Michael Bradley

PST U.S. Men’s National Team Depth Chart: Central Midfielders

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Central midfield might be Jurgen Klinsmann’s deepest position. Use a different view of what depth means, you might see the States’ lacking in what you might call organizational depth – the ability to consistently produce a certain standard of player.

That characteristic is most-evident between five and six on the central midfield depth chart. Look beyond the players habitually called into camp and you’ll see options rarely considered for recalls. Given what’s happened over the last two days, it makes you wonder what would happen if central midfield was hit by an injury bug similar to what’s happened at left back.

That would have to be some injury bug to create any kind of crisis, though. With some help from attackers who can help in a pinch, the U.S.’s central midfield is deep enough to make variety a greater concern than depth. Between Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, and Maurice Edu, Jurgen Klinsmann has a lot of interchangeable, not enough ‘do something else.’ In this case, that ‘do something else’ would be creating scoring chances.

A reminder: This list is how we see Jurgen Klinsmann’s depth chart – not how you, we, or the fans at large would order the U.S.’s midfield depth.

1. Michael Bradley, 25, Roma (Italy)

A sea of injuries mean Friday can’t come fast enough, but for the United States, at least Michael Bradley will be back. For a midfield lacking creativity, Bradley’s the one player who can provide a spark, if not with his passing than with his ability to take advantage of opportunities to get forward. His goal from Roma this weekend was a perfect example.

It’s not often we stop to realize it, but it really should be said: He’s become the best central midfielder in CONCACAF.

2. Jermaine Jones, 30, Schalke (Germany)

What Jurgen Klinsman sees: A big, physical player with good range who is capable on the ball, occasionally providing an surprisingly good pass going forward.

What an increasing number of U.S. Men’s National Team fans see: Somebody who occupies space, is overly-physical to the point of being foul-prone, and doesn’t provide enough going forward.

Despite the disagreement, Jones is a lock not only to make every squad but also start, almost always going a full 90 minutes.

3. Maurice Edu, 26, Stoke City (England)

Ulimately, Edu may be the victim in the U.S.’s top-heavy midfield. He’s played central defense at the Olympics, World Cup, and Estadio Azteca, and Klinsmann admits the new Potter’s future may not be in midfield. He has all the skills to partner with Geoff Cameron into the future. In midfield, although he is a lock to be called in, Edu is often redundant.

4. Danny Williams, 23, Hoffenheim (Germany)

5. Kyle Beckerman, 30, Real Salt Lake

Whether Williams deserves the fourth spot was a tough call, but last international break may have seen the Hoffenheim star passed Beckerman on the depth chart. The contrast between his performance in Columbus (where he was one of the States’ best players) and Beckerman’s in Kingston (where he was decent if unspectacular) made it clear. Williams has a chance to be a plus-contributor on a regular basis. While Beckerman is a good option to have in the team, he doesn’t have that potential.

6. Jeff Larentowicz, 29, Colorado Rapids

Larentowicz’s national team career received a nudge when Klinsmann was appointed head coach, but central midfield is a tough nut to crack, particularly when your game doesn’t offer anything appreciably different to the players ahead of you in the pecking order.

7. Ricardo Clark, 29, Houston Dynamo

Clark was thought done with the national team after his performance against Ghana at the World Cup, but Klinsmann called him into the January camp. Back in Major League Soccer after a tour in Germany, Clark still has time to reestablish a place in the national team, even if he’s unlikely to become the regular starter he was during the last cycle. Like Larentowicz, his skills run in parallel to those of the more established central midfielders, though unlike the Rapids’ anchor, Clark can play in defense.

8. Dax McCarty, 25, New York Red Bulls

This is where the list gets thin. Although McCarty has earned accolades for his performance this year in MLS, he has yet to receive love from the new national team coach. In that way, he’s the anti-Larentowicz. Whereas the Colorado man got a new lease on national team life when Klinsmann replaced Bob Bradley, McCarty’s been unable to rekindle the attention he earned in the former coach’s final January camp. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that McCarty is still relatively young. If he continues progressing as he has this year, he’ll carve a spot for himself.

9. Sam Cronin, 25, San Jose Earthquakes

It’s been three years since Cronin was part of the B-team Bob Bradley took to the 2009 Gold Cup. Since then he’s moved from Toronto to San Jose and become one of the key (if overshadowed) components of Major League Soccer’s best team (don’t tell Steve I said that). Is there that much difference between Sam Cronin and Dax McCarty? Perhaps enough to put McCarty higher on a list, a lit they’d both be on.

10. Perry Kitchen, 20, D.C. United

A rookie year playing out of position hurt Kitchen’s development. While he was able to get valuable minutes by playing right back in 2011, switching back to defensive midfield has forced him to go through another adjustment period, something that’s reflected in his play. Too often Kitchen’s been passive in a position defined by assertiveness. Next season, Kitchen should be a more decisive player, building on what he’s learned during a second rookie season.

Champions League field set: Who can Arsenal, Man City, Leicester draw?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 06: Leroy Sane of Manchester City (R) shoots from a freekick during the UEFA Champions League Group C match between Manchester City FC and Celtic FC at Etihad Stadium on December 6, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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We have to wait until Monday for the draw, but the field is set for the UEFA Champions League’s knockout rounds.

Seeded
Arsenal
Atletico Madrid
Barcelona
Napoli
Monaco
Leicester City
Juventus
Borussia Dortmund

[ MORE: Examining Leicester, Man City ]

Unseeded
Paris Saint-Germain
Bayern Munich
Manchester City
Benfica
Bayer Leverkusen
Porto
Sevilla
Real Madrid


Premier League scenarios

Who can the three remaining clubs from England’s top flight face in the first knockout round?

