United States national team depth chart: wide, wide open along the left

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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: LEFT-SIDED ATTACKER

While Graham Zusi has that MMA-level choke hold on the right, the U.S. left side has a much more wide-open feel to it.

Really, its “Kansas corn field” wide open.

Fabian Johnson can clearly handle the job – unless U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann wants him to attack from the back. Based on last week’s big stack of attack from the left back spot, Johnson remaining in defense seems quite possible. (Which is why Johnson appears at the top of the left back depth chart list, too. Kind of unstable, eh?)

In that case … the advanced position on that side is wide open as a Spaniard beating a ridiculously misplaced Nigerian offside trap. (That’s massively wide open, if you didn’t see Spain’s third goal the other day.)

DaMarcus Beasley (pictured) has re-inserted himself into U.S. depth pool conversations a full 11 years after Bruce Arena walked up to him on the bus in South Korea and told him “You are starting against Portugal.” (Still one of my favorite stories about Beasley, which he recently confirmed to me personally, that his response to Arena that day was an utterly nonchalant, “Cool.”)

If Brek Shea could get himself pointed in the right direction (seriously, dude … just play and knock it off already with the social media hijinks) he could print himself a bunch of money with a couple of big performances in Brazil. He still has the physical tools but needs to get into Stoke City’s lineup. That is the starting point for getting back into Jurgen Klinsmann’s good graces, because it sounds for all the world like the U.S. manager isn’t too happy with some of young Shea’s important career choices lately.

Tick-tock, young Brek. Don’t let this thing pass you by!

Eddie Johnson or Herculez Gomez could fill the role, at least situationally. Clearly, it’s not Johnson’s best position, but he’s certainly not displacing Jozy Altidore anytime soon. Nor will Gomez, so picking up work along the left may be their best chance of a starting assignment (so long as Altidore remains healthy, obviously).

Even Jose Torres could get back into the picture if the basic U.S. shape were to evolve and some of the creating needed doing in areas left-ish on the field.

And, of course, we simply cannot talk about any of these attacking positions without mention of Landon Donovan and Stuart Holden. Who they are, who they have been and their lingering potential to become critical elements in the bigger Brazilian picture, whether as starters or off the bench, means they must be part of the conversation.

I’ve got them both listed lower for the moment; both have the potential to leapfrog their way quickly up the order.

U.S. LEFT-SIDED ATTACKER ordering

  • 1. Fabian Johnson
  • 2. DaMarcus Beasley
  • 3. Herculez Gomez
  • 4. Eddie Johnson
  • 5. Brek Shea
  • 6. Landon Donovan
  • 7. Stuart Holden
  • 8. Sacha Kljestan
  • 9. Brad Davis
  • 10. Jose Torres

In review:

U.S. goalkeepers

U.S. right backs

U.S. left backs

U.S. center backs

U.S. holding midfielders

U.S. linking midfielders

U.S. right-sided attackers

Coming up tomorrow: Attacking midfielders and strikers

 

Henry, Aguero discuss playing up top under Pep

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One great striker got another one to open up on an up-and-down year at Manchester City.

Thierry Henry — one of the greatest of all-time, it must be said — sat down with Sergio Aguero ahead of Thursday’s Manchester Derby at the Etihad Stadium, and asked the Argentine about Pep Guardiola, Gabriel Jesus, and more.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

At times, it’s a fascinating discussion on playing lone striker. Even apart from the obligatory questions regarding Jesus’ arrival at City, Henry and Aguero speak their craft in a manner you don’t see too often.

That’s helped by the fact that Henry played for Guardiola at Barcelona, and can relate to the positional demands of Man City’s boss. Consider this exchange, from Sky Sports:

HENRY: When I was at Arsenal, I played up front and if I wanted to drift out to the left, I could. But when I got to Barca, I had to stay out wide and press. Sometimes doing that can be hard.

AGUERO: The thing I’ve found the hardest has been getting into my head the fact that I have to press the centre-back and the goalkeeper in matches. That’s what Pep asks me to do. It may not be a big deal, but in terms of processing it, the two of us speak a lot. He knows what I’m like.

I’ve been gradually learning and adapting to that style of pressing over the last few months. The first thing he taught me was how to press and how to do it well. Obviously there are times when I might drift out of position or I might press in an area where I’m not supposed to be, which might make it hard for the wingers or midfielders.

In the game itself, I may not realise because I’m so immersed and you can’t stop yourself. I’ve learnt a lot from him in terms of zones. He asks me to play as a No 9 and to stay in that position. I often drift out wide during matches and he looks at me and says, “If there’s a player out wide who wants to cross it in, who’s in there? Nobody.”

HENRY: I know all about that, believe you me.

I love this, because it shows how difficult it is for an elite striker to adapt his mentality. Both Henry and Aguero found world-celebrated success by playing in a certain fashion, and Guardiola understood that and still demanded a change. Earlier this season, the manager somewhat famously spoke of improving Aguero.

Aguero has been linked with Real Madrid given the tumult at City.

PHOTO: Liverpool unveils 125th anniversary kit for next season

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Liverpool rolled out its 125th anniversary kit, featuring a special crest to celebrate the occasion.

The Liver bird has 1892 on one side and 2017 on the other, with “125 YEARS” spelled out underneath the club’s emblem.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

The red shirt with a gold crest has a white V-neck and white at the ends of the sleeves. The goalkeeper kit is green.

The jersey will be available on May 19, and was announced last month.

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Jara’s goal lifts Pachuca to CONCACAF Champions League crown

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Hirving Lozano’s dipping shot rebounded into the path of Franco Jara, who scored the goal that won Pachuca its fifth CONCACAF Championship early Thursday morning.

The Argentine’s goal was the only one of the win over UANL Tigres, and gave Pachuca its first continental title since 2009-10. USMNT veteran Omar Gonzalez played for the winners, while Jose Torres started for Tigres.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

Major League Soccer teams were eliminated in the semifinals, with FC Dallas falling to Pachuca and Vancouver Whitecaps losing to Tigres.

Beginning with the 2017-18 tournament, qualified MLS and Liga MX teams will not enter the tournament until the Round of 16. The entire tournament will be held in the same calendar year.

USMNT: Brooks out with hip strain; World Cup qualifiers loom

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John Brooks is out of Hertha Berlin’s lineup “for the time being” after scans revealed a hip strain suffered in this weekend’s win over Wolfsburg.

That’s all Hertha has said, and that makes it hard to imagine whether American fans should be a little concerned or very concerned ahead of the USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers against Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago in early June.

Brooks was unavailable for two weeks with an adductor strain in September, missing a month before returning to the starting lineup.

The U.S. center back pool isn’t teeming after Brooks and Geoff Cameron. Matt Besler, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, and Walker Zimmerman were called up for the last World Cup qualifiers, and Gonzalez struggled but is a Bruce Arena favorite from their time in L.A.