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PST U.S. Men’s National Team Depth Chart: Central Midfielders

Oct 10, 2012, 10:09 PM EDT

Michael Bradley AP

Central midfield might be Jurgen Klinsmann’s deepest position. Use a different view of what depth means, you might see the States’ lacking in what you might call organizational depth – the ability to consistently produce a certain standard of player.

That characteristic is most-evident between five and six on the central midfield depth chart. Look beyond the players habitually called into camp and you’ll see options rarely considered for recalls. Given what’s happened over the last two days, it makes you wonder what would happen if central midfield was hit by an injury bug similar to what’s happened at left back.

That would have to be some injury bug to create any kind of crisis, though. With some help from attackers who can help in a pinch, the U.S.’s central midfield is deep enough to make variety a greater concern than depth. Between Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, and Maurice Edu, Jurgen Klinsmann has a lot of interchangeable, not enough ‘do something else.’ In this case, that ‘do something else’ would be creating scoring chances.

A reminder: This list is how we see Jurgen Klinsmann’s depth chart – not how you, we, or the fans at large would order the U.S.’s midfield depth.

1. Michael Bradley, 25, Roma (Italy)

A sea of injuries mean Friday can’t come fast enough, but for the United States, at least Michael Bradley will be back. For a midfield lacking creativity, Bradley’s the one player who can provide a spark, if not with his passing than with his ability to take advantage of opportunities to get forward. His goal from Roma this weekend was a perfect example.

It’s not often we stop to realize it, but it really should be said: He’s become the best central midfielder in CONCACAF.

2. Jermaine Jones, 30, Schalke (Germany)

What Jurgen Klinsman sees: A big, physical player with good range who is capable on the ball, occasionally providing an surprisingly good pass going forward.

What an increasing number of U.S. Men’s National Team fans see: Somebody who occupies space, is overly-physical to the point of being foul-prone, and doesn’t provide enough going forward.

Despite the disagreement, Jones is a lock not only to make every squad but also start, almost always going a full 90 minutes.

3. Maurice Edu, 26, Stoke City (England)

Ulimately, Edu may be the victim in the U.S.’s top-heavy midfield. He’s played central defense at the Olympics, World Cup, and Estadio Azteca, and Klinsmann admits the new Potter’s future may not be in midfield. He has all the skills to partner with Geoff Cameron into the future. In midfield, although he is a lock to be called in, Edu is often redundant.

4. Danny Williams, 23, Hoffenheim (Germany)

5. Kyle Beckerman, 30, Real Salt Lake

Whether Williams deserves the fourth spot was a tough call, but last international break may have seen the Hoffenheim star passed Beckerman on the depth chart. The contrast between his performance in Columbus (where he was one of the States’ best players) and Beckerman’s in Kingston (where he was decent if unspectacular) made it clear. Williams has a chance to be a plus-contributor on a regular basis. While Beckerman is a good option to have in the team, he doesn’t have that potential.

6. Jeff Larentowicz, 29, Colorado Rapids

Larentowicz’s national team career received a nudge when Klinsmann was appointed head coach, but central midfield is a tough nut to crack, particularly when your game doesn’t offer anything appreciably different to the players ahead of you in the pecking order.

7. Ricardo Clark, 29, Houston Dynamo

Clark was thought done with the national team after his performance against Ghana at the World Cup, but Klinsmann called him into the January camp. Back in Major League Soccer after a tour in Germany, Clark still has time to reestablish a place in the national team, even if he’s unlikely to become the regular starter he was during the last cycle. Like Larentowicz, his skills run in parallel to those of the more established central midfielders, though unlike the Rapids’ anchor, Clark can play in defense.

8. Dax McCarty, 25, New York Red Bulls

This is where the list gets thin. Although McCarty has earned accolades for his performance this year in MLS, he has yet to receive love from the new national team coach. In that way, he’s the anti-Larentowicz. Whereas the Colorado man got a new lease on national team life when Klinsmann replaced Bob Bradley, McCarty’s been unable to rekindle the attention he earned in the former coach’s final January camp. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that McCarty is still relatively young. If he continues progressing as he has this year, he’ll carve a spot for himself.

9. Sam Cronin, 25, San Jose Earthquakes

It’s been three years since Cronin was part of the B-team Bob Bradley took to the 2009 Gold Cup. Since then he’s moved from Toronto to San Jose and become one of the key (if overshadowed) components of Major League Soccer’s best team (don’t tell Steve I said that). Is there that much difference between Sam Cronin and Dax McCarty? Perhaps enough to put McCarty higher on a list, a lit they’d both be on.

10. Perry Kitchen, 20, D.C. United

A rookie year playing out of position hurt Kitchen’s development. While he was able to get valuable minutes by playing right back in 2011, switching back to defensive midfield has forced him to go through another adjustment period, something that’s reflected in his play. Too often Kitchen’s been passive in a position defined by assertiveness. Next season, Kitchen should be a more decisive player, building on what he’s learned during a second rookie season.

  1. tylerbetts - Oct 10, 2012 at 10:47 PM

    Foul prone?

    I don’t think foul prone truly captures Jermaine Jones. It’s gotten to the point where “Yellow Card for Jermaine Jones” has not only become a running joke, but we’re starting to place over/under bets on what minute it happens.

    That said – he’s damn effective. As long as you don’t have super sensitive referees or super floppers (both are a bit too common in CONCACAF, unfortunately), he can give you 90 very solid minutes. It’s good to have that “enforcer” type out there sometimes; the guy with both the skill and the willingness.

    • Richard Farley - Oct 10, 2012 at 10:55 PM

      ^ made me smile

      So what’s your over/under for Friday’s game?

      • tylerbetts - Oct 11, 2012 at 9:31 AM

        We’ll set it at the 61st minute for A&B game.

      • Richard Farley - Oct 11, 2012 at 1:30 PM

        OK. I’ll take the over on that one …

        Which guarantees he’ll slam into somebody in the eighth minute.

        I just don’t know JJ will have to make many tackles on Friday.

    • dfstell - Oct 11, 2012 at 6:01 AM

      I tend to agree. I don’t want him going forward too much, but if he’s going to play a midfield disrupter, I think he’s got gifts that no one else can match in his athleticism. And….he occasionally does something pretty cool with the ball too although he is just as often to do something wasteful.

      I know everyone harps on the yellow cards, but he really hasn’t been that bad recently and I can’t think of a yellow he’s gotten in the last year that has really hurt the team. If you follow Twitter during the games, it sounds like he is racing around out there looking for someone to kill. Plus, I like some of his edge. I loved that tackle he made on Neymar. Plus, who cares about yellow cards in a friendly.

      Anyhow…. :)

  2. whordy - Oct 11, 2012 at 8:53 AM

    Disclosure: I am a Union fan.
    But, has Okugo passed Kitchen at all? Maybe not for Klinsmann, but in the eyes of the American commentator? Okugo has been played out of position most of this season, but the difference is he has looked surprisingly good, even great at CB. And what he is doing so well there is something that translates very well to his natural DMid position (I assume most people see him going back to DMid soon).

    • Richard Farley - Oct 11, 2012 at 1:28 PM

      I assume most people see him going back to DMid soon

      That’s the rub. rank him here, or as a central mid? It’s hard to know where he projects with the national team. Like a lot of players he might end up jumping between depth charts.

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