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:
Guessing who Jürgen Klinsmann will select for the USMNT roster to face Bosnia-Herzegovina is impossible because there are too many factors that come into play, including his personal opinion of players and what his goals are. World Soccer Source’s guess at a possible Klinsmann USMNT roster can be found at the bottom of the page.
On the other hand, World Soccer Source would like to see a combination of the players from the Gold Cup and World Cup qualifying, in addition to some new players to strengthen the United States Men’s National Team at various positions.
Below is the roster that World Soccer Source would like to see called up to face Bosnia-Herzegovina, and it contains more than 23 players:
WSS USMNT ROSTER PROPOSAL VS. BOSNIA
GOALKEEPERS (3): Tim HOWARD, Brad GUZAN, Luis ROBLES.
DEFENDERS (8): Shane O’NEILL, Michael OROZCO, Gale AGBOSSOUMONDE, Andrew FARRELL; DeAndre YEDLIN, Chris KLUTE, Kofi SARKODIE, Eric LICHAJ.
FORWARDS (5): Jozy ALTIDORE, Terrence BOYD, Mario RODRIGUEZ, José VILLARREAL, Gyasi ZARDES.
*Injured- Juan AGUDELO
Based on World Cup qualifying and the 2013 Gold Cup, World Soccer Source believes this 23-man roster below is close to Jürgen Klinsmann’s first-choice team, with the exception of DeAndre Yedlin and Chris Klute who World Soccer Source believes Jürgen Klinsmann is close to calling up due to a need for outside backs:
Jürgen Klinsmann’s Likely USMNT Roster vs. Bosnia
GOALKEEPERS (3): Tim HOWARD, Brad GUZAN, Nick RIMANDO.
DEFENDERS (8): Matt BESLER, Omar GONZALEZ, Michael OROZCO, Clarence GOODSON, Timothy CHANDLER, DeAndre YEDLIN, Fabian JOHNSON, Chris KLUTE.
*It’s unclear whether John Anthony Brooks will be representing the United States.
MIDFIELDERS (8): Michael BRADLEY, Jermaine JONES, Geoff CAMERON, Clint DEMPSEY, Landon DONOVAN, Mix DISKERUD, Joe Benny CORONA, Graham ZUSI.
FORWARDS (4): Jozy ALTIDORE, Terrence BOYD, Eddie JOHNSON, Aron JÓHANNSSON.
Stuart Holden did not play a single minute of the USMNT’s goleada over El Salvador, which was presumably due to the fact that the previous match was the first time he played the full 90 minutes in several years.
With the Gold Cup semifinal against Honduras on the horizon, one would think that United States Men’s National Team coach, Jürgen Klinsmann, would start or at least play Holden in that game.
Whether or not Klinsmann starts both Holden and Diskerud is anyone’s guess.
As Kyle Beckerman is a Klinsmann favorite and the only defensive midfielder on the roster, the presumption is that Klinsmann will start Beckerman again. It will be interesting to see what Klinsmann decides to do with Mix Diskerud, Stuart Holden, Joe Benny Corona, José Torres, and Brek Shea vying for three spots.
It would be shocking if Klinsmann didn’t start Kyle Beckerman, Landon Donovan, Joe Benny Corona, and Eddie Johnson as four of his Front Six. That leaves two spots open that likely would go to Diskerud and Holden as Donovan and Corona can both line up on the left or right with presumably Holden lining up next to Beckerman with Diskerud in a more advanced role.
Brek Shea might be somewhat unlikely to start due to his continued return to full health and fitness, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Torres start again, which would likely force Klinsmann to pick either Holden or Diskerud for the bench.
The semifinal against Honduras marks the addition of Omar Gonzalez to the roster presumably as a starting center back partner for Matt Besler, but then again, Eddie Johnson didn’t start against El Salvador at striker, despite being called away from his club team in order to represent the United States. Therefore, maybe Klinsmann doesn’t start Gonzalez.
The most likely back four that the coach of the United States will field for the start of the semifinal against Honduras is Michael Parkhurst at right back, Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler at center back, and DaMarcus Beasley at left back.
With all of this in mind, who will Jürgen Klinsmann likely start?
Klinsmann could likely start this XI below (but perhaps with José Torres taking either Holden’s or Diskerud’s spot):
Nick RIMANDO; Michael PARKHURST, Omar GONZALEZ, Matt BESLER, DaMarcus BEASLEY; Kyle BECKERMAN; Stuart HOLDEN, Mix DISKERUD; Joe Benny CORONA; Eddie JOHNSON, Landon DONOVAN.
The USMNT XI that Klinsmann will use is certainly a tactically sound and reasonable line-up with three small caveats: 1.) Michael Orozco might just be a better center back than both Gonzalez and Besler; 2.) Orozco could likely fulfill Beckerman’s midfield destroyer role better than Beckerman; 3.) Starting Brek Shea might put Honduras on their heels from the beginning of the game.
The concern with Beckerman is of course speed, agility, quickness, the ability to not mistime tackles, and of course the fact that Gonzalez and Besler have always been protected by some two-man combination of Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Geoff Cameron, and Maurice Edu.
Beckerman cannot protect the gap between Besler and Gonzalez like those four defensive midfielders can.
Therefore, starting Michael Orozco allows the U.S. to have a player who alternates between playing as a midfield destroyer and a third center back for the entire game.
As a coach Jürgen Klinsmann has progressed in the balance and tactical acumen of his formations, but his player selection and ability to judge talent soon enough is still lacking.
During the Gold Cup, Klinsmann has improved as a coach because he’s been using balanced line-ups that balance defensive coverage with attacking ability.
The line-up proposed above as something that Klinsmann might use against Honduras is balanced and essentially uses almost all of the best options that Klinsmann has on his roster at every position, however flawed that roster itself is.
It will be interesting to see if Klinsmann goes with Stuart Holden and Mix Diskerud in place of Kyle Beckerman, or if he plays some combination of the three.
If Klinsmann starts Clarence Goodson instead of Omar Gonzalez and Michael Orozco, then there can be a legitimate critique that Klinsmann didn’t select the best partner for Matt Besler.
Then again, Gonzalez and Orozco as the center back tandem might prove to pay dividends.
There are three major foreseeable problems for the USMNT against Honduras.
First, Beckerman might be exposed as too slow to keep up with Honduras. Secondly, Klinsmann could start Chris Wondolowski over Eddie Johnson at striker. Thirdly, Michael Orozco might start on the bench as opposed to bringing speed and skill to either the center of the defense or to the midfield destroyer role.
