Who Should Start for the United States against Costa Rica in World Cup Qualifying?


The United States takes on Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying on Friday, and the biggest decisions for Bruce Arena will be in the defense with two of the four normal starters injured. The injuries are to right back DeAndre Yedlin and center back John Brooks.

Goal and Defense

Tim Howard should start in goal, but the right back selection is a tougher one. Arena has favored Graham Zusi at right back, even though this is Zusi’s first season playing his new position, but Eric Lichaj is the more experienced right back with years of playing professionally in England.

Geoff Cameron will be one of the two starting center backs, and Arena has to decide whether he’s going to start Omar Gonzalez with Cameron or whether Matt Besler or Tim Ream will start. Whoever will or should start with Cameron at center back is anyone’s guess, but Jorge Villafaña is the first-choice left back.


In the midfield, Michael Bradley will start as the lone defensive midfielder, and the United States appears set to start a line of three attacking midfielders again. Christian Pulisic will start as the center attacking midfielder, and Darlington Nagbe will start as the left wing. The right wing position is more of a toss up. On the one hand, Paul Arriola has been playing well for the U.S. recently at this position, but Fabian Johnson is widely regarded as one of the very best players in the pool. There’s a chance Alejandro Bedoya could start at right wing, but maybe Arriola has the inside track, based on his recent performances for the U.S. and D.C. United.


World Soccer Source favors Bobby Wood and Clint Dempsey starting as the two forwards. Nothing against Jozy Altidore, but Wood and Dempsey are the more fluid, active, and clinical players. Wood always looks more dangerous and direct than Altidore, and Dempsey is too good not to start.

Here’s who World Soccer Source thinks should start:

Goalkeeper- Tim Howard

Right Back- Eric Lichaj

Center Back- Geoff Cameron

Center Back- Tim Ream

Left Back- Jorge Villafaña

Defensive Midfielder- Michael Bradley

Right Wing- Paul Arriola

Center Attacking Midfielder

Left Wing- Darlington Nagbe

Forward- Bobby Wood

Forward- Clint Dempsey


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.


Arena’s United States Roster Options for March

Bruce Arena’s United States Roster Options for March

Bruce Arena has more deserving players than he has roster spots for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Panama, and the last couple of international friendlies against Serbia and Jamaica have left him with some tough roster decisions.

For one, his former LA Galaxy player Sebastian Lletget looked good enough to start because of the positive impact he had on the team’s overall passing and skill level, plus Lletget can play the position that the suspended Jermaine Jones plays.

Benny Feilhaber also showed very well as an attacking midfielder, and he outplayed Sacha Kljestan, which isn’t surprising given the fact that Feilhaber is a more dynamic and creative player than Kljestan, who still offers qualities that the team needs. Darlington Nagbe looked dangerous as a left wing, and Nagbe might be more useful as a center midfielder.

Feilhaber and Lletget demonstrated that they offer the type of passing, possession, and creativity that the U.S. has been lacking, so starting them together with Christian Pulisic would make a lot of sense. This possibly leaves Fabian Johnson on the bench, but Arena has the option of using Wood as the lone forward, which would allow Michael Bradley, Johnson, Feilhaber, Lletget, and Pulisic to all start in the midfield.

There are also some decisions to make with regards to the defense, but starting DeAndre Yedlin, Steve Birnbaum, John Brooks, and possibly Jorge Villafaña as the Back Four might be Arena’s best option, if Geoff Cameron is out. Walker Zimmerman played well enough to earn a spot on the roster as a center back, and he has developed some chemistry with Birnbaum.

Arena is supposed to call up about 25 players for the upcoming games, and here is a look at the players who deserve to make that list right now:


Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, William Yarbrough

Tim Howard and Brad Guzan are automatic inclusions for this roster, if Howard is healthy, which he is reported to be, and William Yarbrough is likely the more talented and qualified goalkeeper after them. Yarbrough has played well in Liga MX for several years now, and he looked commanding and qualified to man the goal for the United States when he has featured in the past. There are many other excellent goalkeeper options for the U.S. such as Ethan Horvath, David Bingham, and Nick Rimando, but Yarbrough is likely better and more prepared for this type of game, which is a World Cup qualifier. Yarbrough plays against better competition than the other third goalkeeper options. The question of who is the best third goalkeeper for the U.S. still doesn’t have a clear answer, but Arena’s comments indicate that he is leaning toward Rimando.


