PST U.S. Men’s National Team Depth Chart: “Attacking” Midfelders

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Even if we had to make a tough call on where to slot Jozy Altidore, the forwards were easy, but as we track back in through the U.S. Men’s national team formation, things get tougher.

We’re also not doing ourselves any favors with our depth charts. Because there seems to be two distinctly different classes of midfielders in Jurgen Klinsmann’s team, we’re breaking the position up. Later we’ll post the central midfielders’ depth chart, while now, we’re posting the “other” guys.

I note “other” because it’s hard to come up with a good way to describe them. They’re basically players who are less-likely to compete with the Bradleys, Joneses, and Edus for time. Sometimes they’re deployed wide while on the same level, but most of the time they’re in more advanced positions, usually (but not always) wider.

We’re calling them attackers, but expect this caveat to appear in every update: Here, “attacking” is synonymous with “other”.

But before all those caveats suck the fun out of this exercise, let’s get to the depth chart, one with a familiar name at the top.

1. Landon Donovan, 30, LA Galaxy

Graham Zusi’s performance in Columbus showed how much Landon Donovan’s been missed, if ironically so. While Zusi performed well against Jamaica (forming a nice tandem with Steve Cherundolo down the right), that’s standard fare for Donovan, who is also capable of adding a touch of the spectacular with a dash of the heroic. Jurgen Klinsmann’s rarely had Donovan and Clint Dempsey at his disposal. He won’t this week, either.

2. Graham Zusi, 26, Sporting Kansas City

So what if he’s not Donovan? He’s still somebody the program’s coming to trust. He didn’t start in Kingston, but inserted into the starting XI to provide some attacking nous in Ohio, Zusi stepped up. It’s a cliché (saying somebody “stepped up”), but it’s also something other players have failed to do – make an impact when they finally get their chance. Thanks to that impact, the U.S. should be in decent shape this week, with Zusi again filling in for Landon Donovan.

3. Brek Shea, 22, FC Dallas

Shea is the only true wide attacker regularly used by Klinsmann – somebody that wide week-in, week-out plays wide for both club and country. Like Donovan, Shea will miss this week’s qualifiers, eliminated from consideration after U.S. Soccer doctors deemed him unfit to go. Although fan opinion is mixed on the FC Dallas star’s effectiveness, he represents a meaningful way to change things should the attack falter. He will be missed.

4. Jose Torres, 24, Pachuca (Mexico)

Torres is another of Klinsmann’s “other” midfielders who’s injured, though after his performance last break, it’s unclear he’ll be missed. Torres has received plenty of chances to assert his place in the team and has consistently given lackluster performances. Klinsmann, however, may see things differently. When things needed to be changed after Kingston, Torres was one of the answers. The reviews may be mixed, but the boss’s loyalty has yet to waver.

5. Joe Corona, 22, Tijuana (Mexico)

You get the feeling Corona is inching closer to playing time, but with the senior team, he’s yet to see meaningful minutes. But by now, the Tijuana attacker is a consistent presence in Klinsmann’s squads, his strong performance for the U-23s helping to solidify his place in the setup. While he’s not a wide player in the mold of Shea, Corona often plays on the flank for Xolos. With few other options on the bench, Klinsmann may turn to Corona this week when he looks to change things up.

6. Sacha Kljestan, 27, Anderlecht (Belgium)

He may spend most of his time playing near central midfielder Lucas Biglia in Belgium, but given the U.S. squad’s strengths, if Sacha’s going to make an impact, it’s likely going to be in another spot. His versatility allows him to be used in a more attacking role – in wider areas, if need be. It’s part of the reason why many felt Kljestan should have been called up for previous qualifiers.

7. Josh Gatt, 21, Molde (Norway)

Like Eddie Johnson and Alan Gordon this week, Josh Gatt was recalled for tactical reasons against Jamaica, though an injury kept him from playing (what’s with all the injuries to U.S. attacking midfielders?). Plus speed makes it likely Gatt will be recalled for future qualifiers, depending on this opponent. This year in Norway, he’s already doubled the scoring output of last year’s Tippeligaen debut. His six goals in 16 appearances are third on Molde’s league-leading squad.

8. Mix Diskerud, 22, Rosenburg (Norway)

Diskerud’s back in Norway after an unsuccessful spell in Belgium, one that did little to help his quest to break into the senior national team. Although he was a big part of the U-23 side that failed to qualify for London, Mix has yet to appear for the senior squad in a full international. Lately, he’s flirted with the idea of playing for Norway, having been born in Oslo. While the Norwegians seem keen on getting Diskerud capped, Klinsmann ise taking a more straight-up approach. He’s not calling Diskerud in just to lock him down.