Looking just at the players who the United States Men’s National Team has to choose from on the Gold Cup roster, the U.S. just might be at full strength without Chris Wondolowski, Kyle Beckerman, or Clarence Goodson starting.
If Orozco is quick, strong on defense, and passes the ball well with both feet, then why does Beckerman need to start as the midfield destroyer, if Klinsmann could start Orozco just behind Holden and Diskerud?
Despite what Klinsmann might decide to do, World Soccer Source believes a strong starting line-up would be the following one below:
Nick RIMANDO; Michael PARKHURST, Omar GONZALEZ, Matt BESLER, DaMarcus BEASLEY; Michael OROZCO; Stuart HOLDEN, Mix DISKERUD; Joe Benny CORONA; Eddie JOHNSON, Landon DONOVAN.
The best athlete in the history of American sports said over and over again that failure was the key to his success. That athlete was Michael Jordan.
American soccer has more potential for success right now than at any time in the entire history of soccer in the United States. The key to success is actually fielding unproven players at the international level who have demonstrated the potential ability and the athleticism to be competitive with elite soccer nations.
A vast majority of the coaches in the United States including Jürgen Klinsmann are afraid to risk losing by playing starting line-ups made up of several internationally unproven players in meaningful games, but there is a way to accomplish this without jeopardizing qualification for the 2014 World Cup.
The solution is quite simple: use a Starting XI made up of proven players and fill the remaining roster spots with new but talented players in addition to players who are too good to exclude.
After the Gold Cup, the USMNT could start the follow starting line-up without taking any more risks than usual:
Tim Howard; Jonathan Spector, Maurice Edu, Geoff Cameron, Eric Lichaj; Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones; Landon Donovan, Benny Feilhaber, Clint Dempsey; Jozy Altidore.
The Starting XI listed above isn’t really a risky line-up by any means, as all of those players have ample experience playing international soccer at a respectable level.
If the whole world considers the United States Men’s National Team to be a team with just a few technically-skilled players, then why not use friendlies to field new players who have demonstrated the ability to offer an improvement over many of the players Jürgen Klinsmann has been using?
The sort of undertaking described above is considered risky by many, but couldn’t it also be considered risky not to attempt to strengthen areas where the USMNT is weak?
Beginning to improve the caliber of players fielded by the United States isn’t a question of teaching experienced players to play differently, but it is a question of actually starting promising players who could do very poorly in their first game or games.
On the other hand, maybe they’d do well.
The first step in this process is easy because the first step is deciding which players among the players that Klinsmann has been starting in World Cup qualifying absolutely have to start, and this list of names is short.
Tim Howard or Brad Guzan have to start. Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey have to start, but who else absolutely has to start? Maybe Landon Donovan has to start too.
Looking at that list, that list includes five names for four starting spots leaving seven Starting XI spots up for grabs. Starting line-up space for seven open spots leaves the door open for a lot of possibilities.
Looking at right back, DeAndre Yedlin of the Seattle Sounders seems like a risk worth taking, given his performances in MLS and in the U-20 World Cup, not to mention the two-way threat he poses. Yedlin has speed that’s close to Chris Klute’s speed, and using them as the outside backs would certainly improve the U.S.’ ability to attack and defend out wide.
Moving to center back, Geoff Cameron has demonstrated that he has a level of athleticism and skill, not to mention size, that has never really been given a chance to partner with a center back of similar qualities.
Why can’t Gale Agbossoumonde, Andrew Farrell, or Shane O’Neill be given a shot to start with Cameron? What’s the real argument against that?
Is there any proof that Omar Gonzalez or Matt Besler can outplay Agbossoumonde, Farrell, or O’Neill in an international game when they are partnered with Cameron? Those are all good MLS players, so trying them out should be something that the USMNT’s coaching staff and American soccer writers are interested in seeing.
None of those three players have been given the chance to show how they can perform compared to Besler and Gonzalez, but Besler was started against Mexico in Estadio Azteca in a World Cup qualifier with essentially no significant international experience. Besler and Gonzalez have done well, but have they really proven that they are the best?
At left back, Chris Klute hasn’t been given the chance to show how he can do compared to DaMarcus Beasley and Fabian Johnson. Beasley and Johnson aren’t even really left backs. Klute actually is a two-way left back, and he’s a very fast and skilled two-way left back who uses both feet.
If Americans really want to see better soccer, where’s the backing for at least using a friendly to field a backline of Yedlin, Agbossoumonde, Cameron, and Klute with Howard as the goalkeeper? Certainly, the United States has never fielded a back four with that degree of speed and technical ability.
There doesn’t appear to be any real risk, particularly in a friendly. The U.S. might lose, but the U.S. might lose anyway. Klinsmann’s World Cup qualifying rosters and line-ups have been completely make-shift and experimental anyway.
All of the players listed above are players who are garnering attention from the American soccer media and American soccer fans. None of those players are soccer players taken off the street; those are all well-known professional players.
One of the arguments that Klinsmann’s methods have been working is the USMNT’s victory over Italy.
The U.S. played Italy in a friendly, only to have Mario Balotelli, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, and Daniele De Rossi not start. The USMNT can’t really say that it beat Italy convincingly, if Balotelli wasn’t playing. Cesare Prandelli and Italy clearly felt like they didn’t need to use their best players against the U.S. because, if Italy lost, everyone would know Italy didn’t use its best players.
Certainly, Clint Dempsey played well against Italy, but Americans already knew that Dempsey could perform well against elite opponents.
Rather than not taking any risks in friendlies, the USMNT would be better served to see how much potential it could show if a bunch of young, athletic, and skilled defenders were allowed to play with a slightly older Geoff Cameron who too hasn’t really been given a fair chance to play with an adequate center back partner.
Assuming Michael Bradley is playing as a defensive midfielder and Landon Donovan is out on the right wing, why not start Freddy Adu or Joe Corona as a central attacking midfielder with Clint Dempsey out left? This group of players has been used before with success, at least with Adu playing with Dempsey and Donovan. Whereas, Corona hasn’t really been given the chance to play with Dempsey yet.
With the players mentioned above, there are only a few line-up choices left to make for the purpose of this experiment.
Does the U.S. use another defensive midfielder or perhaps a box-to-box midfielder with Bradley, or should the U.S. start two forwards? If the USMNT plays another midfielder with Bradley, is there any reason not to let Benji Joya start with Bradley?
Furthermore, who should the U.S. start at striker?
Jozy Altidore has improved greatly over the past two seasons in Holland, and the players listed above provide him with the service he needs to score goals.
