize showmanship and flair view it as wasted energy, but individual brilliance also wins games.

Juan Agudelo has been identified as a special American talent since he was 17 years old, and ever since that time, he has reaffirmed his skill-level, athleticism, and effectiveness as a striker on the club and international level.

Nevertheless, Agudelo is more of a finished product than he used to be because his 1v1 abilities, his movement off the ball, and his finishing all look more effective and refined than they used to be.

Everyone knew that Agudelo had talent that couldn’t be taught, and everyone knew that Agudelo wasn’t afraid to play with bravado. But, despite all of the highlights and despite quality international play, it was apparent that Agudelo was still a young striker who was ironing out weaknesses and honing his craft.

Over the course of this MLS season, Agudelo has become more efficient and more clinical in his technical ability, in his finishing, and in his execution of tricks, which is making him a more polished striker that can play a major role with the United States Men’s National Team.

The evidence of Agudelo’s increased level of play isn’t just in his collection of electrifying and high-difficulty goals, but it’s also evident in the overall-quality of his play, which includes two-footed technical ability, textbook heading technique, a soft first-touch, good vision, a nose for goal, and intelligent movement off the ball.

Agudelo has improved his movement off the ball, his ability to not be dispossessed in the penalty box, and in his increased sense of when to pass, when to shoot, and when to take defenders off the dribble.

What’s on display now is a striker who is ready to use all of his physical gifts and skills to excel against better competition on the international and club level.

For example, there’s a difference between being able to execute smooth stepovers, and being able to smoothly execute stepovers close enough to elite defenders to use the trick to leave the defender for dead.

Many people are critical of soccer players who play with flash and flair, but Agudelo seems to have learned how to use his flash more productively and more efficiently.

Whereas Jozy Altidore was criticized in the past for not enough movement off the ball, not enough aggressiveness, and not enough smooth technical ability, Agudelo has been criticized for being overly-flashy and losing the ball too often, due to his willingness to attempt multiple tricks in succession.

The major pieces of criticism of Altidore are a thing of the past, but now Agudelo too is close to going from being criticized to being praised.

As Altidore has refined his technical ability and attacking prowess, Agudelo has also been improving.

Agudelo has learned how to eliminate excess energy and movement by using his creativity, skill, size, and athleticism with more purpose and efficiency.

Juan Agudelo is now harder to mark, harder to dispossess, and harder to keep off the United States Men’s National Team because a striker with his skill-level, his athleticism, and his size has simply become too qualified to not be a fixture on the roster.

While Altidore has displayed an enormous improvement in his technical ability, his movement off the ball, and his finishing, which bodes well for the future of the USMNT, the prospect of Altidore playing alongside a polished Agudelo marks a new milestone for American strikers.

American midfielders like Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, and Michael Bradley have distinguished themselves among American soccer players and broken a lot of barriers for American players, but the United States Men’s National Team has been missing a ruthless first striker until Altidore went on a totally mean-spirited hat trick rampage against Bosnia and Herzegovina. Despite two years at AZ Alkmaar with an excellent scoring rate, the game against Bosnia and Herzegovina was a turning point for Altidore.

With strikers like Jozy Altidore, Aron Jóhannsson, and hopefully Juan Agudelo on the USMNT, the threat that the United States poses to top national teams has become very real.

Aron Jóhannsson is looking too good not to start, but starting Altidore and Agudelo together could take the United States to another level in terms of the skill, size, and athleticism of its strikers, and it should help the USMNT become closer to closing the gap with soccer’s giants.


Juan Agudelo’s Individual Highlights From This Season:



USMNT Roster Options for Klinsmann


Chris Klute (arms raised). (Photo: USA Today SPORTS)
Chris Klute (arms raised). (Photo: USA Today SPORTS)


Making an improved 23-man USMNT roster is much easier than choosing the best Starting XI.

The primary difficulty now is not finding quality American players but rather cutting the pool down to 23 players and deciding how many new players should receive roster spots.

Any national team roster normally contains three goalkeepers, four outside backs, four center backs, 4 defensive midfielders, four attacking midfielders, and four forwards, but frequently players can play more than one position so the amount of players at each position can vary.

At goalkeeper, Tim Howard and Brad Guzan are clearly the best two American goalkeepers (excluding Brad Friedel), and the only decision for Jürgen Klinsmann to make is who the the third goalkeeper should be. Maybe it should be Nick Rimando or some other goalkeeper like Clint Irwin, Dan Kennedy, Tally Hall, Sean Johnson, or Luis Robles, but perhaps Cody Cropper or some other young goalkeeper should receive the third goalkeeper spot.