Steve Birnbaum, John Brooks, Omar Gonzalez, Walker Zimmerman, DeAndre Yedlin, Eric Lichaj, Jorge Villafaña, Greg Garza

This group of defenders is fairly straight forward. There are four center backs and four outside backs (two right backs and two left backs). Lichaj plays both right back and left back. Villafaña thoroughly outplayed Garza in the United States’ friendlies in January and February against Serbia and Jamaica, but Garza played against the better team in Serbia who fielded something of a C Team against the U.S. Nevertheless, Villafaña played with much more skill, activity, and influence than Garza who still looks very one-footed. Unlike Garza, Villafaña was cutting inside onto his weaker right foot to play crosses and combine with his teammates. With Geoff Cameron possibly not available for the March World Cup qualifiers, Walker Zimmerman will likely be his replacement on the roster with Birnbaum likely starting with John Brooks. Omar Gonzalez seems a likely pick to round out the fourth center back spot, although the U.S. should be calling up a more agile and skillful defender than Gonzalez who still looks prone to be left for dead by shifty and skillful attacking players.


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

This list has three defensive midfielders in Bradley, McCarty, and Acosta, and it also includes three playmakers in Feilhaber, Kljestan, and Lletget. It arguably has four attacking midfielders or playmakers if you include Nagbe. Lletget also excels as a box-to-box midfielder and wing on either side, and it’s important to note that both Kljestan and Feilhaber play as central midfielders or box-to-box midfielders where Nagbe also thrives. As for wings, this group includes five wings in Lletget, Pulisic, Johnson, Nagbe, and Arriola. Whether Arena uses a 4-2-3-1, 4-1-3-2, 4-3-3, or 4-4-2 formation, this group has the personnel to field an effective and talented lineup in any of those formations. This list of midfielders offers more technical skill, more ability to keep possession, and more attacking ability than the midfielders that the United States has used in the past.


Bobby Wood, Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo, Jordan Morris

The United States has never had a group of forwards as skilled as these four, and Wood is clearly the best of the bunch. Wood plays with a combination of smoothness, directness, speed, and clinical skill where he routinely stretches the defense and goes straight to goal. Wood is a more skilled and effective center forward than Altidore, and Wood is better at beating defenders and goalkeepers with both skill and speed. Agudelo is likely the second most skilled forward in the pool, and he is also able to bring hold up play and physicality along with his more important qualities of individual skill and creativity. Morris is a skillful and direct forward who also uses his excellent speed to beat defenders and attack the goal. Like Wood and Agudelo, Morris is a more aggressive and involved player than Altidore who needs to be more direct and ruthless in his attacking play. Wood and Altidore are the likely starting forward duo, but Agudelo with Wood would offer more of an attacking threat for the United States.

What is the best starting lineup from this group?

Guzan; Yedlin, Birnbaum, Brooks, Villafaña; Bradley; Johnson, Lletget, Feilhaber, Pulisic; Wood.

The United States Finally Have the Skill Players to Abandon Hustle Soccer

Bruce Arena and the United States Have the Skill Players to Abandon Hustle Soccer

For far too long the United States prided itself on its hustle soccer and fighting spirit, and even Clint Dempsey was unfairly characterized as more of a toughness player than a skill player, which must have really bothered him.

Bruce Arena has a direct, fast, creative, and clinical center forward in Bobby Wood, and he has an electric young winger in Christian Pulisic, who is playing as an attacking player for one of the best club teams in the world. Being skillful and creative is a given for anyone starting or seeing playing time as a winger for Borussia Dortmund.

The United States also has Sebastian Lletget who is another skillful, creative attacking player who can play as an attacking midfielder, wing, or even as a box-to-box midfielder.

Benny Feilhaber has also returned to the national team as a playmaker, and the addition of him and the other players mentioned means that the United States has the critical mass of technical and active players needed to actually keep possession and attack the opposition.

