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

 

Valencia extends Man Utd deal to great Mourinho praise

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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.

USMNT veteran Geoff Cameron extended by Stoke City

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Forget a return Stateside, as Geoff Cameron is sticking around the Potteries.

The versatile American midfielder and defender, 31, has extended his stay at Stoke City by two years, the Premier League club announced Friday.

Cameron has played 165 times for Stoke since arriving from the Houston Dynamo in 2012. He’s been capped 50 times by the USMNT.

Turning 32 next in mid-July, Cameron missed three-and-a-half months with a knee injury this season. That span saw Stoke go 6-5-5.

Advanced stats site WhoScored rated Cameron as Stoke’s best player — by far — this season. He was a bright spot along with loan man Bruno Martins Indi, and his extension is good news for both U.S. and Stoke fans.

Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland is preparing for more banter:

Double the Silva? Monaco star undergoing Man City medical

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Pep Guardiola is looking to Monaco in his chase for (lowers sunglasses) Silvaware.

Thanks, we’ll be here all day.

Bernardo Silva is in Manchester on Friday, with the Manchester Evening News saying the playmaker is close to joining unrelated surname sharer David Silva in the Sky Blues’ attack.

[ MORE: Three key battles in FA Cup Final ]

“The 22-year-old arrived at Manchester Airport on Thursday night on a flight from Mallorca and is believed to have had a medical at the club’s academy on Friday morning,” writes James Robson.

At 22, Bernardo Silva has already made 124 appearances for Monaco, registering 25 goals. He scored eight goals in Monaco’s Ligue 1 title run, adding three in the Champions League.

He’s also been capped 12 times by Portugal.

Where does Silva fit? He featured heavily at right wing for Monaco this season — 43 of 56 apps — also spending time in an attacking central midfield role. In City’s final match of the PL season, Gabriel Jesus lined up wide right next to David Silva

MLS Snapshot: FCD lose 2nd in a row; Fire win 4th straight

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The game in 100 words (or less): After starting the 2017 season nine games without a loss, FC Dallas, the longest-lasting unbeaten team in MLS, has lost two straight. Saturday saw their unbeaten start come to an end, against the San Jose Earthquakes, just as Wednesday’s trip to Toyota Stadium saw Oscar Pareja’s side drop all three points to the Chicago Fire. All three of the game’s goals were scored during the opening nine minutes, as FCD fought back from 1-0, but couldn’t find a second equalizer on the night. Nemanja Nikolic bagged the opener, his 11th goal in 13 games to extend his lead in the Golden Boot race to two, in the 3rd minute. Roland Lamah brought FCD back to level terms three minutes later, but David Accam restored the home side’s advantage after three more minutes. Nikolic had every opportunity in the world to take his goals tally to a dozen during second-half stoppage time, but Chris Seitz denied the Hungarian international from the penalty spot. For the first time since Sept. 2012, Chicago have won four straight league games, and sit just two points back of Eastern Conference-leading Toronto FC (26 points).

[ WATCH: Chicharito-to-MLS in doubt due to $10M contract demands ]

Three moments that mattered

3′ — Nikolic redirects past Seitz for 1-0 — Nikolic ran 15 yards straight ahead without a single FCD player picking him up or impeding his path to the near post, and they paid for it.

6′ — Lamah taps it in to make it 1-1 right away — Lamah has been quite the disappointment since arriving in Dallas this winter, but he happened to eb in the right place at the right time in this one, as a failed clearance fell to the five-times-capped Belgian international for an easy tap-in, and his first MLS goal.

9′ — Accam cuts inside to make it 2-1 just as quickly — At some point, Accam will be properly rated by the wider MLS audience, as he’s been Chicago’s best player for two full seasons, and has only hit a new high with capable attackers all around him.

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Man of the match: Dax McCarty

Goalscorers: Nikolic (3′), Lamah (6′), Accam (9′)