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

7 Comments

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.

Off to slow start, Morris, Seattle know “things can change quickly”

Leave a comment

Both Jordan Morris and the Seattle Sounders are off to a rough start in defense of their MLS Cup title last Fall, and the USMNT’s star striker admits to recalling last season’s wild turnaround as an inspiration.

“After the game last week we mentioned that we have a lot of the nucleus from last year and we all know that things can change quickly,” Morris said to ProSoccerTalk this week.

Seattle won just seven games before Matchday 22 last season, rebounding with a burst after coach Sigi Schmid was replaced by assistant Brian Schmetzer. The Sounders went 8-2-2 down the stretch en route to an MLS Cup win over Toronto FC.

While he hasn’t scored in five matches and only has two markers in 12 games, he feels success is coming for the 3W-5L-4T Sounders. Morris said the club knows the results aren’t there, but also that they are producing chances.

[ MORE: Monaco star’s Man City medical ]

“It’s been okay,” Morris said. “Definitely not the start I would’ve wanted. It’s not an excuse but we’ve hit a lot of posts and had other near misses.”

Seattle has a huge opportunity to flip the script on its season when Cascadia Cup rivals Portland visit on Saturday. The free-scoring Timbers are dangerous in attack, but have been opened up 20 times this season. Only two teams have conceded more goals than Portland (which has played the most matches in the league, it must be said).

And it may or may not surprise fans that Morris’ focus has been one of his strengths: the final product.

“I’m working on the final third, whether it’s shooting or finding the open guy,” Morris said. “It’s a big deal for us to finish our chances. Scoring or the final pass in that final third.”

Despite his relatively cold start, it would be surprising if Bruce Arena didn’t tab Morris in his crop for next month’s World Cup qualifiers. The 22-year-old also seems relatively certain to be a part of the Gold Cup plans.

“I’m excited and hopefully I get called up,” he said. “These World Cup qualifiers are obviously a very big deal and Bruce has done a really good job of getting us on the same page.”

Morris is also participating in a unique promotional activity with Delta Airlines for Sounders fans, as he and Cristian Roldan are among Seattle teams picking fans for “positions” in a Fan XI. Once assembled, they’ll travel to L.A. for a Sounders road match, and Morris was happy to get on board with it.

“It’s for our fans, who are amazing,” he said. “Delta’s idea to make a Fan XI gives the fansa chance to have the behind the scenes experience of being part of a team put together by having different skills. We love rewarding our fans.”

Day Seven: All the action from the U20 World Cup (video)

Kim In-chul/Yonhap via AP
Leave a comment

Mexico has automatically qualified for the knockout rounds of the U-20 World Cup despite falling to Venezuela.

[ MORE: U-20 World Cup latest

Germany dropped below Mexico in goal differential after allowing a 3-0 lead to sink to one, though El Tri still likely would’ve advanced to the next phase despite Germany’s result.

Mexico 0-1 Venezuela

Caracas 19-year-old striker Sergio Cordova scored for the third-straight match in what is sure to make him a hot summer commodity as Venezuela clinched Group B with a perfect 3-0 record.

Germany 3-2 Vanuatu

Vanuatu’s potential name of the tournament Bong Kalo scored twice in the second half to sink Germany below Mexico on goal difference.

Guinea 0-5 Argentina

A brace from Lautaro Martínez gives Argentina hope of the knockout rounds with a third-place finish.

England 1-0 South Korea

Everton’s Kieran Dowell scored the lone goal of the match to give England the Group A crown.

Zabaleta staying in Premier League with West Ham move

@WHUFC
Leave a comment

A week after bidding Manchester City an emotional goodbye, Pablo Zabaleta has announced he’ll be staying in England.

The 32-year-old right back is moving to London, where he’ll join West Ham United on a two-year deal beginning July 1.

[ MORE: Three key battles in FA Cup Final ]

The San Lorenzo youth product went to Espanyol in 2005 to begin his European adventure, joining Man City in 2008. He won two PL titles, two League Cups, and an FA Cup, and was named the club’s player of the season in 2012-13.

From WHUFC.com:

“Manchester City gave me the opportunity to come to this wonderful league, the Premier League, something I’ve been enjoying a lot as a player and of course for me it was probably the right time to move on.

“Also, as a player, I thought I wanted to keep playing in the Premier League. For me, after being in this country for so long, this is a new challenge for me in the Premier League and I’m ready for it and looking forward to it.”

Maybe he just wanted 3G.

Young Sam Byram can learn plenty from Zabaleta, and the signing means that star right-sided man Michail Antonio likely won’t have to be wasted at right back in emergency situations. Good risk by the Hammers.

Valencia extends Man Utd deal to great Mourinho praise

Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jose Mourinho has made no secret of his Antonio Valencia appreciation, and the Manchester United manager has rewarded his fullback with a new deal.

Valencia is nine appearances away from 300 in a Manchester United kit, with 22 goals and 61 assists as a Red Devil.

[ MORE: Monaco star’s Man City medical ]

Valencia said United has “been my life” since arriving from Wigan Athletic in 2009, while Mourinho heaped praise on the Ecuadorian captain’s character with glowing praise.

“It is no secret that I had been an admirer of Antonio’s long before I joined the club. I knew what a fantastic player he was and he has not disappointed me on that front. However, what I could never have imagined was what a great person he is. I know I have said this before but I truly believe it is a real privilege for us to have such a good player and such a good man. I am delighted he has extended his contract.”

Only Ander Herrera and Eric Bailly recorded better tackle rates at Old Trafford last season, and Valencia was credited with a team-best 1.5 crosses per game.