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PST U.S. Men’s National Team Depth Chart: “Attacking” Midfelders

Oct 10, 2012, 2:56 PM EDT

U.S. national soccer player Landon Donovan controls the ball during a practice session at the Azteca stadium in Mexico City Reuters

Even if we had to make a tough call on where to slot Jozy Altidore, the forwards were easy, but as we track back in through the U.S. Men’s national team formation, things get tougher.

We’re also not doing ourselves any favors with our depth charts. Because there seems to be two distinctly different classes of midfielders in Jurgen Klinsmann’s team, we’re breaking the position up. Later we’ll post the central midfielders’ depth chart, while now, we’re posting the “other” guys.

I note “other” because it’s hard to come up with a good way to describe them. They’re basically players who are less-likely to compete with the Bradleys, Joneses, and Edus for time. Sometimes they’re deployed wide while on the same level, but most of the time they’re in more advanced positions, usually (but not always) wider.

We’re calling them attackers, but expect this caveat to appear in every update: Here, “attacking” is synonymous with “other”.

But before all those caveats suck the fun out of this exercise, let’s get to the depth chart, one with a familiar name at the top.

1. Landon Donovan, 30, LA Galaxy

Graham Zusi’s performance in Columbus showed how much Landon Donovan’s been missed, if ironically so. While Zusi performed well against Jamaica (forming a nice tandem with Steve Cherundolo down the right), that’s standard fare for Donovan, who is also capable of adding a touch of the spectacular with a dash of the heroic. Jurgen Klinsmann’s rarely had Donovan and Clint Dempsey at his disposal. He won’t this week, either.

2. Graham Zusi, 26, Sporting Kansas City

So what if he’s not Donovan? He’s still somebody the program’s coming to trust. He didn’t start in Kingston, but inserted into the starting XI to provide some attacking nous in Ohio, Zusi stepped up. It’s a cliché (saying somebody “stepped up”), but it’s also something other players have failed to do – make an impact when they finally get their chance. Thanks to that impact, the U.S. should be in decent shape this week, with Zusi again filling in for Landon Donovan.

3. Brek Shea, 22, FC Dallas

Shea is the only true wide attacker regularly used by Klinsmann – somebody that wide week-in, week-out plays wide for both club and country. Like Donovan, Shea will miss this week’s qualifiers, eliminated from consideration after U.S. Soccer doctors deemed him unfit to go. Although fan opinion is mixed on the FC Dallas star’s effectiveness, he represents a meaningful way to change things should the attack falter. He will be missed.

4. Jose Torres, 24, Pachuca (Mexico)

Torres is another of Klinsmann’s “other” midfielders who’s injured, though after his performance last break, it’s unclear he’ll be missed. Torres has received plenty of chances to assert his place in the team and has consistently given lackluster performances. Klinsmann, however, may see things differently. When things needed to be changed after Kingston, Torres was one of the answers. The reviews may be mixed, but the boss’s loyalty has yet to waver.

5. Joe Corona, 22, Tijuana (Mexico)

You get the feeling Corona is inching closer to playing time, but with the senior team, he’s yet to see meaningful minutes. But by now, the Tijuana attacker is a consistent presence in Klinsmann’s squads, his strong performance for the U-23s helping to solidify his place in the setup. While he’s not a wide player in the mold of Shea, Corona often plays on the flank for Xolos. With few other options on the bench, Klinsmann may turn to Corona this week when he looks to change things up.

6. Sacha Kljestan, 27, Anderlecht (Belgium)

He may spend most of his time playing near central midfielder Lucas Biglia in Belgium, but given the U.S. squad’s strengths, if Sacha’s going to make an impact, it’s likely going to be in another spot. His versatility allows him to be used in a more attacking role – in wider areas, if need be. It’s part of the reason why many felt Kljestan should have been called up for previous qualifiers.

7. Josh Gatt, 21, Molde (Norway)

Like Eddie Johnson and Alan Gordon this week, Josh Gatt was recalled for tactical reasons against Jamaica, though an injury kept him from playing (what’s with all the injuries to U.S. attacking midfielders?). Plus speed makes it likely Gatt will be recalled for future qualifiers, depending on this opponent. This year in Norway, he’s already doubled the scoring output of last year’s Tippeligaen debut. His six goals in 16 appearances are third on Molde’s league-leading squad.

8. Mix Diskerud, 22, Rosenburg (Norway)

Diskerud’s back in Norway after an unsuccessful spell in Belgium, one that did little to help his quest to break into the senior national team. Although he was a big part of the U-23 side that failed to qualify for London, Mix has yet to appear for the senior squad in a full international. Lately, he’s flirted with the idea of playing for Norway, having been born in Oslo. While the Norwegians seem keen on getting Diskerud capped, Klinsmann ise taking a more straight-up approach. He’s not calling Diskerud in just to lock him down.

9. DaMarcus Beasley, 30, Puebla (Mexico)

If the U.S. lacks wide players, Beasley’s an option, and while it seems like the veteran would be a reach, he was called in for the win at Azteca. Being based in Mexico may have helped, but it was also a chance to get on Jurgen Klinsmann’s radar. A veteran of three World Cups, Beasley’s not completely out of the picture for a fourth.

10. Benny Feilhaber, 27, New England Revolution

Feilhaber hasn’t been called in since January’s camp, a sad step back from somebody who was automatic under Bob Bradley. Watching him for New England, it’s not hard to understand why. Feilhaber’s been good, not great, and it’s unclear where exactly he’d play for Klinsmann. As he moves to being a more central option for Jay Heaps, Feilhaber looks more and more like somebody who will be competing against some locked-in players on for the national team.

  1. dws110 - Oct 10, 2012 at 3:12 PM

    Wow, this list really makes me understand just how much we miss Stuart Holden.

    • whordy - Oct 10, 2012 at 3:55 PM

      Haha yeah. I was going to say, it looks pretty bad that Graham “One start, one above decent performance” Zusi is #2 on this list.

      • Richard Farley - Oct 10, 2012 at 3:56 PM

        This made me giggle. It’s kind of true. When making these lists, we only look at things from the program’s point of view, so stuff like that doesn’t immediately jump to mind. That’s why it’s gave me a big of a chuckle to get that reminder.

  2. Dan Haug - Oct 10, 2012 at 6:01 PM

    I’m surprised not to see Chris Rolfe on this list. He should easily beat out Beasley and Feilhaber. Rolfe is a poor-man’s Donovan, more creative on the ball than Zusi, but without the bite in his game.

    • Richard Farley - Oct 10, 2012 at 6:49 PM

      I didn’t cover it in this piece, but remember: This is how we see/thing Jurgen sees things.

  3. bigdinla - Oct 10, 2012 at 7:32 PM

    What about Adu? He brings more attack than Beasley and is still young. Also would not mind seeing Pontius from DC get a run.

    • Richard Farley - Oct 10, 2012 at 7:35 PM

      Pontius was on the forwards list. Adu hasn’t been a factor in the team under Klinsmann, even he was involved with the U-23 squad. Beasley’s more likely to play a part, as of now, than Adu.

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