On the other hand, if Altidore has already proven himself by scoring so many goals in Holland as well as showing that he can score for the U.S. when provided with service, shouldn’t the USMNT see how Juan Agudelo or Terrence Boyd can play with the players listed above?
Lots of questions. Few answers.
It’s time to start answering some of those questions, and the way to answer those questions is to start the following Starting XI:
Jürgen Klinsmann will likely start a line-up that is something along the lines of what he started in the Guatemala friendly before the first Gold Cup game against Belize, but it’s likely that Klinsmann will start either Stuart Holden or Mix Diskerud over José Torres, who started against Guatemala and Belize.
Torres might start against Cuba, but it would likely be in a more advanced role out left where he started against Belize.
Many American soccer writers such as Ives Galarcep of Soccer by Ives as well as others suggested that Klinsmann didn’t start Herculez Gomez, Oguchi Onyewu, and Stuart Holden against Belize because of the artificial turf in Portland where the game was played.
That seems like a fair assumption with the exception of Onyewu who World Soccer Source believes wasn’t started at center back because Michael Orozco was younger, quicker, and more skilled.
With the next game on grass near Salt Lake City, it is very likely that Holden and Diskerud will start and that Beckerman will start as well.
Starting with the defense, Klinsmann will probably start Nick Rimando in goal, Michael Parkhurst at right back, Clarence Goodson and Michael Orozco at center back, and DaMarcus Beasley at left back.
While Parkhurst lost his man on Belize’s goal against the United States, Parkhurst is looking very composed and efficient out at right back. According to the statistics on MLS’ site, Parkhurst completed 113 of 127 passes against Belize, which shows a major involvement in the game and an ability to not lose possession.
At center back, Clarence Goodson and Michael Parkhurst have looked much more composed on the ball and more equipped to keep up with quicker attackers than Onyewu has shown.
Klinsmann may start Onyewu with Goodson at center back, but Orozco deserves the start with Goodson.
Beasley continues to surprise at left back, and he is looking too capable of keeping up with attackers and too composed in possession with both feet to be removed from the starting line-up as the left back.
One interesting option would be for Klinsmann to start Beasley as a right back with Edgar Castillo at left back with Parkhurst and Orozco as the center backs.
This option would eliminate Goodson from the Starting XI. Goodson has done nothing wrong, but Parkhurst and Orozco are visibly more skilled and athletic center back options than Goodson and Onyewu. As the tournament goes on, the United States will need to field the best line-up at its disposal.
The so-called Front Six presents even more questions than the defensive back four.
Should Holden and Diskerud start as a line of two faux-defensive midfielders in order to improve the overall skill level of the American midfield behind Landon Donovan, Joe Corona, and Break Shea?
Against Belize, Klinsmann started Beckerman as a midfield destroyer with Corona, Diskerud, and Torres forming a line of three attacking midfielders behind Chris Wondolowski as a first striker and Landon Donovan as a second striker, so Beckerman will likely be in the line-up again.
Jürgen Klinsmann could likely use the following Starting XI: Rimando; Parkhurst, Goodson, Orozco, Beasley; Beckerman; Diskerud, Holden; Corona; Gomez, Donovan.
While Klinsmann’s likely option is close to the strongest option that Klinsmann has at his disposal, this writer supports eliminating Beckerman from the Starting XI.
The more skilled option is a Front Six consisting of:Holden, Diskerud; Donovan, Corona, Shea; Gomez.
Therefore, World Soccer Source supports starting the following Starting XI against Cuba: Rimando; Beasley, Parkhurst, Orozco, Castillo; Holden, Diskerud; Donovan, Corona, Shea; Gomez.
What’s the rationale behind World Soccer Source’s Starting XI?
The basic premise is that the line-up proposed above includes a higher number of technically-skilled players with a defensive back four with two faster and more skilled center backs.
Additionally, Holden and Diskerud showed against Guatemala that they were able to play the requisite amount of defense while also drastically improving the quality of the passing in the American midfield, and that game proves more than the game against a low-ranked Belize side that did surprisingly well, while showing that even really low-ranked teams have players who display good athleticism and good basic fundamentals.
World Soccer Source sees Herculez Gomez starting over Chris Wondolowski despite Wondolowski’s hat trick and well-executed goals off diving headers. Gomez is a better player than Wondolowski, and Gomez plays better against better competition.
Gomez showed some good chemistry with Corona, and the most potent attack for the USMNT is Donovan, Corona, and Shea behind Gomez with Diskerud and Holden playing deeper in the midfield in a truly unorthodox formation with no defensive midfielder.
Klinsmann might start Beckerman again, and there is a logical rationale for doing so as Beckerman is the only defensive midfielder on the roster.
To be fair to Beckerman, his actual technical ability is good and his soccer IQ is high, but he’s simply not blessed with the speed and quickness that allow him to maximize his skill or catch up to opponents to perform better-timed tackles that aren’t fouls.
Another Starting XI option that Klinsmann might use would be: Rimando; Parkhurst, Orozco, Goodson, Beasley; Beckerman, Holden; Corona, Diskerud, Donovan; Gomez.
As this writer previously wrote in the build up to the USMNT vs. Guatemala game, Stuart Holden and Mix Diskerud need to be started slightly deeper in the midfield, as opposed to using Kyle Beckerman as a defensive midfielder.
Additionally, José Torres wasn’t as effective as Holden and Diskerud at facilitating ball movement and possession, which was his job.
Once Joe Corona had Holden and Diskerud to combine with in the second half, Corona was able to have more technical players with whom to pass, despite passing well without Diskerud and Holden in the first half.
Jürgen Klinsmann made two excellent halftime substitutions: Holden and Diskerud.
Both players as mentioned above eclipsed Beckerman’s and Torres’ performances. Additionally, the insertion of Brek Shea gave the U.S.’ attack an additional technically-skilled player who brought speed and the will and ability to get past defenders.
The set-up of Diskerud and Holden playing behind Donovan, Corona, and Shea looks to be the strongest and most effective option.
Going forward in the Gold Cup, Klinsmann will have to continue this strategy of flooding the midfield with players who are comfortable on the ball and who facilitate a style of one-to-two touch passing.
Perhaps, Klinsmann can experiment with Michael Orozco as a defensive midfielder, but the strategy of using midfield possession as a form of defense might be Klinsmann’s best option, given the presence of only one defensive midfielder on the entire Gold Cup roster.
Holden, Diskerud, and Corona all demonstrated that they can tackle and that they are willing to tackle. All three players have the soccer IQ to realize that they will need to provide a lot of tackling and defensive pressure in the midfield to compensate for the lack of a midfield destroyer or just a true box-to-box midfield who defends with authority.