Arsenal: Bayern Munich, Benfica, Bayer Leverkusen, Porto, Sevilla, Real Madrid.

Leicester City: Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, Benfica, Bayer Leverkusen, Sevilla, Real Madrid.

Manchester City: Atletico Madrid, Napoli, Monaco, Juventus, Borussia Dortmund

As for Tottenham Hotspur, they are set to be seeded in the Europa League’s Round of 32.


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UEFA Champions League wrap: BVB stuns Real late, Spurs onto Europa

Tottenham's Harry Kane, 2nd right, is congratulated by his teammates after scoring his side's 2nd goal during the Champions League group E soccer match between Tottenham Hotspur and CSKA Moscow at Wembley stadium in London, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
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The knockout round draw is just days away, and we finally have the 16 teams who remain in the chase for the UEFA Champions League title.

[ MORE: Examining Leicester, Man City ]

Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 CSKA Moscow

Mauricio Pochettino‘s men came out of the gates hard at Wembley, which made it all the more surprising when Alan Dzageov gave CSKA a surprise 1-0 lead.

No fear, a dangerous Dele Alli was rewarded with a goal before Harry Kane made it 2-1 by halftime. And CSKA goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev recalled the last World Cup by pushing an Alli header in for an own goal.

Porto 5-0 Leicester City

The hosts needed this one, and a much-weakened Leicester City did not.

Riyad Mahrez and Robert Huth weren’t in the 18, and Danny Simpson, Christian Fuchs, and Marc Albrighton all started on the bench.

That made it a bit easier for Porto to strike, and Andre Silva, Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, and Yacine Brahimi gave the Portuguese side a healthy three-goal lead at the break. Silva added a second in the second half, this time from the spot.

Real Madrid 2-2 Borussia Dortmund

Karim Benzema scored a pair of goals, the second on a picture-perfect cross from James Rodriguez, as the reigning champs looked set for seeded status for the first knockout round.

But Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang made it 2-1 and Cristiano Ronaldo dinked a surefire insurance goal off the far post with 12 minutes to go. Aubameyang then found a sliding Marco Reus in the 88th minute to give Thomas Tuchel’s a share of the lead and the capture of the group.

Elsewhere

Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 Monaco
Juventus 2-0 Dinamo Zagreb
Legia Warsaw 1-0 Sporting CP
Lyon 0-0 Sevilla
Club Brugge 0-2 Copenhagen

All said, Juventus and Sevilla clinch knockout round berths, while Spurs, Legia Warsaw, Copenhagen and Lyon head to the Europa League.

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Champions League AT HALF – Leicester, Dortmund trail; Spurs lead (video)

Real Madrid's Henrico Casemiro, center right, jumps for a high ball during the Champions League, Group F, soccer match between Real Madrid and Borrusia Dortmund at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
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CONCACAF is representing in the UEFA Champions League’s final group stage match day, with a Mexico star scoring and a USMNT teenager getting the start at the Bernabeu against Real Madrid.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Porto 3-0 Leicester City

Andre Silva isn’t hurting his transfer value, burying his third group stage goal against a weakened already-through Leicester. El Tri star Jesus Corona added to the advantage in the 25th minute, and Yacine Brahimi has the third.

Club Brugge 0-2 FC Copenhagen

The Danes are making a statement of intent, and will be hoping Leicester comes back against Porto.

Real Madrid 1-0 Borussia Dortmund

Christian Pulisic gets the start in a match where a draw would be enough for BVB to win the group. That’s not happening right now, as Karim Benzema beat his mark to a terrific 28th minute pass from Dani Carvajal.

Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 CSKA Moscow

Spurs started dominant, only to go down after the half hour mark. Dele Alli pulled them level, and Harry Kane put ’em ahead. A loss puts them out of both the UCL and Europa League.

Elsewhere
Bayer Leverkusen 1-0 Monaco
Juventus 0-0 Dinamo Zagreb
Legia Warsaw 1-0 Sporting CP
Lyon 0-0 Sevilla

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LIVE – UCL group stage finale: Leicester, Tottenham both in action

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 06:  Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates scoring his sides first goal with team mates during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur at Emirates Stadium on November 6, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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The final matchday of the 2016-17 UEFA Champions League group stage takes place on Wednesday with two Premier League teams in action.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Leicester City is already through and has topped Group G with Claudio Ranieri‘s men securing a top spot for next Monday’s Round of 16 draw. The Foxes face FC Porto in Portugal with the hosts needing just a point to secure second place in the group and their spot in the last 16. Putting their Premier League worries aside, Leicester will aim to stay unbeaten throughout all six of their UCL group games.

Tottenham Hotspur wish they could say the same but Mauricio Pochettino‘s men have already crashed out of the Champions League with one game to go. They host CSKA Moscow at Wembley Stadium in Group E with Spurs needing just a draw to secure a place in the Europa League knockout stages. Bayer Leverkusen and AS Monaco has already qualified from Group E but Spurs’ Harry Kane insists they now want to go on and win the Europa League.

[ MORE: Permutations for each UCL group ]

Elsewhere Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund clash to decide top spot in Group F, while Juventus, Lyon and Sevilla are all still in the mix in Group H with the final game to come.

Below is a full schedule for Wednesday’s Champions League games, with each game kicking off at 2:45 p.m. ET.

You can follow live commentary and stats of each game by clicking on the link above, while we will have reaction right here on ProSoccerTalk.


Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League schedule

Group E
Tottenham Hotspur vs. CSKA Moscow
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Monaco

Group F
Real Madrid vs. Borussia Dortmund
Legia Warsaw vs. Sporting Lisbon

Group G
FC Porto vs. Leicester City
Club Brugge vs. FC Copenhagen

Group H
Juventus vs. Dinamo Zagreb
Lyon vs. Sevilla