9. DaMarcus Beasley, 30, Puebla (Mexico)

If the U.S. lacks wide players, Beasley’s an option, and while it seems like the veteran would be a reach, he was called in for the win at Azteca. Being based in Mexico may have helped, but it was also a chance to get on Jurgen Klinsmann’s radar. A veteran of three World Cups, Beasley’s not completely out of the picture for a fourth.

10. Benny Feilhaber, 27, New England Revolution

Feilhaber hasn’t been called in since January’s camp, a sad step back from somebody who was automatic under Bob Bradley. Watching him for New England, it’s not hard to understand why. Feilhaber’s been good, not great, and it’s unclear where exactly he’d play for Klinsmann. As he moves to being a more central option for Jay Heaps, Feilhaber looks more and more like somebody who will be competing against some locked-in players on for the national team.

Men in Blazers podcast: Man City-Liverpool review, USMNT preview

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Rog and Davo recap the Top Four battle between Manchester City and Liverpool, ask (again) whether it’s time for Arsene to go, and break down two of the most important USMNT games in modern history.

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Germany overtakes USWNT for top spot in FIFA rankings

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The U.S. women have been displaced from their #1 world ranking by a team they beat less than a month ago.

Despite the USWNT 1-0 win over Germany to start the SheBelieves Cup, the subsequent pair of losses hurt them as Germany leap-frogged the United States into the top spot.

The U.S. lost to England and France, marking its first losing streak in three years and the first time in 17 years that it lost two in a row at home. Jill Ellis used the tournament as an attempt to experiment with different player combinations as she looks to navigate the transition between some aging well-known players and a new injection of youth.

France, who won the event, is ranked third, while England jumped Canada for fourth. The Canadians dropped to fifth, Sweden and Japan tied for sixth, and Australia, Brazil, and North Korea round out the top 10.

The last time the United States was not the #1 team in the world was March of 2015, on the heels of a 1-1-2 December and a loss to France in late February.

MLS Week 4 Preview: Portland flying, RSL depleted

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We’re just starting to see things take shape in Major League Soccer. The dangerous teams are clear, the middle of the pack is forming, and the struggling teams know it’s not too late to get a things going.

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Week 4 is stretched out over this weekend and next thanks to the international break, so there are only three matches to get to on Saturday. Here’s the outlook:

New England Revolution vs. Minnesota United – 2:00 p.m. ET

There is just one point combined for these two teams through the first three match weeks. They are both bottom of their conference. A basement spot awaits the loser, and a revival awaits the winner. If there is one.

A lot is on the line with these two clubs as they meet in Foxboro. It’s early enough in the season where three points can vault a team halfway up the table, completely alleviating any fears of impending doom. However, it’s at the point where should a team lose this match, the alarm bells begin to go off for fans.

Minnesota, already struggling to begin the season, has been ravaged by the international break and will be without Rasmus Schuller, Kevin Molino, Johan Venegas, and Francisco Calvo. That said, if there’s any time to have a number of players missing, it is nice to have it come against a struggling team like New England who has yet to score a goal from open play yet through two matches. Will New England strike against the lack of opposition depth to spark their goalscoring efforts?

New York Red Bulls vs. Real Salt Lake – 4:00 p.m. ET

RSL has to get things going, and they need to do it fast. Unfortunately, they visit an Eastern Conference might as New York welcomes the cross-country travelers with six points already in hand to Salt Lake’s one. To make matters worse for the visiting side, they’re ravaged up and down the roster. Nick Rimando and Albert Rusnák are on international duty, Kyle Beckerman is suspended for his silly red card, and Joao Plata is injured along with Jordan Allen. Tack on the questionable tags for Justen Glad, Aaron Maund, and David Horst, and the outlook is bleak for RSL. Oh, and they just fired their coach too.

That leaves interim coach Daryl Shore little to work with, and they’ll take on a strong New York team that presses hard. Sacha Kljestan struggled in last week’s loss to Seattle, but this team is known for its ability to bounce back. Bradley Wright-Phillips could have a field day if he gets the service, or even if he doesn’t.