Looking back on the Guatemala game, the best Front Six looks to be: Stuart Holden, Mix Diskerud; Landon Donovan, Joe Corona, Brek Shea; Herculez Gomez.
This Front Six is predicated on the strategy of asking non-defensive midfielders to not only pressure the opposition into making mistakes and providing defense and tackling but also to use ball possession and offense as a form of defense.
Beckerman and Torres are both liabilities athletically and technically. Beckerman is way too slow and makes reckless tackles, and Torres is a one-footed soccer player who doesn’t play enough quality passes and final balls, in addition to being too easy to dispossess.
Torres is certainly a player with technical-ability, but it’s held back by relying on just his favored left foot.
Klinsmann made the changes that he needed to make, and he now likely knows that the Front Six mentioned above is his best option for the group stage.
The defense is a different story.
Certainly, Michael Parkhurst and DaMarcus Beasley performed well as outside backs, and Clarence Goodson really outperformed Oguchi Onyewu who looked top-heavy, awkward, and a step too slow.
Nevertheless, Goodson is hardly better than the other options Klinsmann could have picked for the roster, but Goodson showed a level of skill in scoring his goal that Onyewu doesn’t have.
Going forward, the USMNT should field a back line made up of: Michael Parkhurst, Clarence Goodson, Michael Orozco Fiscal, and DaMarcus Beasley. Depending on how well Tony Beltran does, Klinsmann has the option of using Parkhurst and Orozco as the center back tandem.
Klinsmann and the United States’ staff didn’t get their Starting XI right, but Klinsmann seems to have spotted the problem players in the game and corrected them quickly.
This was an example of Klinsmann making excellent player changes that drastically improved the level of play and created five second half goals.
It’s likely that Jürgen Klinsmann will use (or at least should use) the following starting line-up in the first Gold Cup game: Rimando; Parkhurst, Goodson, Orozco, Beasley; Holden, Diskerud; Donovan, Corona, Shea; Gomez.
This starting line-up is built around ball possession, and using the best defenders possible, given the questionable roster choices in the defense.
Even before his preliminary USMNT Gold Cup roster, Jürgen Klinsmann should have had all of these players in mind.
Below is a stronger and more balanced Gold Cup roster than Jürgen Klinsmann’s preliminary Gold Cup roster or his final roster (for the group stage):
GOALKEEPERS: Luis ROBLES, Clint IRWIN, Dan KENNEDY
Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson are promising prospects, but were Robles, Irwin, and Kennedy even given a chance? Many people regard Robles as a mistake machine, but the same can be said of Hamid and Johnson.
It’s hard to be a goalkeeper with no one behind you to save you from mistakes. People criticize goalkeepers when they stay on their line and when they come off their line, but Robles, Irwin, and Kennedy were equally as worthy as Hamid and Johnson of roster spots.
Robles is more controversial than Irwin and Kennedy, but it’s hard to believe that Hamid and Johnson really outperformed Robles, Irwin, and Kennedy in MLS.
In many ways, Irwin and Kennedy are less prone to mistakes than Hamid and Johnson, while Robles is a keeper who makes phenomenal saves with the occasional overly-criticized mistake.
RIGHT BACKS: Jonathan SPECTOR, Kofi SARKODIE
Jonathan Spector proved himself against Brazil and Spain. Enough said. Not calling up an internationally-proven right back was inexcusable.
Kofi Sarkodie was another Klinsmann snub. Like DeAndre Yedlin who maybe should have been in the running for the preliminary Gold Cup roster despite his involvement in this summer’s U-20 World Cup, Sarkodie brings great speed and attacking play, which is one of the trademarks of modern outside backs, and Sarkodie has a sizeable body of MLS work for Klinsmann to have seen.
This Gold Cup was supposed to take players who had the tools to play international soccer and get them experience in the Gold Cup without calling up overly inexperienced players. Sarkodie certainly has demonstrated that his recovery defense, his attacking, and the threat he poses along the right flank are valuable assets for the USMNT.
LEFT BACKS: Chris KLUTE, Edgar CASTILLO
Chris Klute is personally backed by Eric Wynalda, and observers have been seeing just how effective his two-way ability is. For a country with precious few left backs, Klute has more than enough MLS starts and minutes to now consider him an experienced MLS player with the physical gifts and technical ability to excel at the international level.
Klute is known for his speed, but Klute possesses great touch, passing, overlapping runs, and crossing ability. When so many people just blindly hit crosses, Klute makes his way down the sideline and through traffic to play controlled passes into the box that have a specific target in mind.
Klute’s tackling, heading, speed, and two-way threat are there for all to see. Klute has been praised by Eric Wynalda, Marcelo Balboa, and Alexi Lalas, and it’s hard for Klinsmann and his staff to say that they’ve selected the best MLS players when a player with Klute’s skills and physical gifts wasn’t even mentioned.
Edgar Casillo made Klinsmann’s roster, and with good reason. Casillo had an impressive season with Xolos in La Liga MX as well as the Copa Libertadores. Castillo has improved his game tremendously over the past year, and his inclusion on the roster wasn’t considered surprising or controversial.
CENTER BACKS: George JOHN, Amobi OKUGO, Andrew FARRELL, Gale AGBOSSOUMONDE
Andrew Farrell is a center back who has been playing as a right back for the New England Revolution, but a good way to make a lot of money would be to bet someone that Farrell’s skill, speed, and tackling eclipse Onyewu’s and Goodson’s. Farrell’s speed and ability is immediately noticeable. His time spent living in Peru because of his parents taught him the superiority of advanced technical ability and one-to-two touch passing.
George John’s exclusion makes no sense. John is regarded as one of the best center backs in MLS, and his services have been sought after by EPL teams and the Greek national team. Klinsmann has decided to just pretend that he doesn’t exist.
Gale Agbossoumonde is a well-known name in American soccer circles. For a stretch of some 10 MLS games, Agbossoumonde performed very well when Toronto FC’s more established center backs were unavailable.
Some 10 games worth of video to study (including a game marking Thierry Henry) is more than enough video evidence for Klinsmann to see the comfort on the ball Agbossoumonde brings in addition to his exceptional size, athleticism, defensive timing, and his soccer IQ.
Klinsmann wants Americans to blindly except the exclusion of Agbossoumonde over unqualified center backs like Clarence Goodson and Oguchi Onyewu.
For all of Klinsmann’s talk of change, proactive play, and better technical ability, Klinsmann is totally unwilling to let younger, more athletic, and more skilled players play at almost any position, even in the group stage of a tournament like the Gold Cup, which features truly poor competition.
Amobi Okugo can play as a defensive midfielder or as a center back, and he like George John was widely regarded as a Klinsmann snub. While Agbossoumonde and Farrell are choices for a coach who recognizes the need to use less experienced but better players, John and Okugo were players who the American soccer media widely viewed as roster snubs.
DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDERS: Perry KITCHEN, Jeremy HALL
Kyle Beckerman was chosen to play in the Gold Cup, and Beckerman cannot play international soccer. He’s slow. He’s not quick, and he has never been able to keep up with the pace of the game against basically anyone the United States has faced when Jürgen Klinsmann was the coach or before.
On the other hand, Perry Kitchen and Jeremy Hall are upgrades to Beckerman. They are quicker. Their tackles are less reckless and better timed, and they have a more advanced skill-set. Jeremy Hall scored a goal this season in MLS where he muscled Giles Barnes off a bouncing ball and then somewhat Cruyffed his defender to get free, and then he scored a goal from outside of the box.
This display of skill combined with the athleticism and overall defensive and passing performance that he has displayed this year makes him a far superior international defensive midfielder to Beckerman.
Kitchen is a known commodity. He tackles and shields the ball well, and he knows how to pass well with both feet without conceding possession.
With his superior athleticism and comfort on the ball over Beckerman in addition to his ability to play center back, Kitchen would have been a much wiser choice than Beckerman who has shown that he cannot keep up with the speed of international play without excessive, reckless, and mistimed tackling.
Beckerman is something of a walking yellow yard, and he’s a walking red card against faster players.
ATTACKING AND BOX-BOX MIDFIELDERS: Benny FEILHABER, Joe CORONA, Stuart HOLDEN, Benji JOYA
Everyone in this category has a proven track record of international success. Benny Feilhaber and Stuart Holden are known commodities that have flourished against some of the best players in the world, and Joe Corona proved himself in the Copa Libertadores and La Liga MX. Klinsmann called him up, but in World Cup qualifying Klinsmann seemed to view Corona’s proven-ability to play creative, proactive soccer against the likes of Paulinho as irrelevant. Graham Zusi, a 26 year old MLS player who just signed a four year contract extension, was chosen to start over a creative attacking midfielder with smooth passing ability and strong scoring potential.
Even Benji Joya should have been on the preliminary roster, as the U-20 U.S. national team was in the group of death at the U-20 World Cup. Anyone who saw Joya play Paul Pogba had further confirmation of the skill that has already been on display for quite some time from the young midfielder. Joya is a complete midfielder who silenced his critics when he played against Pogba.
(Additional Attacking Midfielders) WINGERS: Joe GYAU, Brek SHEA
To give the USMNT the option of speed and skill out wide, both Gyau and Shea bring excellent speed and skill and the willingness to cut into toward the middle of the penalty box and try to score or set up their teammates. With most of the width normally coming from the outside backs, two extremely fast and slippery wingers on the roster gives the U.S. a different dimension with which to attack opponents.
At the very least, players like Gyau and Shea disrupt the defensive shape of opponents, which opens up space for these wingers’ teammates.
STRIKERS: Juan AGUDELO, Terrence BOYD, Lamar NEAGLE, Tony TAYLOR
The American soccer media can continue to insist that the MLS scoring-rate of American strikers is an accurate barometer of international success, but a realistic perspective of world soccer proves this to be questionable.
While a certain type of form and ability in MLS can signal the ability to play international soccer effectively as a striker, history has taught the United States that even small soccer countries often have faster and more skilled defenders than what is normally prevalent in MLS.
The competition in the Gold Cup is poor, but the point is to see how good the talent is outside of the players that Jürgen Klinsmann has been normally calling up.
The exclusion of Juan Agudelo from the USMNT’s Gold Cup roster is nearly impossible to support. Will Bruin has four MLS goals this season, and Chris Wondolowski has five; both are on the roster.
Agudelo has five MLS goals plus 17 caps inside a tall physique with lean and fast-twitch muscles that have translated to the international level.
Agudelo is too creative, too quick, too adventurous, and too dangerous to be excluded from a national team like the United States,’ which needs all the players like this that it can get its hands on.
Tony Taylor has been criticized for not playing too often in Portugal, but how many American strikers actually play at all in Portugal, and how many aren’t dropped by their second division teams when the team moves up into a league with great talent like the Portuguese Primeira Liga?
American soccer writers will try to compare battling for playing time in the Primeira Liga as less impressive than scoring regularly in MLS, but this opinion tries in vain to convince knowledgeable soccer observers that MLS and the Primeira Liga are comparable, even for a Primeira Liga bench player.
Taylor is very fast and skilled, and the fact that he wasn’t dropped by Estoril Praia when they moved up to the Primeira Liga says a lot. Certainly, Estoril could have found strikers everywhere in Brazil and Portugal to take Taylor’s spot or found some loophole in his contract to send him packing.
Taylor did actually play in the Primeira Liga, and if one thinks that is no different that playing in MLS, then one can try to rationalize that mentality.
Finally, Lamar Neagle has demonstrated a much higher capacity to play international soccer than both Jack McInerney and Will Bruin. The caliber of Neagle’s goals this year and his ability to free himself to take shots on goal and score is well-beyond anything Bruin or McInerney have shown.
On paper, both players look like two of the best MLS forwards, but the way that Neagle plays and the more advanced display of individual skill will translate much better to the international game. McInerney is fast but small, but he doesn’t have the 1v1 dribbling ability or trickery needed to outfox international defenders who are fast and used to dealing with more gifted dribblers.
Bruin and McInerney might be fine for the competition in the first round of the Gold Cup, but one of the purposes of this tournament was to initiate people who can break into the senior team. Neagle at least presents the size, speed, and skill to be internationally competitive, certainly more than Wondolowski has shown when given the chance to play international soccer.
Jürgen Klinsmann selected another trademark imbalanced roster for the United States Men’s National Team’ s Gold Cup squad.
The roster has one right back, three left backs, only one defensive midfielder, several mediocre center backs without good agility, and mostly pedestrian strikers.
Klinsmann made one needed change from his previous roster which was putting more than one playmaker on the roster: Joe Corona and Mix Diskerud.
Below is the United States’ B Team Gold Cup roster selected by Klinsmann and his staff, and changes could possibly be made to the roster after the group stage of the tournament, should the United States advance out:
GOALKEEPERS: Bill HAMID (DC United), Sean JOHNSON (Chicago Fire), Nick RIMANDO (Real Salt Lake).
OUTSIDE BACKS: Michael PARKHURST (Augsburg), Edgar CASTILLO (Tijuana), Tony BELTRAN (Real Salt Lake), DaMARCUS BEASLEY (Puebla) , Corey ASHE (Houston Dynamo).
CENTER BACKS: Clarence GOODSON (Bronby), Oguchi ONYEWU (Malaga), Michael OROZCO FISCAL (Puebla).
DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDERS: Kyle BECKERMAN (Real Salt Lake).
ATTACKING MIDFIELDERS: Alejandro BEDOYA (Helsinborg), Joe CORONA (Tijuana), Mix DISKERUD (Rosenborg), Josh GATT (Molde), Stuart HOLDEN (Bolton), José TORRES (Tigres).
FORWARDS: Will BRUIN (Houston Dynamo), Landon DONOVAN (LA Galaxy), Herculez GOMEZ (Tijuana), Jack MCINERNEY (Philadelphia Union), Chris WONDOLOWSKI (San Jose Earthquakes).
The Gold Cup roster Jürgen Klinsmann has selected for at least the group stage of the Gold Cup should be very alarming to anyone who remembers that in the 2011 Gold Cup the United States Men’s National Team struggled with the following players on the roster: Tim Howard, Steve Cherundolo, Jonathan Spector, Eric Lichaj, Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Freddy Adu, Jozy Altidore, and Juan Agudelo.
Looking at the roster by position, even the goalkeepers are just the same goalkeepers that Klinsmann always selects as third string or B Team goalkeepers without even using them or proving that they in fact deserve to always be on the roster.
Bill Hamid, Sean Johnson, and Nick Rimando may prove to be capable as international goalkeepers, but are they better than some of the other MLS goalkeepers like Dan Kennedy, Tally Hall, Luis Robles, and Clint Irwin?
So far, Klinsmann seems to just select Hamid, Johnson, and Rimando without proving that they should just automatically be given the B Team goalkeeper spots.
Klinsmann and his staff selected just one right back for the Gold Cup roster: Tony Beltran.
The other right back in name only was Michael Parkhurst. Parkhurst is a good center back who has done well overseas, where he has recently been used as a right back. But, Parkhurst is a center back who doesn’t have the speed or the style of play to realistically be used as a right back against strong opponents.
Is Tony Beltran was on the roster, then where were the likes of Kofi Sarkodie, Jonathan Spector, and Eric Lichaj? Picking Beltran over the other three requires some evidence, and Klinsmann doesn’t have it.
Spector and Lichaj have a body of international work to support their inclusion over Beltran, and Sarkodie continues to display how he (like DeAndre Yedlin) is a fast and aggressive outside back who poses a two-way threat.
Sarkodie keeps getting better, and proving that Beltran is better than a player like Sarkodie is a tough sell. At the very least, Sarkodie has shown his ability in Olympic qualifying, and his form in MLS continues to improve.
Sarkodie’s attacking ability and his improved tackling has been something that many writers and pundits have noticed.
Exclusions like Sarkodie are a concerning pattern with Klinsmann where he selects certain players without backing up his selections, and at the same time, players who are as good or better aren’t even mentioned, almost to the extent that it would appear that Klinsmann’s scouting is inadequate and subpar.
Even if many of the opponents in the Gold Cup are soccer minnows, the United States still needs to improve as a team and gel, and this roster puts the USMNT in the position to possible lose to teams that it should easily beat.
While there is one right back on the roster, there are three left backs, and they aren’t the kind of left backs who can play as right or left backs. They are three left backs, who can only play on the left, and one of them, DaMarcus Beasley, isn’t even an outside back.
Beasley is a winger who did a good job of filling in at left back in the first half of the Hexagonal round of the World Cup qualifying when the U.S. needed a left-footed player to play left back.
Chris Klute of the Colorado Rapids deserved to be on the Gold Cup roster or at least part of the discussion.
Klute is a lightning-quick left back who can also play as a right back, center back, or as a midfielder, and Klute boasts a 4.3 40 time according to his former coach Eric Wynalda.
Klute is just what the doctor ordered for the USMNT.
He’s a modern outside back who attacks with speed and skill by combining to exchange wall passes with his teammates, and he makes dangerous overlapping runs. Marcelo Balboa also rates Klute highly.
Klute offers the United States an outside back who has the speed and skill to be effective going forward and on the defensive side of things.
Klute has great recovery speed, and he knows how to cover for the center backs when they come over to cover for him if he’s beaten.
He can dribble or pass the ball out of the back, and he uses his excellent vertical leap to head out dangerous balls played into the box or into the attacking third.
Klute can outplay Ashe, Castillo, and Beasley, and while Klute is not immune to being beaten off the dribble or with a pass just like any defender is, he is great at quickly closing in on the player who has passed him.
Chris Klute is an excellent example of one of many quality MLS players who have appeared from somewhat off the radar, and they are totally passed over by Klinsmann and his staff for players who haven’t proven that they are better.
Klinsmann has never even mentioned Klute, and Klute is almost never even discussed by the American soccer media. For all of these pundits and American soccer writers who seem to only pay attention to MLS, how did they miss Chris Klute?
At center back, it’s unclear how Klinsmann rationalized his selections.
For example, how does Klinsmann justify omitting George John from the roster, when John is a center back who is almost universally recognized by MLS coaches and players as one of the best center backs in the league? Even the Greek national team and EPL clubs have openly shown interest in John.
Looking at Klinsmann’s roster selections at center back, Onyewu and Goodson have repeatedly been shown to not have the agility or technical ability to take the United States to the next level, and using players of their age does nothing to incorporate younger and better center backs like George John, Amobi Okugo, Gale Agbossoumonde, and Andrew Farrell (who can play either as a center back, outside back, or midfield destroyer).
Say what you want about Agbossoumonde and Farrell, but their comfort on the ball, their strong defensive skills, and their athleticism are there for all to see.
These are promising players who have enough experience to not be dismissed as raw and unproven players. Farrell and Agbossoumonde are not YouTube players, but rather they are players who games can be viewed and analyzed on MLS Live.
Any American defender who could possibly improve the center of the American defense deserves to be considered.
Whereas Klinsmann often put five or six midfield destroyers on his previous rosters, Klinsmann has only one defensive midfielder on this Gold Cup roster: Kyle Beckerman.
Beckerman is a midfield destroyer, and the roster doesn’t have a back-up destroyer for Beckerman or two players of the second kind of defensive midfielder: the box-to-box midfielder.
How was Perry Kitchen passed over for this Gold Cup roster as an additional midfield destroyer? Everything Beckerman does, Kitchen does better.
Kitchen isn’t fast by international soccer standards, but he isn’t a slow liability. His passing and comfort on the ball is as good or better than Beckerman’s, and he can also play as a center back.
Amobi Okugo is another defensive midfielder or center back who was necessary as a substitute or as a starter. Given Beckerman’s glacial speed and poor quickness, he’s a liability that should have been replaced by Kitchen, Okugo, or Jeremy Hall.
Despite Beckerman’s sound fundamentals and technique, there’s no place for a player who’s that slow in international soccer, especially a country like the United States that wants to improve its quality of play and international competitiveness.
The rest of the midfield is all attacking midfielders of various varieties including two actual playmakers in Joe Corona and Mix Diskerud and one attacking midfielder in Stuart Holden who doesn’t easily fit into any category.
Additionally, José Torres is on the roster, despite never performing well or impacting any game he has played for the United States, and Torres doesn’t combine enough with his teammates or play enough final balls to be considered a playmaker.
Benny Feilhaber deserved a roster spot over José Torres because Feilhaber has outplayed Torres at the international level, and Feilhaber has been enjoying a solid season with Sporting Kansas City in MLS, despite being left off a recent travel roster.
Sporting Kansas City’s passing is better when Feilhaber is playing, and Feilhaber has also displayed quite a bit of tackling and strong defensive work for a playmaker. Feilhaber even had seven or eight tackles in a game against the LA Galaxy when Jürgen Klinsmann was in the stadium to watch the game.
Feilhaber’s qualities are well-known in the United States, and often coaches like Klinsmann expect him to either play more defense that a playmaker normally plays or they have unrealistic expectations for him.
People know Feilhaber is a talented passer, so they raise their expectations for him, while allowing less talented people to play.
Even without Feilhaber, at least the roster has Joe Corona and Mix Diskerud, but the selection of Torres over Feilhaber shows Klinsmann’s tendency to pick his players early and insist on selecting them over and over again without any evidence.
The roster also has wingers amongst the group of attacking midfielders. Alejandro Bedoya and Josh Gatt are wingers, but it’s hard to support that they match the combination of skill and speed that Joe Gyau and Brek Shea provide as wingers.
Shea has performed better than Bedoya for the United States, and Gatt offers less speed and skill than Gyau offers. Gyau also plays in a more competitive environment in Germany.
The omission of both Terrence Boyd and Juan Agudelo from the group of strikers was very indefensible, especially since strikers like Chris Wondolowski were selected over both of them.
Given the problem with goal scoring in the 2011 Gold Cup, how can anyone have any confidence in Klinsmann and his staff who selected strikers like Chris Wondolowski, Will Bruin, and Jack McInerney to do something that Altidore and Agudelo struggled to do?
In 2011, there was a real lack of service for Altidore and Agudelo, despite the presence of attacking midfielders like Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan. With Benny Feilhaber injured before and during the tournament in 2011, the then-coach Bob Bradley was forced to insert Freddy Adu into the semifinal game against Panama because the USMNT was not creating any scoring chances.
Bob Bradley should be applauded for putting Adu on the roster to begin with, but given Bob Bradley’s prefence for using two midfield destroyers, it must have taken a lot for someone like Bradley to abandon his coaching philosophy and put Adu into the game.
This Gold Cup roster has the playmakers and attacking midfielders to play final balls and create scoring opportunities, but it doesn’t have the best strikers at Klinsmann disposal to finish those final balls, with the exception of Herculez Gomez.
Klinsmann selected Will Bruin and Chris Wondolowski over Juan Agudelo, and Agudelo has more goals in MLS than Bruin and the same amount as Wondolowski.
Unlike Bruin and Wondolowski, Agudelo has proven ability on the international level and 17 international caps for the USMNT.
Klinsmann can rationalize the inclusion of McInerney because he has a good MLS goal-scoring rate this season, but he can’t justify selecting Bruin and Wondolowski over Agudelo.
Agudelo is only 20 years old, and he has already shown more ability to perform on the international level than Wondolowski. Agudelo is better, taller, faster, more active off the ball, and more aggressive than Wondolowski.
Klinsmann said that Agudelo needed to be more “consistent” and less “up and down,” in order to make the team and yet he still has more goals than Bruin and the same amount as Wondolowski.
There is a definite pattern with Klinsmann’s roster selections, which almost seems to boil down to his selection of players he feels he can get to play a more proactive style rather than selecting the players than already play that way.
Klinsmann is quite frankly using many of the same players who have already shown that they don’t have the capacity to play at or close to the same level as the United States’ best regular players like Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley.
The United States and really Klinsmann is squandering an opportunity to take a number of players who have demonstrated that they have the skill-set and natural gifts to play soccer well at the international level and begin to incorporate them into the national team set-up so that the U.S. can improve.
Using these new but talented players isn’t a bigger risk than using many players who fall short of being able to keep up with the speed and skill of international soccer.
WORLD SOCCER SOURCE’S NOTABLE ROSTER OMISSIONS (WHICH ARE LARGELY UNPOPULAR WITH THE AMERICAN SOCCER MEDIA):
For several months, this writer has proposed fielding a United States Men’s National Team XI made up of some of the U-20 players with the best USMNT players, even the ones Klinsmann refuses to use.
What would this look like? It would look like Benji Joya, DeAndre Yedlin, Shane O’Neill, Caleb Stanko, Mario Rodriguez, José Villarreal, Alonso Hernandez, Juan Agudelo, Benny Feilhaber, Joe Corona, and even Freddy Adu being given a real shot.
The caliber of the passing hasn’t been good enough, and there haven’t been enough shots on goal.
So, just how good are Klinsmann’s starting line-ups?
Skipping quickly past the goalkeeper position, either Tim Howard or Brad Guzan are proven international and EPL keepers who serve the United States well.
Who plays right back? Well, Steve Cherundolo is certainly a seasoned Bundesliga and USMNT veteran who nobody really ever doubted in the past. Now, he’s a little older, and he asked for time off this summer. Additionally, some observers feel as if he’s lost a step.
Jonathan Spector is a capable player with strong technical ability, experience, and respectable athleticism for an international player. He’s by no means slow, and he isn’t very old. Spector performed well against Spain and Brazil in the 2009, and that’s something that he can continue to point to for a long time.
A bolder choice is tossing DeAndre Yedlin into the deep end with the full USMNT at right back where he gives the United States a modern outside back blessed with speed, attacking inclinations, comfort on the ball, and fairly aggressive defensive tendencies.