When selecting center backs, a wise decision would be to have four center backs. The primary center backs to choose from for the USMNT are Geoff Cameron, George John, Omar Gonzalez, Michael Orozco, Michael Parkhurst, Tim Ream, and Matt Besler. These center backs are some of the more experienced center backs that aren’t too slow for or not skilled-enough for international play.

Additionally, there are younger center backs like Shane O’Neill, Andrew Farrell, Amobi Okugo, Gale Agbossoumonde, and Caleb Stanko who are worthy of a look. Assuming John Anthony Brooks plays for the United States, which isn’t definite, he also has to be strongly considered as a front-runner for one of the four spots.

Therefore, at center back, the coaching staff of the USMNT has at least 12 players to look at without doing more extensive scouting of all of the other options.

When choosing four center backs, the final decision comes down to deciding which center backs have the defensive instincts and fundamentals combined with the technical ability and athleticism to realistically be able to compete at the international level.

Outside back is an area of some concern for the United States. Without any exploration of new players, the obvious starting point is to choose from Eric Lichaj, Jonathan Spector, Timothy Chandler, and Fabian Johnson, but then one has to strongly consider new players like Chris Klute, DeAndre Yedlin, and Andrew Farrell. Furthermore, Steve Cherundolo when healthy is still likely the best American outside back.

The United States has several quality defensive midfielders, and Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Geoff Cameron, and Maurice Edu are the first names that come to mind. There are additionally some MLS defensive midfielders like Perry Kitchen, Jared Jeffrey, and Jeremy Hall who need to be looked at.

Without even including Shane O’Neill and Caleb Stanko, who were listed above in the center back section, Jürgen Klinsmann has seven defensive midfielders to choose from for four spots.

Just looking at this list of defensive midfielders, Bradley, Jones, Cameron, and one other player are the obvious choices.

At the very least, Bradley, Jones, Cameron, and Edu are a good starting point unless Klinsmann is willing to pick one of the newer defensive midfielders instead of Edu.

Benji Joya falls in between the realm of the defensive midfielders and the attacking midfielders. Joya is somewhat more of an attacking midfielder than he is a defensive midfielder, even though he has stated that he is a holding midfielder. Joya has also stated that he can play a variety of positions. A young, complete midfielder like Joya is another name that deserves serious consideration for the USMNT because he can bring defensive coverage and excellent passing and attacking skills to the American midfield.

The decisions now are attacking decisions.

For a country that has a reputation for not having very technically-skilled players, the United States has more quality attacking midfielders than it has roster spots. Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan should be obvious choices, and then the team realistically needs to select two playmakers. The obvious group of playmakers to choose from includes Benny Feilhaber, Joe Benny Corona, Mix Diskerud, and Freddy Adu.

While contending that Corona and Diskerud should be the playmakers on the roster is a logical and good decision, both Feilhaber and Adu have demonstrated their ability to perform well against strong opponents in international play.

Choosing Feilhaber should be a much easier choice than it appears to be for Klinsmann because Feilhaber has an excellent track record at the international level, and his comfort on the ball, passing ability, set piece taking, and his excellent shooting skills are quite evident.

Nevertheless, Corona and Diskerud have recently shown their ability to bring strong playmaking qualities to the United States, but of all of the playmakers, Feilhaber has the most international experience and the most proven-ability on the international level.

Additionally, the USMNT has wingers like Brek Shea and Joe Gyau in the player pool who can bring speed and skill as well attacking strength out wide.

At striker, the United States actually has more than four capable and effective strikers. The player pool includes Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo, Terrence Boyd, Eddie Johnson, Herculez Gomez (injured), and the pool has newer strikers like Mario Rodriguez, José Villarreal, Alonso Hernandez, Gyasi Zardes, Teal Bunbury, Aron Jóhannsson, and Tony Taylor.  With the exception of Villarreal, those are all first strikers including Tony Taylor, but a roster normally has four forwards who are not always just first strikers.

The goal is to close the gap with the world’s best national teams, and Jürgen Klinsmann’s roster selections always contain way too many players that are solid at the club level but lacking that next level of skill and athleticism needed to do battle with elites and magicians.

