Two things most U.S. Soccer supporters can now agree on: Michael Bradley is The Man in the U.S. midfield, an element in Jurgen Klinsmann’s team every bit as essential as cheese on a cheeseburger.
The central midfield options behind Bradley are OK, but perhaps something short of overwhelming. Bradley has the most balanced game, by far, and he’s easily the best of the bunch in ability to contribute offensively.
So how about this for a nightmare scenario: going into an absolute, must-win, all-in, zero-margin-for-error match next week in Kansas City without Bradley, Maurice Edu or Jermaine Jones (pictured)? Possibly even without Graham Zusi, too.
Bradley, Edu, Jones and Zusi are all on yellow-card warning. That means they’ll sit out Tuesday’s semifinal round finale against Guatemala if they collect a caution Friday in Antigua.
Which is concerning, since Bradley, Edu, Jones, Danny Williams and Kyle Beckerman are the central midfielders on this roster.
It wouldn’t be dire, because Williams and Beckerman are not bad options for the center of the park. But it would leave zero cover, and would probably require Klinsmann to reconfigure the formation, possibly into a 4-4-2 with Clint Dempsey atop a midfield diamond.
So, not dire – but hardly ideal, obviously.
L.A. Galaxy’s Keane retires from Republic of Ireland duty
Friday brings us the beginning of the Bundesliga season, meaning every major league will have started its season.
There are American players throughout Europe worth watching, many of them well-established with their clubs. We know plenty of Danny Williams at Reading, of Fabian Johnson at Borussia Monchengladbach, and Geoff Cameron at Stoke City.
But what about the young crowd, the ones we know a bit less about? Let’s call the group Americans under the age of 23, with 10 caps or less. We quizzed our ProSoccerTalk staff, weighted the rankings according to power, and wound up with 15 names from MLS to the PL.
Players were given one point for each mention, and a corresponding value to whether they were ranked first (10 points) or tenth (1 point) by a given writer.
PST’s Top 15 USMNT prospects
15. Jerome Kiesewetter, Fortuna Dusseldorf (1)
The twice-capped forward has six goals in 16 appearances for the U-23 side, and just moved to a new 2.Bundesliga home.
14. Joe Gyau, Borussia Dortmund (1)
The 23-year-old was about as exciting a prospect as any when he tore his meniscus against Ecuador. Now, he’s just getting back on the pitch and a loan may be on the cards.
13. Wil Trapp, Columbus Crew (3)
Of players aged 23 or younger, only one has had a better overall season than Trapp. The 23-year-old just fits on our list, and needs to find another level, but he’s going to be solid at worst.
12. Walker Zimmerman, FC Dallas (4)
The seventh-overall pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft, the big Georgian has been outstanding this season.
11. Erik Palmer-Brown, Sporting KC/Porto B (5)
It’s easy to forget about EPB, the 6-foot-1 center back who left SKC on loan in February, but he’s gone 90 minutes in every match since making his Porto B debut in March. Juventus bid $1 million for Palmer-Brown when he was still 16, and they know a thing or two about scouting kids.
10. Rubio Rubin, FC Utrecht (6)
The 20-year-old started Utrecht’s first two matches of the season as a center forward after foot surgery cost him much of 2015-16. No one should ignore his 3 goal, 6 assist season the previous season.
9. Emerson Hyndman, AFC Bournemouth (12)
The 20-year-old just moved to the Premier League, and has yet to debut after playing out his contract with Fulham in hopes of greener pastures.
We don’t have to really say anything, do we? The 17-year-old Pennsylvania kid has made an impact at one of the biggest clubs in the world, and could be set for a loan now that BVB has added Mario Gotze, Andre Schurrle, and Ousmane Dembele.
It’s hard for some teams to assess at this point, with players coming off busy summers, and adapting to new leagues, coaches and roles. Some teams, like Hull City, are off to a dream start but surely also no illusions. Others, like Arsenal, know things aren’t nearly as bad as they seem after a 1-point start to the campaign.
Although things are indeed bad. Just not relegation bad.
Let’s wait no more…
Arsenal — I’m starting to consider that Arsene Wenger‘s defensive preparations involve using a club to whack at his defenders’ bodies. Depth in the back is key, and Arsenal sure could use that high-profile, effective forward they’ve needed for a long, long while.
Bournemouth — In a pretty good spot now, but an added defender capable of playing any position on the back line is not a bad idea.
Burnley — While the addition of Steven Defour is fantastic, another weapon like him wouldn’t be bad. Honestly, it’s too bad Danny Ings didn’t stick around!
Chelsea — Defensive depth in the center park would be useful. The long time link with Napoli center back Koulibaly isn’t going anywhere.
Watford — Likely done, though another defender wouldn’t hurt.
West Bromwich Albion — Tony Pulis has made a couple very good pick-ups in underrated QPR man Matty Phillips and Everton loanee Brendan Galloway. That said, he’d love to get better at every spot on the pitch. Anything is possible if the bosses open their wallets.
West Ham United — A striker would help with injuries to Andy Carroll and Andre Ayew. Otherwise, the Irons are sneaky deep everywhere.