Michael Bradley is the clear first-choice defensive midfielder, and his overall skill level and technical ability is high despite experiencing something of a slump over the past year. Bradley excels at distributing from the back, covering lots of territory, and recovering possession, so he is another important piece of the lineup that helps with the team’s passing and tempo.

While Darlington Nagbe proved himself to be another excellent wing option or center midfielder, Lletget is arguably the more dynamic and talented player, which isn’t to say that Nagbe isn’t a dangerous and creative player with plenty of exciting skills.

Going into March, Arena can deploy a 4-1-3-2 where the Front Six is Bradley, Lletget, Feilhaber, Pulisic, Dempsey, and Wood, and that group of six is easily a more talented and technical group than anything the United States has used before.

With several new players and some veterans, Arena and the United States have the personnel to no longer deploy tactics where the game plan is to out-hustle and out-tough more skillful opponents. Now is a clear turning point in American soccer when the United States can look to use skill and creativity plus the obvious requisite athleticism to outplay most opponents save the likes of soccer’s true giants.

Sebastian Lletget Has Earned Starting Role for the United States

Sebastian Lletget Has Earned Starting Role for the United States

Sebastian Lletget showcased his creative skillset and ability to defend when the United States played Serbia in San Diego, and he has earned a starting midfield role. The United States continues to be a national team that passes the ball poorly by international standards, but Lletget is a player than can and does facilitate better passing through one-to-two touch soccer.

Bruce Arena used Lletget as a Number 8 or box-to-box midfielder, as he did with the LA Galaxy, but Lletget is an attacking midfielder who also thrives as a wing. Nevertheless, Lletget has shown well as a central midfielder where he provides much more defending, running, and physicality than perhaps many people knew about. While soccer isn’t a sport dictated by physicality, being able to not be pushed off the ball or overpowered is important.

Given Lletget’s skillset as a creative and technical player, using him as a box-to-box midfielder does feel like something of a waste, and he seems more suited to play alongside Darlington Nagbe and Benny Feilhaber in the line of attacking midfielders playing in a more advanced role than the holding midfielders.

Against Serbia, only Nagbe was threatening the penalty area or the goal in the first half, but Lletget provided these things as well as soon as he was subbed in. The primary reason that Lletget should have earned a starting role was that the ability and playing style than he showcased was much better than everybody but Nagbe was able to display against Serbia.

It’s fair to point out that Bobby Wood and Christian Pulisic are unavailable for these January and February friendlies, and those two players provide much more skill, creativity, and movement than the rest of the regular United States squad. The U.S. needs to field anyone who can continue to add to the skill-level and playing style of its best players. Based on what Nagbe and Lletget showed against Serbia, the United States now has four lively, influential, skillful, and creative players in Nagbe, Lletget, Wood, and Pulisic.

Going forward, Lletget is a player who can provide more of the things that the United States needs to improve: skill, creativity, direct play, scoring ability, and passing ability.

A Better Passing Midfield for Bruce Arena and the United States

A Better Passing Midfield for Bruce Arena and the United States

There is still a big gap between the quality of passing that the United States displays and the better quality of passing that top national teams display.

Bruce Arena has specifically mentioned better passing as something that the United States needs, and he does have the players to improve the passing, even if that passing isn’t on par with world soccer elites.

Michael Bradley anchoring the midfield with Darlington Nagbe and Benny Feilhaber playing more attacking central midfielder roles would certainly be a move toward a more skillful passing midfield for the United States.

Both Nagbe and Feilhaber have been playing truly central midfield roles in MLS, even though both players are attacking midfielders by trade.

With Bradley playing a clearly defensive midfield role in front of the American defense, having two more attack-minded midfielders in more advanced roles is a common enough tactical setup on the club level and international level around the world.

Since poor passing and a lack of possession and creativity is a major problem for the United States, a decisive effort to bolster the technical skill and vision in the American midfield makes sense for Bruce Arena.

The coach of the United States has yet to reveal his midfield, but he has dropped several hints that he’s leaning toward using Sacha Kljestan in the attacking midfielder role.