The next step for Jürgen Klinsmann should be to at least call up all of his players with the most proven-ability at the international level, and he also needs to play them together. The starting line-up of proven-players would be something like this formation below:

Tim Howard; Jonathan Spector, Michael Orozco, Maurice Edu, Fabian Johnson; Geoff Cameron, Michael Bradley; Landon Donovan, Benny Feilhaber, Clint Dempsey; Jozy Altidore.

On the other hand, if the USMNT was willing to use more inexperienced players in the defense to try and improve the level of play of the United States, then perhaps this line-up below would be a good place to start:

Howard; Yedlin, O’Neill, Farrell, Klute; Cameron, Bradley; Donovan, Feilhaber/Corona, Dempsey; Altidore.


USMNT: 23 for Brazil (August 2013)

The World Soccer Source 23-Man USMNT 2014 World Cup Roster Proposal 

(August 2013 Edition)



This 23-man USMNT Roster Proposal is less conservative than other projections and predictions that you will find from other writers and websites.

The purpose of not just going with the current group of Jürgen Klinsmann regulars who are doing a good job at staying on top of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying table is not to purposely propose a group of inexperienced and young players for the sake of creating controversy.

On the contrary, the purpose is that this group of players below represents a sincere attempt to not just survive the group stage but to give young, talented, and athletic players the chance to try and raise the level of play of the USMNT.

For example, Gyasi Zardes and Mario Rodriguez are on the list over Eddie Johnson, which will seem almost comical to many people.

The reason that this writer selected Zardes and Rodriguez, despite the excellent combination of skill and overall athleticism of Johnson, is that this writer believes that these two young and internationally inexperienced players, if they happen to play for whatever reason over starters like Juan Agudelo or Terrence Boyd, will relentlessly attack the goal no matter the opponent more so than Johnson will.

It’s important to remember that Rodriguez is highly-regarded by Tab Ramos, and Rodriguez plays in Germany. Additionally, Zardes is widely-considered an extremely talented striker in MLS circles, and Zardes seemed to have no problem playing against Real Madrid yesterday who were fielding a strong line-up, including Casemiro at the defensive midfielder role.


Here is the roster proposal:










-There are 7 defenders as opposed to 8 because Geoff Cameron plays center back as well as both outside back positions.

-Michael Orozco, Geoff Cameron, Andrew Farrell, Shane O’Neill can all play as outside backs and as defensive midfielders.

-Geoff Cameron is as much of a center back as he is a defensive midfielder.

-Benji Joya is a box-to-box midfielder listed with the defensive midfielders.

-Freddy Adu and Benny Feilhaber are on this roster proposal. Both of these players are highly-valued by World Soccer Source for their proven-ability and record of performing and making a positive impact at the international level regardless of the opponent. Many Americans and non-Americans consider these two players to be inconsistent and lazy playmakers with a poor attitude, but World Soccer Source considers them to be invaluable midfielders for the USMNT due to their ability to bring creative and quality passing and attacking play to a national team that lacks these qualities.


USMNT Starting XI Proposal (4-1-2-1-2): Howard; Yedlin, O’Neill, Farrell, Klute; Cameron; Bradley, Joya; Corona; Agudelo, Dempsey.









Best U.S. Soccer Players (August 2013)


Clint Dempsey (left) and Jozy Altidore (right). (Photo: AP)
Clint Dempsey (left) and Jozy Altidore (right). (Photo: AP)






1.) Clint DEMPSEY

2.) Michael BRADLEY


4.) Landon DONOVAN

5.) Geoff CAMERON


6.) Tim HOWARD

7.) Jermaine JONES

8.) Joe Benny CORONA


10.) Freddy ADU 


11.) Benji JOYA


13.) Stuart HOLDEN

14.)  Juan AGUDELO 

15.) Terrence BOYD


16.) Eddie JOHNSON

17.) Chris KLUTE

18.) DeAndre YEDLIN

19.) Brek SHEA

20.) Andrew FARRELL


21.) Shane O’NEILL

22.) Jonathan SPECTOR

23.) Perry KITCHEN

24.) Joe GYAU

25.) Tony TAYLOR


26.) Mario RODRIGUEZ


28.) Alonso HERNANDEZ


30.) Maurice EDU


31.) Brad GUZAN

32.) Michael OROZCO FISCAL

33.) Kofi SARKODIE

34.) Eric LICHAJ

35.) Paul ARRIOLA 


36.) Teal BUNBURY

37.) Lamar NEAGLE

38.) Quincy AMARIKWA

39.) George JOHN

40.) Amobi OKUGO