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.

USMNT Midfield Triangle: Bradley and Acosta holding, Nagbe creating

In 2016, a midfield triangle with two holding midfielders and one attacking midfielder would serve the U.S. Men’s National Team well. This type of three-man midfield is a tried and true midfield formation.

Michael Bradley is a central midfielder that performs equally well as a defensive midfielder or as a box-to-box midfielder, but Darlington Nagbe is an attacking midfielder that also has good ball recovery ability and a good engine. Filling the last point on this hypothetical midfield triangle is Kellyn Acosta, the FC Dallas central midfielder that thrives as a box-to-box midfielder or as a defensive midfielder.

More so than with Bradley’s partnership with Jermaine Jones, Acosta is a midfielder that could potentially partner well with Bradley. Both players play both types of defensive midfielder roles, so covering for each other won’t be a problem. Bradley should play the deeper defensive midfielder role, but he has some freedom to go forward since Acosta will cover for him. Acosta has already displayed the willingness to play either holding midfielder role with FC Dallas.

If Bradley and Acosta are the base of the triangle as holding midfielders, then Nagbe is the creative top of the triangle. Nagbe is a smooth and technical player that brings lots of speed and non-stop running to the midfield. Nagbe’s ability to open up midfields and defenses with a pass or off the dribble is a needed dimension to the U.S. midfield. The fact that he runs so much and also drops deeper into the midfield can only help the U.S. to improve its passing and possession in the midfield.

The inclusion of Acosta and Nagbe should solve the problem of Bradley trying to be the team’s attacking midfielder and defensive midfielder at the same time. Bradley has been the player bursting into the penalty box behind the forwards and the player collecting the ball from the Back Four, and this is too much to ask of any player. With Acosta and Nagbe, the U.S. has a player to help Bradley recover possession and keep it, and the U.S. has a player to link the midfield with the attack.

Acosta is a key player in this triangle because he provides support to both Bradley and Nagbe, and he has the speed and skill to burst through the midfield and put the opposition on their heels. The FC Dallas midfielder has already displayed the willingness and ability to surge forward and score from outside of the box, and the U.S. needs more dynamism in its play.

The U.S. National Team must make changes in 2016, and a three-man midfield triangle with two holding midfielders at the base of the midfield with a creative point at the top of the triangle would be good tactics.

With Bradley, Acosta, and Nagbe the U.S. midfield would be a technical and athletic midfield that is also balanced. Using this midfield triangle could fix the U.S.’s problem of having no link-up with the attack and no possession in the midfield against quality opposition.

If Acosta doesn’t appear ready, then Dillon Powers can occupy the box-to-box midfielder role, but the U.S. National Team does have players to choose from that can keep possession and perform on the international level.

Rather than insisting on using so many players out of position, the U.S. National Team would be wise to use two holding midfielders with one attacking midfielder. Doing this requires making changes instead of just recycling the same group of midfielders that aren’t up to the job.

Midfield Formation Simplified: