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.

Midfield

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.

Forwards

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

 

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:

Goalkeepers

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.

Defenders

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.

Midfielders

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.

Forwards

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.

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:

Goalkeepers

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

Forwards

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.

 

What Formation Should Bruce Arena Use With the United States?

What Formation Should Bruce Arena Use With the United States?

As the coach of the Los Angeles Galaxy, Bruce Arena was known to always trot out the 4-4-2 formation, but Arena is a more advanced and versatile tactician than that.

For what it’s worth Brazil, Argentina, Chile, France, and The Netherlands all use the 4-3-3 formation, so there’s something to be said for the soundness of that formation choice. It’s worth noting that the 4-3-3 and the 4-2-3-1 are really the same lineup more or less, unless no attacking midfielder is used in the Midfield Three.

The United States could use the 4-3-3 formation, but the 4-2-3-1 formation might be as good of a place to start as any. With that set-up, the United States can have enough ball-winning in the midfield with two defensive or holding or central midfielders, and the squad would also have plenty of attacking firepower with a line of three attacking midfielders plus a striker.

The minority viewpoint among United States Men’s National Team observers that Michael Bradley shouldn’t be starting is crazy talk. The filling of the starting two defensive or central midfield roles starts with Bradley and then moves on to selecting Darlington Nagbe, Kellyn Acosta, or Dax McCarty. The latter would make Bradley the Number 8 or box-to-box midfielder, but going with Nagbe or Acosta would definitely be the more inspired choice with the intention of making a real effort to move forward with American tactics and improve the skill of the national team.

The next midfield issue is the question of who should start as the playmaker or central attacking midfielder or Number 10. The United States has to start one. It’s not going to work to just keep fielding a lineup without a playmaker, so Arena should pick one to start. Benny Feilhaber or Lee Nguyen are the obvious choices as both are simply better than Sacha Kljestan, but using Sebastian Lletget is perhaps a better option. If Arena were to start Feilhaber, then Lletget and Christian Pulisic could flank Feilhaber on the right and left behind Bobby Wood as the striker. It’s hard to argue that Feilhaber isn’t the best American playmaker, and his skillset and style of play is sorely needed on this dull United States Men’s National Team.

The United States’ defense is arguably solid right now. DeAndre Yedlin at right back with Geoff Cameron and John Brooks as the center backs with Fabian Johnson as the left back is a suitable Back Four. Maybe using Eric Lichaj instead of Johnson is a better option since Lichaj defends better. Lichaj could also start over Yedlin. Another inspired choice would be to start Andrew Farrell at right back with Lichaj at left back since the United States needs outside backs who can defend better while still being able to bomb down the sideline in the attack.

Arena couldn’t go wrong with using the 4-2-3-1 with the United States, and it’s as sound as any formation. This formation was the traditional formation of Brazil, and you could argue that the 4-2-3-1 and the 4-3-3 are really the same thing.

 

Who Should Bruce Arena Call into the United States’ January Camp?

Who Should Bruce Arena Call into the United States Men’s National Team’s January Camp?

Although the United States Men’s National Team’s January camp is over a month away, Bruce Arena has likely already made a list of domestic players that he plans to call up, and certainly he is still working on expanding and evaluating that list.

While it’s difficult to predict Arena’s list, it is possible to think of who deserves to make the list, and of course this list wouldn’t necessarily be comprehensive.

Let’s start from the goalkeepers and move on down to the forwards, and let’s consider just some of Arena’s best option. Here are 30 names instead of 23 names as several additional midfielders and an extra forward were included.

Goalkeepers- Clint Irwin, Brian Rowe, Zack Steffan, Bill Hamid

The American player pool features many excellent goalkeepers. Zack Steffen stood out with the youth national teams, and Clint Irwin and Brian Rowe have been excellent in MLS along with Bill Hamid. Tim Howard should still be injured in January.

Center Backs- Andrew Farrell, Maurice Edu, Steve Birnbaum, Matt Besler

Andrew Farrell played right back this past season, but his best position is at center back. Nevertheless, he’s a quality right back that can help Arena at that position as well. If Maurice Edu is fit, then he is a center back and defensive midfielder who has proven ability. Edu is a more technical and athletic center back than most of the United States’ options.

Outside Backs- Kofi Sarkodie, Robbie Rogers, Chris Tierney, Chris Klute

Three of the best American outside backs (DeAndre Yedlin, Eric Lichaj, Fabian Johnson) play in Europe, so here are four domestic outside backs who stand out. Chris Klute has been seeing limited playing time since playing so well with the Colorado Rapids under Oscar Pareja. Chris Tierney and Robbie Rogers are two left backs worth looking at, and Kofi Sarkodie has impressed in MLS for several seasons when used.

Midfielders- Michael Bradley, Dax McCarty, Kellyn Acosta, Fatai Alashe, Victor Ulloa, Dillon Powers, Will Trapp, Darlington Nagbe, Benny Feilhaber, Lee Nguyen, Sebastian Lletget, Kelyn Rowe, Ethan Finlay, Benji Joya

This list includes several extra midfielders because the United States’ midfield has been weak, and it’s important to really test out more midfielders. This list also includes plenty of attacking midfielders and playmakers as the United States’ level of technical ability and creativity in the midfield is way too low. This list also features a log jam of central midfielders. May the best ones win.

Here we have multiple playmakers in Benny Feilhaber, Lee Nguyen, Sebastian Lletget, Darlington Nagbe, and Kelyn Rowe. Nagbe has really thrived as a box-to-box midfielder because he can use his running endurance and speed to have his skill be useful all over the field, and he has also proven to be a good tackler and ball-winner.

Lletget and Rowe also excel as wings, and Christian Pulisic will need someone to play on the opposite side of the field from him. Feilhaber and Nguyen were the playmakers that Jürgen Klinsmann should have been using every game, but now the question is whether or not Sebastian Lletget is better than both. Still, these players aren’t mutually exclusive, as having both Feilhaber and Nguyen on the roster makes sense because Lletget also plays as a wing or second striker.

Ethan Finlay is also too talented and quick to overlook. The Columbus Crew winger and second striker has performed well for the United States already, and his skillset is needed. Finlay is also aggressive and looks to score or play final balls.

Forwards- Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo, Jordan Morris, Bradford Jamieson IV

Bradford Jamieson IV was included because of his compelling combination of skill, creativity, directness, and athleticism. Among young American players, Jamieson’s talent has really stood out along with Christian Pulisic and Rubio Rubin. Assuming Clint Dempsey can play, he can play second striker, attacking midfielder, or wing. The other center forwards are almost instant inclusions.

 

Who Should U.S. Soccer Pick to Replace Jürgen Klinsmann?

New Coaching Options for the United States Men’s National Team

Oscar Pareja

The Oscar Pareja pick would arguably be the best choice because he is a great tactician and talent scout who plays young players when they are good enough to play. The younger talent in the United States is better than the talent of previous generations, and Pareja is a coach who will select those players for the national team and let them play, if they are ready. Pareja offers fresh perspective and new ideas without those ideas being bizarre. Pareja coaches skill soccer in the Latin American style, and this style of play is a more advanced and effective style of play than the overemphasis on hustle and physicality that the United States has too often played. Beyond all of these reasons, Pareja has a history of winning in MLS, and he has a history of knowing how to build strong lineups who play quality soccer in a more skilled and effective style. A big dose of Latin American style soccer is needed for the United States that only fields a couple players who play soccer the right way.

Bruce Arena

There have been reports and rumors that Bruce Arena might be the coach to replace Jürgen Klinsmann, and the positives of that switch would be that Arena plays a balance of attacking and defensive players and that he knows the American player pool very well. The real problem with Klinsmann as coach was his poor tactics that led to a lack of possession and creativity in the lineup, and Arena doesn’t normally omit skill players and playmakers from his lineups and rosters. Unlike other options, Arena has experience and success as a coach at the international level, but hiring Arena feels like the five years under Klinsmann served no purpose for the United States. Arena could have been the coach again back in 2011, so selecting him doesn’t really qualify as fresh ideas. Klinsmann overlooked a lot of qualified players from MLS, and Arena seems to better at identifying the standout MLS players, as he did when he signed Sebastian Lletget to the LA Galaxy when he was stuck in Purgatory with Wes Ham United.