Kljestan is a proven attacking midfielder in Europe, in MLS, and for the United States at the international level, but Feilhaber and Nagbe bring more skill and a bigger attacking threat.

Feilhaber has long been considered one of if not the best American attacking midfielder, and Nagbe is regarded by his peers and the press as one of the most skillful and creative players in the American player pool.

This three-man midfield setup would be part of a 4-3-3 formation, which leaves three attacking spots to fill. Given the roster, Jozy Altidore and Juan Agudelo are the best two forwards on the roster, and using Sebastian Lletget just behind those two as a true playmaker or Number 10 would be another very offensive move for Arena.

Nagbe and Feilhaber are center attacking midfielders by trade, and even though Lletget played as a center midfielder for the LA Galaxy due to a need for him to fill this role, Lletget is an attacking midfielder or wing by trade.

There is a possibility that using Bradley, Nagbe, and Feilhaber in the midfield might leave the United States without enough ball recovery and defending, and if that is the case, then Kellyn Acosta as the box-to-box midfielder with Bradley as the defensive midfielder would be a strong option for Arena.

Claiming that Acosta isn’t ready to start for the United States is an overly conservative and overly safe approach as Acosta has been excelling in MLS for years and introducing newer, younger players into a national team is a necessary process for any national team.

If improved passing and possession is one of the first goals for Arena as head coach of the United States for the second time, then going uber offensive with Nagbe, Feilhaber, and Lletget all starting would be a bold attempt to play possession soccer against a strong European opponent in Serbia at the end of January.


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 MLSsoccer.com.

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.


Can the United States Play Attacking Soccer Under Bruce Arena?

Can the United States Play Attacking Soccer Under Bruce Arena?

Talking on Sirius XM Radio, Bruce Arena said, “There’s enough young attacking talent to be aggressive going forward. That young energy will help our pressing game as well.”

So, who are those attacking players? Bobby Wood and Christian Pulisic top that list, and the third name on the list has to be Sebastian Lletget who played for Bruce Arena on the LA Galaxy.

Lletget is the attacking midfielder or Number 10 that the United States needs, and having both Pulisic and Lletget playing behind Wood can only help the United States to be a more dangerous attacking team. Benny Feilhaber and Lee Nguyen are also on that list. Those two attacking midfielders are widely considered the best playmakers in the American player pool along with Sacha Kljestan, who is slightly below those two in terms of skill and creativity.

Both Wood and Pulisic are dangerous enough to allow the United States to attack opposing defenses, rather than bunkering in and trying not to lose. The fact that the United States also has playmakers to feed Pulisic and Wood only makes those two more of a scoring threat. What the U.S. was really missing was link-up play between the midfield and the attack, and that connection was missing when Jürgen Klinsmann would start both Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley in the center of the midfield with no attacking midfielder.

With the LA Galaxy, Arena favored the 4-4-2 formation, and he used his outside midfielders to provide more of the creativity and playmaker. This formation isn’t much in the way of attacking soccer, but Arena could use the 4-2-3-1 formation to have more of an attacking lineup.

There can be no excuse for Arena not playing attacking soccer against CONCACAF opponents in the next World Cup qualifying games. Arena has the personnel to provide enough defending in the midfield while also having a midfield that can keep possession and create scoring opportunities.

It’s hard to see Feilhaber or Nguyen and Lletget not playing under Arena. He’ll have to figure who he wants to start with Bradley in the holding midfield roles, and maybe this is the spot for Darlington Nagbe to play his preferred Number 8 role. Almost anything would be more attack-minded than Klinsmann’s overly defensive and illogical tactics.

Looking at the available players right now, a Front Six of Bradley and Nagbe behind Lletget, Feilhaber, and Pulisic, who would be behind Wood would certainly be more of an attacking lineup. There is definitely hope for a more exciting and effective brand of soccer under Arena, who at the very least knows the player pool better than Klinsmann.

To be very specific, both Feilhaber and Nguyen are qualified to orchestrate the United States’ attack and control the team’s passing, and both Lletget and Pulisic and technical, creative, and quick wing options who can beat people 1v1, create for their teammates, and score. The United States has found an exciting and dangerous striker in Wood, and he has scored and can score against top opponents.