Columbus Crew vs. Portland Timbers – 7:30 p.m. ET

For me, this is the best game of the three. Portland is considered by some to own the best attack in the league, and they’ve shown it through three games, scoring 10 goals against a relatively soft opening schedule. Columbus, meanwhile, picked up three points from a two-game road trip and is back home looking to prove that last year’s struggles are a thing of the past. We still don’t know exactly what to expect from the Crew, but we sure do know what’s coming to town, and that’s the Timbers’ red-hot attack duo of Diego Valeri and Fanendo Adi.

22-year-old rookie Alex Crognale made his debut for Columbus last week and contributed heavily to the Crew’s clean sheet. He will be tested heavily should he earn himself a second start. Jonathan Mensah is back from his red card suspension and will add to the defensive abilities. Still, it will be a tough test for Columbus, one which would provide an enormous boost should earn all three points.

MLS Power Rankings — Week 3: Gap developing at the top

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We’re just three weeks in, and while there’s still obviously gobs of time for teams to right the ship, we are also seeing who’s for real at the top of the table, and while the table doesn’t always show it, we’re starting to learn more and more about each team that picks up the points.

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Atlanta continues to win, still yet to lose in MLS play three matches into its inaugural season, and Portland bounced back to prove they’re still in control. At about the 7-8 mark there looks to be a clear gap developing. Can anyone buck the trend moving forward? Your updated power rankings:


TEAM RANKING (Last Wk)

 

22 (19)

21 (22)

20 (21)

DC United: Six goals conceded, none scored in their last two. Not much else needs to be said.

Minnesota United: Their very first MLS point was an important one, holding on down a man. Still a very long way to go.

New England Revolution: More of the same for New England who admittedly had a tall task against FC Dallas but couldn’t hold on.

19 (20) Columbus Crew: Could this week be the one that starts the climb? Six shots on target out of seven total, that’s efficient. Still need a result against a better team to back it up.
18 (18) Real Salt Lake: No Glad, No Plata, down a man, still almost pulled it out. Still, the defending was poor at times a man down and Beckerman knows better. Need to start picking up points.
17 (16) Philadelphia Union: 14 shots, just two on target. That’s the type of day it was in Orlando. Just 2 points from three is worrying, but they have a shot for their first win against DC before taking on Portland and NYCFC.
16 (12) Chicago Fire: Ouch. It’s hard to take much of anything from a big loss to a smoking hot team playing 79 minutes with 10 men. Still…that one will hurt.
15 (17) Montreal Impact: They held firm against a good NYCFC attack, and actually did the coming back for once.
14 (14) Vancouver Whitecaps: In a vacuum, no shame in losing to Tigres or Toronto, but now they’ve got a bit of poor form with the Galaxy coming to town and then the CCL second leg. Will want to avoid a string of bad results.
13 (15) LA Galaxy: All road wins are good wins. That said, beating a weakened RSL by a goal after playing a man down the entire second half is not exactly convincing. They were second best until Beckerman went off and managed just 4 shots on target.
12 (13)
Sporting Kansas City: Have conceded just one goal. They have a plan, and it’s working so far. Just need to figure it out on the other end.
11 (5) Colorado Rapids: Give the Loons credit, but a draw against 10-man Minnesota is not a good look. The defending has been poor.
10 (7) San Jose Earthquakes: Bit tough to figure out this San Jose team early on, but with Godoy held in check, they were outshot 15-5 by KC.
9 (6) Houston Dynamo: Caught Portland at a bad time. This is still a good team, but maybe with some soul-searching to do after a big loss.
8 (10)
Orlando City: An extra week of rest helped Orlando and Cyle Larin did Cyle Larin things. Six possible points, six taken. Still need to prove themselves on the road after last season.
7 (9) Seattle Sounders: Just like Portland, Seattle got back to what it does best, and that involved Dempsey and Morris scoring. The attack looked dangerous
6 (4) New York City FC: Montreal hacked NYCFC to death and it worked. They’re still a good team, but will have to figure out how to win ugly too.
5 (8) Toronto FC: A very solid bounce-back win without Giovinco, who will be back after the break. The rough start appears to be more of a blip.
4 (3) New York Red Bulls: The ugly wins finally came back to haunt them. Hard to take much from a cross-country road trip, but they fell short in a tough test.
3 (11) Atlanta United: You betcha. This team’s for real. Well, they certainly appear to be with Josef Martinez on fire, but he’s just been injured. Now what?
2 (2) FC Dallas: A win over New England continued FC Dallas’s hot start. It’s mind-boggling how little attention Max Urruti gets.
1 (1) Portland Timbers: That’s more like it. The scary Portland attack bounced back by putting four goals past 2-0-0 Houston.