Yedlin is thought of as primarily an attacking threat, but he has certainly demonstrated an ability to tackle well, force attackers wide, and track down opposing players. The advantage of using Yedlin is that he puts the opposition on its heels when he marauds down the sideline, which breaks the defensive shape of the opposition and sucks opposing players toward the sideline, which frees up Yedlin’s teammates.
Who should be the two American center backs is really up for debate, and until all of the relevant parties are allowed to step into the ring, no one is really going to know which American center backs or defensive midfielders can take the center of the American defense to the next level.
Are Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler better than Carlos Bocanegra, Clarence Goodson, and Oguchi Onyewu? Definitely yes.
Are Gonzalez and Besler better than Jay DeMerit? Probably not.
DeMerit was baptized by fire and performed well in two major FIFA tournaments against truly elite attackers. DeMerit didn’t just survive when the famous players were coming at him, he showed that he was an American center back that was too good to be victimized by elite forwards.
With that being said, Jürgen Klinsmann owes American fans and himself the opportunity to get to see the list of 10 or so center backs being tossed into the shark tank.
Center back is a difficult position primarily because faster and better players are sprinting at center backs while center backs are backpedaling; at any moment, the opposition can play balls through or over center backs or simply decide to dribble past them with a full head of steam.
It’s easy to say that center backs are mistake prone or too easily beaten. It’s hard to stop someone sprinting at a center back when the center back has his back to goal.
Gonzalez and Besler? Cameron and Gonzalez? Cameron and Besler? Shane O’Neill and Besler? Cameron and Shane O’Neill? George John and Maurice Edu? The list of possibilities goes on as several center backs like Amobi Okugo, Gale Agbossoumonde, Caleb Stanko, and Andrew Farrell (amongst others) weren’t even mentioned in the options above.
Taking a look at Agbossoumonde and Farrell together at center back in a friendly would be a very bold move that could prove to bring better skill, defense, and athleticism to the center of the American defense.
Should Fabian Johnson play as a left back where he can attack and bring better skill to the left side of the defense?
Should a brand new MLS player like Chris Klute be allowed to suit up for a friendly or tested in camp?
Should right backs with the ability to play as left backs be used?
These are all legitimate questions, which Klinsmann hasn’t posed or tried to answer through testing, with the exception of frequently using Johnson at left back.
Despite Klinsmann’s makeshift line-ups, one thing is for certain: the United States Men’s National Team has a better and more athletic pool of players than ever before.
Will they get a chance to show what they can do? Will they be giving a fair shot?
The front six offers a lot more certainly.
Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, and Jozy Altidore are starting as a box-to-box/defensive midfielder, roaming attacking midfielder or second striker, and first striker, respectively; this fact leaves three open spots.
Will Trapp isn’t beating Jermaine Jones or Geoff Cameron out for the defensive midfielder spot any time soon, and Perry Kitchen hasn’t even been given the chance to show how well he would do against someone like Brazil, if Jones or Cameron were unavailable.
Can Jeremy Hall or Amobi Okugo outperform Maurice Edu? Who knows?
The U.S. has other midfield destroyers as well, but no one from Tab Ramos’ U-20 U.S. side (except maybe Stanko in the future) is taking the misunderstood number 6 role, which requires a lot of comfort on the ball, speed, defensive skill, and elegant passing ability.
Two spots remain to be discussed, and these two spots have been Jürgen Klinsmann’s clearest display of being a poor tactician.
The ability to appreciate creative passing skills in a player who is willing to try passes that might not slip through the defense and the need of the first and second strikers to have a playmaker who is inventive, smooth, instinctual, and a risk taker is a connection that Klinsmann either refuses to try to address or a connection that he refuses to accept.
Either way, Klinsmann has been unwilling to even test out the best playmaker options at his disposal and pick one. Klinsmann’s standards for playmakers are high, but he has never proven that his assessment of Benny Feilhaber, Joe Corona, Freddy Adu, Mix Diskerud, or anyone else is correct. He needs to prove it.
He needs to allow a playmaker to play with Cameron/Jones, Bradley, Dempsey, Donovan, and Altidore, and he needs to evaluate all of the options at his disposal.
With Cameron or Jones playing with Bradley and Dempsey and Donovan combining with Altidore to help him to attack the goal, Klinsmann doesn’t have a good excuse to not try out playmakers who link the more defensive midfielders with Donovan, Dempsey, and Altidore.
Until he tries it out, he can’t support his tactics. Klinsmann needs to try something. He is entitled to not use his archenemies (Feilhaber and Adu) to whom he has nothing to teach , but he could at least play a line of three attacking midfielders Donovan, Corona, and Dempsey behind Altidore with Cameron and Bradley playing deep.
That’s tactically sound.
Based on how Benji Joya has played in the U-20 World Cup and in CONCACAF U-20 World Cup qualifying, Joya would be a very useful midfielder to begin to incorporate into the USMNT.
Joya brings skill, calm passing, defensive qualities, good athleticism, and intensity. He’s a complete midfielder that offers Bradley, Cameron, Jones, and Dempsey a player who can play at their level and help the team to produce better soccer.
Perhaps the best performance ever for the USMNT under Klinsmann was the game against Panama in which Klinsmann had players close to fulfilling the 1 through 11 numbering system: Tim Howard 1, Brad Evans 2, Omar Gonzalez 3, Matt Besler 4, DaMarcus Beasley 5, Geoff Cameron 6, Fabian Johnson 7, Michael Bradley 8, Jozy Altidore 9, Eddie Johnson 9, Clint Dempsey 11. No number 10 or anything close to it.
Even Joe Corona, an actual number 10 who proved himself in the Copa Libertadores, was on the bench for several qualifiers before and after the Panama game when the U.S. was passing poorly. Corona’s cameo against Panama was essentially a public insult from Klinsmann that said, “It means nothing to me that you start for a good Liga MX team that went deep into the Copa Libertadores, and I don’t care that you proved yourself twice against Corinthians.”
Looking at the starting line-up against Panama, the right back and left back were questionable as legitimate options against better teams. Eddie Johnson was oddly used as a right midfield winger. Clint Dempsey was used as a 10.
The reason the line-up worked was because Cameron, Bradley, Fabian Johnson, Dempsey, Eddie Johnson, and Altidore all had the skill-level, playing style, and athleticism to display a higher caliber of passing play despite the rather bizarre formation with a striker like Eddie Johnson as a right winger and Dempsey as a playmaker .