Sigi Schmid

Sigi Schmid has been a successful soccer coach and scout in the United States for decades, and in a recent interview with Alexi Lalas for the Mutant Gene Podcast, he showcased his tactical acumen and ability to scout and evaluate players. Unlike Klinsmann, Schmid doesn’t have a history of poor tactics and bad player evaluation. Even now, Klinsmann continues to insists that Michael Bradley is a playmaker. Schmid has a track record of winning and scouting, and the biggest issue for American soccer right now at the national team level is fielding more technically-skilled players in their correct positions. One gets the sense with Schmid that he wouldn’t field a lineup without a combination of defensive midfielders and attacking midfielders, and this is the real area where the United States gets destroyed by elite national teams and not-so-elite national teams. The United States loses when the opposing team runs circles around them and keeps possession, and this is less likely to happen with a coach like Schmid who is tactically-sound. Schmid is responsible for scouting and finding many of the most talented American players, and this ability is needed to select rosters.

Tab Ramos

Hiring Tab Ramos to replace Klinsmann would involve simply promoting an assistant coach to head coach, and like the other coaching options, Ramos is a better tactician and scout than Klinsmann. Like Pareja, Ramos believes in coaching soccer played the right way, and he has shown that he balances attacking and creativity with the needed defensive play. As coach of the United States’ youth national teams, Ramos always selected the most skilled players that he had available, rather than going by other unclear criteria. Ramos showed that he made sure to field midfields that combined defending with technical skill and attacking play, and he also didn’t field players out of position in unsuitable formations.

Who Should U.S. Soccer Pick to Replace Jürgen Klinsmann?

With Pareja and Ramos, U.S. Soccer would be showing a commitment to selecting a coach who is looking to field a team that plays better soccer based on skill, and with Arena or Schmid, U.S. Soccer would be picking a coach who selects rosters and lineups better than Klinsmann. Arena and Schmid coach skill soccer, but Pareja and Ramos coach that style even more. Looking to play more Latin American style soccer rather than English or European soccer would be a bolder move by U.S. Soccer.

 

What Went Wrong in the 2-1 USA Loss to Mexico?

What Went Wrong in the 2-1 USA Loss to Mexico?

In the 2-1 loss to Mexico in the hexagonal of World Cup qualifying, the United States Men’s National Team had a few players out of position, and this hurt Jürgen Klinsmann’s team’s ability to keep and recover possession. With three center backs and really only Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones in the midfield, the United States struggled to link up the midfield with the attack.

Geoff Cameron was unavailable due to injury for this game, and that forced the United States to use a slower and less talented defender in Omar Gonzalez. With or without Cameron, starting Sacha Kljestan in the midfield with Bradley and Jones instead of using three center backs might have better defined Bradley’s and Jones’ role while also adding another midfielder to keep possession and serve as a playmaker for the two strikers.

Christian Pulisic was dangerous and active in the attack as a Number 10, but he needed another creative midfielder to combine with to help playmake for Bobby Wood and Jozy Altidore. Pulisic did his best, but the lineup was light on midfielders.

You could argue that dropping one of the center backs and starting DeAndre Yedlin over Timothy Chandler were the only things wrong with Klinsmann’s lineup and formation, but those two things had a devastating effect on the USA’s performance. Unfortunately, tactical mistakes like these have been the norm for Klinsmann as head coach of the United States. Referring to Klinsmann’s lack of accountability to Sunil Gulati and U.S. Soccer, the journalist, Kurtis Larson, tweeted that Klinsmann’s ‘leash is the circumference of the globe.’

Against a talented team like Mexico with players playing for better club teams, Klinsmann was wrong to use a new lineup that lacked balance or link up play between the midfield and the attack. This seems to be the mistake that Klinsmann makes over and over; he refuses to field a playmaker to help the United States to keep possession and play final balls to the forward or forwards. It’s unclear why Klinsmann continues to keep making the same mistake because he has several playmaker options at his disposal.

Klinsmann has coached the United States for five years now, and there’s nothing more to say about his tactics and personnel choices. They’re normally pretty poor. The coach has made a few excellent choices like consistently starting Bobby Wood because he is a talented striker full of skill, direct play, and creative play, and even more importantly, he consistently scores against good teams.

When the United States plays Costa Rica next, Klinsmann will need to field a formation that allows the players to keep possession better.