United States national team depth chart: enigmatic Jermaine Jones still tops the holding midfielder spot

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Five U.S. matches over the last month has generated significant movement on the U.S. depth chart – perhaps more shuffling than in any month-long stretch in Jurgen Klinsmann’s time in charge, which is now approaching two years.

Over A few days we’ll continue to examine the U.S. depth chart, making our best educated guesses at how things stack up on Jurgen Klinsmann’s big board inside the manager’s Southern California offices.

Next up: HOLDING MIDFIEDLERS

So many U.S. supporters have squinted and strained in an effort to recognize Jermaine Jones’ value to the national team he way Jurgen Klinsmann does, but just cannot quite get there.

Jones certainly did earn a few more fans in late March amid the surreal, snowy-white scenes in Denver, when the United States began welding the wheels back on the bus, putting the big rig squarely back on the road to the World Cup. The leadership qualities and fearless, warrior ways the Klinsmann holds dear could be spotted from a distance in that one, at least. Still, the critics are legion.

But none of that matters, does it? Because critics or supporters don’t make the big choices. That’s on Klinsmann, and he likes Jones in the holding midfield spot.

Remember, in Klinsmann’s preferred arrangement there is one primary holding man to screen the defense and one “supporting defensive midfielder,” we’ll call him.

That’s why Michael Bradley is on this list at No. 4. Presumably, if Jones and some others became unavailable, Bradley could fall back in the formation, out of his best spot (linking midfielder) and adopt the more defensive role. But it’s clearly not his best use, and even that would be contingent on another qualified linking man to play in what Klinsmann calls the “No. 8 role.” That’s why all this depth chart business isn’t just a bunch of linear lists, but a system of interlinked, varying ones.

At any rate … Geoff Cameron (pictured) certainly added something lately to this conversation, inserting himself with surprising assertion when Jones was unavailable.  The Stoke City man has probably already earned his roster spot for Brazil if only for all that highly useful versatility. As a holding midfielder, Cameron’s leggy running allows him to cover ample ground. He’s an adept tackler, and positionally he allows Bradley to remain further ahead in the formation. (Jones, slightly more adventurous, likes to journey forward a little more, sometimes at the expense of the team defensive shape.)

Danny Williams is a bit of a wild card. He became Klinsmann’s top choice for a stretch in 2012 but fell from favor and then struggled with injuries during the spring. The TSG Hoffenheim man is just 24, so we cannot rule out a big move up the ordering over next year’s Bundesliga campaign.

Between Maurice Edu, Kyle Beckerman and even Sacha Kljestan, who has played in deeper midfield positions at times for Anderlecht, you could probably arrange them any way you want. Form will dictate where they fall over the coming months.

Stuart Holden? We’ll add him to the list for now and see where it all lands after the Gold Cup, and after he gets some league games in England later this year.

U.S. HOLDING MIDFIELD ordering

  • 1. Jermaine Jones
  • 2. Geoff Cameron
  • 3. Danny Williams
  • 4. Michael Bradley
  • 5. Maurice Edu
  • 6. Kyle Beckerman
  • 7. Sacha Kljestan
  • 8. Stuart Holden

In review:

U.S. goalkeepers

U.S. right backs

U.S. left backs

U.S. center backs

Coming up later today: the linking midfielders

 

Bayern signs Germany midfielder Goretzka from rival Schalke

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MUNICH (AP) Bayern Munich signed Germany midfielder Leon Goretzka on Friday on a free transfer from Bundesliga rival Schalke effective from next season.

Bayern said the 22-year-old Goretzka signed a four-year deal from July 1 through June 2022.

Schalke, which Goretzka joined in 2013 from hometown club Bochum, said the player informed the club this week of his wish to join Bayern when his contract expired.

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“We think we did everything in the last months to convince Leon to stay with us,” Schalke sporting director Christian Heidel said. “In the end, it wasn’t enough.”

Schalke had long been engaged in trying to get Goretzka to extend his contract, but was aware of reported interest from Bayern, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and Liverpool.

“We’re very happy that Leon Goretzka, a German international with big potential, has decided in favor of Bayern despite big-name international competitors. This way it’s ensured that Leon Goretzka remains in the Bundesliga,” Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said.

Goretzka scored 19 goals and set up 13 more in 130 appearances for Schalke.

The club had previously expressed its displeasure with Bayern making public statements about its player after Goretzka was praised by sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic and coach Jupp Heynckes.

Heidel said “we don’t need to hear every day from the Munich people how good our player is.”

Goretzka has six goals in 12 games for Germany.

Pele hospitalized overnight in Brazil

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The most famous soccer player in the world had a scare last night as he was hospitalized in Brazil for “severe exhaustion.”

Pele, 77, was set to travel to London this weekend to be honored by the Football Writers Association, though it looks like that trip has now been postponed.

In the early hours of Thursday morning, Pele collapsed and was taken to a hospital in Brazil where he has undergone a series of tests which appear to point to severe exhaustion,” a FWA statement said. “He remains on fluids while doctors monitor his recovery.

“Thankfully, there is no suggestion of anything more serious than exhaustion.”

Here’s to hoping Pele makes a full recovery.

[MORE: USMNT centerback heads to Championship club]

USMNT centerback Carter-Vickers heads to Ipswich Town on loan

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Cameron Carter-Vickers has a new club to call home for the next five months or so after a rough first half of the season.

Tottenham announced Friday morning that it had loaned the U.S. Men’s National Team centerback to Championship club Ipswich Town for the rest of the season. Carter-Vickers spent the first five months of the season at fellow Championship side Sheffield United, starting 17 times though he struggled recently as Sheffield won just one game he played in during the month of December, losing three and drawing one.

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Carter-Vickers was then recalled earlier this week and now has a new home with a mid-table Championship club, with a new chance to impress. Hopefully Carter-Vickers can recover his form and continue to grow, potentially latching on to another Premier League side next year or breaking into the Tottenham first team.

There’s another interesting American tie-in to this. Carter-Vickers appears to be a short-term replacement for Ipswich Town’s Tommy Smith, who the club states is headed to join the Colorado Rapids ahead of the 2018 MLS season.

Sanchez, Mkhitaryan transfer still up in the air

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The player-swap/trade/transfer between Arsenal and Manchester United still appears to be heading towards completion, but it was further delayed Friday.

Multiple reports in England state that while Alexis Sanchez seems set to move to Manchester United, Henrik Mkhitaryan has yet to agree to move the other way, as talks between the player’s agent and Arsenal continue. Mkhitaryan was seen training at Manchester United’s practice facility on Friday, and because the latest delay, both players would be unable to debut for their new teams this weekend after missing the Premier League registration deadline.

[MORE: JPW’s Premier League picks]

Arsenal hosts Crystal Palace Manchester United travels to Burnley, both on Saturday at 10 a.m. (Watch Arsenal live on CNBC, Manchester United live on NBCSN, and both live on NBCSports.com)

The London Evening Standard reports that Mkhitaryan would command a $242,000-per-week salary but that as of Friday morning he had yet to undergo a medical for the transfer. Arsenal reportedly still wants a transfer fee included for Sanchez, while Manchester United would prefer to just swap the two players.

It’s also looking as if that won’t be Arsenal’s only business in the transfer market. While it seemed like a far-fetched rumor at first, the links between Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Arsenal have only grown stronger in the past few days, and the Gabon international appears to be in the Gunners sights. It appears that Bordeaux’s young striker Malcolm is now off the table.